It’s a fact.  We cannot sell our products or services to the entire world. We wish we could, but that is impossible. The mistake that a lot of translators make is to tend to say “yes” when they are asked to translate a subject with which they are unfamiliar or that might be out of their area of expertise or background.

“Jack of all trades, master of none”

In the translation industry there is the tendency to become “translators of everything.”  We think we are capable of translating anything. Most interesting are those that believe they can translate perfectly back and forth between their native language and their target language. In my 20 years in the industry I have met just a handful of translators that can truly translate flawlessly in both directions.

I remember when I first started in the translation profession how afraid I was to be asked to translate a document that had to do with machinery, automobiles or anything along that line. I knew nothing (and still don’t) about mechanics or industrial engineering or anything that had to do with equipment or was highly technical. My strong subjects were those that had to do with business, marketing and social studies. However, I have to confess that, in my desperation to get business, I said “yes” more than once when I was asked to translate projects related to my weak areas.  Haven’t we all done that at some time or another? To produce the translation took me extra hours to learn the lingo and research the subject. And in the end I felt I was not delivering a product of which I could feel very proud. But those were different times and the competition wasn’t as keen as it is today.  Then one day I decided I was going to concentrate just on those areas I enjoyed translating, those subjects about which I felt passionate, those with which I didn’t have to struggle so much. Bingo! When I decided to work on just those areas that I knew very well or simply felt passion for and did everything I could to submerge myself into getting to know the subject to a point where I felt comfortable, that’s when I started becoming very successful in my translation business.

Recognize your weaknesses and focus on your strengths!

If you want to stand out from the crowd, get paid what you want, and stop competing merely on your rates, you should create and work on a niche.

There is a big misconception that specializing constrains our scope and excludes us from other areas in the market.  In reality, specializing offers big advantages in our business. Here are some of those benefits:

  • Charging a premium for your services. When you become an expert in a particular area, you earn the respect and recognition of your target market as well as your peers. That means you can charge more for your services. Your specialty attributes come with a rewarding pay.
  • Shortening the learning curve. When you focus on immersing yourself in one area, your learning curve is considerably less steep. The more you learn about your niche, the easier it comes to you.
  • Increasing the leverage on your language assets. When your business is focused on one area, you can leverage more on your existing language assets.  That means increased productivity and less working hours. In addition, your projects will be similar and you will be able to easily apply what you already know.
  • Building your brand. When you are considered an expert, you will be sought out as “the one” to contact for that specialized project. You can build a name for yourself and create a unique brand-image. Experts agree that branding is everything in the world of marketing!
  • Tailoring unique services. When you work within a very particular niche, you can become very creative in meeting the needs of that market. For instance, you can create special programs, specifically package your services, or develop revolutionary value-added features that enhance your client offerings.
  • Reducing marketing efforts. When you have created and identified a niche, you can put all your energies into creating compelling messages to attract those clients that are in desperate need of your services. You will spend less time and money on your marketing activities. Your marketing messages will be consistently, clearly and continuously crafted to address the language needs of that particular target audience.

When considering specialization, make sure you choose a specialty you have identified as having a need for your services and offering great marketing opportunities for you. Ask yourself the question, “What is the market for my area of expertise?” Conduct some research and learn of the demand for your services in that market. The narrower your target market, the more successful you will be.

Specialization is a personal decision that you must make for yourself based primarily on your goals, strengths, interests, and, most importantly, on what makes you feel fulfilled as a translator. Find the area that is in alignment with what you really want.  And in just that way you’ll become “the one” that market looks for!