Me, my blogging goals, and a review of The Entrepreneurial Linguist

Hi! This is the introductory post to Catherine Translates.

Via this blog, I’d like to share what I know—and what I’m questioning—about the translation business. I started freelancing just under a year ago and am constantly revising how I want to shape my career.

Why not brainstorm with other translators and get more writing practice at the same time? I’ll be blogging on the 1st and 15th of every month.

Today’s topic:

  • The Entrepreneurial Linguist by Judy and Dagmar Jenner

Topics I’ll be covering:

  • Social Networking – my views on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Viadéo
  • 30 Days to Better Business Writing by Matthew Stibbe
  • Transcreation: How far can we deviate?
  • Strange entries in The Economist Style Guide

Topics rolling around in my head:

  • Your CV: Post it online or not?
  • Common French to English translation challenges and errors
  • Working from home and staying organized, productive and sane
  • Sound body, sound mind – sleep, exercise, sunlight and fresh air
  • Books that have influenced how I run my business

I hope to see you back!

Now for my review:

7 Questions to Myself about The Entrepreneurial Linguist

For smart business advice and a healthy dose of can-do enthusiasm, pick up The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation by Judy and Dagmar Jenner.

The makers of Translation Times focus on how translators can approach, land and keep direct clients. They dig deep into marketing strategies that every freelancer should be aware of.

This newly-released guide sets the tone for how I’d like my own career to evolve.

Why did I buy this particular book amidst so many other translation books?

The title. I need to be more entrepreneurial to properly get my translation skills out there. I wanted clear no-nonsense advice about running a business.

What sections were the most useful to my own translation business?

Pages 104 to 105. How to spend $100. Unsurprisingly, having a proper website is top priority. The Jenners give practical advice about investing what’s left.

Pages 108 to 112. Direct-customer acquisition strategies. Their input is precious! They talk about researching potential clients, going to industry-specific events, and making yourself known as someone who provides solutions.

What advice would I add when pitching to potential clients?

The Jenners did not talk about offering a short translation sample for free. As for myself, I’ve tried this before and found reasonable success. I experimented with free samples after hearing about it at an SFT seminar in Paris.

I chose about a dozen potential clients and proceeded to either translate or correct three or four paragraphs from their websites. I sent them off by snail mail. A couple of them contacted me right away for work. A few clients have even emailed me months after they received my sample.

Major drawback: It’s time-consuming. You must realistically believe it will trigger off a profitable long-term relationship.

Corinne McKay’s blog entry called ‘Using a sample translation as a sales pitch’ from Thoughts on Translation delves deeper into this technique.

What do the Jenners pay too much attention to?

SEO. There are so many translation websites out there that search engine optimization means nothing to me. If someone does a search for “French English translations” I’ll be on the hundredth page. No one will find me unless they know my name (and how to spell it!) or my exact URL address.

I need to take my clients by the hand to my website and not waste time on SEO.

What will I do now?

Find out more about Gravatars and Dragon Naturally Speaking. Reread pages 108 to 112. Figure out my competitive advantage. Redo my business cards. Fix my website. Get ready for an upcoming trade fair. Reread pages 108 to 112.

What were my favourite lines from The Entrepreneurial Linguist?

“Trust us: your potential customers do not want to see your résumé [on your website].”

“You will have to be an entrepreneur first and a linguist second. Find the business, and then put your top-notch language skills to work.”

What could experienced translators get out of this book?

Tips on speaking at conferences, volunteering for translator associations, and creating regional associations.

If you’ve been translating for agencies for twenty years and would like your own clients, or if you want more marketing and Web 2.0 knowledge, The Entrepreneurial Linguist should be on your bedside table. I downloaded it for 17 USD from


4 responses to “Me, my blogging goals, and a review of The Entrepreneurial Linguist

  1. Thank you so much for that review, Catherine. We are very happy to hear that you enjoyed it. Thanks for taking the time. We look forward to collegial exchanges via our blog. Congrats on starting yours!

  2. I agree with you, Catherine. SEO is very resource-consuming, just like an endless battle. Although it should not be missed, but should never be our main task (should this be translation?).

    • Cynthia,
      Since my language pair is quite common and I am not deeply specialized, I feel that it’s not worth my time investing in SEO. My potential clients will come across my site after being “introduced” to me in some way: this blog, Twitter, discussion forums, face-to-face meetings, trade fairs, professional associations, friends of friends…
      Thanks for stopping by!

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