Marta Stelmaszak on the red carpet

Welcome everyone to the third episode of the translation & interpreting “red carpet” series, featuring remarkable guests of the industry who kindly accepted to share with us their views on some common points. The guest of this week is nothing less than Marta Stelmaszak, whom you’ll surely know if you’re active in the translation and interpreting community.

Marta Stelmaszak

Marta StelmaszakMarta is a Polish – English translator and interpreter, a member of the Management Committee of the Interpreting Division at the CIoL and a Co-head of the UK Chapter of the IAPTI. She’s also an Associate of the ITI, a qualified business mentor, a member of the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship and the Chartered Institute of Marketing. She has also been awarded with the Higher Education Social Entrepreneurship Award.

Marta runs the Business School for Translator, a blog for translators and interpreters with an entrepreneurial angle recently turned into an online course. She’s active on Twitter and Facebook where she’s sharing information related to the business side of being a translator or interpreter.

She’s actually that active in the translation and interpreting community that she was the winner of numberless translation-related categories (pretty everything I would say!) in the 2013 community choice awards: Twitter account, website (Want Words), trainer, training course (with her Business School for Translator).

It’s a great pleasure for me to host Marta’s interview here and I am really thankful for her time and interest in aswering my questions.

When did you first become aware of your calling and what happened since then?

“I was very little when I started talking, so I’ve always been joking that language is just an inherent part of who I am. I’ve always had so many things to say; supposedly I’ve been quite a talkative child. I knew I wanted to work with languages since high school, when I decided I wanted to train to become a teacher. But then, quite incidentally, a friend of a friend of a friend needed something translated and that’s how it all started.

Did you choose your specialisation or was your specialisation that chose you?

“I must admit, I chose one specialisation: legal translation. I knew it was going to pay my bills and it was a reasonable thing to do, so I studied and studied and studied, and then became decent at it. Much later, I just began to appreciate it more, and this appreciation turned into a real passion for legal language.

My other two specialisations, business and marketing translation, have just found me and hunted me down.”

Why did you choose to go freelance rather than working as an in-house translator and/or interpreter?

“I never considered working in-house. I was born a freelancer and I really enjoy having my own business. The freedom freelancing gives me is amazing, but I also appreciate being challenged and having to look for clients by myself.”

Should anyone want to specialise in your field, would you recommend anything in particular? 

Legal translation is a bit different in this respect: you should seriously consider getting a postgraduate qualification or doing a few courses related to the law. It’s down to the fact that being a good legal translator means you have to master both legal systems between which you’re translating.

In terms of business and marketing translation, it’s mostly down to experience. Just translate as much as you can, even if just for yourself.”

How significant are or have been social networks and personal branding for your current position? 

“In my opinion, social networks work like a really big online megaphone. Whatever you say (or do) is amplified and reaches more people. If you’re a tremendous translator, social media will help you get the word out there. But equally, if you botch up a job, it’s likely to have some impact on your reputation. We should all be careful here. Having said that, I’ve had a wonderful experience using social media and it’s been a very powerful equivalent of the word of mouth for me.

Personal branding, in any form and scope, is an important part of running any freelance business. It helps you create a professional image for your services. In my case, personal branding has also helped me feel more responsible for my business and work harder to make sure I meet my brand promise.”

How did you make your name in the translation and/or interpreting industry? Any dos and don’ts? 

“I think it’s important to notice that “making your name” among your colleagues doesn’t always mean being successful and having many clients. Out of the two, you’d rather want to make your name in your clients’ industries. To do that, you have to become exceptional in your language pair in your area of specialisation, and there are no shortcuts to it.”

I am sure Marta’s experiences and tips will be extremely useful for everyone reading this interview. As always, any comment is extremely welcome.

If you want to learn more, Marta also contributed to the first episode of this series, together with Xosé Castro Roig, Valeria Aliperta, Gabriel Cabrera Méndez, Scheherezade Surià López and Pablo Muñoz Sánchez. You can find it here: “How can freelancers find new clients?“. 

How freelancers can find new clients

Don’t miss next Monday’s red carpet episode featuring Valeria Aliperta (alias Rainy London). Stay tuned and have a great week!


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