Savvy Diversification Series – Don’t be scared! How to Add Ghostwriting to Your Portfolio of Services

“It was a dark and stormy night. A strange figure appeared in the window of the haunted house on the hill as a bloodcurdling scream echoed in the distance…”

Let me start with the bad news: today’s blog post is not about how to craft a spooky story to tell around the campfire. Instead, we are going to look at the other kind of ghostwriting. And there’s plenty of good news to go around.

Behind the Scenes

Put simply, ghostwriting is where one person writes a piece of copy that is published under another person’s name. It’s long been standard practice in the world of celebrity memoirs. But more managers and thought leaders are also outsourcing their writing to professionals, commissioning anything from press releases and blog posts to opinion pieces and speeches. These extremely busy executives might not have the time, the writing skills, or the inclination to put pen to paper. And that’s where ghostwriters come in.

Perks and Pitfalls

As a type of copywriting, ghostwriting is an attractive field for translators looking to diversify their business. Before we dive deeper into the skills that successful ghostwriters need to master, it’s essential to know some of the benefits and drawbacks.

Let’s get the biggest downside out of the way first: You do all the work but get none of the credit. Not only does your name not appear on the final copy, but you also generally cannot use this work in your portfolio or to build your business. Many clients will have you sign non-disclosure agreements so you cannot claim any connection to your brilliant piece of writing, either. Like translation projects, ghostwriting assignments often require quick turnaround, and time is of the essence.

On the upside, though, ghostwriting is usually better paid to compensate for the fact that you don’t get any of the glory. Ghostwriting projects help you forge close relationships with executives. If they are happy with your work, they might well refer you (discreetly) to other big names in the industry. And you will also build soft skills, such as asking good questions, listening with empathy, and understanding different viewpoints.

Write Like a Chameleon

Beyond crafting outstanding prose, good ghostwriters master two main skills: They fully understand the topic they are writing about and can nail the client’s voice. Specialized translators with subject-matter expertise are ideally positioned to work as ghostwriters. If you spend your days translating about contract law, you probably know enough about recent landmark rulings to write an opinion piece for a legal expert. If logistics is your niche, you could likely knock out a blog post about the latest trends for a shipping company’s CEO in no time.

Capturing the client’s voice is a different cup of tea, though. To be a good ghostwriter, you have to have empathy, put yourself in the client’s metaphorical shoes and walk around in them for a while. Just like a chameleon changes color to blend in, you need to take on the client’s persona and perspective. The bottom line is that whatever you are writing, it must sound like something that could have come from their mouth or keyboard.

Get (and Craft) the Message

Executives who use ghostwriters are busy people. Nonetheless, it is important to arrange a phone or video call to learn their voice. Email just doesn’t cut it. Ahead of the meeting, you should have received information about the brief: what will you be writing, what is the topic, how long should the piece be, and when is the deadline?

The call is the time to listen and ask questions. If possible, ask to record the meeting. If that’s not an option, make sure that you take copious notes and sum up what they have said before the call ends to make sure you have understood properly. Be curious and dig deep to learn more about their opinions and outlooks. Ask if there are any words or phrases that the client does not want you to use.

After the call, you can identify themes and consider how to structure the piece. And then it’s time to write. Think about the wording the client might use. Would they use longer or shorter sentences? Would they inject humor or keep things prim and proper? If it’s a speech or narrative piece, you should also read the copy aloud to see if it ‘sounds’ like the client. Once you have submitted your work, it is not unusual for the client to change things here and there. That is part of the process of creating copy that the client can literally put their name to.

Next Steps

If this sounds fun, you might be wondering how to land your first project. As with translation, it’s all about building your brand. An excellent way to begin is to author well-written articles in your specialist field (for the above examples, perhaps an essay on the impact of a ruling on contractual law or a blog post on the top 10 logistics trends in 2021). Nowadays, anybody can showcase their writing on LinkedIn and platforms like Medium, but you should also consider pitching to magazines in your area of specialization.

Don’t forget the importance of word of mouth, either: add the phrase ‘ghostwriter’ to your social media profiles and consider creating a separate page on your website dedicated to ghostwriting.

If this sounds interesting, try and take one small step today. I’m sure it won’t come back to haunt you later.

Author bio

Abigail Dahlberg is a German-English translator and writer specializing in environmental issues, primarily recycling and waste management. She has completed a number of ghostwriting projects (but she can’t tell you who for!). After completing an MA in Translation in 2001, she worked as a staff translator in Germany before relocating to Kansas City and launching a freelance business in 2005.

Over the past 15 years, she has helped dozens of direct clients in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland communicate with an English-speaking audience via her business, Greener Words. You can reach Abigail by emailing her at hello@greenerwords.com or visiting http://www.greenerwords.com.

Savvy Diversification Series – Online Language Teaching

The Savvy Newcomer team has been taking stock of the past year and finding that one key priority for many freelance translators and interpreters has been diversification. Offering multiple services in different sectors or to different clients can help steady us when storms come. Diversification can help us hedge against hard times.

With this in mind, we’ve invited a series of guest authors to write about the diversified service offerings that have helped their businesses to thrive, in the hopes of inspiring you to branch out into the new service offerings that may be right for you!

When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, my translation workload plummeted abruptly. With no way of knowing if and when my clients would return, I had to act fast to find more work that was compatible with my lifestyle as a freelance translator. One year of teaching online English classes in China in 2019 had opened my eyes to the world of online teaching and I was sure this sector was rapidly expanding with lockdowns in place around the world. It turned out to be the perfect industry to carry my business through the pandemic. Linguistic and cultural skills such as those cultivated by most translators are in high demand in education and are difficult to duplicate. There is clearly a shortage of good teachers, so I am constantly turning down requests to take on teaching projects outside of my already packed regular teaching schedule. This industry is likely to remain active even after the pandemic and is a stable option for translators looking to diversify. In this article, I will offer an introduction to the online teaching industry, discuss the necessary qualifications, tell you where you can find work, and go over some of the equipment you will need to get started.

What is online teaching and cultural experience hosting?

Online teaching consists of video conferencing online with one or more students for a predetermined amount of time in order to teach them something. The role of the teacher is similar to that of a traditional classroom teacher, but with everything online. One great advantage of online teaching is that teachers can work in the country of their choice. The key is to figure out which clients are frequenting the online teaching platform you choose and cater to their needs. Most of my clients are in the United States, so I offer courses on how to speak German.

With everyone stuck at home and yearning for a taste of international travel, online cultural experiences have grown in popularity over the past year. Cultural experience hosting is similar to online teaching. Instead of teaching a skill, however, cultural experience hosts strive to give attendees the experience of doing something in a different country or a foreign language. Cultural experiences can consist of courses where attendees engage in enjoyable hobbies while speaking a foreign language with other participants or courses where participants engage in an activity specific to a certain culture. Cultural experiences I have hosted include origami folding in German, German gingerbread cookie baking, art class in German, and a virtual shopping trip to a German Christmas market.

For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to both online teaching and cultural experience hosting as “online teaching” in this article.

What qualifications are required?

The most essential qualifications are life experience, valuable expertise that you are willing to share with others, and the ability to effectively sell that expertise to others. Although not absolutely necessary, an academic degree related to what you are teaching may help build credibility. You will need to have or develop teaching skills, so a teaching certificate of some sort can be enormously helpful.

Translators are generally fluent in multiple languages, have very valuable life experience from living around the world, and are highly familiar with the corresponding cultural environs. This in and of itself makes translators perfect online teachers and cultural experience hosts. Overcoming a natural tendency toward introversion has been the biggest challenge I have faced while teaching online.

Where do I find work?

There are a great many ways to teach online. Before you choose one, you should decide how much time you want to invest in finding clients, what kinds of students you want to teach, how much you want to be paid, and how willing you are to develop your own curriculum. Some platforms offer extra support with marketing and some will provide you with fully-formed curriculum. You will be able to earn considerably more if you are willing to write your own curriculum.

Create Your Own Online Language School

This is the highest-paying and most flexible option, but requires the most work. Not only will you have to write all of your own curriculum, but you will also have to bring in students yourself. In addition to collecting payments for you, online platforms in this category offer the technology required to set up your classes and offer them to the masses. The rest is up to you.

Pro Con
Pay Unlimited! You can charge what you want per student per live class. You can also create self-guided classes that bring in passive income. None.
Curriculum You teach whatever you want. It is a lot of work to make everything up from scratch.
Scheduling Work when you want. It is more time-consuming.
Prep Time Once you have taught the same class several times, there is no prep time. There is a tremendous amount of prep in the beginning.
Equipment Use what you have or buy more. None.
Students Teach whoever you want. Adults or children. You are responsible for finding the students.

Platforms to check out:
Learnworlds
Teachable
Thinkific
Udemy
Kajabi
Mighty Networks

Teach for a Flexible Online Company

If finding your own students is too much for you, teaching for a flexible online company is a good option. They will advertise your classes and enroll students, so you can focus on the nuts and bolts of teaching. You will be expected to create your own curriculum and content on these platforms. Content is subject to review and will be advertised on the site once approved. You will generally also be allowed to set prices as you see fit. Platforms in this category are often free to use, but will collect payment for you and keep a small percentage of the proceeds.

Pro Con
Pay You choose how much to charge. You are slightly limited by what others are charging. If you price yourself out of the market, no one will take your class.
Curriculum You teach whatever you want! It is a lot of work to make everything up from scratch.
Scheduling You are in charge. Work when you want. None.
Prep Time Once you have taught the same class several times, there is no prep time. There is a tremendous amount of prep in the beginning.
Equipment If you have the basics, you can create classes that don’t require additional equipment. None.
Students You may be teaching children or adults, depending on the platform. None.

Platforms to check out:

Outschool
Amazon
Airbnb
Viator
Meetup

Teach English in China

There are quite a few online English schools in China, all of which you can work for from the comfort of your own home. They usually provide you with a set of slides to use for each lesson and train you on their teaching method. These companies can have policies that are hard to fathom at times and will sometimes subtract pay for seemingly minor offenses. Demand for English teachers in China is high, making it an easy way to gain experience in online teaching.

Pro Con
Pay You always get paid what is promised. The pay is much higher than minimum wage, but relatively low.

 

Some companies subtract from your pay for silly things like being one minute late to class or having a single dissatisfied student.

Curriculum Just use what they give you. Very little work required. Sometimes the curriculum isn’t all that great and there is nothing you can do about it.
Scheduling Some companies are very flexible with scheduling.

 

Always early in the morning, so you will have plenty of time for translating during the day.

Time zone. You are usually teaching from 4 am to 8 am EST.

 

They tend to overhire, so it may be a while before you start getting students.

Prep Time Almost none! None.
Equipment None. They may require you to have some toys and physical props.
Students Usually children ages 3-12. Very cute! If you don’t get along with kids, it won’t work.

Companies to check out:
Bling ABC
Zebra English
Magic Ears
QKids

What resources do I need to get started?

No matter how good you think your built-in computer camera, microphone, and room lighting are, you are probably going to have to upgrade to be successful as an online teacher and cultural experience host. Here is what I consider the most essential equipment for online teaching:

  1. Professional Lighting

In order to cultivate a professional presence online, it is essential to be well-lit on camera. Buy a ring light or a set of those umbrella lights you see professional photographers using.

  1. High-Resolution Camera

Built-in computer cameras are generally very low-resolution and will negatively impact student experience. Low-quality cameras will also make you and your environment appear much darker on-screen than you really are. You will need a high-quality external web camera to ensure that students can see you clearly.

  1. Headset with Microphone

Students need to hear exactly how you are pronouncing things in order to learn a language well. You will also have to hear them in order to correct their mistakes. Having a good headset with a microphone is vital to ensuring that students can learn effectively. Make sure it is comfortable to wear as well, so your head doesn’t hurt after a day of work.

  1. Software

If you are working with direct clients, you may need a paid subscription to your favorite video conferencing software. You may also want to invest in teaching software that allows you to display pictures, words, numbers, and special effects directly on your camera screen.

I hope you can take this information and use it to diversify successfully with online teaching and cultural experience hosting. Translators possess a wealth of linguistic and cultural knowledge that is highly valued by learners, so it makes sense to share it.

Author bio

Carlie Sitzman is an ATA-certified German to English translator with over ten years of experience translating documents for the automotive and manufacturing industries.

She is currently learning French and enjoys painting landscapes in her free time. Read more about Carlie’s professional endeavors at: http://www.sitzmanaetranslations.com

Savvy Diversification Series – From text translator to film subtitler in just a few months

The Savvy Newcomer team has been taking stock of the past year and finding that one key priority for many freelance translators and interpreters has been diversification. Offering multiple services in different sectors or to different clients can help steady us when storms come. Diversification can help us hedge against hard times.

With this in mind, we’ve invited a series of guest authors to write about the diversified service offerings that have helped their businesses to thrive, in the hopes of inspiring you to branch out into the new service offerings that may be right for you!

A step-by-step guide

I’ll resist the urge to start this article by saying how 2020 was a huge mess for us all, because we’ve heard it one too many times, so I’ll get straight to the point. COVID-19 took my translation business from a surging one to a flatlining one in a matter of days. I’m a Spanish-to-English translator specialized in tourism, hospitality, destination events, and official documents. I also do some copywriting for my clients in these sectors.

For the last few years, my stream of work has been steady enough that I never stopped to think about what would happen if people stopped traveling, eating out, and immigrating to other countries all at the same time. (Well, to be fair, who ever would have thought that would happen?). But, the thing is, it did. The pandemic took away my livelihood in the blink of an eye.

So, I moved quickly. I decided to dive headfirst into a specialization I had been dreaming about for ages, but never had the time to study, research, and actually specialize in: subtitling. I love watching movies and TV, and I love watching them with subtitles on (even in English!). I always thought it’d be the coolest gig around town, but never had the time to make it happen.

The pandemic gave me something I desperately needed: A large chunk of time and a good reason to diversify my offerings. Here are the steps I followed to save my business and quickly transition from translator to subtitler:

1) I signed up for the ATA Audiovisual Division’s mentoring program

I was lucky enough to be paired up with Mara Campbell, a seasoned expert in the field. She gave me tons of great advice on how to get started and what to expect from the audiovisual industry. She also got me really excited about the profession. She’s so passionate about what she does and her enthusiasm made me realize that this type of work could also be a great fit for me. With her help and guidance, I was prepared to take the leap into audiovisual translation.

2) I took a specialized course

At the end of February 2020, with two months of government-imposed apartment lockdown ahead of me in Spain, I decided to take an online course recommended by Mara called GoSub Subtitle. The course is designed to take beginners from “zero” to “subtitler” in just a few weeks. And it did just that. I learned the ins and outs of subtitle translation: industry lingo, timing technicalities, reading-speed and character-per-line rules… By the end of the course I felt fully prepared and confident to present myself as a subtitler to the world.

3) I set up a rigorous marketing plan

The second I finished the course, I added a subtitling page to my website and started marketing like crazy. I created a list of dream agencies I wanted to work with and aimed high from the beginning (why not?). I started by reaching out to all Netflix Official Vendors within the first week after finishing the course. After that, I reached out to handfuls of subtitling agencies and post-production studios.

My marketing plan included a rigorous follow-up schedule which consisted of sending four follow-up emails to each agency, once a week, for one month. My final email had “This is my last follow-up attempt!” in the subject line, and that’s when I got the most responses.

4) I started working almost full time as a subtitler

Thanks to my new skill set and clear marketing plan, within just one month of finishing the course, I had almost full-time work as a subtitler. By the time September rolled around, I was invited to test to subtitle for the world’s largest streaming service… and passed. My first subtitled film was released on the platform at the end of February.

What my business looks like now

I’m currently subtitling about 80% of the time and translating 20% of the time. The pandemic taught me a tough lesson. While specialization is key, it’s important to have your eggs in more than one basket. I realize almost all my eggs are currently in my subtitling basket (which isn’t ideal either), but I plan to incorporate translation back into my business as the tourism and travel industry picks up again.

I’m passionate about all the services I provide, found a niche I love working in, and also feel more sturdy and confident in my business than ever before. And I guess I have the pandemic to thank for that.

About the author

Molly Yurick is a Spanish-to-English translator, subtitler, and copywriter based in northern Spain. She specializes in tourism and hospitality translations and her subtitles can be found on the world’s largest streaming service. She serves as Deputy Chair of ATA’s PR Committee and is also a member of ATA’s School Outreach Program and PR Writer’s Group. You can visit her website at: http://yuricktranslations.com/

Savvy Diversification Series – Translator Training

The Savvy Newcomer team has been taking stock of the past year and finding that one key priority for many freelance translators and interpreters has been diversification. Offering multiple services in different sectors or to different clients can help steady us when storms come. Diversification can help us hedge against hard times.

We’ve invited a series of guest authors to write about the diversified service offerings that have helped their businesses to thrive, in the hopes of inspiring you to branch out into the new service offerings that may be right for you!

Why did I diversify into translator training?

When I was asked to write about my diversification into translator training, I had to take a step back and really think about how it all came about. The short answer is that it was not a conscious decision and ended up being a natural development of my career.

Before I became a translator, long ago, I studied and worked with international marketing. After moving to the US with small children, I understood that I needed a career change. When launching and growing my career as a freelance translator, I took advantage of the marketing skills I had learned during my studies and my previous marketing career. These skills provided me with useful tools and a strategic outlook on how to market my services.

How did I diversify into translator training?

I started attending the American Translators Association’s conference every year from the beginning as soon as I began my career as a translator. I did this to learn new skills and to network with colleagues and clients. After a few years, I was encouraged to submit a presentation and share my marketing skills, so I did. That led to several more presentations at translators’ conferences, with a lot of good feedback. I also took several courses held by other colleagues on building my freelance translation career and saw a niche in sharing my marketing skills.

After pondering this idea for a while and talking to colleagues, I decided to write a book. I chose a unique format for the book – the recipe format. The book is divided into starters for beginning translators, main dishes for more experienced translators, the building blocks of a successful translation career, and lastly, desserts, the little extras that you can choose from to enhance your business. Each recipe was a specific marketing strategy, or tactic for translators, with ingredients and step-by-step instructions. That is how the Marketing Cookbook for Translators was born.

The book was well-received. Many people started to ask for my help and advice in marketing their translation services. After a while, I decided to distill my experience as a translator, my marketing skills and background, the tips in the book, and the various presentations and workshops I gave into a marketing course for translators. I have given marketing courses and workshops for translators for more than five years and genuinely enjoy helping other translators to create a system to market their translation services based on their situation.

Around the same time I started writing the book, I began to listen to marketing podcasts. There were not many podcasts for translators at that time, especially not focused on marketing and business skills. I enjoyed bite-size tips in audio format and the convenience of listening to marketing tips while driving the car or walking the dog. I decided that I could try sharing marketing tips in a podcast format, and the idea for the Marketing Tips for Translators podcast was born. In the beginning, I set a goal of 100 episodes. Now I have published over 260 episodes and have no plans to stop any time soon. Even if it is a lot of work, I love interviewing colleagues and other experts, sharing new and old marketing tips.

The courses and the podcast have increased my motivation for the translation industry. I learn a lot from the interviews and my students, which provides a nice counterbalance to just doing translations. It brings variety to my working days. However, translation is still my primary source of income, and I hope it will remain so for a long time to come. The marketing courses and workshops bring in a nice additional income, but it is more of a passion project than a business. The podcast and courses motivate me to try the new marketing strategies I learn about myself, plus I must make an effort always to practice what I preach.

How do I find clients or students?

This might come as a surprise to some of you, but despite having a marketing background and sharing marketing tips to other translators, I wouldn’t say I like the selling part of marketing. Some say that selling is the end goal or marketing result, but I tend to focus on the marketing part and let the selling be a natural result. This means that I share my tips wherever I can and consciously try to find avenues to share my marketing training, podcast, and books.

I offer many tips and advice “for free” in the form of podcast episodes, an email newsletter, blog posts, checklists, and small guides. The people who find these resources useful and see results from them tend to be interested in taking it further, sometimes as a student in one of my courses. I also continue to share marketing tips in presentations and workshops at translation industry conferences, and as an invited speaker for different translator associations. Translators learn about my services through all these venues.

How has translator training helped my business?

The courses and paid workshops have added an extra buffer of income for my business. This was particularly helpful in 2020 when I lost a couple of direct clients due to the pandemic cut-downs, and the work from agencies slowed down dramatically during the first months of the pandemic.

But above all, the courses and workshops have kept me in touch with the marketing of my translation services and the translation industry, and have motivated me to learn new things. They have also provided an outlet for me to be more creative, satisfy my passion for helping people (I once thought of becoming a nurse), and give variety to my workdays.

Tips for other translators thinking of diversifying into training

If you have a skill that you have noticed has helped colleagues or friends, you could start teaching it to others. Look at things you have helped others with. Could your knowledge or skills be shared in the form of presentations, workshops, or a course? Do you have an “audience” interested in learning more from you about these things? Then you could diversify into training. I know many colleagues that I admire who share their specific knowledge this way. If you want to try it out, my best tip is to focus on a niche or target market that you know well, just like you do for your translation business.

I am optimistic about the future for freelance translators and believe that we will continue to be successful if we are open-minded and embrace change. This includes exploring options to diversify our businesses to have secure income streams in any situation.

Author bio

Tess Whitty is a certified English into Swedish translator, specializing in digital marketing and localization. With a degree in International Marketing and background as marketing manager, she also shares her marketing knowledge and translator experience with other freelance translators as an award-winning speaker, trainer, consultant, author, and podcaster. She is involved in several translator associations as a committee chair, language chair, trainer and mentor. For more information, or to connect, go to www.marketingtipsfortranslators.com, or www.swedishtranslationservices.com.

 

Savvy Diversification Series – Monolingual Editing

The Savvy Newcomer team has been taking stock of the past year and finding that one key priority for many freelance translators and interpreters has been diversification. Offering multiple services in different sectors or to different clients can help steady us when storms come. Diversification can help us hedge against hard times.

With this in mind, we’ve invited a series of guest authors to write about the diversified service offerings that have helped their businesses to thrive, in the hopes of inspiring you to branch out into the new service offerings that may be right for you!

For as long as I’ve had my freelance business, I have been a translator who is diversified within my narrow area of subject expertise. Shortly after I started translating I got my first request to edit a chemistry journal article written by an author whose native language was not English. That request came through my ProZ.com profile, where I am registered under “English (monolingual)” as well as my main translation pair. Non-native editing (also known as ESL editing) for academics who have to publish in English when that is not their native language can of course be a career in itself. Many people, especially people with degrees in a technical field like me, provide only that editing service. There is perhaps more call overall for these editing services for those of us whose native language is English, but all freelancers can provide similar services for their native language.

For a decade I didn’t market myself for this non-native editing. My website and online profiles didn’t mention it. Yet it kept coming. I had picked up a few regular clients (rather than one-offs, which are pleasant but not a big money-maker) and started getting word-of-mouth referrals. Around that time, 2015 or thereabouts, I added it to the list of things I mentioned when I say what I do. Then I prepared a talk on the topic and it became obvious that other into-English translators were interested in adding this to their skill set.

In recent years the volume rose to make up about 20% of my gross revenue—a significant part of what I do. Importantly, I have always felt that this area of work improved my translations. It improves both my subject-matter expertise, since I read cutting-edge research while editing these papers, and my English writing skills. In February 2017 I wrote in more depth about this topic, including describing how others can get into this field. You can find that piece on the Training for Translators blog. In reflecting on what changed due to the pandemic, I reviewed it and found that much still holds.

So what difference did offering this specialized yet diversified service make to me in 2020? Put simply, the editing work held strong and kept me going through many bad months. I suspected that academics who couldn’t get into the lab or the field finished off half-written papers instead, though I don’t have anything to support that hunch. My editing revenue was slightly up last year on any of the previous years, and it made up a much higher percentage of my total revenue as my translation revenue took a steep dive in Q2 and Q3. Indeed, because my success with diversification made a big difference to my year and I shared as much when people asked how things were going, there are a couple of recordings where I spoke about this topic later in the year. Multilingual Magazine’s Summer Series included this panel on Diversification. I discussed it in the Speaking of Translation podcast here. Both may give you insights into ways we freelancers diversify and how those diversified service offerings help in difficult seasons or times of change.

So yes, I am diversified, yet I am still a highly specialized subject-matter expert. Diversification takes many forms!

Author bio

Karen Tkaczyk is a chemist-turned freelance translator, specializing in scientific translation. She is an ATA-certified French>English translator and a Fellow of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting. Karen earned a Master of Chemistry with French degree from the University of Manchester and a Diploma in French and a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Cambridge. She has worked as a research and development chemist in Europe and as a Quality Assurance Manager in a cosmetic and medical device manufacturer. Karen serves as the Secretary of ATA’s Board of Directors and is a member of the Colorado Translators Association.