This is not a news blog or an advice blog or any sort of company blog. It's more of an opinion blog.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Take Inventory, Check Out the Other Folks

From time to time it's time to take inventory and see where you are at and consider where you want to go and how much distance you've already made.

Of course, you can say it's difficult to be objective, nemo iudex in causa sua and so on, but you don't need to be the epitome of impartiality to just note down your most relevant qualifications, such as degrees, accreditations, years of experience and other such data. Two plus two still makes four, no matter how modest or not you are.

Try to aggregate the data and preferably end up with something like elevator pitch as a result, minus the pitch. Peel off the marketing. We're taking a somewhat sober assessment in order to see what marketing you could use, so it's better to start from raw data than the marketing soup you've been serving for a while.

Now go find some CVs, bios and profiles from:
  • leaders in your language or field, or otherwise already where you hope to one day be
  • people more or less at your own stage
  • the rookies
See what the leaders or experts are doing and how. Depending on your long-term vs short-term focus for this little exercise, you can choose either the rock stars or people who are one or two steps ahead. There is a chance they are doing it right, if it works them, especially the rock stars. Those who are economically successful are more likely to do it right than people who you just know are good because you are qualified to see the difference and judge the work on your own. Especially those people who are economically successful but not really spectacular translators are probably good at the art of finding and convincing their clients. 

Look for similarities. Look for something which makes them successful and which you also already have, or are slowly getting there.

Find inspiration for immediate changes or scout the road ahead for information to keep in mind as you proceed. It's up to you.

Next check out the folks who are more or less in the same place. Is there anything they are doing better than you? Any smarter (e.g. shorter or more convincing) ways of saying practically the same thing? How about communicating the same information in a more inviting and reassuring way? How are they bringing out assets that are more or less on the same level as your own? (For example, you can learn from a medical translator if you're a legal one and vice versa). Anything they haven't thought about? Anything they missed but the more successful people did not? If they otherwise look very similar to you or to one another, how could you distinguish your message?

Now the the rookies. There's a chance some of them are replicating by-the-book solutions without really understanding them, but some may be quite creative simply because they don't know what exactly they're supposed to do or don't yet know what to copy. You can still learn from someone who does not yet know as much as you do overall. Competition is rough there, so there's a chance that those of the newbies who manage to eke out a nice living already know quite a lot.

Not to encourage elitist attitudes, but if you've been around for a while, you'll need to look for ways to bring out that experience in your copy and turn it into an advantage. I think that looking only within your bracket or ahead would not give you a complete picture. To keep track of progress you sometimes need to go back to how things are on the earlier stages of the road. You don't need to be negative in order to use the rookies' CVs and copy to measure your own progress. It's mostly the matter of demonstrating the benefit of your experience.

Don't get too carried away. It's better to underpromise and overdeliver than the other way round. Your presentation needs to reflect where you are and not where you hope to be in 5 years from now. Finally, pardon me for bringing this up, but if you feel like borrowing from one specific person rather than a pattern you saw in a wider group, remember to respect that someone's intellectual work and creative effort, which is protected by intellectual property. Where in doubt, ask permission or come up with something that's simply not as similar. Play nice.

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