Category Archives: Specialisation

Copy Blitz: How to write your one-liner

By | Business Blog, Content, Copywriting, Latest News, Marketing, Specialisation, Translator Talk | No Comments

Today, on our first day of Copy Blitz, we’re going to look at your one-liner. You might call it your USP, or your elevator pitch. Whatever you call it, it’s basically about perfecting your purpose, being clear on it and communicating it succinctly, should anyone ask.

So what’s your one-liner?



Let’s see…

I, well, I….

Tricky, isn’t it?

Coming up with a succinct, certain and confident one-liner when someone asks questions like “So what do you do?” or “Tell me about your business.” or “How can you help me?” is always a bit stress-inducing.

It can be tempting to fall back on old stalwarts like, “I have a PhD in Linguistics.” or just go super-simple with “I’m a translator.”….it might be that both of these two statements are correct, but, unless whoever’s asking you the question specifically needs a translator with a PhD in Linguistics at that precise second, it won’t shed much light on what you can actually do for them, or what makes you special.

In short, it won’t help them remember you.

If they do dig further and ask more, you might find yourself trotting out something about the modules your studied at uni, or your source and target languages…but nothing about who and how you help. This week is all about your copy, specifically, we’ll be looking at the copy on your business website. Knowing what makes you special, what sets you apart from others and, crucially, why that puts you in a unique position to help your clients, is something that needs to come across instantly on your website. So that’s what we’re going to figure out today….

Interrogation time

If we want to be able to answer these questions without sending people to sleep, we need to ask ourselves some questions first. These questions aren’t designed to be difficult, in fact, they’re the epitome of simplicity, but they are crucial if you want to figure out your business’s “Why factor” and communicate it clearly in a one-liner. Let’s start with these four questions….


What do I do all day?

Have you ever really thought about this, and. more importantly, tracked it? I wrote a post a few weeks ago about tracking your time to reduce your non-billable hours, but tracking your time is also incredibly important for helping you figure out what you do and why you do it.

I am a huge fan of Toggl, the time tracker tool – it helps me figure out how I’m spending my time (and if I’m wasting it) but if you’d like a simpler approach you can always go a bit more low-tech – in this post I take you through an old-skool pencil and paper approach and give you an Excel tracker to download.

I’ve also recently discovered RescueTime; it’s time management software that measures the time you’re spending on the different applications and websites you use, so it gives you an accurate breakdown of where you’re spending your time. (Here’s a link to the FAQs.) Several colleagues recommended I try it, and now I use it along with Toggl – it’s a great combination!

So why is knowing what you do all day so important? Well, I hate to break it to you, but you might not actually know what you do all day. Or you might think you know, but the reality is somewhat different.

If you don’t know what you do, how can you tell other people?

What do I like working on best?

When you’re tracking your time, I always recommend thinking about how each task or project makes you feel while you’re doing it. Why? Well, don’t you want to work on things you love? Working out your purpose, your Why factor, has to be based on the things you love.

When you’ve tracked your time and you have a week or so of results, look through and think about the projects, document types and subject areas you enjoyed working on. Clue: if time went quickly when you were working on them, or you found them easy, you probably liked them!

What do I hate doing?

Of course, there’s always the flip side. If you want to work out your Why factor, then it’s equally important to know what you don’t like doing. For example, maybe you can produce excellent financial translations because you worked in an investment bank for a long time….but do they make your heart sing? Do you get a real buzz from working on them? If the answer’s no, then they shouldn’t feature in your one-liner.

Who do I really like working with?

Like in question 2, study your time tracking results to figure out the clients behind some of your favourite projects. Try to figure out if they share any common features, for example….

Do they all work in a particular industry?

Are their companies a certain size?

Do they pay above a particular rate?

Are they all based in a similar location?

Let’s dig a little deeper…

Now that we have an idea of what we do, as well as what and who we like, it’s time to use that information as the basis for some more soul searching. Below is a (fairly long) list of questions I want you to ask yourself…

You don’t have to follow the order of the questions, and you can answer them in any way you please. Just try and do so instinctively, without thinking too much about what you “should” write….there are no right or wrong answers here – these questions are intended to help you get to the bottom of some of the “feelings” you have about your business, so you’ve got to tell the truth!

The Word Vomit Stage

Sounds yum, right? Anybody who knows me knows that I think brevity is best.

I think we should always try and communicate clearly, concisely and quickly. Where we can.

Short sentences, no windingly long concepts, no jargon and no buzzword bingo. We’ll go into more detail on Day 2 of Copy Blitz, but readers should be staying on your web pages because you’ve captivated them with your copy, not because they’ve fallen asleep with the browser still open. However, in this stage of figuring out your one liner, I encourage you to go all out on the wordiness.

Look at the answers to all of the questions you’ve asked yourself so far and create a soul-destroyingly long, War and Peace-length epistle on…





Are you an English to Italian translator specialised in animal rights translations because this one time when you were out with your parents when you were six years old you came across a puppy who had been abandoned and you and your parents took her home and nursed her back to health, which then inspired you to volunteer at a local animal shelter, which then encouraged you to study a BSc (Hons) in Animal Behaviour and Welfare at the University of Plymouth before using your language skills (your mother is Italian) to then craft this as your specialism?

Good! That is amazing, heartfelt and honest and it is absolutely the why behind your translation career. But, and I’m sure you know this, it can’t be your elevator pitch, or your one-liner – it can’t even appear like that on your About Me page on your website (we’re getting to that on Wednesday.) Why?

Because it’s about you. It’s not about how your business helps people.

But it doesn’t mean that we don’t need all that information! So go ahead, write it all down, get it all out. Give it the old Oprah treatment (what? Nobody else pretends they’re being interviewed by Oprah??) Once you’ve done it, and you’ve got a good couple of sides of paper on your journey to where you are today, we’re ready for the next step…

Remove, Refine, Refresh

This is the stage at which we start to strip away all the background noise, and then refine your “blurb”. This is where we use all that useful info on who you help, why you help them, what you like doing, why you’re good at it.

  1. Pick out your job “title”, something that people might identify – think of what people might search for if they’re looking online.
  2. Extract your specialism.
  3. Who do you work with?
  4. What do you do for them that makes their life easier or better?

Here’s an example:

It’s pretty informative, it tells people what they need to know and it’s (relatively) brief. But what if we want to work towards a one liner? Here’s the next step….

We’re definitely getting there! But what if you’re in a lift with the ideal-est of ideal clients and you’re only going one floor and you need to communicate what you do in a few seconds?

Perfect. You’ve removed the extraneous detail from your (admittedly ridiculously long) word vomit stage, you’ve refined your message to be clearly understood for all those who don’t care for fuzzy matches (clue: the majority of the world) and you’ve refreshed it to communicate your value clearly.

This is the basis of your website copy. Knowing what you do, as well as who and how you help, needs to form the backbone of each and every one of your web pages. Tomorrow, we’re going to look at writing your website copy (or refreshing it, if it’s looking a little tired!) Our aim is to produce copy that serves as a guide to your site, gently steering your readers through the actions you want them to take, all the while giving them a clear picture of exactly how you can help them and what they get from working with you. Sound good? See you tomorrow.

This week’s Copy Blitz accompanies the celebrations for my copywriting course’s 1st birthday, so each day there’s a blog post there’ll be a discount on the course price. Today’s discount is 25%….tomorrow’s won’t be so good! Just follow this link to sign up and click on any of the Copy & Content – Translated birthday images on the page or you can click on the one below this text…for one week only the Premium version is also the same price as the regular option!) 

Focus on: New Translators (Part 1)

By | Latest News, Marketing, Networking, Specialisation, Translation, Translator Talk, Translators | 6 Comments

You know, the title of this blog post is a bit misleading (arrrgh! I’m breaking my own rules!) I’ve aimed it at “new translators”, but really, these tips serve any translators, be they fresh as daisies or been-around-the-blockers, the only requirement is that they want to improve. (This is all of us, right?)

I got asked to mentor two new translators over the summer, and, once I’d finished my bulk order of anti-aging cream, I decided to view it as a positive thing. I also started to think about how I could be of best service. What would my “tips” be? What did I wish I knew at the start of my career? The video at the end of this post, lovely colleagues, is what I came up with. Read More

Stat’s Interesting!

By | Latest News, Specialisation, Translation, Translator Talk, Translators | 3 Comments

Apologies for the terrible pun in the title of this blog – I couldn’t resist it, given the subject matter. In case you’re reading this before you’ve had your morning coffee, I’ll clarify the topic of today’s blog – stats, stats and more stats! Over my years as a freelancer and before I started outsourcing any work to other colleagues, I’ve always liked to keep records of how many words I’ve translated. About a year ago, however, I decided to start keeping more detailed information on exactly what I work on, as well as charting the outsourced work as well.

All things special

As freelancers, we’re constantly told that we should specialise. And we should. But when you’re starting out, that can be a really hard task. There are very few freelancers I know who have the income or willpower to turn down paying work because it isn’t their specialism. Many of us have pulled an all-nighter at some point in our career, cursing ourselves (okay and the agency) for taking on this paper on nuclear physics when what we really want to translate is the marketing material for Karl Lagerfeld‘s latest collection. Also, it takes a long time to have the courage to say exactly why we want to specialise in a certain field. For some translators, the choice is easy – they have existing training and interest in the subject. For many others though, the decision to specialise is much harder, and the reasons for it can seem much…lamer. But the bottom line is, if you like a subject, you’re interested in it and want to devote time to researching it, then that is just as valid as the guy who’s a medical translator because he also happens to be a board certified orthopaedic surgeon. Show off.

Get me some stats, stat!

There’s also nothing wrong with having a few specialisms – we can have specialisms that pay the bills and specialisms that really light our fires. Even the most experienced translators occasionally take on jobs which are more general, uncomplicated or just different from their specialisms – often to give them a bit of head space. Sometimes, if your given subject of expertise or type of translation doesn’t pay extraordinarily well, that’s another reason to have something else up your sleeve. For me, my specialism lies in more technical texts and the reason for this is several years of working in the environmental sector – the general umbrella topic of “the environment” encompasses many different fields; ranging from science to construction, hitting sustainability and ecology along the way. I’m also a major history geek and have been since I was a teenager, so it’s an area I’ve actively chosen to specialise in. In the past few years I’ve collaborated with a client on more techy subjects and have (to my surprise) loved learning about software, new apps and IT. In the middle of last year I decided to start recording the subject area of each translation I did, so I could gain a picture of the type of projects I work on. Naturally, I had to put it into a pie chart and I thought I would share it here:


As you can see from the chart – the “Environment, Science & Technical” slice of the pie is by far the largest, and for any number crunchers out there, that equated to 226,393 words in 12 months. By contrast, the legal side of things, which I generally try to keep to a minimum, added up to just 3569 words over the year (which was a single, very simple project.) I also thought it would be interesting (yes, I know how geeky that makes me sound) to track how the year went in terms of words translated, so I took the data on monthly word counts and put it into a simple graph.

Word count stat

Going with the (work) flow

It was fun to see the spread of work over the course of the year and how it corresponded to projects. I remember that October and the Christmas period were quiet, not only because I took holidays, but many clients did too. However, I had thought that April and May had been quiet months (again, I had taken some holiday) but the numbers tell me otherwise. Some of the difference in my recollection of the month compared to the reality could be attributed to the type of projects I was working on. For example, if I have steady work throughout the month the word count can be quite high, but seem very relaxed. On the flip side, a month with lots of small jobs with tight deadlines can seem extremely busy (and lucrative!) but the figures say otherwise. So, the result is that I’m still not sure when the best months are to take time off!

I’ve got some more stats up my sleeve but they’re more related to the outsourcing side of the business, so I’ll leave them for another post. For my last funky graphic though, I wanted to give a feel (without breaching any confidentiality of course!) for the types of projects I’ve been working on as an individual translator. I’ve said it before – I love words, so this type of infographic (if I can call it that) really appealed to me, as it’s a selection of words or subjects I’ve been working on in the past twelve months. Enjoy!

Translated words

Post edit: This has been a really fun post for me to write, not to mention the fun(!) I had when I was looking through my data and analysing it. I’ve had some chats on Twitter since I’ve posted it and it seems other translators find this sort of information interesting too, so I thought I’d ask some questions to hopefully get some opinions in the comments – do you keep records or word counts? What about your specialisms – do you have one or a few? What’s your work flow like throughout the year – even or up and down?

Whatever your requirements, I can work something out to suit your style. GET IN TOUCH

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