I would say that the branding trend among freelance translators only started gaining widespread momentum about two or three years ago, with much debate as to what is the most appropriate approach for individual translators to adopt. Translators are a diverse bunch of people. We have different language pairs, different areas of specialisation and experience, and differing opinions on which is the best way to drink coffee.
Simply put, no two translators are alike. This means that branding possibilities are infinite. Many translators have developed strong brands, and corporate identities perfectly synchronised with the company name they have chosen for themselves and with the particular services they provide. They have done a great job, and put the results to good effect, as one would expect.
I did not participate actively in the great freelance translator branding debate. Instead, I followed the debate and read widely on the topic. I thought long and hard about what I should do. I had solo brainstorming sessions in an attempt to come up with a company name which I could be happy with in the long term. I produced a long list. Afterwards, I gave the list a title: Things not to call your translation business. Anyone who has worked in public relations will appreciate the humour of the NO list.
Let me just say that much ink was used to arrive at the name I started out with, and the one with which I am most comfortable, Allison Wright Translations. That's my name; that's my brand.
Here is a story which tells you why, first published as one of my contributions to a free, downloadable e-book called The Bright Side of Freelance Translation and reproduced here by kind permission of its compilers:
Quick sketch: ©2015 Allison Wright
Table for two
The African Insurance Organisation held a week-long conference in the new Harare Sheraton in 1988. Translators were few and far between in Zimbabwe. I had a full-time job as secretary and translator at a credit insurance company. My services as a French-English translator were summarily offered on my behalf for the duration of the conference.
Thus it was that one Monday morning I found my youthful self, with a badge on my jacket, in a small room jam-packed with semi-computerised typewriters and three other women. Two were not translators and had no experience in insurance, but had been teaching French for years. This will be fun, I thought. The third was the group’s supervisor, Nati Collin, a professional woman in her forties. She was a picture of European elegance, with a sense of chic seldom seen in Africa. I liked her immediately.
My next surprise was a 20-page delegate’s speech for urgent translation into French. I said that usually I only translated into English, my mother tongue. Nati told me the into-French translator could not make it; I was the next best thing. I got to work. It passed muster with Nati, and the deadline was met. The flurry of other French to English documents served to make this hectic experience even more intense.
I was tired, but not undaunted, by 9 pm on Wednesday. Nati said it was time we had dinner; work could wait and it was her treat.
During our three-course gourmet meal, she remarked that she had been watching me closely − as if I had not noticed! − and thought I had what it took to become a good translator one day. She said that one should always use one’s own name in one’s company name. She suggested I increase my rates because it was unethical to do otherwise; charge what you are worth − no less.
She spoke of the passion involved in translation. She was confident, dignified and experienced − precisely the kind of person I needed to meet. After the conference ended, I never saw her again.
Some 23 years later, I sat in the Great Hall of the Academy of Sciences of Lisbon, at the launch of a large book I had translated. In his speech, the author referred to me as a passionate translator. I thought of Nati Collin. She would have been quite at home in this august assembly. I wished she were there with me. In a sense, she was.
Story by Allison Wright, pages 60-61,The Bright Side of Freelance Translation, © Nicole Y. Adams, NYA Communications, and Andrew Morris, Morristraduction, 2014.
Quick sketch, doctored: ©2015 Allison Wright
The quick sketch? That was a bit of five-minute fun.
For the rest of the time, I am serious about business and translation.
©2015 Allison Wright
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