Olga Arakelyan – Professional translator, blogger and certified EFL teacher from Russia

04.02.2016

Olga is part-time freelancing right now, but she used to freelance full-time. When her daughter was born, Freelancing gave her the flexibility to always be there for her family and helped her grow as a person and as a professional. To her, translation is like making music. Every word has to be on the right place, so the whole text makes a beautiful melody. Her motto is: define what you want, make it your goal and pursue it....

1) Hi Olga, thanks for your participation. Can you tell our users a bit about yourself and what you do?
Well, I am a professional translator and a certified EFL teacher from Russia, and I’ve been a freelancer since 2007. It has been a fun and actually a life changing experience for me as freelancing really helped me grow as a person and as a professional. I provide translation from English and German into Russian, proofreading and editing services. Last autumn I made a change in my life as I agreed to become an employee for a translation company. I still work part-time as a freelance translator, but from 10 am till 7 pm every day I manage translator training school at LinguaContact translation company. Right now we offer different courses for Russian speaking translators, but we are preparing some interesting things for our English speaking colleagues as well. I love my job, because it is exciting, it is helpful for the translator community, it allows me to use almost all my skills, including teaching, translating, administration, blogging, social media marketing and copywriting. Besides, I continue to work remotely, so I still feel like a freelancer ;-)!

2) What was the occasion to start freelancing?
My inspiration was the birth of my daughter in 2005. I had a job then as a staff translator and interpreter, and my boss agreed to let me work from home using Internet while I was on maternity leave (in Russia, maternity leave can last up to 3 years). That was the time when I realized that I didn’t want to work any differently. I didn’t want to see my daughter only in the evenings and early mornings. I wanted to be at all her parties in the kindergarten, I wanted to see how she was growing up, I wanted to always be there for her. So two years later, I was given a choice to either start working “properly” (i.e. from 9 am to 6 pm every day) or leave my job. I chose to start my own journey as a freelance translator. And I have no regrets regarding that decision.

3) What is the reason that freelancing is only a part-time business to you?
Well, there were several reasons. I can see it as a logical outcome of the past several years. In 2010 I started promoting my services online through my blog and social networks, and got pretty good at social media marketing and blogging. In fact, it turned out that among Russian translators, I was one of the best. I was invited to teach some courses on SMM and blogging at proz.com and at some other online schools and projects. That’s how I got acquainted with the director of LinguaContact translation company. He took part in one of my training courses, we started talking, discussing ways he could use social media to promote his company. After a couple months I found myself as a part-time blogger and social media manager at LinguaContact. Fedor Kondratovich, the company CEO, shared with me a couple times that he needed somebody to manage their translation school. At first I didn’t think I could do it. But it was an interesting challenge, and one evening when we were chatting on Skype I felt real inspiration. I described the ways I could use to help the translation school, and the marketing strategy I would use. We chatted for about two hours then. My husband even got jealous :-). Fedor offered me the job and said he couldn’t find anybody who fitted better than I did. And I felt I was hooked, because by that time I knew the company and the people there, and I realized I could do more. I’ve been managing the school for a little over a year and I love it. It’s challenging, fun, and rewarding. And I still get to work remotely, which is totally awesome.

4) How do you set yourself apart from your competitors?
Since I only have early mornings and evenings to work on translation projects now, I am not looking for new clients. If they find me (I do have a website and several social media profiles), I am always happy to help them and build long-lasting business relationship. But right now I mostly work with my existing clients who already know me very well. They know that I always do my very best, no matter how small or big a project is. You know, when you have worked for a client for a long time, there’s always a danger that you might become too relaxed and too confident that they will always choose you. But they can change their mind if they see that you don’t pay that much attention to the quality of your work anymore. So I make sure my work is always as perfect as it can be. Besides, I often work on creative projects since I specialize in marketing translation. My clients know that I am always available in case they have questions. They know that my goal is to make their text sound as natural as possible, while keeping it as accurate to the original message as possible. That’s why I may ask questions, and I may provide them with more than one version of a slogan, explaining every word of each version, so they can choose the one that fits their business best. To me, translation is like making music. Every word has to be on the right place, so the whole text makes a beautiful song. My clients appreciate this thoughtful approach to every project.

5) How do you find new clients? Do you use freelancing website? Do you have your own website?
Right now I am not looking for new clients so I do very little marketing, but I make sure those who find me get great service ;-). I do use social networks and I have a personal blog. But my main job now is all about finding new students and teachers for the translator school I work at. So that’s where I use all my marketing skills and knowledge.

6) Can you provide any Marketing tips and tricks for freelancers?
I guess the main tip would be the following: Keep marketing at all times. If you want to avoid costly marketing mistakes, watch what other experienced translators do, analyze their mistakes, good and bad choices and do your best to follow a good example. At the same time, try to figure out what is the most valuable thing about your business and how you can demonstrate it to prospective clients.

7) How do you manage the pressure of meeting deadlines? Do you use any specific
apps or software tools for self-organization, invoicing and something else?
Actually, I’ve always used an Excel file where I put all project details, including PO, file name, contact person and company, deadline, mark if the file has been sent, and at the end of the month I make invoices and add the numbers of invoices and payment deadline. I always negotiate deadlines so I don’t do more than 2 projects at the same time. It was my rule when I was a freelancer, and now that I freelance part-time I follow this rule even more strictly. If a client needs a translation urgently, or faster than I can do it, I discuss the option of subcontracting the project, but if I subcontract a project I always check and edit it if necessary.

8) What does it take to be successful as a freelancer?
Some advice from me:
  • Treat freelancing as your personal business. If you do, you will find yourself doing many things differently than other freelancers who don’t treat it as a business. You will become more serious about marketing, money matters (setting rates, making invoices, paying taxes, financial planning etc.), networking and a whole lot of other things.
  • Don’t be afraid or ashamed if you can’t freelance full-time from the very beginning. It’s only reasonable, especially if you are the only provider in your family.
  • Prepare to work a lot! Seriously, A LOT! But it will pay off, if you work hard and smart
  • Remember about ethics: think about things you don’t ever want to write/translate about. Be professional with clients and with your colleagues. Never discuss clients publicly and never judge or discuss your colleagues publicly as well.
As for success, it’s such an ambiguous word. Some think that success is money. Others think that success means doing something that is meaningful for others (like donating their translation skills for a cause etc.). There are also people who think that success comes with popularity. Or maybe it’s a combination of all those three factors and a few more! So I don’t think there’s a recipe that would be good for everybody. I guess my advice here would be: define what you want, make it your goal and pursue it.
 

How to find Olga:

Websites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/olga.arakelyan
(when sending a request to add you as a contact, please say that you’ve read my interview at freelancermap. Thank you!)

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Olenkaarakelyan
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