Johanna Bowman is an English to German translator working in Germany. A thoroughly qualified linguist and self-confessed Anglophile, she’s been a freelance German translator since 2011, working under her brand name Take My Word For It. Johanna specialises in marketing, often in the IT & automotive sectors, as well as PR, video games and transcreation. She has kindly agreed to give us some insights about her life and working in translation.
Welcome Johanna, and thanks for talking to me here at German Translation Tips & Resources.
With a BA in Multilingual Communication and an MSc in Translation and Computer-Assisted Translation Tools, you are obviously well qualified for a career as an English to German translator. When did you decide that translation was going to be the career for you?
I started my BA because I am a hopeless Anglophile.
Also I’ve always known that a 9-5 job isn’t for me. So a couple of semesters into my studies, it dawned on me that a career as freelance translator might be a really good match.
You’re obviously a great believer in CAT tools! Are CAT tools now a standard part of the translator’s toolkit these days, rather than an optional extra? Do they boost your productivity?
They are certainly more helpful for some texts than for others, but I couldn’t do without them – particularly with regard to consistency! Also, I take a geeky pleasure from a well maintained termbase ;)
You also offer English to German localization and transcreation services. What does the localization process involve?
It’s hard to draw a line. Almost every translation involves a bit of localization, because a translated text shouldn’t read like a translation.
Depending on the source and your customer’s requirements you might not only need to change obvious things such as the currency, but you might also need to adapt the tone of the text and come up with new references or scenarios.
The business world is so busy making everything available in English; what’s demand like for an English to German translator working in the opposite direction?
Although translating from English into German is also a quite common language combination, I can’t complain about a lack of work.
Speaking about the business world, there is also a lot of content coming from businesses located in English-speaking countries that is directed to their clients or business partners in Germany.
You’re a member of Germany’s Federal Association of Interpreters and Translators (BDÜ). What benefits does membership bring you?
What I find most useful are the seminars.
They cover a wide range of interesting and useful subjects – and they offer a nice chance to mingle with colleagues.
What do you find are the major challenges of working as a freelance translator - and how do you overcome them?
As you can guess from the previous answer, I quite enjoy the professional development part of it. Even the marketing can be fun.
It’s the time management I find challenging sometimes.
Handling your workload plus the business tasks and still maintain healthy office hours can be hard sometimes.
How do you market your services as an English to German translator effectively? Are you a professional social media enthusiast? How do you find new clients?
I must admit, I use social media channels primarily for staying in touch with existing clients or colleagues. But they can help you build an online presence which in turn helps being found by potential clients.
Unfortunately, there is no golden rule for
finding new clients. Recommendations and networking in the real world also have
worked for me.
TIP! Johanna is absolutely right here about the importance of networking and word-of-mouth recommendations – I gained a new marketing client in Germany after a recommendation from Johanna. So use every opportunity to meet and talk with other freelance translators!
You have a presence on ProZ, LinkedIn and Xing: does this generate any business, or are you there simply because nowadays it’s generally expected?
It might be expected of you, but I can only recommend it.
My profiles on ProZ (I am not bidding on jobs there, I just have a profile) and LinkedIn have resulted in quite a few interesting business contacts.
Xing is nice for staying in touch with colleagues and networking with professionals outside the translation industry.
Do you work with a network of translators, or are you a one-woman band? Are you planning on sticking with the current situation?
It would be nice to further extend my network of colleagues in order to have recommendations for jobs I can’t take care of myself. But I don’t want to turn my business into an agency. I only like to offer translations where I can personally vouch for quality.
Where do you see your business in 5 years’ time?
Since there are so many things I’m interested in, I might add another area of specialisation to my portfolio and/or offer additional services such as copywriting.
Also, I’d love to translate a book sometime, preferably a novel!
What would be your key tips for anyone trying to break into the business?
I’ve found it very helpful to have seen the inside of a translation agency. So if you are still a student, consider an internship.
Also: Find colleagues to talk to, especially on the subject of pricing. As a newbie you can be tempted to offer lower prices but there is a line you shouldn’t cross, for your own sake and for the industry’s.
The best thing about being a freelance translator is…..
I love being my own boss and the fact that the job offers so much variety.
My number one tip for anyone needing to buy German translation?
Unfortunately, translations are often viewed as a commodity, something you have to deal with after all the “important” things have been taken care of.
But the truth is, it’s worth spending some time (and money) on finding the right person for the job. It really pays off.
Many thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Johanna.
Need an English to German translator? Contact Johanna Bowman directly at TakeMyWordForIt.
I'm a German to English translator living and working in Vienna, Austria. I turn German texts into clear and accessible English, allowing clients to present their stories, ideas and information to a completely new audience. My business and marketing clients rely on me to get their message across clearly and effectively. How can I help you today?