Tuesday, 15 April 2014

7 simple marketing tips for shy freelancers

Are you a shy freelancer like me? You want to promote your services but you feel uncomfortable? I feel exactly the same. However, we need to do something about it because, as freelancers, we need to get out there and do stuff. This is the only way clients will notice us. So, here are seven simple marketing tips that I came up with in order to help myself. Hope you find them useful :)


If you want to market your services in an open, confident culture, you have to find ways to become more assertive. However, if you want to market your services in a culture which values modesty, your introvert style is more than perfect. For example in Greece, when someone is talking constantly about their achievements, it is considered bragging. Moreover, when a product or service is advertised a lot, people become skeptical. So first of all think if your style is already fit for the culture you are aiming your services at.


When it comes to marketing, you should develop your own, personal style. First know yourself and then just be yourself. This is what matters most. And remember, your brand is you. You can't change all of a sudden! Embrace yourself and try to change only the things you feel really uncomfortable with, ignoring each new trend that comes your way.


If focusing on yourself makes you self-conscious, why not focus instead on the things you can do for others? Think of how your services can help others and promote your business along these lines. This way it will be easier for others to grasp exactly what you can do for them.


If you feel uncomfortable about marketing your services, you should start small. A small website or blog, a few business cards, some phone calls are more than adequate when you start. And slowly but surely, you will get the hang of it. And no matter what, don’t compare yourself with others. They had started small, too!  


Since it feels weird to talk about yourself, why not shift the attention to your brand image? It is going to be much easier if you talk about your brand and its special qualities. This brand is you, of course, but this way you will trick yourself and will overcome your shyness.


A complicated brand, website, or business plan is only going to confuse both you and your clients, making you even more nervous and self-conscious. Why not try simple, clear-cut elements at first? Be simple!


Think of your shyness as a good thing, a positive attribute that is directly linked to your kind-hearted personality. You shouldn’t give it up. Rather, try to transform it into something more: become a balanced professional, who knows their limitations but who also claims their place in the freelancing world, knowing their strong points and confidently, not braggingly, asserts: here I am, I am good, work with me!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

10 things language learning has taught me


Achieving fluency in a new language can take so much time. So, one of the first things language learning taught me was how to set long term goals, and how to stick to them. Language learning has taught me as well how to manage these goals, and especially how to deal with boredom the days these goals seem far and unreachable.


With languages, a little goes a long way. With speakers of other languages, even in the cases when you simply know one greeting or two, it can make much difference. It shows that you respect and acknowledge these people.


Having said that, I believe it is equally important to enjoy taking care of the small details while moving towards your goal. And this goal should be none other than fluency. Personally, I enjoy being fluent; when I use another language, I thrive on the quick game my mind is playing while searching for the correct word or expression.


With learning new languages, many methods work, from the most ancient to the most state-of-the-art ones. In other words, there is not a best method for every student and for every purpose.


With language learning, a little goes a long way, as I said. If you study for a while every day, you will be able to see the first results very soon. This has taught me that if you give time to something, it will grow. In other words, if you take care of something, it will take care of you.


Since languages reflect reality in many different ways, using another language can bring out another side of you. Personally when I use a different language, I become quite a different person. The medium affects the message, as they say.


Have you ever felt you lack the words to describe a situation? That words are not enough? This happens because language evades us. Reality is far more complex than language, and what's more, people tend to use words in their own way. The fact we are able to translate between languages with meaning staying roughly the same shows that there is a level which exists below the surface of language. And while we can reach this level through language, it will always evade us. And it is better to try to think in other ways, for example through images and feelings, and don’t take language too seriously. This is closely connected to what I am going to say next:


Since language is only surface deep, and speakers of different languages usually describe the same state of affairs using different means of expression, learning new languages can shed new light to our experience of the world. For example: in the English language, we 'jump' to conclusions, emphasising this action as premature or thoughtless. In Greek we say we 'bring out' conclusions. So, for me, conclusions are both 'brought out' and 'jumped to', and despite my being a native Greek speaker, when I think about conclusions it is impossible not to think about 'jumping'!


Not knowing anything about a group of people can lead to stereotyping and xenophobia. But interestingly, when you start learning their language, these people begin to have a voice. And it always comes out that this voice is very close to yours. In a world that emphasises differences, learning each other’s languages will bring us closer.


They say that a new language is truly yours when you dream in it. Do you think it is required to have achieved fluency in order to be able to dream in a new language? No, not at all! I have dreamt in languages I had just started to learn. Have you ever experienced looking at something and at the same time name the thing in your mind in another tongue? Or, have you ever started to use words, expressions, even whole chunks of language in a new language without realising it? This is native-language-style processing, and it certainly can happen with languages other than your own; especially when the situation calls for it!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Let the children play

I was very happy that so many people liked my previous post: It’s better late than never for freelance translators. However, I would like to point out that while for most things in life it’s better late than never, there are some things that must happen at the correct moment. But before I continue, I’d like to say that while I haven’t got children myself, I used to be a child, and people who are not parents should not be excluded from the discussion a priori. All voices have something to contribute, right?

So, what I’m trying to say is that while it is possible to do a lot of things later in life, it is impossible to relive your childhood. That’s why for me it goes without saying that no-one should mess with a child’s childhood.

My own childhood is a very special place that I enjoy to revisit quite often. I am capable of locating this precious feeling of being a child. I can recall how it feels to be open to every possibility, how it feels to be fresh, innocent and receptive. A certain song, a comic book, a movie can send me straight back to that special place, giving me at the same time a new lease of life, and strength to keep going. I can remember exactly what excited me as a child: a new book, learning English, exploring geography and astronomy… and this excitement is ever alive with me, even in my darkest moments.

It is impossible to experience being a child again. Our childhood happens only once. That’s why it is extremely important to let children be children. They are entitled to have this special place of their childhood to accompany them as adults. Some people don’t understand it. That’s why we see certain parents relying on their children, assigning to them roles and responsibilities that the children cannot resume. Usually these parents feel especially ‘proud’ of their little ‘lambs dressed as muttons’. But that’s just not right.

Childhood is about making mistakes. About playing. About being innocent. About exploring the world. About making silly declarations or ludicrous revolutions. I know that it is very difficult to become a good parent and that we should not judge. But when you think that it is impossible to become a child ever again, you realise that, after keeping children healthy and fed and clean, we must protect their childhood. Let the children play.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

It's better late than never for freelance translators

You may find it strange that this post seems to invite freelance translators to stop worrying because 'it’s better late than never'. Freelance translators always have some deadline that should be respected at all costs. However, this blog post is not about such deadlines. Rather, it is about the deadlines we set to ourselves, according to popular beliefs and the latest trends.

These deadlines usually go like this: we have to have finished university by the time we reach [certain age]; we have to get a real job by the time we reach [certain age]… and so on and so forth. Some people are actually building their lives around these beliefs, without paying any attention to what they truly want. That’s what leads, in my opinion, to the so-called mid-life crisis: you enter the rat race, you keep up with the Joneses in terms of life decisions and one day you wake up, half of your life has passed and you wonder: did I really want this?

I saw a very nice film recently, and its last lines reminded me of something that had happened to me when I was a kid:

When I was eight years old, some people from the Ministry of Education came to our school to inform us about a certain sports contest that was to take place the following Sunday. As it seemed, they wanted to discover whether any kids with tremendous aptitudes (athletically speaking) could be found among my classmates and me.

I was helpless at sports. I was precocious in Greek and English; I was very good at math and music. But I was really, really helpless at sports. Even today, I can’t understand any kind of sport; I am not able to comprehend the rules to save my life. But the authority of these people hinted that it was obligatory to show up.

I had to show up.

Even now that I am writing these lines I can clearly recall how terrible I felt standing among my classmates in that field on that chilly morning and preparing myself… well… to run a race. Okay, let’s do it, I told myself. I started running and my stomach ached from the effort. Oh dear. After a while it was impossible to go on. So I began to walk away, when suddenly a young gym instructor appeared to my side.

She said: “You have to finish. It doesn’t matter if you finish last, what really matters is to finish”. She even ran with me, at my side, encouraging me to go on. No other teacher had done something like that for me before.

I finished last. My name was actually written in a list which was pinned up at school for everyone to see. It hurt so much! But after all these years, I feel that on that Sunday morning the only kid that actually learned something from the whole experience was me. It became obvious to me that it doesn’t matter at all if you finish last, what is important is to finish.

There are a few things that I did ‘late’ in my life, and many things that I haven’t done yet. For example I got my second degree much later in life and at that age I became a translator as well. It doesn’t matter at all if I have started late. The satisfaction I get from my profession is enormous. Instead of spending my time regretting, I chose the path of ‘better late than never’. And regarding translation as a profession, I think it is not so bad after all to have started a bit later. So, if you have some wild dream, consider whether it falls in the category of ‘better late than never’, and go for it!

“No, what matters is to finish it. Films have to be finished, even if you do it blindly.
─Mateo Blanco (Lluis Homar), Broken Embraces

Friday, 21 February 2014

4 unconventional language learning tips for fast results

Do  you want to study a new language? Remember: when it comes to language learning, the best advice comes from fellow language learners. This is because language learners will give practical advice. It’s one thing to understand the theory behind language learning and another thing to be able to use studying methods that work. That’s why I am going to give you a few unconventional learning tips that have helped me over the years learn languages faster. Are you ready?


It is true that grammar is not the be-all and end-all of communication. However, a good grasp of grammar will help you express yourself more accurately. Like it or not, grammar goes with the territory of language learning, and those who get down to the dirty job of learning the grammar at the very early stages of their learning, always find language learning more rewarding.

And why start with the verb system? First, since verbs are the basic element of any sentence, a sound knowledge of the verb system will help you understand more input. And second, a sound knowledge of the verb system will help you form more sentences that are very close to what you really want to say. Especially when it comes to writing, you will find yourself that you are able to express yourself far more easily with a wide range of verbs at your disposal. Remember that the verb system is more complex when it comes to declension, so better get it out of the way as soon as possible. Moreover, bear in mind that while you can get away with a noun that you always use in the nominative, a poor verb system will make you sound quite abrupt.


The words of a language are just the tip of the iceberg: a whole system of values, cultural traits and norms exists below (see also #7 in the 10 things language learning has taught me). Some of these elements are not completely understood even by the native speakers of the language. In other words, language is closely connected to this thing called ‘real life’, and it is through ‘real life’ that we have to tackle our language learning. And since there’s not a one to one correspondence between languages, we have to go through the real world once again in order to connect it afresh to the words of the new language we want to learn. When we are exposed to something new, this finds its way into our mind and memory. This means that the sooner the language learning steps out of the ‘book’ context into the ‘real context’, the better!

So, what do we have to do? We have to notice notice notice! Even a small chunk of language, a small advertisement or a newspaper headline, can become a much more important language input than a phrase in a book. Our brain marks it as a very important activity and pays more attention. Besides, this way we learn not just the meaning of the word, but something of its use, its connotations, its register, its collocational restrictions etc. And this saves us much time in the long run.


This is a method I used when I was studying for the entrance examinations in order to get into the University of Athens for my second degree in English Language and Literature (long story), when among other things I had to learn Latin from scratch. I found this was the quickest way to learn it. However, it is really really boring. But it works wonders.

In this method, you visit the same material again and again in order to grasp it totally. Before each learning session, ask yourself “what do I know about this particular language item?” and then study it and revise it immediately. Then wait for a couple of hours and revise it again. In fact there is a whole psychological theory behind this method which is based on how the human memory works. It is indeed very boring to go through the same material so often, but it makes you feel you have grasped it well, and this can give you confidence to go on.


When it comes to language learning, I believe you should try to do what works for you. Even if it doesn’t work, the mistake will be all yours and therefore you’ll learn from it. Well, you should always listen to what others have to say, but you should trust your instincts and do what seems logical to you. And by doing so, you learn how to learn, and that’s the most important of all. This is going to make a true language learner out of you. 

Do you know any language learning tip which might be considered ‘unconventional’? Please share it in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

5 ways a freelance translator can use the Internet in a more positive manner

It  was back in early 1998 when I was first introduced to the Internet: there was this friend of mine who was telling me again and again how you can find everything online (“Wanna come upstairs to show you my Internet?” seemed to be the perfect pick-up line for the nerdy gal I was in those days).

So, what was the first thing I wanted to look up on the Internet?

Song lyrics! There were so many English songs I was absolutely curious to look up and find out at last their exact lyrics. It was obvious from the very first moment that I wanted to use this new medium in a way that was meaningful and relevant to me.

But it is not always easy to do so.

Sometimes I find it quite hard to balance my online presence and my regular life. I am using the Internet in a way that is not always meaningful and relevant: it is becoming a burden.

So I decided to sit down and reflect upon what had possibly gone wrong.

First I realised that my relationship with the Internet these past few years has somewhat changed. Now I use it also as a professional tool. As a freelancer I am interested in networking with fellow professionals as well as with potential clients. And that’s the main reason I use social media, too.

And it was then that it came to me: if I am to use the Internet more positively, I have to re-examine the way I use it on a professional level. And that’s exactly what I did. So now I’d like to share my thoughts with you and give you a few tips I came up with in order to use the Internet in a more positive way. Hope they can help you as much as they helped me!


One of the first thoughts I had was that I was objectifying myself on the Internet. I was doing it mainly through comparing and contrasting myself with the other professionals. But we are not just a part of the machine: each of us has their own special value as a person and as a professional. And we obviously are a lot more than the sum total of our qualifications: our true essence as human beings can never be reduced to an online profile. Yet when we see the abundance of professionals out there it’s easy to imagine that clients are able to pick and choose. That’s not always true. We are not interchangeable. Each of us is special and worthy in our own way.


The Internet is so vast it can become a total time waster. Unless you have a good compass that helps you find your way. For me this compass is my personal goal. When I try to avoid causes that are irrelevant to my goal I use the Internet more effectively. Besides, my goal helps me beat procrastination because this way I become more focused on what I want to do. But most importantly, sticking to my goal has helped me meet people that share my interests. Again, the advice that works is to always use the Internet in a way that is relevant and meaningful to you!


I came to the conclusion that we should schedule our time online because I had a feeling that the Internet is taking over my life. And why was that so? Partly because I felt compelled to answer every single email or message immediately. The Internet gives us the feeling we are living in a total ‘present’, that’s why while we are online we tend to forget about the future and we want to do everything right now. Maybe it will work for you to make a deal with yourself and check what’s happening on the online world every thirty, sixty, or ninety minutes (I am not able to make this deal yet. But I will try). In any case you should never forget that our time online needs to be scheduled because otherwise it can get easily out of hand. 


Sometimes the client does not see us translators as complete people with own life and needs. For example, when we respond almost immediately to an email or to a DM, clients tend to assume that we are always available. We should NEVER identify with this image. Rather, we need to balance our professional with our personal lives. And if there are some freelancers who work constantly, without even a small break, and who are always available for everyone, that’s very fine (for us, obviously not for them). It is impossible to compete in these terms. Forget about it and move on.


For me, but I believe for others as well, the Internet has started to give me the uncanny feeling that it is ‘unreal’. I don’t know how to explain this. I’ll just say that sometimes I feel the Internet is somehow disconnected from real life, as if it’d got a life of its own. So I decided to do the following: I thought about real people and tried to imagine a fictitious online profile for each of them. And then I suddenly realised that an online profile, however detailed, would never do these people justice. It would always somehow ‘reduce’ them. Why? Because online presence acts just as an appendix to our real life. Yet we sometimes forget. Sometimes we even use our real life to enhance our media presence! The Internet should supplement real life, not the other way round. If you feel you are spending too much time online, that certainly means something. Think whether you’re not satisfied with your regular life, and if not, try to do something about it. Finally, do not waste your time on creating the 'perfect' profile. In any case, it will not do you justice. Instead, try to interact more with fellow professionals and potential clients with the aim of meeting them at some point in real life (but always in a safe context). That’s what I am going to do from now on! What about you?

Thanks for reading!