Review of the Business Guide for Translators, by Marta Stelmaszak

Much has been written about Marta's book over the last year, here, here and here, for instance, but I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring, in case anyone who hangs around this blog remained undecided. So what did I make of the Business Guide for Translators by Marta Stelmaszak? Short answer: pick up a copy.

Long answer...

Reports about page and wordcount seem to vary between reviews. I'm not about to stop that trend now, with 136 pages offered in my review copy weighing in at just under 45k words. Three decent sessions (including note taking) saw me to the end, reading the PDF on my work machine. An e-reader version may have sped that up, but I like the ability to click out from PDF links, particularly as they featured so prominently in Marta's book.

So what does it contain? Well there are 4 main sections, covering 1) Economics, 2) Strategy, 3) Business Management and 4) Business Practice with a 5th section packed full of clickable resources. Not sure how that works with the print version, but it's nice in the PDF.

The methodical approach of starting off with the fundamentals of economics, linking these concepts with the business of translation and then expanding those into the following, more practical chapters on strategy and 'business operations' ensures that every topic relevant to small business is covered, all from a translation industry point of view.

You are encouraged to assess your own situation at the end of each chapter, giving you pause to really apply the higher level theories to your practical daily work. These theories are pulled from the staples of 20th century economics (Maslow, Porter, SWOT analysis etc.) through to some of the more recent concepts developed in the wired-world we now live in. It would be nice to see future editions tie these concepts together more tightly, since each section lets you build a model of your current (or future) situation, yet these models remain separate. One final exercise that brings them all together to more effectively highlight any weaknesses to deal with and strengths to pursue would be ideal. Though as exercises for the readers go, it's an obvious next step that I'm sure many will carry out in their heads if not on paper.

You could very well start a solid, well built translation business based on the information in this book, that's for sure. However, you could also make changes to an existing business that would make it much more attractive to prospects, mainly by plugging any overlooked holes in your own strategy. That is where the book's strength lies; in forcing you to confront and audit your own translation shop from multiple angles in a variety of contexts. In that way, Marta becomes the Mary Portas of the translation world, offering the tools required to analyse your business, distill its core purpose and set you on your way.

Now, the book was never intended to be a sales and marketing guide, as mentioned in the marketing section, so there is little in the way of advice in that respect. But once you've followed the guidance offered by Marta you'll find your business is in a much stronger position to direct those efforts towards the right markets and clients. It's about getting the foundations right, whatever stage you're at.

Much further and recommended reading is offered throughout, with all links being well curated. This approach allows you to follow up on the areas that are most relevant to you, rather than have to wade through any number of potentially irrelevant sections. That was much appreciated.

In closing, then, the Business Guide for Translators is basically the closest thing to a Translation MBA available. Back to the short answer: pick up a copy.

Digital and print versions are available here: The Business Guide for Translators (and from all good bookshops :)

Thanks for reading. I do translation from French and Swedish to English, so if that's useful to you, feel free to connect and message me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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