27 May 2015

Translation and the "asset that is worth owning"

I have been listening to many podcasts and online courses over the past few weeks. In that process, generally geared towards polishing my own definition of myself as a professional, I have gleaned a lot of useful information, and I would like to share some of it here.

One of the stars of my recent research was a course from Seth Godin on Udemy which turned out to be enlightening in many ways.

"Build what you need. It's not just there to be taken. These are assets, assets that we acquire over time, assets that we earn, because we seek them out and we invest in them," Godin says. "The leap you need to take is not the leap of quitting your job. The leap you need to take is to be the professional who invests in building an asset that is worth owning."

This struck many chords all at once, not least because I tend to dwell on the need to quit my day job. Godin reminded me that there is a lot more to building a career than just that.

Ever since I started to think of myself as a freelance translator, I became convinced that the decision to change careers needed to come coupled with a growth strategy and with as much investment as I could muster to make things happen, first, and then to make them happen better and faster.

But, of course, the more or less abstract ideas I have come up with over the past couple of years are infinitely more powerful when someone as good as Godin puts them into deliberate sentences. The idea that I am "building an asset that is worth owning" puts my own actions into perspective by adding an external market angle, while keeping in the forefront the fact that I need to be the agent, the driving force in that process. 

According to Investopedia, an asset is "a resource with economic value that an individual, corporation or country owns or controls with the expectation that it will provide future benefit."

So far, I had thought mostly of my own professional development and my own growth. When I chose Word Assets as the name of my translation business, I was thinking of the importance of corporate communications as a major asset for potential clients, which I could help preserve and even grow through my translation services. The idea that I too owned an asset that I could hone and develop as such, not only to improve my position in the market but actually to increase its value as an asset, was a revelation.

Thinking of myself as the owner of "an asset that is worth owning" puts me, as a translator, in a different category. And it gives new meaning to trying to find clients: I have an asset that would be of great value for them. In this context, it becomes transparent why my marketing efforts should be as much about my clients as they are about me. I would welcome the new business, of course, but potential clients would do well to gain access to the asset I have to offer.

Godin also has interesting things to say about the nature of that asset.

"Is there something about my interaction (as the client) with you that is bigger than the work itself? If you are a wedding photographer, is it the prints that someone is buying, or is it the interactions the bride had with you the entire time that they are actually paying for? Because those interactions are far easier to build in a discernible way than merely saying, 'I can prove my photographs are better than their photographs'," he says.

Indeed, the word assets that I was thinking about when I came up with my business name are only part of the picture. I have long been convinced that, when you offer a service, that service is as much a part of your deliverables as the translated files you send back to the client. What I had not incorporated into that argument until now was the reasoning behind that.

The "asset that is worth owning" is far bigger than a translated text. It brings together linguistic skills in my source and target languages, but it also incorporates a series of worthwhile interactions that add value to the whole process. I believe I am a good translator, but I am also convinced that the asset I am building and investing in, to put it in Godin's wise words, is bigger than translation itself.

Needless to say, the Godin course held many more pearls, and it was worth every penny. I highly recommend it!


  1. It sounds like a wonderful and worthwhile course! Thank you so much for sharing. :)