Carving out your own translation niche

Carving out your own translation niche

nicheThe way we work is changing, no doubt about that.  Globalization and the Internet have opened up a wealth of possibilities.  As a freelancer or small business we can target clients in any country of our choosing, we can select any particular specialization and we can even decide our own hours.

Which is fantastic, isn’t it?

Well yes, absolutely, as long as it’s done right.  As long as there’s a strategy behind that choice, a carefully-built plan of action, a thoughtfully-constructed flight plan.

So, how do we ensure that we’re making the right choices?

My first real suggestion is not to follow the herd – don’t be a sheep and just do what everyone else is doing!  Take some time to come up with your own plan.

After all, something that works for one translator just might not work that well for another.  We all work in one global marketplace but most of us have local markets too – with their own special conditions, expectations, cultural nuances and so on.  Some translators couldn’t be happier working on similar texts day-in day-out while others crave variety.

As for me, well, I’ve made the “sheep” mistake before – I once took a job because I felt I was following the path expected of me – something I went for more as a result of guidance from others, rather than a true heart-felt passion.  Never again.

Of course passion is great but doesn’t always pay the bills.  A relentless focus on texts related to the bassoon (an instrument I once attempted to learn how to play), while dismissing all others, is unlikely to yield incredible results.

So how to go about combining passion with results?  Well, perhaps now is the right time to introduce the concept of “unfair advantage” or UA.   This is a concept I came across while doing one of my podcast interviews, and it’s stuck with me ever since.

Unfair advantage

Basically, the concept of “unfair advantage” relates to a specific set of skills at which you excel – along with very few other people.  Let’s take French to English translation as an example.  There are plenty of great French to English translators out there, that’s for sure.  But how many of those are experts in the medical arena, and how many of those live in the UK and are highly adept at desktop publishing?   Do you get the idea?

A great UA is something that cannot easily be copied or bought and further developing your own unfair advantage should enable you to combine your passions (your UA will likely include some of your interests already) and the attainment of financial goals (pursuing your UA allows you to be seen as the “go to” person in a particular area, which should result in better financial rewards).

So, what is your unfair advantage and are you developing it correctly?

There’s something else I’ve noticed.  When it comes to money, there’s plenty of data out there.  Doctors earn this much, translators that much and so on.   But, if you actually take a moment to have a look at a specific group, you will soon realize that there is an enormous range of earnings – and some earn significantly more than their peers.

Take a look at some of those in that position and what makes them special?  I bet you they have a nicely-developed unfair advantage and are the “go to” people for a particular area.

It’s not just about money

Oh, and it’s not just about money, in fact the money is more of a by-product.   The high-earners are also more likely, in my opinion, to be happier with what they are working on.  Why?  Because they have spent years developing and planning and carefully creating their ideal working environment.  Good for them!

My advice?  Don’t follow the herd, focus on what makes you special and develop those skills to an extreme where, quite simply, you are the best in your particular, unique combination.

Paul Urwin is the Director of, a digital marketing enthusiast and podcaster.



  1. Brains, heart and a business-like attitude will take you far. I have enjoyed the bliss you hint at and I agree It’s not all about money and combining passion with results is the way to live.
    As long as we see ourselves as CEOs of our businesses (whether we are incorporated or not) and act like partners to agencies and experts to our clients, we have a chance to reach that goal. Attitude is important.