In today’s connected society, translators and linguists play an essential role in helping individuals and businesses connect with one another. Thanks to the Internet, experts across the globe can offer translation services, however, success in the space requires more than a mastery of languages. Language professionals need to have domain expertise in the fields they specialize in, an understanding of the regions they operate in, and the drive to succeed in a competitive market.

Paving the way to success, despite facing technical challenges

Gladys de Contreras, a translation professional who has worked as a translator since 2013, is an expert in Portuguese, English, and Spanish. She has a unique background as she holds two master’s degrees in business and is a former professor and attorney. Therefore, much of her work is in the legal, commerce, finance, medical, and academic spaces.

When De Contreras first started working as a translator, she lived on an island in Venezuela that lacked reliable Internet and electricity. In her words,

We’re being brave because when you start anything in Venezuela, you not only have to put your work but also your soul into it as you face numerous challenges. These include no electricity for at least three to six hours a day, and no Internet connection most of the time. You might have the internet for a day if you’re lucky.

Rather than letting those hurdles prevent her from serving clients across the globe, De Contreras made the best of her situation. Early on, she would process work in batches and send the deliverables once she had Internet connectivity. She eventually relocated to the mainland of Venezuela to be near Colombia. This is when De Contreras bought a generator and rented a condo in Colombia to serve as a backup location for work.

After establishing a track record of successful translation projects, De Contreras began offering translation services through her company, Translating Stars, a boutique translation agency that offers Portuguese, English, and Spanish translations. The agency has served a variety of clients such as Total Translations, B2B Translations, Lingual Consultancy Services, Dictate Express, and All Translation Services.

Going from freelancer to managing a global team

Although De Contreras achieved significant success working alone, she wanted to expand her business to show the world that translators can thrive, even if they’re located in disadvantaged regions. This didn’t happen immediately. In order to grow Translating Stars, De Contreras had to take multiple steps.

The first was to identify the scope of services offered by Translating Stars, in order to determine which markets to target. Given her focus on quality, De Contreras chose to stick with what she knew best — Portuguese, English, and Spanish translations.

The next step was assembling a team of talented translators, project managers, and editors to handle the increased volume of work. Once she had this foundation, De Contreras created a website and set up a company email account to establish a professional presence on the web.

To reinforce the professionalism of Translating Stars, De Contreras also created written agreements for clients and translators, and designed templates for invoices and purchase orders.

This not only helped Translating Stars reach new prospects, but also helped justify setting rates based on the value the team provided, rather than on where they were located.

To help De Contreras through the complexities of transitioning from being a freelancer to owning and running an agency, Jeff Weiser, a regional account executive for Smartcat, served as a trusted partner.

In addition to helping the Translating Stars team leverage Smartcat to optimize their workflows, Weiser also introduced De Contreras to the Smartcat Marketplace — a significant source of leads for the agency. Weiser also ensured De Contreras had the resources she needed to build up her agency.

Using technology to enhance team performance

It’s a known fact that in order for a translation agency to be competitive today, they need talented professionals and efficient processes. This is why computer-aided translation (CAT) solutions have become essential for all modern translation teams.

De Contreras, like many language service professionals, had used CAT tools for a while, however, she found that such solutions were difficult to use, even after years of use. After learning about Smartcat, she made it the primary CAT solution for her agency because of its ease of use, translation memory functionality, and the ability to see what her translators are doing in real time.

De Contreras states that the translation memory functionality is one of the most important features for Translating Stars as it lets her see the edits made by the translators and proofreaders, allowing her to evaluate quality without combing through entire documents. Similarly, the ability to see changes in real time improves collaboration and helps identify the areas where translator performance can be improved.

Client quote

I am a real advocate for Smartcat because there are no better translation platforms to be honest… The difference with Smartcat is that while I have to pay for the translation tools, I don’t have to purchase an account for each person I am going to work with… Regarding the price, it is much more affordable and better quality than other solutions.

  • Gladys de Contreras, Translating Stars