Full disclosure time: I call myself the Translation Guy, but I’m no translator. I just run a translation company. Well, I don’t really run it. I’ve got this fantastic team of people who actually run the company. I just take clients and prospects out for drinks and fancy lunches. (Someone’s got to do it.)
I got to this spot by working for years for blue-chip Japanese media firms; Dentsu, the monster of Japanese ad agencies, Mainichi Shimbun, a big news daily in Japan, Fuji Sankei, a big TV network, and the Foreign Ministry of Japan. But by no stretch was I a translator. I was the ink-stained wretch writing the English. This after I failed the English-language portion of the US State Department Exam.
Then my wife, Yoko, who worked free-lance as a Japanese translator-interpreter, got stiffed big time by her main client. We were beyond broke, credit cards maxed, rent due and a brand new baby crying in her wet Pampers.
To butcher a quote from Boswell’s Life of Johnson, “Depend upon it, sir, when an entrepreneur knows he is to miss payroll in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”
So we bought a classified in the New York Times for translators (bad idea) and bought an ad in the Yellow Pages, picking a name that would put us at the head of the translators listing (good idea).
Low cost of entry is what makes this business so easy to start, but getting it right makes it sooooo hard to stay. And that’s kept me busy for the last fifteen years. But translate? I leave that to the experts.
And a word of advice: You should too.