Are All Translators Entrepreneurs?

August 7, 2014
Are All Translators Entrepreneurs?

Recent research has shown strong commonalities between translators and entrepreneurs. Both groups are comprised of self-motivated individuals who clearly know what they want from the working world.

But just how many characteristics do the two groups actually share? And is it right to conclude that all translators are entrepreneurs? Let’s find out. 

What are the super entrepreneur’s characteristics?

A study by the UK Centre for Policy Studies on super entrepreneurs, the results of which were released earlier this year, has provided some interesting glimpses of the characteristics required to make it big. For the purposes of the study, a super entrepreneur was defined as someone who has earned $1 billion or more through their own entrepreneurial endeavours.

The report found that many super entrepreneurs had a particular set of characteristics, including, “creativity, work ethic, ambition, optimism, self-confidence, leadership qualities, adaptiveness, drive to achieve, tolerance of ambiguity, resilience, tolerance of stress, decisiveness, ability to deal with failure, a high energy level and good social skills.”

What are the translator’s characteristics?

Meanwhile, research by Universität Wien has sought to define the characteristics of translators. The research found that 80% of translators work freelance, and that many were highly qualified, creative individuals with a strong sense of social norms and professional ethics.

Furthermore, translators have been defined as hard-working, flexible, accountable and prepared to take risks. They are alert to business opportunities and many go on to found their own business. 

If the shoe fits..

Looking at the Centre for Policy Studies findings, it’s clear that many of the characteristics found to be predominant in the super entrepreneurs can also be found in professional translators. Drive to achieve, work ethic, resilience, adaptiveness and self-confidence – all of these can be applied equally to entrepreneurs and translators. 

Indeed, those without a strong sprinkling of these qualities are unlikely to succeed in making a living as professional translators. An individual with no drive to achieve, a poor work ethic and a lack of self-confidence is unlikely to be prepared to put in the work that it takes to build up a client base as a freelancer. Nor would he or she be likely to keep going in the face of potential client rejections or the loss of current clients, without a large helping of adaptiveness and resilience. 

So are all translators entrepreneurs?

The answer actually depends very much on your viewpoint. Many entrepreneurs are known for dabbling in multiple businesses or sectors, while translators tend to stick to their chosen field. Looked at in these terms, then not all translators can be defined as entrepreneurs. Far from it, in fact. 

However, when considered on the basis of character, there is a strong argument for the hypothesis that all translators are entrepreneurs. Dynamic, creative and flexible, successful professional translators share many of the same characteristics as successful entrepreneurs. Perhaps, then, a translator is simply an entrepreneur who was born with a flair for languages instead of for business. 

What do you think? Do you consider yourself to be an entrepreneur? Let us know by leaving a comment in the box. 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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