online translator communities

3. Online Communities for Translators featuring Andrew Morris

Paul talks with Andrew Morris about the importance of online communities for translators, in particular the Translators and Interpreters and the Translation Mastermind Facebook groups.


Here is the full transcript:

Paul Urwin 0:00
Hi there. I'm Paul Urwin, and welcome to the Podcast, where we discuss all of the relevant issues to help you succeed as a freelance translator, or interpreter. We cover sales and marketing, networking capsules, and much, much more. Find out more at Hey there, Paul here and welcome to episode three of the all new podcast, I've got a fantastic interview coming up for you in just a second with the one and only Andrew Morris a very experienced translator himself, he runs a translation company. He's also an author of a very good book on translation, called the Book of standing out. And he is an expert at building communities building online communities for translators and interpreters. And that is a lot of what we will be talking about today. Before we get cracking with that, don't forget to check out the new training courses. Thanks very much. And I hope you enjoy the interview. Andrew, welcome to the show. Well, thank you for having me. Great, great to be able to talk about or have this opportunity to talk about all of the different things that are going on And well, earlier this year, you started started while you took responsibility for the Facebook group. And I know lots of great things have been happening there. So let's, let's talk a little bit about that.

Andrew Morris 1:41
Well, thanks very much. Yeah, it's been six months now since I began.

Andrew Morris 1:46
The first job that I wanted to do that was to improve the quality of the content because there was less of a filter before. And therefore everybody was posting adverts about themselves. Just saying hello. My name is Dorothy, for example. Yeah. And there was a content deaf clogging up, I think the the main channel. And so the first kind of job isI so it was a little bit of housekeeping to institute a kind of charter for this is what we want. We want people to share ideas. We want them to ask questions, but we don't want them to just simply clutter up the space with the short ads for themselves.

Andrew Morris 2:28
One thing?

Paul Urwin 2:28
Yeah, I mean, I certainly there's been a massive change there. And I think I think people found that a little bit frustrating because you don't just want to go to a group, whether there's only adverts and it's it just becomes a little bit a little bit boring, a little bit repetitive. And now when you go into the group, you can see this huge amounts of really valuable content on all topics really related to translating and interpreting.

Andrew Morris 2:54
Yes, I think the content and also the atmosphere, I mean, there was not much atmosphere before. But there are two kinds of Facebook groups for translators, one which are actively moderated. And the others, which in the name of free speech are allowed just to continue with everyone basically being allowed to say what they want to say. And I have always believed in active moderation in the sense that I think every group, society, family, country, football team needs rules, and needs, kind of norms, which they observes and also needs captains and leaders. And I have no problem from the beginning, stepping forward and kind of taking on that role, which is what I was paid to do. And so to play a much more active role in saying to people, this is how I'd like us to speak to each other. It's not just about the content, but also the tone. This is what we won't do. We won't attack people. We won't get involved in fistfights, even though we can discuss things very clearly, and even robustly because we want different kinds of opinions. So those two things with the first jobs that had to do with sort out all the clutter, and then kind of impose or invite people, let's say, to sign up to a kind of group ethos, which I think people have done spectacularly well, we had one or two exceptions at the beginning, as people were getting used to this kind of new audit. Whereas now, the group is largely self policing. If somebody steps out of line, it's usually other people who say, that's not how we're meant to be talking to each other. So I think the group is kind of adopted that, by and large,

Paul Urwin 4:35
Brilliant. Brilliant. All right. Yeah. I really like what you said about sort of community and football, football teams and all other kinds of other kinds of communities. But I mean, this is a massive community. Can you tell us what the numbers are like today, Andrew?

Andrew Morris 4:53
Yeah, well, we're about 30,270. I think it is right now. Well over 100 people a week coming in, it was about 21. I think 21,000 When I took over, and I think that the improved content and the improved atmosphere. And two other things, I would mention that there's a lot of business tips, which are not necessarily there before, because the better the questions, the better the answers. And I've, you know, many, many people in the group with vast experience, who are now contributing fairly sizable chunks of text in answer to questions. So the, the attractiveness of the group is shot up for that reason. And I think a fourth thing, which is impossible to measure, but I would say that what I personally tried to do is introduce a kind of different vision of being a freelancer, which isn't only about what rates can you charge? And how do you get clients, but also about the way you think about yourself in the world. So it's a slightly broader picture of what it is to be an entrepreneurial Freelancer in the translation space in 2019, with all the kind of technology we've put around us, so I'm trying to broaden people's horizons, some people will adopt some of the things I introduce other people won't, that's fine. But yeah, we're simply trying to give people that sense of bigger than just you and the text. And I think all of those things together, have providing a draw, because I see people now and again, I get about 20, people applying to join all of them invited by one person in Egypt or in China or in another country. So it's obviously the word is spreading. People are encouraging their friends to capital. And that's for me, that's great. That's exactly what you want when you're running a group.

Paul Urwin 6:50
Yeah, I mean, I'm guessing it's the sort of most international translator community and and I'm also guessing that, that there are pockets of people who, in different countries who was, as you've just said, you know, who haven't necessarily heard of the Facebook group, who then then really want to get involved. I mean, perhaps more translators out there than we all realize.

Andrew Morris 7:17
I think there are hundreds of 1000s out there, I think I saw once the figure of a million, and were 30,000. So there's obviously a room to grow. But what I like is that people are inviting their friends in, in the knowledge that they will be safe in this space that they won't be ripped to shreds by more experienced translators. Simply because, you know, I'm watching out for that, and that people can ask any question, and I find that even the simplest question even how do I get clients? Or how do I decide my right? Give us those of us who are more experienced a chance to, to help and to share our knowledge. And in a subtle way, also to show to the community who we are, every time you give a valuable answer to somebody online? You're without necessarily setting out to do this, you're showing the community that you are a person who's trustworthy, who's generous, who is prepared to give up their time? And that does you no harm at all, when it comes to your own profile? And the way people perceive you in the translation space?

Paul Urwin 8:22
Yeah, I've always, I've always found the Trent, the translator community overwhelmingly positive. Of course, there's always sort of one or two exceptions. But I think my I think most people really enjoy helping, I think I think people really enjoy helping each other out. And I think, I think what you've created, and it's not just about the numbers, and the numbers were massive increase in the numbers in the in the pros group, but it's not just about that. It's about creating this community where those who are more experienced can help out those who are less experienced. And I think everyone gets value from that interaction. It's, you really, you really do get value from obviously from from posting a question if you'd like to find the answer to something, but also from from helping from contributing. And as you said, it helps people's profiles and so on. So brilliant stuff. And just just to clarify, so for someone who is not a member of the group, this is a completely free group, and you don't need to be a paid member, is that right?

Andrew Morris 9:26
That's right, or even even a registered member. But we do encourage people, obviously, the group is providing this as a service. is paying me obviously, to do this role. And so we encourage people at least to sign up and register but it's not a condition. It's an it's a public group. So it's completely open, which people sometimes forget, which means that anybody can see what's going on there. And so yeah, it's absolutely open to anyone who is a translator, anyone who would like to be a translator, we ask questions when people join, and a lot of people say I'm thinking of becoming a translator. And so I'm happy To invite them in, they don't often strike up lots of conversations, but they're watching and they're reading and they're learning. And I think we're providing, you know, a valuable service beyond the people who actually interact every day, there are 1000s More, who are watching who are learning, and who are who are benefiting.

Paul Urwin 10:17
Perfect. And if we could just delve for a couple of minutes into a little bit more into it, the exact type of content that that you see on the page. So what kinds of if you give me a couple of examples of questions, or people posting videos, and let's let's, what kind of content do you see on the page?

Andrew Morris 10:39
I see, we don't see many videos. That's a good idea. I posted a few of myself, but I'd like to see more videos of people. Because I think it's a very interactive way to engage with the community. It varies. We have, at one end of the scale, we have complete newbies asking things like should I ask to be paid for my work before I do it? Or should I wait until I've delivered the text? So it's a very simple question, but a very valid one. And the question might have asked the beginning of my career, to some fairly frequent questions like how do I get new clients? Then some more specific cases, which might be kind of challenging things like my client has asked me to sign this? Should I do it, too? How do I organize my finances? So basically, it's anything to do with freelancing to do with getting started as a business. So that's the questions, then we have people who come in with case studies, ways that they got clients things that they've done, which they'd like to share with the group because they worked or because they didn't work. And that's one misconception, I'd like to kind of clear up, I'm really happy to deal with problems, negative solutions, challenges, as long as they've done in the spirit of how can we improve this? Rather than Can we please all complain for an hour together?

Paul Urwin 12:03

Andrew Morris 12:05
And I think that there are pointers from the more experienced members of the community to how to think a little bit beyond those basic steps and how to build up your business, we talk a lot about the human side of interacting with clients. We talk about the what we can call, as a short time, the mindset issues, which is about the story you tell yourself as a as a translator, whether you see yourself as a victim of certain agencies, or whether you realize that you've got a fair amount of autonomy in your business decisions. And you can change clients, you can change your rates, you can change the people you work with, you can change when you work. And so in a way, breaking down some of those barriers in people's minds is a key aspect of the work that I personally want to do to show people that they can be more, they can have more, they can do more, so that they optimize their potential, and that they begin to think a little bit beyond maybe the comfort zone that they might be in, or if they're in a discomfort zone right now that they can begin to take charge of that and realize what's not working for them, and that it's within their power to at least begin the process of changing things so that they work better. For them. I'm firmly convinced that every single Freelancer has a lot more choice, a lot more room for maneuver, many more options than they often think. But it's a question of realizing that and then beginning to act on it.

Paul Urwin 13:35
Okay, brilliant stuff. Brilliant stuff, Andrew. And perhaps we should have started with this. But actually, behind all of this, there have been some pretty big changes going on And, and a change in approach and a change in philosophy. And you mentioned the word power. And I think a lot of this is about empowering, empowering freelancers, or helping freelancers, really, to succeed. So can you talk a little bit about how you perceive that the changes that have that have taken place? Over obviously, this year 20th 20th anniversary for for So a great a fantastic milestone. And in some ways, perhaps is perceived as a as an established player in the in the translation world and it does certain things very well and a number of things not so well. But I'm certainly really, really pleased to to see the changes that have taken that have taken place there and I just really wants to get your, your take on that. So how do you perceive those changes?

Andrew Morris 14:52
Well, the shortest answer is that Since I've been talking to them actively has marked a move from delivering services to and tools to its clients who are the translators to a vision of freelance success. And that was what Henry kind of spoke to me about at the very beginning, when I began to take over this, this role, it started off as a fairly all encompassing vision prose when it began in 1999. Of a global platform of translators introduced the forum at a time when there was no Facebook, it introduced a powerhouse at a time when there was no meetup introduced a Like button, before Facebook ever existed. And obviously, the kudos system for all its faults was conceived as a global, basically a kind of pre Wikipedia, but for the translation community. So I think there is a huge vision. And I think that's often underestimated the power of one person to come up with this world changing vision on a level within our community of Wikipedia or Facebook. So that was where it all began. And I think it experienced a huge amount of success. And has done and continues to do so throughout its time. But of late, maybe the focus narrowed a little bit to the services, the website, and there is a forum within the community. But that doesn't speak to everyone. And I think Henry, watching the work that I was doing in conjunction with For the what was then the standing out mastermind, he saw that there are other ways beyond providing tools and techniques and services. There are other ways to engage translators, around ideas, and around community. And so we've been working for two years together on that. And the way he says it to me is that, you know, part of watching how I did what I did without offering tools and services around some curiosity in him. And that he wanted to bring me on to open up that vision, so that we're working yet to help people succeed in their minds, to help people succeed in their practices. And to do so in ways that go beyond saying I click on this page, or subscribe to this service. And so that's what I that's how I understand the role. And of course, talking about success, as you do often as well, is something that's exciting to do. It's something that has no limits, because success can be interpreted by so many different people in so many different ways. And there's no one version, no one definition. And so it's a very exciting period, because you're moving beyond the mechanical side, and you're opening up people's minds to everything they could possibly do. And so that's why I'm really delighted to be to have been invited to play this role. Other people could do it. But circumstance threw me in Henry's way. And, you know, it's been a very exciting journey so far.

Paul Urwin 18:14
Yeah, well, as you say, it's not just about them mechanical. And I think you've really helped to change people's sort of perception of what they can achieve in the translation industry, and really, really fantastic work with the group. Andrew, you've clearly you've clearly got people going and you've clearly really changed change things, not just in terms of numbers, but in terms of that great content that we've talked about. So absolutely. A really big, really big well done. Thank you. Okay, very good. Right. Well, the other thing I'd like to talk about, well, first, of course, if you're if you're not a member of that pros, group, then I suggest that you head on over there and check it out, you can find out more information of I'll put all of the links up there. And then if you're not a member of the Facebook group, then why not head over there and check it out. Now, sort of segwaying into the next part of this episode, I'd really love to talk about the your other group, which of course, is the translation mastermind group. Is that Is that the correct title?

Andrew Morris 19:20
It is now? Yes, yeah. Brilliant. Okay. Well,

Paul Urwin 19:23
lots of things going on there as well. And just to well, just to sort of give my understanding of that group, that group is completely free for Plus members, and it's, it's a little bit different to the main group. So let's start to talk about about that group, please.

Andrew Morris 19:41
Okay, well first started smaller. It's a group where if you're not a pro, plus subscriber, when you pay to join, you pay four euros a month or a whopping 39 euros per year. And it was, it was based at the beginning on the idea that if people pay If they ascribe value to something and contribute a little, then they tend to get more out of it. But obviously proved an divisive decision. But it's one that I'm very, very happy with, because it led me to the job I'm doing right now. So you've got people who are prepared to pay either by joining press plus, or by paying through the website, which is translation, that immediately filters out a group of people who are who prefer maybe to, to carry on the way they're doing, they're going right now, and not pay because they don't believe in paying even though those people would be very unhappy themselves to work for free. So this is going to filter and we've got people who are prepared to invest some huge amount in their business, which means that you tend to get people who are either more experienced, and I've been around the block, okay, and who know what it is. A lot of our members have been translators for 2015 10 years. Or you get people with a more positive attitude to working on themselves working on their craft, as translators working on their professional skills and working on their mindset. So you've got people there with a certain approach to life. And some of them may also be the experienced ones. And then we've got some people who are new, who have come through pros plus new to the profession, but quickly realize that they they kind of atmosphere in this group of extreme support for each other. Now in the main group, we've worked hard to eliminate discord in the sense of interpersonal discord, while we can slip disagreement in this group is no different. But here we have a group of people who have been learning together for in some cases, five years, who know each other well, and are very tolerant of different views. They are tolerant of people who work whether they work for agencies, whether they work for direct clients, because people are essentially fairly confident in themselves in this group, and therefore at ease with what other people choose to do. So you won't have people jumping on others for choosing a different way of going about things. Another interesting factor is that we're all very relaxed talking about money. And money can be a difficult subject to handle, definitely groups where you've got a huge variety of people. Whereas here, you know, there's a big continuum of earnings, there are people in the group who earn 10 times what other people in the group The atmosphere is such that we can save now and again. So what are your rates? What are the reasons for those rates? Do you want to put your rates up, and these questions can be handled in a way that is mature and open minded and tolerant? So that's where I'm coming from. And then you've got this, this varied raft of questions that come from the group itself, which in some ways mirror, some of the questions you might find in the post group about writes about client problems, about situations about new initiatives about my new website about my new business cards. But people who are in both groups, maybe choose the mastermind group, because it's a more intimate space, and each other better, there are many people who are in both groups. And I'm very careful to post different content every day, in both groups, so that there's no overlap, and that people who are in both, if they have the time, and the interest that they can see two different kinds of prompts everyday for discussion.

Paul Urwin 23:55
Very good. Very good. Mr. Morris. So I love I love some of your phrases, actually, I must say and, and the one that sort of stopped me from that stuck with me from that little, that little segment is extreme support. So I think you can experience extreme support within that translation mastermind group and I'm a member of that group as well, of course, and I think it's a it's an incredible atmosphere, very inspirational, but a lot of real substance in there as well. A lot of real guidance. And I think yeah, it's absolutely absolutely fine that that people that people invest those who want to invest, yeah, really helped me in a small amount of money for for those who are serious about investing in their in their future as a freelancer either, as you mentioned through the direct payment option for the whopping 39 euros a month, or 39 euros a year, so sorry, or, or through through Plus membership, which is about about $180 a year but of course that then comes with a whole a range of other benefits. So. So yeah, that trade translation mastermind is for those people who are really looking to just invest a little bit in in themselves and get more out of it get more out of it from that more intimate environment. And from that, from that extreme support, so brilliant stuff. And, and

Andrew Morris 25:20
is that we've been talking about the Facebook group. But I have been joined in kind of leading that by by Tanya Quinn theory, who's a long standing member of this group. And she has began to broaden my vision, because I think it's a great idea to work with people who have skills you don't. And Tanya has a relative skill that I don't I'm good at leading people. And I'm good at creating atmospheres. But she is real businesswoman. And she has opened my eyes to the possibility of, for example, setting up online courses and what we're calling the Academy of having events, which I've always had. But we've done one way recently in Prague, which went off really well, by having an online summit next year in February. And by allowing people to showcase their profiles on our website, so that people in the group who don't necessarily have a website yet have a very attractive page where their contact details and whether their skills, and that blurb about themselves are all displayed. So those are great contributions, which is turning this group into a community with a real mission beyond its interaction in the daily Facebook posts

Paul Urwin 26:36
now awesome stuff. Awesome stuff, Andrew. And and yeah, it's not it's not all about the numbers, as we've said many times, but the numbers are up significantly in that group as well as that, right?

Andrew Morris 26:47
Yeah, we've got 13 150 people, I think I'm not looking at people in there right now. And and one slogan I came up with the other day, which seems to have stuck is that we see quality translation, not as the goal, but as the starting point.

Paul Urwin 27:06
So nice. Yeah. About

Andrew Morris 27:09
how good a translator you can be, because we'd like to think that is a given that everyone is striving to to hone their skills. But my question is, what next? What do you do? If you've got the skills? Yeah. How do you think differently? And how do you interact differently with the client community, so that you can build a business? And not just be an ever more skilled practitioner?

Paul Urwin 27:31
Excellent, excellent. And nothing? You've already launched the first course as well. Is that right? Yes, we

Andrew Morris 27:38
have a few courses up on the site, some are free. There's one about translating websites, for example, with WordPress, which, which has a cost attached, but there's one already about how to email clients, which is completely free. So there's a mixed bag there of offers for translators to come along. And, and, and learn in their own time, simply by downloading the materials.

Paul Urwin 28:05
Okay, brilliant. Brilliant. No, very good. Well, very, very inspiring to hear sort of your progress in both of those groups. Andrew, I know you have a lot of experience in, in running in running Facebook groups and running online communities. And you're obviously really, really good at bringing people together. And helping people helping people along. I think a lot of people just need a little bit of a helping hand a little bit of encouragement, a little bit of guidance. So perhaps, parents, we could just sort of wrap this up by by talking about what do you think people get out of these groups? In general? Why do people? Why do people join online communities? And do you think every one every freelance translator, for example, should be a member of one or 10 online communities? What what's your what's your take on that?

Andrew Morris 28:57
I think it operates on a number of different levels. In terms of information, I think that unless people have a principled stance against social media, and some people do, you know, some people are very afraid of giving my data up to Facebook, for example, okay, I understand that, but they're not my audience of those people who are okay with social media. I'd say that, at the very least, you will get or at a surface level, you will get more information, you can ask questions about any practical technical financial question you have, and you will immediately get a several arrange of several answers, which you can pick and choose from. So that's the very, the most basic advantage that's on the surface as it were, and then I think under the surface, there is a need within many of us Unless we're very isolationist, there's a need within us to, to form part of a tribe of a community. I think the translators are often isolated. Some people talk of real loneliness, which isn't something that I suffer from. But there are people out there who, you know, it begins to weigh heavily on them that they're working alone everyday. And like, is this for, for social reasons, for community reasons. And that's something that they don't necessarily articulate, but they come back day after day after day. So they're obviously finding something in this beyond the information because much of the information you can find in books, for example, or by putting that question into Google. So I think people come for information for community. And they come for something very nebulous, called Inspiration, I've never really understood, even though it's a word that I've heard heard used, around the groups that I run, many, many times. I don't know exactly how it operates. But I think at a gut level, by looking with an open mind, at the successes of people around this, or the challenges, and by hearing the advice of people who've been there beforehand, it somehow flicks a switch in people, and enables them empowers them, as you said, to realize that I can do this too, if they can do it, I can do it. And that's how I understand inspiration at its basic level. Not that you're gonna be blinded by somebody, or that you admire them on a pedestal from afar. But you think they've got that, I want a piece of that. And I'm going to do small, make small changes, in my own practice, to get me nearer to what I want. It's very important, I think, in these kind of communities, not to set a single bar that everybody should attain, we should never say, everybody should be earning x per year. Yeah, everybody should have X number of clients. It's always about where are you right now, starting from there. And asking people, What is it you want to add on in terms of your, your business, maybe your income, maybe your skills, maybe your level of satisfaction? Can be all different kinds of goals for different kinds of people? Do you want to give your family a better life? Do you want to travel more? Do you want to go and meditate on courses, that can be as many different visions and there will be as many different visions of the future, as there are individuals in the group. But it's important to encourage each person to kind of explore who they are, and to draw on the resources they have internally, to get them closer to their goal, not your goal. Oh, Michael?

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