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So Maria, what's your backstory?
Before I became a founder, I did all sorts of odd jobs to pay the bills. I was a barmaid, a cleaning lady, an assembly line worker, and even a market seller at one point. I hopped around 11 companies in 5 years, and people would always say things like, "You have no focus" or "You're a quitter." But I like to think of it as being curious and ambitious.
As for my upbringing, I left home quite young, at 17. I was born in Germany but also lived in Portugal, India, and the Netherlands. It was pretty unconventional, but it definitely gave me a taste for adventure and exploring new cultures.]
In terms of education, I graduated from an art school in the Netherlands with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. People would say things like, "Making art and partying, anyone can do that!" But I like to think of it as developing my creative problem-solving skills and learning Dutch at the same time.
Of course, there were some not-so-great moments along the way, like toxic work environments and doubters who didn't believe in my goals. But I try not to dwell on those and instead focus on the positive experiences that have helped shape me into who I am today.
What is Global Readership?
As the founder of a freelancing business, I specialise in providing design and language services to individuals and companies. My aim is to help my clients bring their ideas to a global market, whether that means adjusting their beautiful designs for their websites or translating their content into German or Italian.
One of my key services is Design Stage Translation, which involves working directly with Adobe Raw files to provide seamless translations without any unexpected surprises. This ensures that my clients' designs are not only visually appealing but also accessible to a wider audience, including those who don't speak English (hello, Mom!).
To illustrate my approach:
Let's say you want to localise an online course into multiple languages. You hire a translator to provide the translated content, but when you add the new text to the course, you realize that the design is all off because the text length changes. The images and other visual elements no longer align with the text, making the course difficult to navigate and reducing its overall appeal.
This is where my holistic approach to Design Stage Translation comes in. I don't just focus on translating the text – I also pay close attention to the visual aspects of the design. I work directly with the Adobe Raw files to adjust the layout and formatting of the content, ensuring that everything fits together seamlessly. This includes adjusting the size and placement of images, changing font styles and sizes, and tweaking other visual elements as needed.
By taking this comprehensive approach, I'm able to provide a truly localised experience for my clients' users, regardless of the language they speak. The end result is a course that not only looks great but also provides a clear and engaging learning experience, regardless of the language being used.
My business exists to meet my clients' needs and save them time while also providing a personalised experience. I take the time to understand each client's unique needs and preferences and strive to keep them informed and involved throughout the entire process.
Ultimately, my goal is to make my client's lives easier and help them achieve their goals, whether that's through localising design or making their content available to a global audience.
How did you end up doing what you do?
As an artist, linguist and nomad by passion, I have always been fascinated by the way language and design work together. I started working as a translator, and soon enough, I found myself frustrated with the lack of attention given to the visual aspect of localisation. I realised that many translated documents and websites looked poorly designed because of the text's length, font choice, or other visual elements. That's when I had the idea of combining my design and language skills to provide a more holistic approach to localisation.
The name "Global Readership" came to me as I was brainstorming ideas for a name that would capture the essence of my business. I wanted a name that conveyed the idea of reaching a global audience through translated content.
As for a funny anecdote, I have to think about my mom. She's always been an avid reader but struggled with English. So, whenever I visited her, she would show me a stack of articles and ask me to translate them for her. It got to the point where she would jokingly introduce me to her friends as her "personal translator." I guess you could say that my mom was the inspiration for my passion for making content accessible to non-English speakers.
How did you start Global Readership?
I slowly built my business over time as I was looking for a way to work remotely while travelling. I didn't want to be tied to a traditional office job anymore, especially after some negative experiences at my previous employment.
As for the service itself, it developed naturally as I gained more experience in translation and design. I started out taking on small projects and built up my skills and portfolio from there. I focused on providing a holistic approach to localization, taking into account not just the language translation but also the visual aspects of the content.
My first client on Upwork was totally underpaid - but super exciting. I finally understood that remote work is really a thing. I quickly flipped a mental switch: win more jobs on the platform, and especially bigger projects. So, I improved my writing and communication skills to draft more convincing sales copies to win more jobs. I applied for more and more offers, also short-term but full-time offers. I wanted to gain valuable experience – which I did. Based on that, I started to grow. Created a website and a social media presence, and now I have just as many clients outside of Upwork.
When it came to launching the business, I didn't need much besides the guts to do it! I already had the skills and experience to offer a valuable service to clients, and I slowly built up my reputation through word-of-mouth and online platforms like Upwork. The key was taking things one step at a time and continually striving to provide the best possible service to my clients.
How do you find new clients?
Since starting my business, I have steadily grown my client base through Upwork and online networking. I have also developed partnerships with other translation agencies and language service providers to expand my reach and collaborate on larger projects.
In terms of marketing, I have mainly focused on building a strong online presence through Upwork and social media.
One lucky break I had was being approached by a large publishing company that needed help localising a series of courses. This project helped me gain credibility and led to more opportunities in the publishing industry.
Overall, my business has grown steadily from ZERO to $3-$7K monthly, and I am proud of the reputation I have built as a reliable and skilled translator.
Any big failures and learnings?
Well, let me tell you, there's nothing quite like being a jack-of-all-trades for a translation agency. When I first started, I was happy to get any work I could, even if it meant selling my services for peanuts. I was so desperate to work remotely and to have a steady stream of work that I didn't really consider my full potential.
But one day, I woke up and realised that I was basically running the whole agency. From designing, to lead generation, writing to project management, translation, accounting, and even being a life coach to the boss - you name it, I did it. And all for less than $1800!
It was a hard pill to swallow, but I learned a lot from that experience. I learned the importance of valuing my skills and not underselling myself. I learned the importance of setting boundaries and saying "no" when necessary. And most importantly, I learned that I had the potential to build my own successful business.
So, while it was a difficult experience, it ultimately led me to where I am now - running my own successful business, Global Readership. And let me tell you; it's much more fulfilling than being a one-woman show for an underpaying agency!
What's next for you and your business?
Yes, I'm really excited about what's coming up! Firstly, I'm focusing on building my personal branding and sharing my experiences and knowledge with others who want to pursue a similar path. I believe that by coaching and mentoring others, I can help them avoid some of the mistakes that I made and get to where I am now faster.
In terms of my business, I'm planning to specialize in the localization of e-learning materials. There's been a huge increase in demand for online learning, and I want to help make sure that everyone has access to high-quality education, regardless of language barriers. I'm also expanding my services to offer localisation for more languages and content formats.
While I am excited about the growth potential of my business and the opportunities that lie ahead, I am also committed to maintaining the freedom and flexibility that comes with remote work and slow-nomading (with my dog and partner). I am not interested in becoming a huge corporation or sacrificing my love of travel for the sake of business growth.
Instead, I aim to build a sustainable and fulfilling business that allows me to continue exploring the world while helping others to communicate and connect across cultures–can't wait to see where this journey takes me!
Your go to digital tools?
As a language professional, I rely heavily on digital tools to streamline my work and improve my productivity. One of my go-to tools is Slack, which allows me to communicate and collaborate with clients and colleagues in real time. Another tool I use is Monday.com, which is a great project management platform that helps me keep track of deadlines and deliverables. I also frequently use Adobe Creative Suite for design work and translation memory tools such as Smart Cat and Mate Cat.
However, it's essential for me to stay up to date on industry trends and advancements in technology, such as the use of AI in translation and localisation. I believe incorporating these new tools and techniques into my workflow can improve the quality and efficiency of my work, ultimately benefiting my clients.
Any inspiring founder books you recommend?
Certainly! While there are many great books about entrepreneurship and leadership, one book that has profoundly impacted me and my business is a children's book called "Momo" by Michael Ende. The book tells the story of a little girl who has the unique ability to truly listen to people and help them overcome their problems. She does this by giving them her undivided attention and understanding and by helping them find the time and space to do what really matters.
I think this idea of listening deeply to others and helping them holistically achieve their goals is at the heart of what I do with my business, Global Readership. Like Momo, I believe that by really understanding the needs and goals of my clients, I can provide tailored and effective solutions that truly make a difference in their lives. So while it's not a typical business book, "Momo" has been a significant source of inspiration for me and a guiding force in how I approach my work.
Any podcasts or websites you love?
Honestly, I don't get much inspiration online as I prefer to disconnect and find inspiration offline. However, one website I find amusing and sometimes inspiring is "Clients From Hell".
It's a collection of horror stories from designers and freelancers about their worst client experiences. While it can be entertaining to read about these nightmare situations, it also serves as a reminder to stay professional and set boundaries with clients to avoid these kinds of situations in the first place.
Any mental health tips?
Being a founder can be challenging, and getting overwhelmed is easy. For me, the biggest challenge is dealing with existential crises – like what to do if everything fails—Tiny Maria in a big, scary world of business.
But here's the thing–you've got to believe in yourself, even if you feel tiny. Just do your thing, trust your instincts, and remember that even the biggest and baddest start small. And if all else fails, don't be afraid to ask for help! I mean, a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved, right?
Any quotes you live by?
I get what I want because I am willing to work for what I want. What are you manifesting this year?
What does it mean to be a founder?
Being a founder means taking on the responsibility of building and growing a business from scratch. You have to be curious, open-minded, and willing to adapt to new challenges and opportunities. It takes determination, creativity, and resilience. But at the end of the day, it's a thrilling ride filled with ups and downs that allows you to create something truly unique and impactful.
Any advice for other founders?
Just do it.