The vast majority of small businesses work in only one language every day. As an international conference interpreter and technical translator, Arianna Schneider-Stocking juggles three — English, German, and Italian — as she travels throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.
The GoPayment Blog recently asked Schneider-Stocking to share why she chose her profession, how her services have evolved over time, how the conference world changed dramatically after the 9/11 tragedy, and how the recent recession has affected her income.
GoPayment: How did you decide to become a translator and interpreter?
Schneider-Stocking: My mother is Italian and my father is German, so I’ve spoken both languages all my life. We lived in Italy, but I attended a German school because I was always torn between our two cultures. After graduating with a master’s degree in English, Italian, and German, I became a translator, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989, fell in love with the city — and my husband — and have lived here ever since.
What’s the difference between translating and interpreting?
Translation involves translating written content, such as web copy, documents, or speeches, into a localized language by using the nuances of what the people in that region speak and recognize. Simultaneous interpreting provides a real-time verbal interpretation of what someone is saying in a speech or a conversation, similar to what the United Nations does every day.
Who were your initial clients?
Originally, I worked mostly with translation agencies and conference organizers doing work for software companies, for farmers doing government exchange programs, and for Italian and American utility companies that were jointly building nuclear power plants in China. After I became a member of the American Translators Association and the Northern California Translators Association, I began networking with many potential clients and fellow translators. Now, about 70 percent of my work is translations for conventions and events for clients in Europe, Asia, and across the U.S., and about 30 percent is interpreting for VIPs.
Which VIPs have you worked with?
I’ve mostly worked with politicians from Germany and Italy, members of their parliaments, NATO delegations, and the like.
How did your business change after 9/11 and during the recent recession?
The conference world stopped abruptly after the 9/11 attacks because no one was traveling for business. At that point, I relied on my translating skills, especially on-site software localization for longtime clients, such as Microsoft, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Google, Apple, TeleNav, Harley-Davidson, and others. Between 2005 and 2009, everyone started traveling again, compared with five years earlier, so the conference world was buzzing once more, but budgets were smaller than in the 1990s. Both my translation and interpretation services were steady during those years.
As a small-business owner, what are the biggest challenges you’ve overcome?
Cash flow has been a major problem in recent years because of the recession, with clients sometimes taking up to 90 days to pay an invoice. Another problem is keeping up with ever-changing technology. The industry’s software-management tools are constantly being upgraded, so I have to purchase the updates and take continuing education classes to learn how to use them. A third problem is being available for any client, 24/7. For example, if I don’t respond to an email within an hour for a potential project, I may lose out on an opportunity because my international clients demand instant responses.
How did you solve these problems?
Having clients who offer ongoing projects with a more steady income is a big help, but I’ve decided to cut loose some clients that caused me financial pain. I’ve also found new clients who pay me more quickly. I’ve been teaching a translation course as an adjunct professor at the Monterey Institute of International Studies for several years now to provide additional income.
What are the best projects you’ve received from networking?
I’m a member of the prestigious AIIC (International Association of Conference Interpreters), and someone at Mercedes-Benz Daimler found me in the online directory. This client hired me to provide ongoing interpreting work for a joint venture between DaimlerChrysler and Mitsubishi for the streamlining of truck production in the U.S., Germany, and Japan. I’ve worked with these three companies on-site in both Portland and in Tokyo.
Another ongoing interpreting client is Harley-Davidson. The original agency had contacted me about 15 years ago through the Northern California Translators Association, and I’ve been working in the Italian booth at the winter and summer dealer conferences since 1996. Also, a German colleague working at LinkedIn in Northern California referred me to its recruiting department; I’ve been part of its Italian translation team now for more than a year.