Translator and copywriter

What is the most essential, basic, all important skill for a translator? Speaking many languages? Mastering all CAT tools? Come on, you know the answer: the translator can write in his/her native language. In turn, this means that he or she can be a good copywriter.

Fact 1 – if you’re a good translator, you can write

A translator is someone who is able to deliver a message in another language. A good translator is someone who is able to do that while making it sound as natural as if it had been initially written in his/her language.

In web marketing, the message is sometimes not even the most important thing. Frequently, brands simply need to find a pretext to communicate, so that they can illustrate their style and values. Whether it be a seasonal holiday or a special offer, they just want their voice to be heard more than anything else.

When you manage a translation team working on this type of content – like I do – you easily spot the creative, talented translators who have that extra string to their bow and the ones who just translate in a straightforward manner. The latter often end up delivering a longer than expected text, to make sure every tiny nuance is accounted for. A translation teacher would probably give them a good grade, but long-winded translations are not always appropriate. Keep in mind, no reader will compare the source and target versions. If the content is not nice to read, not appealing to the user and not brand-compliant, then it’s just not good.

The good marketing translator understands where the brand is going and pretty much rewrites the message in his/her own language in order to efficiently reach the targeted audience. The good marketing translator also has a hint of SEO knowledge and – we hope – loyal clients (to avoid reading a 50-page style guide for each project). Or a very good project manager that provides for all this, taking care of all the nitty gritty. Self-promotion? Absolutely!  Join our team, we take good care of our people – but that’s another story! Either way, the good marketing translator can very easily morph into a copywriter.

Fact 2 –  Demand for copywriting exists, take your share

Have you heard of content marketing, SEO, user engagement, newsletters, editorial marketing…? Believe me, demand for content creation is huge. If translators are needed to distribute texts in all languages, well, guess what, so are copywriters. Most of those marketing texts you are so used to translating were written by copywriters – often freelancers, just like you.

Of course, writing a text requires a little more time and (just) a little more creativity than translating it. But it also pays more and, if you’re good at it, you may find it more profitable than translation. The rate per word is often +60% higher than for translation.

I recently received a notification from saying they were adding this skill to the list of services one can offer. I can say a lot of great things about this platform but adapting quickly and making changes are not the first things to come to mind, so this really attests to the increasing awareness and demand for copywriters.

Fact 3 –  Time to take a step out of your comfort zone

You’re thinking, “But I don’t know how to do that,” or “I don’t have the training and diploma for that.” (Are you French? Typical!) 😉 So, let’s take a pragmatic example of how a copywriter might find inspiration.

Let’s say you’re hired by the fanciest café in town to create content about their Christmas offer for their website, their newsletter, their social media page, etc. All they give you as source material is that there will be a traditional Christmas tree and they will serve Christmas beverages such as hot chocolate and mulled wine, along with gift-shaped pastries.

Time to open a blank page and make your first attempt.

Think about what you know about this café, about the client they target, check the tone they’ve used on each channel. Quickly check on SEO tools what the local searches are for the said theme and services. This might give helpful ideas about places, products or services you could mention that are often searched. Put yourself in the clients’ shoes. Why would they go there? What might they be doing just before or after? Why would they want or need to go to this café? What is the wow effect here?

Now, there are a million possibilities. If it were me, I’d probably go with writing a short web page about how pleasant it is to have a warm, hot cup of cocoa after running your Christmas errands in XX neighbourhood and adjacent ZY street. You take a sip, close your eyes, smell the sweet flavour of cinnamon pastries floating in the air and the natural fragrance of the fir tree. For a minute, you could have sworn you heard a fire crackling in a fireplace…

Maybe a newsletter with a shorter version of the cocoa sip idea and the mulled wine as a festive alternative to the usual after-work drink. And finally, a social media post with a tantalising pastry picture, inviting users to celebrate Christmas early and to comment on whether they would rather pair the pastry with mulled wine or hot cocoa.

These are just quick thoughts on what you could write with so little information. And be warned, once your imaginative juices get flowing, you may end up loving being a copywriter and start writing some books of your own. That’s how I ended up releasing my first book for kids! Again, another story…


Emilie Lefeuvre (founder of Geo network)

After a Masters in Translation and a year travelling the US as part of a sales force team, Emilie spent several years in the marketing department of a large real estate firm. Her passion for languages, taste for travel and digital inclinations lead her back to the field of translation. A talented team builder, the past five years have been mostly devoted to project management. Nevertheless, translation and copywriting are still a big part of her life. So much so that in early 2018 she published her first book for children.