Alina Cincan, tells us that her passion for languages and the freedom that working for yourself led her to found Inbox Translation.
What do you currently do at Inbox Translation?
I am the founder and managing director of Inbox Translation, a small translation agency based in the UK, with a secondary office in Romania. Running the business, as any entrepreneur will tell you, involves wearing several hats: I am in charge of dealing with clients and suppliers, take care of project management, I blog (occasionally) and run the company’s social media accounts, keep an eye on the finances, dabble in design (thanks to Canva 🙂 and drink all the coffee.
I sometimes attend conferences as a speaker and I recently embarked on a new series of projects (surveys on the translation industry).
What was the inspiration behind your business?
In a nutshell, my passion for languages and the freedom that working for oneself offers (or so I thought). The long story is not as straightforward as that.
I have always loved languages and have a knack for learning them. I speak (understand) six languages, with various degrees of fluency, and I can count to 10 in eight languages :). This passion has led me to study languages to master’s level (and I am currently considering a PhD), then a career in the field – initially as a language teacher (full-time) and translator/interpreter (part-time). In the end, I had to choose between the two, so it was the translation side that won.
As for freedom, well, I do have the freedom to choose who I work with, but running a business also comes with less free time. Not that I mind, as I love what I do, so it doesn’t feel like a chore.
Who do you admire?
I am not sure if I have a role model, as we people are not perfect. What I do admire are certain traits in people: those who are determined, patient (here’s where my life/business partner excels at), kindness (I know lots of people who can be described as kind), those who are successful yet remain humble and generous (Bill Gates comes to mind).
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
In retrospect, it’s easy to see what could have been done differently or better. I don’t think I have any regrets or that I have made any costly mistakes. Do I wish I had taken the plunge earlier? Definitely!
Actually, one aspect that I probably neglected at the beginning was proper marketing and investing in this area. Had we done so earlier, it would have helped.
However, you know what they say: better late than never. Another thing that I should have paid more attention earlier on is specialisation and understanding that not everyone is your client.
So, yes, there are tons of things I would do differently now.
What defines your way of doing business?
Friendly yet professional – this is how I’d describe how we do things at Inbox Translation. I am a very open and friendly person, and that reflects in the way I do business. But first and foremost, what we value is professionalism, which is the main criterion we use when choosing our collaborators.
It is paramount for us to match each project with the most suitable translator, so we take great care in choosing the right people for our clients’ translation projects. When the client gets back with lovely feedback, it’s one of the best feelings for a business owner and one that drives me forward.
Being professional means not only delivering to our clients what we had promised we would, but also treating our collaborators (suppliers) with the deserved respect – paying them on time (in fact, I usually pay very early, sometimes even on receipt of their invoice, which is not ideal in terms of cash flow for us but it is very much appreciated by our translators), not trying to push their fees down, supporting them throughout projects with making sure their queries are answered so they can focus on doing a great job for our clients.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
It’s difficult to give advice that is suitable for everyone, as each person will have different circumstances. However, one piece of advice would be to ensure you have a fallback plan in place, such as enough savings, as, more often than not, reality will be different from that business plan you so carefully wrote. What usually happens is that you overestimate your turnover and also have unexpected expenses, so you need to adjust your plan.
Another piece of advice would be not to scale more than you actually need. You might be tempted to rent a bigger office or hire more people than actually needed because you fear you’d run out of capacity. But this is rarely a problem when starting out, so use your resources carefully.
Expect moments of disappointment, but also learn from them, as each overcome obstacle will make you stronger. And, to end this on a positive note, enjoy the journey!