Today, I am interviewing Suzanne Smart, a translator who specializes into classical music. That’s right! I’m sure most of you would agree that this takes the concept of the niche to a whole other level. A professional musician, Suzanne has also been translating from Italian and French into English for 8 years. In this interview, she shares with us the secrets behind the brand of her business, Recital Translations.
Hello, Suzanne! I am extremely pleased to have you here, as you have a quite specific profile. Can you tell us a little bit more about what sets you apart?
Thanks very much for inviting me, Emeline! You’ve interviewed some truly fantastic colleagues in this series, it’s an honour to be included alongside them!
Well, the obvious thing that makes me different is my specialism. I’ve come across a few colleagues that specialise in classical music but not very many, and almost none in my language combination and offering the same types of services as me.
I started out as an opera singer before retraining as a translator and I still work as a singer part-time now – so I’m really steeped in the field that I translate and that expertise and subject knowledge gives me a great advantage.
You are the perfect example of the niche principle. Was it clear to you from the beginning that you wanted to specialize in the musical field? And how did you decide to build your brand around that area of expertise?
I had always liked the idea of specialising in music but I actually started out doing automotive translation! When I finished my Masters in translation, my tutor there outsourced work to me and that’s what she specialises in. I then focused on technical and medical translation for a few years simply because that’s the work that came my way but eventually I decided to take that leap of faith and set up Recital Translations because I wanted to translate in a field I was truly passionate about and inspired by and that I also have a great deal of expertise in. It’s really important for clients to choose a translator who understands their industry and is familiar with their concepts, terminology and needs so I wanted to provide this for the music industry.
I started by looking at what other translators were offering and how they were presenting themselves. I found very few who specialised purely in music – a lot offered music translation as part of a much wider service – and most had websites that focused mainly on who they were as translators. I wanted a brand that was professional and that really “spoke” to music businesses – something that looked at things from their perspective – so I began to design a brand that fitted into the music industry more so than the translation industry.
When one visits your webpage, they are taken to a whole other sphere. I love that you added that red leather touch on the left hand side of the screen. It’s a very rich texture and, if you’ve ever been to the opera, it takes you straight back there! How did you decide to go for a more characteristic look than the popular one-pagers that seem to be popping up everywhere?
Well, it’s nice to hear that my site transports you to the opera! My website and logo were created by Websites for Translators who did a fantastic job. I wanted music professionals to feel “at home” when visiting my site so we used elements that are commonly found on the websites of those businesses, for example, black and red is a very common colour combination in the music industry – if you look at the BBC radio 3 site, for instance – and things like the bass clef used in the “R” of “Recital”. Using similar elements to others in the music industry makes the site feel more familiar and reassuring to clients and is a way of communicating that I understand the music industry.
Recital Translations is a perfect name for your business! Have you thought about other names before settling with this one?
The name was probably the hardest decision of all! It certainly took a long time to come up with. I considered using my name and calling it “Smart Music Translations”, particularly as “Smart” has quite positive connotations! But I know a few Italians who associate “Smart” with the Smart car and I definitely didn’t want that! I also felt it was just too long.
I wanted something that would be understood internationally in the music industry, that was relatively easy to pronounce and spell and that was connected with both music and translation. The idea behind the name is that when you “recite” something you are communicating something that somebody else has previously communicated, and that’s what translation is all about. Of course it’s a music-related term as well so it just seemed to fit!
Surely for clients, seeing such a specialist recreating their message in another language must be reassuring. How does your clientele respond to your very targeted brand?
As I said, the elements I use are familiar to them and make them feel that I am “in tune” (ha ha, pardon the pun!) with their industry. They are often very surprised as well when they come across my site – they often say that they didn’t expect to find a specialist music translator with such a music-focused brand and approach!
And now for the traditional questions! We all know that branding is more than a name and a logo. If you had to choose three words to represent your brand, which ones would they be?
Now you’re asking! Well, I think unique, friendly and, what the heck – “in tune”! Or is that four words?
Let’s make that three words :)! Finally, how do you manage to convey these aspects to your customers?
Well, my web copy is helpful there as it gives some specific examples of what I can do for clients and also shows my experience as a music professional as well as a translator. I would say that the services I offer are quite unique as well as I also offer transcreation, text summary and proofreading services. I always try to add a bit of a personal touch in my copy and communications with clients which adds to the friendly approach and I think they find that reassuring – they know they are working with a real person rather than a company machine.