Anja Jones Translation. A case study

5 minutes with: Anja Jones from Anja Jones Translation.

From the kitchen table in Penryn to her own office in Newquay - Anja Jones Translation is a fast growing business. We talked to Anja about how it all started, her expansion plans for the future and the excitement of taking on new staff.

Anja Jones

How did you come to start your own business?

I studied linguistics and French at university, so a career in language came naturally to me.

When I first moved to Cornwall in 2007, I wasn’t sure if there would be any language jobs available, so I actually worked as an administrator for an international sailing association for about three years. But I really wanted to get back to my language roots, so in 2010 I decided to take a leap of faith and start working as a freelance translator. I really enjoyed translating and initially focused on hotel websites, because the tourism sector in Cornwall attracts large numbers of French and German speakers. I created a website and sent postcards to marketing managers of local hotels advertising my translation services.

Did the business grow quickly?

Yes, there was a big demand for translation services in Cornwall, but also nationally and internationally, so I very quickly started outsourcing work to other freelance translators to fulfil all our orders. And it sort of snowballed from there. In the first year, we grew from just me working from my kitchen table at home to having a team of 10 freelance translators.

Over the next three years, the number of freelancers we worked with grew to over 40. I was essentially still working as a translator but also dealing with all the other aspects of running a business, like project management, marketing, accounts, handling quotations, customer service etc.

By the end of 2013 I realised that this set-up wasn’t really working anymore - one person being in charge of everything caused a kind of a “bottle neck” which hugely limited the amount of things that could get done in a day and stifled any further growth potential. Plus, working 14 hours each day wasn’t going to be sustainable in the long run.

So what changed for you and the business?

I attended a Fast Forward course run by Unlocking Potential where a small number of business people got together to focus on managing growth. They all had similar challenges and it was helpful to hear about their experiences.

On this course, I learnt about the Get Set for Growth programme, which helps businesses in Cornwall to grow and access funding. Working with Get Set has been instrumental in changing our business model. We received 12 hours of business support which were used to really get under the skin of our business and tackle our biggest challenges: finance and marketing. We worked through our marketing strategy and created a marketing plan, we dug into the finances and created a cashflow forecast. Initially, I wasn’t sure whether we could afford to employ someone, but by the end of our work with Get Set, I was confident that we could take on an employee.                   

The first step was employing Jo for one day a week to help us with the accounts side of things. She is our super efficient accounts genie who deals with bank reconciliation, sending purchase orders to translators and chasing invoices from customers. After only one month, our accounts were up to date – which was a new experience for us!

Last September, we also took on Jenny, our first full-time employee. Jenny works as a project manager, translator and also helps with the marketing side of things. Up until now, most of our business has been coming from existing customers and word-of-mouth recommendations, which is fantastic, but we really want to get the ball rolling now and become more proactive in acquiring new clients. Having office-based support has been a huge help in sharing out my workload and concentrating on driving the business forward.

Anja and Jo

And now?

We now have a team of over 50 freelance translators who mainly live in England, France and Germany. The majority of our work involves French, German and UK English. Usually, the translators live in their home countries and translate into their mother tongue. That way they are immersed in the local culture and stay on top of any changes in their language, because words and languages change all the time.              

Any highlights?

Get Set for Growth sponsored us to attend the Cornwall Business Fair. I’d never done anything like that before and it went really well. It was a great opportunity for us to talk to local businesses and gain exposure.

And at the Get Set for Growth Awards in November, I won the Business Person of the Year award, which I am tremendously proud of. It’s amazing to be recognised for the work that we’ve put into our business with the help of Get Set for Growth.

Anja Jones with Nick Hewer

What does the future hold?

We are currently looking for an in-house French translator to join our team in 2015. Since taking on employees, I have managed to reduce my working hours to roughly eight hours a day, which is a tremendous improvement and gives me the 'brain space' to concentrate on business development. We are just preparing our first outbound marketing campaign and hope to work with new local and international clients this year.

When you first start out on your own it is hard to know whether you are doing things right. It’s a time of huge insecurity and you are constantly wondering whether the client is happy or if you are charging enough. There’s always going to be a lot of competition, but now we’ve found our foot in the industry, we want to concentrate on developing our particular niche market. Our aim is to deliver the highest quality using cutting-edge translation technology. We want to become leaders in our language pairs and provide our customers with the best service they can possibly find.

Anja Jones Translation

Monday 2 February 2015