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From the ESIT to the business world: the story of SKS Traduction

This post is also available in: Français (French)

by Fanny Schwartz, Paola Kiehl and Elise Sahl, graduates from ESIT, Paris

SKS Traduction is the story of three women who set themselves the big challenge to start a translation business in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the following article, you will discover our long journey, with all its twists, successes and encounters.
Fanny Schwartz, Paola Kiehl and Elise Sahl, co-founders of SKS Traduction

Although all three of us are originally from Alsace, our paths crossed in Paris—specifically, in the halls of the École Supérieure d’Interprètes et de Traducteurs (ESIT). Following studies in literary preparatory classes, we entered this school hoping to satiate our passion for languages and to attend demanding specialized courses.

During our Masters at the ESIT, we acquired great translation skills and gained a solid understanding of our future job. But we also learnt something we did not expect: we realized how pleasant and interesting group work could be. We collaborated with each other on several projects and quickly discovered how smooth and efficient our synergy was. The idea eventually emerged: since we so thoroughly enjoyed working together as students, why couldn’t we do the same in a professional setting? The project was simple: we wanted to set up a firm which would allow us to combine our strengths and use our complementary skill sets to our advantage.

Little by little, our plan became a reality. That’s exactly when a mysterious virus called Covid decided to make a surprise appearance. Giving up our project simply wasn’t an option for us. So we started defining the cornerstones of our company, which would guide us through its creation and its operation.

work ethic: we provide premium services and our rates will reflect the quality of our work

security of salaried employment: for the legal form of our company, we chose a SAS (société par actions simplifiée), which involves higher costs but also guarantees a greater stability

combination of our strengths: being three enables us to tackle a heavy workload, to meticulously proofread every translated copy and to gather our skills, interests and sensitivities

management of the whole translation process: creating our own company means that we are in charge of all the tasks related to any translation project, from finding new clients to issuing invoices—and this diversity delights us!

integrity: we are free to decline collaborations with clients whose worldviews or work ethics exceedingly differ from our values, we also try to give as much as we receive (for example, we are currently helping an Afghan translator to create his own company) and we want to prove that new work structures can be invented in the field of translation

Defining these elements gave us the confidence to move forward. However, the sanitary context still raised a few questions: as hundreds of companies had to stop their activity, at least temporarily, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was it the right time for us to create our own business? To answer this question (among others), we decided to organize a series of e-meetings with several translators and entrepreneurs. Each of them encouraged us to complete our project and gave us helpful advice, which considerably reinforced our motivation. The summer of 2020 gave us the opportunity to surround ourselves with talented and trustworthy professionals, who still support us today. Among them, Isabelle Collombat, current director of the ESIT, who initiated us into group work when we were students and encouraged us since the beginning of our project.

The legal creation of our company allowed us to realize how complex and disconcerting French administration could be. We were lucky enough to collaborate with skilled and attentive accountants, which made this challenging step much easier.

Before the launch of SKS Traduction, a major part of our work consisted in searching for clients. The relationships we had developed during our internships enabled us to start fruitful collaborations with several companies and institutions, such as the Franco-German cultural channel ARTE or the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. For our communication and prospecting strategy, instead of sending hundreds of impersonal emails, we decided to focus on social media, especially LinkedIn. We now regularly post content on our page and we try to make it both fun and instructive.

In November 2021, we celebrated our company’s first anniversary. Looking back on our beginnings, we are proud of what SKS Traduction has become: a boutique translation firm true to our values, which enables us to fulfil ourselves on a personal and a professional level.

In the coming years, we would like to develop our business by finding other clients and offering new services, such as interpretation and certified translation. Moreover, we are really keen to keep combining our personal commitment with our professional activity, which we plan to do by encouraging the use of inclusive writing and by taking part in translation projects for charities. Thanks to our LinkedIn page, our involvement on several media and our exchanges with clients, we also hope to shed light on some unknown aspects of our profession and to encourage other people to practise it the way that really suits them.

Please feel free to contact us by email (contact@skstraduction.com) or by phone (+33 1 70 29 08 16). You can also visit our website (https://www.skstraduction.com/en) or our LinkedIn page (www.linkedin.com/company/skstraduction).

Thanks for reading!

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