Kenneth Perez Nielsen founded phrase it in 2004 to facilitate his work as a linguistic consultant for translation, proofreading, copywriting and terminology management. Work has grown steadily over almost two decades, but he’s just getting started. Nicolás Martin Fontana caught up with Nielsen to talk about his work history and what comes next.
Why do you like reading MultiLingual magazine?
It is the only magazine I subscribe to, and I especially enjoy reading about different niches of the industry and interviews and articles from experts in areas involving us all.
How did you join the Translation business?
I always knew I wanted to become a translator or interpreter, even though many tried to talk me out of it because it would only be a question of a couple of years before computers would do it all. This is more than 30 years ago, and, as I see it, the need for professional translation has never been greater. My first real job in the industry was as a localizer of Windows 2000 at Microsoft in Dublin.
Since you started phrase it in 2004, how has the business evolved?
To begin with, I only had one direct client, but now I have built a structure based on three pillars, where two large LSPs have a pillar each, and I could live on working for those two alone. The third pillar, then, is my direct clients and minor LSPs, who I also enjoy working with, and who pay much higher rates, but who do not send me enough regular work for me to use in my budgets. I have also started working more as a digital nomad instead of doing everything from my desk in Copenhagen, Denmark.
How has the Nordic market developed over the years?
From my chair, it seems like the arrow has only ever pointed upwards, and there has never been produced more communication requiring translation than there is now.
Who was your first client?
My first client was my old employer, who decided to fire me and outsource everything for Danish, but only had one person (me) who knew how to do the terminology and quality management.
Is it a good time to be a Nordic translator?
There is nothing I would rather be. I sometimes get job offers from within the industry, but also sometimes from “the other side.” I always consider them carefully, but I still haven’t seen anything that could match what I have now as a freelancer. And I have all the work I can ask for. If it wasn’t for the adverse effect on my work-life balance, I could literally work 24/7, if I wanted to.
What is your goal for phrase it’s future?
For a while, I have given some thought to where I want to go with my career. The business is going well, I have the best clients, and I can have all the work I want.
I am very grateful for that, but all the time I had a little voice nagging me and asking if it was ambitious enough.
We finally agreed that it wasn’t, and, after more than 20 years in business, it was about time to give something back to the industry I truly love.
So, after some online presentations during Covid, I decided in 2022 that it was time to start presenting at conferences and other industry events in person.
The first ones to trust me were Anna Lewoc and Nicolás M. Martín Fontana and the rest of the KTLC crew in Warsaw, and after that, I started 2023 by taking the floor in Mombasa at AITCO, the biggest translation conference in Africa, and Rome at Elia Together, which is the biggest event in the world for freelance translators and agencies combined.
I have also signed up for the new, excellent Elia initiative of Elia Exchange, where the purpose is to bridge the gap between academia and life outside the university walls, which I am also quite excited and passionate about.
I will never stop translating, though, and most of my time will still be spent on my client base and becoming the best language professional I can possibly be.