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Prioritise your mental and physical health

Lotuly offer translation services in around 90 languages and cover 40 subjects

Please introduce yourself and your startup Lotuly to our readers!

We are striving to help businesses communicate with their customers in the language of their hearts and showing them a way to experience a world of understanding through translation.

We both have a passion for languages and sustainability, we also love dogs and I personally (Mariona) enjoy playing the guitar and Robert loves to play football (he almost made it professionally). Being a native Spanish & Catalan speaker I struggled with fear of rejection (my husband/business partner having Romanian roots too).

As a company we’ve managed to successfully onboard Fortune 500 companies and work with top startups giving us the push we needed and the support we craved. We doubled our revenue after launching and we hope to keep on growing sustainably.

When we came to England back in 2015 we started working as freelance translators mostly translating into Catalan and Spanish. We built a portfolio of all sorts of clients and little by little we managed to create a global team of translators. 

One of the best implementations we’ve put in motion is planting trees for translated words through our partners Ecologi.

We strive to help businesses communicate more effectively and in a meaningful way because we know how it feels to be misunderstood due to language barriers, I know how it feels to speak other languages, I know how it feels to always be the one that doesn’t fit in a place that it’s not your own country, so we created Lotuly with the goal of taking that weight off our clients’ shoulders.

I moved through those challenges and strived to help other young people overcome the same feelings of rejection. We give a lot of opportunities to young people, to work with us and feel appreciated no matter where they are from.

How did you get the idea of Lotuly?

Before my husband and I moved to England we were selling antiques in several markets in Spain. It was here that we translated our first documents, explaining the specifics of the items we were selling to our buyers. This led to a series of further enquiries for translations. Eventually, it got to a point where we were making more money from translating than from selling. And Robert and I realized how much we enjoyed the feeling of breaking through the language barrier and helping people to understand each other. That was our ‘aha’ moment and this is essentially where our business idea came from.

Branding and naming wise, Lotuly comes from two Latin words: The name Lotuly is a combination of two Latin words. LO comes from the word Logus, which means ‘words’. TULY comes from Tratuli, which means ‘translation’.

Why did you decide to start with Lotuly?

When I did freelance work I noticed that prospective clients would usually list something like the following: I’m trying to reach a new market, my copy is in English and well, it’s also translated with Google Translate but I’m not getting the ROI that I was expecting.

Boom! That’s what made us come up with a solution. You can argue there were other giant translation agencies and we didn’t stand a chance but they operate on a business model that undermines freelancers and they pester translators with mass emails trying to see who will do it cheaper and faster – that’s where we come in. We decided enough is enough, we’ve experienced that atrocious way of doing business and the only ones benefiting were agencies with deep pockets – not the clients.

Clients would get bad quality, and often machine translation therefore losing money in the long run and at the same time suffering from a damaged reputation.

Big agencies would charge a lot of money and pay very little to its translators or sometimes not pay anything at all until 90 days after invoicing. We’ve scrapped that and decided to operate our translation agency by putting our translators first. We pay them upfront, they choose their place of work and time they want to do the work and they can do it remotely. We vet them, interview them and make sure they understand what we value about them. And we make sure we offer human translation done by qualified experts in the subject matter. We love tech but machine translation and all these AI services like Google Translate are not sufficiently advanced in order to take over human translation, yet. And a lot of B2B companies have seen a huge improvement in their sales by having their content translated by a human expert translator.

What is the vision behind Lotuly?

Make a difference in the translation industry, not only educating our clients on the importance of translation and localisation done by humans but also helping translators get paid what they deserve. When we started we were afraid to reject a project even if the payment was ridiculously low because we were always thinking that maybe in the future that client would paid more so we want to help translators get paid for the work they do but also help see clients the importance of having a text translated by a human instead of a machine. 

How difficult was the start and which challenges you had to overcome?

Our business was and still is 100% bootstrapped, we’ve always reinvested what we’ve made back into the business. We’ve not been successful at securing any funding from the government or any schemes offered because we couldn’t find any suitable ones for what we do. The industry, ‘Translation’ doesn’t exist when you try to choose what category your business is so it always ends up being the odd ”other.’’ Despite all that we’ve managed to stay afloat and to be fair at the beginning of the pandemic we’ve turned over the same amount we did in the previous 6 months, in just 1 month.

In the beginning there was this feeling of guilt or fear of rejecting a project, you would always think, am I making a mistake by walking away? Am I throwing away an opportunity to work long term with this company/client? But there are several red flags that unfortunately I had to learn the hard way and these moments make or break you especially during a pandemic and needing clients to push harder and advance your business to the next level.

If a company does not want to pay upfront how do you know they’ll want to pay you afterwards?

There was this client who I worked several times with, so there was trust between us and he always paid upfront, then suddenly he started asking for new projects but he did not pay me, he said that he would do in 30 days, as we had worked together before I trusted him, in the end I spent around 2 months working for this person and I only got a couple of hundreds of the total amount which was over $4k.

To this day I haven’t seen the money,once I told him I wouldn’t do any other projects he ghosted me, unfortunately it happened again with a big dentist who has several clinics around Europe. Since then, I’ve implemented several steps to avoid going through that situation again such as charging upfront.

When they do not respect your boundaries or time:

I’m available for my clients all of my working hours, and sometimes even more, I always try to go above and beyond for each project but there was this time that a renowned doctor, she needed an urgent file translated within hours, I said that we can help her without  a problem but then she asked me to do some copying and pasting (from one language to another, that means also checking that the translation already done is up to our standards of quality), which I said that is fine no problem, I’ll charge a small fee for the time invested doing that, which is normal, right? If you don’t have the time to do something then you pay someone to do that instead, isn’t it?

But of course she did not like that despite her consultancy turning over millions she was very concerned that I would charge her for my time as it was only copying and pasting, and well, unfortunately we did not end up collaborating as I found quite insulting what she said, but if it would have been when I started out I would probably have given in and let myself be disrespected not only with my time but also from the way she spoke to me and working without being paid.

This is why I always encourage people who are starting out to have their values and boundaries very clear because if they do, clients will see that and they won’t be able to “play” with them.

Who is your target audience?

We target mainly Software, e-Learning, e-Commerce companies and also Marketing agencies but our focus is to be able to help businesses that have products or services which are highly marketable to an international audience.

What is the USP of your startup?

Lotuly helps businesses reach their global audience by adapting their content to the local market (also called localisation). In simple terms we turn their English documents, websites, apps or software into the language of their customers’ hearts all while we invest in the planet by planting 1 tree for every 500 words we translate. 

We offer translation services in around 90 languages and we cover 40 subjects. Thanks to the free and instant quote tool we’ve created, potential customers know the cost and timeline of their project before committing to hiring us making us fully transparent and honest. 

Can you describe your typical workday ?

Of course, even though not two days are the same, it normally starts with opening the computer, checking emails and answering them accordingly, do a last check and deliver any project that we may need to deliver that day, create some social media content, engage with other business owners and businesses on different platforms and also trying to find new clients that we can onboard, pitch our deck to our ideal audience, build relationships through LinkedIn and Bizfluence and if we get another project then get that project started by assigning it to the translator/s, check all the emails again.

And at some point we try to get some breaks in between all these activities in the middle of the day for a 1 hour walk with our Chief Happiness Officer (family dog) and finish the day off by seeing if there’s anything else we can solve that day or if it can wait until the next one (planning is super important). 

Where do you see yourself and your startup Lotuly in five years?

Integrate our API with more marketing agencies and find the right partners (we have developed a unique quotation tool where by selecting the pair of language, subject and word count you will be given an automatic quote in seconds without the need of giving any personal information/you can also drop a file in one of the twelve formats we currently support and the tool will count the words automatically).

Also develop and tweak our MVP by integrating a function where our clients will be able to see how many trees we are planting as a result of their project since the beginning, now we have to tell them manually but in the near future we hope to integrate this option. 

Be in the top 3 translation agencies in the UK that put human translation at the forefront of everything and invest highly in the environment/offsetting its carbon footprint and at the same time put a lot of emphasis in treating translators with the respect they deserve, paying them upfront or on time. 

This year we want to plant at least 1,000 trees in our forest through our partners Ecologi, push our new subscription based translation service we are offering to our clients and break the £500k in turnover and hire our first full time employee.

In the next 3 years we would like to reach our goal of crossing £5M in turnover and increase our full time team of employees to ten.

What 3 tips would you give to founders?

Don’t wait until everything is perfect because as a business owner it’ll never be, we delayed our launch almost a year just because we wanted to have everything perfect. In the end, there’s always so many things to do but your advantage is that your customers do not know that. So get your business out there as soon as it’s presentable and gather feedback.

Ask as many people as you can for feedback and tell them to please tell you what they like but most importantly what they don’t like, some feedback will sting a bit but it may help you to push your business forward as they may see something that you did not, that’s the raw and unfiltered feedback you are looking for in order to build a successful and robust, product, service or business.

Prioritise your mental and physical health. If you are not well, no one will be able to care for your business, or what is a business if you are not able to enjoy it? Always trust your gut feeling, if something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t. Be able to detach yourself from rejections, don’t take them personally, learn from them and move on, there is no point in thinking about it. You can’t force someone to understand the importance of your product or the good you are doing to their business and eventually the ROI. If they don’t see the value, move on to the next one.

Thank you Mariona Bolohan for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

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