The Indie Series – A Q&A with Clearlingo

Tell us about Clearlingo

Clearlingo Ltd was founded in March last year  by Tomek Jozefowicz, Lukasz Goszktowski and myself, Julie Pagès.

We offer translation (written) and interpreting (oral)  as well as transcription services in hundreds of languages and are supported by a large network of linguists based, for the majority, in the North East, as well as across the UK.

Our client portfolio is expanding rapidly. Our main clients are solicitors firms (especially those specialising in immigration, family law and crime), charity organisations, advocacy centres, market research companies, and schools. We also work with the NHS, indirectly, as a subcontractor to a large international interpreting agency. We have also recently made a very exciting client acquisition in the field of literary translation.

We are a young and approachable team that always goes the extra mile to meet clients’ expectations. Tomek’s motto is always ‘we will make things happen.’

Between the three of us we speak fluently five languages, which is really handy in the daily running of the business.

What is the most rewarding aspect of running an independent business in the region?

The sense of community and support you find amongst businesses here; the North East has really been thriving from a business point of view over the past decade, with lots of new start-ups, new ideas and collaborations, and we are so proud to be part of this momentum.

We will be celebrating our first anniversary in Hoults Yard this autumn and we love it here. We’ve felt very welcome from the start and it’s an amazing place for networking and creativity.

And the most challenging?

Resources and work opportunities, especially in our field.

This is an issue that mostly concerns the interpreting side of the business as most of the interpreting requests are for face-to-face appointments rather than over the phone, and it can be difficult sometimes to locate an interpreter for a particular language with the relevant qualifications/experience in the North East.

This is a hurdle courts and tribunals have to overcome daily to ensure non-English speaking parties such as defendants or witnesses are not discriminated against and are provided with a  qualified interpreter. Most of the time, Courts end up having to pay more to bring interpreters from outside the region for court proceedings.

As for work opportunities, large projects requiring interpreters such as conferences often happen closer to the capital or in larger cities and companies needing interpreters tend to search locally.

What are the short and long-term plans for the business?

Short-term: easing back into work once the Covid-19 crisis is under control.

Just before the start of the pandemic, we were about to expand our sub-contract with a large international interpreting firm for who we are currently undertaking NHS work. This has now been put on hold, so we are hoping we can start again where we left it off and increase our interpreting provision in public services.

In the longer term, we wish to expand our translation side of the business, it being the most profitable branch but also the easiest to market due to the lack of geolocation constraint. We have recently started working with a company based in Spain and are now receiving steady translation work from them.

What advice would you give to anyone with a business idea?

If you believe in it, go for it!

If you are passionate about what you do and have a well thought through plan, the North East is a welcoming and friendly (like the Geordies themselves!) place to start a business.

We were initially supported by Melissa Middleton from PNE Enterprise, who I already knew personally. She took the time to guide us through the process of setting up Clearlingo Ltd, answered all our questions and gave us some useful tips; we were up and running in no time.

How has your business been affected by the coronavirus pandemic?

We have experienced a drastic reduction in terms of the volume of work coming in and have relocated the operations to our respective homes.

As a small business we have thankfully received support from the government, but as the future remains uncertain, so does the demand for our services.

Have you adapted your service in light of these challenges?

So we could continue offering our interpreting provision and in order to keep our suppliers safe, we have moved all interpreting assignments to telephone interpreting, rather than face to face. We now have our own telephone conference facilities and when video link is required (e.g. counselling sessions where the visual cues are crucial for clinicians and interpreters alike) we are using services such as Google Meet or Zoom. We are really trying to be as flexible as possible to ensure our clients can continue running their services the best they can, and their service-users can continue receiving their support in their own respective languages.