We talked to Richard Walker of Lingua Asia about the translation business during COVID-19 times.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Richard Walker: Not bad, all things considered, thanks! South Korea has the virus down to a manageable level. People wear masks for the most part, and you give your contact info whenever you go to a restaurant or café. But most people aren’t that worried about the virus. I’m definitely getting to know the latest video chat software, though.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Lingua Asia.
Richard Walker: I’m originally from the states and worked in finance out of college. I always wanted to learn more about the world around me, so I moved to South Korea in 2006. I learned the language in a few years and started Lingua Asia Translation with a Korean partner. We’ve been running our business remotely while slow traveling to 50 countries for the last 5 years.
While translating into English from Korean, we noticed that there wasn’t much reliable info on Korea. So, we started adding it to our company blog. Our traffic grew a lot, and we found ourselves enjoying the process of writing more than translating.
Now we’re using the extra downtime during the pandemic to transform into a media company.
We feel that we can bridge the knowledge gap regarding Korea by covering trends and providing a better picture of the country.
How does Lingua Asia innovate?
Richard Walker: Whenever we create content for our readers, we always ask ourselves if each sentence is interesting, informative, or funny. We don’t want to repeat the same things that everyone else does.
We also try to present info in unique ways that are easy to digest.
Reader experience comes first. Ad revenue and subscribers naturally follow.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Richard Walker: For Lingua Asia, we are competing with a ton of coronavirus news and the recent election. We try to keep things light and related to what’s going on in the world.
Also, we know that people have less disposable income and focus on necessities, so we advertise trial offers that don’t cost anything.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Richard Walker: Yes, we decided to stop slow traveling because it wouldn’t be safe or realistic during the pandemic. Now that we have a fixed base, we can focus more on business and growth.
The lesson is that you can’t have everything. Trade-offs are necessary and can lead you on a better path than before.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Richard Walker: Besides exercise and meditation, we make sure to talk about 3 things we’re thankful for in the morning and list our accomplishments at the end of the day. That way, we feel grateful for what we have and satisfied with our efforts.
When you’re your own boss, it’s hard to know if you are productive enough.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Richard Walker: Too many to list.
I’ve always felt that consistency was the key to outperforming your competitors. I’ve worked with translators and writers who are brilliant for a page or two but lose focus. Keeping quality consistent while innovating is the key to longevity.
Your final thoughts?
Richard Walker: Even though times are tough, trapped, and hopeless are a state of mind. If you use the extra time to reset and find a different approach to your business, you can come out of this better than before.