Wordcorp: Startup envisions optimal quality, work-life balance
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Original article: http://www.chinapost.com.tw/dream//2014/11/10/421459/p2/Startup-envisions.htm

By Ted Chen, The China Post

November 10, 2014, 12:04 am TWN

Founded in 2010 by David Chang (張代偉) and Sijung Lai (黎斯庸), Wordcorp (一元翻譯) began as a simple partnership between the two to take on freelance translation and editing work when their paths led them back to Taipei after years of working in the U.S. Upon their return, the two were disillusioned by Taiwan's culture of overworked, stifling corporate environments and dismal growth prospects in earnings and personal development, so Chang and Lai sought to explore an alternative path straddling freelancing and entrepreneurship and forming a partnership now known as Wordcorp.

Early on the duo garnered stellar reviews from their initial clients who required high quality Chinese-to-English and English-to-Chinese translation work, and they carved out a market niche for premium translation services. While the majority of rival translation companies compete by quoting the lowest price to their customers with little regard for quality, Wordcorp strives to provide professional native-speaker level translations and language consultation.

Early Challenges Spur Differentiation

In its early days, the company conformed to convention and competed on price, but Wordcorp gradually transitioned toward more premium services and standards. With more experience under their belt, the company found that more and more clients were willing to pay for superior quality, as opposed to merely seeking the lowest bidder. "The transition toward the new pricing structure is a gradual process, and a testament to our policy in cultivating client relations," said Chang.

Quality translation is something Taiwan businesses should be paying particular heed to, judging from the countless news reports making light of poorly done translation jobs with occasionally severe consequences, including the recent confusion between the phrases "for industry use" and "for industrial use" in the ongoing edible oil food safety crisis.

Lai, who oversees the backend and technical development aspects of the company, noted that his father Lai Chi-man (黎志文), sculptor and professor of sculpture at Taipei National University of the Arts (台北藝術大學) played an instrumental role in the early days of the partnership by introducing a number of initial clients in the arts, culture and creative arts fields.

Clients in the culture industries are more discerning, and they understand the value of high-quality translation that accurately expresses the nuances and context of the original content, said the company, adding that each case also requires extra research from translators. Essentially, the primary objective of having Chinese content translated into English is to reach wider international audiences and elevate local efforts onto the global stage, a common goal fixated upon equally by enterprises and politicians alike, the two founders added. In particular, art dealers and gallery proprietors understand that all facets of their presentation, including written and translated content, must be impeccable.

After building a strong track record with initial clients in the tightly-knit fine arts field, the company's prospects expanded rapidly as their quality standard become more widely known through word-of-mouth referrals.During the past four years, the company's ranks have expanded steadily into a team of about 10 during peak periods when demand is abundant. Now officially incorporated, the company has since served notable clients including national and financial institutions, publications, PR agencies and governing bodies.

"We are proud to announce that average earnings for our translators last month exceeded NT$55,000," said Chang, who oversees the customer service and operations aspects of the company. Chang explained that the company's vision is to build a work anywhere, fair pay model in Taiwan, where rewards scale with commitment. As the translation business calculates pay based on word count, our partners have unrivaled flexibility in participation.

Chang honed his expertise in language management from his tenure as a legislative aide of a New York state senator, drafting communication content such as speeches, statements and press releases. He also gained human resources management experience from his time at a Newark-based program that provides employment assistance for ex-offenders. "I learned that individuals are most productive when you empower them with trust, confidence, and opportunities to earn fair rewards," said Chang.

Envisioning A New Ecosystem

Although Chang and Lai are happy about the company's current progress, they are always looking to expand the business, but maintaining high standards remains the primary challenge when boosting the group's caseload.

We believe that our success so far is derived from the company's unique internal practices developed over the past four years, said Lai. The amount of administrative duties also increases rapidly as volume grows.

To address these issues, the company is poised to launch a website that will help automate a large portion of the administrative tasks and create an ecosystem that will be populated by translators, editors and clients. The endeavor is headed by Lai, a self-taught coder who draws from his background in compensation analysis and research of Fortune 500 company executives and a lifelong interest in learning and problem solving.

The website will allow clients, translators and editors to post profiles to list relevant information, transaction history and qualifications for review by all participants in the freelancing ecosystem envisioned by Lai. Most notably, clients will be able to take advantage of an automated pricing system, vastly improving the experience of obtaining translation orders.

As language is utilized by almost all industries, translation services are an ideal entry point into other domains, and we hope to eventually extend the freelancing ecosystem model to other applicable human resources market segments such as graphic design and software development, said the Wordcorp founders, adding that Taiwan's strong service industry provides the ideal environment for long-term prospects.

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