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14 Essential Productivity Tools for Small Businesses

January 21st, 2020 by John Demessemaeker
  1. CRM (Salesforce / Hubspot / Pipedrive)

If you have a business, you have customers. To manage your company’s interactions with those customers, you need software that allows you to improve business relationships with those customers, focusing on customer retention and ultimately, driving sales growth. The biggest Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool out there is Salesforce. It is the CRM tool par excellence and has the most integration options of any CRM tool. Hubspot, originally a marketing automation platform, now also has CRM. Hubspot is typically used by small to midsize companies whereas Salesforce tends to be used by bigger corporations. If you are a purely sales-focused organization, tools like Pipedrive might be better bang for your buck.

  1. Scheduling (Google / Calendly / Doodle)

Instead of emailing back and forth, use a tool to conveniently schedule meetings and improve the overall productivity of your workplace. If your business operates through Google Suite, then simply using Google Calendar should do the trick. If not, tools like Calendly and Doodle are fairly popular, with Calendly regarded as arguably the more professional of the two. Bear in mind that consistency is key in scheduling. When you schedule meetings with your employees or with your customers, schedule it in the same way, with the same tool, or productivity will go down instead of up.

  1. Video Conferencing (Google / Zoom / GoToMeeting)

Video conferencing is a popular way to have quick meetings with coworkers or clients, to share your screen to walk through problems or illustrate your product, and to organize webinars for large audiences. Again, if your business operates through Google Suite, you can use Google Hangouts to host  video conferences. However, if you are hosting a webinar for more than 10 participants, Zoom or GoToMeeting might be the recommended options since Google Hangout is not as equipped to support many participants. Zoom and GoToMeeting do require a quick install on your computer, and they offer different payment plans for SMBs.

  1. Invoicing (Quickbooks / Freshbooks)

Any business has to keep the books. Companies like Quickbooks and Freshbooks offer software that allows you to easily accept business payments, manage and pay bills, and generate the reports you need to run your business. By automating certain elements of the payroll process, you can save time on bookkeeping and paperwork, and you will get paid faster. Quickbooks can also be modified to fit the unique needs of your business and it can integrate easily with Microsoft Office and ACT.

  1. Email Marketing (MailChimp / SendGrid)

Contrary to popular belief, email marketing is not dead. With tools like MailChimp, you can send mass emails, manage email lists and subscribers, setup autoresponders, create email templates, target subscribers, and split test your campaigns. Most tools are free, depending on the amount of emails you send out each month.

  1. SMS Marketing (Twilio)

Where there is email marketing, there is SMS marketing. Tools like Twilio allow software developers to integrate phone calls, text messages and IP voice communication into your web. You can finally rid your business of messy telecom hardware and streamline your telecommunications directly through the web. With Twilio, you can send out mass text messages to customers, prospects, or employees, often at a better deal than conventional telecom providers.

  1. Password Management (LastPass)

How many different passwords do you have for different websites? With tools like LastPass, you can manage all these passwords in one place. On top of that, LastPass encrypts all your passwords using a security key (or master password) that only you know. In other words, you can have all your passwords in one convenient location, with an additional layer of security to make sure nobody gets access to your information.

  1. File Sharing (Google / Microsoft / Dropbox)

Sharing files occurs on a daily business within any business. Instead of attaching offline files to emails, use cloud-based services to manage your files in one location, have them update in real-time, and control who has access to what. If you use Google Suite, you can use Google Drive to manage your files, but Microsoft’s OneDrive and Dropbox are also viable options. However, Google also offers Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentations, which do not consume any storage space on your cloud.

  1. Internal Communications (Slack / Teams)

To communicate with your team, rather than scrolling through mile-long email threads, it is recommended you use tools like Slack or Microsoft’s Teams. These tools can replace email, text messaging and instant messaging and keep all team communications limited to one single application. With both desktop and mobile versions, Slack can help your team coordinate and collaborate no matter where they are. Most tools also integrate easily with most Google and Microsoft products.

  1. Task Management (Google Keep / Todoist / Evernote)

Ever find yourself drowning in work? Prioritize your to-do list with tools such as Google Keep, Todoist or Evernote. Manage anything from a shopping list to major work projects. Share your lists with others and blast through items more efficiently, and more effectively. Configure the setup of these tools as simple or as detailed as you like. Most tools also integrate easily with Gmail, Outlook and Postbox.

  1. Graphic Design (Adobe / Canva)

To make images and designs for web and print, graphic design tools are indispensable. Adobe has a great range of products, from Photoshop to Premiere, that allow you create great content from scratch. However, Adobe’s products are pricey and require a bit of training. If you are looking for an easy-to-use and free tool, we recommend using Canva for quick designs. Canva also offers paid packages, but its free plan should offer plenty of functionality for your small business.

  1. Project Management (Smartsheet / JIRA)

To manage large projects, there are some great tools out there for you to use, depending on the type of business you have. Smartsheet offers a platform that allows you to collaborate, manage, and report on work in real time, automate workflows, and deploy new processes at scale. It is a general project management tool. If your business is active in software development, you might be familiar with Atlassian’s JIRA. JIRA is primarily used to track issues and bugs related to your software and mobile apps.

  1. Social Media Management (Hootsuite / Buffer)

For your business to have a presence on social media, you need to regularly post content. This can require a lot of work, but there are tools like Hootsuite and Buffer that allow you to manage all social media in one place, and schedule content in advance. This way, you only need to allocate a certain amount of time to social media each month, but it will seem like you are posting content on a regular basis. Hootsuite and Buffer both have a free version, but also offer a paid plan with more functionality.

Interpreter Management Software

If you are a language service provider, you can have the first half of this list combined into one single platform. Interpreter Intelligence allows you to manage your interpreter and customer database, schedule assignments, set up video remote interpreting, integrate with Quickbooks, configure email and SMS communications with your interpreters and customers, and manage all user accounts in one single, secure and cloud-based platform. Have a look at our product features for more information or contact us to schedule a demonstration of our platform.

Are there any important productivity tools we forgot to mention? What productivity tools do you use to support your business? Let us know!

Dangerous Delays on War Interpreters’ Visas

January 14th, 2020 by John Demessemaeker

US troops in the Middle East often recruit local interpreters to support their military operations. These war interpreters have proven to be critical to the success of US military operations. They help establish a rapport with the local population and they help gather crucial intelligence. In doing so, the interpreters put themselves and their families in grave danger as they are often seen as traitors by their co-nationals. As the US military recedes, some interpreters are rewarded with US citizenship, but the visa application process can take months or even years, putting the lives of many interpreters at risk.

Last week, Afghan interpreter Ziaulhaq Ghafoori made headlines when he became a US citizen after serving as an interpreter on the front lines for 14 years. Ghafoori’s road to citizenship was long and hard, but he managed to get himself and his family to safety. “I decided to take my family and get out of there because our life was in danger in Afghanistan, especially for those allies that worked with the U.S. Army,” Ghafoori said. Ghafoori’s citizenship may be a success story, but there are still countless interpreters struggling to obtain their US visa.

Interpreters can apply for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) if they have served the US military for a minimum period of 24 months. Beyond that, the interpreters also have to be recommended by US service members and they have to pass extensive background checks. It already is a long and arduous process, but now, interpreters may have less time than ever. With the escalation of the Taliban’s threats, Trump is calling for a US withdrawal from Afghanistan. US troops suddenly withdrawing from the region may leave many interpreters to fend for themselves. 

Unfortunately, the long visa application process for interpreters in conflict zones is not an unknown issue. Back in 2014, in the HBO show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver already addressed the topic, but not much has changed since then. A few organizations advocate for the needs of foreign interpreters. No One Left Behind was founded in 2013 to help war interpreters with their move to the US and the Interpreting Freedom Foundation provides much needed support during the visa application process.

California’s AB5 Bill Taking Its Toll

January 8th, 2020 by John Demessemaeker

January 1st came and went, but interpreters and translators have still not been exempted from CA AB5, the bill that has reclassified all independent contractors in California as employees. Despite months of heavy protesting from the translation and interpretation community, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the sponsor of the bill, seems to be turning a blind eye to everyone’s concerns.

Interpreters Losing Jobs

Many California-based interpreters have been losing business, not only to LSPs (language service providers) in California, but to LSPs across the world, since most – if not all – interpreters are listed with multiple agencies at the same time. On Twitter, interpreters have shared several examples of agencies telling them they can no longer work with them. “Unfortunately, due to Assembly Bill 5, we’re unable to work with freelancers based in California. If you happen to move out of California, please let us know.” Basically, interpreters in California now have three options: close up shop, move to a different state, or engage in a costly restructuring of their business, essentially becoming an LSP themselves. Obviously, none of these options are ideal. AB5 may offer much needed protection in some cases, but for interpreters, it seems like the bill is doing the exact opposite.

LSPs Losing Business

For LSPs, it does not make financial sense to hire full-time interpreters for every language on the market, and because they can no longer work with California-based interpreters either, it means they can’t offer the same range of services they used to, causing them to lose important business. With the rise of remote interpreting, however, LSPs can hire interpreters outside of California to try to fill that gap. Ironically, this would hurt the people AB5 was designed to help: independent contractors in California. Regardless, the technology that supports remote interpreting exists to increase language access, and not as a back-up to correct political mistakes.

Reduced Language Access

Speaking of language access, AB5 going into effect does not bode well for California residents with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). The Trump administration is already planning to dial down language access (Trump vs. Language Access) and AB5 is only making matters worse. Since LSPs can’t offer the same range of services they used to, hospitals, courts and schools can’t offer their services in multiple languages anymore. Note that these government institutions are required by law to do so, so AB5 is only going to put an additional strain on language access in the US.

Get Involved

If you feel passionate about this issue, you can get involved by looking up your state lawmaker and their local district office (you can do that here), tell your story and how your profession serves the community, explain why AB5 threatens your livelihood, and ask your lawmakers what they will do to address this issue. If you need more guidance during this process, you can get in touch with The Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California (CoPTIC) at, or you can donate to their cause. 

Centralizing Interpreting Services: Recipe for Disaster?

December 17th, 2019 by John Demessemaeker

A few months ago, we wrote a blog post called The Future of Language Service Providers, outlining the political and technological developments affecting the language industry. One political development we pointed out was the state of Washington looking to potentially replace language service providers with one independent scheduling organization, essentially centralizing interpreting services in the state. A year ago, the Danish government tried centralizing judicial interpreter services, but that did not turn out well. Previously, the UK also screwed the pooch trying to centralize judicial interpreting, which begs the question: is centralizing interpreting services a recipe for disaster?

Denmark: EasyTranslate

In Denmark, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Immigration & Integration tasked the National Police with finding a vendor to privatize its language services, in an attempt to “improve quality and transparency in the Danish interpreting market.” After a long bidding process, Copenhagen-based startup EasyTranslate was eventually named sole vendor in a four-year, 80 million dollar contract. The official start date of the project was April 1, 2019. Just 8 months into the contract, the contract was immediately terminated due to “serious data protection breaches.” Apparently, EasyTranslate neglected to protect sensitive information such as indictments and arrest warrants from uncleared staff. Additionally, the contract was terminated due to “subpar contract delivery, wrong interpreter classification and poor handling of complaints.”

UK: Capita Translation and Interpreting

EasyTranslate was not the first centralization fiasco. In the UK, the Ministry of Justice also ran into issues attempting to centralize judicial interpreting services. The four-year, 290 million dollar contract was initially awarded to Capita TI, in an attempt to cut costs. However, Capita TI never managed to meet the 98% fulfillment rate, which was contractually agreed upon. Additionally, the LSP was never able to make the contract profitable. In what some considered to be a risky maneuver, English LSP thebigword took over the contract and found a way to make the contract profitable, despite heavy infrastructure investments to meet the MoJ’s compliance and quality requirements. 

Centralization: Recipe for Disaster?

It is clear that awarding large interpretation contracts to a single vendor is not without risk. When centralizing interpreting services, it is extremely challenging to meet the desired quality assurance of interpreter service delivery, which is something we already mentioned. That also proved to be the downfall for both EasyTranslate and Capita TI. Also, when removing competition from the equation, what is driving the vendor to continue to innovate? When a provider essentially has a monopoly over language services, the quality of those services is bound to go down. It will be interesting to see how thebigword will fare over the next few years and whether or not other government institutions will decide to centralize language services.

What do you think about the centralization of interpretation services? Do you think it’s a recipe for disaster? Or do you think it’s just a formula that hasn’t been proven to work yet? Let us know!


Deaf Culture Is Going Viral

December 11th, 2019 by John Demessemaeker

About a year ago, we wrote a blog post called ‘New Doors Are Opening Around the World for the Deaf,’ about how language barriers for deaf people are beginning to come down around the world. Over the past year, several ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters have gone viral, highlighting the growing recognition of the deaf community and its culture. One ASL interpreter in particular, Amber Galloway Gallego, stands out for her impressive sign interpretation, and for being a fierce advocate of the deaf community.


ASL interpreter Amber Galloway Gallego went viral on numerous occasions by sign interpreting at many famous artists’ concerts. Videos of her keeping up with rap artists like Kendrick Lamar and Twista got millions of views. Called the “Jay-Z of Hip-Hop Sign Language,” Gallego also performs with other artists such as Lady Gaga, Cher and The Black Keys. Signing music is considered to be a niche skill requiring a tremendous amount of work, and Gallego is recognized as one of the best.

Gallego has used her viral fame to bring attention to the deaf community, advocating for increased inclusion within the arts specifically. “Music is so much more than sound travelling through the ear. Deaf people experience music as intensely as anyone else, just in a different way. I believe music with a message should be accessible to everyone. Deaf people should also experience that feeling of connectedness, of feeling included.”

Gallego is not the only ASL interpreter getting praise. One ASL interpreter went viral after signing Beyonce’s ‘Get Me Bodied’ at Atlanta Pride. Another sign interpreter stole the show at a Slayer heavy metal concert. However, ASL fame isn’t limited to music. Recently, the New York Times featured an article highlighting the skills of a sign language interpreter at an NBA postgame press conference. 


Unfortunately, criticism is never far away when anything goes viral. To counterbalance all the positive stories about sign language interpreters, stories about interpreters signing utter nonsense tend to resurge. For example, back in 2013, at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjie reportedly made no sense in any of South Africa’s 11 official languages. Bruno Druchen, director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa, said Jantjie was “moving his hands around, but his gestures had no meaning.” Click here to watch a clip. The interpreter claimed to be having a schizophrenic episode, but his qualifications as an interpreter remain dubious, as he has refused to demonstrate his skills afterwards.

Lilit Marcus, CNN reporter and child of deaf parents herself, did not rejoice in the fact that so many ASL interpreters are going viral. “Too many hearing people see signing as performance art instead of a living, breathing language that many people use to communicate basic thoughts and needs every single day. It does a huge disservice to interpreters and their profession. For the dozens of profiles and hot takes written about Gallego, there are no such accompanying stories about discrimination, lack of access, and other real-time issues facing the deaf community. I’ve personally witnessed festival and event organizers boast of the accommodations they’ve made for accessibility because they installed wheelchair ramps, only to see zero captioned movies or ASL interpreters. As long as we continue to praise interpreters for being fun enjoyment for hearing people, we will not put deaf communities and their needs above the value of potentially having a video of an event go viral.

Interpreter Intelligence Empowering the Deaf Community

Interpreter Intelligence is partners with the largest Sign Language Service Provider in the world, as well as several other LSPs focused on sign language service delivery. We have optimized our product to support sign language scheduling, and we have made sure all product support materials include captions so deaf interpreters can take full advantage of our platform. For some customers, we have gone the extra mile by providing training with ASL support. If you are a Sign Language Provider, contact us to see how Interpreter Intelligence can help your business!


7 Features Your Interpreter Platform Should Have

December 4th, 2019 by John Demessemaeker

Any interpreter platform worth its weight in Bitcoin should have basic features such as calendar synchronization, scheduling, accounting automation and high-quality Over the Phone Interpreting (OPI) & Video Remote Interpreting (VRI), just to name a few. However, to accommodate the diverse needs of your customer base, you need more than just those basic features. You need to be able to rely on a comprehensive platform that allows you to cater to the unique needs of your customers and interpreters. Here are 7 features your ideal interpreter platform should have.

1. Tailored Job Information

From schools to hospitals, from courts to general businesses, every customer has its own way of doing things. Some courts need to specify the case ID in the job information, some hospitals need to specify the patient or doctor when booking an interpreter, some schools need to mention the teacher’s name, large businesses need to be able to communicate exactly where the assignment will take place,… Your interpreter platform should be able to accommodate these requests by allowing you to add notes to jobs, or ideally, by allowing you to set up configurable entry fields for specific clients, which would facilitate the collection of desired job information when creating or closing a job.

2. Configurable Communications

As every customer and interpreter is different, so is the way they communicate. Your ideal interpreter platform allows you to configure templates for every type of communication, and it allows you to determine when and how everything is communicated. Some customers or interpreters prefer to be notified via email, some prefer to be notified by SMS. Some interpreters are more forgetful than others and like to be reminded of an upcoming assignment. Some customers for example like to know when the status of the assignment has changed. In short, automate all your communications, whether it is for your customers or for your interpreters, the way they prefer it. Save yourself the trouble of calling and emailing back and forth by leveraging an interpreter platform with configurable communications.

3. Pricing Customization

Interpreter rates depend on many variables, something which we mentioned in a previous blog post (The Intricacies of Interpreter Pricing), and depending on the deals you have struck with your customers, the rates you charge them depend on many different variables as well. Whether you are dealing with your customers or with your interpreters, rates usually vary depending on the language combination, interpreter certification, timing and duration of the assignment, mileage, travel time, meal breaks,… The combinations to get to the final rate are endless, so arm your organization with a platform that allows you to fully customize the pricing of your interpreters and customers.

4. Multiple Portal Access

Another way of streamlining language service delivery is by limiting your overall involvement. An interpreter platform with multiple portal access allows your customers and interpreters to interact directly. Once you have everything set up, customers can request interpreters directly through their portal, and interpreters can accept jobs directly through theirs. This way, for routine assignments, your involvement is minimal. With three portals under one single environment, you can remove as many hurdles as possible for successful and painless interpreter service delivery.

5. Offer Automation

Speaking of limiting your involvement, automating job offers is another way of saving yourself tons of time and resources. With the right interpreter platform, you can enable automatic job offering for any customer, which means they can create assignments which will be sent out automatically to all interpreters who meet the eligibility requirements for that assignment. Whichever interpreter reacts the fastest will be automatically attached to that job. Do not relinquish control, but eliminate the bottlenecks in the booking process.

6. Instant Customer Verification

Once the interpreter assignment is complete, there needs to be a way for your customers to verify and approve the assignment. If the assignment occurs over the phone or through video, then the right interpreter platform will automatically bill your customer based on the duration of the call. For onsite interpreting, however, your customer should have a way of approving the assignment right then and there. Ideally, your interpreters can log onto the platform through their phones and have the customer electronically sign in order to close the job. Not only is this an eco-friendly solution, it will prevent any confusion during the invoicing process.

7. Compliance Management

Your customers often require very specific interpreters. Hospitals need medically certified interpreters, courts need interpreters with legal certification,… The right interpreter platform allows you to manage all interpreter certification. On their profile, interpreters should be able to upload proof of their certification, which you can later approve. An interpreter platform with proper compliance management also allows you to put expiration dates on proofs of certification, to reflect the expiration of certain types of certification in real life.

Interpreter Intelligence can help!

Language service delivery can get very complicated, so implement an interpreter platform that reflects that. With Interpreter Intelligence, you can configure how much control your customers have. Set up a simple interface for smaller customers, and a more comprehensive interface for bigger customers. It is no coincidence that Interpreter Intelligence is trusted by the largest Language Service Providers in the world and has more active users than any other platform. Contact us today if you want to learn more about our product features, or if you want to schedule a demo.