In our ‘Home Edupreneur of the Month’ feature, we highlight businesses which are run by home educating parents and home educated young people. We hope that their stories will not only encourage readers to support fellow home educators by shopping ‘local’, but will also inspire those starting out or just thinking about home edupreneurship.

Our  featured home-edupreneur this month is Ian Appleby, an accomplished linguist, who kindly spoke to us about his interpreting and translation business, Ian Appleby Ltd.

Ian Appleby

Website: Ian Appleby Ltd


What is your home ed community ‘connection’?

We took the decision to home educate a good couple of years before our elder daughter reached “compulsory school age” (and what a loaded term that is); she’ll turn seven in April, and appears to be thriving as an unschooled child. Our younger daughter is 15 months old, and we’re aiming to follow a similar path for her.

How long have you been trading?

I’ve been working on and off as a freelance applied linguist (I like how grand that sounds) since 2002. I began as a sole trader under the name Aglet Language Solutions – an aglet is the bit on the end of your shoelace that helps it go through the holes. It’s a good word to use as a test for how comprehensively a dictionary covers a language. Oh, and it begins with ‘A’ … Last year I set up as a limited company.

Why did you decide to start your business / self employment?

I’d just completed an M.A. In Interpreting and Translation at Bradford University in 2002,  where they saw fit to award me a Distinction, which led me to believe I might have half a knack for the work. I also enjoyed the idea of being my own boss.

Biggest hurdle when starting out?

One obstacle that I am sure is common to many trades is getting your foot in the door. There is no shortage of people who can speak more than one language. Surprisingly few of them can actually do a decent translation, but it doesn’t stop them pitching for the same work.  In addition, surprisingly few clients actually know how to pick a good translator – if you  look for nothing else, always choose a native speaker of the target language, not the language of the original text  (for more details, the ITI offer a good free guide).

Something that is probably more applicable to the interpretation side is geographical location: the major employer for conference interpreters is the EU, so there are many many linguists living in Brussels. Given that my wife had already agreed to move to a different country to live with me, it didn’t seem fair to ask her to relocate once again.

Biggest help when starting out?

Having a partner earning a regular salary. It sounds trite, but it does take some of the pressure off as you try to build up a sustainable business of your own. I also was lucky in that the Bradford course was very highly thought of, and so there were a number of useful contacts I could benefit from.

How do you/did you successfully marry your home education commitments with your business?

I’m not sure in fact that applied linguistics is that good a fit for a home educating family! The jobs are always urgent: “Can you do 20 000 words by next Tuesday?” so it tends to be feast or famine. It’s as well that at the moment our elder daughter is content with very little structure to her learning… Give me another twenty years, and I’m sure I’ll have the perfect solution.

The plus side is that, provided the work is ready to deadline, then a client doesn’t care if I do, say, a 9-1 morning or a 5-9 morning, so it does allow for great flexibility in the day’s timetable in terms of doing paid work and attending HE activities.

Who do you admire?

I doff my hat to anyone who manages to run a successful business while also home educating their children.  Also, anyone who manages to avoid the temptation to use the word whom.

Where do you want to be in five years?

In addition to my commercial work, I’m about to embark on the translation of a 222 000 word novel,  so the quick answer is: “at the other end of that job.” Literary translation is not a route to riches, but there’s a real pleasure in trying to convey all the allusions and subtexts of a literary work. The best simile I have found so far is that it’s like trying to solve a three-dimensional cryptic crossword: the intellectual satisfaction of getting a translation just right is difficult to beat. I’m hoping to ramp up the literary and academic side of my translation work so that I cover a wide spectrum of styles and subject matters.

Best piece(s) of advice for a new home-edupreneur?

The best resource I have found is  other home-edupreneurs: there’s a lot of knowledge and expertise out there, and in my experience people are only too happy to share what they have learnt.

Elevator pitch: tell us about your brilliant home ed biz in one short paragraph!

For accurate, timely and polished  interpreting and translation from Russian sources on any subject matter, no matter how complex or abstruse, I’m your man. Alongside my M.A. With Distinction, I hold a Ph.D. In Russian Studies from the University of Manchester, and I’m a Member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists. I’m highly qualified, highly experienced, and highly professional. Contact me now for a no-obligation discussion, and if you mention the Home Education Forums, I’ll knock 10% off my already competitive rates.

So we now all know what an aglet is, and we have already discussed the meaning of ‘chuchotage‘ on the forums. Home education at its very best!

Many thanks to Ian for taking the time to tell us about his business. We wish him continuing success for the future.