Why Pairing up Is a Good Idea for Freelance Translators! Part 2

 

In part 1 of this post, I explained three major benefits of working together with other translators. Quick recap: you need two people to produce the quality customers require, you’ll have more capacity and you’ll be able to offer more services. That is only half the story though: there are three other major benefits:

Two Professionals Are Much More Adept at Navigating Rough Seas

Being in business is a bit like taking a boat trip. Sometimes, the sea is silky smooth, but more often than not there are choppy waters, which require that you adapt your schedule and improvise a bit. This can be daunting when you’re all alone. But when you have a reliable partner at your side, insurmountable obstacles can become mere hurdles instead.

An example: I do most of the sales and marketing stuff for my business. I contact potential clients, negotiate prices and try to find new business opportunities. Since finding new clients isn’t exactly the easiest thing on the planet, I sometimes lose motivation and feel like accepting the status quo. I’m happy with our current business anyway, so why would I go through all that bother if it only sometimes yields results and often causes frustration?

Whenever I feel drained like that, my business partner Lineke always manages to convince me not to give up on it. She has the positivity that I lack and it helps tremendously. She’d probably feel as droopy as I do if she had to invest so much time and effort into something so fickle, but that’s the thing: she does not have to! So, she has energy aplenty to keep me going.

This might be one of the biggest benefits of collaborating with fellow translators. We’re all different people and sometimes, when you have run out of ideas and positivity, there’s always someone else who’s able to invigorate you with new perspectives.

It Simply Makes Much More Sense to Not Do Business as a Lone Wolf

Take a look at the average translation client. If a company needs translations, it’s probably because it has managed to grow to a considerable size—one that merits communication in two or more languages. Translation clients can be even be as huge as governments! It’s not very appealing for big guys like that to do business with self-employed translators, because big fish have business needs that the small fry cannot satiate on their own. The Dutch government probably wouldn’t want to outsource its copy to a company that can take on 5,000 words a week.

Now, as a freelance translator you’re probably not dead-set on landing governments as clients, but there’s still a lesson to be learned. If you want to be a fully-fledged business partner for even medium-sized clients, you need to be able to keep up with their pace. One of our direct clients is a marketing agency that has over 100,000 likes on Facebook, while we don’t even have a Facebook page! Still, they love working with us, but they’d probably never do business with only one of us, because the turnaround times would be way too long. From a translation business perspective, being just a bit bigger than the smallest possible set-up is a very good thing. You’re agile and capable, without incurring overhead and other factors that increase costs. You’ll be able to enter markets that are normally cordoned off by bigger companies for you.

You Can Adapt the Size of Your Collaboration to Whatever You Need

As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of collaboration, as it has yielded great results for my business. However, as interested as you might have become in working together with other translators, there’s a good chance you’re thinking: who and how many people should I work with? The answer is as simple as it is true: the scope of your collaboration and selection of business partners is entirely up to you, especially now that the whole world is connected digitally.

Let’s say you want to offer SEO to your clients, but you lack the technical know-how to find the right keywords. Partner up with an expert who knows all about SEO wizardry. If you have a client who wants to enter new markets, you might even offer them multi-language SEO. Who knows, you might end up doing SEO for them in 11 languages—or more! You’ll be a much more flexible business partner this way.

If multilingual SEO is more than you want to bargain for, you can simply keep things nice and small. Collaboration works at any size—it’s not like a small team of translators is any less viable than someone who gathers a whole slew of experts around them to win huge clients. The only difference is scale, which is just a variable, not a limit.

So Get Out There and Mingle

And there you have it. Six benefits of freelance collaboration that will allow you to do better business. Modern technology makes it so easy to find other people to work with that it’d be a shame to beaver away on your own, especially since collaboration is one of the cheapest (if not completely free) tools you have at your disposal. I’m all up for it, so I can only say: get out there and mingle!

Image credit: Pixabay

Author bio

A native speaker of Dutch, Branco van der Werf runs his two-man translation company with his partner, Lineke van Straalen. His language pairs are English-Dutch and German-Dutch. He graduated from the School for Translation and Interpreting in the Netherlands in 2014 and has since specialized in marketing translation, transcreation and copywriting. His creative translations regularly appear in TV commercials, brand assets and digital spaces. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Questions to Ask Before You Accept a Translation Project

It is impossible to anticipate every issue or question that may arise during the course of a translation project, but one thing you can do to be prepared before you get started is ask a lot of questions. Below are a number of questions you should keep in mind each time you receive a new project request (especially from a new client), so that you can be sure to avoid any surprises or problems down the road.

You can use this as a sort of checklist each time you receive a new request; be sure to glance through each topic and consider the answers to all the questions we’ve listed before you even quote the job. You don’t necessarily need to ask the client all of these questions for each project you quote—just remember that addressing these topics as early as possible will help clear up any misunderstandings, make you appear professional, and ensure that your client will be as satisfied as possible in the end.

The Task at Hand

Before you accept—or even quote—a project, think generally about what you are being asked to do.

Does the client need translation only or translation and editing?

If a second editor is needed, make sure you have someone lined up and that their services will fit into your budget.

Can you open all the files you received?

Make sure you can open and view all files received from the client, especially if sent through a secure link online or if there are audio/video files involved. Some clients may remove files after you confirm receipt, or there could be a zip file that you are unable to open. It is crucial to identify these problems as early as possible before you get started, so you don’t misquote or misjudge the amount of work you have to do.

Is the document fully legible?

If not, how will you handle illegible text?

Do you need a better copy if the source file is scanned?

The client may have access to the hard copy of the document in order to provide a better scanned electronic copy.

Do you need to work in a specific software tool?

Do you own that software tool, or will the client provide you the means to use it?

Is there any handwritten text?

If so, how will you handle handwritten text?

Is the project confirmed or potential?

Does the client expect to receive a confirmation soon, or is this a project that multiple vendors may be bidding on?

The Bigger Picture

In addition to the questions above, before quoting or accepting a project it is a good idea to think about the bigger picture. The document(s) you are being asked to translate may be part of a bigger project scope that you are not seeing, and the decisions you make on this project could have ramifications later on.

What is the purpose of the translation?

This will help to inform your translation decisions.

Who is your target audience?

This will help determine the register you use in your translation.

Have you done projects of this nature for this client before?

You may not realize that this project is similar to one you did previously, from which you can extract terminology or background information for the current project.

Who will own the translation rights after the project is completed?

For example, you may want to know if you can use this translation as a sample of your work to include in your professional portfolio. You may also want to know if you can be credited for the translation.

Is this part of a recurring assignment or ongoing project?

You may wish to develop a thorough glossary and TM early on, and take careful notes on your translation decisions, if this project is expected to continue for a long period of time.

Pricing and Deadline

Now you have gotten to the point where you are ready to negotiate a price and a deadline. Here are a few more considerations to keep in mind. You should also check out the items under “Resources” and “Delivery” for a few more questions that may impact the price you quote.

How much actual work time will this take you?

Estimate how many words you can translate per hour and divide the number of words in the text by this number.

What lead time do you need to finish the project?

Even if you only need 8-10 hours to complete the project, you may want to build in extra time in case you experience any technology issues, to accommodate other projects that may come up, or to fit in other commitments you may have going on. It may be better to tell the client a time range in days (e.g. “3-4 business days upon approval”) rather than a specific date so that you have some leeway in case the project is not accepted right away.

Will you offer a discount based on repetitions and/or TM matches?

For example, if you already translated 50% of this document for the same client and you only need to translate the remaining half, you may want to give them a discount of some kind on the first 50% of the text.

If the translation is urgent, will you charge extra?

Some translators charge an extra percentage of the invoice for projects due within a tight time frame (e.g. 24 hours or x number of words per business day), or projects that require weekend/holiday work.

What are the terms of payment?

Many translation projects are paid 15, 30, 60, or 90 days upon receipt of invoice, but for a larger project you may want to ask for a deposit up front.

Do you trust this client to pay on time?

You can check on the client’s reliability by looking them up on Payment Practices or ProZ Blue Board, or by checking with trusted colleagues as to their authenticity and payment habits.

What method of payment will be used?

The client may have a preferred method of payment and you will need to make sure you can receive funds that way—for example, PayPal, check, and wire transfer are three common methods of payment in the U.S.

Who will pay any payment fees?

Wire transfers and PayPal often have associated fees, and you will want to agree with the client in advance on who will absorb these fees. Alternatively, you can build these fees into your rate.

Source Text

Take a closer look at the source text to learn more about what you will be translating.

What is the subject matter?

Many translators specialize in specific subject areas based on their experience and background, but most importantly you must be familiar enough with the source text domain to produce a quality translation.

Is the entire document in the correct source language?

You may receive a long text that appears to be entirely in your source language, but partway through, you find a portion of text in another language. How will you handle this in the target text?

What country/variant/locale is the source file from?

Make sure you are familiar with the country and language variant your source text originated from.

Should you correct errors in the source text, if applicable?

Sometimes you may find errors (spelling, grammar, etc.) in the source text; it is a good idea to ask the client how to handle these when you find an error.

Resources

Before you start the project, keep in mind the following questions about research and resources, and be sure to ask the client if you have any doubts or concerns.

Is there a glossary or TM you should work from?

Make sure you are not doing more work than you have to, especially if the client has an established glossary they want you to work from.

Do you understand the text and terminology, and will you be able to research it sufficiently to produce a quality translation?

Have you reviewed the document thoroughly enough to determine that you are able to translate it?

Is the document confidential?

You may wish to share small portions of the text with colleagues as you research, in order to ask for their input; but first, you need to make sure it is okay to share.

Deliverable

Before you’ve even accepted the project, think about the end deliverable. You will need to be sure that you have checked with the client to align your expectations on the following topics.

What variant of your language should the target text be in?

Before you get started, be sure to check with the client as to what target language variation should be used, and that you are well-versed in this variant’s conventions so you can produce a top-notch target file.

What degree of formatting will be expected of you?

You may come upon images, charts, and graphs in the source file. Check with the client to find out if they want you to translate these, and determine whether you will charge extra for additional formatting.

What is the file format of the deliverable(s)?

Be sure to know what type of file you are expected to submit. Generally, clients will want a *.doc file if the source was a *.doc file; however, sometimes you will be expected to convert the source file into another format or provide a TMX or XLIFF file in addition to a translation exported from a CAT tool.

Will a translator’s statement be needed?

Especially for official documents (birth certificates and so on), clients may ask you to provide a signed “certificate” stating that the translation is accurate to the best of your knowledge. Consider whether this is needed, whether it will have to be notarized, and whether you will charge extra for these services.

What other questions do you ask yourself (and your client!) before starting a translation project? Have you found that keeping a list like this on hand helps you identify any potential issues early on and enable a smoother process going forward?

Stay tuned for another post on this topic: Questions to Ask Before You Accept an Interpreting Assignment.

Header image: Pixabay

Branding Yourself – Create a Professional Portfolio

 Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle with permission from the author

In today’s business world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to make yourself competitive, especially as a translator. More and more freelancers are being added to the market, so what can you do to make yourself stand out in a sea of many? A great place to start your differentiating process is by creating a professional portfolio. A portfolio is an invaluable tool in more ways than one. But what exactly is it, and exactly how can it help you?

What Is a Portfolio?

A portfolio is simply a collection of your work that can be used to market your language services, apply for a job, highlight your professional experience, or document what you have learned. As a translator, you need a portfolio to create the link between what you can do and what the prospective client or organization wants from you. Your professional portfolio will distinguish you from the competition. It will clearly highlight your experience and demonstrate that you are serious about your career as a translator and your job search. It will show examples of your unique strengths and pique the interest of your potential clients or employers. In addition, it will help you build confidence in what you can do.

How Can Your Portfolio Help You?

What are your professional activities, and what are the outcomes of those activities? Are you documenting them adequately so others can see your contributions? Do your activities and the outcomes they produce match your profession? What do you need to change or enhance about what you do and the outcomes you document? A professional portfolio will be an immense help in answering these questions constructively. It helps you keep track of everything you have done in your career as a professional translator or interpreter and points out where you should go next. Most importantly for freelancers, it will definitely get you attention and help you stand out from the crowd.

The Importance of Your Unique Value Proposition

Before you embark on creating your professional portfolio, you must first identify your value proposition—a clear statement in line with the market’s challenges and your desires, communicating the unique contribution you and your services are providing that is different from your competitors. Try to answer the question, “Why should I do business with you and not someone else?” Your unique value proposition must appeal to the client’s strongest decision-making drivers. It should be believable, authentic, and specific. Once you have a statement that you are confident communicates your value, you have the basis on which to build your professional portfolio. Like a classic novel that has a specific theme or overall message, your unique value proposition should pervade your portfolio. Whoever is reading it should get an overall sense of your value without your having to state it explicitly.

What Goes Into a Portfolio?

The key point of your portfolio is that you want to give an employer cause to hire you or a prospective client reasons to retain your translation or interpreting services. You want to showcase your education and work experience by showing examples and evidence of your work, skills, and accomplishments. While your portfolio can be creative and contain an array of items based on the exact message you are conveying with your unique value proposition, there are some elements that are absolutely necessary. These are your career summary, bio, personal philosophy, and mission statement.

How to Make Your Career Summary Interesting and Relevant

Your career summary is simply a description of who you are through what you have done throughout your career as a linguist. It typically includes information not on your résumé, such as your work ethic, professional interests, and your philosophy about life and work. In your summary, aim to quantify your achievements by using varied adverbs and more descriptive detail. Instead of simply mentioning that you did X translating job for Y company, make a statement saying something along the lines of you consistently did X job, translating 3,000 words per day at Y company.

How to Define Your Personal Philosophy and Mission Statement

This is a personal statement about the principles that guide you, your purpose, and your value proposition. Consider this your personal executive summary. While it may be short, this is important for singling out your mission as a linguist and expressing your uniqueness.

Perfect Your Bio

In the business world we summarize our experience, qualifications, education, skill-sets, and any other important aspects of our professional life (and sometimes even our personal life). This is contained in what is typically known as the résumé or CV (curriculum vitae). The information presented, its style, format, length, etc., all vary among cultures. Nevertheless, it is an important component of your marketing kit, regardless of the culture you are targeting. However, this tool does not really highlight all of those personal characteristics that make you different from others. The biography is a highly underestimated, yet very powerful, tool that should be essential in any marketing kit. It is simply the story of your life.

A résumé lists your credentials. A biography presents them in a story, automatically making the content much more interesting. Stories are fascinating and have the ability to engage and connect us with our target market through purpose and passion. Let your human side shine through your story. Your audience wants to find that special connection with you, and there is no better way to connect than by sharing your story. Do not be bland. Personal hobbies and interests, while not necessary, may be helpful in letting your readers get a taste of who you are as a person.

When composing your bio, consider your audience—who exactly will be reading it? This is important, because what you include in your bio should and will vary depending on your target audience. While this may be difficult to achieve, a good bio is short—somewhere between 150-300 words. To keep the length to a minimum, it is important to focus only on the highlights or more significant moments. Use phrases such as among others or to name a few. These phrases keep lists short, but convey the notion that the list continues. Your bio should also be written in the third person in order to keep it formal and professional.

Some Other Items to Consider in Your Portfolio

While every one of the following items is not required in your portfolio, you should try to include what you feel is necessary to convey your unique value proposition. Consider the following:
• Career summary
• Goals
• Personal brand statement in a tagline form
• Mission statement
• Bio
• Résumé
• Accomplishments
• Work samples
• Research publications and reports
• Testimonials
• Letters of recommendation
• Awards and honors
• Conferences and workshops
• Transcripts
• Degrees
• Licenses and certifications
• Professional development activities
• Volunteer and community service
• References

One thing to keep out of your portfolio is your rates. Also, if you are targeting translation agencies, include the tools and technologies you use; however, when targeting direct clients, this information is not necessary and may even confuse your potential buyers.

Stylistic Tips to Keep Your Portfolio Professional

Use an assortment of syntax and vocabulary so that your portfolio does not become boring to the reader. Be careful to stay truthful. If you are caught lying or even stretching the truth, you will lose a lot of precious credibility—and likely a client as well. In addition, industry jargon should be kept to a minimum. What good is your portfolio if the reader does not understand what is being said? Monitor the length of your sentences so that the flow of your statements does not become choppy or confusing. Keep in mind that bulleted lists are easy to follow and show organization. Avoid words that are too “flowery”; that is, if you think your reader might have to go to a dictionary for it, do not include it. Definitely omit pronouns, as they make your portfolio look less professional. You should always keep your intended audience in mind when planning your approach. Perhaps your readers would prefer something a little more personal. Always remember that your portfolio should motivate the reader to take action.

Stand Out from the Crowd with Your Work Samples

Regarding samples, if you are a translator, make sure you include the source and target translation. If you really want to stand out from the crowd, you can simply include a hyperlink to the source document and the corresponding translation if they are available online (like a website). Instead of just including the source and target translation, focus on highlighting any outcomes that resulted from your translation. For example, if you translated a website, and that website is reaching out to X amount of people, point that out. If you are an interpreter, you can include a link to a short video clip of an actual interpreting assignment along with a brief description of what the gig was all about. A word of caution: if you are going to include hyperlinks to projects or assignments on which you worked, make sure you always get the proper permission from your client to do so. You do not want to infringe on any confidentiality agreement and jeopardize not just the relationship with your client but also your professional reputation.

Your Portfolio: Why It Should Be Online

Google is your biggest promoter. The Internet is the biggest gallery in the world, with millions of potential clients online. You need to make sure they can find you and your work. An online portfolio gives you the perfect opportunity to do this. With numerous social media outlets, you have the ability to showcase yourself and your work to thousands of people not available via traditional methods. Think about the implications of not popping up on someone’s online search for your name. Will you lose all trust or credibility since you are not in the results set? Are you hiding something? If others cannot find you online, you have done a poor job of letting people get the chance to know you and your services. Your online portfolio is available around the clock. You want your online portfolio to be like a website that is well designed, easy to use, and tells the reader exactly what is wanted quickly and without hassle. Not to mention, you want it to be instantly inspiring upon first glance. One of the most important aspects of your online portfolio is its appearance—easy to read, clean, and thorough. When you create easy-to-read application material that paints a detailed, well-matched picture of your professional self, you make recruiters, clients, and employers happy and interested.

Online Tools to Create Your Online Portfolio Find websites that can both stylize your portfolio with graphics and organize your information in a visual and compelling way. There are numerous free and inexpensive tools online that allow you to create graphical representations of your skills, working history, and professional achievements. If you do not already have your own personal website, consider investing in one. Make it easy for others to find and be impressed by you. Make them think, “Wow, I need those services, and now!” It is easier than you think to make yourself accessible. You will find that your professional portfolio (particularly one that is online) will do that for you. All the effort required is the initial creation of the portfolio. So, go out and self-promote. After that, your clients will come right to you!

Image credit: Pixabay

Author bio

Marcela Reyes is the chief branding officer for Latitudes | Training, Coaching and Consulting. She is an entrepreneurial marketing expert and business coach with over 20 years of experience. She partners with language services providers around the world to help them communicate their value to attract more clients, expand their services, and develop their own brand in local and international markets. She gives presentations around the world and is a published author. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and an MBA with an emphasis in marketing. Contact: marcela@latitudescoach.com.

Corpus analysis: The Ugly Duckling of Translation

Not long ago, hearing the term “corpus linguistics” made me shriek; after all, it was something that only linguists in academia did, right? So, when I signed up for a course, I was not fully convinced that I would learn something that I could truly put into practice. However, by the end of the course, I had concluded that corpus analysis is the Ugly Duckling of Translation.

Before you get to know it, it looks ugly and worthless, but as your relationship deepens, you start seeing the beauty of it. And don’t take my word for it; others have seen it too. Take my husband, for example, a freelancer translator with all the best tools. He had also heard about corpus analysis; he knew that learning how to analyze corpus might be useful, but he had not taken the time to do it. Once I showed him how easy it was to do searches, he was immediately hooked. He even built a huge corpus from his legal and oil & gas documentation, which are his specializations. Recently, after a 10-minute introduction to a colleague, she said: “OMG, where has this been all my life!”

If you haven’t been overcome by this feeling yet, I am willing to bet that you are still looking at the Ugly Duckling from the outside. But I am sure I can convince you in the next few paragraphs by showing you the face of a cute little swan. There are three easy steps to start believing.

The first step: Decide which tool you want to use. AntConc, Wordsmith, and Sketch Engine are some of the top names in the market. All of them are great tools. But you can start with AntConc (free) to take your first steps and then take advantage of the free trials and play with the others to pick your favorite. Of course, you could stick to using online corpus such as COCA, BNC, BNCweb, etc., and maybe that’s enough for you, but why not build your own corpus that can be controlled and expanded endlessly and effortlessly!

The second step is collecting your corpus and converting it to .txt files. Nothing easier! Create a folder with subfolders on your computer. For example, if you translate documents on energy, you can have two main folders, renewable and nonrenewable; then, inside the renewable folder, you may have wind energy, solar energy, bioenergy, etc. Why is this folder division important? Because sometimes you might be looking for a general term on renewable energy, but other times you only want to search in your documentation on solar energy, which could make your searches faster. If you are just starting out, don’t worry about the number of documents in the beginning, just make sure they are representative of the topic you are working with to make sure you get useful results. You can add more documents as you get the hang of it. Just remember: Quality over quantity!

Corpus analysis tools only accept .txt files, but you can find free software that can do this for you in a matter of seconds, including the collection of cute little tools provided by the creator of AntConc, Dr. Laurence Anthony. AntFileConverter and EncodeAnt help you convert PDF and Word files into .txt, and .txt files into UTF-8 files, respectively (“stubborn” .txt files that the tool may not recognize might need that extra step of conversion to UFT-8 files). The conversion takes seconds, even for a large number of documents.

The third step is getting training, free training, that is. I know what you’re thinking: That’s going to take a long time. Wrong! Take AntConc, for example, Dr. Anthony has a collection of 5 to 10-minute videos that explain every function clearly. The fact that they are short suggests that it doesn’t take long to understand how the software works. By the way, when I say “software” I am actually referring to a downloadable file. It can’t get any easier than that! If you are just starting out, don’t get overwhelmed. First, play with the concordance tool until you feel comfortable using it before going to the next one. And that’s it! If you complete those three steps. you are ready to play. And, really… Play! It is so much fun.

What do I use it for? Corpus analysis tools include many great functions. I look for terms to confirm that they have been previously translated in this or that way. You can see how many times each term has been used and make an appropriate decision. For example, “operational” in Spanish could be “operativo,” “operacional,” “de negocios,” etc. When I check my corpus, which has been translated by professional translators, I can see how every term is used in its context and make my choice.

I can also “guess” a translation for a term to see if my guess is correct and, consequently, an accurate term for my translation. To illustrate, I can enter the word “framework” to search for a term that I know for sure contains it. I can sort my results by one, two or three words to the left or to the right (as shown by the colors red, green, and purple in the illustration) of the word “framework.” And I know it is an acronym, so I ask the program to look only for capitalized “Framework.” And, voilà, I get what I am looking for: Corporate Results Framework (CRF). If I click on Framework to see the context for every hit, the program takes me to the .txt file where the term came from. That is music to my ears.

Another tool that is music to my ears is BootCat, which converts your favorite websites into a format that can be examined in a corpus analysis tool. It is super easy to use, and it is extremely valuable if you have to translate a document about a topic that you still don’t know that well. (Great for newbies!) Just search the web, select sites or pages about your topic, and copy the URLs into BootCat.

After that first course, my interest in corpus analysis grew. There are a few courses and webinars that show translators not only how useful they are but also how to use them. However, few of them are free. I must confess, I am not an expert, but I am a good player. And when you become a skillful player, you too will see the ugly duckling become a beautiful swan!

Header image: Pixabay

Author bio

Patricia Brenes works in the Quality Control Unit of the Translation Section of the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C. She is a translator and terminologist, with a Master’s Degree in Specialized Translation from the University of Vic in Barcelona and certified by ECQA as Terminology Manager (TermNet, Vienna).

After realizing that there was a limited availability of resources and information for linguists and other stakeholders, she decided to start a terminology blog with resources and information: http://www.inmyownterms.com (Terminology for Beginners and Beyond).

To ask or not to ask – that is the question…

Reblogged from the blog ClaireCoxTranslations ~ Lines from a linguist, incl. the image, with permission from the author

It’s a familiar story: you’ve come to the end of a lengthy translation and there are a couple of points you’re not quite sure about. It might be in-house jargon, or indecipherable acronyms. Or then again the source text might not be very well written, or there may be ambiguities you need to resolve in order to convey the meaning accurately in your target language. So do you get back to the client and ask for clarification? Or just hope for the best and go with your instincts….?

I’m firmly in the “ask” camp myself. I don’t believe any agency or direct client worth their salt would think you any less professional for seeking clarification. Indeed, not asking is much more likely to leave you open to accusations of unprofessionalism! There may be any number of reasons why a source text might not be entirely clear: the author may have left a word or phrase out; there may be a typing or dictation error, the text may have been left deliberately ambiguous, but conveying that ambiguity in the target text might not be quite as straightforward…. You might just not have a enough context to go on to make an informed decision. Add these to the list of considerations I mentioned above and you’ll see that if you’re in any doubt about the true meaning of your source text, it really is best to ask.

I clearly recall Chris Durban, in her mystery shopper presentation at the ITI Conference in Birmingham in 2011, describing her experiences with outsourcing work to translators. She too was amazed how few translators bothered to ask questions, but she was actually far more concerned if translators DIDN’T ask! I only outsource a limited amount of work these days, but I feel the same way. I always try and make it quite clear that I’m happy to answer any queries, no matter how trivial. It shows me that the translator is thinking about what they’re translating and keen to get it spot on.

I tend to leave it until the end of my first draft before sending in my queries, but with a very long document, it might be a good idea to split the text into sections and send batches of queries after each section. I’m currently working on a very lengthy translation and sent my first list of questions when I reached the quarter mark, over a week ago. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting, despite gently nudging the agency a couple of times in the interim! This is frustrating as not only am I perpetuating any misunderstandings I might be making, but the longer it takes, the more potential adjustments I’ll have to make at the end, rather than after a shorter section, as I’d hoped. Many of my queries relate to acronyms, not to their meaning as such, but how the client would like them conveyed in the target file. In the particular field I’m working in, some of my clients like to use the equivalent English acronym, some prefer the French left as it is and others prefer the French followed by the English equivalent in square brackets afterwards – as you can see, it’s a potential minefield! This particular end client made it very clear at the outset of this project that they were happy to field questions and that the priority was for accuracy, yet I suspect project managers at the client’s end have changed in the meantime and I have on occasions been asked to highlight any queries when I return my final translation – never a satisfactory outcome for the translator!

I often find that working for direct clients leads to more successful question-answer sessions, as you are able to go straight to the horse’s mouth. I love it when you query a term and the client ‘phones or e-mails you back saying they’ve just spoken to the engineers and giving you a detailed description of what the widget in question actually does – brilliant! Then again, direct clients may not speak the source language at all, but merely discussing the issue with them shows them that you’re aware there’s a problem and if nothing else you can add a translator’s note with possible options. I translate an ongoing series of minutes and actions for one particular client and it’s gratifying to find, further down the line, that a particular piece of text that I’ve queried has been amended in the source text as not being sufficiently clear there either….

I have worked for clients in the past who have clearly been unwilling to “bother” the end client and have just said “Oh, put what you think….” – which I hate! Providing you’ve done the necessary research, using standard dictionaries in your subject field and a decent amount of online searching, it is most certainly not a sign of weakness or ignorance to check your understanding of a specific term or phrase. Patents in particular, with their very long and convoluted sentences, are often riddled with typing errors and omissions and I frequently send them back with a list of queries based on my assumptions. With patents, you are often asked not to correct errors in the text, but to note them separately for consideration by the patent attorney. Another agency client sends me two-column Word documents extracted from Déjà Vu with an extra Comments column, and I use this to note any niggles I might have about the text as I work, for easy reference by my agency contact at the end. Translator’s notes (footnotes or endnotes) are another option, but I’d rather avoid these unless specifically asked to use them as I feel it breaks the flow of the text.

Of course, there are lots of things you can do before resorting to sending that list of queries to the client: checking dictionaries, on and off-line and carrying out web searches. I find Linguee extremely useful these days, as it shows you words used in context – you have to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff, obviously, but it can give you a nod in the right direction. Translation forums are also very valuable resources: professional associations such as the ITI have language and subject networks, often with associated e-groups, where you can post term queries for discussion by qualified translator colleagues. I find these particularly helpful for getting a native speaker’s take on a particular phrasing, less so for highly technical terms, but it’s always worth a try if you’re really stuck. Finally, I have a number of colleagues I can refer to in extremis, either by Skype messaging, e-mail or ‘phone: it’s amazing how often the act of writing down your concerns helps crystallise the problem in your mind! And if it doesn’t, two minds are better than one and, between you, you can arrive at a solution. It may be that you’re still not sure, even after all that, so that’s when you need to consult the client.

Often, if you’re unsure about something, but persuade yourself that you’ve instinctively worked it out, that will be the one term that will come back and bite you – in the form of a proofreader’s red pen, or at worst an angry reaction from the client. It just isn’t worth taking the risk – even if you have to badger the client to respond in the first place! At least that way, you’ve raised awareness, asked the question and tried to reach a solution. If you still don’t get an answer, you may have to reiterate your concerns when you send in your final text, but the ball is in the client’s court, unsatisfactory as that may be for you as a perfectionist translator…

So, yes: ask, ask, ask every time is the answer to my question – not to the extent that you make a nuisance of yourself, but so that you show yourself to be the diligent, professional translator we all aspire to be.

TM-76_The absence of context is to be lamentedWith grateful thanks to www.tina-and-mouse.com for the very apt cartoon!

How is the T&I industry laid out?

This post is the first in a series of five posts written in response to questions we at The Savvy Newcomer have received, sometimes from people within the translation world, but also from bilingual friends and family who are interested in translation and interpreting (T&I). Our hope is that this series will serve as a guide for people who are considering a career in T&I and want to know where to begin.

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How is the T&I industry laid out?

As a preface, I can think of numerous times since I began working as a translator that friends and family have come to me with questions about my work. Do I actually have a job? Do people pay me to do it? Who do I work for? The questions are not always this blatant, but I can often sense the underlying question of how the translation and interpreting industry really works, and whether it is a viable career for someone who knows a second language. In short, the answer is yes!

The question of how our industry is laid out is usually one that people do not ask straight-out, but it is the first topic I address in my response. It is crucial to have this foundational knowledge before you consider becoming a translator or an interpreter so you can decide if you—your lifestyle, your skills, your background—will make a good fit for the industry, and vice versa.

Translation vs. interpreting

The first distinction to make is the difference between translation and interpreting. Check out the infographic below to get an idea (credit: lucomics.com). Translation is written; when you translate, you receive a document in one language and translate it into another language—usually on a computer, but sometimes by hand. Interpreting is spoken; interpreters work in person, by phone, or by video, interpreting words spoken in real time by conveying the same message out loud in a second language so that another person or other people can understand what was said.

Translation and interpreting require very different skills; translators are strong writers with a good grasp of writing conventions in their target language. They need to be able to properly understand the source language to create a suitable translation. Interpreters, on the other hand, should have a strong command of speaking skills in both languages and must be able to produce coherent and accurate renditions of what is being said as it is said.

What is a language pair?

The combination of languages in which a translator or interpreter provides services is called their “language pair.” Translators usually work from one language into another; for example, I work from Spanish into English (Spanish>English), which means that my clients send me documents in Spanish and I deliver translated documents in English. It is a good rule of thumb to remember that translators usually work into their native language. This is because most of us are naturally better writers in our native tongue, so we work from our second language into our first. Interpreters, alternatively, may work with both languages at the same level; for example, if an interpreter is hired to help a doctor communicate with her patient, the interpreter will need to speak both languages so both parties are understood. In this case, we would say that the interpreter’s language pair is Spanish-English, since he is not working into one language or the other. As a side note, some interpreters offer their services at conferences where the speaker or presenter speaks in one language and some or all attendees need to hear the presentation in their own language (this is called conference interpreting). If, for example, a group of marine biologists from Mexico attends a conference in Miami, their interpreter would be working from Spanish>English, and would most likely provide the interpretation simultaneously through a headset while the speaker is speaking.

Who do you work for?

This is one of the questions I hear most often. A high percentage of translators and interpreters are freelancers, which means we work for ourselves! Our clients may be translation agencies or direct clients from other companies that require our services. Most T&I professionals work for clients all across the world, which makes for an interesting workday! Some full-time employment opportunities exist for translators and interpreters, but much of the industry is built on an independent contractor model. There are pros and cons to working for yourself:

Pros Cons
Flexible schedule Unstable income
The more you work, the more you earn Loneliness
Work varies and can be very interesting No employer benefits

What does it take?

To become a skilled and successful translator or interpreter, it is important to be self-motivated! Especially if you are going to become a freelancer, you want to be sure that you have the fortitude to set your own schedule, manage your time, and keep growing your business. It is also essential to have strong language skills in two or more languages. It is important to recognize that being bilingual does not automatically make someone a translator or interpreter! Knowing two languages is crucial, but it is important to have training or experience that teaches you the ins and outs of translating or interpreting: the pitfalls you may encounter, best practices, and the code of ethics by which you must live and work. Bilingual individuals who are not cut out to be translators or interpreters and want to use their bilingual skills in other capacities can find great career opportunities as language teachers, bilingual medical or legal providers, language project managers, and so forth. In fact, bilingual individuals can play a key role in just about any profession imaginable.

We hope this helps to answer some of the initial questions you may have about translation and interpreting! Stay tuned for the next installment: “Starting from Scratch.”

Header image: Pixabay

Five Steps to Make your Freelance Translator CV Stand Out

During the last three months, I have reviewed hundreds of CVs (or resumes) from freelance translators for a new language group we are targeting at our translation agency, TranslationPartner. Some CVs caught my attention, and others were rejected within 10-20 seconds. To help you out, I have written down some of my notes about why some translators’ CVs were shortlisted and others were not. It is my hope that this will help you to design your resume better for the next time you are introducing yourself to potential clients. Note that I will use “CV” and “resume” interchangeably in this context, but you can find more information on the difference between these documents here.

  1. Use direct language

There is limited time to check each CV when the person receiving your file has a stack of them a mile high, so important information should be introduced as early as possible. Superfluous sentences such as “I am the best translator in…” are a waste of time for the reader, and if a sentence like this is at the beginning of your curriculum vitae, it is likely to be one of those that gets rejected within 10-20 seconds. When writing your CV, ensure that the language you use is direct and clear. Each sentence should provide a new piece of information. Stay away from flowery language and remember that you only have a few seconds to convince the recipient that they should keep reading.

  1. Numbers and figures make your resume more reliable

Always use numbers to support your experience; these will show that you are qualified and may be of value to the potential client. For example, you can use numbers to show your years of experience, your interpretation hours, specific course hours or the word counts/number of hours for key projects you have completed with current or previous clients. If you do not have exact numbers, just give approximate ones. Numbers will make your CV seem more trustworthy and show the reader that you are reliable.

  1. Organize it properly

I was surprised to see dozens of CVs written as a group of paragraphs without sections, titles, subtitles, or bullets. Make your document easy to scan—the person who reads your resume is going to be looking for certain information and must be able to find it quickly. Use section titles or subtitles to indicate what information is found where. Under each title, you can use bullets to indicate details, but I do not recommend more than five bullets per title/subtitle.

For example, you may want to add a subtitle for your translation achievements, where you mention your most important projects with their estimated word counts. Also, include your address, contact info, and education in sub-sections and organize them properly so the person who reads the CV can find them easily.

  1. Keep it short and condense information

You CV is usually the first step in the recruitment process with a potential client, so it is not necessary to include all possible information (a one or two-page document is enough). In particular, you do not need to add all your certificates and work history in the resume. Just write the information that your potential client needs; i.e., if you are applying to a translation agency, there is no need to mention your background as a language teacher. If you wish, you can add a section in your cover letter or at the end of the CV mentioning that other information can be provided upon request, such as references or additional work history. Using bullets is one of my favorite organization tips. I use bullets when I write my curriculum vitae, emails, project summaries, and many other documents. These bullets do not have to contain full sentences, just a phrase to show your point.

  1. No spelling or grammar errors

Why would I trust you to complete an upcoming translation project for my company if you have not performed the most basic quality check on your own CV—checking for spelling and grammar? Some translators just rush through their resumes in an effort to win the project bid quickly, without checking their writing on the CV and cover letter they send to the job poster. Be sure to reread your document before sending it, and don’t forget to run the automatic spellcheck function of your word processing software.

Conclusion

Keep in mind the perspective of your reader when writing a CV or resume. In conclusion, you should only include relevant information, keep it organized, and just get to the point!

Image credit: pixabay

Author bio

Sherif Abuzid is an English to Arabic native translator and Key Accounts Manager at TranslationPartner, a translation agency. He translates to Arabic and manages projects in African and Middle Eastern languages. Sherif studied English and Translation at the Faculty of Arts in Egypt and Sales and Marketing at the American University in Cairo, and holds a MBA in International Business Administration from The Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport. His translation agency website is http://www.translationpartner.com/. The company translates medical, technical, and software documents into Arabic, Middle Eastern, and African languages.

How Does the ATA Nomination Process Work?

By the ATA Nominating and Leadership Development Committee in February 2015: Dorothee Racette, Connie Prener, Tony Guerra, Susanne van Eyl, Karen Tkaczyk
Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, February 2015, with permission from Dorothee Racette

Who creates that slate of candidates that we see every year? How does the nomination process work? May I nominate myself? What are the criteria used to decide who should run? This article is an attempt to shed light on a process that is unknown to much of ATA’s membership. We also want to describe here some changes made recently, as well as some new changes for this year.

The committee we are talking about used to be called simply the Nominating Committee. A bylaws amendment in 2009 changed it to the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee. As the name implies, the change expanded the committee’s charge to help produce a pipeline of future leaders.

The Nominating and Leadership Development Committee always consists of five people, per ATA bylaws (Article VII, Section 2d). These five people are appointed at the winter Board meeting to serve during the following year. The committee members for 2015 are: Dorothee Racette (chair), Tony Guerra, Susanne van Eyl, Connie Prener, and Karen Tkaczyk. The committee continually identifies people, helps them find the right volunteer spot within the Association, keeps an eye on the quality of the work they are doing in their current role, and finds out whether they are interested in running the following year.

Leadership Development

Why is ATA interested in leadership development for its Board and potential future candidates? While historically there has been a wealth of talent on the Board from the membership that has sustained and cultivated the vibrant organization that it is today, ATA recognizes that its continued effectiveness and future relevance depend on the strength and clear vision of its leadership. Therefore, plans call for expanding the committee’s activities in the area of training.

Leadership training for individuals would assist in assimilating new Board members, succession planning, developing high potentials, navigating organizational culture, and removing “blind spots.” Leadership training for the Board would work to cultivate team alignment and encourage the integration of and adaptation to changing cultures. It would also work to build trust and awareness among the Board to facilitate consensus, collaboration, and accountability.

A leadership development program should improve leadership competencies, such as improved engagement and more focused and increased Board productivity. In summary, leadership training is designed to help leaders discover more effective and productive ways to achieve personal and professional goals, create alignment with ATA’s organizational culture, and promote strategic objectives. ATA Board members would have an opportunity to enhance their existing skills and resources and to develop creative and innovative solutions to address effectively the challenges of representing the interests of ATA and its membership. We will take a first step in this direction by holding an invitation-only Leadership Development training session at ATA’s 56th Annual Conference in Miami (November 4-7, 2015).

The Process

The Nominating and Leadership Development Committee is active throughout the year. Our activities for the new election cycle begin during the Annual Conference. After the election, the committee holds a follow-up meeting to discuss the candidates’ presentations, as well as what we learned from them that can be passed on to future candidates. Also during the conference, committee members approach people we have contacted previously as potential future nominees to see if they have any questions or concerns about the process.

The committee gets together early in the year to discuss the slate for the upcoming elections. In preparation for the meeting we contact committee chairs, division administrators, chapter and affiliated group presidents, Board members, and others to solicit nominations and recommendations. We maintain a database of people who have been recommended, along with associated information. That includes their profession (e.g., interpreter, translator, educator, company owner, or employee), language pairs, and contributions to ATA and the translating/interpreting professions.

We discuss the individuals who are brought to our attention. We also examine the information provided by those who nominate candidates. The committee has developed a list of criteria an ideal candidate should meet. For instance, to cite just a few of them, we are looking for people who demonstrate leadership, of whom others speak highly, who are articulate, and who are team-oriented. Then we ask questions like:

  • How was this person active within ATA in the past?
  • What talents and preferences were evident during that activity?
  • What personal attributes would make her or him a good candidate and a good director or officer?

In order to present a balanced slate to the membership, we aim to include candidates from all the various areas of our profession. We make an effort to ensure that each is represented in a way that reflects reality. To cite an example, if the term of a director who is an interpreter is about to expire, we will try to put a candidate who is also an interpreter on the slate for that year.

Another consideration is gender. Since a majority of ATA members are female, if four women were leaving the Board in a given year, it would be odd to have a slate composed entirely of men. Other less crucial factors include language pair and geography. We are not terribly worried about French translators or residents of New England taking over ATA, but we would consider the information to see if a proposed slate would be adding diversity.

Once we have created a list of potential nominees, we begin our deliberations. Typical of the questions we raise about each of the candidates are the following:

  • What would this person wish to accomplish if elected?
  • Is this person sufficiently known to have a chance of being elected?
  • How would this person fit into the existing Board?

Once the committee feels that the slate is complete, the nominees are contacted and informed that we support their candidacy. Once the finalized slate is reported to the Board, the committee is available to the candidates for fact-checking written statements and draft speeches. We also have guidelines available to prepare for the actual candidate presentations at the Annual Conference, but it is up to the candidates to devise a way to present themselves in the best light possible.

Nominating Forms

As part of the committee’s continuous review process, the actual nominating application was revised significantly this year. Some of the questions listed on the old Nominating Form were no longer relevant. In addition, some questions were appropriate only for nominating other people, while other items pertained to members who were nominating themselves.

In response, the committee broke up the Nominating Form into one appropriate for self-nominations and one for people being nominated by others. We also felt that there was a place for a tailored set of questions for those nominating or being nominated for officer positions (secretary, treasurer, and president-elect). With this in mind, we have created four separate forms, each with a matching job description for reference:

  • Self-nomination for Director
  • Self-nomination for Officer
  • Nomination for Director
  • Nomination for Officer

Another minor change is that the forms can now be completed and submitted online. Here are examples of questions on the new forms:

  • Which areas of translation and interpreting activity are you passionate about?
  • What strengths would you bring to ATA’s Board of Directors?
  • In your view, which perspectives or points of view should be represented on the Board?
  • What particular strengths does this person have that are necessary for the officer position for which you are nominating him or her?
  • How has the candidate demonstrated commitment to the translation and interpreting professions?
  • Which areas of ATA activity would you hope to become involved in?
  • How do you feel your skills and abilities match the “job description” for your role?

Conclusion

We are confident that these efforts to cultivate tomorrow’s leaders will ensure a strong, vibrant Association. If you have any suggestions for the nomination process or for the development of the Association’s leadership, please send them to nominations@atanet.org. The nomination period for 2015 is now open. You can find nomination forms at http://www.atanet.org/elections. php. The deadline is March 1, 2015. We hope that the process is now clear and look forward to receiving many great nominations this year.

Header image credit: Pixabay

Why Pairing up Is a Good Idea, Especially for Freelance Translators!

“I’m a freelancer, so other freelancers are my competitors. Especially in my language pair. I should avoid them at all cost!”

As a small business owner (because that’s what you are as a freelancer!), it’s very easy to fall into this trap. It does make sense, doesn’t it? Professionals who offer exactly the same services as you are direct competitors who could steal your clients and ruin your livelihood. You need to be better, cheaper or faster than them so that you can beat them.

Well, think again. If there’s one thing we can glean from the history of mankind, it’s that human effort yields the best results when driven by collaboration. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day—nor was it built by one guy with a hammer and some nails. Where would giants like Apple and Google be if those tech-savvy programmers would have isolated themselves back in the day? They’d probably still be coding line after line in a basement or garage, eager to figure it all out by themselves.

I believe not isolated diligence, but open collaboration is the key to long-lasting success. This very much applies to translation too, though it does require that translators adopt a less paranoid and more collaborative attitude. Even if you don’t actually like other translators, the benefits of working together are such that it makes little sense to stick your head in the sand.

Before we continue, I have a confession to make. I’m a freelance translator and so is my partner, Lineke. We’ve been running our translation business together for three years now and we’ve been swamped with work right off the bat. Since we’re partners in real life, we live in the same house. That makes collaborating extremely easy—if I have a question for Lineke, I can simply walk up to her office and ask her straight away. I don’t need to send an email or call her.

Still, I’ve taken part in other forms of freelance collaboration and the results have always been fantastic. I’m happy, whoever I collaborate with is happy and, most importantly, the client is happy. The best business is blissful business.

Now, let’s move on to why freelancing should not be a permanent solo effort.

It Takes Two to Tango, Right? Well, It Takes Two to Translate as Well

Everyone in the translation business knows that a proper translation requires not one, but at the very least two pairs of eyes. The translation needs to be edited, and usually there’s a round of QA to mop up any blemishes that passed through the translation and editing phase unscathed.

If you pair up with another freelancer and become a translator/editor duo, you’ll be in a position to produce very high quality without having to rely on anyone else. In fact, once you pinpoint each other’s strengths and weaknesses, you’ll know exactly what to look out for, meaning you’ll spend less time on perfecting the copy than you would when you’d edit a translation done by God-knows-who. That’s not only good for your client, but for your hourly income as well, as your productivity grows while the collaboration lasts.

Two Translators Have Higher Capacity Than a Lone Wolf

Let’s assume business has picked up lately and you’re finding yourself with plenty of work on your plate. Suddenly, a very enticing offer comes in: a big, fat, juicy job for which you’ll be able to charge a hefty rush fee. Alas, you have to decline the offer since your one-man company is running at full speed. No can do.

Guess what? If you have a fellow translator to fall back on, you’ll still be able to take on that job, including that chunky rush fee. You can simply switch around your standard roles and have the editor translate the copy, with you taking care of the editing once the storm in your inbox has calmed. You’ll avert disaster, make more money and you’ll have a happy customer. It’s a win-win!

Before you worry about margins and rates: since you know each other well and function like a well-oiled machine, you can be completely transparent about the financial side of things. This is what Lineke and I like to do. We sometimes choose to work with a fellow translator because we’re both fully booked and we’ll always tell them: this and that is the maximum rate I can afford—is this acceptable for you? No need for awkward negotiating and hard-core haggling, since we’re not looking to make a big profit on the professionals who help us serve our customers well. In fact, we’re looking to enrich them as much as we can! It’s a whole different kind of dynamic—one that is in favor of the translator.

A One-Trick Pony Is Nice, but a Multi-Trick Horse Is Definitely Better

So, you’re very good at translating marketing, for instance, but your client needs help with the terms and conditions for their promotion. What will you do now? Decline, and risk sending the client into the arms of some random business they found on the internet, or accept, knowing you’ll have to struggle all night through unbridled legalese? Neither option sounds all that great, do they?

This scenario actually happened to us. Lineke and I both aren’t very keen on legal copy, but luckily, one of our fellow translators happens to excel at it. We sent the copy his way, edit it ourselves and poof—we managed to expand our business portfolio without inflicting frustration on ourselves. Not bad, right?

Having a broader range of services than what you can offer all by yourself makes you a more well-rounded business partner. Good clients hardly ever need one single service. They might require translation one day, and copywriting or DTP the next. For instance, we have clients who sometimes need Flemish versions of our Dutch copy. We don’t tell them “Well, good luck with that, because we cannot do that”. No—we have a contact for Flemish who is happy to edit our copy so that our work sounds good in Flemish, too. This saves our client quite a headache!

That’s the first three major benefits of collaboration for translators. There’s more to it though: the second part is coming soon.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your views on translation collaboration. Is it a feasible option for you? Or perhaps you already have your own unique form of collaboration in place to tell of? I’m eager to hear your thoughts and experiences!

Image credit: pixabay

Author bio

A native speaker of Dutch, Branco van der Werf runs his two-man translation company with his partner, Lineke van Straalen. His language pairs are English-Dutch and German-Dutch. He graduated from the School for Translation and Interpreting in the Netherlands in 2014 and has since specialized in marketing translation, transcreation and copywriting. His creative translations regularly appear in TV commercials, brand assets and digital spaces. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Pursuing the Translation Dream: What to Know Before the Phone Rings

Have you ever asked yourself if you have what it takes to be a translator? You probably know it takes more than being bilingual, but did you know there is more to it than being a good translator? If you are curious to know what it takes to build a successful translation career, you may be pleased to learn of this hidden gem offered by the ATA: A Self-Evaluation Questionnaire for Translators. This comprehensive “checklist” for newcomers to the field is a juicy resource that answers the question of what it really takes to be a translator.

Let’s be honest: I would posit that few, if any, successful translators got to where they are today by methodically checking off boxes on a similar list. One example is Pilar Saslow, who writes in another article about what she learned from her follies: The Top Three Things I Wish Somebody Told Me When I First Started As a Freelance Translator. Entry into the profession is rarely a smooth and linear process. However, I do not doubt that many seasoned translators would have loved to have had such a list when they were starting out.

This post kicks off a new Savvy Newcomer series that will highlight questions from the ATA checklist for new translators. In each post, we will delve into several questions and offer additional insights. In today’s post, we explore the first section: “Professional Preparation (What I need to know before the phone rings).”

Am I willing to invest time, money, and physical and emotional energy to build a career?

There is no such thing as a career that does not require investment. However, most “traditional” careers follow a well-tread path towards success, whether that means obtaining a degree, earning a license, or getting hired at a company. On the contrary, most translators are self-employed, and this independence comes with added responsibilities, including self-motivation. A career in translation requires an ongoing commitment beyond the act of translating alone. But if you love the art itself, you will probably not hesitate to invest the time, money, and energy it takes to build a translation career. Alina Cincan elaborates on the first steps towards investing in your career in her post How (Not) to Be a Professional Translator and 6 Tips to Help You Become One.

Do I know the difference between an employee and an independent contractor in terms of tax law?

Not only are most translators self-employed; the majority are also independent contractors. Independent contractors provide services based on a verbal or written contract (hence the name) with another entity that is not their employer. Unlike the relationship between employer and employee, where the employer pays a portion of the employee’s taxes (in the US, usually 50%), independent contractors are responsible for paying the full amount of taxes owed each year.

Furthermore, it is the independent contractor’s responsibility to keep track of all payments received in exchange for work and to declare and pay taxes on this amount annually or quarterly. This means putting aside approximately 30% of all taxable earnings (i.e., after deductions such as costs, depreciation, etc.) If you live in the US, you can find more information on taxes for independent contractors via the Internal Revenue Service (IRS): Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center. Our own Jamie Hartz also offers tips on paying taxes in this review of The Money Book.

Is my resume up to date and appropriate?

If you plan to offer services as a translator, it is important to have a resume dedicated solely to translation. You may want to include experience in relevant subject areas, but the job you held at the local pet shop years ago probably does not qualify.

Once you have your ideal translation resume, make sure not to let it collect dust. There is nothing like getting a resume request from a prospective client and letting the email languish while you scramble to get your resume in order. Taking the time to update your resume periodically will save you the headache later, and might even land you the client.

Find more tips in Marta Stelmaszak’s guide to translator CVs.

Am I able to give a reasonably accurate word count (in source and/or target languages) and turnaround estimate relatively quickly after I have seen the document?

Some things you simply cannot know until you know them, and word count and turnaround estimates sometimes fall into this category. However, one way to gain control is by tracking word counts and time spent on each project.

Use a tool like Toggl to determine how long it takes you to complete an assignment based on project or document type. You can also keep track of word output per hour to get an idea of how long it takes you to translate certain documents. Once you have your numbers, continue to expect the unexpected and give yourself a buffer so you are able to submit your projects on time.

Have I prearranged quality control measures to guarantee a top-notch product (such as time to mull over my draft, proofing tools, time to proofread, a third reading by a colleague with source- or target-language background, a subject area expert to consult, etc.)?

Never underestimate the importance of quality control. Like many translators, I consider myself a perfectionist, but experience has taught me that even perfectionists make mistakes. There are some things only a second pair of eyes will catch, like the misspelling of epidural (“epdiural”) that I once accidentally added to my dictionary in Word, causing spell check to overlook the typo. Whenever possible, it is invaluable to have a subject-matter expert on hand (whose fees you can budget into your quote) and to allow for ample time to mull over your draft.

Now that we have taken a closer look at things to keep in mind when first deciding to pursue a career in translation, it is time to prepare for what to do when your first clients start trickling in. Stay tuned for the next post in the series: “What to Do When the Phone Rings” (or when the first email arrives, in today’s business world!). Can’t wait for more inspiration? Check out this post by Corinne McKay with tips for new translators and interpreters.

Image source: pixabay