By David Friedman
The ATA Business Practices Listserv (BP List) has without a doubt been the best thing about my ATA membership. The discussions on it range from advice on how to deal with contract clauses and how to vet clients to the differences between the bulk market and the premium market. It’s a place where all translators, regardless of experience, can give and receive advice and contribute to the discussions that define our industry.
One of the things that really piqued my interest when I first joined the BP List was that people I already admired as authorities in the translation industry, after having read their publications, like Chris Durbin and Robin Bonthrone, seemed to be very active on the list. I didn’t expect to be participating in discussions with them and getting their answers to questions I had right off the bat after joining the ATA and the BP List.
The types of advice you can get on the BP List include a better understanding of the translation markets, how to approach/deal with different types of clients, and how to take advantage of specializing in specific industries. There all topics often broached on the BP List and in publications such as The Prosperous Translator and The Entrepreneurial Linguist, and I feel that they can make a huge impact in the early stages of one’s translation career.
Because discussions on the BP List are not accessible to non-members, discussions can be very frank and sometimes even a bit heated, but the beauty of this is that everyone still tends to get along well—even right after passionately arguing opposing sides of a debate. The moderators are also good about intervening if something goes against list policy or gets too acrimonious.
One of the recent discussions which I personally felt was very interesting was on the differences between the premium and bulk markets. The lines may not be definitively drawn, but if we generalize a bit, we can identify the following typical characteristics of the two markets just to give you an idea of what they mean to the people on the BP list:
- high-volume work at lower rates
- less time spent on other aspects of the business apart from the actual translation
- often associated with certain large translation agencies and machine translation/post editing
- falling rates
- often associated with direct clients, but also certain premium translation agencies
- rising rates
- high demand for translators specialized in specific industries
- more time spent on business activities (e.g. marketing and client relationships)
This is just a very generalized overview. To learn more, take a look at the following blog posts on the subject: It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times: How the Premium Market Offers Translators Prosperity in an Era of Collapsing Bulk-Market Rates by Kevin Hendzel, Post-slavery bondage and poverty by Kevin Lossner, and The Translation Market – Is it Really Understood? by Kirti Vashee. And, of course, join the ATA Business Practices Listserv.
In some cases, discussions that originated on the BP List have led to public blog posts and discussions (see links above), newspaper articles, and other forms of public debate. If you join the BP List, you can see the impact of these discussions for yourself, as the public discussions are often posted back to the list.
In early 2013, after I read The Prosperous Translator, The Entrepreneurial Linguist and other translation publications, combined with insights gained from the BP List and lots of in-person discussions at translation conferences and other translation events, I noticed that my translation career took a significant turn for the better. This shift, which enabled me to become more active in planning the next steps in my career, led me to get some clients of my own and the average amount I make per hour has steadily increased ever since.
I see this as only the beginning of a lifelong career journey and a taste of the opportunities out there, so I’ll have my eyes peeled on the BP List going forward as I try to keep moving forward to meet my career goals.
About the author: After being born and raised in South Florida, David Friedman moved to Sweden in 2006, studied German at Lund University, and has been translating full time since 2009. He specializes in translating corporate communications from Swedish and German to English. David is the founder of a local network of translators in Sweden called Lund Translation Team. He is a member of the American Translators Association (ATA) and the Swedish Association of Professional Translators (SFÖ) and has been serving as the coordinator of SFÖ’s activities for translators in southern Sweden since the spring of 2014.