Top 10 tips for new freelance translators

Reblogged from Translator Thoughts blog, with permission, incl. the image

If you’ve never worked in the translation industry independently before, it can be quite a daunting world to step into. How do I find work? Where do I advertise my skills? What competition am I facing? But do not fret! Help is at hand. Read our top 10 tips for new freelance translators below to get yourself off on the right foot and create the best possible base for your new career as a freelance translator.

  1. Structure Your Days

When I began freelancing, I found it difficult to settle into a “normal” routine. One of the benefits of being self-employed is that you can set your own hours. If you want to work 12 hours every day for 2 weeks so that you can have a couple of extra days off, you can! However, just make sure that you don’t become inefficient. One of the traps I started to fall into was getting up late, sometimes missing out on work and then having to work until the wee hours to complete projects. I would NOT recommend this! Try and be strict with yourself; get up early, have a decent breakfast, exercise, get some strong coffee and then start a productive day. On the other hand, if you are a bit of an over-achiever, make sure you don’t end up working 24/7. You have to allow yourself breaks as well and spend time with your friends and family. Find a healthy balance and you’ll feel all the better for it.

  1. Set Your Rates

One of the most difficult things about starting out as a translator is figuring out what to charge. Try and think about how much you (realistically) want to earn and how many hours you are willing to work per week. This will help you decide what a fair rate to charge your employers could be.

  1. Don’t Undersell Yourself

However, in relation to the above point – do not undersell yourself! Although it is tempting to charge almost nothing at the beginning, most companies will be happy to pay for high-quality work rather than pay peanuts for something that is not up to standard. If you charge a decent rate for your work, you will be more highly respected and as a result, will be more likely to get more work.

  1. Figure Out Your Niche

A great way to get more work as a translator is to have a niche market that you are experienced in. Indeed, the most highly paid translators usually have a degree in another subject such as engineering, medicine or law. However, not all of us have experience in these fields and if, like me, translation and linguistics has been your main field of study, think about what you want to specialise in and work on pursuing that goal. Maybe our previous article about how to choose your specialisation could help.

Keep in mind that to identify your niche you might want to define first who your target clients are.

  1. Study, study, study!

When you’re constantly working and trying to get new clients, it can be easy to forget about what you’re actually offering. Make sure you keep your language skills fresh and up-to-date so that the quality of your translations does not suffer. There are also lots of other blogs (here we listed for you the top blogs in the translation industry) out there specifically designed for freelance translators like us, and these can be a great way to expand your knowledge of the translation industry.

  1. Invest In Your Career

As mentioned above, it can be highly beneficial to specialise in a chosen subject when offering your translation services. Why not invest in some new courses? This will show employers that you are taking your career seriously and want to improve yourself as a translator. Furthermore, a lot of companies want translators to use CAT tools, which make large projects a lot easier and faster to complete. The majority of these are pretty pricey, but when you’re starting off why not try Omega T, which is free. You can then invest in more expensive software when you are more established.

  1. Provide High-Quality Work

When starting out, it can be tempting to take on as many jobs as possible in order to get paid and build up your portfolio. However, it is much more beneficial to take your time in order to provide your best work and please your employers. One thing about the translation industry is that you get back what you put in. So, if you provide a rushed translation that hasn’t been researched properly, you will gain a poor reputation and could even miss out on payment. However, if you provide a high-quality, professional translation, it is highly likely that it will lead to more work and will certainly help you move forward in your career.

  1. Market Yourself

One of the best ways to get work when starting out is pretty simple: get your name out there! Companies can’t hire you if they don’t know you exist after all. Yes, it takes a while and yes, it can be pretty tedious. But spend some time to identify your target clients and contact them. Learn how to use social media to be found by your prospective clients.

It’s essential that you build a blog in order to start building your online presence as a freelance translator (it is so important that we’ve build a free guide for you here). Your clients cannot find you if you’re not out there!

And in the meanwhile, you can also send out letters and CVs to translation agencies until you have some direct clients. Remember, you’re investing in yourself and your career so it is definitely worth putting in the groundwork.

  1. Freelance Websites Are Your Best Friend

So, you’ve sent out hundreds of CVs, studied hard and are ready to work. Sometimes, it will take a while for companies to get back to you so in the meantime why not try out some of the freelance websites that are available. Check out our blog post here to learn about the best ones.

  1. Don’t Expect Overnight Success

For the vast majority of people, full-time translation work does not become a reality for at least a year, and a lot of us actually have to get part-time jobs to pay the bills in order to be able to pursue our dream job on the side. Don’t let this get you down. It takes a while to establish yourself, find the right clients to work with and build up a portfolio of translation work. However, if you’re willing to stick it out and work hard, you will reap the benefits in due course.

 

The Confidentiality Dilemma in the Language Profession

Where should interpreters and translators draw the line?

Last month, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee proposed to subpoena the American interpreter present at the private meeting between the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and President Trump on July 16, 2018. Although it sounds like a blow to the profession, it may actually be good news that Congress turned its attention to the occupation of translators and interpreters.

Republicans did their thing: They blocked the request, and professional translators and interpreters everywhere were able to breathe again. The question remains, however: Are interpreters, like attorneys and priests, bound by confidentiality at all costs and under all circumstances?

The answer is neither clear nor simple. For one thing, no specific regulations exist for interpreters or translators. There are no state or federal standards of accountability, no governing bodies or professional oversights at any level, no board exams or education requirement of any kind. In other words, it is a completely self-regulated profession. Anyone can practice as an interpreter or a translator regardless of their background or knowledge.

Unlike attorneys or doctors, translators do not have to prove their qualifications to anyone or operate under any particular professional standard. It is truly up to the person or entity contracting the service to check credentials and provide any non-disclosure agreements required for the particular job or relationship. If this is not done properly, however, the consequences can be disastrous. Let’s recall the story out of Tampa, Florida last December that made national headlines, where a woman claiming to be an American Sign Language interpreter “signed” nonsense at a police press conference announcing the arrest of a suspected serial killer who had been terrorizing the city for months.

Despite all this, for every unqualified person out there, there are dozens of truly dedicated and educated language professionals who operate with integrity. Of course, it only takes one questionable experience to create mistrust within the profession. So, while some of us may have been outraged at the idea of subpoenaing the interpreter at the Trump-Putin summit last month, it may be a good idea to start filling in the gaps of the profession, looking more closely at ethics and confidentiality, including diplomatic settings under the protection of the U.S. Department of State.

Now, whether Congress can really subpoena the interpreter is another question. Surely, this interpreter was bound to secrecy under an iron-clad non-disclosure agreement. And even if not, the rules of conduct and ethics for interpreters and translators require confidentiality in the language profession. The American Translators Association (ATA) Code of Ethics states that language professionals must “hold in confidence any privileged and/or confidential information entrusted to us in the course of our work.” However, this statement cannot be absolute or understood as such, nor is it even legally binding alone. It is merely a guideline set forth by a professional association in an attempt to unify an unregulated profession.

Consider this: In 48 states, physicians, counselors, mediators, and other designated professionals are compelled to file a mandated report when they suspect child abuse, harm to others, and harm to oneself. These are all logical and reasonable exceptions to confidentiality, and interpreters should not be the exception in that regard.

In the case of one state, the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, in accordance with Act 172 of 2006 (42 Pa.C.S. §§ 4411(e) and 4431(e)), has established a confidentiality exception for interpreters: “In the event that an interpreter becomes aware of information that suggests imminent harm to someone or relates to a crime being committed during the course of the proceedings, the interpreter should immediately disclose the information to an appropriate authority within the judiciary who is not a party to the proceeding and seek advice in regard to the potential conflict in professional responsibility.”

Now, in cases of suspected child abuse, the line is pretty clear. The safety and well-being of a child trumps any non-disclosure agreement, without question. But what about when an interpreter is being asked to disclose the nitty-gritty of a private meeting that may expose risks to our national security interests? Perhaps that should become another concrete exception.

Yes, the nature of a bilateral meeting is based on privacy. The interpreter is not a microphone to the public nor a reporter of the meeting. The interpreter is the voice of the participants, who, typically, citizens trust to represent them. The interpreter is not a spy for the American people, nor should he or she be compelled to disclose any details of a meeting… that is, unless the interests of the American people are not being faithfully represented. And to that effect, the U.S. Congress should most certainly issue a ruling.

So far, this matter has been handled from the political perspective. But interpreters in all settings should be prepared for more incidents like this during the next few years. If this issue comes up again—and it very likely will—what happens with this situation in Congress will set a precedent for us all.

Image source: Pixabay

About the authors

Salua Kamerow works as a Spanish linguist for Penn State University – Berks campus. She is a Colombian Esq., Master of Laws from Penn State University, and Master of Science in Translation from New York University. Her interests vary among contrastive stylistics and terminology. She has extensive expertise in the fields of law, energy, community justice, and alternative dispute resolution.

Nikki DiGiovanni is an Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French translator, specializing in financial translation, with a Master of Science from New York University. She currently works as a quality manager for the Italian translation and interpretation provider Intrawelt S.a.s. and volunteers as a translator for Translators without Borders.

Focus on: New Translators (Part 1)

Reblogged from Silver Tongue Translations blog, with permission

You know, the title of this blog post is a bit misleading (arrrgh! I’m breaking my own rules!) I’ve aimed it at “new translators”, but really, these tips serve any translators, be they fresh as daisies or been-around-the-blockers, the only requirement is that they want to improve. (This is all of us, right?)

I got asked to mentor two new translators over the summer, and, once I’d finished my bulk order of anti-aging cream, I decided to view it as a positive thing. I also started to think about how I could be of best service. What would my “tips” be? What did I wish I knew at the start of my career? The video at the end of this post, lovely colleagues, is what I came up with.

In a nutshell (as I’m aware that my videos are more coconut shell than pistachio in size), these are my top ten tips (if you can’t be bothered scrolling to the video):

  1. Translate every day

It doesn’t matter if it’s the back of the shampoo bottle you bought on your last trip to your source language country, or whether it’s an extract from an article you loved (I know what I’d go for), translating every day sharpens your translation skills, makes you a better writer and keeps up your source language proficiency (this last one is especially important if you don’t reside in your source language country).

Translating every day has the added benefit of increasing your productivity because, usually, the more you practise, the quicker you get. It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that if you’re working quickly and accurately you’re able to complete more work in a shorter period of time (which leaves you more time for checking, of course!). Whether you pass these savings on to your client is up to you though….

  1. Work out how much you must earn

….then how much you want to earn. Only you know your essential outgoings every month (I’m thinking rent/mortgage, utilities, phone, food….) so only you know how much you’ll need to cover those expenses. Don’t forget to pay yourself a salary! Then have a look at how many days a week/month/year you’re going to be working. Be realistic.

It is simply not feasible to work 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, so don’t pretend that it is.

Use these calculations as a basis for working out how much you need to charge. Don’t forget to take into account the total time for a translation – from initial contact, through to translation and then on to editing and checking. It all counts.

  1. Find your “I’m special because…”

Do you have a hobby that you’ve enjoyed for years? How about a part time job or family business you’ve been a part of?

Don’t discount all past experiences which aren’t obviously related to translation as irrelevant.

You have skills, knowledge, experiences and expertise (we all do, we’re not one-dimensional creatures). It might not be sustainable to only work in an area that relates to your interests and pastimes, but if it can form a part of your business it’ll sure make a 25,000 word document more pleasant to pull an (occasional) all-nighter for.

  1. Get yourself a buddy

Friends are important. We know this. In your professional life, it’s no different. I recommend two courses of action for buddying up with a translator:

  1. Find a colleague (perhaps of similar experience to you) who is willing to check your work.

Another set of eyes is always helpful, and you will feel much happier submitting to your client if you know that it hasn’t just been your coffee-fuelled brain working on the document.

  1. Find a mentor.

By mentor, I mean a more experienced colleague who is willing to share some of their knowledge and experience with you. They don’t have to have the same specialisms as you (although that is enormously helpful), their experience in translation and running a business will more than suffice.

  1. Keep moving

It’s easy to stay at our desk. Eat lunch over the keyboard (gross, but we’ve probably all done it), slurp coffee (and probably spill it) over the aforementioned keyboard and generally only get up from our desks when our bladders are threatening to stage a walkout. Take breaks, get outside for fresh air (and perspective, inspiration and Vitamin D). It’s easy to play the role of martyr and say things like “I’ve been translating for 9 hours straight.” That’s not something to boast about. It’s just unhealthy.

Keeping moving means something else too. Keep your business moving. Every day, make some form of forward motion. Some progress. It could be setting your goals for the year. Doing a bit of marketing. Sending out some pitch emails. It might seem that it’s not getting you anywhere, but it is.

Momentum will make a difference.

  1. Give and receive help

I talk about being helpful a lot. I’m a big believer in it. The translation community is open and responsive. Just last week I was having Trados issues and several colleagues (Sheila, Caroline and David to name but a few) jumped in to help me out. David even ended up testing out my document on his version, re-saving the target file for me to use and then later that evening, converting it back for me, just in case I’d had more technical issues. When I thanked him, he said,

“No problem. You shared something months ago and I am a great believer in “pass it forward”.”

This isn’t encouraging you to help people only to get something in return, it’s to say that we’re an appreciative, helpful bunch. And we don’t forget.

  1. Systems are your friend

It might seem like a lot of hassle to have spreadsheets for everything right from the start. It can feel like Excel is mocking you, with your client list filling up only two lines of the cells on the worksheet of your grandly titled “Clients_Master Database”. Equally, calendar reminders for when to invoice may also seem a little…unnecessary for new translators at the beginning. I faithfully set them up and by the time they pinged to remind me to remind the client to pay I had already done it (it’s not hard to remember when you only have one client…)

But you will get more clients.

And when you do, you will be happy to have a list of invoice references, so you don’t have to faff around finding the last one you sent. There are even systems that do this all for you, and link up to your emails and take away the coffee cups from your desk before they walk away on their own (I made that last bit up.)

  1. Sort the essentials

I hate to break it you, but you have to pay tax. You’ll probably also want to retire at some stage with some form of savings and/or a pension. These are two items on the “essentials” list for everybody, not just translators. The difference when you’re self-employed (or even working in a self-employed capacity on a part-time basis) is that you don’t have someone else, i.e. an employer, to handle it for you. Sort this stuff early.

As in the tip above about systems, I know it feels silly to be putting money away for tax when, at the beginning, you don’t feel you’re earning much, but getting into good habits at the start of your career is so much easier than trying to adopt good habits when you’re a more established translator.

  1. Don’t stop learning

Read widely in your source and target languages. Subscribe to magazines in your niche. Talk to fellow translators. Take advantage of CPD offered by colleagues and institutions. Attend events. You never know when a piece of knowledge or a chance encounter will give rise to an opportunity. Apart from the potential business benefits, don’t forget what we all knew as children….

Learning is fun.

  1. Integrity is everything

It’s tempting at the beginning to try and be all things to all people. Accepting that impossible deadline might curry favour with a PM, but it probably won’t be conducive to producing high quality work. Changing your CV to say you’re an expert on quantum physics is only a good idea if you’d somehow forgotten studying for that PhD back in high school.

Some jobs are worth going the extra mile for, some jobs are worth pushing yourself beyond what you’d previously thought you could achieve. But don’t push yourself too far away from what is possible and practical.

Your reputation is worth much more than a single “impossible” job.

Do you have any tips for new translators? Would you be interested in mentoring a colleague? Let me know in the comments!

Image source: Pixabay

ATA’s Certification Exam Preparation Workshop in Boston

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

ATA’s Certification Exam Preparation Workshop presented opportunities for participants to learn how the Certification Program works, including the general characteristics of exam passages and how exams are evaluated and graded.

ATA held a Certification Exam Preparation Workshop on January 20 at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Training has always been an important part of ATA’s mission, and organizers wanted to see if a full-day workshop led by graders of ATA’s Certification Program could successfully benefit both exam candidates and the program.

The workshop consisted of two sessions designed to help participants understand how the exam is graded and the common errors candidates make. The morning session was for those interested in taking the exam from English into Spanish, while the afternoon session focused on those interested in taking the exam from any language into English. The two of us (Rudy and Diego) were in charge of the English>Spanish session (aside from grading, we work in the English>Spanish workgroup in ATA’s Certification Program). The other two graders, Bruce Popp and Andy Klatt (who work in the French>English and Spanish>English workgroups, respectively) led the into-English session.

Session I: Preparing for the English>Spanish Certification Exam

To develop and tailor this session, participants were mailed a sample practice test to translate and given about 10 days to complete and return it. These tests were then graded applying the same criteria used for the actual certification exam. The purpose of this exercise was to target each participant’s common—and not so common—errors. The results were then discussed during the session, although any specific examples used were kept anonymous.

The main benefit of this exercise for participants was that they were able to learn from comparing each other’s translations and discussing why one rendition worked and another didn’t. It allowed participants to gain a better understanding of where errors happen and identify if they are word-, sentence-, or passage-level errors. This analysis also allowed participants to see how errors impact the comprehension of the entire translated passage. There was plenty of back and forth discussion, including participants’ explanations of their choices and decisions. Each participant received his or her own marked-up practice test at the end of the workshop.

Session II: Preparing for the Into-English Certification Exam

Just like the morning session, the afternoon session began with an introductory talk with visual aids to provide a detailed explanation of the nature and expectations of the certification exam, the error categories and what they mean, and grading criteria and standards. Participants were introduced to the common criteria for grading into-English tests regardless of language pair. The Into-English Grading Standards (IEGS), which are available on ATA’s website, form an essential basis for grading all language pairs in which English is the target language.

The concept of evaluating errors based on the extent to which they detract from the usefulness of the translation to a potential client was also covered. The discussion then switched to some of the essential characteristics of an effective translation, the principles for exam preparation, and test-taking skills. After this, participants were divided into two groups.

Since a large proportion of the into-English group was composed of Spanish>English candidates who had taken the morning session, that group met separately to review the errors on the sample Spanish>English practice test that many of them had taken in preparation for the workshop. The second group was composed of candidates who work from a diverse set of languages into English. The presenters at this session were able to use materials that had been provided by several into-English certification workgroups to exemplify some of the challenges faced by candidates, including carrying over the linguistic organization of a text into a very different, sometimes unrelated, language. As was the case in the morning session, candidate participation was strong and enthusiastic.

A Favorable Response

The workshop proved to be a success, based not only on the number of attendees (the workshop sold out), but also on the diversity of the participants: people from as far away as the West Coast, Texas, Florida, and even Venezuela attended. With its maritime view, the University of Massachusetts Boston proved to be an attractive venue, even in winter. We were fortunate that the weather was cooperative that day, as Boston was experiencing a particularly rough winter. Many people signed up for both sessions, and while the content of the morning and afternoon sessions was different, they built upon each other.

Comments after both sessions were positive, as were most of the comments made in the post-event evaluations. As with any pilot program, some kinks need to be worked out. For example, one comment indicated that too much time had been spent on the administrative aspects of the testing and grading process, forcing presenters to rush through the more interesting part where passages were put under a magnifying glass and reviewed in detail.

As a direct result of the evaluation comments, we prepared a video that explains many of the generic details regarding the exam and presented it at a subsequent workshop that took place as part of the “Spring Into Action” conference co-sponsored by ATA’s Spanish Language Division, the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida, and Florida International University. In this way we were able to devote the entire workshop to analyzing the candidates’ proposed translations. The event in Miami was not part of ATA’s Certification Program, but the changes implemented for the workshop demonstrate that the Association and its graders respond to membership feedback to make its programs as rewarding, informative, and fun as possible.

ATA’s Certification Exam Preparation Workshop presented opportunities for participants to learn how the Certification Program works, including the general characteristics of the passages and how exams are evaluated and graded. In addition, participants were able to learn from the graders about the specific challenges found in exam passages and gain a better understanding of the common and individual mistakes that arise.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

ATA’s Certification Exam: Introduction
http://bit.ly/ATA-certification

ATA Practice Test: Benefits
http://bit.ly/ATA-practice-test

Explanation of Error Categories
http://bit.ly/error-categories

Flowchart for Error Grading
http://bit.ly/grading-flowchart

Framework for Standardized Error Marking
http://bit.ly/ATA-error-marking

Into-English Grading Standards
http://bit.ly/into-English-grading

Rudy Heller, an ATA-certified English>Spanish translator, has been a grader for ATA’s English>Spanish certification exam for over 12 years. He is a federally certified court interpreter and has been a professional translator for over 40 years. He is a former ATA director. Contact: rudyheller@gmail.com.

Diego Mansilla, an ATA-certified English>Spanish translator, is a grader for ATA’s English>Spanish certification exam. He is the director of the Translation Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where he also teaches advanced courses in translation. He is a member of the board of directors of the New England Translators Association. His areas of research are translation pedagogy, collaboration in translation, and online education and assessment. Contact: diego.mansilla@umb.edu.

What Exactly Is a Technical Freelance Translator?

by Jost Zetzsche

I was asked some time back to write a book chapter about freelance translators and translation technology. Not surprisingly, I started by defining a “freelance translator” in this context. Here’s what I came up with:

“According to Wikipedia, a ‘freelancer’ is ‘a person who is self-employed and is not necessarily committed to a particular employer long-term. (…) The term freelancing is most common in culture and creative industries [such as] music, writing, acting, computer programming, web design, translating and illustrating, film and video production, and other forms of piece work which some cultural theorists consider as central to the cognitive-cultural economy.’

“With translators listed directly in the middle of groups identified as typical freelancers, we need to further narrow the distinction between literary and technical translators. ‘Technical translation’ is defined according to Sofer (The Global Translator’s Handbook. Lanham: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2012, 20) ‘by asking, does the subject being translated require a specialized vocabulary, or is the language non-specialized?’ A sampling of areas in which technical translators are active includes aerospace, automotive, business/finance, chemistry, civil engineering, computers, electrical/electronic engineering, environment, law, medicine, military, nautical, patents, social sciences, and telecommunications (ibid., 67f.).

“The diversity of fields for technical freelance translators is reflected in other areas of diversity as well.

“First, there is a wide array of commitment to the task of technical translation, ranging from voluntary, occasional (paid), and full-time translators. In the context of this contribution, we will consider only technical translators who make a substantial part or all of their livelihood by performing translation for one or — more typically — many clients. These clients could be translation agencies that subcontract to individual freelance translators or direct clients who hire freelance translators without a mediating actor. End clients may range from large international organizations to individuals who need to have personal documents translated.

“Second, the most natural area of diversity originates in the many different language combinations. Both source and target languages differ greatly in how they are supported by technologies. This includes

    • access to dictionaries and/or corpora
    • spell- and grammar-checking
    • input methods (including voice recognition)
    • morphology recognition
    • machine translation
    • the applicability of technologies that rely on parameters such as space-based word delimiters or fuzzy term recognition in languages with no traditional word boundaries or no inflection

“Third, there tends to be a correlation between the translated languages and the location of the translator. In turn, the location has an impact on the access to various kinds of technologies, from limitations to online resources applied by service providers or political control or simply prohibitive costs.

“And finally, the nature of each translator’s specialization also results in differing technology requirements, including potential limitations of using certain technologies that may not match security protocols or regulations or a particular high (or low) appreciation of very specific terminology with its corresponding technology requirements.

“Given all this, the following observations are by necessity generalizations about the members of this diverse community.”

Is that how you would define (professional, technical) freelance translator? I’d be eager to hear some feedback.

Reblogged (including the image) from The Tool Box Journal, Issue 18-4-286