Advice for Beginners: Specialization

By Judy Jenner
Post reblogged from Translation Times blog with permission by the author, incl. the image

Many beginning interpreters oftentimes ask us about specialization and whether it’s essential that they specialize. We get many of these questions from Judy’s students at the Spanish/English translation certificate program at University of San Diego-Extension and from Dagy’s mentees. We thought it might be helpful to give a short summary on translation specialization.

One project does not equal specialization. This is a classic mistake that we also made early in our careers. Just because you have done a project (or two or three) in a specific area doesn’t mean that’s a specialization. You should really have in-depth knowledge.

Choose wisely. A specialization is an area that you know very, very well and that you can confidently say you are an expert in. Remember that if you choose a specific area, say chemistry or finance, it’s best to have significant experience, including perhaps a graduate degree and work experience outside the T&I field, in that specific area. You will be competing with colleagues who have both experience and credentials, so it’s important that you are prepared. For instance, we have a dear friend and colleague who has a doctorate in chemistry. Naturally, Karen Tkaczyk’s area of specialization is chemistry.

Non-specializations. It’s impossible to be an expert in everything. It looks quite unprofessional to say that you specialize in everything, so we suggest staying away from that approach. Also be sure to put some thought into areas that you don’t want to work in at all because you are not qualified, interested, or both. For instance, we once got a call from a client who really wanted to hire us to translate a physics text. We don’t know anything about physics, even though we took eight years of it, and even though we were flattered, we politely declined and recommended a colleague. That project would have been a disaster. We also wisely stay away from in-depth medical translations.

It’s OK not to have one. It’s not a bad thing to not have a specialization or significant experience in any area at the beginning of your career. Everyone starts out without experience (we did, too), and we wouldn’t recommend lying about any experience you have. However, think about experience outside the T&I field: perhaps you were a Little League coach and thus know a lot about baseball or volunteered at your local Habitat for Humanity and thus know a bit about non-profits. The experience doesn’t have to be in both languages, but any background and educational credentials will come in handy. For instance, Judy’s graduate degree is in business management, so business translations were a natural fit for her. We had also done previous copywriting work (before we started our business, that is), so we felt that the advertising field might be a good specialization (and we were right).

Add one! It might also very well happen that you will add specializations throughout your career, which is a good thing. We recommend choosing closely related fields so you don’t have to invest too much time and resources.

Getting faster. As a general rule, the more specialized you are, the faster you will be able to translate because you will be very familiar with the terminology. For instance, we have colleagues who only translate clinical trials, real estate purchase contracts or patents. They have usually amassed large glossaries and translation memories and spent little time researching and lots of time translation, thus positively affecting their bottom line.

We think this is a good start, but would love to hear from both colleagues and newcomers. Join the conversation by leaving a comment!

Local Conferences: The Block Parties of the Language Industry

Are you a member of your local translators and interpreters association? Have you ever attended a local conference? There is no question that a large-scale conference like that of the ATA is worth attending at least once in your career, but conferences of its scope come with a price tag and can require significant travel.

Luckily, you do not have to travel far or break the bank to find inspiration, meet new colleagues, and improve your skills and knowledge. To highlight the value of local conferences, The Savvy Newcomer is bringing you a series of guest posts featuring reflections by conference-goers who have kept it local. In the first post, Jillian Droste, member of the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters (OSTI), reflects on her experience at the organization’s 5th annual conference in Portland, Oregon this summer.

         As small, intimate, and relatively informal events for networking and continuing education, local translation and interpreting conferences are as warm and inviting as neighborhood block parties. Much like a neighborhood gathering, local conferences provide the perfect opportunity for new and experienced professionals to mingle and learn within their regional cohort. This year’s Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters (OSTI) conference was a perfect example of just this sort of reunion.

An Easy Step in the Right Direction

Neighborhood block parties encourage individuals and families to step outside of their own backyards and join others in a celebration of community. Local conferences achieve this same goal with respect to translators and interpreters, proving especially important to those of us who fit the stereotype of the introverted translator. I readily admit that my comfort zone is at home, with my dogs, working independently. And yet, I know my business will not grow itself in the quiet of my office. Fortunately, local conferences are among the least daunting of those opportunities designed for professional development, continuing education, and networking.

Mentally preparing myself for this one-day conference was far easier than anticipating an event that would take me away from home for multiple days. The event’s affordable cost further contributed to the ease of attending, as did the location. Attending a conference over the weekend in my hometown meant that I did not need to plan for time off work, purchase a plane ticket, or book a hotel room.

This is not to say we should all succumb to introverted tendencies and forever avoid large events. But if this important step in career-building is something you would rather put off out of intimidation or logistical complications, it may be the perfect time to check out your own local events. You can ease your fears, and your transition into this branch of the professional world, by attending a local conference now and working up to a larger event later.

Designed to Facilitate Networking

         Though we may not think of them as such, neighborhood block parties are, at least in part, networking events. Sure, neighbors come together to celebrate neighborliness, and probably good weather, but they also undoubtedly intend to vet neighbors, scout for babysitters, or seek new friendships. Block parties bring people from the same area together in a neutral setting, making it easier for folks to connect. Local conferences work from the same premise.

By volunteering at the registration table at this year’s OSTI conference, I enjoyed a head start in forming new connections with other local language professionals. I recommend this to anyone looking for an extra way to feel involved. As a volunteer, I was immediately connected to the conference organizer, members of the board, and a number of regular conference attendees.

Once the volunteer shift came to an end, I easily found more opportunities to get to know other attendees. Conference-goers enjoyed breakfast and lunch together in a beautiful hall full of friendly faces. Outside of mealtimes, the limited number of presentations at each hour further enabled connection among attendees with similar goals and interests. It is easy to assume that a conference with more workshops is always preferable, but with fewer options, there was less movement between presentations. With this, conference-goers had more time to bond with a fairly consistent group of individuals and were able to engage in more in-depth conversations before and after presentations.

Small Size Means Greater Participation

         Neighborhood block parties often have games and activities to entertain young kids. While there were no games, per se, at this conference, the event’s smaller size resulted in more opportunities for creativity and active engagement. One presenter used minor costume changes to simultaneously represent the distinct perspectives of independent contractors and project managers. Another captured the attention of attendees of an otherwise dense medical presentation about anticoagulants by guiding them through the creation of a human hemostatic plug.

Presenters were able to get immediate feedback from attendees and make small adjustments to adapt their material to issues specific to the actual audience. Of equal importance, the smaller audience size ensured that attendees were able to ask questions and more easily approach speakers after their presentations. Attendees were also able to benefit from more direct contact with fellow conference-goers and presenters.

Conferences as Leadership Opportunities

         Local conferences serve as the perfect venue for translators and interpreters to develop their presence as industry experts by delivering presentations, addressing attendees as candidates for the board, or by filling other essential roles during the conference. As with any event in which people are brought together, whether it is a block party or a conference, leaders are essential.

Beyond requiring leaders to make the event itself a reality, the OSTI conference served as a springboard for future leadership opportunities for attendees, who were encouraged to propose OSTI events and submit workshop proposals for the following year’s conference. Moreover, the other characteristics that made this event so inviting—its small size, the ease of attending, the more casual atmosphere—made the path toward securing a leadership role feel more immediately attainable.

What Are You Waiting For?

There is no doubt that this conference will be a regular event in my fall calendar. In fact, I have already saved the date for next year. If you are a Pacific Northwest translator, interpreter, project manager, or other individual involved in the industry, I encourage you to join us! If you do not live in the area, take a moment to find your own local events. For a small price and minimal effort you will find yourself connecting, participating, and feeling inspired at an event that—truly—is as friendly as a block party. I hope to see you there!

Author bio

Jillian Droste is a Spanish to English translator with an MA in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Illinois. Since earning her degree in 2016, she has translated marketing, academic, and medical texts with an increasing focus on medical materials. A member of the ATA and OSTI, Jillian values continuing education and community engagement.

When not translating, she enjoys interpreting for The Red Cross and a local medical clinic in an effort to increase access to health care. Outside of work, she can be found reading, snuggling with her dogs, or crouched in the dirt struggling to understand the intricacies of first-time gardening. Reach her at info@sentidotranslation.com.

Summary of the ATA Translation and Interpreting Services Survey

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle with permission, incl. the image

The fifth edition of the ATA Translation and Interpreting Services Survey serves as a practical tool, revealing general trends in the translation and interpreting industry.

The recently released fifth edition of the ATA Translation and Interpreting Services Survey is an invaluable benchmarking tool for nearly everyone in or affiliated with the translation and interpreting industry. The study allows an individual or company to easily compare their compensation levels to their peers. Translators and interpreters are able to review rates across languages, specialties, and location. Companies involved in translation and interpreting are able to refer to this report when determining their competitiveness with respect to compensation. Students considering careers in the translation and interpreting industry can use this tool to steer their specific career decisions and to gain insight about potential compensation. In addition, the study serves as a practical tool for a broader audience—individuals and businesses in the market for translation and interpreting services.

The survey was compiled, tabulated, and prepared for ATA by Industry Insights, Inc., a professional research and consulting firm that provides management and marketing services to dealer organizations, individual membership organizations, and professional trade associations and their members. The company specializes in compensation and benefits studies, industry operating surveys, member needs studies, educational programs, and customized research activities.

Survey Design

Responses were received from translation and interpreting professionals worldwide. Approximately two-thirds of the respondents reside in the U.S., 15% in Europe, 6% in South America, 4% in Canada, and the remaining 6% in other locations.

Upon receipt, all data were checked both manually and by a custom software editing procedure. Strict confidence of survey responses was maintained throughout the course of the project.

The seven employment classifications analyzed in this report include:

  • Full-time independent contractors
  • Part-time independent contractors
  • Full-time in-house private sector personnel
  • Part-time in-house private sector personnel
  • Company owners
  • Educators
  • Government employees

For detailed analysis, responses were broken down by age, gender, years in translation and/or interpreting, education level, ATA membership, geographic region, and certification and interpreter certification/credential. This comprehensive data allows users to compare their own income, hourly rates, and rates per word to individuals in similar situations.

Some Key Findings

Respondent Demographics: Survey respondents had varying backgrounds and experience. As shown in Figure 1, more than two-thirds were female and nearly one-third were ATA-certified. More than 60% held a master’s degree or higher, and more than two-thirds had over 10 years of employment in translation and interpreting. The typical (median) respondent was 50 years old.

Summary-Fig-1

Income Varied by Employment Classification: As shown in Figure 2, translation and interpreting company owners reported the highest gross income at $55,630, which is slightly ahead of full-time private sector employees ($55,547) and full-time independent contractors ($52,323). The lowest income was reported by educators and part-time independent contractors: $17,344 and $17,746, respectively.

Certification and Credentials Matter: On average, ATA-certified translators earned 21% higher compensation than those who were not certified. Similarly, on average, certified and credentialed interpreters earned 27% higher compensation than those who were not certified or credentialed.

Trends: Nearly half of the respondents reported that their 2014 gross compensation from translation and interpreting increased compared to 2013. Nearly one-third reported no change in income, while 23% reported a decline.

Education and Experience: Thirty percent reported having a degree in translation, while 12% reported having a degree in interpreting. Half reported having a non-degree certificate in translation or interpreting. Other credentials reported include state court interpreter certification (8%) and the U.S. State Department exam (6%).

Translation Volume: Translators’ target output per day was reported at 2,855 words. On average, they translated approximately 380,000 words per year in 2014.

Translation Income: Responding translators reported three-quarters of their income was derived from translating, while 15% was earned by editing/proofreading.

Translation Services: A little more than 14% of translators reported offering editing/proofreading services, while more than 76% reported offering translation services. Only 1% of translators reported offering post-editing machine translation services.

Interpreting Income: Responding interpreters reported the bulk of their income was derived from the following settings: judiciary (27%), medicine/life sciences (22%), and business and conference (12% each).

Interpreting Services: The interpreting services offered most frequently were consecutive (96%), simultaneous (74%), sight (44%), and phone (42%).

Compensation: Thirty-two language combinations were surveyed. Translation rates were reported per word and hourly. Hourly rates were reported for editing/proofreading services. Hourly rates were reported for interpreting services.

Summary-Fig2
Summary-Fig3
Ordering Information

ATA’s 58-page Translation and Interpreting Services Survey, Fifth Edition presents the survey results in much greater detail than is possible in this summary article. The complete report includes translation and interpreting hourly rates and rates per word for a wide range of language combinations. It’s important to remember that the statistics published by ATA should be regarded as guidelines rather than absolute standards. ATA intends the survey to reveal general trends in the industry, not exact amounts.

The full report is available to ATA members for free by logging into the Members Only area of ATA’s website. Non-members may purchase the complete report for $95. Please order from ATA’s Publications page or write ATA to order your copy: ATA, 225 Reinekers Lane, Suite 590, Alexandria, VA 22314; 703-683-6100; fax 703-683-6122, e-mail: ata@atanet.org.


Shawn E. Six is a principal at Industry Insights, Inc. His position includes marketing, design, and implementation of the company’s research efforts, with a focus on compensation and benefits studies for a wide variety of industries. He has conducted more than 200 studies during his 20+ years at Industry Insights, and the results of these projects have been cited in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, CNN, and countless association journals. He has an MS in marketing from Westminster College and a master’s degree in predictive analytics from Northwestern University.

9 Things You Can Do Today to Get the Most out of #ATA58

This October, some 2,000 language professionals will swarm the Hilton in Washington DC for the 58th Annual ATA Conference. They will push through crowds of people to find the next packed presentation room, will sit in a sea of unfamiliar faces, will spend their entire waking day taking in new information and trying desperately to remember the name of the person they met two seconds ago. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting. It’s also exhilarating.

Even the most introverted among us feel a thrill being around people who understand our career and share our interests. In the chaos, it is easy to miss opportunities and come away from the conference feeling disappointed. Below are nine ideas for how you can prepare to get the most out of ATA 58.

1) Double-check your marketing materials

Update your resume and triple check for any mistakes. Do the same for your business cards and order extras now.

Find something extra to bring to help you stand out. This could be a personalized name badge, a lanyard—something pretty, crazy, or specific to your specialization, stickers or pins to show your language or specialization… Anything that encourages others to approach you about something you are interested in is helpful.

As you update your marketing materials, write out previous jobs and relevant experience. What stands out? What are you most proud of? What might be funny (and positive and professional)? What showcases your talent, knowledge, and drive?

Add to this list any time you take on a new job, and always note why the job is important. (A challenge you overcame, an impressive client, new information learned, etc.) If you don’t have a lot of job experience, consider classes you’ve taken, volunteer work you’ve done, research you are excited about. Review this list before the conference so that you will have specific, positive, professional responses when people ask you about your experience.

2) Research the presentations… and the presenters

Does the presenter have a website? Social media accounts? Find what information they’ve made public. Look for common interests, common languages, and anything you would like to ask about. Write all of this down and review it before the presentation. After the presentation—introduce yourself!

If you’re really excited about a presenter or a topic, feel free to send them an email in advance sharing your excitement, asking a question, or pointing out a shared interest. Everyone likes enthusiastic people in the audience. And while we’re at it, why wait until after the conference to follow them on Twitter?

3) Research the companies at the job fair and the exhibit hall

Look for specific things to discuss with any company you are interested in. What skills are they looking for? Why are you a good match? Why do you like this company? Research can make you stand out in a busy job fair. If you can find out who will be representing the company, why not drop them a line today, and tell them how much you’re looking forward to meeting them?

One easy way to start this now is with the ATA Conference App. During the conference you can use it to keep track of the schedule and stay up-to-date, and you can use it today to look through the list of represented companies as you start your research.

4) Reach out and make friends

Whether you’ve met fellow attendees in past or only know them online, a quick social media post or a brief email to let people know that you look forward to seeing them or to plan a coffee together can go a long way.

5) Research the area around the conference

A little research saves a lot of time and stress during the conference. Find a place you can recommend for lunch or coffee. Find a place you can slip away, where others can’t see you, for some quiet time. Find cultural places in the area specific to your language/specialization/interests. Look up a few practical places around the conference: ATMs, drug stores, phone stores for chargers, etc.

6) Set specific goals

Goals give focus and clarity in the midst of chaos. Set a goal for each presentation: “I want to meet two people who translate in this field into my B language,” “I want to learn X, Y, Z.” Don’t assume it was a bad presentation if it didn’t cover your specific question. Asking your question at the end of the session is a great way to meet people.

7) Prepare for questions

If you feel awkward when asked the standard conference questions, prepare for them now. “Why are you here?” “Did you come last year?” “What did you think?” “Are you enjoying the conference this year?” “How did you become a translator?”

“Last year I was just too overwhelmed and intimidated to come,” may be true. But it might be better to try something like: “I’ve been developing my business this year, learning about the profession, expanding my client base, and I’m so excited to be here!” Focus on what you’ve learned, what you look forward to learning, what excites you, how it fits with your work or a new avenue you are interested in exploring. Be honest, positive, and professional.

8) Post to social media

Everybody recommends this, but I’m going to be the one negative voice here. Posting to social media that you are going to be traveling on specific dates is a potential safety risk. You don’t have to do it. However, if you’re comfortable with it, it can be a great way to connect with people before the conference and can make it easier to plan coffee dates, lunches, trips to cultural sites, etc.

But remember, you can do much of this via email, phone calls, and private messages if you prefer not to post about it publicly. Where appropriate, you can also contact favorite clients to tell them that you will be attending a presentation pertinent to their field.

9) Schedule time after the conference

Immediately following the conference, you will have so much to go over, you will have work that’s piled up, and then there’s the laundry… If at all possible, schedule a few days after the conference to catch up and recharge before diving back into your routine. Otherwise, you may never get to your post-conference to-do list.

After the conference is the time to post to social media about what you learned and who you met. Write an article or two… Blog…  follow up with the people you met. This is the single most important thing you can do. Send emails, private messages, tweets. Connect on LinkedIn and Twitter… And be prepared to do it all again in a week or two.

This is where you will really stand out. So prepare for it now.

If you plan to mail cards after the conference, buy them now. Address them if possible. Write up ideas for what you might say. Streamline your social media. (Link your accounts so one post will go to multiple accounts, learn to schedule your posts, etc.)

The key is to be intentional and organized about what you want out of any large conference. After all, you are setting aside time and money to be there. Why not make the most of it?

Author bio

Anne Goff is currently writing a book on networking for introverts. She has an MA in French>English Translation and a BA in French. She translates legal texts and particularly enjoys helping adoptive families bring their children home. She has lived in countries with red, white, and blue flags—France, the UK, and the US. When not translating, writing, or introverting, Anne teaches French at university and speaks about networking and business for the non-extraverted. Contact her: anne@aegtranslations.com, http://www.aegtranslations.com.

Enter to win a free copy of Anne’s upcoming book on networking for introverts. Send her an email with “I’m interested in your book!” in the subject line.

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.