What Happens When Translators Go on Autopilot

Personally, I do not believe specialized human translators who actively use their brains will ever be replaced by machines. But if you put your brain on autopilot and work like a machine, then you could be at risk of becoming some kind of zombie cyborg competing with full-fledged machines! Here are some common problems I have seen in myself and other translators when we go on autopilot and do not think about what we are doing.

When you put your brain on autopilot in my favorite sport

Do you see the similarities in this hilarious video? This is what a translator who accidentally quoted too short a deadline while on autopilot looks like trying to catch up!

When I put my brain on autopilot and blindly trust the GPS

Have you ever done this? I feel so stupid when I show up late to a meeting or event because I blindly trusted my GPS and was too lazy to spend two minutes actively using my brain to think about where I was going! I type an address on the GPS, don’t look at the map at all, and press go, whether in the car or on foot. Sometimes something goes terribly wrong. I get confused. I have to pull over and frantically look at the map. Other times, if I just slow down, take a deep breath, and use my brain actively, I can study the route I will be taking for two minutes and I’m good to go. Even though the GPS is on, I know where I am and where I am going, and I am not as prone to getting lost.

This is exactly what I propose you do in your translation business to avoid going on autopilot: Stop yourself. Slow down for a moment. Don’t act without thinking. Take a deep breath. Use your brain actively. Examine the context, situation, and conditions around you more closely. And then, after you have all the information you need to make an informed decision, put in a conscious effort, know where you are, and know where you are going.

Quoting a price on autopilot

X number of words equals price Y—done.”

Hold the phone! Is the text within your grasp? Do you have the subject matter knowledge and expertise required to translate it? How complex is it? Is it a list of words or running text? Approximately how long has it taken you to complete similar projects? How long do you think it will take you this time? How much do you aim to make per hour? How important is the text to the client? What do you think it is worth to them and what do you think they are willing to pay for it?

Quoting a deadline on autopilot

“4,000 words? Delivery on Friday (two days)—done”

Hold your horses! What if the client doesn’t accept your quote until Thursday? Isn’t it better, then, to quote X number of business days following confirmation? Your daily output will not necessarily always be the same for all types of texts. Think about how long this specific project will take you. Double check your calendar to see if you will have enough time. Think about and find out how urgent it really is for the client before you bend over backwards unnecessarily.

Translating a term on autopilot

“Source language term X equals target language term Y—done.”

Wait a second! If you put yourself in the shoes of the specific target group, do you understand what this term means? Have you checked whether it corresponds to standard terminology used by native speakers in the relevant industry?

Translating a sentence on autopilot

“I translated the words—done.”

But is the sentence effective in communicating the intended meaning optimizing any calls to action? Is the information clear and easy to understand? Has the sentence structure been adapted to target language conventions?

Translating a document on autopilot

“I translated each sentence—done.”

Did you adapt the punctuation and check how the text flows as a whole? Did you check it in its final layout, beyond the CAT tool’s sentence-by-sentence structure? Examine it as a whole and see if there is any room for improvement once you get a better feel for the overall context and the role each part plays in the whole.

Sending and forgetting on autopilot

“I finished a project, now on to the next one.”

Hold up! How will you ever improve if you don’t know or care what happens to a text after you deliver it? And you could be missing out on opportunities to contribute to higher quality and a better reputation. Don’t just send and forget. Forward any questions and concerns you might have. Flag anything you aren’t sure about. Leave alternative suggestions where applicable. Ask to see edits, offer to review any in-house changes the client makes (I don’t mean for free, but be proactive). Ask the client if they are satisfied. Ask how the target group responded to it.

Running your business on autopilot

“When I receive a project, I take it. Then I rest until the next one comes. Done.”

Listen up! A business on autopilot is only focused on the present. A sustainable business model where you use your brain actively is focused on long-term improvement. If you want to command higher rates in the future, find better clients, and consistently grow your business over time, you have to set aside some time now to invest in the future. This works the same as the other points above: Stop. Take a deep breath. Analyze your current situation. Analyze the market. Figure out where you are and where you are going. Take action. Invest in strengthening your specialization. Invest in networking with potential clients within your area of specialization. Update your website. Be strategic about where, when, and how you do all this. That’s using your brain actively to run your business as opposed to running it on autopilot!

I hope you found this helpful. God knows I have done these things myself in the past and I kick myself every time! But awareness is the first step. One of the biggest problems is when you do these things unconsciously. And, of course, keep in mind that my comments about translating a term, sentence, and document, and on sending and forgetting, are largely based on my own experience with translations of corporate communications for direct clients. Nevertheless, I would venture to suggest that all of these points are highly relevant for translation agency projects as well. Sometimes it’s easier to spot autopilot behavior in others, but that doesn’t mean you have to be the bad guy. Colleagues collaborating on a project can benefit from reminding each other, playing a constructive role, and keeping each other on their toes.

What do you think? Have you kicked yourself after going into autopilot? Or facepalmed when you notice someone else doing it? Was there anything that helped you steer clear of cruise control? Please share in the comments!

Header image: Pixabay

Study resources for translation certification

Study resources for translation certificationOur team leader Helen has been a busy bee compiling a list of resources to help translators interested in taking the ATA certification exam. Even if you are not seeking certification, we felt there are many useful resources here we would like to share with you—from exam guidelines & translation tips to English & Spanish language, technology and copyediting resources. Use them to hone your craft and please let us know if you found them useful.

This list was reblogged with permission from Gaucha Translations blog.

From the ATA Certification program

From the WA DSHS Certification program

ATA Computerized exam

What is translation?

Articles on how to approach translation

English resources

Bilingual references

  • Word Reference
  • Linguee
  • Word Magic
  • Google Translate and Proz are not approved resources for the ATA computerized exam. No interactive resource (where you can ask a live question on a forum) is approved. The resources listed above are OK.
  • Click here to see the official ATA guidelines for computerized exams.

Plain Language

English copy editing training

Canada copy editing (includes certification)

Medical copy editing (AMWA has a certification program)

Resources from other translation certification programs

Copy editing tools to produce clean documents

Other training on translation, technology and other

Readers, would you add anything to this list of resources? Have you used any of these resources and found them useful?

Header image credit: tookapic

5 pitfalls to avoid in your freelance translator web copy

by David Friedman

5 pitfalls to avoid in your freelance translator web copyImagine you are your own ideal client and you stumble across your translation website. Would you be able to find out everything you need to know from the website quickly and easily? Are the benefits clear enough to answer questions like, “What’s in it for me?” or, “What makes this translator different from all the other translators out there?” I’d like to share some thoughts and insights about pitfalls I have sought to avoid while working on my own website which I hope can help you attract the interest of more clients with your website.

Please bear in mind that this advice may not be universally applicable depending on your language combination and market. My new website is still under construction, I am not a copywriter and I do not offer services to fellow translators.

Unclear specialization

Don’t: List 15 different fields in no particular order and don’t mix up text types (corporate communications, technical documentation, legal documents, etc.) and industries (real estate, IT, construction etc.)
Do: Pick something clear and concise people will remember you by. It should be short enough to fit into a tagline and clear enough for people to instantly know what you are good at. Combine text types and industries as well instead of one or the other, e.g. “I translate technical documentation for the automotive industry,” or, “I translate corporate communications for the IT industry.”
Get over: Being afraid you will miss out on work that does not fit 100% perfectly into the way you have formulated your specialization or for an industry you have not listed. If anything, you appear more credible, because people are more likely to believe you are among the best at one or two things than 15. This credibility also builds trust, making it more likely people will ask for your honest opinion on whether you can do a good job on another kind of text or make a referral. (In that case, it is important that you are honest and realistic about what you would in fact be well suited for and when the client would be better served by a referral!) Honing in on a specific industry also helps you decide which conferences to attend, which associations to join, which CPD activities to participate in and where to focus your marketing.

Failing to mention the benefits of your location

Don’t: Put yourself in competition with the whole world unnecessarily.
Do: Tell clients how your location benefits them, such as allowing overnight delivery from New Zealand, or availability to meet in person for a free consultation. It’s hard to be the first choice for your language combination and specialization in the whole world, but it’s not hard to be among the best locally, or use your location to stand out from the competition in other ways.
Get over: Assuming your location is a handicap if you don’t live in a big city in your source language country. Find benefits such as leveraging different time zones or being perfectly positioned for adaptation to the target market.

Failing to leverage your native variety of your target language

Don’t: Compete with everyone else in the world who translates into your language.
Do: Offer translations into your native language variety and texts adapted for international audiences. For example, you could offer translations into Argentine Spanish and into international Spanish. You have just positioned yourself ahead of and distinguished yourself from all the other Spanish translators in the world who translate into a different variety of Spanish for clients targeting the Argentine market, while simultaneously catering to clients who are more interested in a neutral variety not targeting one specific market.
Get over: Assuming you will lose out on projects that aren’t in your variety of your target language.
Hint: Don’t presume to master other varieties of your target language on your own! If you are American, collaborate with an editor from the UK if your clients want international English so you can work together to avoid both Americanisms and Briticisms and make the text as accessible as possible to a wide audience.

False assumptions about what clients care about

Don’t: Assume they care a whole a lot about your life story.
Do: Focus on how your services benefit them.
Get over: Yourself! You aren’t applying for a job. You’re showing clients how they can benefit from your services. Focus on benefits as opposed to features. People are naturally self-centered and want to know what’s in it for them.

Relying too little or too much on others for your website

Don’t: Write, translate and design your website all by yourself without any help whatsoever. And don’t hire professionals to do these things with too little input from you.
Do: Decide what you want to say, use your own voice and style. Then bring in as much professional help as is necessary depending on your own strengths and weaknesses.
Get over: Assuming the wording on your website is not important. People looking for translators are inclined to judge them by the quality of the writing and translations on their websites. After all, our way with words is our calling card.

I’m currently reading Ca$hvertising by Drew Eric Whitman, which has given me a lot of great ideas and inspiration. I especially enjoy his no-nonsense approach to advertising. He basically says that, if you have a truly useful product or service that benefits people, you should feel no shame in pulling out every trick in the consumer psychology book to sell it. It’s a whole different story if you are a fraud using tricks to peddle snake oil. Check it out for yourself if you are interested in getting better at advertising your translation services or translating marketing materials for clients.

Let me know in the comments if you found anything useful, have anything to add, or have a different opinion.

Header image credit: kaboompics

Book review: The Business Guide for Translators

By David Friedman

Book review The Business Guide for TranslatorsIt is widely recognized that there are several skills you need to be successful in translation. The fundamental skills include excellent source language comprehension, superb target language writing skills, and subject matter expertise. However, business skills are also essential, especially in today’s translation market where the majority of translators are self-employed freelancers. While reading, writing, and translation skills can be honed in language and translation degree programs, I think newcomers to the industry would be wise to work on their business skills at an early stage as well.

The Business Guide for Translators by Marta Stelmaszak provides an excellent starting point for shaping your translation business. The book is divided into five parts, each covering different business topics tailored for translators.

Part 1 introduces several fundamental business concepts, explains them simply, and shows how they are related to the language industry. Part 2 provides a diverse and powerful set of tools to analyze your business and create effective business strategies. Part 3 focuses on business management, including market research, planning, and goal setting. Part 4 starts off with several videos with hands-on tips for effectively communicating and negotiating with clients, which is followed by some additional key points in the quoting process. The final part rounds off the book with links for further reading on business practices.

One of the recurring themes of the book that resonated with me was “uniqueness”. Marta refers to uniqueness in several crucial contexts, such as in your unique selling point (USP) as a way to differentiate yourself from competitors. Uniqueness is also emphasized in the context of core competence, where you focus on creating a unique offering in what you excel at and outsource or don’t engage in weaker areas, thus adding value for clients. Uniqueness of service is mentioned as a key factor of supplier bargaining power in the section on Porter’s five forces. I personally feel that the way Marta employs uniqueness plays an interesting role in showing how we can get away from commoditization in the languages industry. Her strategies for identifying promising customer segments and selecting appropriate specializations in high demand play a key role in helping you find a USP that is profitable and well-rooted.

Another approach that intrigued me was the blue ocean strategy. As opposed to a red ocean strategy where you limit your focus to competing intensely for existing demand under existing conditions, a blue ocean strategy entails creating new demand, finding new clients, and making the competition irrelevant. Blue oceans are characterized as tranquil, uncharted territory, while read oceans have turned red from the bloody fighting of cutthroat competition. Marta also talks about shaping industry trends instead of following them in this section. All of this reminds me of the concept of reframing requirements so as to focus on showing clients what they need instead of selling yourself or catering to existing perceived needs, a point I heard in a webinar by John Niland. I’m looking forward to more consciously applying a blue ocean strategy in my business and seeing where that may lead.

I felt that The Business Guide for Translators will prove useful to translators at various stages in their careers and I certainly was given a useful reminder of some things I have read or thought about previously as well as some new tools and ways of thinking about my business.

In hindsight, I certainly wish that someone challenged me to think harder about my business the way Marta does when I was a newcomer, and I think this book can be especially useful to help newcomers to the languages industry make savvy business decisions and avoid getting off to as a rocky a start as some of us have.

The ATA Client Outreach Kit: A Hidden Gem

By David Friedman and Jamie Hartz

ATA's Client Outreach KitRecently, The Savvy Newcomer team was discussing what valuable ATA resources we could spotlight here on the blog. If you are an ATA member and are interested in growing your direct client business and/or are interested in client outreach and PR efforts to boost the whole association and profession, then at least consulting the Client Outreach Kit should be a no-brainer.

Even if you aren’t an ATA member, you can still read through some great advice and guidelines summarized on the web page without actually downloading the kit. However, you must be an ATA member to download the full kit (consisting of a customizable PowerPoint presentation for use at speaking engagements).

One of the points emphasized from the get-go if you click on the link above and read through the summary is that you need to take a completely different approach in your marketing tools for direct clients as opposed to for agencies. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that you may need to make some changes in order to take full advantage of the kit. You can check out the skills modules for more detailed guidelines on how to engage in client outreach and get the most out of the kit.

If you click on the “Getting invited to speak” skill module and scroll down to the bottom, you will find the example of a real story about an ATA member who decided to branch out and begin a series of workshops about translation and multilingual marketing in her local community. There is also a full article in the ATA Chronicle from 2009 about this story, which is a good read.

The customizable PowerPoint presentation available to ATA members contains some basic but fundamental information on the language industry, as well as talking points for speaking engagements, making it a great tool for anyone interested in reaching out to their local community to find potential direct clients and advance the status of the translation industry.

We are glad we volunteered to write this blog post to give ourselves a nudge to read through the kit again. If you have any thoughts or experiences in relation to the kit or client outreach, write a comment on this post!

We are confident that it would be highly beneficial for translators to discuss this topic. So what are you waiting for? Looking forward to hearing from you and we hope you enjoy using the kit.

Header image credit: Life of Pix
Header image edited with Canva

Collaborating with Other Translators

Lund Translation Team by David Friedman

hand-523231_1280I wanted to find a way to collaborate closely with other translators ever since the early days of my translation career, because I thought it would open up more opportunities and would be more fun than going it alone.  This is the reason I have experimented with different forms of collaboration, strategies, methods and groups of people since 2011.

At first all we had was a group of four independent freelance translators with a joint website and monthly meetings to try to find a way to appeal to direct clients together. But we struggled to figure out where we should focus our efforts. This went on for a little while as an experiment with different people joining and leaving the team until I heard about an incubator program called LIFT at Lunds Nyföretagarcentrum (Lund Center for New Businesses) at Ideon Science Park in Lund, Sweden. The program was aimed at services companies with unique ideas aiming for rapid growth within two years. I was accepted into the program and that was the turning point when Lund Translation Team in its current form was born.

We were given access to regular business counseling, a free crash course in entrepreneurship, quarterly meetings with an advisory board consisting of hand-picked professionals volunteering their time to give us advice, and subsidized office space with affordable rent. Instead of just sharing one-time costs for our business expenses such as website and business cards as before, we set fixed monthly membership fees to cover the recurring rent of the office and leave a small surplus for our joint marketing activities. Setting this fixed fee separated the wheat from the chaff, and resulted in only those of us who were serious about investing money, time, and energy into building a successful translation business with direct clients remaining.

So what is Lund Translation Team today? Lund Translation Team is not a separate legal entity, but a joint brand shared by multiple freelance translators, each with their own sole proprietorships and accounting. We share joint marketing costs, spread the brand name by using it in our marketing  and market each other’s services together as a whole. Everyone still invoices separately and charges clients for the work they do individually. We have one office in Lund and one in Ängelholm, about an hour apart in the same region of southern Sweden. The whole team meets in person twice a month, once in each location, and is in daily electronic contact. The monthly fees are paid to the treasurer who then pays for all the team’s joint expenses.

Within the team we cover about six major European languages into Swedish, as well as English and Swedish to Chinese and Swedish and German to English. We work with a few select external partners as well, mainly to cover more European languages. We decided to put a clearer focus on the specialization of each of our members recently to show what makes each of us unique (e.g. I now call myself the team’s financial communications translation expert).

We still have a lot of work to do, but I feel we are really going in the right direction now and our networking is slowly paying off and bringing in more direct clients. I have found an amazing group of people to collaborate with and I find it very rewarding. From sharing tips on quoting, pitching and other business practices to helping each other with terms, sentences, CAT tools and all kinds of work-related issues. It is very rewarding socially too, with a steady stream of laughter coming from our office on meeting days.

I don’t think there is a single right or wrong form of collaboration between translators, but I am convinced that there is a lot to gain by working together in some way. Here are some ways translators can collaborate:

–          A pair of translators revising each other’s work on a regular basis

–          Translators referring jobs they don’t have time for or languages and fields they don’t do

–          Translators in different countries partnering up to reach each other’s markets

–          Local translators partnering up to share office space and/or to target local clients together

And here are some of the benefits of working together:

–          Make office space and marketing materials more affordable through cost-sharing

–          Expand your networking reach

–          Attract direct clients who need more than one language

–          Get advice and feedback on all kinds of translation and business challenges

–          Forge strong professional and social relationships

–          Have someone to cover for you when you are sick, on vacation or underestimated a job

How would you like to collaborate with other translators? Or what experiences do you already have? Don’t forget that the ATA and the other national translator associations are very valuable resources for getting to know potential collaborators. The more involved you get, the more people you meet and the better you get to know them. So what are you waiting for? Reach out to a fellow translator today!

Adventures with Direct Clients—Part One

By David Friedman

pocket-watch-331021_1280I have always wanted to work with direct clients, since the early stages of my translation career. I would like to tell you the story of what has so far been my most exciting direct client adventure, to show that these kinds of things actually happen in the real world if you play your cards right. You don’t have to be a superhero, just little old me, a 30-year-old with five years of translation experience and almost no business background. But first, allow me to set the scene by explaining my specific challenges in relation to selling to potential direct clients.

I had some experience with direct clients I got through referrals, but I struggled initially when clients approached me in a competitive situation. This is where the pressure was on to make a good impression, to ask the right questions, to give the right reasons for choosing you, to tailor your quotes appropriately, and listen to and understand their needs.

Sometimes they just asked for a price and deadline, I replied, and then they said thanks but chose someone else, or they never answered. I slowly started to learn that I needed to find out more from them before giving a quote, and more recently, there were a couple of times where I talked to them on the phone first to ask how urgent it is and who the target audience is and tell them I offer different prices depending on the urgency of the translation. As I got more practice, I started to try to mention some of the benefits of choosing me and my translation team, and these selling points started to gradually slip off the tongue easier when speaking with potential clients seeking a quote on the phone. I could feel that I was getting closer to finding a method that worked for me and to increasing my chances of success, but still had not really reaped the rewards I was hoping for yet.

One day, an inquiry came in out of the blue for a specific type of text and specific number of words (a relatively large project) to be translated into English. So I called the client to see where it might lead. I took a risk and gave him some approximate price and deadline options on the phone, even though I generally try to avoid doing that so I can see the text first. I also took the opportunity to mention some of the benefits of choosing me, such as direct contact with the translator, you know who the translator is and that I have experience translating this type of text, and that revision is always included. He responded by telling me that he has other quotes (from translation agencies), and asked if I could match a certain rate and time frame.

Although it was slightly lower than my initial quote, these terms were acceptable to me and still within the price range I had in mind going into the call. He then asked me to send him an email with a sample of my work from this field, and to reconfirm the price and deadline, as well as to restate in the email the reasons to choose me, and that was the end of the phone call.

What did I learn from this phone call? If I had not in this particular case begun to discuss the pricing and timing, the client may have never revealed the terms of the other quotes he had received and may have just passed up on me. And perhaps my sales pitch gave the client a favorable impression of me, which made him interested in seeing if I could match the terms of a competitor instead of not bothering to ask.

Next, I put a lot of thought and energy into which particular passage from a past job to send as a sample, and how to phrase the selling points in the email. I didn’t hear back from him for a couple days, but then suddenly around 5 o’clock on a Friday, I got an email saying “I would like to choose you; please call me Monday morning to discuss the details.”

I had no idea during our initial negotiations, but I soon found out that the client wanted me to draft a formal contract with fixed prices and delivery time frames for ongoing work over a six-month period. This was completely uncharted territory for me, and it was exciting that a direct client wanted to establish this kind of formal, close business relationship with me.

The next thing I knew, I was invited to visit the client’s offices to sign the contract. This was also a first for me. In the past, I had never seen the people, the context, and the space that my translation would be used in. I was struck by how friendly everyone I was introduced to was, even though I was an outsider touring their closely-knit world. The decorations, the furniture, the layout and everything about the office had a very specific feel to it and their contemporary approach to consulting appealed to me. I really felt at home in this setting and enamored with it.

Later, when I went on to do my first translation for the client, I could see and feel the setting and tone in my mind’s eye while I was working, and noticed that it affected the wording I naturally was inclined to choose. This is something I had never experienced before, and it was very exciting.

I am proud to be able to say that I had a good understanding of my client’s corporate culture and that this definitely improved the quality of my work and helped us hit it off very quickly and build a close successful relationship. I hope to have more adventures in “direct client land” to share with you soon and would love to hear some of yours too!

What’s New on the Business Practices List—Confidentiality and Revision

By David Friedman

confidential-264516_1280Confidentiality is not something that you can afford to take for granted in today’s digital world, where devastating disclosures of trade secrets can occur in the blink of an eye. You have to use your best judgment to determine what degree of confidentiality the documents you are translating need to be treated with in many cases if this is not explicitly spelled out to you. Below is some guidance from the ATA to help you with that.

Point 2 of the ATA Code of Ethics and Professional Practice is “to hold in confidence any privileged and/or confidential information entrusted to us in the course of our work.” The commentary on this code elaborates further on this, “It goes without saying that translators and interpreters adhere to all existing  international, federal, or state laws or acts concerning confidentiality (for example, HIPAA in the medical arena).” So we need to be aware of and comply with legislation on various levels.

Another aspect of confidentiality is how obvious it may or may not be that something is confidential information. Here is an example of a less obvious case from the commentary: “Consider the case of a company needing translations of already published marketing materials to help weigh the possibility of entering a new and competitive market. If a competitor were to learn that this material is being translated, they would realize that the company is preparing to compete in that market.”

See the discussion on the Business Practices List and read the full commentary if you want to learn more. You can also feel free to start a discussion as a comment to this blog post if you would like.

The subject of revision is something that I have personally been thinking about a lot lately, and I was grateful to have some of my questions about it answered on the BP List. I have begun to appreciate the value of revision more recently, as I have had more direct clients and gotten the chance to work very closely with a couple of different partners revising my work and serving as the reviser myself.

With the encouragement of several colleagues from the BP List, I can now more than ever consciously affirm my belief that thorough revision is indispensable. And when I am talking about revision, I am not talking about a quick simple proofreading only designed to catch typos, omissions, etc. Here is an example of what I tell my revisers when sending them one of my translations, especially for things like marketing texts/web copy: “Please change anything and everything you like in tracked changes to create the best text possible so that you can’t tell it is translated; please address my comments, please leave comments, and call me if you are not sure about anything.”

I consider it priceless to be able to discuss the best word to use in a certain sentence to make it flow better, to be able to ask “does this sound strange/sound like Swinglish/Denglish?”, and to be able to put our heads together to find the best solution. In other words, it is not necessarily just about seeking to produce a correct translation (although that is of course a part of it) but also to produce a good translation that reads well and leaves the desired impression on the reader. Although this is especially relevant for the types of texts I translate (such as web copy and corporate communications), I believe that a second set of eyes can almost always come up with a better way of saying something and find things to improve in translations.

ISO 17100 is a new translation industry standard in the works that is set to have stricter revision requirements. At the ATA Conference, check out session TIP-5 on Friday November 7 at 11:30am, “Recent Developments in Translation-Related ISO Standards” if you are interested in learning more about it. You can also check out Session T-1, titled “Revision: Necessary Evil or Added Value?” on Thursday from 11:00am to 12:00pm and follow the discussion on the BP List. And, of course, tell us what you think of revision by commenting on this blog post!

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.

Don’t miss out on one of the ATA’s most valuable resources—The Business Practices List

By David Friedman

speech-bubbles-303206_1280The 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:

Bulk market

  • 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

Premium market

  • 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.