Buddies Welcome Newbies: A conference event you don’t want to miss

The hybrid format of this year’s Annual Conference brings with it new opportunities and challenges alike, for all attendees. Are you ready for the ins and outs of next week’s events, whether you are attending in person or virtually? Here are The Savvy Newcomer’s top ten tips for a successful hybrid conference:

  1. Attend Buddies Welcome Newbies

Both the virtual and in-person components of this event will provide first-time attendees the opportunity to connect with a seasoned conference-goer and have their burning questions answered. A great way to start off the conference festivities, Buddies Welcome Newbies will offer some networking advice as well as time to get to know your Newbie(s) or Buddy.

Virtual: 12:15-1:00pm Central time on Wednesday, October 27, 2021

In person: 4:45-5:30pm Central time on Wednesday, October 27, 2021

(We recommend that you check the box on your conference registration to sign up for these events, but this is not required.)

  1. Check the registration desk

You’ll need to visit the registration desk to pick up your conference badge before attending any events, but be sure to also check out some additional accoutrements in the registration area: a) language dots to show what languages you speak or work in; b) ATA branded facemasks available for purchase at the ATAware store; c) colored wristbands to indicate your level of comfort with proximity to others.

  1. Join us for breakfast (in person only)

The breakfast area is always a great place to meet new people, especially so for first-time attendees. If you can’t make it to the Wednesday event the Saturday Buddies Welcome Newbies breakfast is a great opportunity to connect with a Buddy and ask questions.

  1. Attend networking events

In addition to your educational sessions, be sure to work in some time for networking events; these are a great place to connect with colleagues you may never have met otherwise. They are available to both virtual and in person attendees; make sure to check the schedule for the events that may interest you!

  1. Have virtual materials ready

Even if you are attending the conference in person in Minneapolis, it’s a good idea to be prepared with online resources that will allow you to share your contact information with others quickly, easily, and safely. Consider having a QR code that people can scan to add you on LinkedIn or access your website/a contact card.

  1. Prepare some questions

Lots of networking experts will tell you to have an elevator speech ready, and we agree that you should have thought about a succinct way to explain who you are and what you do. But networking is a two-way street! You should also be ready with engaging and open-ended questions that will help you learn about the people you meet and get to know them better. Instead of “So, what do you do?” think something more like, “Have you gained any interesting new clients lately?” or “How did you get started as a translator/interpreter?”

  1. Plan how you’ll collect contact info

You’ll certainly give out your own contact information to lots of colleagues at the conference, but you’ll probably also collect the contact info of many colleagues as well. Do you have a secure means to store this information, whether digital or handwritten? Will your chosen method facilitate follow-up after the conference?

  1. Coffee breaks

Besides being a necessity for those of us with a caffeine addiction, coffee breaks are a good place to connect with people you might not otherwise get to know. Grab a hot beverage and strike up a conversation!

  1. Exhibit hall

The exhibit hall has all kinds of booths, from universities to translation agencies to software vendors. There’s something for everyone (and usually free swag as well!)

  1. Have fun!

Attending your first ATA conference can be overwhelming, but more than anything it should be fun. Translators and interpreters are a welcoming and engaging group of professionals, and we love nothing more than to share about our work and experiences with one another. That’s what makes the ATA conference the best week of the year!

ATA is celebrating International Translation Day – and we want to celebrate with you!

We’re calling all members, followers, translators, interpreters, and students to participate in ATA’s interactive social media campaign to celebrate International Translation Day 2021.

From September 27–October 1, 2021, ATA will release one to three interactive posts per day on each of its social media channels, inviting T&I professionals to interact with questions and prompts about their work. Posts will range from Instagram bingo to Facebook mad libs. Our goal is to share details and facts about our work with the world in a fun and interactive way.

Help us spread the fun! Every day that week, starting Monday, September 27, a post will go live on each ATA platform. All you have to do is:

We can’t wait to see the results! Thank you in advance for your support and Happy International Translation Day!

Book Review: Never Split the Difference

Never Split the Difference is a book by former police officer and FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss that offers “a new, field-tested approach to high-stakes negotiations—whether in the boardroom or at home.” Well, it may be your home office, but the book has some helpful ideas and skills of great use to freelance translators and interpreters. These tactics are not always easy to implement in email or phone conversations, which tend to form the majority of a freelance translator’s conversations since we don’t often have face-to-face interaction with our clients, but they are absolutely worth considering when contacting new clients, negotiating rates and terms, or dealing with conflicts that may arise in a business relationship. Below I’ve compiled some thoughts about the author’s most salient points and some examples of how his tips could be used in our professions.

  • Use “no” to evoke more explanation.

When interacting with clients, we generally want to come across as knowledgeable. It may feel counter-intuitive to ask a question to which you know the answer will be “no,” but Voss suggests that we use questions like this to get more information. For instance, if you reach out to a potential direct client by email, you’ll probably research the company online and get an idea of what they do first. But instead of regurgitating what you’ve learned about the company from their website when you write to them, instead ask a question to draw out more information about their company or how they work. This will evoke further conversation and show you are interested in learning more about them. Voss says “no” can help the client feel more secure in their response and will allow them to clarify their position. “No” is not a failure, he says; it’s an opportunity. Here’s an example:

Translator: Hello, client. I read about your company in Article Y and am interested in connecting with you as an independent Spanish translator. Do you often work with companies in other countries?

 

Client: Yes, we do.

Translator: Hello, client. I read about your company in Article Y and am interested in connecting with you as an independent Spanish translator. Are your current translation solutions fulfilling your needs and meeting your expectations?

 

Client: No, we’ve struggled to complete all the translations we need in-house with our own bilingual employees and are finding that they don’t have the know-how to translate accurately and consistently. We’re also not sure how to manage translation projects and keep files organized. Is this something you can help us with?

Here’s another example of how I use “no” on a regular basis:

Translator: Hello, client. I’m checking in about the project you inquired about last week. Is this project still on hold?

 

Client: Yes, it is.

Translator: Hello, client. I’m checking in about the project you inquired about last week. Has this project been cancelled?

 

Client: No, we are actually waiting on another department to finalize the documents and expect to get back to you tomorrow with approval.

  • Listen and mirror the last few words the other person said. Empathize by labeling the other person’s emotions (or pain points).

When communicating with a client or colleague by phone or email, we aren’t able to see the other person’s emotions or reactions but can listen for cues to learn what they are thinking and feeling instead. Voss’s recommendation to mirror the last few words the other person said is emotionally resounding when used in person (“I’ve been feeling really sad lately.” “You’ve been feeling sad lately? Why is that?”), and it can also be very effective in writing. Everyone wants to know they are being heard, so repeating back what the other person has said can reaffirm to them that you’ve understood what they said and aren’t simply thinking about your own response. Voss calls this “tactical empathy.” Here’s an example of how this could work while speaking with a client over the phone:

Client: I have a project for you and it’s a bit urgent. The client just sent over three files and they want them back by tomorrow. We’re really short-staffed here and I didn’t have time to wait for an email response so I thought I’d call and see if you’re available. Can you take this job?

 

Translator: What’s the rate, and can you pay a rush fee?

Client: I have a project for you and it’s a bit urgent. The client just sent over three files and they want them back by tomorrow. We’re really short-staffed here and I didn’t have time to wait for an email response so I thought I’d call and see if you’re available. Can you take this job?

 

Translator: It sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate right now! Those three urgent files for tomorrow sound doable to me but I’d like to take a look before confirming. I’m at my computer now, so can you send over the files and I’ll reply right away to confirm availability and rates?

  • Don’t be afraid of silence.

Many of us are naturally uncomfortable in situations of silence when face-to-face with another person, and this can happen in writing too. When a client doesn’t get back to you about a project for several days and the project sits in your inbox as “pending approval,” does that make you a little uneasy? Voss says not to be afraid of silence; it can serve as an opportunity to put pressure on the person you’re speaking with, or it may allow them a chance to think harder on what you’ve discussed. Pestering your client more than once about a pending project won’t make them any more likely to approve it; it may just have the opposite effect! Give people time to think by scheduling your communications carefully.

  • Affirm the worst things they could say about you first.

I’ve saved this idea for last because I haven’t tried it yet but am intrigued by the concept! One of Voss’s recommendations is to confront your fellow negotiator head-on by affirming the worst right at the onset. He says that in business negotiations he will often come out of the gate saying, “My price is higher than the next guy’s,” and “We don’t skimp on quality for the sake of saving money,” so that the negotiator can only affirm what has already been said and can’t attack him with new criticism. For me, to open a negotiation with a new client by saying, “I know my rate isn’t cheap” would be very uncomfortable… but may be worth a try!

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Lots of other great advice from this book can be used in all kinds of scenarios that are common for professional translators and interpreters; I hope from this small taste of the author’s expertise and out-of-the-box thinking you get an idea of what you could learn from this book and are encouraged to pick up a copy. Whether or not my negotiations ever involve another person’s life hanging in the balance (I sure hope not), you can bet I’ll be taking a page out of this book to use in my own business communications.

International Translation Day — It wouldn’t be possible without translators and interpreters!

2020 has been a year of changes and “new normals” but one thing hasn’t changed: translators and interpreters still power the world’s communications. ATA wants to celebrate International Translation Day this year by reminding the world just how critical translators and interpreters really are.

Have you ever wondered how your smartphone went from an idea in an engineer’s mind to the invaluable assistant in your hand… or how translators and interpreters may have been involved every step of the way? On ITD (September 30, 2020), ATA will unveil an informational video that showcases how translators and interpreters help bring smartphones to life. This year, ITD is all about showing the world’s 3.5 billion smartphone users how our work as translators and interpreters directly impacts their daily lives.

The video features the life cycle of a smartphone, from concept to the product in your hand. We will walk you through the many steps it takes to produce a smartphone and the myriad linguists involved in getting the job done. Translators, interpreters, localizers, transcreation experts, proofreaders, editors, and more are critical components to this process that impacts every one of us, and we are excited to show just how fundamental our work is to the global economy.

Help us spread the word! Follow ATA on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram) and share ATA’s posts throughout the day on September 30. You can also visit the ITD webpage on September 30, download the video, and post it on your own social media accounts. In your post to social media, we’d love to see you tell us how your daily work helps the world go ‘round!

Freelance Finance: Setting Rates

Here at The Savvy Newcomer we understand that it can be intimidating to talk about money. It’s often a sticky subject, but we feel it couldn’t be more important to address as small business owners. One major component of succeeding as a freelance translator or interpreter is managing your finances well. If you don’t master your money, your translation career won’t be profitable or sustainable. This series on money matters is intended to get right to the heart of some of our biggest questions about freelance finances; we won’t shy away from the tough questions and we invite you to dive into these topics along with us.

Rates. There, we said it! Any conversation about freelance finances would be remiss not to mention the R-word; one of the biggest questions burning in the mind of every aspiring translator or interpreter is “What should I charge for my services?” Let us start with a little secret: there’s no right or wrong answer to this question.

A variety of factors, from your living situation, to your geographic location, to your level of experience, to your specialization, should all play a role in determining your rates. A one-size-fits-all response to this question wouldn‘t be fair; that’s part of why it’s tough to get a straight answer from practicing translators and interpreters to this type of inquiry! Another reason practitioners are hesitant to share their rates is because when a group of competing service providers agrees to charge a certain rate for their services it’s considered price fixing, which results in an unfair profit to sellers and increased cost to buyers.

So how does a newcomer to this profession go about deciding what to charge?

  1. Look at your own data.

A one-size-fits-all approach to translation and interpreting pricing just doesn’t work. Here’s why: everyone is different! Some key personal metrics to consider as you seek to set prices for your work include:

– How fast you translate

– How fast you type

– What business expenses you need to cover (don’t forget taxes!)

– What languages you work in

– Where you live

– What type of services you offer

– What specializations/settings you work in

– How much experience you have as a translator or interpreter

– How many hours a week you’d like to work

– How much vacation time you want to take each year

– How much money you need to live on

This may seem like a lot of factors to take into account; consider taking some time to determine actual figures for the items above that apply to your situation. Anytime you can have a concrete number in mind instead of a range or a guess, you’ll not only be more likely to stay firm on those numbers, but you’ll also feel better about your prospects since you know exactly where your goals are set.

Besides, I have some great news: once you’ve established the numbers above, there’s an incredible tool that a team of volunteers from the Spanish Translators, Copyeditors, and Interpreters Association (ASETRAD) developed to help calculate what you actually need to charge in order to make your business profitable! Calpro is a spreadsheet designed to be adapted to the individual situation of each translator or interpreter. The U.S. version of the spreadsheet includes suggested numbers that may be adjusted for your needs and can be downloaded by clicking here.

  1. Look online.

Another place to look in your pursuit for answers is the resource of all resources: the internet. By visiting the websites of both freelancers and language services agencies you can see how translators and interpreters discuss rates publicly, and this will give you a better idea of what your conversations about rates should look like. Many industry stakeholders choose not to publish their rates, but some do list pricing online—especially if they feel this will offer a competitive advantage. Some agencies’ rates are public due to their involvement with government agencies or GSA schedule listing. When a translation agency makes their pricing public, remember that the rate they are charging their customer will not necessarily represent what the subcontractor or translator will be paid; the agency needs to pay an editor and possibly other subcontractors, may include a project management fee, and will of course keep a margin of the funds to pay their employees and cover overhead.

As you peruse information about translation and interpretation pricing online, you’ll notice that not everyone uses the same units of measurement to charge their clients. Some translators charge per hour, while others charge per word, character, page, or line, and yet others prefer a flat fee per project. Interpreters may charge by the day, half-day, hour, or even minute depending on the type of work. There’s no right way to charge your clients, but you’ll start to see patterns and will want to consider the pros and cons based on the types of clients you work for and your language pair.

When you start to find information on what some of your colleagues are charging, it’s important to remember that pricing can differ across language pairs and specializations. Data from the ATA Translation and Interpreting Services Survey[1] (based on information from 2014) and the ProZ.com average rate survey, for instance, suggests that certain language pairs command a higher rate than others, and specializing in certain areas may bring in better pricing. However, keep in mind that even if two translators use the same unit of measure, such as a per-word rate, their translation speed may differ greatly based on their specialization and level of experience, so they may wind up making the same amount of money per hour or per day. Also note the dates of any pricing you may see online, since rates can increase or decrease over time based on inflation, demand, and implementation of technology in the market.

  1. Look to clients.

If you’ve pursued the two sources of rate information above and are at a standstill on what to charge a translation or interpreting client, there’s always the option of asking the client what their budget is for your services. Some negotiators suggest that this may even result in higher rates than you would set for yourself, since many people tend to underestimate their value or aim low in setting prices. If you can get to the client’s bottom line right away, it could help to ensure that both you and the client are comfortable with the rate that’s agreed on. Be aware that clients may offer a rate lower than what you were expecting, however, and be prepared to negotiate or stay firm on your minimum rate. Since rates with language services agencies can be difficult to adjust, make sure you aren’t locking yourself into a rate you’re not happy with. It can be hard for agencies to increase your rates over time since they aim to make a certain margin off their own pricing and can’t always raise rates with their clients when you need to raise them with yours. Make sure that whatever price you agree on will comfortably allow you to work with the client at a rate that’s agreeable to both parties.

A word to the wise: be cautious about raising or lowering rates in unique circumstances (for example, during a pandemic). Lowering rates without giving a specific and justifiable reason why may set a precedent for offering the lower rate in the future. Raising your rates can cause your client to think you’re unhappy working with them at your current rate. As in many things, communication is key; talk to your clients, talk to your colleagues, and be honest with yourself about what rate will ensure your work is sustainable, profitable, and rewarding.

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Readers, have you found this information helpful as you set about establishing rates for your translation or interpreting services? Have we answered some of your questions and made the conversation about rates just a little bit less awkward?

We hope you’ll find these resources helpful and continue to engage with us about Freelance Finance. Leave a comment below on any topics you’d like to hear more about!

[1] The most recent report on the results of ATA’s compensation survey is available to ATA members by logging into the Members Only area of ATA’s webpage.