Questions to Ask Before You Accept a Translation Project

It is impossible to anticipate every issue or question that may arise during the course of a translation project, but one thing you can do to be prepared before you get started is ask a lot of questions. Below are a number of questions you should keep in mind each time you receive a new project request (especially from a new client), so that you can be sure to avoid any surprises or problems down the road.

You can use this as a sort of checklist each time you receive a new request; be sure to glance through each topic and consider the answers to all the questions we’ve listed before you even quote the job. You don’t necessarily need to ask the client all of these questions for each project you quote—just remember that addressing these topics as early as possible will help clear up any misunderstandings, make you appear professional, and ensure that your client will be as satisfied as possible in the end.

The Task at Hand

Before you accept—or even quote—a project, think generally about what you are being asked to do.

Does the client need translation only or translation and editing?

If a second editor is needed, make sure you have someone lined up and that their services will fit into your budget.

Can you open all the files you received?

Make sure you can open and view all files received from the client, especially if sent through a secure link online or if there are audio/video files involved. Some clients may remove files after you confirm receipt, or there could be a zip file that you are unable to open. It is crucial to identify these problems as early as possible before you get started, so you don’t misquote or misjudge the amount of work you have to do.

Is the document fully legible?

If not, how will you handle illegible text?

Do you need a better copy if the source file is scanned?

The client may have access to the hard copy of the document in order to provide a better scanned electronic copy.

Do you need to work in a specific software tool?

Do you own that software tool, or will the client provide you the means to use it?

Is there any handwritten text?

If so, how will you handle handwritten text?

Is the project confirmed or potential?

Does the client expect to receive a confirmation soon, or is this a project that multiple vendors may be bidding on?

The Bigger Picture

In addition to the questions above, before quoting or accepting a project it is a good idea to think about the bigger picture. The document(s) you are being asked to translate may be part of a bigger project scope that you are not seeing, and the decisions you make on this project could have ramifications later on.

What is the purpose of the translation?

This will help to inform your translation decisions.

Who is your target audience?

This will help determine the register you use in your translation.

Have you done projects of this nature for this client before?

You may not realize that this project is similar to one you did previously, from which you can extract terminology or background information for the current project.

Who will own the translation rights after the project is completed?

For example, you may want to know if you can use this translation as a sample of your work to include in your professional portfolio. You may also want to know if you can be credited for the translation.

Is this part of a recurring assignment or ongoing project?

You may wish to develop a thorough glossary and TM early on, and take careful notes on your translation decisions, if this project is expected to continue for a long period of time.

Pricing and Deadline

Now you have gotten to the point where you are ready to negotiate a price and a deadline. Here are a few more considerations to keep in mind. You should also check out the items under “Resources” and “Delivery” for a few more questions that may impact the price you quote.

How much actual work time will this take you?

Estimate how many words you can translate per hour and divide the number of words in the text by this number.

What lead time do you need to finish the project?

Even if you only need 8-10 hours to complete the project, you may want to build in extra time in case you experience any technology issues, to accommodate other projects that may come up, or to fit in other commitments you may have going on. It may be better to tell the client a time range in days (e.g. “3-4 business days upon approval”) rather than a specific date so that you have some leeway in case the project is not accepted right away.

Will you offer a discount based on repetitions and/or TM matches?

For example, if you already translated 50% of this document for the same client and you only need to translate the remaining half, you may want to give them a discount of some kind on the first 50% of the text.

If the translation is urgent, will you charge extra?

Some translators charge an extra percentage of the invoice for projects due within a tight time frame (e.g. 24 hours or x number of words per business day), or projects that require weekend/holiday work.

What are the terms of payment?

Many translation projects are paid 15, 30, 60, or 90 days upon receipt of invoice, but for a larger project you may want to ask for a deposit up front.

Do you trust this client to pay on time?

You can check on the client’s reliability by looking them up on Payment Practices or ProZ Blue Board, or by checking with trusted colleagues as to their authenticity and payment habits.

What method of payment will be used?

The client may have a preferred method of payment and you will need to make sure you can receive funds that way—for example, PayPal, check, and wire transfer are three common methods of payment in the U.S.

Who will pay any payment fees?

Wire transfers and PayPal often have associated fees, and you will want to agree with the client in advance on who will absorb these fees. Alternatively, you can build these fees into your rate.

Source Text

Take a closer look at the source text to learn more about what you will be translating.

What is the subject matter?

Many translators specialize in specific subject areas based on their experience and background, but most importantly you must be familiar enough with the source text domain to produce a quality translation.

Is the entire document in the correct source language?

You may receive a long text that appears to be entirely in your source language, but partway through, you find a portion of text in another language. How will you handle this in the target text?

What country/variant/locale is the source file from?

Make sure you are familiar with the country and language variant your source text originated from.

Should you correct errors in the source text, if applicable?

Sometimes you may find errors (spelling, grammar, etc.) in the source text; it is a good idea to ask the client how to handle these when you find an error.

Resources

Before you start the project, keep in mind the following questions about research and resources, and be sure to ask the client if you have any doubts or concerns.

Is there a glossary or TM you should work from?

Make sure you are not doing more work than you have to, especially if the client has an established glossary they want you to work from.

Do you understand the text and terminology, and will you be able to research it sufficiently to produce a quality translation?

Have you reviewed the document thoroughly enough to determine that you are able to translate it?

Is the document confidential?

You may wish to share small portions of the text with colleagues as you research, in order to ask for their input; but first, you need to make sure it is okay to share.

Deliverable

Before you’ve even accepted the project, think about the end deliverable. You will need to be sure that you have checked with the client to align your expectations on the following topics.

What variant of your language should the target text be in?

Before you get started, be sure to check with the client as to what target language variation should be used, and that you are well-versed in this variant’s conventions so you can produce a top-notch target file.

What degree of formatting will be expected of you?

You may come upon images, charts, and graphs in the source file. Check with the client to find out if they want you to translate these, and determine whether you will charge extra for additional formatting.

What is the file format of the deliverable(s)?

Be sure to know what type of file you are expected to submit. Generally, clients will want a *.doc file if the source was a *.doc file; however, sometimes you will be expected to convert the source file into another format or provide a TMX or XLIFF file in addition to a translation exported from a CAT tool.

Will a translator’s statement be needed?

Especially for official documents (birth certificates and so on), clients may ask you to provide a signed “certificate” stating that the translation is accurate to the best of your knowledge. Consider whether this is needed, whether it will have to be notarized, and whether you will charge extra for these services.

What other questions do you ask yourself (and your client!) before starting a translation project? Have you found that keeping a list like this on hand helps you identify any potential issues early on and enable a smoother process going forward?

Stay tuned for another post on this topic: Questions to Ask Before You Accept an Interpreting Assignment.

Header image: Pixabay

How is the T&I industry laid out?

This post is the first in a series of five posts written in response to questions we at The Savvy Newcomer have received, sometimes from people within the translation world, but also from bilingual friends and family who are interested in translation and interpreting (T&I). Our hope is that this series will serve as a guide for people who are considering a career in T&I and want to know where to begin.

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How is the T&I industry laid out?

As a preface, I can think of numerous times since I began working as a translator that friends and family have come to me with questions about my work. Do I actually have a job? Do people pay me to do it? Who do I work for? The questions are not always this blatant, but I can often sense the underlying question of how the translation and interpreting industry really works, and whether it is a viable career for someone who knows a second language. In short, the answer is yes!

The question of how our industry is laid out is usually one that people do not ask straight-out, but it is the first topic I address in my response. It is crucial to have this foundational knowledge before you consider becoming a translator or an interpreter so you can decide if you—your lifestyle, your skills, your background—will make a good fit for the industry, and vice versa.

Translation vs. interpreting

The first distinction to make is the difference between translation and interpreting. Check out the infographic below to get an idea (credit: lucomics.com). Translation is written; when you translate, you receive a document in one language and translate it into another language—usually on a computer, but sometimes by hand. Interpreting is spoken; interpreters work in person, by phone, or by video, interpreting words spoken in real time by conveying the same message out loud in a second language so that another person or other people can understand what was said.

Translation and interpreting require very different skills; translators are strong writers with a good grasp of writing conventions in their target language. They need to be able to properly understand the source language to create a suitable translation. Interpreters, on the other hand, should have a strong command of speaking skills in both languages and must be able to produce coherent and accurate renditions of what is being said as it is said.

What is a language pair?

The combination of languages in which a translator or interpreter provides services is called their “language pair.” Translators usually work from one language into another; for example, I work from Spanish into English (Spanish>English), which means that my clients send me documents in Spanish and I deliver translated documents in English. It is a good rule of thumb to remember that translators usually work into their native language. This is because most of us are naturally better writers in our native tongue, so we work from our second language into our first. Interpreters, alternatively, may work with both languages at the same level; for example, if an interpreter is hired to help a doctor communicate with her patient, the interpreter will need to speak both languages so both parties are understood. In this case, we would say that the interpreter’s language pair is Spanish-English, since he is not working into one language or the other. As a side note, some interpreters offer their services at conferences where the speaker or presenter speaks in one language and some or all attendees need to hear the presentation in their own language (this is called conference interpreting). If, for example, a group of marine biologists from Mexico attends a conference in Miami, their interpreter would be working from Spanish>English, and would most likely provide the interpretation simultaneously through a headset while the speaker is speaking.

Who do you work for?

This is one of the questions I hear most often. A high percentage of translators and interpreters are freelancers, which means we work for ourselves! Our clients may be translation agencies or direct clients from other companies that require our services. Most T&I professionals work for clients all across the world, which makes for an interesting workday! Some full-time employment opportunities exist for translators and interpreters, but much of the industry is built on an independent contractor model. There are pros and cons to working for yourself:

Pros Cons
Flexible schedule Unstable income
The more you work, the more you earn Loneliness
Work varies and can be very interesting No employer benefits

What does it take?

To become a skilled and successful translator or interpreter, it is important to be self-motivated! Especially if you are going to become a freelancer, you want to be sure that you have the fortitude to set your own schedule, manage your time, and keep growing your business. It is also essential to have strong language skills in two or more languages. It is important to recognize that being bilingual does not automatically make someone a translator or interpreter! Knowing two languages is crucial, but it is important to have training or experience that teaches you the ins and outs of translating or interpreting: the pitfalls you may encounter, best practices, and the code of ethics by which you must live and work. Bilingual individuals who are not cut out to be translators or interpreters and want to use their bilingual skills in other capacities can find great career opportunities as language teachers, bilingual medical or legal providers, language project managers, and so forth. In fact, bilingual individuals can play a key role in just about any profession imaginable.

We hope this helps to answer some of the initial questions you may have about translation and interpreting! Stay tuned for the next installment: “Starting from Scratch.”

Header image: Pixabay

The Savvy Newcomer Resources page

It was a genius who said, “Never memorize something you can look up.” But as any good translator or interpreter knows, you have to know where to look it up as well! In this case, you’re in luck: The Savvy Newcomer has done the work for you with our Resources page. You can find the list, which contains links to what we consider to be some of the most useful resources on the web, in the tab titled “Resources” at the top of our blog. As the blog has grown, we have found that it is hard to get a glimpse of the full gamut of information it contains, so we wanted to have this way to share some of the tips and tricks we have found that make our lives a whole lot easier! Here is a glance at the content on the Resources page:

Journals, Newsletters, and Style Guides

Who doesn’t love a good style guide? We have compiled a list of just a few resources that may help as you make style decisions in your translations—some in English, some in Spanish. Know of a good style guide for another language? Let us know—we would love to include it!

Technology

The three resources listed under the Technology section are great not only for translators but for any computer user—they can even help you proofread general documents in Word.

Glossaries, Terminology, and Research

The resources in this section contain a wealth of information on terms and language use. They are especially helpful for subject-specific work and term research.

Education and Courses

Translators and interpreters alike can agree it is important to receive training. These resources will give you an idea of where to get started, whether you are looking into a certificate or a degree, interpreting or translation, local or distance learning.

Resources developed by ATA’s Certification Committee

The links in this section are a great starting point if you are considering taking the ATA Certification Exam; they will help you learn more about how the exam is developed, scored, and managed. The style guide and resource list are helpful not only for those preparing for the exam, but also for use in everyday translation work.

Advocacy Resources

The resource in this category is a link to ATA’s response to the Department of Homeland Security’s request for comments on its Language Access Plans. It is an interesting read as we look for ways to explain our credentials and advocate for our profession.

ATA Division Sites

This category contains links to all of ATA’s division websites. Take a look and see if any strike your fancy! ATA members can join an unlimited number of divisions for free and access division websites, forums, and newsletters on each particular subject matter or language.

As you may know, Savvy is always looking for more great content, and our Resources page is no exception—if you’d like to suggest a resource for us to include, send us an email at atasavvynewcomer@atanet.org.

Header image: Pixabay

NAJIT Scholar Program – May 19-21, 2017

Posted with NAJIT’s permission

NAJIT logoOur team at The Savvy Newcomer caught wind of a great opportunity for students and recent graduates – check out the information below to learn more!

What is the NAJIT Scholar Program?

The Scholars program of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) selects up to five scholars currently enrolled in or who have graduated from translation and interpretation programs in North America in 2016 and 2017 to attend NAJIT’s 38th Annual Educational Conference. The Conference will be held from May 19-21, 2017. Full details can be found on the main conference page.

Who is eligible to apply?

Spoken Language or Visual Language (American Sign Language) Translating or Interpreting (T&I) students and 2016 graduates of a T&I program from an academic institution may apply for one of the 2017 NAJIT Scholars Awards.  There is no limit to the number of applications any given T&I Program may submit for consideration. Previous recipients of this Scholarship are not eligible to reapply. Active members of NAJIT are not eligible to apply for this Award unless they can verify their T&I student status.

What do I receive with the NAJIT Scholar Award?

Each successful applicant under this program, the 2017 “NAJIT Scholar Award,” shall receive the following:

  • Complimentary registration for NAJIT’s 38th Annual Educational Conference
  • A stipend of $500 (in the form of a check to be presented at the conference) to help the NAJIT Scholars meet lodging or travel expenses, or to be used any way the Scholar deems fit
  • Complimentary registration for one full day pre-conference workshop or two half-day pre-conference workshops
  • Complimentary student membership in NAJIT for one full year, including a one-year subscription to NAJIT’s publication, Proteus

Note: Transportation, lodging arrangements, and costs associated with travel are the sole responsibility of the NAJIT Scholar. The NAJIT Scholar will need to cover three nights in the conference hotel. A discounted hotel rate is available for reservations made prior to April 17th, 2017 (Make your reservation early as space is limited). NAJIT will assist the Scholars in making roommate arrangements if possible, but cannot guarantee that a suitable roommate will be available. Conference events that are included in the NAJIT Scholars Award are: the Friday evening Scholars’ Reception, continental breakfasts on Saturday/Sunday, the Saturday group luncheon for the Annual Business Meeting, and the Saturday evening reception.

In the event a Scholar is unable to attend the conference and utilize NAJIT’s Scholarship, the $500 stipend shall be forfeited. The registration fees waived under the scholarship have no cash value.

Scholarship applications must be submitted by March 13, 2017.

Questions? Email Susan Cruz at mailto:admin@najit.org

The Chair of the NAJIT Board of Directors will notify all Scholarship Recipients of the results immediately after the judges’ decision. No later than March 27, 2017.

Please review the full 2017 NAJIT Scholar Program Policies and Procedures for complete details. See more info at: https://najit.org/conference-scholar-program/

A Translator’s Grown-Up Christmas List

A Translator’s Grown-Up Christmas ListAh, the age-old question: what do you get the translator or interpreter who has everything?

If your December is anything like mine, throughout the month your family will try to subtly (or not-so-subtly) ask you for gift ideas, and you’ll try to come up with a better response than “extra hours in the day” or “a nap”. This year, we at The Savvy Newcomer are here to help. It’s not too late to get in your last-minute wish list for the holidays, and there is surely something on our list that you’ve been wishing for this year, whether you realized it or not.

One thing to keep in mind as you share gift ideas with your loved ones is that many business-related expenses are tax-deductible. Before you put a big-ticket item on your wish list to be purchased by someone else, consult your accountant and think about whether you will be able to deduct the expense on your taxes or whether you may be better off spending it on the company credit card to earn rewards points. On the other hand, the nice thing about gifts is that they’re free – so maybe it’s worth foregoing the tax deduction anyway!

Without further ado, here are some ideas to help you make the most of holiday gift-giving time and perhaps give you an idea for the translator or interpreter on your shopping list. Readers, we would love to hear your ideas as well; leave us a comment and let us know what you’re looking to give and receive for the holidays!

Technology

Tablet: The Amazon Kindle Fire was on sale on Black Friday for about $35; prices are a little higher now but still pretty reasonable. Tablets can help you keep connected while working at home, allowing you to carry your work throughout the house. Also great for working while traveling.

Echo Dot: The Echo Dot is a surprisingly affordable “smart home” product from Amazon. You can keep one or several in your house and use the voice-activated “Alexa” to connect to your cloud and perform a variety of functions, such as telling you the weather, reading off your calendar events, and so forth. Went on sale for $40 apiece on Black Friday and are around $50 each now.

Power bank: The battery life on my Galaxy S4 is not what it used to be, so I always keep power banks in strategic places so that I’m never left without a way to charge my phone – my desk, my car, and my purse. Power banks are a good gift for anyone who is on-the-go and can’t always connect to an outlet. You can get cheap ones at most electronics stores or even order a few with your logo on them – a great form of advertising that you can give to family, friends, clients, and potential clients to surreptitiously get your brand out there.

Personal power supply: A step up from a power bank, PPS’s such as the one at this link are good to keep in cars (great for interpreters who are traveling to many different locations). This one will charge via USB, has a flashlight, can charge certain types of laptops, and can even jump start a car! I didn’t know this product existed until a few years ago when my father-in-law got us one for Christmas, and it’s wonderful to have peace of mind knowing I’ve always got one in my car.

Scanner/printer/copier: Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a printer that works 100% properly, 100% of the time… anyone? A nice, high-functioning wireless printer can mean the difference between spending four hours of your workday on the phone with tech support or spending four hours of your day doing paid work. Enough said!

Digital Gifts

Invoicing software: A nice way to streamline your accounting procedures; perhaps you’re working with spreadsheets now and haven’t made the upgrade, or you’re using the lower-priced version of some software and know you would enjoy the functionality of the premium version. Examples include Xero and QuickBooks.

Extra storage space: I am chronically short on space for Dropbox and Norton Remote Data Backup. Most cloud storage services offer an upgrade option for a slightly higher price. Or splurge on your own personal cloud with an NAS system. This gives you access to wireless backup and secure storage that doesn’t leave your own home network. A nice touch if you have clients with NDAs containing strict data security provisions. Some contracts even prohibit you from storing the client’s data in the cloud (i.e. Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive etc.).

SDL apps: Did you know that Trados has an App Store? Many of the apps are free but others aren’t; this could be one that you’ve exhausted the free trial for, or one that you’ve always wanted to try. Other CAT tools may have paid apps, but I’m not familiar with them.

Memberships: Many membership dues may be tax-deductible, but sometimes it’s hard to justify spending the money. Some memberships that would be nice holiday gifts include dues to work at a coworking office, ATA membership, your local translation/interpreting association, a local chamber of commerce, or Payment Practices.

Office Supplies

Ergonomic mouse and keyboard: Carpal tunnel is no joke. Ergonomic mice and keyboards can help with or help prevent wrist, hand, and arm pain caused by prolonged amounts of time clicking your mouse and typing at your keyboard. The shape and position of some ergonomic keyboards can even be adjusted to suit the exact position that is most natural and comfortable for your hands. I have my eyes on the Microsoft 4000.

My Savvy teammate David has sworn by the TypeMatrix 2030 with a Colemak skin for years. You can choose skins with different keyboard layouts, including ones localized for different languages. David used the HandShoe Mouse for years before switching to a Contour RollerMouse Red in 2015. Trackball mice such as the Logitech M570 are also an affordable way to relieve the strain on your shoulders and arms a bit, since you can move the cursor on the screen with just one finger.

Office heater/fan: Depending on where you live, it might be counterproductive to heat or cool your whole house all day when you’re the only person there. When the weather isn’t too extreme and I’m not planning on leaving my office for the day, I often turn down the heat in the house, turn on the space heater under my desk, and close the office door so I can stay warm without it costing me a fortune.

Roost: This laptop stand that a colleague recently told me about can help relieve back and neck strain by lifting your laptop to the proper height so you don’t have to slouch. It’s collapsible and very portable; good for frequent travelers.

Slidenjoy: This one is pretty cool. Slidenjoy is a startup company with the brilliant idea to add additional screens to your existing laptop. It isn’t cheap, and involves sending your laptop to the company so they can custom-fit your device to the new screens and ensure that everything is in working order. Then you can use the screens as additional monitors, turn them around to share your screen with others around you, and collapse them for travel and storage.

Spontaneous Pop-Up Display: This could be really cool for translators and interpreters on the go. It isn’t available yet, but can be pre-ordered through Kickstarter for expected delivery in June 2017. The only catch is the poor resolution at 720p…

Handibot: An interpreter’s “office” is often very different from that of a translator – for those of you who have to drive often and navigate with your phone to get places, Handibot is a good hands-free way to view your phone while you navigate, without taking your eyes off the road. Looks like the Walmart link no longer sells these online but there are surely other similar options available.

Work-Life Balance

Books: We’re language professionals; of course books are going to be on our wish lists! Some ideas include books from this list, translated works in your language pair, and target language books related to your specialization.

Massage: Sitting at a computer or working the interpreting circuit can take its toll on you. Working out the knots in a complex source text often creates knots for you as well! A massage can be a great stress reliever for the over-worked translator.

Fitness tracker: My colleague David just bought one of these on Black Friday and is loving it. It’s great for translators because you can set an idle alert: if you haven’t moved for a certain number of minutes, the watch vibrates and reminds you to stand up and stretch.

Pet: This is not a joke! One of the things we miss out on the most by working from home is companionship. I’m not ashamed to admit that I sometimes talk to my cat throughout the day, and often ask her for business advice. She has yet to respond with anything of value. Check with the recipient first to make sure it’s something they want and can afford, but even a guinea pig or bird can bring enrichment to the freelancer’s long and lonely day.

Workout classes: A great way to get out of the house, stretch a bit, and interact with other human beings. Disclaimer: husbands, purchasing this gift for your wives unsolicited may send the wrong message. Tread with caution.

Branded gear: One of my favorite gifts my husband has ever given me was a t-shirt with my company logo on it. He surprised me with it after an ATA conference one year and it was a great reminder that my significant other supported me and was proud of me! I liked it so much that I got one for him, too. Many different online and brick-and-mortar companies offer personalized products: Vistaprint, 4imprint, Promotions Now.

Readers, we’d love to hear your ideas as well, and go ahead and send this link to your family so they don’t have to resort to gifting you socks and gift cards for yet another year!

 Header image credit: Pixabay

ATA Conference Recap

By Jamie HartzATA 57th Annual Conference

It’s been just over two weeks since the 57th Annual American Translators Association Conference ended, and we’re excited to report that it was, once again, a blast.

This year’s highlights included Brainstorm Networking, an event where colleagues meet to discuss business practices-related scenarios in a quick but fun setting; the Job Fair, featuring a number of agencies searching for vendors as well as freelancers looking for work; and of course, Buddies Welcome Newbies.

At this year’s session, we focused on topics such as handing out business cards, choosing what sessions to go to, and conference etiquette. At the Wednesday session we also distributed a “passport” and asked Newbies to interact with as many ATA Divisions and local chapters as they could, collecting “stamps” for their passports.

For those of you who missed the Buddies Welcome Newbies introduction session or would like a copy of the presentation, see below:

Our Buddies Welcome Newbies debrief session on Saturday involved an interactive discussion of methods for following up with contacts, with great suggestions from both Newbies and Buddies alike. We’d like to thank Wordfast and Johns Benjamins Publishing Company for their contributions of prizes to the most-filled Newbie passports: a Wordfast Pro license and two translation and interpreting resource books, respectively. We appreciate your support!

Readers, did you attend the Buddies Welcome Newbies or any other great sessions this year? We’d love to hear about your experience!

Buddies Welcome Newbies at #ATA57

by Jamie Hartz

ATA 57th Annual ConferenceIf you’re a newbie to the American Translators Association, or to translation or interpreting in general, and you’re thinking of attending the ATA conference in San Francisco this November, then this post is for you – so read on!

The Savvy Newcomer Team would like to tell you about an event that was a huge success its first year and has grown by leaps and bounds since – attracting a few hundred attendees! I know, you’re thinking to yourself, “Clearly, this is the place to be!” Well, Buddies Welcome Newbies is back again this year, and here’s the scoop.

Led by Helen Eby and Jamie Hartz, with the support of lots of volunteers, this program is designed as an ice breaker for those attending the Conference for the first – or even the second – time. The ATA Annual Conference is the biggest T&I event in the US, and walking around without knowing anyone can be a bit overwhelming. Think of us as your Fairy Godmothers, who will help you to be fully prepared and make the most of your time in Miami.

The plan is simple:

  • Attend the opening session of Buddies Welcome Newbies on Wednesday of the conference (Nov. 2).
  • After the presentation, which will be jam-packed with cool tips for getting the most out of the conference, Newbies will be paired up with Buddies (the final ratio of Buddies to Newbies will depend on the number of participants in attendance).
  • Newbies and their Buddies make their own plans to attend a conference session together, have a meal together, etc. The number of activities and frequency is up to you.
  • Attend the wrap-up session on Saturday Nov. 5 for even more great information on what to do next and to hear presentations from guest speakers.

Although we often advertise this event as a great session for Newbies (and the benefits for them are apparent), the real stars of the program are the Buddies. We just can’t do it without their help, dedication, and willingness. A big shout-out to all our Buddies! If you’ve been to an ATA conference before – and remember how scary/confusing/overwhelming your first conference was – then you’re an ideal candidate to be a Buddy!

Haven’t registered yet? Here’s the link: http://www.atanet.org/events/newbies.php (Buddies can sign up here too!). In case we haven’t convinced you already, here are some of the concerns that other Newbies have told us are reasons they’ll be attending the Buddies Welcome Newbies sessions (and we’ll be sure to address these at the session): learn new skills, meet people, network, learn more about my field, get tips from a friendly colleague on choosing sessions, I’m introverted, learn how to make the most of the conference.

What you get out of the Conference is up to you, and your Buddy will be a friendly face who can provide general guidelines as to what to do, how to navigate the Conference, and perhaps share a tip or two about the trade. Your Buddy is just a friend who can help you feel less anxious about the conference.

Have questions about how to prepare for the conference ahead of time? Did you know there’s a free webinar for that very purpose? Check it out:http://www.atanet.org/webinars/ataWebinar116_first_timers.php. We also invite you to join the Newbies listserv, a forum where Newbies to the 57th ATA conference can post their questions and concerns: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/atanewbies57/info.

And don’t forget to leave us your comments below to tell us about your experience before or after the Conference!

Book Review: The Money Book

By Jamie Hartz

Book Review - The Money BookThe Money Book by Joseph D’Agnese and Denise Kiernan had been on my reading list since I received it as a gift last year, and I’m excited to share with you what I learned—and what I will do differently—as a result of reading it.

The book is not geared specifically towards freelance linguists or translators (I am both), and I liked this fact. I thought it would be a good chance to branch out and see what other freelancers are saying. I also wanted to see what solutions others have found to the challenges that come along with this type of work. The authors of The Money Book are both independent workers who have found freelancing to be, indeed, freeing, and it was clear that they are excited to share this freedom with others.

I could sum up the book’s main mantra with this admonition: as a freelancer, treat yourself as a good employer would treat you. After all, as a freelancer you are your own best employee. Overall, the book helped to expand the topics I am thinking about as a freelancer and made me look farther into the future when it comes to my career. For instance, the authors discussed the benefits of starting an IRA early in life—a fact that I knew in the back of my head, but I needed a kick in the pants to start implementing it.

Throughout the book, the authors discuss some of the pros and cons to freelancing. Some of the pros to having an employer (at least in the U.S.) include 401(k) management and contributions, health/life/disability insurance, tax withholding, and payment of office/travel expenses. However, some of the benefits include: flexibility to set your own schedule, unlimited income potential, being your own boss, ability to work from anywhere in the world, and seeing a direct increase in your pay when you work harder or more. These advantages and disadvantages really come into play when managing your finances as a freelancer.

The book works off of the basic premise that readers should first figure out how much they make, then determine how much they spend, and then find a way to reconcile the two. One of the most interesting pieces of advice in the book was the authors’ recommendation of using percentages to determine how to allocate your freelance income. I especially like the idea of using percentages because it means that your own personal income and business expenditures will be directly proportional to your business income—which is also conveniently how taxes work.

For instance, say you were to put 20% of every check you receive aside for business expenses (conferences, office supplies, internet, smartphone) and 30% for taxes (including accountant fees). This would leave 50% of your total business revenue for your personal income (from which you would pay for health insurance, retirement savings, and the like). It would also potentially leave you a chunk of cash come April 15—depending on how much you can deduct from your taxable income—that you could pay to yourself as a bonus. The authors also have extensive recommendations about saving for emergencies and paying off credit card debt, for those who choose to combine their personal and business finances.

What I like most about the percentage system is that it has the ability to break a vicious financial cycle. Old habits—especially money-related ones—die hard, and once you get used to paying yourself a certain sum of cash from your business revenue, it can be hard to live without that same amount each month. With the percentage system that this book lays out, you know that your personal cash flow will be directly related to your business income and you can plan accordingly based on the influx of income you expect each month, adjusting percentages as time goes on and as you learn more about your business’s ebb and flow.

In summary, I would recommend The Money Book for individuals who aren’t at all certain how this freelance thing works, or who are looking for a basic system to help them get out of debt while working part-time or on a freelance basis. You’ll find great encouragement that will help you save and plan for your goals while freelancing. Be sure to let us know what you think!

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Book Review: Found in Translation by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche

by Jamie Hartz

Book Review - Found in TranslationIf your experience as a language professional has been anything like mine, when someone asks what you do for a living, you always have to qualify your response. “I’m a translator” isn’t going to cut it, but “I’m self-employed as a Spanish-to-English written translator” just might get the conversation going.

Next time someone asks what you do and gives you a blank stare upon hearing your response, hand them a copy of Found in Translation by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche. The work is a compilation of stories and anecdotes which are drawn from many years of careful, thoroughgoing research conducted by the authors. The result is a book that reminds me why I’m proud to be part of this profession and has helped me articulate to my acquaintances what I do, and why it matters.

This book, which the authors have dedicated to translators, is the sort of work that will make you gasp, laugh out loud, and maybe even cry as you read fascinating stories about how language, translation, and interpreting affect every arena of life. It brings to light fascinating stories—some well-known and some untold—about “how the products you use, the freedoms you enjoy, and the pleasures in which you partake are made possible by translation,” all the while educating laypeople and monolinguals about our field and the industry.

I enjoyed this book not only because it was entertaining, but because it lent credibility to everything I do as a professional. By listing statistics about the language services industry, stating the growing need for professional translators and interpreters, and discussing the dedicated (and sometimes dangerous) work that language providers offer, the authors have done an amazing service to the translation community and the world at large.

Found in Translation catches readers’ attention from page one, as the first story in the book is an immobilizing tale about Nataly’s experience as an over-the-phone Spanish interpreter for a 9-1-1 call. From this story on, the book grabs ahold of you and doesn’t let go. Among the other anecdotes mentioned are:

  • The interpreter who played a role in Yao Ming’s integration into the NBA
  • A mistranslation that caused video game fanatics to spend months searching for a non-existent villain
  • An interpreter at the Nuremberg trials whose life was forever altered by the horrors of Nazi Germany
  • Stories of how translation has prevented or mitigated international health crises
  • Interpreters who serve as language intermediaries for the International Space Station
  • How Martin Luther’s translation of the New Testament set a foundation for not only a language but an entire religion
  • Jost’s harrowing experience as an interpreter in China for some German tourists who decided to take more of an adventurous vacation than he had bargained for

Savvy Newcomers, you know as well as I do that our jobs aren’t always easy—either to perform or to explain. I recommend this book as an eye-opener for people who don’t understand what you do, and as an inspiration for you to keep on doing your job to the best of your ability. Enjoy!

Managing the Ups and Downs of Freelancing

By Jamie Hartz; reblogged from DVTA (Delaware Valley Translators Association) blog with permission from the author

Managing the Ups and Downs of FreelancingThe choice to be a freelancer comes with a lot of fluctuation—there are slow times and busy times, and there are stressful projects and easier projects. The ups and downs that come with freelancing are aplenty—we often deal with loneliness, the stress of making all our own decisions, the struggles of having a home office (with the distractions of children, neighbors, pets, and housework)—and yet the majority of freelance translators and interpreters report that they are very satisfied with their work. How is that possible, you ask? It’s possible because we learn to manage the ups and downs.

The “ups” of freelancing tend to be easy to manage. We prioritize and make lists (dozens of lists, all over the house and home office!). We learn not to overbook ourselves, taking each project as it comes and planning our time effectively. We learn to leverage work we’ve done in the past, using old glossaries and TMs from previous projects. The “downs” are trickier, but managing the slow or discouraging times as a freelancer is the key to making your career sustainable and rewarding. Below are six tips I’d like to offer on managing the ups and downs of freelancing; take it from someone who’s riding the ups and downs at this very moment!

  • Use downtime to market yourself.

A colleague recently reminded me that devoting 50% of your time to well-paying work and 50% to business development is better than devoting 99% to low-paying work and 1% to business development. If you have downtime you can devote to developing your client list and gaining better-paying clients, use it wisely! Create a marketing plan that will allow you to complete small, specific tasks related to marketing yourself on each day that you have downtime. Personally, I’ve found that downtime is the perfect opportunity to work on developing my website and adding in keywords that will help my site’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

  • Keep good records and update them during slow times.

Keeping good records is important for any business, but as a freelancer it’s absolutely vital. In order to leverage previous work and plan for the future, you need to have client lists, rate sheets, and project databases organized and ready to work for you. Take advantage of slow times to organize a spreadsheet or a computer folder that has been accumulating junk for a few months, or to set up a new invoicing system that will streamline your billing process.

Keeping records will also help you to plan ahead. By looking back at your records kept from previous months or years, you may realize that a certain week is slow every year and you should plan a vacation for that time next year. During a recent slump in my work, I was encouraged to look at my records and find that I was still meeting my goals even though I had a few slow weeks towards the end of the year.

  • Develop new skills or hone old ones.

Downtime can be a good opportunity to try new things. During slow times, consider volunteering your language skills for an organization in your area or a volunteer translator website. Volunteering can help you develop new skills; for example, if you are a translator, you may consider volunteering in a subject area you haven’t worked in before (with the understanding that a qualified professional should check your work). If you’re looking to begin offering a new service, such as transcription or interpreting, this can be a good time to hone those skills as well. I recently took a training course in interpreting but haven’t had much opportunity to practice it professionally, so one of the things I’d like to do in my downtime is volunteer as an interpreter for an immigrant and refugee center in York.

  • Build your network.

Try building up your network during downtime, not only as a way to fill your time, but also as a way to get new work. Get to know other freelancers, whether in person in your local area or through social media. My experience has been that fellow freelancers are incredibly supportive and will be happy to give you tips to carry you through the rough times. Some of the people you meet may even become informal mentors or may refer work to you at times. Some ways to meet and connect with other professionals include chambers of commerce and meet-up groups. I personally plan on joining a Young Professionals Network here in Lancaster after the holidays to meet other like-minded people and expand my network.

  • Keep a list of things you want to do “someday”.

When you have some downtime and have exhausted all of your professional efforts to market yourself, keep good records, develop new skills, and build your network, pull out this list. One of the perks of freelancing is that there’s no boss to tell you that you can’t go for a jog in the middle of the day or pull out that craft project you’ve been working on since 2002. I consider myself lucky to have had enough downtime in the last few weeks of the year to work on making Christmas gifts from ideas I found on Pinterest; this is the first year I’ve actually had time to do that!

  • Hold a “Do It Day”.

One final suggestion I have on managing downtime is to gather a few freelance colleagues and hold a “Do It Day” (shout-out to freelance translators Corinne McKay and Tess Whitty for this idea). This is a day that you dedicate exclusively to cracking down on that list of tasks you’ve been avoiding for too long. You and your colleagues (I would limit it to three or four) connect once each hour to tell each other what you did in the last hour and what you plan to do in the next hour. My group uses ooVoo, a free video chat software. I have found that this is a great way to take advantage of downtime in a fun way that will hold you accountable to cutting down on that ever-growing to-do list.

Managing ups and downs isn’t easy, but if you leverage them to your advantage, your career will be far more rewarding and the busy times will return before you know it.

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