Pursuing the Translation Dream: How to Keep the Phone Ringing

Have you been following our five-part series on how to assess your readiness to become a successful translator, inspired by ATA’s Self-Evaluation Questionnaire for Translators? If so, we hope your phone is ringing by now! Today we will discuss tips for how to keep the calls coming, based on section 3 of the aforementioned ATA checklist, titled “Professional Relationships (How to keep the phone ringing).”

But before we dive in: if you are just joining, you may want to have a look at the first two posts in the series:

Part 1: Pursuing the Translation Dream: What to Know Before the Phone Rings

Part 2: Pursuing the Translation Dream: What to Know After the Phone Rings

Now buckle up and get ready for the good stuff.

By now your hook is baited and you’re starting to get some bites. How do you keep the catches coming?

As you may expect, there are some no-brainers when it comes to retaining clients and landing new ones: make sure to offer consistent quality, be trustworthy (think honoring deadlines and confidentiality agreements), and, importantly, when it comes to finding new clients, be sure to regularly evaluate and refine your marketing strategies. (Here are some ideas on how to get your name out there, from Carlos Djomo’s post, “6-Step Strategy to Translators’ Visibility.”)

Beyond these foundations for fostering strong relationships, we selected four more tips ripe for the picking, based on the ATA questionnaire.

Do I return phone calls promptly?

Availability and promptness may strike you as “no-brainers,” but as obvious as they may seem, their importance cannot be emphasized enough—hence this being the first of the four tips.

If you take away only one thing from this post, let it be to respond promptly to clients.

If possible, make a habit of replying to new project requests and other important client emails within 30 minutes to an hour. To avoid distractions from work, you may choose to set a reminder to check email every hour. I do this by checking email when my Pomodoro timer goes off (every 25 or 50 minutes, depending on the day or the task at hand).

If you do check email frequently for client messages, be sure to filter out nonurgent emails and tend only to client messages that merit a response. Otherwise, you may end up unnecessarily digressing from work. If you are unable to respond for 90–120 minutes or more, consider setting an autoresponder to let clients know you will reply as soon as possible.

Even if you are unavailable for a job, send a prompt and gracious reply so the client knows they can rely on you next time. You may want to streamline the process by creating an email template (or a “canned response” if you’re using Gmail) that you can reuse and make minor edits to on a case-by-case basis. This limits time spent drafting responses for each individual email, yet allows you to keep clients informed.

Interested in more email hacks? Have a look at this post by Victoria Chavez-Kruse: “Inbox Zero: Forever in pursuit of ‘No new mail!’”

Do I maintain a positive, cooperative attitude? (Are my requests and specific working requirements reasonable?)

You have probably heard the saying, “People work with people they know, like and trust.” In fact, you may have heard it more than a few times. (Clichés are cliché for a reason: they are true!) Successful translators are easy to work with: they have a pleasant, can-do attitude, are willing to cooperate, and have the ability to see things from the client’s perspective. All of these qualities will make you a pleasure to work with.

Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help you reflect on what kind of impression you make: When I am asked to edit a text that was poorly translated, do I immediately complain about quality, or do I try to get to the bottom of why this happened and how to avoid it in the future? When a client cancels a project after it has already been approved, is my response firm and professional, yet friendly, and does it invite the client to collaborate with me on ways to avoid the problem in the future? When I correspond with my clients, do I show them they are valued and not just an email address without a face or name? I like to feel valued by them, and surely the same is true for them!

You may just find that your quest for a positive attitude in your work makes you not only a pleasant collaborator, but a more optimistic person in other aspects of your life, too. Talk about a win-win!

Am I flexible? Am I open to change? (Can I readily admit mistakes and offer to correct them?)

Translation projects are often dynamic. There are last-minute changes, unexpected hurdles, and the occasional impossible expectation. You can minimize the impact of these challenges by accounting for them from the start (for example, add in a time buffer when agreeing to deadlines). When difficulties arise, flexibility and a can-do attitude are key in overcoming them.

As for inevitable oversights and mistakes, what matters most is not their occurrence, but how we face them when they are brought to our attention. It is natural to feel defensive about our work (after all, we put an excruciating amount of care into it!), but we must remember that our clients are our greatest allies. In fact, in the case of agencies, we share the self-same goal of producing an impeccable text for the end client, and as any writer or translator knows, four eyes are better than two.

Take time to evaluate the alleged mistake with a cool head before deciding how to proceed. If a correction is in order, be gracious and prompt about delivering the changes. Remember to take note of what went wrong for the future. If you truly feel the client is mistaken in their correction, you may opt to defend your translation, but do so considerately and be sure to acknowledge the client’s point of view.

Can I accept the fact that my client does not know all about my profession or its problems, nor my personal difficulties, and that it is not his or her responsibility to learn about them?

Think of the last time you hired someone. Whether it was a graphic designer, lawyer, general contractor, or taxi or Uber driver, what did you want or expect from this person? Did he or she deliver, or were you subjected to woes about professional or personal problems? Imagine, for example, a taxi driver who complains that he needs a new car battery or waxes on about the cause of his crabby mood. Now think of someone you hired or worked with who was a joy to do business with and whose service delivery was seamless.

Be someone you would enjoy doing business with. This means getting the job done well in a timely fashion and clueing in the client to decisions where they should be involved, while refraining from bringing up personal matters or complaints, as poignant as they may be. We are all human, but your client hired you for one reason and one reason only: to translate (or edit, etc.). Never lose sight of that reason.

Now that you have some new ideas on how to nurture strong relationships with clients, we hope you continue to reel in a steady flow of loyal customers. Even once you are sitting pretty with a solid client base, there is always room to fine-tune your business skills and relationships with clients and colleagues. Indeed, we will take it a step further in the fourth (and penultimate) installment of this series, which will touch on professional demeanor.

Get a sneak peek by checking out section 4 of the ATA questionnaire. Want more from Savvy in the meantime? Check out this post by Tony Guerra on getting and keeping agency clients. We would love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

Image source: Pixabay

So you want to be a Freelance Translator (or Interpreter): Money Matters

This post is the fourth (first post, second post, and third post) 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.

In the first post in this series, I alluded to a question I’ve been asked several times since I began freelancing—sometimes more subtly than others: “Do people actually pay you to do that?” Some days it feels surreal that, yes, people really do pay me for this and I get to read in Spanish, write in English, and sometimes even correct other people’s spelling and grammatical mistakes (Grammar Police Alert!), but the underlying question is whether translation and interpreting are viable career options for bilinguals. The short answer is yes—if you have the right skill set.

If you’re just beginning to consider whether a career in T&I may be for you and are asking the same question, you are not alone. Some of the biggest questions many beginning translators and interpreters have about getting started also revolve around money: How much do I charge? What kinds of expenses will I have? How do I make sure my clients actually pay me (on time)? I’ll do my best to cover these tricky yet essential questions in the following lines.

What should I charge?

Translators often charge per word (source or target) or per hour, while interpreters may charge per hour, half day, or per diem rates. Rates can vary significantly in different segments of the market, while your specialization and language combination can also play a major role. Quoting too much relative to the importance and budget of a particular project may make it hard to secure enough work. However, quoting too little could put you in a vicious cycle where you work long hours at low rates. Long-term business prospects and finances can be affected by your choice of rates because it’s difficult to make time to find higher-paying projects and invest in the skills development and training needed to qualify for them if you are too busy with smaller or lower-paying projects and clients. And on top of all that, you could end up undercutting your colleagues.

While newer translators and interpreters may logically earn less than more experienced professionals—like in any other industry—you can earn fair compensation for your experience and education level, if you are putting the right amount of time and effort into your work and business development. But again, this begs the question: What should I charge? There are a few good ways to figure out what that means in terms of specific numbers.

First, the American Translators Association (ATA) has conducted and reported on a survey of professional translators and interpreters regarding their compensation and rates. The results of this ATA Translation and Interpreting Services Survey, Fifth Edition can be accessed for free in summary form or in full form (free to ATA members, $95 for non-members). The results cover information on rates, language pairs, and annual income.

Calpro is another resource you can use to determine what rate you should charge in order to bring in your target income, taking into account working hours, holidays, and other expenses. This spreadsheet was first developed by the Spanish association of translators, ASETRAD, and was adapted by ATA volunteers for use in the U.S.

Tracking the time you spend on each project is a great way to generate data that can help you figure out how much you actually are earning and which projects are more or less worthwhile for you. Start by using a time tracking tool like RescueTime or Timecamp and then use an Excel file or other method to compile your data and divide the total fee for a project by the number of hours spent on it to see how much you earned per hour. This will help you determine whether you might need to charge more next time for a similar type of text, or whether you would be better off rejecting a project that you will likely earn less on in favor of a project that would earn you more per hour, or even in favor of spending time on business development to grow your client base.

How do I make sure I get paid?

Two common issues when it comes to getting paid for freelance work are scams (where a fake client orders work from you and either never pays or scams money out of you by means of a fake check) and late payers. Several resources exist to help freelancers avoid these issues, including Payment Practices and WPPF (and check out this article on the topic).

How do freelance finances work?

I could write pages upon pages about freelance finances, but at the end of the day, the important thing is to understand that earning money as a freelancer (what we would refer to as “1099 income” in the U.S.) is vastly different from earning money as an employee of a company (“W2 income”). Freelancers need to send invoices to request payment from their clients, pay their own taxes (usually there is no withholding and you make estimated payments throughout the year), manage their own retirement savings, cover their own business expenses, and meet their own insurance needs. All of these are things that employers will often handle for their employees, while freelancers need to build them into their time and finances. I won’t go into detail about each of these topics, but I do want to provide a resource or two on each topic in case you need somewhere to start looking.

  1. Invoicing and Expenses

Some freelancers choose to create their own invoicing processes and others prefer to use software to help manage the process for them. The following are a few popular invoicing tools for freelance translators and interpreters: Xero, Translation Office 3000, Express Invoice.

  1. Taxes

Some freelancers choose to do their own taxes, but many prefer to outsource this service to a professional accountant or accounting firm. Since there are so many extra factors that go into freelance tax filings (e.g. multiple 1099’s, a Schedule C/1040, possibly other business filings depending on your setup and location, and deductions for business expenses), options like TurboTax and TaxAct would probably make for a stressful springtime… So unless you want to forego a lot of afternoons going crazy trying to decipher the tax code, I would suggest reaching out to other translators in your area to get recommendations for an accountant you can trust to take care of your tax needs.

  1. Retirement

Employers generally contribute to your retirement savings when you are a W2 employee, so it is extra important to start early if you’re a freelancer. Options for freelancers include traditional or Roth IRAs and SEPs, whether through financial planners or using online options like Vanguard and e-Trade.

  1. Insurance

Another expense that is often subsidized by employers for W2 employees is insurance (health, vision, dental, life, etc.) As a freelancer you’ll need to take care of this yourself, but you won’t be alone! Many options are available outside employer-sponsored health plans. For instance, Freelancers Union offers a private marketplace for members to connect with insurance companies (and Union membership is free!).

We hope this information has helped you get a better idea of what to expect as you consider a career as a freelance translator or interpreter! Stay tuned for the fifth and final installment in this series: Technology and Tools.

Image source: Pixabay

My Business Is Better Because I Have E&O

I had heard many people say Errors and Omissions (E&O) policies were not necessary for translators. I went along with that… until a direct client required it. In the medical field, it is common for direct clients to require a one million dollar E and policy limit. When I signed the policy, my insurance agent walked me through the do’s and don’ts. Now I’ll walk you through my thoughts on what is and what is not covered.

What does it cover?

My damages and defense costs, up to a limit, incurred from claims as a result of a wrongful act in performing insured services (translation) for others.

What does it NOT cover?

Bodily injury or property damage. That’s fine. I’m a translator. This means that someone tripping in my office is not covered. There is a separate insurance policy for that. If I am driving to an appointment and I hurt someone while driving, that would be bodilyinjury. My E and O does not cover that. If my laptop falls on someone’s iPhone at a training session and damages it, that would be property damage covered by a separate insurance policy. It is called Business Liability Insurance, commonly known as Trip and Fall insurance. Most businesses have this.

Infringement of intellectual property. So… I don’t want to be a party to plagiarism. I pay for all my software. I do not post other people’s ideas as my own on my blog.

Unfair competition or any other violation of antitrust laws. I need to be aware of antitrust laws so I don’t violate them. The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice have information on the subject. Some clear-cut examples are plain arrangements among competing individuals or businesses to fix prices, divide markets, or rig bids. These are carefully defined in documents in the links provided.

Discrimination prohibited by federal law. As a freelancer, I do not have employees. Therefore, this does not apply to me. If I ever have employees (not likely), I will have to abide by the same rules as any other employer.

Gain or profit I am not entitled to. In other words, I make what my invoice says and no more. I don’t upsell, take advantage of the knowledge to trade stock… etc.

Any liability I make myself responsible for in a contract. If I say I will be responsible for x, then the insurance company won’t keep me from being responsible for x.

Violations of securities and blue skies laws. In other words, I have to be above board in my financial dealings.

Bankruptcy. I had better keep paying my bills… That is good business.

Breach of contract.

  • If I say the translation will be ready by May 1, and on May 15 I have not contacted my client about it… I am in breach of contract.
  • If I promised a reviewed translation and I deliver a Google Translate version, I am in breach of contract. In one contract, I specified that any disputes regarding the quality of my work would have to be settled by an ATA grader in my language pair. This kept things nice and clean. I state that I am only responsible for the text I deliver, and if the client changes a single word, I am no longer responsible for the document.
  • I could have said that I would keep the information confidential, but since I know people in the engineering field, I go and tell them about a new development. That would be violating an NDA – breach of contract.

Any act a jury or arbitrator finds dishonest, fraudulent, etc.Be honest. If I submit a machine translation instead of a quality translation to meet the deadline, that might be considered dishonest, since I tell clients that the translation will be done by a certified translator and reviewed by another certified translator.

In short, E&O covers me for errors and omissions that happen inadvertently, provided that I made a reasonable effort to prevent them. It does not cover me for lazy work, breach of contract or dishonesty. It does not give me cover to be lazy from that point on. Clients expect me to have it because they know that any human has a margin of error in any work we do. Perfection at all times is simply not possible. It gives my clients peace of mind.

One client who hired me for a medical website translation had this conversation withme:

  • Do you have a one-million-dollar policy limit?
  • You don’t really think that’s going to be necessary, right?
  • If something goes wrong, the damage is going to be much greater than the price of your translation. We don’t expect you to be able to cover it. That is why we want you to have insurance.

I made sure I had coverage and increased my insurance coverage.

E and O insurance gives our clients peace of mind. Think of it this way. If someone was going to cut down a 130-foot tree in the front yard next to your home and told you “I am awesome, so I have no insurance,” what would you do? Well… this is a true story, and I got very nervous when that happened. I had two small children sleeping in the house. I got them out, and we watched the tree fall from a safe place. I wrote down the guy’s license plate number so I could call the police if anything went wrong. Is that how you want your clients to treat you? I don’t. This fellow did not have the money to replace my house or pay for the damage that tree could do to it. It missed the fence across the street by a few inches. All the neighbors were watching the proceedings very closely.

That is not the way to build trust. People work with people they know, like and trust. I build trust with my clients.

Image source: Pixabay

Email Best Practices: How Not to End Up in the Recycle Bin

It’s bound to happen sooner or later in our careers. That moment when someone thinks you have enough seniority and may be interested in subcontracting. Or your email address somehow ends up on a mass-distribution list. Or you just become the target of scammers.

Whatever the case may be, a message like the one below pops up in your inbox:

Complete with 14 attachments, this is a truly exceptional message that triggers an involuntary reaction in the recipient to hit “Delete.”However, it makes a great specimen to learn about the traits of a fraudulent message, as well as what NOT to do when reaching out to potential clients.

Let’s dissect this message together, but first, a disclaimer: I know our readership spans at least six continents, and perhaps the formulas in this message may be acceptable in your culture. But for the sake of this exercise, I will be analyzing this message from the standpoint of an American-based recipient.

  1. Email address. You’ve probably heard a million times that having an email address from a webmail provider as your work email doesn’t look very professional. But sending a message from email address X, and asking the recipient to send responses to email address Z is a clear indication that a) this message is spam, and/or b) that this is a phishing scam. Notice the domain on the sender’s email address is “@163.com”, which is a known spam transmitter domain.

Result: Hit “Delete”.

  1. Subject. It is true that the purpose of our email should be clear in the subject line, but when approaching potential clients or prospecting, we need to be a little more creative. How about: “Professional interpreter looking for collaboration opportunities in Miami”? Perhaps I would not hit “Delete” so fast, and at least give them credit for coming up with a personalized subject.

In our sample message, notice how the subject was written. Capitalization is off and there are extra periods. That kind of sloppiness is another indication of a fraudulent message.

  1. Being creative doesn’t equal being weird. I’m big on creativity, and I’m all for doing things differently. But opening your email with a strange statement (quote?) that’s supposed to be inspirational (or something) doesn’t cut it.

Some people like citing famous authors, or including interesting quotes in their messages, and I think that’s great and might work, depending on your audience. But it cannot be the first thing your reader sees when opening your email. Find a way to include it in the body of your email or at the end. Such messages should act as tasteful decorations to your main message.

On the other hand, scammers love to include intriguing quotes—often completely unrelated to the actual purpose of the email. I don’t know if it’s the shock factor, but I must confess that I’ve found myself staring at such quotes and trying to make sense out of them. But your prospective client won’t waste their time; they will just hit “Delete”.

  1. Different fonts and colors. Due to the difference in color in the text, there is no doubt that this message is a Frankenstein of fragments. I don’t like to realize that the sender might have copied and pasted the very message he is sending to me 50 times to 50 other people. If you want to make a good first impression, you need to make your recipient feel special.

I get it, we all draft templates that we then modify. And that’s perfectly fine. But your reader can never find out that the message she is reading has had many incarnations before. So, be careful when you copy and paste your template in a new message. Some email clients change the font or its color when you copy and paste directly from another message, or when importing from a word processor.

  1. Make it or break it in your opening paragraph. A memorable quote from our sample message is that this person is a business consultant who also acts as a translator, who then also provides market research. What?

Briefly stating who you are and what you specialize in is perfect. But then going on and on about yourself and the awesome things you could do is a big turn off. You must have a reason to send that message (a reason other than wanting a job, of course). That is, you must have something in common with that person. Why did you choose to send that message to Mary and not to Joe? If you are unable to answer this question, then I invite you to stop and think about it.

Sending messages out of the blue, without a clear purpose and for no reason other than distributing your résumé, is just as ineffective as going outside right now and handing out your résumé to any passerby.

See below for a simple checklist on what to include in your message.

  1. Spelling and grammar. If you’re reading this, then it’s safe to assume you are a linguist, and I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will anyway: Check your message multiple times and use the spellchecker.

This is another classic feature of spam emails: They’re poorly written and plagued with errors, punctuation issues, broken sentences, you name it.

  1. Attachments. The gentleman of the sample message sent 14 attachments, including his résumé, a few sample translations, a couple of inspirational memes, and so on. Needless to say, I didn’t open any of them. Even if he had sent just one, I wouldn’t have opened it either.

Nothing screams “spam” louder than receiving an attachment from a stranger. It’s just a big no-no in today’s netiquette. Even if the rest of the message didn’t raise any red flags, I would never open an attachment from a sender I don’t know.

Repeat after me: Thou shalt never send an unsolicited attachment.

What should you include in your message?

Here is a simple checklist to craft that very important first impression:

  • State your name, what you do (translator, interpreter, both), and briefly mention your areas of expertise.
  • Mention what you have in common with that person (i.e., you attended the same conference a few weeks ago, you both belong to the same group on LinkedIn, you read an article he wrote, etc.) This is your “hook”, that is, something that catches the other person’s attention and makes you stand out. It’s the personal connection you have with that person or organization.
  • State the purpose of your email (to follow up after the conference, to connect, to learn more about the topic of his article).
  • Make sure to include how you think you can help, or your previous experience in the field, or any other piece of information to pique your reader’s interest. It should provide additional information related to your opening paragraph.
  • If possible, include a call to action, that is, a question for your reader (i.e., “Is your agency interested in hiring in my field of expertise?” or “Are you looking for a French language editor?”)
  • Include a link to your website, blog, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, etc., and invite your prospect to learn about you and what you do. Remember: No attachments!
  • Close your email (i.e., “Looking forward to hearing from you”).
  • Include your contact information in your signature.

The above recommendations apply not only when approaching other colleagues, but also if your target is an agency. Recruiters receive dozens of emails daily from people looking for opportunities. Your message should stand out, but in a positive way.

What would you do if you were on the recipient’s end? If you received such a message, would you be interested in reading more about this person?

Think about these simple questions and ideas the next time you send a prospecting email. I promise it will make a world of difference and will increase your odds of achieving your goal. Let us know how it goes!

Image source: Pixabay

Tips on Getting and Keeping Agency Clients

Tips on Getting and Keeping Agency ClientsAfter a ten-year stretch as director of the interpreting department for a mid-sized language company on the East Coast, I have recently reentered the freelance world. The language industry has changed considerably for independent contractors since I last worked as an interpreter, and while there is more work to be had, there are also more interpreters and more rigorous standards, certification requirements and regulations. I have encountered the freelance challenges of self promotion, procuring assignments, and negotiating scrutiny in the face of fierce competition. I’ve taken stock of what interests me, what I am good at, my current qualifications and of course, what is in demand.

My strategy is to secure work with agencies as much as possible to build my practice, while concurrently developing my skills, accreditations and specializations.

Below is a systematic approach which breaks down the various elements or steps in the process. This is not intended to be linear but rather circular in that many of the elements can be revisited and are interchangeable, overlapping and ongoing.

  • RESEARCH

Knowledge is power. Keeping current means staying informed of latest trends, new regulations, recent developments and relevant technology to better understand your place in the business. Starting with a thorough and honest self-assessment will help you know how you fit into the professional spectrum and how you stack up against the competition, in order to leverage your services. This self examination can be critical in determining if and how you are equipped to be a successful freelancer in the language industry.

Self-Evaluation

Education: What was your field of study, what degrees or certifications have you attained or do you need to attain to adequately compete?

Skills and Proficiency: For interpreters, modes in simultaneous, consecutive, or sight, and for translators, what CAT tools and formats do you work in and what is your maximum capacity of words per day?

Background: What are your working language pairs and are they equally bi-directional? Are you a native speaker of one or both languages of your pair (for interpreters) or of the target language (for translators)? Have you lived or worked in the non-native country? How many years have you worked in the industry?

Personal considerations: Are there any health or family restrictions? Interpreters: Are you willing to travel? Do you have the time and resources to service a large geographical area? With small children, how many hours a day can you dedicate? Are you the main breadwinner in your family and are you capable of working at this on a part-time or full-time basis? Are you financially able to weather seasonal dry spells? This may influence the volume of work you may need to generate as an independent contractor.

Industry Evaluation

Where is the work? Is there enough work for your language pair in your region to sustain a career in the language industry? Do you plan to work solely as an interpreter, a translator or both?

What is the going rate for your services in your region?

How unique is your language group – locally or nationally – and how do your qualifications compare to those of your colleagues with similar education and backgrounds?

What and where are some of the dominant or obvious business opportunities for your language group (e.g. Pashtu/Government, Japanese/Patents). If you know that the demand for your specialization is greater than the qualified supply, it is advisable to assess the current industry value, capitalize on that uniqueness and strategically position yourself accordingly.

Agency Evaluation

Once some of the questions above have been addressed, you can begin to research and explore the agencies which might best fit some of the above established criteria. For most interpreters, starting with a local search makes the most sense. Working through your local Chapter as well as the ATA for their corporate members is another good place to begin. The ATA annual conference attracts agencies from all over the country that have legal, medical, business and government clients in states beyond the location of their headquarters. Referrals from colleagues whom you trust and respect can also be a great way to expand your services to new agencies. Ultimately, you want to find agencies that are a good match for your services and that are reputable. It is always a good idea to cross-reference a new or unknown agency with other experienced and respected colleagues.

  • RESUMÉ / CV

Once you have identified and captured your qualifications, you will need to organize and present your profile in a single document tailored specifically to feature your professional language skills. For most agencies, a one or two-page resumé should suffice to accurately package your services. Your resumé is your single most powerful marketing tool. It is your opportunity to tell your story, to pitch your unique services to a Project Manager (PM) or Vendor Manager. These are typically the ones who receive, analyze, file or discard solicitations by hundreds of applicants both locally and internationally. A resumé should be above all truthful, well organized and formatted, concise and easy to read, with consistent and accurate grammatical structure. I have seen too many resumés tossed because of poor planning, typos, gaps of information, or language skills hidden in obscure places where they are easily missed. Polish your resumé so that it is outstanding and structured so that your most salient skills are immediately recognizable at a glance.

For higher-level work (e.g. legal document review, conferences) a longer CV may be desirable which details the years, clients and specific nature of complex assignments. Resumés should always be sent in a protected format such as encrypted PDF to protect your information and prevent tampering or piracy.

  • PROMOTION: GETTING/KEEPING THE WORK

Promotional Materials

Once you have conducted the necessary research to identify the targeted ideal agencies, you will need to put together an organized outreach strategy to circulate your resumé for potential work. Utilize LinkedIn and treat it as an extension of your resumé. If you do not have a website, recruiters doing a simple Google search of your name will find your LinkedIn profile. If not already a member of ATA or your local ATA chapter, invest the time and minor funds to join and tap into the terrific resources each offers. The better agencies will always resort to the directory in their searches for linguists. ATA, Chapter or Affiliate networking and educational events offer not only professional development and social support but also provide the opportunity for face-to-face contact with sponsoring agencies. The ATA annual conference and the ATA directory profile also attract top national agencies searching for talent. More and more professional translators and interpreters are creating websites to promote their services and can be another great marketing tool to reflect a polished, professional image, which can generate a lot of online traffic. Applying the same structural, aesthetic, grammatical and ethical rules as resumés, websites also require additional maintenance and utility. It should be noted that an outdated or dysfunctional website can be detrimental to landing a job and worse, to your reputation.

Introductory and Follow-up Emails

An email is your chance to close the deal, especially if acquiring your services may satisfy a deficiency in an agency’s language roster or fill a void for the loss of another vendor through illness, death or relocation. If you are following up with an agency after personally meeting with the owner, vendor manager or PM, be sure to add a personal touch, recapping the event with perhaps an anecdote reminding them of a chat you might have had or a colleague’s introduction or referral. If you are reaching out cold, try to make it as personable as possible, addressing it to the appropriate person. Emails with an impersonal opening, poor grammar or spelling in the target language might be deleted without even getting the resumé attachment opened. Because you never have a second chance to make a good first impression, an introductory email has to strike the right note and indicate the courtesy, professionalism and communication skills that would be desirable from a vendor representing the agency if ultimately hired. At the risk of being obvious, when presented with a job opportunity, not missing deadlines and returning emails in a timely fashion are sacrosanct to a successful practice.

  • CULTIVATING THE RELATIONSHIP

One of the most rewarding aspects of our profession and an additional benefit of working with multiple agencies is the variety of assignments you can enjoy in a given week. Both legal and medical certification programs require continuing professional development as part of the code of conduct and ethics. Developing skills through diverse workshops, courses and accreditation programs, besides refining our skills, can permit you to expand the types of agencies, clients and settings that require language access. Once an agency evaluates an independent contractor as a top-tier vendor, they will always call on them first when a choice assignment becomes available because they know they can rely on quality, with consistent, fairly priced services. Another great way to keep your profile prominent on an agency’s radar is to regularly communicate to them new certifications achieved, new industries you are able to cover or an increase in your availability. Once you become a regular and can develop a relationship with one or two PMs, remind them of your services, keeping them informed by contacting them with vacation notices, birth notices and/or Christmas cards. PMs will often share these with co-workers and the preferred status is then shared among departments. All of these individuals are more than clients; they are human beings who – in addition to appreciating quality, flexibility and punctuality – respond to kindness, humor and courtesy.

Header image credit: Unsplash

Author bio

 Tony GuerraTony Guerra, the current president of the Delaware Valley Translators Association, has more than 20 years of experience in the management, marketing and development of multicultural communications services. A native of Havana, Cuba, he has worked as an independent contractor as well as in-house with companies and agencies. His Spanish<>English translation and interpretation services specialize in legal, medical, government and marketing sectors. Besides chairing DVTA’s PR and Certification Committees, he is also highly involved in numerous volunteer activities for the American Translators Association (ATA) including as National Chapters Chair, the interpretation Policy Advisory Committee, the PR Committee’s Speakers Forum and ATA’s Mentoring Program.