Are you who you say you are? Being honest about your credentials and skills

You turn on your computer, take a sip of coffee and see a potential project come in. What are the chances, knowing nothing about the project, that you will accept it? If your answer is close to 100%, it might be time to re-think your strategy. You may be providing subpar service to your clients and hurting your potential future in the translation and interpreting (T&I) industry.

Is this assignment a good fit for you?

I regularly turn down work when I don’t have the expertise for it, don’t have the exact qualifications they are needing, or don’t have the time to give the client the quality I expect of myself. Is it that my business is already so solid I can’t take on any more work? Absolutely not. Don’t I have bills to pay? Of course I do! The thing is, I care about what I do and I insist on providing excellent service to my clients. As a result, when I know, for one reason or another, that I can’t do that, I believe the best thing for my long-term business and my clients is to turn down the assignment, even when it hurts. I also take the ATA & NAJIT Codes of Ethics seriously and both require that translators and interpreters accurately represent their credentials.

Some assignments are easy for me to turn down: You need a Spanish into French translator? I translate Spanish and French into English. You need a French court interpreter? I am a Spanish court interpreter, but don’t interpret in French. Some jobs are harder to turn down, though. Take, for example, a French transcription that I received from a favorite client of mine, a few days after doing a similar French transcription for them. I always try to prioritize this client’s assignments; I hate saying no to them and luckily almost never have to. I listened to the file and just wasn’t confident, so I had to turn it down. I felt like I let them down and I hated that feeling. However, they were able to find someone else who was able to provide a better service, and my time was freed up for another assignment that came in just after that.

Misrepresenting your qualifications to get more work

Just don’t do it! Saying you’re a Certified Translator when you’re not puts you at risk of being called out publicly for an ethics violation and causes people to question those who do have that credential. If you’re serious about the T&I industry, you’re hurting your future self because people may not trust your credentials when you do attain them.

When helping others can hurt you

In Texas, in order to interpret at depositions, county courthouses, and in any court of record, the law states you must be a Master Licensed Court Interpreter (with a few exceptions that are beyond the scope of this article). I have a great relationship with a colleague who does not have this qualification. He recently got a call from a lawyer asking him to interpret at court. My colleague explained that he was not a Master Licensed Court Interpreter and the attorney told him he didn’t care. He told him it was an easy case and it was hard to find people with the right qualifications available for hearings. This colleague is the kind of guy you can count on⁠—he really wants to help people. He hates disappointing clients and he felt like this attorney needed him, so he was contemplating helping him. I pushed back and explained that this was his decision, not the attorney’s, and that he was better positioned to know the risks and consequences. I emphasized that he could get into trouble for taking on this assignment. I was shocked to be having that conversation with this person, whose ethics I normally admire. This just goes to show how “being helpful” can make us lose sight of real issues.

How to turn down work in a way that gets more work later

Remember that transcription assignment I mentioned earlier? Two weeks later, the client offered me the best assignment they’ve ever offered me, and I was ecstatic to take it on. They know that when I say I can do something I can do it!

Half the battle is getting a client to find you and reach out to you. Once you’ve won this part of the battle, use the opportunity to talk about what you can do for them. Rather than ignoring the email, respond back and let them know that while you don’t have the expertise or qualifications needed for this assignment, you can do XYZ.

It’s also a good idea to network with other colleagues in your language pair, and in the opposite language pair, so that you don’t have to leave clients out in the cold. A few weeks ago, I was asked to do 30 pages of handwritten medical reports by a client from whom I was really hoping to get some repeat business. I like electronic medical reports, but I just could not decipher these handwritten ones. I did a search in the ATA directory and found two people I thought were qualified. I took the risk and told a client with whom I really wanted to build a better relationship that I couldn’t decipher the handwritten medical reports and gave them the names of people who I thought could. I wanted them to get the best translation they could get, and I highlighted what I can do for them in the future, as well as my desire to continue working with them. Fingers crossed—hopefully they learned they can trust me.

Conclusion

It’s important to grow your business in ways that bring back more business. That means only advertising on your business card, website, LinkedIn profile, CV, etc. qualifications and certifications you actually have. Take a good look at assignments before accepting them and don’t take jobs you know you aren’t qualified for, hoping you’ll just figure it out, or think that the client won’t know the difference. Remember, if this is the career of your dreams and it gives you the lifestyle and intellectual challenges you want, focus on the long-term: creating a reputation for excellent work and helpful customer service.

Image source: Pixabay

Author bio

Jessica Hartstein is an ATA-Certified Translator (Spanish>English, French>English) and a Texas Master Licensed Court Interpreter (Spanish-English). She holds an MA in Conference Interpreting and Translation Studies from the University of Leeds and graduated Cum Laude with a BA from Rice University.

Prior to working freelance, she held full-time, in-house translation positions at a marketing firm in Luxembourg and an oil and gas engineering company in Houston. Jessica specializes in legal, medical, asylum, and oil and gas translation and interpreting projects. She has been fortunate to have lived abroad in Spain, China, Japan, England, and Luxembourg.

Email: jessica@jessicahartstein.com, Website: http://www.jessicahartstein.com/

Translators vs. Translation Agencies: How Falling Rates Have Turned Once-Allies into Enemies (and What We Can Do to Fix it)

We’ve noticed something strange: though demand has risen for language services, it would appear that prices are falling. Whether due to advances in technology, economic issues, global supply, or simply more aggressive buyers, we find ourselves in an industry that’s never been more in demand and yet has never been more precarious. This understandably leaves many of us overworked, underpaid, and seriously stressed out.

So why aren’t translators and translation agencies banding together to form a united front against this downward race to the bottom? Instead of saying no to unreasonable demands or rates and seeking better clients, many of us have turned our antagonism inward and, unfortunately, at each other. How is it that translator and agency—once sworn allies—are now seemingly always butting heads?

Constant downward pressure has caused a serious rift between translators and translation agencies that did not always exist. Agencies, translators say, bring little to the table and do nothing more than take a cut of an already smaller pie. Translators, agencies assert, don’t fully understand the value in having a company bring them work, advocate for them, and pay them even if the client defaults.

However, speaking as both experienced freelance translator and now proud translation agency owner, I can say it’s not too late. Both agency and translator can work together to separate the wheat from the chaff by finding serious clients.

Growing at a compounded average growth rate of 7.76% every year, the translation industry is expected to be worth approximately US$68 billion by 2020. What’s more, due to the ever-increasing trend toward globalization, translation is often considered recession-proof. The businesses of translation, software localization, and interpreting generate revenues of US$37 billion a year—and that’s for the software-assisted segment of the market alone.

By anyone’s metrics, that’s more than enough money to go around. So how do we repair this rift and start working together again? Below, I will introduce some helpful ways both translators and agencies can remember to work together.

Translation agencies are not the enemy—translators just have to know who to choose

One step toward cooperation is realizing that translation agencies on the whole are not the enemy. For every agency employing fly-by-night tactics and offering a pittance, there is another that could serve as a worthwhile source of income.

As a translator, think of every agency you work with. Are they a serious outfit? Do they pay on time? Do they take the time to match a translation with the best translator for the job? Have any colleagues worked with them, and if so, what did those colleagues say? There are vast resources online for translators to perform due diligence before accepting work.

The main idea here is to stop accepting work from any old agency. One way to achieve that is by carrying out due diligence on every translation agency you come across. Read their website carefully; see if their copy focuses on quality over quantity. And, pro tip? If the agency doesn’t list their rates on their website, it’s probably a good sign. Excellent translation agencies know that a one-size-fits-all approach to translation is not the way to go.

It’s okay to be picky about who you work with and who you work for. At the end of the day, you bring immense value to the table, so doing what you can to protect it is just plain smart. Now you might be asking yourself what can agencies do to make translators want to work with them?

How agencies can attract excellent translators

First things first, as an agency, your job is to serve your clients’ needs. But that doesn’t mean you have to bargain hard with your language service providers, shortchange them, or overwork them.

A reputable agency should be able to strike a happy medium between happy clients and happy freelancers. It’s okay to be competitive on price, but it’s not okay to expect that your translators will work for peanuts. Setting your rates at or above the industry average is a good place to start. The better your rates, the better the translators you can work with. And for clients seeking quality, this is a winning combination.

Oh, and those translators who work for you? If you want to be a translation agency worth its salt, make sure that you take the time to call them by name in emails. If you don’t value the people doing the translations, why would they want to work with you again? And never, ever, ever mass-mail a job to every translator on your roster. Not only would your client hate this, your translators will as well.

Beyond the above, translation agencies would do well to pay on time, every time. When a client (hopefully never) defaults on payment, this is not an excuse to stiff a translator who has already handed in work.

Finally, translation agencies must take care to recognize that not every translator is suited for every job. It takes a professional translation agency to match a job with the right translator—you should never hand a finance job to a generalist or a medical job to a bilingual attorney, for example.

Putting it all together—and working together in 2019 and beyond

As translators and translation agencies, we are all part of an industry that our agency has noticed is both growing and facing downward pressure like never before. However, this does not mean that the proverbial pie is getting smaller for all of us. Instead, the best pies are now bought at the specialty shops and the artisanal bakeries. In other words, the best agencies are now concentrating on finding clients who appreciate good, quality work. They’re not interested in packaging up a million pies for wholesale distributors.

The best pies are now bought at the specialty shops and the artisanal bakeries.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think the best translations are born of organic relationships between translator and agency that are based on mutual respect and cultivated over time. Getting to know each other goes a long way—and is certainly better than a mass-mail call for the lowest rate.

So, to that end: reach out to the person behind the screen. On the one hand, translators should get to know who’s behind the agencies they work with. Conversely, agencies should make a concerted effort to know their translators: their strengths, their weaknesses, and the catalogue of services they offer. Only by communicating clearly and effectively with each other can we continue to prosper and attract better clients for all.

Image credit: Pixabay

Author bio

Prior to founding Metropolitan Translations, Audra de Falco was a freelance legal translator and interpreter for 15 years and holds a BA in Jurisprudence and an MSc in Law and Public Policy. She knows the translation industry intimately as both freelancer and translation agency representative, and believes we can all land excellent, well-paying clients.

When she’s not helping clients get the incisive (and accurate) translations they deserve, she’s working her way through the family cookbook and walking her brother’s dog (he’s the best boy!).

You can visit Metropolitan Translations at http://www.metropolitantranslations.com/ or on Twitter at @translatenyc.

 

ATA59: Making the Most of my First Conference

I finally found the perfect opportunity to attend the ATA’s flagship event, the ATA Annual Conference: ATA59 in New Orleans. It was everything I had hoped it would be and more!

As you think ahead to attending your first conference, I thought it might help to learn a bit about how I prepared for, attended, and followed-up on my first ATA Conference. I’m sharing some of what I did to ensure it was a wise professional investment and not just fun.

Conference Preparation

Understanding What to Expect

I wrote to or spoke with at least a half-dozen colleagues to ask them about their experiences and to ask if they had any advice for me. A few tips I got a lot: 1) plan your conference ahead of time, 2) don’t try to do everything, and 3) stay away from enormous events. I followed tips 1 and 2 but chose to attend the massive Spanish Language Division Dinner with 200 other people, and it was great. Already, on the walk over, I bumped into two Texas interpreters I had been meaning to connect with but didn’t know would be at ATA59.

I also listened to a few podcasts about the event. One was the official ATA Podcast, hosted by Matt Baird. He conducted several interviews with candidates running for the board and led an informative episode with ATA President-elect Ted Wozniak about anything and everything to do with the conference. The Speaking of Translation Podcast, hosted by Corinne Mackay and Eve Bodeux, also has episodes dedicated to the topic of ATA conferences. They discussed making firm plans with anyone you want to meet well in advance, mentioned that the CAT tool companies offer their best discounts at the conference, and recommended choosing your shoes very wisely.

Goal-Setting

My ATA Mentor (you can read about my ATA mentoring experience here), former ATA President Dorothee Racette, CT, suggested I think long and hard about what my main goal for the conference was and to plan my conference experience accordingly. She suggested reading about sessions and events with my goal in mind, but also encouraged me to allow enough flexibility to miss a session or two in order to spend time in the Exhibit Hall or to continue a great conversation with someone.

Pre-Networking

Two of the best connections I made while at the conference came from reaching out to people I knew beforehand who connected me to others they knew. These two new connections were a wonderful and professional agency owner, as well as a veteran conference attendee who became my unofficial conference mentor, inviting me to join his group for a few meals, and introducing me to a number of his colleagues. Both of these connections made a huge impact on my experience; I treasure the wonderful insights they shared about their working life and was pleasantly surprised that these interesting conversations even led to some work offers after the conference.

Translators and interpreters are a nice bunch, so if there is someone you have noticed on ATA forums, or whose writing has caught your eye in the Chronicle or on the Savvy Newcomer blog, or that you’ve heard about somewhere else, reach out and start a conversation before the conference.

At the Conference

Events Attended

I thought it might be helpful to see how much you really can pack into a few days, so here’s a bit of what I did while at ATA59.

In addition to thought-provoking educational sessions (there were 180 to choose from during 12 slots), I also attended the Buddies Welcome Newbies events held on the first and last days, the Welcome Reception, the Exhibit Hall, the Mentor-Mentee meet-up, the Annual Meeting of All Members, the Law Division lunch, the Spanish Language Division dinner, the Career Fair, and I even was able to enjoy the “Breakfast with Board Members” by sitting at a table with a number of board members.

Meeting people at these events was not only fun, but talking shop face-to-face in informal settings gave me great knowledge of what others in my field are doing. It also led to fantastic conversations with Savvy Newcomer leaders Jamie Hartz and David Friedman, which ultimately resulted in me writing this article. You just never know what might happen!

Follow-Up

The Buddies Welcome Newbies event offered on the last day of the conference had a lot of great tips about following up. Helen Eby, one of the Buddies Welcome Newbies leaders, tallied up the cost of attending the conference, both in terms of actual travel and conference costs and the opportunity cost of not working on those days. Helen asked what we would spend that kind of money on and then just throw away, never to think about again! This obviously highlighted the importance of post-conference follow-up.

I did personally follow-up with a number of people I met, and that has led to many interesting conversations. That being said, have I made the most of the momentum I felt after I returned from New Orleans? I have not thrown away the experience by any means, but I will admit that I have not done as much as I could to incorporate new business skills I learned, for example. I also recognize that I could do more to strengthen connections made.

Next time, I will probably pre-write a to-do list of what to do after I return and pre-schedule those tasks into my calendar before I leave for the conference, so that when I return, I can head to my office and let my calendar remind me to do everything I know I need to do.

Conclusion

My best advice is to recognize that your conference fate is really in your hands, and it is up to you to figure out exactly what you want out of it and to make a plan for how to achieve that. I hope my experience can give you food for thought about how you can make that happen for you. Attending the ATA Annual Conference was a wonderful investment in my career and business, and I am ecstatic when I think about all the conferences in my future. I hope to see you there!

Author bio

Jessica Hartstein is an ATA-Certified Translator (Spanish>English, French>English) and a Texas Master Licensed Court Interpreter (Spanish-English). She holds a MA in Conference Interpreting and Translation Studies from the University of Leeds and graduated Cum Laude with a BA from Rice University. Prior to working freelance, she held full-time, in-house translation positions at a marketing firm in Luxembourg and an oil and gas engineering company in Houston. Jessica specializes in legal, medical, asylum, and oil and gas translation and interpreting projects. She has been fortunate to have lived abroad in Spain, China, Japan, England, and Luxembourg. E-mail: jessica@jessicahartstein.com, Website: http://www.jessicahartstein.com/

#ATA59 Session & Book Review: The Business of Translation

When I attended the ATA59 conference in NOLA, many colleagues encouraged me to attend a session about a topic outside my specialty. So, I browsed the booklet trying to choose a session about a topic that I’d like to know more about. I chose the Business of Translation” session listed under Language Services Companies and Independent Contractors, and I’m glad I did. The speakers, Renato Beninatto and Tucker Johnson, were informative and funny. Renato told his story of going from freelance translator to project manager, to finally owning his own business. So, in a presentation on the business of translation, he was speaking from experience.

At the end of the session, the colleague who was sitting next to me asked the first question: “How can I get a copy of your book?” The presenters immediately said, “We’ll give you a free copy. Here it is, it’s yours!” The audience didn’t expect the response, so we laughed and told our colleague to get it signed, which he eventually did. I took the book from my lucky colleague and quickly skimmed it, then decided to get myself a copy. I ended up reading it on the plane back to New York after the conference. After finishing it, I’ve decided to write a summary so I can encourage others to read it.

The General Theory of the Translation Company provides information on the business of translation. It addresses a few main elements that are market influencers within the field of translation, as well as seven support activities and core functions such as providing accurate translations in a timely manner (terms defined below). It touches on the enduring factors and changing elements that will impact the field of translation. Market influencers are basically the forces within the translation business that bring risk and opportunity. One example of a market influencer is the number of translators who open a business with minimum costs. Support activities are activities that create a framework to minimize risks and maximize opportunities to empower core functions. Core functions are the functions that add value to a translation business. Adding value here refers to creating economic value that customers are willing to pay for.

The book then talks about five forces that were introduced by Michael E. Porter to analyze competition within any business market. The five forces are competitive rivalry, the bargaining power of suppliers, the bargaining power of customers, the threat of new entrants and the threat of substitutes, products, and sources (reading material, documents, or paperwork). One advantage within the translation business is that it does not require much cost and is not tied to many government regulations. Anyone can start a translation business by having a computer, a website, and a PayPal account. Most people do own a laptop or a computer today, and creating websites and accounts is no longer a huge challenge. The field of translation grows proportionately to the growth of content.

The book elaborates on how translation businesses face competition due to the simple requirements needed to start up. How, then, do clients differentiate between a good service and an average one? Here, the book highlights the need to have an advantage that will drive one’s business to the forefront over competitors. This angle, which addresses service quality, goes under the competitive rivalry for a translation business.

Next, there’s the bargaining power of suppliers, which needs to be addressed by anyone planning to excel in the field. One needs to know how cheaply they are willing to offer their services without compromising quality. At the same time, one needs to ensure that there is breakeven or profit within the business that will allow it to thrive. Thus, it is crucial for those who want to start a translation business to understand the dynamics within conducting a translation business itself. If they are going to be employed with a translation company, then they might want to consider the benefits of working independently compared to being employed.

Also, there is the threat of new entrants: new businesses and new experts appear in the translation business on an almost daily basis. The book discusses how such challenges can be addressed and how one can stay in the translation industry despite the competition.

The reality for each translation expert may be different based on the country or city where they are located. Thus, the book serves as a framework that offers translators important tips for conducting business. New entrants may have trouble securing business offers without a track record. Hence, they must work hard to gain clients, who may prefer to go to translation experts, who are well established. However, if new entrants can offer additional perks, such as lower prices or faster turnover, then they can gain clients quickly. Here, the need to balance the various factors, such as quality, time, and service offered, will determine whether a translator will be successful in a competitive environment.

The book then proceeds to detail the seven support activities that are important for any translation business. These consist of management, structure, finance, culture, human resources, technology, and quality assurance. Of course, individuals are free to arrange their business as they see fit, but the guidance in this book serves as a helpful framework. The book stresses the importance of financial margins, and focuses on net margin. Just like any other business, the goal in the translation business is to make a profit. This means making a surplus after charging clients and paying suppliers. The book also addresses how changing technology will impact the translation process. Translators need to realize the importance of continuously updating their businesses and knowledge with the latest technology so that they can provide their clients with the best services.

In conclusion, the book focuses on how one can conduct a successful translation business by considering factors that can impact the business in both the short and long term. It may not be relatable to every single translator out there, but the book serves as a good guide for translators around the globe regardless of their business environment. In the end, a business is a business, and one needs to be familiar with challenges and obstacles before venturing into the business of translation.

Author bio

Amal Alaboud is a PhD candidate in the Translation Research and Instruction Program at the State University of New York at Binghamton. She holds an MA in Arabic/English Translation from the University of Salford in the UK. Her research interests include literary translation, translation project management, and volunteer translation. Currently, she is a project coordinator at TransPerfect in New York.

ATA’s Virtual Conference Is Back

Did you miss out on ATA’s 59th Annual Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana? Or maybe you attended but weren’t able to make it to as many sessions as you would have liked. Don’t fear! The ATA Virtual Conference is here and back for its second round.

What is the Virtual Conference?

The 2018 Virtual Conference is a collection of 50 sessions given at ATA59 in New Orleans, Louisiana. There are sessions for both translators and interpreters, covering a wide range of topics in law, medicine, science, technology, and more. All 50 sessions are available on-demand, and the recordings are accompanied by the speakers’ original PowerPoint presentations in video format. You can view the full list of sessions offered here.

This year’s Virtual Conference comes with extra perks for ATA-certified translators, as its sessions are approved for Continuing Education Points. You will earn one point for each hour viewed, up to a maximum of 10 points.

How Much Does It Cost?

3-day attendees of ATA59 have free access to the Virtual Conference. To access the sessions, go to the Virtual Conference webpage. ATA members can also access the Virtual Conference by logging into the “Members Only” area of the ATA website. All 3-day attendees were sent their usernames and passwords in an email with the subject line “ATA59 Virtual Conference is Now Available!” Search your email to find your username and password there. If you cannot find your login credentials, please contact ATA at webmaster@atanet.org.

If you did not attend the conference and would like to purchase access, go to the Virtual Conference webpage and click on “Purchase It Now.” The Virtual Conference costs $79 for ATA members and $129 for non-members. You can watch four free sample sessions on the Virtual Conference website.

The 2017 Virtual Conference is also available for purchase for the same price. Go to the 2017 Virtual Conference website for more information.

How Did ATA Decide Which Sessions to Include?

Presenters did not apply to participate in the Virtual Conference. Just as last year, ATA was limited to recording in just 4-5 rooms at a time. Their strategy was to pick the 4-5 rooms that contained session topics with the widest appeal for translators and interpreters. Therefore, the session topic and the room where the session was given were the only two items used to determine what was included in the Virtual Conference. Presenters whose sessions were chosen to be included in the Virtual Conference received no form of compensation.

What Can We Expect for ATA60?

ATA’s 60th Annual Conference will be held in Palm Springs, California from October 23-26, 2019. ATA expects to receive approximately 1,600 attendees from more than 60 countries and at this time has not determined whether or not the Virtual Conference will be offered again.

Would you like to speak at ATA60? Presentation proposals are now being accepted. Each proposal must be submitted as a Conference Session, but you may also request to be considered to offer an AST (Advanced Skills Training) Course. Proposals must be received by March 1, 2019. For more information and to submit your proposal, go to the Call for Speakers.

About the author

Molly YurickMolly Yurick is a Spanish to English translator specialized in the tourism, hospitality and airline industries. In the past she has worked as a medical interpreter in Minnesota and as a cultural ambassador for the Ministry of Education in Spain. She has a B.A. in Spanish and Global Studies and a Certificate in Medical Interpreting from the University of Minnesota. She is currently living in northern Spain. You can visit her website at: http://yuricktranslations.com/