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/

Tapping into the Expertise I needed: My Experience as an ATA Mentee

Have you ever wondered what the ATA Mentoring Program entails, who joins, and what they get out of the experience? With the application deadline for this year’s program approaching, I’d like to share my experience in the hopes that it may help shed some light on the questions that people interested in the program might have.

Why I joined the ATA Mentoring Program

My full-time, in-house translation experiences in Luxembourg and Houston were wonderful opportunities for me to hone my French and Spanish translation skills and work alongside very detailed and incredibly knowledgeable colleagues. As I recently made the switch to working for myself, I felt a bit like a fish out of water. I was confident the ATA Mentoring Program would be a wonderful opportunity for me to learn from a generous member’s experience and wisdom. I needed a trusted resource to bounce ideas off of, and I was really looking forward to receiving solid, personal advice from someone who had been in my shoes before, building her own T&I business.

There was so much to learn about expanding my horizons beyond Houston, working with clients around the world, juggling a larger number of clients with very different work procedures and expectations, attracting and satisfying private clients, and getting my foot in the door at agencies far, far away.

My mentor

I was so thankful and humbled when the committee wrote to introduce me to my mentor, past ATA President Dorothee Racette. From our first conversation, it was clear (and no surprise considering her accomplishments) that when Dorothee signs up for something, she delivers. We got started immediately and there has been no lull from her since.

Dorothee is an ATA-Certified Translator and productivity coach. She knows the industry inside and out and is warm, easy to talk to, and has a lot of insight to share. The experience of learning beside Dorothee has been far better than I could have imagined when I sent my application in last February.

How does it work?

Dorothee’s tested method, which originated from her training as a coach, is something I can hands down recommend to other mentor/mentee pairs in future years. From the get-go, Dorothee explained her expectations of me, inquired about my immediate and long-term goals for our time together, created a schedule we could follow, and started a file in Google Docs we could share. We talk on the phone every two weeks for about 30-45 minutes about a particular, pre-designated topic. Should something come up between sessions, I am free to e-mail her, but I find we are able to cover a lot in those structured calls. The shared Google Docs file is where we keep track of the topic for our next call and any assignments I am expected to do. It’s also where I list the questions I have for our next call. She is then able to use this document to prepare for our chat.

A few topics we have covered so far this year are: how I can follow in her footsteps in developing a medical specialization, what I can learn from her path to ATA leadership, how I can more effectively use the power of dictation software, my preparation for and debriefing of my first ATA Conference, as well as specific, detailed questions about working with agency and private clients, setting goals for the next year, and more. Whenever I think of a new topic, I can just open Google Drive and write it down, and then come back to it for future calls. It has been a great tool to keep us on task, and to make sure I don’t miss the opportunity to get Dorothee’s expert opinion on something I might otherwise forget.

Dorothee’s advice for new mentor/mentee pairs is to set a regular schedule and to confirm the next conversation at the end of each call. She has found that the “call me when you need me approach” can be ineffective because either the mentee may be too shy to intrude on the mentor’s time, or the mentee may call too often at inopportune times.

Results

Under Dorothee’s mentorship, I have better focused my marketing efforts and brought on a number of new clients who I truly enjoy working with and feel appreciate the value of my work. Dorothee has given me a judgement-free space to learn the ins and outs of working for myself, thinking long-term, and respecting myself and my skill set, all of which have helped me grow my business.

Applying

This year’s Mentoring Program will run from April 2019 through March 2020. Applications must be received by March 4th, and applicants will be notified of their results by April 15th. Any and all ATA members are welcome to apply. Whether you have a long-term goal you’d like guidance on, are trying to develop a new specialization, even after years in the industry, or you find yourself in a transitional phase of your career, there isn’t one mold you need to fit into. What you need for success is commitment, dedication, clear goals, and follow-through.

One handy tip from Mentoring Committee Chair, Kyle Vraa, is that it is more helpful if applicants talk more about what they want to accomplish in the future than what they have done in the past. He recommends keeping discussion of the past to 25% of the essay, while devoting the rest of the essay to future goals. The Mentoring Committee selects participants through a competitive application process. Most mentoring pairs work in different languages, although that is not always the case. Kyle explains that factors such as your field of specialization (or intended new field of specialization), professional goals, and interpersonal compatibility are taken into account when matching pairs.

The ATA Mentoring Program webpage has a lot of information that can help you decide if the program is right for you, along with detailed instructions on how to apply.

Thank you

An incredible thank you is in order for the ATA member mentors and the Mentoring Committee members who so graciously offer their time to volunteer and help other members. This program would not be possible without your dedication and willingness to speak openly about your experiences. Thank you to everyone who has made this program possible.

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. E-mail: jessica@jessicahartstein.com, Website: http://www.jessicahartstein.com/

I asked translators and interpreters what their biggest website challenge was; what I learned is that it’s not website-related at all

In the fall of 2018 I ran a survey to see what are the biggest website-related challenges of freelance translators and interpreters. In addition to four closed questions, there was one open-ended question.

Responses to that question show that the biggest challenge is not copy, design, or even SEO. It’s strategy.

Here are the responses and my answers to them. If you are struggling with similar problems, I hope this will help!

Response 1: “Applying all the SEO and copywriting tips I read and hear from experts”

I hear you. There are so many tips and so little time to implement them (more on that later). Start with this question: “Why do I want to implement all of the SEO and copywriting tips?” In other words, what is your business goal? More clients?

You could be doing any of these tasks:

  • Implementing all of the SEO tips to make your website more visible (more on that later)
  • Start targeting your ideal clients on LinkedIn
  • Perfecting your cold email skills
  • Sending sales emails
  • Actively asking for referrals

You can do all this once you know what you are trying to achieve and who you are targeting. Based on that, decide what exactly you are going to do—in, say, the next six months.

Voilà! Now you have a plan, and can focus only on those tips that are relevant to your plan.

Response 2: “Figuring out which fields to specialize in and how many fields is appropriate. I don’t want to pick too narrow of a niche but also don’t want to be too generalized.”

Chris Durban on @TranslationTalk (enough said):

Response 3: “Pressure from people around me (including from other industries) to make my website into something it’s not, e.g. a blog, a subscriber magnet, “content””

Ah. I have the perfect article from the amazing Margo Aaron from you. And this one specifically about blogging. But let’s go back to the T&I industry…

Chris Durban says:

Angela Benoit says:

Back to your website: what is it for? Is it doing what you want it to do? If yes, then if it ain’t wrong, why fix it? If no, what can you do?

Response 4: “I don’t want to sound fake by marketing my services because I’m a beginner.”

My suggestion is to have a one-page mini-CV website for agencies if you think that you’re not ready to take on direct clients. You could also postpone working on a website until you are more confident in your skills. Writing copy about yourself is super-hard, and it can feel icky and wrong (and trigger an existential crisis – or is it just me?)

It doesn’t have to.

Talk to fellow translators in your niche or your mentor (if you’re part of the ATA Mentoring Program). Maybe they can help you find a way to talk about your experience and services that will not be all Saul Goodman. The Copywriter Club has an amazing podcast episode with Tanya Geisler about the imposter complex and its evil twin, the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Response 5: “SEO, I don’t know enough about it”

OK, this is one of my favorite things to hate. Why, oh why, are so many translators focused on SEO? Below is a screenshot of what Ubersuggest, a SEO research tool, shows for “translator Spanish”. Where are people going? That’s right, dictionaries and MT.

https://app.neilpatel.com/en/ubersuggest/overview?keyword=spanish+translator&country=us

This is what Ubersuggest shows for “localization Spanish” How many estimated visits? That’s right, just six. Per month.

https://app.neilpatel.com/en/ubersuggest/overview?keyword=spanish%20localization&country=us

So, you can try to rank for high-volume words… even though it looks like people are not doing web searches for actual human translators. You can focus on long-tail search queries and hope that those six website visitors will all decide to work with you. Or you can focus on other ways of getting clients, from blogging (in case Margo Aaron did not persuade you that this whole thing sucks) to being excellent at what you do (and perhaps gently nudging clients to refer you to their business partners) to whatever else might work for you—and, more importantly, for your target audience.

Response 6: “Being perceived as a professional (content, images, design, colours), but at the same time being me and being attractive to potential customers”

On having a professional look, check out WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix. Just pick a template. Done. (Also, you do not need a logo.)

On being you: Abbey Woodcock has an amazing tutorial book titled” What They Hear When You Write: Find and Perfect Your Unique Writing Voice” (includes worksheets).

Response 7: “Time. Because I have so little.”

Ouch. I hear you. Maybe this could help:

How to Set Effective Goals for your Freelance Business

Time Block Your Weeks

Theme Your Week: A Schedule Hack for Maximizing Productivity

Response 8: “Figuring out how to present my varied specializations to my equally varied targets, since those fields are pretty different from one another.”

Could there be a unifying idea, maybe personality-related, that can tie those fields together to be presented on a home page? If not, why not create separate websites?

Response 9: “The biggest challenge is to present myself in a way that would attract a client.”

Do you know your ideal clients well? Can you ask your existing clients what attracted them to you? Start by trying to gather information from your ideal clients and go from there.

Conclusion

The poll is still live here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeL-OSjKrKBayX6-9vhmhncYZVSdSp8350lazXbq4Fyle2rlw/viewform?usp=sf_link. If you have different challenges, and want to share them, I’m up for take two!

Have a different opinion on how to tackle the challenges? Leave your ideas in the comments!

Author bio

Ekaterina Howard is a bilingual copywriter helping companies optimize their localized Russian copy for their Russian-speaking target markets at yourcopyinrussian.com. She also publishes tips on how T&I businesses can make their website more persuasive and relevant to their prospective clients. You can read them at pinwheeltrans.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katya_howard.