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 ownT&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.

Chapter Conferences: A Great Place to Start

For me, fall means conference season. There’s the American Translators Association (ATA) conference in late October or early November, but even before that is the conference organized by my local ATA chapter, the Midwest Association of Translators and Interpreters (MATI). I started attending MATI’s annual conferences when I was a graduate student, and I’ve been a regular attendee ever since. Over the years, these conferences have been a valuable source of continuing education and networking.They have also provided opportunities for me to get involved with the association.

If you’re new to the world of translation and interpreting, you’re likely eager to meet others in the field. You’re probably also seeking opportunities to improve your translation and/or interpreting skills in addition to general business skills. If so, attending a local conference is an important step in the right direction. Though I encourage translators and interpreters to attend ATA conferences whenever possible, I know that it’s not always feasible at the beginning. Newcomers may be looking for a smaller-scale, local event to dip their toes into the water. That’s where a chapter conference comes in.

So, what are the benefits of a chapter conference for new translators and interpreters? Read on for some inspiration. Hopefully afterwards you’ll be looking up your next local conference!

Learn about hot topics in the field

At all stages of your career, it’s important to keep up with the latest developments in translation and interpreting. Whether you want to know about your colleagues’ experience working with speech recognition software or see demonstrations of the latest CAT tools, this is the place to do it.

At this year’s MATI conference, for example, I particularly enjoyed Allison Bryant’s session on working with flat PDF files using optical character recognition (OCR) software. I always enjoy learning how other translators use various tools in their day-to-day work, and this session was no exception!

Get the best tips for running your business

Maybe you’ve completed a long list of translation and/or interpreting courses as a student in an MA or certificate program. But do you feel fully equipped to manage a business all on your own? Attending a conference can help you put together some of those pieces as you’re building the foundation of your business. At this crucial beginning stage, advice from those who have been there before is extremely valuable.

Daniela Guanipa’s session at this year’s MATI conference, called “How to Bullet-Proof Your Translation Process,” presented many practical tips for translators that can be applied at any career stage. Her presentation featured strategies such as a checklist to manage the entire process based on each project’s specifications. She also shared some questions to ask clients to help determine their specific needs.

Meet other newbies

When you’re getting started, it’s helpful to meet and share experiences with others in a similar situation. Not only is it comforting to connect with a fellow newbie at a conference, but it’s also an opportunity to compare notes on how your early stages are going. Someone else’s success story might be the inspiration you need for your next achievement!

Some of my first connections at MATI conferences were with fellow graduate students. Over the years, we have ended up working on projects together, attending numerous conferences and other events, and getting involved in the association’s many volunteer opportunities.

Find a mentor

In addition to connecting with other newbies, it’s never a bad idea to seek advice from seasoned professionals, or even those who were in your shoes just a few years ago. A chapter conference is a great way to make those connections and chat one-on-one for valuable career advice.

With memories of being a newbie not so long ago, I’m always happy to pay it forward by connecting with and advising newer translators and interpreters. We might first meet at the MATI conference, and later meet up for coffee or a phone call to chat in the weeks that follow.

Start a long-term connection with the association

Without a doubt, the biggest impact MATI conferences have had on my professional experience is that they sparked my involvement with the association itself. By becoming a regular conference attendee, I got to know the association’s long-term members and board. I saw that the chapter’s success with a wide range of educational opportunities and events relies entirely on a team of highly dedicated volunteers, and I knew that I wanted to get involved.

I served on MATI’s Board of Directors for two terms, spanning four years total. During this time I was able to participate in many projects and events to ensure that the association was a constant source of support, education, and networking for translators and interpreters in our area.

By attending your chapter conferences, you’ll see that there are many ways you can get involved. There’s something to fit any level of commitment you’re able to give—whether it’s writing an article in the newsletter, recruiting webinar presenters, or serving a term on the board of directors. I truly feel that the more involved you are in your association, the more rewards you’ll reap in your career as a whole.

Chapter conferences are an excellent way to make connections with fellow newbies and long-time professionals, learn about the latest tools, and get tips for running your translation and/or interpreting business.But it doesn’t stop there. These events are a stepping-stone for you to get involved and make a lasting impact on the association itself.

Ready to attend a chapter conference? Check out ATA’s chapters at http://www.atanet.org/chaptersandgroups/chapters.php and ATA affiliate groups at http://www.atanet.org/chaptersandgroups/affiliated_groups.php.

Image source: Pixabay

About the author: Meghan (McCallum) Konkol is an ATA-certified French to English freelance translator specializing in corporate communications, human resources, marketing, and financial documents. She holds an MA in Language, Literature, and Translation (concentration in French to English translation) from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Before going freelance, she worked in-house for several years at a global language services provider, serving as a project manager and quality manager. She currently serves on the ATA Board of Directors and is the coordinator of ATA’s School Outreach Program. She served on the Board of Directors of the Midwest Association of Translators and Interpreters (an ATA chapter) from 2013 to 2017.E-mail: meghan@fr-en.com. Website: www.fr-en.com. Twitter: @meghan_transl8.

6 Reasons Why New Translators Should Specialize

When you’re starting out in the translation industry, you hear a lot about specialization. People tell you to find your niche and become a specialist, not a generalist. Why? This article will give you six reasons why new translators should consider developing their specialist fields.

Becoming a specialist isn’t an overnight process. There’s nothing wrong with being more of a generalist at the beginning of your career. But, as a new translator, specializing in a few related fields over time will help you in the long run. Here’s why.

  1. Work faster

The more you know about a subject, the faster you can translate texts related to it. If it’s an area where you have expertise, you can work more quickly without this affecting quality. You don’t spend as much time on researching terms because you already understand them.

Maybe this field has a particular jargon or terminology and you’re familiar with it. Perhaps there’s a certain style that’s often used and you’re already up to speed. Compare that with translating in a field you don’t know about; you’d be much slower.

Specializing might allow you to work faster because you’ve worked in the field before, or it might be because you’ve translated a lot in that area. However you get there, expertise and familiarity with the subject will mean you can work more quickly than in areas you don’t know as well. Specializing can help you become more productive.

  1. Earn more

Being more productive (while still ensuring quality) means you can be more profitable. It’s simple mathematics. If you can produce good quality work quickly, you have time to accept more work. But it’s not just about volume.

Specializing or becoming an expert in your field changes the kinds of customers you can attract. Think about it: Your car breaks down. Do you call in a qualified mechanic or try to fix it yourself with the help of YouTube? Most people will choose the person with expertise and/or experience.

Customers want someone they can trust. They want an expert. By being a specialist in their field, you can position yourself as their go-to person. It’s all part of building a relationship of trust. Specializing makes you more productive and a more attractive proposition to potential customers, both of which are very important to new translators.

  1. Find clients

Become a specialist to find customers. Part of specializing means you start to make contacts with people in the same field or industry. Maybe you used to work in that field and these are connections from your time in the industry.

Offering translations in a particular niche means you can use your contacts to meet potential customers—people who might need translations. Because these potential translation buyers work in niche areas they may also be prepared to pay more for a translator they can trust to do a good job.

  1. Develop profitable relationships

Become your customers’ trusted collaborator and develop long-term relationships. Being the customer’s go-to person and someone they can rely on means you can use your specialism, not only to attract these clients but also to keep them.

  1. Grow your business

New translators need to grow their business. If you’re already offering translations to a particular industry, then you can use that expertise to begin to offer other services. Maybe your clients need a related service, like copywriting.

Tourism expertise might lead you to gain contact with industries like beauty and wellness. Starting from a position of knowledge about one area can gradually lead to opportunities in other areas. You might need to do some further study or team up with colleagues, but the opportunities are there.

  1. Enjoy your work

Last, but not least, specializing means you can concentrate on doing what you enjoy. Many new translators become specialists simply by gradually doing more and more of the work they enjoy most. They might go on and do some further study to back that up, but it’s often how a specialism begins.

I specialize in tourism and fashion and both have developed gradually as I accepted more and more work in those fields. These specialist fields can be quite varied and encompass many types of customers and projects. That means I’m never bored; working on projects and with customers I like means I enjoy my job.

First steps to specializing

Think about the skills you already have that might help you decide where you could specialize. Perhaps something you have studied? An industry you have experience in? Maybe a particular field you are interested in? It might be possible to do some further study and use this to leverage some opportunities. For more information about how to specialize, read my article How to Choose a Translation Specialisation. Good luck!

Image source: Unsplash

Author bio

Lucy Williams is a freelance Spanish-to-English translator and translator trainer. She holds the IoLET Diploma in Translation (two merits) and has been working as a translator since 2009. Lucy specialises in fashion, tourism, art, literature and social sciences. She is also a copywriter/blogger. You can read her blog at translatorstudio.co.uk. Twitter: @LucyWTranslator.

International Translation Day 2018 – Go out, tell the world, be bold!

Have you heard? ATA is encouraging translators and interpreters to celebrate International Translation Day (ITD) in a BIG way this year! A new United Nations resolution passed in 2017 celebrates the work of translators and interpreters, and to celebrate this huge step in gaining recognition for our profession, ATA is hosting a social media blitz on September 28, 2018. We just need your help to make it happen!

What’s the big deal?

How often do you meet people who don’t know what translators and interpreters do, or how many times have you cringed when you heard a translator referred to as an interpreter and vice versa? How often have you had to explain to friends or family members that yes, you do make a living as a translator or interpreter? How often do you encounter people in your community who have much to learn about language services and their role in our world? Probably all too often!

What’s the plan?

On September 28, 2018, the Friday before ITD, ATA will unveil a series of six informational infographics intended to debunk myths about translation and interpreting, for use on various social media platforms. From the difference between translation and interpreting to why it’s important to use a professional for language service needs, the infographics will help you get the word out to your personal network—friends and family who may not be familiar with what you do—about the importance of your profession and your role in it.

I’m in. What do I need to do?

  • Follow ATA on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram) and share their posts throughout the day on September 28.
  • Find out if your local ATA Chapter or affiliated group will be hosting a gathering to celebrate translators and interpreters. If not, consider hosting one yourself!
  • Schedule a School Outreach presentation in honor of ITD. Now is the time to teach the next generation of translators and interpreters about our exciting and growing profession. Materials and inspiration can be found at the School Outreach website.

Go out, tell the world, be bold!

ATA’s goal is to use the platform of ITD 2018 to raise awareness for the profession within our personal networks with this social media blitz. We have an incredible opportunity to change the way the world views translators and interpreters just by being bold and sharing more about our jobs. Debunking the unfortunate myths and misunderstandings about translation and interpreting will help pave the way for a better future for our profession, and it can start right here in our own backyards. So mark your calendars, follow ATA on social media, and help spread the word by participating in the blitz on September 28, 2018!

Image source: Freepik

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/