Networking 101 for freelancers

Every freelance professional knows the drill. You enter a door to some event space and there’s a desk with name tags on it. “Hi! My name is ________.” You take a black marker and write your name on the small blank canvas. You peel off the nametag and stick it to your shirt. And yes, it will fall off several times during the next two hours. A smiling young woman or man behind the desk says “hi!” and points you to a food table.

You grab a beer or a glass of wine and look around. People are clustered in circles of four or five. Most of these people are young writers and editors, or maybe designers or videographers. You walk up to the edge of a circle of chatting people and lean your head into the ongoing conversation. A woman or man smiles at you, takes one step to the side and lets you enter the circle. You nod, introducing yourself and shaking hands all around.

People are engaged, energetically discussing the creative life and how to make connections with audiences. This being an event for writers and editors or designers, the conversation turns to clients and how we approach the process of telling stories and making designs for our clients. It’s fun to talk with friendly folks engaged in the same daily activities, with the same ups and downs, as you are.

Why network?

One of the main reasons to attend networking events is to help make connections with other creative professionals, the kind of people who can refer you to potential clients or hire you outright. You might also want to network as a way to manage the isolation and loneliness of being a freelancer. Community can be a great way to help your business and it can enable you to maintain good mental health too.

The foundation of good networking: Give before you get

You shouldn’t network with “getting” in mind. The best networkers give first, putting faith in karma and the psychological rule of reciprocity: When you do for others, they naturally seek to return the kindness. In my experience, you invariably get a much higher return than you’d ever expected when you help someone and don’t expect something in return.

I like to introduce people whenever I find there’s a match between what somebody wants to do (a freelancer seeking to write for a technology client, for example) and what somebody needs (an editor or marketing leader who’s looking for a technology writer). For me, networking is first about making connections for others. And yes, indirectly, I make connections for myself too, but that’s a secondary concern

I didn’t learn this “give first” style of networking on my own, but from people who recommended me to friends in need, and did so without expectation of return. Author Dorie Clark is a great example. She recommended me several years ago to the biggest writing client I have right now. She barely knew me then, but she created an opportunity for me by recommending me to this client. She also showed me that this is what great networkers do: help others first.

Prioritize a few “real” connections over multiple shallow ones

Networking, suggests Clark in her book, Stand Out Networking, isn’t about passing out business cards or adding names to some database or spreadsheet. When we network, we don’t need to be fake or bring our smooth, practiced elevator pitches. Keeping it (and ourselves) “real” is the best and only thing that works to turn acquaintances into deep relationships that help our businesses and lives.

What matters most at any networking event is the quality of the human interactions, not the quantity. You can spend your entire time talking to two people, and have the event be a smashing success. You can also walk around the room handing out fifty business cards and chatting with people for ten seconds each, and have absolutely zero impact. That’s a fail for sure.

In his must-read book on networking, Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi says it best:

“Today’s most valuable currency is social capital, defined as the information, expertise, trust, and total value that exist in the relationships you have and social networks to which you belong.”

And the best way to build those crucial relationships, Ferrazzi repeatedly says, is by giving first.

The takeaway here is simple: When we help others and expect no immediate return, we do the most important thing any person or business can do. We build connections and deepen human relationships that sustain us as people and help grow our freelance businesses.

In the end, that’s what networking is about.

Image source: Pixabay

Boston-based Chuck Leddy is a freelance B2B Brand Storyteller who connects brands and customers through engaging stories. His clients include Sojourn Solutions, The Boston Globe’s BG Brand Lab, MITx, abas USA, and The National Center for the Middle Market. His website is http://www.chuckleddy.com/.

The Whys and Hows of Translation Style Guides. A Case Study.

This post was originally published on the Financial Translation Hub blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Last week, a marketing manager of a global investment company called me. He was referred to me by a colleague. They are launching the company’s website in Italy and had it translated into Italian by a global translation company. However, they were not convinced of the Italian translation and asked me for an opinion and for a review.

I started reading the translations. I could not find big mistakes, such as grammar or spelling. The main issue was that the text sounded too much like a translation. Sometimes I could not even understand the Italian without reading the English source. This lead to various misinterpretations. Moreover, it was translated literally, and Website menus and buttons were too long for the Internet layout.

It was evident that nobody visited the English website before or during the translation process. You could understand it from naïve mistakes, where charts were confused with tables, buttons mistaken for menus, and the translated metaphors had nothing to do with the image shown online.

Translators were not informed (and probably did not ask) about the intended destination, the target reader, the “ideal” client of the website. Who was going to read and visit it? Institutional or retail investors? Should the language be easy to understand for everybody, or specifically directed to investment professionals. What is the brand “tone”, formal or informal?

A 20 minute call with the client’s local team was enough to understand their expectations and draft a very short “style guide” for an effective translation into Italian: words not to be translated, reference materials, a description of the market they wanted to reach in order to launch their products in Italy. A professional translator can start from such information to hone the language for the purpose.

When talking about style guides or manuals of style, you may think they are too academic, while a simple short guide for effective writing is a valuable reference for translators and does not need to be too complicated. You can combine this guide with glossaries and reference material to do a better job, a translation that does not sound like a translated text, but as an original document improving the quality of the message, increasing the audience engagement, and even cutting costs.

WHY… a style guide?

A set of rules, a guidebook on client’s preferences and expectations improves consistency of language and tone, helps conveying the right message, based on the company’s brand.

From the client’s view, it increases efficiency speeding up processes (including internal review and approval), and it reduces costs because activities are not duplicated.

Most importantly, focusing on personas, e.g. the client’s ideal reader and visitor, and destination market, you can improve the quality and efficacy of the message, using the right language, and optimising localisation.

From the translator’s perspective, she can speed up research (of terms, references, etc.), while the reviewer saves time because he does’t need to ask things twice, if there is a list of standards and references.

WHAT… is a style guide?

It does not need to be complicated, but a short set of standards, highlighting the client’s expectation and preferences.

A short description of the company, its products or services, and its goals are of great help:

  • purpose and destination of the translation (sales material, press release, website)
  • target market (Italy, industry, competitors)
  • target audience (institutional investors, retail investors, professionals, young people, financial education)
  • the object of communication: brand reputation, marketing, sale
  • preferred tone of voice: formal, informal

A style guide should also specify:

  • the language or style to be used, for example long or short sentences, the translator should be more faithful to the source or depart a bit more from the original to favour interpretation instead of a literal translation.
  • words to be avoided or “problem words” that the client does not use they are in a competitor’s commercial. If there is not a glossary, the translator may prepare one for reference.
  • words not to be translated (e.g. job positions, English terms commonly used in financial jargon)
  • use of abbreviations, capitalisation, measures, currencies [Financial Translation is a Balancing Act as I wrote here].
  • any formatting rules, typographical conventions or variety of language (in the case of English or Spanish, this is specifically important).

Reference documents may also be included in the guide, together with the visuals, images, pictures that will be published with the texts. This is especially useful in case of metaphors, which may be very different in a foreign language.

WHO… writes the style guide?

A client buying translation services may not be aware of the importance of such guidelines, but he should have an important role in drafting the guide, supplying coherent reference material as well as explanations and information. Of course, clients should have a clear view of the message they want to convey.

The professional translator and reviewer should ask the right questions to collect the necessary information for a better translation, fit for the purpose.

WHEN… do you write a style guide?

You can write a style guide at any time, but it is a good idea to start developing one at the start of the project or at the beginning of the relationship with a new client.

The professional translator will update it over time, when the client provides suggestions or revisions with the final version of the translated document, revised by its local sales team, or when issues arises that need standardised processes, or words to be avoided in the future.

Guida di stile per traduzioni finanziarie

In my experience as a translator and reviewer, I drafted many style guides and read instructions prepared by other companies. Based on my experience, the structure of the guide is important. It should not be too long or confused, otherwise nobody will use it. It should be short and sweet, to the point, containing only the necessary information with a structure. Recently, I received a guide containing a long list of terms not to be used, or examples of sentences corrected by a revisor, with no clear intention or direction, referring to a very differtent type of document. Useless.

I collected a series of interesting posts on this subject, with many examples and suggestions to be applied during the next call with a potential client.

I hope you will find them useful!

On Style Guides and Client Glossaries:

El encargo de traducción: ¿qué preguntar antes de aceptar?

This post was originally published on the En la luna de Babel blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Últimamente he trabajado con varios clientes nuevos (empresas, agencias y particulares) y buscando en la red cómo enfocaban este asunto otros compañeros, di con un listado de Tomedes, que reproduzco aquí con su permiso y amplio con algunos apuntes de mi cosecha:

PREGUNTAS PARA EL CLIENTE

Empecemos por lo básico: las preguntas que debes hacer al cliente que necesita la traducción.

  1. ¿Cuántas palabras tiene el documento?
  2. ¿Cuál es el plazo?
  3. ¿Cuál es el tema? ¿Es muy especializado o técnico?
  4. ¿Es documento escrito o es un archivo de audio? En este último caso, ¿se nos pide también transcripción?
  5. ¿En qué formato está? ¿Es un Word, un PDF, un fax escaneado (sí, aún existen)?

Esta información es impepinable, si queremos verlo así. Es importante saber qué vamos a traducir y por cuánto. Y en cuanto a las palabras, cuando nos envíen el documento para traducir (o para verlo solo si estamos en proceso de elaboración de presupuesto), cerciorémonos de que la cantidad de palabras es correcta. A todos se nos puede pasar, incluso al gestor de proyectos o al cliente directo, así que es importante comprobar que todo esté bien desde un principio.

Tampoco está de más preguntar:

6. En el caso de una traducción de marketing o una web: ¿requieren localización o solamente traducción? Si es un texto publicitario, ¿necesitan transcreación?

7. ¿El proyecto va a necesitar una edición o maquetación posterior (desktop publishing  o dtp)?

Cuanto más sepamos del encargo desde un principio, mejor informados estaremos del trabajo que nos espera y lo que vamos a tardar en hacerlo. El tiempo es dinero. No es lo mismo un texto plano sin más, que tener que controlar aspectos de diseño que van a requerir más tiempo una vez terminada la traducción.

question-mark

ASPECTOS ECONÓMICOS

Hay que ser muy claros con los elementos económicos del proyecto también antes de empezar. Se debe acordar un honorario o tarifa, además del método de pago y el plazo de cobro. En cuanto al honorario, que quede claro si es por texto origen o texto meta. También podemos plantearnos lo siguiente:

  1. ¿Es un trabajo urgente?
  2. ¿Es una traducción jurada o va a requerir un certificado de algún tipo?

En ambos casos hay que cobrar algo más, sobre todo por las horas extras en el caso de los encargos urgentes. Por eso la comunicación es esencial y todo debe quedar atado antes de ponerse a traducir. Hay que explicarle al cliente si va a haber cargos extra para que este dé el visto bueno antes de empezar.

calculation

NUESTRO PAN, NUESTRO HORARIO

Como no somos maquinitas sino personas, no está de más plantearse lo siguiente:

  1. ¿La tarifa es aceptable para nosotros? Tal vez este cliente “imponga” un precio. De ser así, preguntémonos si de verdad es justo para nosotros. Recalco para nosotros, porque aunque hay que ser conscientes de los precios de mercado para no perjudicar al sector y a nosotros mismos, cada uno tiene sus circunstancias. Hay quien considera que 0,05 para un folleto general es poco y no baja nunca de 0,07, pero para otro puede ser una tarifa más que aceptable por el trabajo que va a conllevar.
  2. ¿Podemos cumplir el plazo y aun así tener tiempo para comer, dormir y tener vida social?
  3. ¿Con este encargo podemos conseguir más trabajo de este cliente?

Esto último puede ser importante. Tal vez por necesidades del cliente, este proyecto nos haga trabajar hasta tarde un par o tres de días, pero si a la larga puede darnos más trabajo, encargos regulares, tal vez el sacrificio valga la pena. O no. Quizá pensemos que ceder a ciertos plazos poco realistas puede sentar un precedente peligroso y decidamos explicárselo al cliente (de lo que hablamos cuando hablamos de “educar”) o bien no aceptar el trabajo. Una vez más, debemos ser claros con nosotros mismos para ver si podemos encajar este encargo en nuestra planificación y poder equilibrarlo con lo demás, ya sean otros proyectos o, sobre todo, con nuestra vida.

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OTRAS CONSIDERACIONES

Hay más cosas que debemos tener en cuenta, dependiendo de la carga de trabajo… y el estado de nuestras cuentas.

¿Me interesa el tema de la traducción o me voy a aburrir como una ostra? Aunque nos aburra, tal vez nos interese aceptar el encargo porque vamos descargados de trabajo, porque nos interesa mantener al cliente o porque lo necesitamos económicamente. Pero en ese caso, seamos conscientes de lo que nos va a suponer.

Cuando se puede escoger –y ahora hablo a título personal–, prefiero una novela a unos presupuestos anuales o un manual técnico. Si por lo que sea, necesito el encargo, me armo de valor y me lo tomo con filosofía. Por desgracia no siempre podemos escoger, pero sí es un factor que debemos plantearnos. ¿Acaso no trabajamos más motivados cuando algo nos gusta?

También hay que pensar en quién es el cliente y si está recomendado. Puede que esto no tenga tanto peso a la hora de aceptar el encargo, pero contribuye al nivel de confianza y seguridad al trabajar.

En este tema que nos ocupa hoy, vale la pena también prestar especial atención a estos diez consejos de Tess Whitty:

  1. No aceptes un proyecto que sepas que no vas a poder hacer. No tengas miedo a rechazar algo que sabes objetivamente que no puedes cumplir o que no puedes hacer sin que se resienta la calidad. Si aún quieres aceptarlo, puedes buscar a algún compañero que te lo revise o puedes encontrarle un sustituto al cliente y facilitarle así la gestión. Seguro que te lo agradecerá.
  2. No aceptes trabajos con plazos imposibles. No lo dudes y negocia. A veces con un recargo por urgencia se descubre que la traducción no era tan urgente. Como con todo, la comunicación es clave.
  3. No dudes en preguntar. Seamos sinceros, no lo sabemos todo. Pregunta al cliente cualquier cosa que no tengas clara o pídele textos paralelos o antiguas traducciones (si el cliente es una agencia, por ejemplo). Preguntar no es demostrar ignorancia sino profesionalidad. No dejes las dudas para el final o para el mismo correo de entrega, cuando no haya margen para solventarlas.
  4. No aceptes un trabajo sin haber visto el texto antes. Puede que no siempre sea posible (me ha pasado con alguna novela), pero lo mejor es ver el documento antes de aceptar para calcular mejor el tiempo, para comprobar que es de una temática que controlamos y, en definitiva, para ver si es factible.
  5. No aceptes un trabajo sin saber quién es el cliente. En el caso de clientes directos es más difícil (que no imposible), pero si es una agencia que no conoces, lo mejor es buscar su página web o mirar en algunos foros (BlueBoard de ProZ, algunos grupos de facebook). Y aunque el correo sirve como confirmación de un trabajo de traducción, es aconsejable tener siempre una orden de compra o PO (purchase order) en la que consten las tres P básicas del proyecto: palabras, precio y plazo.
  6. No empieces a trabajar hasta que no hayas acordado un precio. A nadie le gustan las sorpresas en la factura, así que sé muy claro con lo que vas a cobrar, haya extras o no. Y trata de barrer para casa, claro. Para este proyecto tan pequeño, ¿no es mejor aplicar una tarifa mínima? Para esta revisión, ¿por qué no cobras por hora?
  7. Piensa en lo que escribes antes de enviarlo al ciberespacio. Hay muchos foros y páginas ahora en las que un traductor puede desahogarse, pero seamos sensatos. Un mensaje airado en las redes sociales puede terminar en manos del cliente. Piensa bien antes de escribir, deja pasar un rato y verás que, en frío, no es todo tan grave como parecía. Y lo mismo al hablar directamente con los clientes: respiremos y luego escribamos… más tranquilos. Con amabilidad se va a todos lados. En serio.
  8. Véndete bien. No te centres en lo que no sabes o en la poca experiencia que tienes. Céntrate en tus puntos fuertes, en lo que has traducido ya, en lo bueno que puedes aportar. Y eso también se aplica a la tarifa. Cobra lo justo. Un precio bajo también significa menor rentabilidad para ti.
  9. Guarda toda la información y correspondencia. Es importante guardar los correos, contratos y otros documentos de cada cliente, sobre todo para tenerlos de referencia. Para esto va muy bien un disco duro externo que pueda almacenar esa información que no usamos en el día a día.
  10. Lee todas las cláusulas antes de firmar un contrato. Básico para no llevarnos sorpresas luego. A veces son contratos estándar cuyas disposiciones no se aplican, pero, una vez más, en caso de duda, consúltalo con el cliente.

Hasta aquí los consejillos de hoy. ¿Hay algo que consideréis esencial al aceptar un encargo? Estaré encantada de leeros.

Header image source: Pixabay

How to set a budget for your freelance business

This post was originally published on the Thoughts On Translation blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Setting a budget for your freelance business is important, because:

-Many freelancers have no idea how much they need to earn in order to achieve the same level of financial security as someone with a traditional job.
-As a freelancer, you probably need to earn more than you think in order to reach your financial goals.
-You need to know how many billable hours per week you need in order to reach your target income.
-If your rates right now are too low, you need to at least acknowledge that and make a plan to do better in the future (rather than working, working, and working, and then wondering why your bank account empties so fast).

In my online courses, I use a worksheet called “deciding what to charge.” John Milan and I also used this worksheet in our session at the 2018 ATA conference (which got very positive reviews, so hopefully we’ll present it again!). Here, I’ll give you a simplified version of how to do the calculations on that sheet.

Start with: the amount of money you want in your bank account every month, to pay your non-business living expenses such as rent or mortgage, utilities, food, entertainment, and so on. That’s your desired/required net monthly salary.

Next: to that, add every expense that you incur for your business. If the expense is not paid monthly (i.e. professional association dues), divide it into a monthly amount and enter that. Your expenses may include some or all of the following, plus anything else that you pay that is not listed here:

-Taxes: (20-50%, depending on your tax bracket and your country)
-Retirement account contribution
-Paid vacation/sick time allocation (money that you put into a business savings account so that you can pay yourself when you take time off)
-Professional association dues
-Professional development (conferences, webinars, classes, individual coaching, etc.)
-Subscription-based web services (cloud backups, PDF conversion service, LinkedIn Premium, etc.)
-Office rent
-Computer hardware and software (new purchases and/or upgrades)
-Work-related child care (if applicable; and don’t forget in that in the US, you may be able to deduct summer day camp for kids under 13)
-Work-related travel
-Communications (internet, cell phone, Skype minutes, etc.)

Add it all up, and that’s your required or desired monthly gross income. Warning: as discussed above, this will be a big number. Perhaps bigger than you want to admit; but the first step is to get a grand total. If you’re feeling energetic, do this for three income levels: the minimum you can live off, the amount that gives you the similar level of financial security to someone with a traditional job, and something in between.

Next (not done yet!), multiply that number/those numbers by 12, to get your required or desired yearly gross income. Write that down.

Now we’ll convert that to your required hourly rate.

Take 52 weeks, and subtract the number of weeks you think you will not work (vacation, sick time, time off to take care of family members, etc). Divide your yearly gross income as calculated above, by your number of working weeks. That gives you your required income per week. For example if your required/desired gross income is $90,000 and you’re going to work 48 weeks per year, your required income per week is $1,875 per week.

Next, determine how many hours per week you realistically think you can/want to bill. Non-billable time is a big variable. For beginners, non-billable time often involves time that you would like to be working, but you don’t have paying work. For experienced translators, it’s more likely to involve non-billable but necessary tasks such as accounting, marketing, professional development, research, client communications, etc. As a side note, when other freelancers ask me, “How do you find the time to work on marketing or other non-translation tasks?” my answer is “By not having to bill 40 hours a week.”

I’d advise doing this calculation for perhaps 25, 30, and 35 billable hours per week: take your required weekly income (your equivalent of the $1,875 listed above), and divide that by your number of billable hours, to determine your required hourly rate. For example at 25 billable hours per week, our $90,000 translator would need to earn $75 per billable hour to generate $1,875 in a week.

The fun continues because most translators aren’t paid by the hour. If you are, great: you’re done, other than asking whether your existing clients will pay your required hourly rate. If you get paid by the word or the project, then you need to further calculate how fast (or slowly) you translate. For example to generate $75 an hour, you could translate 500 words at 15 cents, or 250 words at 30 cents, or 800 words at 9.3 cents (these are not recommended rates or translation speeds, just examples). Translation speed is a huge factor in your income, and one that a lot of translators overlook: if you are someone who translates 250 words an hour, you need to charge a lot more than someone who translates 600 words an hour.

At the end of all this, you should at least have a better sense of whether the numbers for your freelance business add up the way you want them to; and if you’re not making enough money, why you’re not.

  • Perhaps you have tons of work, but it’s pervasively low-paying.
  • Perhaps your rates are fine, but you need more work.
  • Perhaps you translate very slowly.
  • Either way, these calculations should help you base your pricing decisions on objective data, rather than on fear and vague speculation about “what the market will bear.”

In closing, a huge thank you to Jonathan Hine, who presented the pricing presentation at the ATA conference for many years before passing the baton to me and John, and whose booklet “I Am Worth It!” goes into greater depth on the calculation methods I’ve mentioned here!

Image source: Pixabay

The Benefits of Mentoring

Photo Credit: Pexels

This post was originally published on the Ben Translates blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

This week, I was informed that I have been selected as one of 30 mentees for the 2017-2018 class of the American Translators Association mentoring program. I am delighted to have been chosen for this opportunity and look forward to the chance to learn from an industry veteran.

The ATA Mentoring Program has been around for nearly 20 years and was completely revamped in 2012. Each class starts at the beginning of April and runs through March 31st of the following year. Mentors assist mentees with topics ranging from business practices, rate negotiation, breaking into a certain area of the industry, and much more. They do not tutor mentees or help them to become better translators, often because they do not work in the same language pairs and are instead paired based on goals and personality. Another benefit of the program is that mentees and mentors all participate in a discussion group for sharing questions, best practices, and other advice across the 30 mentor-mentee pairs.

No matter the field, mentoring offers a unique opportunity for shared learning and growth. I have been running a successful translation business for nearly four years and have been working in the industry for six. That said, there is always more to learn and I am absolutely thrilled to be a mentee this year.

There are many benefits of mentoring for both the mentor and the mentee. Here are merely eight of them that apply across industries:

For the mentee:

1. Self-Reflection

It often takes someone asking you to think critically about what you do and why you do it to prompt you to have this conversation with yourself. Having a mentor encourages mentees to reflect on their practice and their goals and to intimate what it is that they want to accomplish.

2. Advice and Encouragement

Are you even doing this right? Could you be doing it better? Mentors can provide great advice about where improvements can be made and provide encouragement for things you already do well.

3. Support and Networking

It never hurts to expand your network. Having a mentor can give you privileged access to influential people in other networks, thereby increasing learning opportunities and support from others in your profession.

4. Professional Development

Experienced mentors can help mentees build better business practices, learn new skills, and become more effective.

For the mentor:

5. Giving Back

Many people were helped out or lifted up by an influential person sometime during their careers. Becoming a mentor means having the opportunity to do the same for someone else.

6. Increased Confidence

By sharing their expertise, mentors can experience increased confidence about their own work. By reminding mentees of what they are doing well, mentors have the same opportunity to reflect on what they do well, too.

7. Two-Way Learning

The cliché about the master learning from the student is true: collaborating with a mentee can teach mentors about new methods or practices that can re-energize their own work.

8. Fresh Perspective

There may not be a better way to gain fresh perspective about what you do than by helping another person through the challenges that you may have once experienced. Chances are that mentees are also experiencing a few things that mentors never dealt with, and working through them together can provide a fresh and meaningful perspective.

I am eager to share my mentoring experience over the coming year with you. For more information on the ATA mentoring program, click here. A free ATA webinar about the mentoring program may also be downloaded here (you will be prompted to save it to your computer).

Have you benefited from the guidance of a mentor? Please share your experience in the comments section.