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.

Top 10 tips for new freelance translators

Reblogged from Translator Thoughts blog, with permission, incl. the image

If you’ve never worked in the translation industry independently before, it can be quite a daunting world to step into. How do I find work? Where do I advertise my skills? What competition am I facing? But do not fret! Help is at hand. Read our top 10 tips for new freelance translators below to get yourself off on the right foot and create the best possible base for your new career as a freelance translator.

  1. Structure Your Days

When I began freelancing, I found it difficult to settle into a “normal” routine. One of the benefits of being self-employed is that you can set your own hours. If you want to work 12 hours every day for 2 weeks so that you can have a couple of extra days off, you can! However, just make sure that you don’t become inefficient. One of the traps I started to fall into was getting up late, sometimes missing out on work and then having to work until the wee hours to complete projects. I would NOT recommend this! Try and be strict with yourself; get up early, have a decent breakfast, exercise, get some strong coffee and then start a productive day. On the other hand, if you are a bit of an over-achiever, make sure you don’t end up working 24/7. You have to allow yourself breaks as well and spend time with your friends and family. Find a healthy balance and you’ll feel all the better for it.

  1. Set Your Rates

One of the most difficult things about starting out as a translator is figuring out what to charge. Try and think about how much you (realistically) want to earn and how many hours you are willing to work per week. This will help you decide what a fair rate to charge your employers could be.

  1. Don’t Undersell Yourself

However, in relation to the above point – do not undersell yourself! Although it is tempting to charge almost nothing at the beginning, most companies will be happy to pay for high-quality work rather than pay peanuts for something that is not up to standard. If you charge a decent rate for your work, you will be more highly respected and as a result, will be more likely to get more work.

  1. Figure Out Your Niche

A great way to get more work as a translator is to have a niche market that you are experienced in. Indeed, the most highly paid translators usually have a degree in another subject such as engineering, medicine or law. However, not all of us have experience in these fields and if, like me, translation and linguistics has been your main field of study, think about what you want to specialise in and work on pursuing that goal. Maybe our previous article about how to choose your specialisation could help.

Keep in mind that to identify your niche you might want to define first who your target clients are.

  1. Study, study, study!

When you’re constantly working and trying to get new clients, it can be easy to forget about what you’re actually offering. Make sure you keep your language skills fresh and up-to-date so that the quality of your translations does not suffer. There are also lots of other blogs (here we listed for you the top blogs in the translation industry) out there specifically designed for freelance translators like us, and these can be a great way to expand your knowledge of the translation industry.

  1. Invest In Your Career

As mentioned above, it can be highly beneficial to specialise in a chosen subject when offering your translation services. Why not invest in some new courses? This will show employers that you are taking your career seriously and want to improve yourself as a translator. Furthermore, a lot of companies want translators to use CAT tools, which make large projects a lot easier and faster to complete. The majority of these are pretty pricey, but when you’re starting off why not try Omega T, which is free. You can then invest in more expensive software when you are more established.

  1. Provide High-Quality Work

When starting out, it can be tempting to take on as many jobs as possible in order to get paid and build up your portfolio. However, it is much more beneficial to take your time in order to provide your best work and please your employers. One thing about the translation industry is that you get back what you put in. So, if you provide a rushed translation that hasn’t been researched properly, you will gain a poor reputation and could even miss out on payment. However, if you provide a high-quality, professional translation, it is highly likely that it will lead to more work and will certainly help you move forward in your career.

  1. Market Yourself

One of the best ways to get work when starting out is pretty simple: get your name out there! Companies can’t hire you if they don’t know you exist after all. Yes, it takes a while and yes, it can be pretty tedious. But spend some time to identify your target clients and contact them. Learn how to use social media to be found by your prospective clients.

It’s essential that you build a blog in order to start building your online presence as a freelance translator (it is so important that we’ve build a free guide for you here). Your clients cannot find you if you’re not out there!

And in the meanwhile, you can also send out letters and CVs to translation agencies until you have some direct clients. Remember, you’re investing in yourself and your career so it is definitely worth putting in the groundwork.

  1. Freelance Websites Are Your Best Friend

So, you’ve sent out hundreds of CVs, studied hard and are ready to work. Sometimes, it will take a while for companies to get back to you so in the meantime why not try out some of the freelance websites that are available. Check out our blog post here to learn about the best ones.

  1. Don’t Expect Overnight Success

For the vast majority of people, full-time translation work does not become a reality for at least a year, and a lot of us actually have to get part-time jobs to pay the bills in order to be able to pursue our dream job on the side. Don’t let this get you down. It takes a while to establish yourself, find the right clients to work with and build up a portfolio of translation work. However, if you’re willing to stick it out and work hard, you will reap the benefits in due course.

 

Focus on: New Translators (Part 1)

Reblogged from Silver Tongue Translations blog, with permission

You know, the title of this blog post is a bit misleading (arrrgh! I’m breaking my own rules!) I’ve aimed it at “new translators”, but really, these tips serve any translators, be they fresh as daisies or been-around-the-blockers, the only requirement is that they want to improve. (This is all of us, right?)

I got asked to mentor two new translators over the summer, and, once I’d finished my bulk order of anti-aging cream, I decided to view it as a positive thing. I also started to think about how I could be of best service. What would my “tips” be? What did I wish I knew at the start of my career? The video at the end of this post, lovely colleagues, is what I came up with.

In a nutshell (as I’m aware that my videos are more coconut shell than pistachio in size), these are my top ten tips (if you can’t be bothered scrolling to the video):

  1. Translate every day

It doesn’t matter if it’s the back of the shampoo bottle you bought on your last trip to your source language country, or whether it’s an extract from an article you loved (I know what I’d go for), translating every day sharpens your translation skills, makes you a better writer and keeps up your source language proficiency (this last one is especially important if you don’t reside in your source language country).

Translating every day has the added benefit of increasing your productivity because, usually, the more you practise, the quicker you get. It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that if you’re working quickly and accurately you’re able to complete more work in a shorter period of time (which leaves you more time for checking, of course!). Whether you pass these savings on to your client is up to you though….

  1. Work out how much you must earn

….then how much you want to earn. Only you know your essential outgoings every month (I’m thinking rent/mortgage, utilities, phone, food….) so only you know how much you’ll need to cover those expenses. Don’t forget to pay yourself a salary! Then have a look at how many days a week/month/year you’re going to be working. Be realistic.

It is simply not feasible to work 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, so don’t pretend that it is.

Use these calculations as a basis for working out how much you need to charge. Don’t forget to take into account the total time for a translation – from initial contact, through to translation and then on to editing and checking. It all counts.

  1. Find your “I’m special because…”

Do you have a hobby that you’ve enjoyed for years? How about a part time job or family business you’ve been a part of?

Don’t discount all past experiences which aren’t obviously related to translation as irrelevant.

You have skills, knowledge, experiences and expertise (we all do, we’re not one-dimensional creatures). It might not be sustainable to only work in an area that relates to your interests and pastimes, but if it can form a part of your business it’ll sure make a 25,000 word document more pleasant to pull an (occasional) all-nighter for.

  1. Get yourself a buddy

Friends are important. We know this. In your professional life, it’s no different. I recommend two courses of action for buddying up with a translator:

  1. Find a colleague (perhaps of similar experience to you) who is willing to check your work.

Another set of eyes is always helpful, and you will feel much happier submitting to your client if you know that it hasn’t just been your coffee-fuelled brain working on the document.

  1. Find a mentor.

By mentor, I mean a more experienced colleague who is willing to share some of their knowledge and experience with you. They don’t have to have the same specialisms as you (although that is enormously helpful), their experience in translation and running a business will more than suffice.

  1. Keep moving

It’s easy to stay at our desk. Eat lunch over the keyboard (gross, but we’ve probably all done it), slurp coffee (and probably spill it) over the aforementioned keyboard and generally only get up from our desks when our bladders are threatening to stage a walkout. Take breaks, get outside for fresh air (and perspective, inspiration and Vitamin D). It’s easy to play the role of martyr and say things like “I’ve been translating for 9 hours straight.” That’s not something to boast about. It’s just unhealthy.

Keeping moving means something else too. Keep your business moving. Every day, make some form of forward motion. Some progress. It could be setting your goals for the year. Doing a bit of marketing. Sending out some pitch emails. It might seem that it’s not getting you anywhere, but it is.

Momentum will make a difference.

  1. Give and receive help

I talk about being helpful a lot. I’m a big believer in it. The translation community is open and responsive. Just last week I was having Trados issues and several colleagues (Sheila, Caroline and David to name but a few) jumped in to help me out. David even ended up testing out my document on his version, re-saving the target file for me to use and then later that evening, converting it back for me, just in case I’d had more technical issues. When I thanked him, he said,

“No problem. You shared something months ago and I am a great believer in “pass it forward”.”

This isn’t encouraging you to help people only to get something in return, it’s to say that we’re an appreciative, helpful bunch. And we don’t forget.

  1. Systems are your friend

It might seem like a lot of hassle to have spreadsheets for everything right from the start. It can feel like Excel is mocking you, with your client list filling up only two lines of the cells on the worksheet of your grandly titled “Clients_Master Database”. Equally, calendar reminders for when to invoice may also seem a little…unnecessary for new translators at the beginning. I faithfully set them up and by the time they pinged to remind me to remind the client to pay I had already done it (it’s not hard to remember when you only have one client…)

But you will get more clients.

And when you do, you will be happy to have a list of invoice references, so you don’t have to faff around finding the last one you sent. There are even systems that do this all for you, and link up to your emails and take away the coffee cups from your desk before they walk away on their own (I made that last bit up.)

  1. Sort the essentials

I hate to break it you, but you have to pay tax. You’ll probably also want to retire at some stage with some form of savings and/or a pension. These are two items on the “essentials” list for everybody, not just translators. The difference when you’re self-employed (or even working in a self-employed capacity on a part-time basis) is that you don’t have someone else, i.e. an employer, to handle it for you. Sort this stuff early.

As in the tip above about systems, I know it feels silly to be putting money away for tax when, at the beginning, you don’t feel you’re earning much, but getting into good habits at the start of your career is so much easier than trying to adopt good habits when you’re a more established translator.

  1. Don’t stop learning

Read widely in your source and target languages. Subscribe to magazines in your niche. Talk to fellow translators. Take advantage of CPD offered by colleagues and institutions. Attend events. You never know when a piece of knowledge or a chance encounter will give rise to an opportunity. Apart from the potential business benefits, don’t forget what we all knew as children….

Learning is fun.

  1. Integrity is everything

It’s tempting at the beginning to try and be all things to all people. Accepting that impossible deadline might curry favour with a PM, but it probably won’t be conducive to producing high quality work. Changing your CV to say you’re an expert on quantum physics is only a good idea if you’d somehow forgotten studying for that PhD back in high school.

Some jobs are worth going the extra mile for, some jobs are worth pushing yourself beyond what you’d previously thought you could achieve. But don’t push yourself too far away from what is possible and practical.

Your reputation is worth much more than a single “impossible” job.

Do you have any tips for new translators? Would you be interested in mentoring a colleague? Let me know in the comments!

Image source: Pixabay

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

This post is the fourth (first post, second post, and third post) in a series of five posts written in response to questions we at The Savvy Newcomer have received, sometimes from people within the translation world, but also from bilingual friends and family who are interested in translation and interpreting (T&I). Our hope is that this series will serve as a guide for people who are considering a career in T&I and want to know where to begin.

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

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

What should I charge?

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

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

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

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

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

How do I make sure I get paid?

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

How do freelance finances work?

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

  1. Invoicing and Expenses

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

  1. Taxes

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

  1. Retirement

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

  1. Insurance

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

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

Image source: Pixabay

9 Useful Questions by New Professional Translators

Training and earning credentials in translation are a massive part of becoming a successful professional translator. But once you’ve finished your training course, then what? In this article, I’ll share nine of the most popular questions that budding professional translators ask me when they complete my Spanish-to-English translation course.

  1. Should I Think about Working In-house?

If you like the idea of being an employee and you’re in a suitable location, this option is worth considering. By working in-house you get solid experience, guaranteed work from the get-go, and ongoing technology training. You learn methods for dealing with clients and managing projects, not to mention how to perform proper quality control.

  1. Do People Actually Make it as Freelance Translators?

Yes. After singing the praises of in-house, I should disclose that I’ve never actually done it. I went into freelancing from TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) in 2009, and am still a freelance translator today. You have to work hard and be self-disciplined. You also have to learn to run a business. So, besides your translation, specialization, and technology skills, you’ll need training on digital marketing, selling, negotiating, customer service, accounting, and time management.

  1. How Do I Choose a Specialization?

Three words: follow the money. If you have a degree or work experience in another subject, then that may be a good place to start. It’s essential to make sure that there’s market demand for your chosen subject. Look for industries where you know the end clients are profitable. That means they’ll have the budget to work with professional translators.

  1. Should I Join a Translation Association?

Yes. As I wrote about in this article on how accredited translators get more work, being a member of a translation association, like the ATA, is a great way of showing your dedication to the profession. It’ll also help you network with other translators, which can result in new projects.

  1. How Do You Get Your First Clients?

Start by making a great CV and building strong online profiles on ProZ.com, LinkedIn, and your translation association. Most freelance translators begin by looking for work with translation agencies. It’s best to go after a client who has a job in hand. So, if they’re putting out ads on translation sites like ProZ.com, or advertising on LinkedIn, you know they need somebody right now.

If you can’t find any immediate opportunities, send out your CV while you keep looking. You must have a good cover letter, realistic prices, and a CV that contains the information the agency needs. For guidance on this, read How Do Translators Showcase Their Talent to Translation Agencies?, which was reblogged on The Savvy Newcomer.

  1. How Much Should I Charge?

Translation agencies will have price brackets they accept for each language combination. They pay at the lower end of the bracket for less-experienced translators and non-specialists, and at the higher end for specialists with more experience. You can get pricing guidance by asking a sample of agencies you would consider working with what they pay freelancers in your combination. You could also try asking a sample of professional translators working in your combination.

Remember that when you set your rates you need to consider all your business costs and the time you spend working. That way you can make sure you offer prices that are competitive and sustainable.

  1. How Do I Learn How to Quote and Invoice?

If you’re talking to good translation agencies, they won’t mind guiding you. Before you quote, read the agency’s terms and conditions, to make sure you’re happy to work under them.

The project manager will normally agree prices with you by email. Mention whether your price includes sales tax, and any other details you want to state, e.g. USD X.XX per source word + sales tax.

There will be official requirements in your country of residence on what an invoice has to contain. You could consult the tax authorities, or visit freelancer forums to find out the requirements. The agency will probably check your invoice to make sure it’s legal for tax purposes, and ask you to make amendments if necessary.

  1. Can I Start Sending Out My CV Without a Translation Qualification?

If you’ve not yet completed your translation qualification exam or program, you can still start marketing yourself. Include your translation studies on your CV and say the results are pending. That’ll give you an excuse to follow up with the potential client a few months later when the results come out, hopefully with good news. I help translators prepare for the UK’s IoLET DipTrans exam, which has three papers. Sometimes candidates fail to get the qualification, but get a letter of credit. Include anything like that on your CV, as it will differentiate you from unqualified translators.

  1. Do I Need to Buy a CAT Tool and Learn About Machine Translation?

CAT (computer-assisted translation) tools are the norm in the industry and serious professional translators own at least one. You may like to read this CAT tool digest published on The Savvy Newcomer for more details.

Machine translation is growing and is set to get bigger. So, it’s definitely worth learning about it. My guest post 10 Things Translators Need to Know About Machine Translation on ProZ.com is a good place to start.

All this may feel overwhelming when you’re starting out. But if you break it down into a to-do list and work through your priorities, you’ll be surprised how quickly you get a handle on it all. None of these issues are worth worrying about. Enjoy the challenges of climbing the learning curve.

Image source: Unsplash

Author bio

Gwenydd Jones is a freelance Spanish-to-English translator and translator trainer. She has two MAs, the first in translation studies and the second in legal translation, and the IoLET DipTrans. A freelance translator since 2009, Gwenydd specializes in legal, business, and marketing translation. She is also a copywriter. You can read her blog and discover her Advanced Spanish-to-English Translation Course, which includes DipTrans exam preparation, at translatorstudio.co.uk. Twitter: @Gwenydd_Jones.