How is the T&I industry laid out?

This post is the first 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.

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How is the T&I industry laid out?

As a preface, I can think of numerous times since I began working as a translator that friends and family have come to me with questions about my work. Do I actually have a job? Do people pay me to do it? Who do I work for? The questions are not always this blatant, but I can often sense the underlying question of how the translation and interpreting industry really works, and whether it is a viable career for someone who knows a second language. In short, the answer is yes!

The question of how our industry is laid out is usually one that people do not ask straight-out, but it is the first topic I address in my response. It is crucial to have this foundational knowledge before you consider becoming a translator or an interpreter so you can decide if you—your lifestyle, your skills, your background—will make a good fit for the industry, and vice versa.

Translation vs. interpreting

The first distinction to make is the difference between translation and interpreting. Check out the infographic below to get an idea (credit: lucomics.com). Translation is written; when you translate, you receive a document in one language and translate it into another language—usually on a computer, but sometimes by hand. Interpreting is spoken; interpreters work in person, by phone, or by video, interpreting words spoken in real time by conveying the same message out loud in a second language so that another person or other people can understand what was said.

Translation and interpreting require very different skills; translators are strong writers with a good grasp of writing conventions in their target language. They need to be able to properly understand the source language to create a suitable translation. Interpreters, on the other hand, should have a strong command of speaking skills in both languages and must be able to produce coherent and accurate renditions of what is being said as it is said.

What is a language pair?

The combination of languages in which a translator or interpreter provides services is called their “language pair.” Translators usually work from one language into another; for example, I work from Spanish into English (Spanish>English), which means that my clients send me documents in Spanish and I deliver translated documents in English. It is a good rule of thumb to remember that translators usually work into their native language. This is because most of us are naturally better writers in our native tongue, so we work from our second language into our first. Interpreters, alternatively, may work with both languages at the same level; for example, if an interpreter is hired to help a doctor communicate with her patient, the interpreter will need to speak both languages so both parties are understood. In this case, we would say that the interpreter’s language pair is Spanish-English, since he is not working into one language or the other. As a side note, some interpreters offer their services at conferences where the speaker or presenter speaks in one language and some or all attendees need to hear the presentation in their own language (this is called conference interpreting). If, for example, a group of marine biologists from Mexico attends a conference in Miami, their interpreter would be working from Spanish>English, and would most likely provide the interpretation simultaneously through a headset while the speaker is speaking.

Who do you work for?

This is one of the questions I hear most often. A high percentage of translators and interpreters are freelancers, which means we work for ourselves! Our clients may be translation agencies or direct clients from other companies that require our services. Most T&I professionals work for clients all across the world, which makes for an interesting workday! Some full-time employment opportunities exist for translators and interpreters, but much of the industry is built on an independent contractor model. There are pros and cons to working for yourself:

Pros Cons
Flexible schedule Unstable income
The more you work, the more you earn Loneliness
Work varies and can be very interesting No employer benefits

What does it take?

To become a skilled and successful translator or interpreter, it is important to be self-motivated! Especially if you are going to become a freelancer, you want to be sure that you have the fortitude to set your own schedule, manage your time, and keep growing your business. It is also essential to have strong language skills in two or more languages. It is important to recognize that being bilingual does not automatically make someone a translator or interpreter! Knowing two languages is crucial, but it is important to have training or experience that teaches you the ins and outs of translating or interpreting: the pitfalls you may encounter, best practices, and the code of ethics by which you must live and work. Bilingual individuals who are not cut out to be translators or interpreters and want to use their bilingual skills in other capacities can find great career opportunities as language teachers, bilingual medical or legal providers, language project managers, and so forth. In fact, bilingual individuals can play a key role in just about any profession imaginable.

We hope this helps to answer some of the initial questions you may have about translation and interpreting! Stay tuned for the next installment: “Starting from Scratch.”

Header image: Pixabay

Why Pairing up Is a Good Idea, Especially for Freelance Translators!

“I’m a freelancer, so other freelancers are my competitors. Especially in my language pair. I should avoid them at all cost!”

As a small business owner (because that’s what you are as a freelancer!), it’s very easy to fall into this trap. It does make sense, doesn’t it? Professionals who offer exactly the same services as you are direct competitors who could steal your clients and ruin your livelihood. You need to be better, cheaper or faster than them so that you can beat them.

Well, think again. If there’s one thing we can glean from the history of mankind, it’s that human effort yields the best results when driven by collaboration. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day—nor was it built by one guy with a hammer and some nails. Where would giants like Apple and Google be if those tech-savvy programmers would have isolated themselves back in the day? They’d probably still be coding line after line in a basement or garage, eager to figure it all out by themselves.

I believe not isolated diligence, but open collaboration is the key to long-lasting success. This very much applies to translation too, though it does require that translators adopt a less paranoid and more collaborative attitude. Even if you don’t actually like other translators, the benefits of working together are such that it makes little sense to stick your head in the sand.

Before we continue, I have a confession to make. I’m a freelance translator and so is my partner, Lineke. We’ve been running our translation business together for three years now and we’ve been swamped with work right off the bat. Since we’re partners in real life, we live in the same house. That makes collaborating extremely easy—if I have a question for Lineke, I can simply walk up to her office and ask her straight away. I don’t need to send an email or call her.

Still, I’ve taken part in other forms of freelance collaboration and the results have always been fantastic. I’m happy, whoever I collaborate with is happy and, most importantly, the client is happy. The best business is blissful business.

Now, let’s move on to why freelancing should not be a permanent solo effort.

It Takes Two to Tango, Right? Well, It Takes Two to Translate as Well

Everyone in the translation business knows that a proper translation requires not one, but at the very least two pairs of eyes. The translation needs to be edited, and usually there’s a round of QA to mop up any blemishes that passed through the translation and editing phase unscathed.

If you pair up with another freelancer and become a translator/editor duo, you’ll be in a position to produce very high quality without having to rely on anyone else. In fact, once you pinpoint each other’s strengths and weaknesses, you’ll know exactly what to look out for, meaning you’ll spend less time on perfecting the copy than you would when you’d edit a translation done by God-knows-who. That’s not only good for your client, but for your hourly income as well, as your productivity grows while the collaboration lasts.

Two Translators Have Higher Capacity Than a Lone Wolf

Let’s assume business has picked up lately and you’re finding yourself with plenty of work on your plate. Suddenly, a very enticing offer comes in: a big, fat, juicy job for which you’ll be able to charge a hefty rush fee. Alas, you have to decline the offer since your one-man company is running at full speed. No can do.

Guess what? If you have a fellow translator to fall back on, you’ll still be able to take on that job, including that chunky rush fee. You can simply switch around your standard roles and have the editor translate the copy, with you taking care of the editing once the storm in your inbox has calmed. You’ll avert disaster, make more money and you’ll have a happy customer. It’s a win-win!

Before you worry about margins and rates: since you know each other well and function like a well-oiled machine, you can be completely transparent about the financial side of things. This is what Lineke and I like to do. We sometimes choose to work with a fellow translator because we’re both fully booked and we’ll always tell them: this and that is the maximum rate I can afford—is this acceptable for you? No need for awkward negotiating and hard-core haggling, since we’re not looking to make a big profit on the professionals who help us serve our customers well. In fact, we’re looking to enrich them as much as we can! It’s a whole different kind of dynamic—one that is in favor of the translator.

A One-Trick Pony Is Nice, but a Multi-Trick Horse Is Definitely Better

So, you’re very good at translating marketing, for instance, but your client needs help with the terms and conditions for their promotion. What will you do now? Decline, and risk sending the client into the arms of some random business they found on the internet, or accept, knowing you’ll have to struggle all night through unbridled legalese? Neither option sounds all that great, do they?

This scenario actually happened to us. Lineke and I both aren’t very keen on legal copy, but luckily, one of our fellow translators happens to excel at it. We sent the copy his way, edit it ourselves and poof—we managed to expand our business portfolio without inflicting frustration on ourselves. Not bad, right?

Having a broader range of services than what you can offer all by yourself makes you a more well-rounded business partner. Good clients hardly ever need one single service. They might require translation one day, and copywriting or DTP the next. For instance, we have clients who sometimes need Flemish versions of our Dutch copy. We don’t tell them “Well, good luck with that, because we cannot do that”. No—we have a contact for Flemish who is happy to edit our copy so that our work sounds good in Flemish, too. This saves our client quite a headache!

That’s the first three major benefits of collaboration for translators. There’s more to it though: the second part is coming soon.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your views on translation collaboration. Is it a feasible option for you? Or perhaps you already have your own unique form of collaboration in place to tell of? I’m eager to hear your thoughts and experiences!

Image credit: pixabay

Author bio

A native speaker of Dutch, Branco van der Werf runs his two-man translation company with his partner, Lineke van Straalen. His language pairs are English-Dutch and German-Dutch. He graduated from the School for Translation and Interpreting in the Netherlands in 2014 and has since specialized in marketing translation, transcreation and copywriting. His creative translations regularly appear in TV commercials, brand assets and digital spaces. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

When translation clients ask for favors

Here’s a situation we’ve all probably encountered: clients asking for favors. “Any chance you could quickly translate 25 words?” “Do you have time to look over a couple of sentences in a source document in your language?” “You’re so great with this piece of software; any chance you could take a quick look at a problem we’re having?”

A client favor can be one of two things:
-An opportunity to solidify the relationship with a client you love
-A source of resentment when the favor spirals out of control, or the client abuses your generosity

Let’s take a look at how to handle client-requested favors.

Tip 1: If the client is a valued one, and pays well and on time, just do the favor. Don’t charge for it, and don’t make a big deal about not charging for it. Just say, “This only took a few minutes; no need to invoice for it.” It’s like giving your boss a ride home when their car is in the shop; it’s an investment in the relationship and in workplace harmony. This is the tactic I take with most of my direct clients. I even offer them free favors, in the sense that if a project is truly tiny—something that takes half an hour or less—I don’t charge for it at all. Personally I would rather charge a higher rate overall than nickel-and-dime the client over 15 minutes of work. Sometimes I will note the item on an invoice, and put “Courtesy” instead of listing a charge (i.e. “Mailing hard copies of documents: courtesy”), but that’s as big a deal as I make out of it.

Tip 2: It’s also fine to charge for everything. You’re in this business to make a living. Do not ever (ever) feel guilty about charging a client for your time. After all, they’re probably not calling in favor jobs from their attorney, or asking their plumber to come unclog a drain without charging. Charging for everything also makes it clear what is billable and what is not, because everything the client sends you is billable. The key is to remain cheerful and polite while making it clear that you’re going to charge for the quick look at their TM bug. “I’d be happy to take a look; if it’s something I can figure out, I’ll just invoice you at my regular hourly rate after it’s done. Let me know if you’d like me to go ahead with it.”

Tip 3: Keep ethics and optics in mind. At least several times a year, direct clients ask me to work on projects that are peripherally related to their jobs. “Could you edit the blog post I wrote in English about this workshop I attended?” “I’d like to create business cards in English, could you help me?” and things like that. Often, they’ll hint—or just come out and say—that they’d like a discount on my regular rates. I’d usually be happy to do these jobs for free, but some clients are prohibited from accepting those kinds of favors from outside contractors.

If that happens, you need to respect the client’s situation, but it’s also not ideal to show the client that you’re willing to work at a great discount. When that happens, my solution is to propose a lump sum that is a lot lower than my regular rate, without explicitly saying, “I’ll do it for half of my regular rate.” This is a subtle distinction, but I think that the optics matter; rather than explicitly offering a 50% discount, you’re proposing an “honorarium” that the client can accept without crossing any ethics lines.

Tip 4: Beware of habitual favor-askers. Favors are a great way to cement a relationship with a valued client. But they can become a major pain if the same client asks over and over again for a half hour of free work here and there. Additionally, if the client is an agency, they are most likely charging the end client for the work that you’re doing for free. So, if a client (direct client or agency) crosses the line into abusing your generosity, proceed to Tip 2. The next time they ask, politely but clearly respond that you’d be happy to do this task, at your regular rate. Leave the emotions out of it. Don’t point out that you’ve done three small jobs for free during the past month. Just make it clear that from now on, favors are billable.

Header image credit: Picjumbo

Author bio

Corinne McKay, CT, is an ATA-certified French to English translator and the current ATA President-elect. She specializes in international development, corporate communications, and non-fiction book translation. She is also passionate about helping beginning and established translators launch, run, and grow successful freelance businesses. Her book, How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, has become a go-to reference for the industry with over 10,000 copies in print, and her blog, Thoughts on Translation, has been a lively gathering place for freelance translators since 2008. You can keep in touch with Corinne on Twitter @corinnemckay, or on LinkedIn.

Goldmines for Professional Growth at FIL in Guadalajara

Congreso San Jerónimo, Feria Internacional del Libro
Dates: November 26 to 29, 2016
Place: Guadalajara, Mexico

Feria Internacional del LibroThe Congreso San Jerónimo is a translation and interpreting conference organized annually by the translators association in Mexico, the Organización Mexicana de Traductores (OMT). The conference is hosted by the Guadalajara International Book Fair, or Feria Internacional del Libro (FIL). The book fair offered the OMT some amazing support for this conference in the form of:

  • Lodging for the speakers, including an extra night to allow for more time at the book fair
  • Free conference space for 250 people

And what do they ask in exchange for all of this? That translators sign contracts with publishing houses! We asked the ATA representative at the Rights Center, Lois Feuerle, for a report, and this is what she had to say:

For the fifth consecutive year, the ATA has had a presence in the Rights Center at the Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara. Better known locally as “FIL,” it is the second largest book fair in the world and the largest in in the Spanish-speaking world. Almost two dozen ATA members from Mexico, Canada, the US and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico explained the ins and outs of choosing the appropriate translator for specific projects and demonstrated how to find them in the ATA Translation Services Directory.

Michelle Aynesworth signing dealAs soon as I landed, a driver sent by the OMT was there to meet me. I dropped my luggage at the hotel and walked to the FIL, about 15 minutes away. It was not hard to spot the activity once I got there. There were people selling book lamps for reading in bed three blocks away! Young people were walking there with empty backpacks, hoping to bring them back full. Just the right kind of way to get to a book fair. This was exciting for Helen the Bookworm.

I checked in at the fair and felt right at home. Books were everywhere! I had wanted to go for years, just for the books. I translate because I love words and text, and these come in… books! Some of the best resources were right there all under one roof, only a couple of blocks’ walk away! I spent about $500, of course. When I returned from a break with a new load in my bag, I was met with, “What did you find this time?” My colleagues were interested in discussing the value of different books in helping us become better professionals. Here is the list of what I bought.

To get to the conference, you had to walk through the fair. At the first session, I met colleagues I had seen in other places, and got my bearings for the first session I would speak in: The Role of Translation Blogs. Sharing the podium with Paula Arturo, Lisa Carter, and Tony Rosado, with Mercedes Guhl as moderator, was fun. We became friends and did not want to stop. Of course, we talked about Savvy! The idea that blogs offer a lot of flexibility in terms of what you can share came up several times. Individuals can speak their minds, and institutional or team blogs like Savvy have a lot of support for their work. Thank you, ATA!

I gave a couple of other presentations as well (both in Spanish): one on the importance of reading a text carefully before translating it and the other on negotiating contracts. The conference attendees were dedicated language professionals with an excellent mix of experience and perspectives, including students, professors and experienced translators. The conversations I had in the hallways, at lunch, and at every break were very engaging.

What was the best part? Listening to some of the other presentations. At this conference, which takes place in Mexico, it is assumed that Spanish language issues are well known. That meant we got to focus on translation issues. There were presentations about:

  • Medical translation (Dr. Fernando Navarro was there!)
  • Good writing
  • Audiovisual translation
  • Legal translation and interpreting
  • HTML
  • Content security
  • Literary translation
  • Projects of social inclusion involving translation and interpreting using Mexican sign language
  • The use of tools (with a focus on dictation software this year)
  • A literary translation forum on Sunday afternoon, for the public at large
  • How to translate culturally difficult concepts

Marta Stelmaszak, Feria Internacional del LibroThe closing session by Marta Stelmaszak gave us an excellent to-do list on how to move the profession forward. Here is her list for translators in the 21st century, based on my notes:

  • Translation is becoming commodified, and we are being asked to lower our rates. So… we must focus on providing a specialty service, not a commodity.
  • The field is being deprofessionalized. People with lower and lower qualifications are being hired to do parts of many jobs—even jobs doctors used to do. So… we must focus on our qualifications and codes of conduct, join professional bodies, and make sure we participate in professional development! We have to be able to explain the value of what we do.
  • Crowdsourcing is becoming common in many fields, even when it comes to counting birds. So… we must point out that crowdsourcing breeds lack of trust and responsibility. When they know who is in charge, they know who to hold responsible!
  • Technological change is unavoidable. In the legal field, paralegals are losing their jobs to technology. So… we must outline what machines cannot do and highlight the added value we provide!
  • A sharing economy means selling the surplus of what you have. So… we can create teams and trade with colleagues. We can trade an hour of translation for an hour of editing.

You can read some more of Marta’s thoughts on this subject here.

Next time, hopefully in 2017, I will go prepared for something different as well: I will research the publishers beforehand and make appointments with them so I can come back with a contract or two. There should be enough publishers in the hall for all attendees to score a few contracts each! That trip would pay for itself.

Capacity management tips for freelance translators

By Oleg Semerikov (@TranslatFamily)
Reblogged from 
LinkedIn with permission from the author (incl. the image)

Capacity management tips for freelance translatorsSo your translation business is going well. You’ve got a reliable set of customers who you like and work well with, and projects are coming in on a regular basis. You’re living the freelancer’s dream of steady self-employment. And then one morning, you look at your to-do list and do a double take. You have to do how much work today?

Finding yourself over capacity is something that happens to every freelancer occasionally. It’s a bit of a mixed blessing, to say the least. On the one hand, you know you have work – and therefore money – coming in. But on the other, it can be difficult to look on the bright side when you’re forced to keep working late into the night, fretting about missing deadlines or making mistakes because you’re in a rush. So, in hopes of helping you deal with the problem next time it comes up, we’re here to offer a few handy tips on how to manage your capacity and maybe even de-stress a little.

Although our very first tip is to clear your current workload before settling down to read this article, we hope those of you with a few minutes to spare will read on and enjoy!

Don’t panic!

Yes, we know that’s the last thing a panicking person actually wants to hear. Yes, we know that on-time delivery is a key part of quality customer service – but it’s going to be OK. Trust us. You’re a professional, which means you have the expertise and the skills needed to handle this problem. And even if you do overshoot the deadline slightly, it’s not the end of the world – and we’ll discuss how to handle that situation later in this article.

At the moment when you realise you’ve taken on too much work, it can seem like a disaster, but there’s no sense wasting time by beating yourself up over it. The best thing you can do is make yourself a hot drink, sit down and put those translating skills to work.

Don’t compromise on quality

If the deadline crunch is looming and it’s looking like you can’t get everything done in time, it can be very tempting to rush through a translation, sacrificing quality to get it done quickly. That’s almost never the correct decision. After all, a translation’s life cycle doesn’t end when you deliver it; it still has to be usable by the customer.

A better solution would be to keep the customer in the loop. Apologise, notify them of the delay, and give them a revised estimate of when the document will be ready – and do this as soon as you can, so that they can make a decision about how to handle the situation on their end.

Ideally, of course, you don’t want to let it get to that stage at all. So what can you do to avoid missing deadlines in the first place?

Know your capacity

Observe your own working processes over a period of days and weeks, and keep track of how quickly you’re able to turn a translation around. Measure your results in terms of words per hour or day. Chances are, you’ll start to see a pattern emerging which will allow you to determine how quickly you actually work. Needless to say, this is a much better approach than just guessing, or assuming that a customer’s suggested deadline is feasible without checking it for yourself. Measuring your actual output rate will make it easier for you to provide quotes and estimate how long a given translation will take to complete, which will come in very handy when negotiating rates and deadlines.

Keep an organised calendar

Make a list of everything you’re working on. Write down every job you’ve been given, when it was assigned to you, when it’s due, and how large it is. Then, based on your translation-speed calculations, allocate a block of time in your calendar for working on it. This could be a paper calendar hanging on the wall, but a digital one is even better for updating details, moving projects around, and finding items with a simple search. These days, there are plenty of software products that can help with this. Most modern email software includes calendar functionality, including the reliable old standby Microsoft Outlook, or alternatively you could use a free cloud-based solution like Google Calendar.

However you choose to organise your work, keeping it all together in one place will help you plan ahead and understand how much spare capacity you have for other jobs that come in.

Don’t be afraid to say no

If too much work does come in and you simply don’t have the time to handle it all, don’t be afraid to turn the occasional job down. Most agencies would rather that you be honest with them and tell them when you don’t have time to handle a specific project, instead of accepting it now and having to delay delivery later. Think of it the same way as you would if you were offered a job you couldn’t take because it was outside your field of specialisation: saying no is sometimes a sign of professionalism, and worthy of respect. Besides, if they really want you, specifically, to take the job, then they may be able to offer you an extended deadline. It never hurts to ask!

In the end, it all boils down to a simple rule: think ahead. If you’re aware of your responsibilities and able to plan your work beyond your next few hours and days, you shouldn’t have to deal with these kinds of problems very often – if ever. But tips like these may help even if you’re already the fastest, most organised translator on Planet Earth. After all, one of the great benefits of being a freelancer is your flexibility: if you feel like earning a little extra money, you can always put in a few extra hours here and there. Planning your work ahead of time lets you manage those extra hours, as well, keeping stress levels down and productivity up. And your customers receive the translations they need, exactly when they need them – so everybody wins!

Author bio

Oleg SemerikovOleg Semerikov started as an English to Russian freelance translator ten years ago. Nowadays, he runs his own company, Translators Family, a boutique translation agency specialising in Russian, Ukrainian and Polish, with expertise in English, German, and other European languages. Many long-term customers of Oleg as a freelancer became the permanent customers of his agency. Translators Family on social media: FacebookTwitterGoogle+ 

Beat the January doldrums starting now

Beat the January doldrums starting nowThe holiday season is an interesting time in the freelance business cycle. For many freelancers, some much-wanted/needed time off turns into an unwelcome amount of down time when work is slow in January. Following are some tips on how to beat the January doldrums in your freelance business, starting now:

Tip 1: Work over the holidays if you need or want to. Many established freelancers may look forward to a holiday lull. And if you work with clients in Europe, they may all but shut down until about January 9, the first Monday after New Year’s. But especially if you’re just starting your freelance business (or if you need to bring in some more income before the end of the year), consider working over the holidays. This is an especially good time to land new clients, when all of a translation agency’s go-to translators are out of the office and they have no choice but to branch out.

Tip 2: Assign yourself some work for January. What do most freelancers do when work is slow? Panic. Assume that no client will ever call them again. What’s a better option? “Assign yourself” to those non-paying projects that (if you’re like me…) remain eternally on the back burner because they’re not due tomorrow. Demo some accounting software. Upgrade your website. Take an online course. Start researching a new specialization. Write an e-book. Pre-load your blog with 10 posts. The key here is to plan ahead, so that the “assignments” are in place when you sit down at your desk in the new year, and before panic mode sets in.

Tip 3: Do a marketing push ahead of your slow periods. The time to get on a client’s radar screen is before they need you. For next year, schedule a marketing push in early December, before your clients wind down for the holidays. For now, prepare a marketing push for the next big work slowdown (such as July and August, when a lot of clients and translators go on vacation). For example, write a warm e-mail that you can send to prospective clients; resolve to send at least three e-mails a day, starting two to three weeks before you expect your work volume to drop off. Check in with all of your current clients (anything in the pipeline that you might help with?) and prospect for some new clients.

Tip 4: Evaluate your business expenses. Many freelance translators spend *too little* on their businesses, in a way that can lead to stagnation. But it’s also important to look at what you’re currently spending, and where you could reallocate some money. This is especially critical if you tend to sign up for services that require a monthly fee, but then you don’t end up using as much as you anticipated. It’s also critical if you pay for big-ticket expenses such as health insurance or office rent. Otherwise, think about what expenses might make you happier and more productive in your work (an accountant? a better desk?) and allocate some money for those.

Along those same lines, the end of the year is a good time to rack up tax-deductible business expenses. For example, make sure to renew your ATA membership and any other professional association memberships before December 31, so that you can claim the business expense for this year. If you need office equipment or a new computer, Black Friday and after-Christmas sales are a great time to shop for deals. Software companies may even run end-of-the-year specials. In future years, you may even want to earmark some money to spend in December.

Tip 5: Plan a “think swap” activity with other freelancers. January is a great time for types of activities that seem like a good idea, but for which you never have time. Invite three or four (or more) other freelancers, block out a couple of hours, and pick a topic. Maybe you invite other people in your language pair and everyone translates the same passage before you meet, then you go over your translations together. Maybe you invite freelancers of various flavors and trade marketing ideas. Go over each other’s resumes or LinkedIn profiles. Practice interpreting using YouTube videos. The possibilities are pretty much endless, and in January you may actually have the time for some of them!

Thanks for reading, and happy translating!

Header image credit: MTT

Author bio

Corinne McKayCorinne McKay, CT, is an ATA-certified French to English translator and the current ATA President-elect. She specializes in international development, corporate communications, and non-fiction book translation. She is also passionate about helping beginning and established translators launch, run, and grow successful freelance businesses. Her book, How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, has become a go-to reference for the industry with over 10,000 copies in print, and her blog, Thoughts on Translation, has been a lively gathering place for freelance translators since 2008. You can keep in touch with Corinne on Twitter @corinnemckay, or on LinkedIn.

5 lessons from SLAM! on promoting professionalism in the translation industry

5 lessons from SLAM! on promoting professionalism in the translation industryHow do you differentiate yourself and earn a living as a freelance translator or interpreter? Arm yourself with huge doses of entrepreneurship, pride and courage. Keep on reading to get more tips and be ready to rock!

About SLAM!
The Scandinavian Language Associations’ meeting (SLAM!) was held on the 24th of September in Malmö. The theme of the event was promoting professionalism in a changing market.

Some of the speakers were experienced personalities in the translation world such as Chris Durban and Ros Schwartz. I was there to learn, network and enjoy the sense of community that I get among other language professionals. I kept hearing some recurring topics that I am sharing with you here. I hope you find them useful as pieces of advice and enjoy applying them.

  • Find your niche.

Everyone talked about specialization. When I first heard this before the event, I did not understand the importance of it. Since the conference, I have attended two conferences and several courses in my specialization. I have literature on the subject at hand and I feel much better prepared to translate within digital marketing. I simply love the field. I now agree that it gives you more in-depth knowledge and skills. You build a clearer profile that makes it easier for clients to decide if you are the right fit for their project.

  • No price competition.

As opposed to what some might think, we are not at all competing on price but on quality and the added value we provide. Quoting cheaper prices is not a solution but educating our clients can eliminate some price sensitivity. Concentrate on rendering quality services that offer solutions to your clients’ dilemmas. Find ways to add value and enhance your delivery with extra suggestions and service. It will pay off; your clients will understand the advantages of working with a language consultant that knows what he or she is doing and they will keep coming back.

  • Have goals.

Write down your goals on paper for a daily reminder of what you want to achieve. Make them specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. They will help you keep on track when the spirit fails. Having them clear in your mind will put you closer to achieving them.

  • Believe in yourself.

Know what you can do and believe in your value and that of your company. With language skills, specialized knowledge, a focus on value for clients and specific goals, you are all set, right? Well, do not forget to be confident in all those things. As a sole proprietor you need the mindset for success and to concentrate on positive things to remain optimistic and proud of what you do. This will in turn help you present your business in a better way. Train building your confidence, practice your elevator pitch and be your best boss. Strive at all times to deliver quality; the best value you can give, and that will make your customer want to come back.

  • Get out of the house.

Challenge the idea that translators are shy creatures hiding behind their screens. Network and meet new clients. You need to be out there so that your prospective clients find you and know you can help them. Attend conferences and trade fairs so that you can stay up to date on topics you specialize in and meet potential clients in need of your services. Become a member of local chambers of commerce where you can expand your network and find recommendations, projects and people to collaborate with in some form. Be a member of an association that supports your work as a translator.

Keep reading, keep listening, keep learning, keep applying, and good luck! Have you got any comments or useful pieces of advice on these subjects? Please share.

Author bio

Noelia GarasievichNoelia Garasievich is an English/Swedish to Spanish translator and content writer specialized in digital marketing and transcreation. She is a member of the Swedish Association of Professional Translators (SFÖ). She has written pedagogical books in Sweden where she has lived for the past 15 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in conference interpretation and translation and a European Master in Conference Interpreting. Connect with her on Twitter @NoeliaLG1 or visit her website.

Always leave the door open for future opportunities

Always leave the door open for future opportunitiesLearning to say no is widely covered in our profession. It is a skill many of us have to work on. It took me a long time to identify my limits and realize that yes can be a huge and attractive trap. There is another aspect of our profession that does not receive as much attention: learning to hear no and respond properly.

Not too long ago I was contacted by a law firm. They seemed to be in a big hurry to replace their previous translator. They invited me to come to their offices for a meeting and I promptly agreed. Error #1.

I should have investigated them before responding to their email. The email identified the type of law the firm was involved in, but did not give me any idea of their size or type of cases they took on (personal, business, both). It would also have been a good idea to tell them my rates beforehand to make sure my services fit within their budget. Error #2.

The interview was conducted in a hallway (bad sign). I was informed that the attorney herself performed the translations into Portuguese (well, her accent was not that of a Portuguese speaker, which already concerned me), and the attorney’s focus was on cost. All she cared about was the fact that her former translators had raised their fees.

Upon seeing the dollar signs swirling around my head, I informed her of my rates. Guess what her response was? She abruptly thanked me, turned around and left the hallway. I was left there dumbfounded staring at her back. After a day of thinking how to properly respond, I sent her office a note that read more or less like this:

Dear Former Prospective Client,

Thank you for making yourself available to speak with me at your offices on [DATE]. I truly wished we had had more time to speak so we could both fully understand what was at stake.

My career in translation and interpreting spans 36 years and I have clients in various countries and industry segments. The reason my clients choose to work with me are quality and reliability. The dollar signs attached to a translation project are to be analyzed against the best interest of the client, always.

In order to project a more polished image and produce a fully culturally and linguistically correct product, language access through translation and interpreting has to be considered beyond dollar signs.

I understand that my rates do not fit your budget but I can offer you guidance on where to look for qualified professionals. The best places to find qualified translators are the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (http://www.najit.org) and the American Translators Association (http://www.atanet.org). These two professional associations offer directory users the opportunity to search by language pair, certifications and location among other options. Their members are bound by codes of ethics pertaining to confidentiality, quality, professionalism, which I believe, would suit your organization.

The ideas behind the note were:

  1. Bring back a level of civility to our exchange
  2. Keep the door open for future projects
  3. Share information that may assist them in the future
  4. Help them realize that their need is shared by many and
  5. There are professionals trained to assist them

As you may have guessed, I have not heard back from them. However, should they choose to do so, rather than the bad impression left by the meeting, we will have the email as a starting point for our renewed relationship.

Lessons learned:

  1. Always follow your procedures for qualifying a client
  2. Rushing things lends itself to bad experiences (not always, but enough times)
  3. An emergency on the client’s part does not constitute an emergency on my end
  4. Keep calm and read the signs!

Image credit: freely

Author bio
Giovanna LesterBrazilian-born Giovanna “Gio” Lester has worked in the translation and interpreting fields since 1980. Gio is very active in her profession and in the associations she is affiliated with: ATANAJITIAPTI, and the new ATA Florida Chapter, ATIF, which she co-founded in 2009, serving as its first elected president (2011-2012).
As an international conference interpreter, Gio has been the voice of government heads and officials, scientists, researchers, doctors, hairdressers, teachers, engineers, investors and more. She loves to teach and share her experience. Connect with her on Twitter @giostake and contact her at gio@giolester.com.

Ensuring Payment – Before, During and After the Project

Session IC-3 at the 2016 ATA Conference – Thursday, 3:30-4:30pm

Ensuring Payment – Before, During and After the ProjectATA57 will mark the 6th time I have given this presentation at an ATA annual conference, and the ninth time overall. The presentation is based on the knowledge and experience I have gained as a freelance translator working with agencies for more than twenty years and from monitoring payment issues on Payment Practices for more than fifteen years.

Late and nonpayment is a fact of life in business. It occurs in all industries and professions in every country in the world. Due to the global marketplace in our profession, in which it is not uncommon for freelance translators and agency clients to be located in different states or even different countries, collecting on past due invoices can be particularly problematic, if not a practical impossibility.

Freelance translators must therefore conduct a thorough due diligence before accepting projects from new agency clients. They must carefully vet new clients by confirming their identity and evaluating their creditworthiness. Freelance translators must also ensure that they themselves do not give an agency client any reason whatsoever to reduce their payment or refuse to pay at all.

This presentation will provide you with strategies and information sources as well as specific actions you should take before accepting a project so that you can not only properly vet your potential client, but also ensure that each party to the transaction knows exactly what is required of the other party.

We will discuss actions that should be taken during the project should unforeseen difficulties arise, as well as actions you should take when delivering your translation. We will discuss customary payment terms and invoicing procedures, as well as dunning procedures, i.e., what to do when payment is late.

Header image credit: Pixabay

Author bio
Ted R. WozniakTed Wozniak is the treasurer of ATA. He has bachelor’s degrees in Accounting and German and is a graduate of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA. Before becoming a freelance translator, he was an accountant, stockbroker, liaison officer, and interrogation instructor at the U.S. Army Intelligence School. After pursuing graduate studies in Germanics, he became a German>English translator specializing in finance, accounting, and taxation. He was an adjunct instructor for New York University teaching German to English financial translation and was a mentor for the University of Chicago Graham School’s German>English Financial Translation Program. He is also the president of Payment Practices, a database of translation company payment behavior, as well as the moderator of Finanztrans, a mailing list for German financial translators.

Review of the ALC 2015 Industry Survey©

By Helen Eby
Reblogged from the ATA Interpreters Division blog with permission from the author (incl. the image)

Review of the ALC 2015 Industry Survey©Founded in 2002, the Association of Language Companies (ALC) is a US-based trade association representing businesses that provide translation, interpretation, localization, and other language services. Its goal is to deliver timely information to its members to generate more sales, increase profits, and raise awareness of the language industry. The ALC 2015 Industry Survey© is a key benefit distributed free to all its members who participate in the survey and at a reduced rate for members who elect not to participate. Non-members who did not participate in the survey can purchase it for $350. Information from the ALC 2015 Industry Survey is provided in this article with the permission of the Association of Language Companies. ALC has three membership categories: Language Service Companies in the US, outside the US, and Vendors to Language Companies. This review focuses on the results for US-based language companies.

Most companies (81%) provide services in more than five languages. According to the US Small Business Administration (SBA), Translation and Interpreting Services are a subsector of Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services. The language services industry is undoubtedly dominated by very small businesses, since only 8% of respondents report having more than 51 employees, of which between 15-20% telecommute at least 20 hours per week.

When looking at the different areas of interpreting/translation, healthcare (29%), legal (19%) and government (19%) represent the bulk of the revenue for language services mostly in translation (55%) and interpreting (42%). US-based language companies report having a median of 120 independent contractors with the vast majority of the work (89%) done by freelance interpreters/translators. In contrast, only 55% of editing is done by freelancers.

Language companies are focusing their resources on providing real quality. Despite all the hype and controversy, machine translation (MT) (including human post-edited MT, of which 90% is done by employees), represents a negligible source of income (4%). A breakdown of the revenue shows that while translating documents represents 79% of the income, desktop publishing (12%), localization (9%), and project management (5%) do not generate quite as much. Happily, 90% of respondents have their translations edited by a second translator-linguist and 32% are reviewed by a monolingual reviewer. This shows that language companies are adding real value to this industry by taking a team approach to translation consistent with the ASTM F2575-14 translation standard.

Despite all the advances in remote interpreting, onsite continues to generate 72% of the revenue and telephone only 20%. Video remote interpreting and equipment rental account for the remaining 8%. There is unfortunately no breakdown between pre-scheduled and on demand remote interpreting. This would be very useful data since they rely on very different business models.

Surprisingly, only 15% of those surveyed report having ISO certification, though 90% saw improved internal efficiency when certified. Though the ALC survey does not specify which ISO standard these companies are certified to, it most likely refers to the ISO 9000 family of quality management systems standards. These standards are designed to help organizations ensure that they meet the needs of customers and other stakeholders while meeting statutory and regulatory requirements related to a product. Over one million organizations worldwide are ISO 9001 certified by a third party, making this ISO one of the most widely used management tools in the world today.

There are, however, language industry-specific ISO standards (ISO TC37). According to a 2012 Canadian survey, only 12% of English respondents and 7% of French respondents actually use ISO TC37 standards. The most widely used ones in Canada are those related to terminology:

  • ISO 30042 Systems to manage terminology, knowledge and content – TermBase eXchange (TBX)
  • ISO 704 Terminology Work: Principles and Methods
  • ISO 639 Language Code List Series
  • ISO 12620 Data Category Registry

The high reliance of the language services industry on independent contractors coupled with the very small size of these companies underscores the high level of interdependence between companies and freelancers as well as the precariousness of the interpreting and translation professions. Unsurprisingly, the survey reveals that some of the top challenges language companies face in the US and Europe are pricing pressure and finding qualified interpreters/translators. These challenges are shared by freelance interpreters/translators and are an area ripe for joint advocacy. They also build a stronger case for sponsoring more interpreter/translator basic training and continuing education tailored to the needs the companies have.