Book review: The Subversive Copyeditor

I first became aware of the work Carol Fisher Saller does when she spoke at the American Copy Editors Society conference in Portland, Oregon, and presented on her book, The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago.

I finally read her book in January of 2018. I should have done so sooner. There are so many things we can learn from this book as translators. I am combining what I learned from her book with my own experience in the real world in this post. This post covers the highlights. I hope to give you a taste for more!

In the inside jacket, she is very straightforward about the purpose of this book. It is not for us to learn how to copy edit, but to give us some ideas as we negotiate good relationships with those we work with and ourselves. Many of the tips she gives apply to translators just as much as they do to copy editors.

Part One: Relationships with those who hire us.

Being correct about a particular turn of phrase is not worth a big argument. Instead of focusing on who is right, it is better to see what will reach the readers of the document most effectively. However, inaccuracies and inconsistencies are distracting and reflect poorly on the author. We should take care of those.

We should follow three guiding principles: carefulness, transparency, and flexibility. These remind me of the interpreting guidelines of transparency and accuracy. Interpreters convey everything that is said accurately, ask for clarifications and repetitions as needed, and are transparent so both parties know everything that is happening in the room. In the same way, as translators we should approach the text with utmost carefulness. We should also be very transparent when we make editorial decisions regarding the text by putting comments in so the requester can understand our choices. To be flexible with a translation, of course, we need to know exactly what the text is going to be used for, so it is important to ask questions.

Editing is a gift. Our translations should be edited, since most published material is edited. We should treat our editors with kindness, and learn from the comments our editor colleagues make.

Part Two: Practical issues.

Delegate or automate repetitive tasks, so we can focus on what we do best. For example, someone else might be able to set up a table in Word, check all the numbers in a set of tables, or do other repetitive chores that don’t require translation skills. That person can also check that the references are properly numbered, that the citation reference numbers match, etc. Delegating frees us up to do what we do best.

Though we may work with translation environment tools, our word processor is still our primary translation tool. It is where we do many of our final edits, write letters to clients, and do much of our work. We need to know our word processor inside and out. We should explore every feature it has, because they can help to automate certain tasks and improve our writing in many ways. Carol says having word processors and electronic tools for editing has not changed editing schedules in the last 25 years. It still takes just as long to edit a 10 page text as it did before. These tools do not make us deliver sooner. Instead, they enable us to do many things we were not able to do before, such as verifying consistency, checking for acronym use, checking double spaces, and searching for overuse of the term ‘that’.

We have to plan in order to keep our deadlines. We must organize our day, set aside distractions, set pad in our schedules, set priorities. When we have to slip a deadline, just say “something outside my control came up and I will be one day late.” It is much better to take the initiative instead of receiving an email from the client asking about it.

Sometimes we have to work quickly to meet a difficult deadline. However, that also means we will not be able to follow through with all of our quality assurance steps and we don’t produce very good quality when we are sleepy. I always let my clients know about these compromises and they are usually willing to extend the deadline or accept lower quality work knowingly. This happens in every profession. We shouldn’t make a habit of it.

We have to keep track of our income and send reminders to people who haven’t paid. In my experience, the accounting department is often missing some piece of information and they have forgotten to tell me. Other times, they had not realized the bill was due, and the check comes the next day! In all the years I have worked as a translator, I have had very few non-payers. How to sniff those out is a subject for another post.

Don’t forget to have a life away from work. Without a life, we won’t be able to give our work the best we could bring to it. We will be exhausted.

Carol Fisher Saller. The Subversive Copy Editor. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

How to identify and avoid translation scammers

How to identify and avoid translation scammers

It is an unfortunate truth that translation scammers abound. Many of us receive dozens of emails per week that qualify as translation scams… some more convincing than others. How do we sort through the myriad of requests to determine which ones are legitimate and which are worth nothing more than a quick “Delete”?

Although much has been written on this topic, many freelancers in the translation and interpreting industry, often newcomers, struggle to find the answers and resources needed to distinguish a real request from a fake one. I’ve included links to similar articles at the end of this post with a wealth of information. I would recommend perusing them at your leisure.

This post will focus specifically on scammers claiming to be clients, who target freelance translators, and on how to avoid becoming their victims. I’ve compiled a non-exhaustive list of red flags to keep an eye out for (ordered by the level of concern they should generate), strategies to avoid scams, information about how the scams work, and resources to help translators make sure a request is genuine.

While I am under no illusion that translation scammers will ever disappear entirely, I do feel that the more we share about our common experiences and the more we warn others about the common frauds out there, the more likely we are to avoid them. Please feel free to use this list as you sort through your inbox, share the article with friends and colleagues, and contribute your own suggestions and experiences in the comments section.

Red Flags

What should I look for in emails from new or potential clients?

  • There are grammatical or spelling errors in the email.

Sometimes clients will make the occasional error in an email, but this is your first tip that something may be amiss.

  • The email has come from a free email address (@yahoo.com, @gmail.com, etc.)

Beware of potential clients claiming to offer work from a company while their email address is from a free account. Legitimate individuals may contact you from these domains but businesses will not.

  • The email or website contains no additional contact information for the potential client (address, phone number, website, etc.)

Real clients want you to be able to get in touch with them; if they have no company affiliation listed or additional information in their signature line, this is a red flag.

  • The name given for the potential client and their email address do not match (e.g. signature line says John Doe and email address is jimmy_buffett@yahoo.com).

Ask yourself, “Is there any reason John would be emailing me from Jimmy’s email account?” If not, be wary of the sender.

  • The potential client offered to send you money before you deliver the translation, or overpaid you and has asked for money back.

Overpayment by fake check is one of the most common email scams; never send money back unless you are 100% certain that the money you received is legitimate.

  • The email is in regard to a specific project but asks what language pairs you work in or does not specify your language combination.

If your potential client really found you because they have work for you, then they will already know what language pair they need!

Strategies to Avoid Being Scammed

When you smell a rat, here’s where to start…

  • Search for information about the person online.

Do they have a website? Are they listed on any scammer directories? Can you find a phone number to call and verify that this is a real person sitting behind a real desk in a real office?

  • See if the document for translation can be found online.

If you copy and paste a sentence from the source text into your browser, are you able to find the entire document online? If so, the potential client may have just taken a document from the internet and are claiming to need it translated.

  • Ask for references.

References aren’t just for contractors—ask if the client has worked with any other translators and check with them to be sure the client is authentic (and check the authenticity of the translator, too).

  • Ask for a down payment or non-refundable deposit.

Especially for larger projects, request that the client pay you a percentage upfront (e.g. 25–50%), via a verified payment method (bank transfer, Western Union, Venmo, PayPal, etc.). If they balk at the idea, suggest using something like https://www.escrow.com/ to ensure that no one pays or gets paid before the job is completed.

  • Verify the authenticity of any payments you have received.

If you received a check as pre-payment for the job, take it to your bank and ask the banker to verify its authenticity. If you received payment via PayPal, go to http://www.paypal.com (don’t click the link in the email!) and make sure the money is listed as received in your account (if you aren’t sure, call PayPal’s customer service line).

The Scam

Scammers are getting better and better at targeting their victims, but most schemes involve one of a few different tactics involving a supposed overpayment and a request of immediate refund to the client.

  • Client asks for your bank account information to make a payment.

Note that some legitimate clients do request banking information like an account number and routing number in order to make transfers or ACH payments; they will usually send you a PDF form to complete and may even password protect it. Scammers may also ask for your banking information, so be sure to go through the verification strategies listed above and check the resources listed below before deciding whether to provide this information.

  • Client sends a fake PayPal/Venmo email to get you to provide your login details on a fake page.

Scammers can be very creative; you may receive a “payment” via an online source that notifies you by email of new funds. Beware of PayPal or Venmo emails that contain spelling errors or old/incorrect logos—some scammers will create very convincing emails claiming to be from these platforms but that actually link to a fake site that will ask for your login details so the scammers can log in using your credentials.

  • Client overpays by check and asks you to send some of the money back.

Overpayments are always a red flag; some scammers will send a check that is convincing enough that your bank will allow you to deposit it, and you may even see the money deposit after a few days (there are regulations as to how long a bank can put a hold on your funds before making them available in your account). What you can’t see behind the scenes is that the bank is still working to verify the authenticity of your check, and if it is not real (the payee bank does not exist, has no account with the check’s number, or does not have sufficient funds in said account to pay out the money), your bank will eventually reject the check, take the money back out of your account, and likely charge you a fee of some kind.

  • Client overpays by PayPal or other online payment platform and asks you to send some of the money back.

Fake emails stating that you have received PayPal funds may also be used to make you think you have received funds while no money has actually been deposited to your account; but how do they actually get the money? In these last two schemes, after they have “paid” you but before you have realized the money wasn’t real, the scammer will tell you something to the following effect:

“I accidentally sent more money than I intended to.”

“I have decided not to go through with part of the project.”

“My company/client has changed its mind and we will be cancelling the project.”

Then, the client will ask you to return the money—usually via a quick and verified payment method so they can make off with the funds before you realize it’s a scam. Usually they will ask you to return the money via a different method than the one by which they “paid” you—cash deposit to their bank account or wire transfer, for example. A few days or weeks later you will find out the payment was rejected or never went through in the first place, and the client will have disappeared with your funds.

Resources to help verify potential clients

Payment Practices
Proz.com Blue Board
Proz.Com Translator Scam Alert Reports
Translator-scammers.com
Proz.com Scam Forum
World Payment Practices Forum
Translation Agency Payment Forum
Translation Agencies Business Practices Forum (LinkedIn)

Other articles about avoiding scams

Translation Scams: Tips for Avoiding Them and Protecting Your Identity by Carola Berger
Red Flags for Avoiding Scams, reblogged from The ATA Chronicle
Resources to Help Ensure Translation Payment by Ted Wozniak (includes links to additional mailing lists)
Due Diligence Links by Paula Gordon (includes links to additional resources and a list of questions to ask yourself)
Scammers, I Got Your Number by Audrey Irias

And a funny story to lighten the mood…

Translation Scammers Beware by Una Dimitrijevic

Image souce: Pixabay

Year-one chronicle: My first twelve months as a professional translator

A few days before Christmas I got a thick, imposing envelope in the mail from the Washington State Department of Revenue.

“ACTION REQUIRED: Business Tax Return due January 31” it shouted in bold, red font across the front. Yikes! What have I gotten myself into?

Inauspicious beginnings

Two years ago, I didn’t even know that document translation was a real profession. I still remember where I was in late August 2016—surfing the web in a friend’s living room in Manaus, Brazil—when I stumbled across a blog post describing the qualities of a successful translator. I thought, People actually make a living doing this? From then on things kind of snowballed.

I immediately began digging deeper. It didn’t take long to discover Corinne McKay’s award-winning blog about all things translation, and the podcast she co-hosts with Eve Bodeux. I soaked it all in.

By mid-November I was back in the U.S. and taking Corinne’s course, Getting Started as a Freelance Translator. I had found my calling and I wasn’t looking back.

Baby steps

I formalized my business, Language of the Americas, in Washington State in January 2017.

Aside from a one-off gig for a neighbor when I lived in Colombia, I had never translated for pay before. I felt like a high school freshman on the first day of class all over again. Undaunted, and with Corinne’s counsel, I began prospecting for work by:

  • verifying potential agency clients on Payment Practices;
  • sending out warm emails or—my favorite—paper letters to those prospects, including a polished resume;
  • fine-tuning my LinkedIn profile; and
  • creating a business website.

I also started a blog about trends in Latin American agriculture, thinking that would attract clients while keeping me current on terminology in my niche of agriculture. It was a fun exercise, but it wasn’t catching anyone’s attention, or so I thought. But more on that later.

Peaks and valleys

Initial email and snail mail prospecting was overwhelmingly successful—at least in terms of engaging prospective clients. My response rate was around 50%. This was starting to look easy!

But nobody wanted to send me work. A few “saved my resume for future reference,” but, as the days stretched into weeks and the weeks into months, my inbox was still empty. My problem seemed to be a lack of experience. But how do I get that experience?

I had been knocking on the virtual door of one of the larger agencies out there, as I knew they had loads of work and a lower bar of entry. I finally heard back from them after my third application in as many months, and tested onto their roster as a translation editor in the life sciences department. This was my chance to get the experience I needed. I thought of it as an apprenticeship.

As time went by, I learned how to communicate with project managers, how to negotiate bids, how to make tight deadlines, and how to invoice. Everything was so new.

As an editor, I also learned how to research hard terminology, and I found out a lot about the mistakes translators are prone to make, and how to catch them. As a bonus, I was being exposed to Spanish from all over the world, and that, along with floods of technical terminology unique to the life sciences, kept my language skills moving forward. I worked my way up the pay scale within the agency by doing thorough work and being dependable.

Work was steady (by jerks) and interesting, and I was learning lots. That’s when I decided to revisit South America.

Remote (im)possibility

Twice in prior months I had successfully travelled with my office on working vacations, visiting family on the other side of the state. On these trips, I had a nice table to work at in a relatively quiet setting. I was digging the ‘free’ in ‘freelance’.

Soon, I had visions of doing the same in South America. In July 2017, I flew to Peru and began what would become a two-month stay in the southern hemisphere. But I soon found I couldn’t work reliably.

I needed at least a full day of preparation to get in the ‘zone’ and a space to call my own, with minimal distractions. During those two months spent in Peru and Brazil, I was simply on the road too much and too often to be able to buckle down and do quality work. And, except in bigger cities, internet was sparse.

Thankfully, my project managers at the large agency (almost) didn’t bat an eye when I came back online two months later, and work picked up faster than ever. But it started feeling like time for a change.

The time is write

The Latin American agriculture blog languished while I was away. In a lull after my return, I hammered out a new post about the need for collaboration between the world’s agricultural researchers.

As I sometimes do (to ensure that somebody reads my blog!), I emailed the post’s URL to the sources whose work I had used to write it. This time, I was in for a surprise.

One of these sources shared the post with his colleagues, one of whom happened to be a communications coordinator for a large, international organization. She read the post, liked my style and grasp of the subject, and asked if I’d like to write freelance for them on an ongoing basis. I thought, People actually make a living doing this?

Ah yes. And so it’s back to the freshman books for me.

Goals for year two

In 2018, I’d like to achieve the following:

  • Secure at least two additional quality clients, both for translation and writing. Diversity in work activities and revenue stream is always a good thing.
  • Develop a better portfolio of translations that I can share with potential clients to prove that I know what I’m doing, even though I’ve only been doing it for one year.
  • Keep learning and keep improving! I’ve got some good books to read, in addition to staying current on the top blogs and podcasts out there on writing and translation. (I have benefited much from Carol Tice’s blog for freelance writers.)

Over to you…

What were some of the notable highs and lows in your first year of translating or interpreting? Do you have any tips to share with readers (and me!) for making that second year a bang-up success? Please comment below!

Image source: Pixabay

Author bio

Paul Froese is a freelance Spanish to English translator and writer specializing in agricultural and life sciences content. A native of Walla Walla, Washington, he holds an undergraduate degree in plant science and biotechnology and a graduate degree in crop science focused on plant breeding and genetics. He enjoyed the challenges of his first year (2017) as a freelance translator and writer and is looking forward to continued growth in 2018!

You can visit Paul’s website at www.lotamtranslations.com and his blog about trends in Latin American agriculture at www.latinagtrends.com. E-mail him with any thoughts at paul@lotamtranslations.com.

Unraveling Translation Service Contracts

By Paula Arturo
Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle with permission (incl. the images)

Let’s examine what translation is to the law, what type of contracts translators should have, some of the benefits of having a contract, and resources for drafting one.

A common misconception about freedom of contract is that, when it comes to agreements between willing parties, pretty much anything goes. Although freedom of contract restricts government or other forms of interference or control over freely and mutually convened agreements,1 contracts are still limited by law. Therefore, if the performance, formation, or object of an agreement is against the law, the contract itself is illegal.2

In every area of contract law, what’s legal and what’s not depends on several factors, such as applicable law and jurisdiction. Translation is no exception, and translation contracts are far more complex than they seem. Thus, while one may be inclined to think all that’s at stake are deadlines and rates, the truth is that translation contracts govern sophisticated relationships that may cross over jurisdictions or country borders, often involving third parties and even multiple related contracts.

Contracts are a key element of any business transaction, including translation. To better understand how translators operate, I conducted a brief online survey last year, the results of which were also presented at ATA’s 57th Annual Conference in San Francisco.

As you can see in Figure 1, when asked about whether or not they used contracts, an alarming 48.7% out of 156 freelance translators answered “No,” and an even more astounding 64.1% claimed not to have their own terms of service. (See Figure 2.) The results are surprising, especially when you consider that 82.1% of the surveyed group dealt with direct clients and were not necessarily relying on their clients to provide nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), purchase orders (POs), or any other legally binding document.3

Figure 1: Survey Respondents Operating with Contracts

Figure 1: Survey Respondents Operating
with Contracts

Figure 2: Survey Respondents Operating with their Own Terms of Service

Figure 2: Survey Respondents Operating with their Own Terms of Service

Translation as a Service

ATA members are probably familiar with ATA’s Translation Buying a Non-commodity—How Translation Standards Can Help Buyers and Sellers,4 which clearly explains, from a business point of view, what we mean when we say “translation is not a commodity.” But what does that mean from a legal point of view?

Legally speaking, the contract pie is divided into three parts: contracts for the sale of real estate, contracts for the sale of goods, and contracts for the sale of service. Translation falls into the third category. But translation is not just any kind of service. If you look at the United Nations International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities (ISIC),5 you’ll find translation listed in Section M. This is the section for “specialized professional, scientific, and technical activities [that] require a high degree of training, and make specialized knowledge and skills available to the user [emphasis mine].” Translation is also defined under Class 7490 as “service activities […] for which more advanced professional, scientific, and technical skill levels are required.”

The reason translation is legally viewed as a service is because it makes specialist skills available to the user. Translation doesn’t require the manufacture or production of goods, nor does it rely on raw materials, which are the standard criteria for something to legally classify as a “good” instead of a service.

Problem Clauses

If translation is such a specialized professional service, where so much is at stake for the end client, why are so many translators operating without the protection of a solid contract? One possible explanation based on the responses of the group I surveyed is that many translators refuse to enter into binding agreements that contain “problem clauses.”

When asked specifically about clauses that have stopped translators from signing with clients,6 the following were cited as being either the most problematic clauses or absolute deal breakers from the point of view of translators:

Spy Clauses: By “spy clauses,” I mean any clause in which clients reserve the right to inspect their translator’s computer. While such clauses may not necessarily be illegal, they should be reasonable and limited to situations that justify the intrusion, such as government contracts involving national security or other high-stakes translation jobs. Before agreeing to such clauses, translators need to make sure that doing so doesn’t conflict with or otherwise breach existing agreements with other clients who could potentially be affected by such inspections. If translators agree and authorize the inspections, they’ll need to take necessary measures to protect all private or confidential information and documents belonging to all their other clients.

Indemnity/Limited Liability: Though not illegal, this is yet another clause that should be limited. When it comes to such clauses, a point that often gets overlooked is that clients, brokers (when applicable), and translators are all equally responsible for ensuring that the translator is actually right for the job. Therefore, placing all the burden on a single party may not pass a fairness test.

Notification of Potential Opportunities: This is the clause by which brokers expect their freelance translators to notify them of potential new leads or market opportunities, as opposed to trying to take advantage of the lead or opportunity themselves. Though not illegal, translators must exercise caution in judgment before agreeing to such a clause and make a thorough cost-benefit analysis of the situation.

Non-compete/Non-solicitation/Non-dealing: These clauses are commonly found in agency contracts. Non-compete clauses are legal in the majority, though not all, U.S. states. (They are also illegal in many countries.) In translation contracts, they are basically clauses designed to stop translators from competing with their agency client. Non-solicitation clauses, on the other hand, stop translators from approaching the agency’s clients or prospective clients. The problem with this clause is, of course, the difficulty of knowing who the agency’s “prospective clients” are. Meanwhile, non-dealing clauses are far more restrictive than non-compete and non-solicitation clauses, and are designed to stop translators from dealing with clients or prospective clients, even if the client approaches the translator and not the other way around. All three clauses are only enforceable in jurisdictions where they are legal and when they are for a set period of time, normally up to one year, though some contracts stipulate up to three.

Payment of Translation Contingent Upon End-client Approval of the Translation/End-client Payment of the Translation: Though also common in agency contracts, such clauses walk a dangerously thin line. A translator’s contract with an agency client is a separate contract from that of the agency with the end client. Unless both contracts are legally interrelated because of the complexity of the business transaction at hand, it’s very likely that the clause is unjustified. Interrelated contracts involve specific types of transactions. Contracts don’t become interrelated by the mere desire of one party to transfer risk to another.

Copyright: If a translation is intended as a work for hire, then the contract should either read “work for hire” or make it otherwise very clear that the translation is intended as a work for hire. Under U.S. law (as well as the law of many other countries), if there is any ambiguity in wording, then the translator owns the copyright, which can then be sold, transferred, or licensed out.

Terms of Service

When asked “Do you have your own terms of service,” an astounding 64.1% of translators surveyed answered “No.” When asked why, reasons varied from expecting clients to be the ones doing the drafting to being afraid of scaring clients away. Some respondents claimed email is enough for proof of contract, which is a claim that is only true in some countries.

While one can understand why some professionals are a bit apprehensive of contracts, the benefits of having a solid contract outweigh the hassle or perceived (though unfounded) risk of sending a client your terms and conditions before working on a translation.These benefits include:

  • Protecting Your Business: Contracts provide a description of responsibilities, establish a timeframe for duties, bind parties to their duties, help secure payment, and provide recourse if the relationship falters in any way. Without a contract, you’re unprotected, and if the relationship goes south, it’s your word against that of the non-compliant party.
  • Covering Attorney’s Fees and Court Costs: When a translation is small, the amount of money the contract is for is usually also small. Therefore, if the translator doesn’t get paid, it may not be worth it for him or her to seek out an attorney and file suit. However, your terms of service can include a provision for reasonable attorney fees whereby the prevailing party in any dispute arising under the translation agreement is awarded his or her reasonable attorney fees and costs. This creates a legal incentive to pay by making it riskier for your clients not to do so.
  • Warding Off Deprofessionalization: “Deprofessionalization, in its simplest form, is the process by which highly educated and skilled professionals are first displaced and then replaced with individuals of inferior training and compensation.”7 Both the legal and medical professions are suffering deprofessionalization through the “substitution of standardized practices and protocols for existing methods of production of professional services.”8 It has been argued that the trend toward deprofessionalization is affecting the translation profession as well.Deprofessionalization often results from the notion that no special qualifications are required to do a certain job. The overall lack of entry barriers to the profession, widespread misconceptions about bilingualism and translation, misrepresentations about advancements in machine translation, and other similar trends contribute to the deprofessionalization of translation. Against that backdrop, I would argue that a well-drafted contract that takes into consideration all the complexities and nuances involved in a translation helps increase the client’s perceived value of what we do, creates awareness about what separates professional translators from amateurs, and helps counter the trend toward deprofessionalization.

Resources for Drafting Contracts

Whether you’re among the 64.1% of translators who don’t have their own terms of service, or you have terms of service and want to update them, some excellent resources include ATA’s Translation Job Model Contract,10 PEN America’s Translation Contract for Literary Translators,11 and PEN America’s Translation Contract Checklist.12 Of course, these models will need to be adapted to your local law, jurisdiction, and particular business setting, so seeking appropriate legal advice from a lawyer in your area is also recommendable. While standard clauses are available online, the way the courts interpret such clauses may vary from one jurisdiction to another. A qualified legal professional in your area can help you adapt them to your particular needs. 

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is provided for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice or as an offer to perform legal services on any subject matter. Readers should not act, or refrain from acting, on the basis of any information included herein without seeking appropriate legal advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from an attorney licensed in their state or country. 

Notes
  1. Freedom of contract is “a judicial concept that contracts are based on mutual agreement and free choice, and thus should not be hampered by undue external control such as government interference.” Black’s Law Dictionary 
(10th edition, 2014), 779.
  2. Atiyah, Patrick S. An Introduction to
the Law of Contract, third edition
 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981).
  3. Here is the link to the Translation Contracts Survey: http://bit.ly/
contracts-survey.
  4. Translation Buying a Non-commodity—How Translation Standards Can Help Buyers and Sellers, www.atanet.org/docs/translation_buying_guide.pdf.
  5. United Nations International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities, http://bit.ly/ISIC-classification.
  6. In this section, I use the term “client” in its broadest possible sense to refer to both direct clients as well as brokers and agencies.
  7. Dionne, Lionel. “Deprofessionalization in the Public Sector” Communications Magazine, issue 1, volume 35
(The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, Winter 2009), 
http://bit.ly/Deprofessionalization.
  8. Epstein, Richard A. “Big Law and Big Med: The Deprofessionalization of Legal and Medical Services,” International Review of Law and Economics, 
Volume 38 (Elsevier, June 2014), 64-76, 
http://bit.ly/law-deprofessionalization.
  9. Pym, Anthony. “The Status of the Translation Profession in the European Union,” 
http://bit.ly/deprofessionalization-translation.
  10. ATA Translation Job Model Contract,
 http://bit.ly/ATA-model-contract.
  11. PEN America’s Translation Contract
for Literary Translators,
 http://bit.ly/literary-translation-contract.
  12. PEN America’s Translation Contract Checklist, http://bit.ly/contract-checklist.

Paula Arturo is a lawyer, translator, and former law professor. She is a co-director of Translating Lawyers, a boutique firm specializing in legal translation by lawyers for lawyers. Throughout her 15-year career, in addition to various legal and financial documents, she has also translated several highly technical law books and publications in major international journals for high-profile authors, including several Nobel Prize Laureates and renowned jurists. She is currently a member of ATA’s Ethics Committee, the ATA Literary Division’s Leadership Council, and the Public Policies Forum of the Supreme Court of Argentina. Contact: paula@translatinglawyers.com.

So you want to be a Freelance Translator (or Interpreter): Starting from Scratch

This post is the second (read the first post here) 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.

Starting your freelance translation business from scratch can be a daunting task. Below are a few of the most fundamental questions to ask yourself as you begin to think about building your business.

Do I need further training to become a translator?

There is no one “right” way to become a translator, but most professionals feel it is important to have at least one of the following two qualifications: a) experience (could be from a previous job or volunteer position), or b) training (from an academic program in translation or at least education in another language).

If you are interested in becoming a translator but do not have much experience, taking a course may be a good place to begin. You can find translation courses at many major colleges and universities, some of which are offered online. If you enjoy the first course and want to pursue a career in translation, it may be of benefit to you to meet other translators and get a feel for what it takes to become one. You can even ask them how they got started. If you decide academic training is the best route for you, checking out the schools we have featured in guest posts here at The Savvy Newcomer may be a good place to start.

Academic programs in translation and interpreting range from certificates to PhD’s, and may be either online or in person. No gold standard exists for individuals entering the translation field, and some translators start off with a few years of experience from other sources and then get a degree in the field later on in their careers. It just depends on your situation! Getting a degree or certificate in translation can help to develop your skills, lend credibility to your resume, and give you a network of colleagues and classmates to support you as you get started with your career.

How can I get experience with translation?

There are several ways to get experience when you know another language but have no experience. One is to work with another translator who has at least a few years of work under his or her belt. If you know someone who is willing to work with you and edit your work, this is a great way to learn the ins and outs of translating without worrying about making a big mistake! You could act as a sort of intern or apprentice for this translator, who would provide you feedback and ensure the translation is accurate and ready for delivery.

Another way to get experience as a translator is to volunteer. Some charities and non-profit organizations may have small and low-risk documents that need to be translated (for instance, letters from a sponsored child to his or her sponsor, or brief and informal messages to connections in other countries). It can be hard for these organizations to afford translation of this kind, so they will often seek volunteer translators to help out. Groups like The Rosetta Foundation work to connect organizations with willing translators. Another volunteer opportunity exists in conjunction with the well-known TED Talks, which recruits volunteer translators to subtitle videos into other languages to help inspiration and ideas spread across borders.

How do I find clients when I am ready?

Once you have some experience or training in translation, you are ready to begin looking for clients. For the most part, translators who are just getting started will work with translation agencies that receive requests from a variety of different companies and source each project to the right translator for the job. You may eventually work directly with companies that need your services, but this involves a different level of client education and collaboration. To begin working with translation agencies, consider some of the following techniques for finding clients:

  • Cold emails/form submissions: Find the websites of different translation agencies and search for instructions on submitting your resume to be considered for freelance work. Each company will probably have different instructions—some may ask you to submit a form online, while others will provide an email address where you can send your resume and cover letter.
  • Directories: After you join professional associations such as ATA, NAJIT, or local associations (see a list of local associations here: http://www.atanet.org/chaptersandgroups/index.php), you can usually list your services on the association’s membership directory. This is an opportunity for clients to find you and contact you about your services.
  • Conferences: Many associations hold annual conferences attended by both freelancers and translation agencies (for instance, ATA is holding its 58th Annual Conference at the end of October 2017: www.atanet.org/conf/2017). Oftentimes you can meet agency representatives at booths or networking events and make a personal connection that could lead to freelance work in the future.
  • Contacts: One of the most common ways to find clients is by word of mouth. Translators may refer other translators for work they think suits them, so networking with contacts of all kinds (colleagues, classmates, friends, and family) can help spread the word about your services and let people know you are open for business.

We hope you have learned something new from this post about starting from scratch! Stay tuned for the next article in this series, Services and Specialization.