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.

Book review: The Business Guide for Translators

By David Friedman

Book review The Business Guide for TranslatorsIt is widely recognized that there are several skills you need to be successful in translation. The fundamental skills include excellent source language comprehension, superb target language writing skills, and subject matter expertise. However, business skills are also essential, especially in today’s translation market where the majority of translators are self-employed freelancers. While reading, writing, and translation skills can be honed in language and translation degree programs, I think newcomers to the industry would be wise to work on their business skills at an early stage as well.

The Business Guide for Translators by Marta Stelmaszak provides an excellent starting point for shaping your translation business. The book is divided into five parts, each covering different business topics tailored for translators.

Part 1 introduces several fundamental business concepts, explains them simply, and shows how they are related to the language industry. Part 2 provides a diverse and powerful set of tools to analyze your business and create effective business strategies. Part 3 focuses on business management, including market research, planning, and goal setting. Part 4 starts off with several videos with hands-on tips for effectively communicating and negotiating with clients, which is followed by some additional key points in the quoting process. The final part rounds off the book with links for further reading on business practices.

One of the recurring themes of the book that resonated with me was “uniqueness”. Marta refers to uniqueness in several crucial contexts, such as in your unique selling point (USP) as a way to differentiate yourself from competitors. Uniqueness is also emphasized in the context of core competence, where you focus on creating a unique offering in what you excel at and outsource or don’t engage in weaker areas, thus adding value for clients. Uniqueness of service is mentioned as a key factor of supplier bargaining power in the section on Porter’s five forces. I personally feel that the way Marta employs uniqueness plays an interesting role in showing how we can get away from commoditization in the languages industry. Her strategies for identifying promising customer segments and selecting appropriate specializations in high demand play a key role in helping you find a USP that is profitable and well-rooted.

Another approach that intrigued me was the blue ocean strategy. As opposed to a red ocean strategy where you limit your focus to competing intensely for existing demand under existing conditions, a blue ocean strategy entails creating new demand, finding new clients, and making the competition irrelevant. Blue oceans are characterized as tranquil, uncharted territory, while read oceans have turned red from the bloody fighting of cutthroat competition. Marta also talks about shaping industry trends instead of following them in this section. All of this reminds me of the concept of reframing requirements so as to focus on showing clients what they need instead of selling yourself or catering to existing perceived needs, a point I heard in a webinar by John Niland. I’m looking forward to more consciously applying a blue ocean strategy in my business and seeing where that may lead.

I felt that The Business Guide for Translators will prove useful to translators at various stages in their careers and I certainly was given a useful reminder of some things I have read or thought about previously as well as some new tools and ways of thinking about my business.

In hindsight, I certainly wish that someone challenged me to think harder about my business the way Marta does when I was a newcomer, and I think this book can be especially useful to help newcomers to the languages industry make savvy business decisions and avoid getting off to as a rocky a start as some of us have.

Tips for Newcomers to the Translation and Interpreting Professions

By Corinne McKay
Reblogged from the ATA Chronicle (September 2013) with permission from the author

Tips for Newcomers to the Translation and Interpreting ProfessionsIf you asked 100 translators or interpreters to describe their first days in the industry, you would probably get 100 different answers—or at least some very entertaining stories. If you want to become an accountant or an attorney, there is a clear path ahead of you. But if you want to become a translator or interpreter in the U.S., you will need to do some of your own path-finding, hopefully with some help from those who have gone before you.

On the first day that I thought of myself as a translator, I sat at my kitchen table with my baby daughter and the phone book (remember those?) and started cold-calling translation companies. I had a master’s degree in French and I loved to write, so I felt confident that I could do the job, but I had no idea how to launch or run a successful freelance business. Did I need some kind of certification? What kinds of clients would take a chance on a newcomer? How much should I charge? Were there really people who “made it” as freelancers and did not have to depend on a backup income? After more than a decade in the business, I am very, very glad that I persevered through those difficult first years, but I also realize that I made a lot of mistakes. If you are a newcomer to the profession, here are some tips, cautionary tales, and (hopefully) some sources of inspiration for you.

Starting up will take more time and effort than you think.

I receive inquiries from frustrated beginners on a regular basis, and they often read like this: “Dear Corinne: I am really struggling to establish my freelance business. I’ve sent out 25 résumés in the past two months and have received only one response. I am extremely discouraged and wonder if this job is for me.” Everyone’s mileage varies, and if you translate a high-demand language or specialization, clients may be clamoring for your services right away. But in general, your startup phase will last at least a year, and that is if you are working full-time or close to it. Count on at least six months during which you are primarily or exclusively marketing and networking, then at least another six months of very irregular income before you depend on your freelance income to support you. In my case, I applied to over 500 potential clients during my first year in business, and it still took me over a year and a half to replace the income from my previous full-time job.

Forget about the phone book, but do not overvalue the Internet.

It turns out that on my first day as a translator, I had a tiny shred of the right idea. While I would not recommend cold-calling potential clients (and I no longer own a phone book), I think that person-to-person contacts are the most valuable resource in a freelancer’s marketing arsenal. Look at it this way: if you do not have much work, you have a lot of time. So, ask every potential client in your local area if you can take one of their employees out for coffee or lunch, “to learn a little more about their business.” Treat the meeting as just that, a way to find out what this agency or direct client does, and how you might fit in. Even if you apply to clients online, you can set yourself apart from the herd through personal touches. Whenever you get a positive response from a prospective client, follow up with a handwritten thank-you note and business card. When you meet a really successful translator—the person you want to be when you grow up—offer to interview her or him for a translation industry publication, and then ask all of the questions that you want answered!

You do not know what you are doing (yet), so surround yourself with people who do.

One of the wisest things I did during my startup phase was to join the Colorado Translators Association. In that group, I found a lot of real, live, successful freelance translators who assured me that there was plenty of work out there if I actively looked for it. They gave me great ideas on how to get an “in” with potential clients, and when I established myself as trustworthy and competent, some of them referred their overflow work to me. During my second year of freelancing, I saved enough money to attend ATA’s Annual Conference, at which I met even more translators and my first big clients. Remember this: most people love to be seen as experts, and experienced translators love to feel that they are passing on their years of wisdom and experience to the next generation of language professionals. So take advantage and get involved in ATA and your local translators or interpreters association, and put on your listening ears.

But … do not believe everything you hear, especially if it is negative.

It is always hard to know whose advice to trust, and not all of the advice you will receive is reliable. Here are two examples. A high school classmate who speaks French and English recently told me that she had always wanted to be a translator, but a college professor told her that she had to know more than one foreign language in order to find work. When I was starting out as a translator, a friend of a friend who had worked for a translation company told me that she was not surprised that I was having trouble finding work because, “there wasn’t much of a need for into-English translators in the U.S.” My current students often mention receiving this type of well-meaning but misinformed advice (e.g., the market for a certain language is “completely saturated”; it is next to impossible to find clients who will pay real money for your services; etc.). So, if a piece of advice sounds fishy to you, or if you have a sense that you have landed on someone who is unnecessarily negative about our industry, make sure to verify their advice before you follow it.

Entry-level clients come in many different forms.

Nearly every beginning translator or interpreter wonders how to find those first few elusive clients, especially those who will take a chance on a new person. Many agencies require several years of experience, some type of certification, or both. So, I think that the two main options are at nearly opposite ends of the market: large agencies with huge volumes of work, and high-end direct clients whose main concern is quality. The middle of the market is a tough place to carve out a niche because it is very crowded. Lots of translators with similar qualifications, availability, specializations, and rates are fighting to win business from many of the same clients. So, go in a different direction. Large agencies are always looking for new translators because they are in a high-volume, fast-turnaround business. If you can manage this kind of fast-paced, deadline-driven work, it can be a good way to get some experience and decide what specializations you want to target when you move on to other types of clients. Another good option, especially if you already have experience in an in-demand specialization, is high-end direct clients whose only concern is the quality of the translation. Before you target them, you have to be very, very confident that your translations are excellent. Realistically, many beginning translators and interpreters are not at the level of quality that direct clients want and need. But if you are sure that you can do the job, direct clients may (interestingly enough) be less concerned about years of experience, certifications, translation memory software, high volume, and other issues that may come up in the agency market.

Before accepting an assignment, ask the right questions.

When clients finally start responding to your inquiries, it is tempting to say yes frantically without even knowing what the job involves. First, slow down. If the potential client is an agency, check its rating (every single time!) with services such as the Better Business Bureau (http://www.bbb.org/) or Payment Practices (http://www.paymentpractices.net/). Keep a checklist of questions to ask before the project starts.

For translators:

  • How many words or pages is the document?
  • In what format is it? What is the subject matter?
  • In what format is the translation needed?
  • What is the deadline (always specify the time zone)?
  • Does the client have any reference material or existing translations?

Always specify the rate in writing. If the rate is per word, always confirm whether the source or target word count will be used. Never accept a translation without seeing (preferably) the entire document you will be translating, or at least a sample of the text.

For interpreters:

  • What is the subject matter of the assignment?
  • How many hours or days will the assignment last?
  • Will the interpreting be simultaneous, consecutive, or both?
  • Will equipment be provided, and if so, what type?
  • Does the client pay for travel and waiting time, and if so, at the same rate as for interpreting time or at a different rate?
  • What is the client’s cancellation and no-show policy?
  • Will the client provide a partner interpreter if you need one?

For everyone:

  • How and when will the client pay you?

The key is to ask the right kinds of questions. You do not want to waste a client’s time or look uninformed by asking questions that are obvious, pedantic, or paranoid, but you do want to make sure that the project is within your capabilities before you say yes.

When in doubt, just work harder.

Experienced translators have a lot of advantages you do not. But I will let you in on a secret: experienced translators also get picky, complacent, and maybe even a little lazy when it comes to landing new clients. When a client needs a big assignment completed on Saturday night, or has a nasty, handwritten document that will take hours to decipher, or needs someone to proofread a 10-page list of numbers, many experienced translators will run the other way. If they have developed their businesses effectively, experienced translators do not need to say yes to these types of projects, especially if they are not from regular clients. So you, the scrappy newcomer, get to come in and save the day so that the client can leave the office with the confidence that the project is all set. And then, because you saved the client’s hide on that project, they are likely to call you again. In my opinion, many beginners focus so much on working smarter (expensive software, advertising, paying someone to apply to clients for them) that they ignore the most time-honored way of launching a successful business: working their tails off.

Set your sights higher than just “getting by.”

It always surprises me when people comment that “It must be so hard to make ends meet as a freelancer.” In reality, I think that it would be impossible for me to find a fulltime job in my local area that would offer the same level of income and flexibility that I have as a freelancer. Working for yourself is an opportunity to create your ideal life, so seize it! Consider this: what if you applied for a full-time job and the human resource person told you that the company did not offer paid vacation, sick time, health insurance, a retirement plan, performance incentives, continuing education or training, overtime pay or comp time, not even a holiday party or summer picnic, and that you would be expected to use an ill-fitting, uncomfortable desk and chair and work amid dusty piles of books and papers. It may seem laughable, but these are the conditions under which many freelancers work for years on end.

Right at the start of your freelance trajectory, say no to this mindset and ask yourself what the “free” in freelance means to you. Maybe it is a high income so that you are free from worrying about money; maybe it is the freedom to leave the office at 2:00 p.m. and pick your kids up at school; maybe it is intellectually stimulating work so that you are free from the boredom of a monotonous job; or maybe it is a completely mobile office so that you are free to work from any place that has an Internet connection. Give yourself the resources you need to do a great job by setting aside a percentage of your income for training and professional development. Whatever your ideal life is, keep a clear vision of it during your startup phase and do not settle for “just enough.”

A wise entrepreneur once said that self-employment means working 60 hours a week for yourself so that you do not have to work 40 hours a week for someone else. At the end of your first year as a freelancer, if you feel wrung out, as if you have given every ounce of your energy, creativity, brain power, and tenacity to this endeavor, you have done it right.

Header image credit: Pexels
Header image edited with Canva

Working the Room tips by Chris Durban

By Catherine Christaki
Reblogged from Adventures in Technical Translation with permission from the author (incl. the image)

Working the Room tips by Chris DurbanDuring the ITI conference in Gatwick in May 2013, I had the privilege to attend Chris Durban’s Working the Room masterclass.

Chris always offers numerous great tips about generating leads and finding direct clients. She inspires her audience to be and look more professional and better marketers. Below you’ll find some of the pearls of wisdom she shared during the masterclass.

Required skills for translators

  • Writing skills. A specialization (or two). The ability to translate.
  • Marketing skills to be able to identify and approach good clients.
  • Invest in specialization and be/get passionate about your projects.
  • Don’t start looking for direct clients right out of college. Get some experience first, translating, revising, working with colleagues.
  • Speak your client’s languages fluently and write it well too (invoices, pitch etc.)
  • Read the business press and specialized magazines/journals, as well as your colleagues’ blogs

Before contacting potential clients

  • Make sure you are up-to-date about their industry; the terminology, the technology etc.
  • Research the company and identify key people using industry publications, their websites and social media
  • Read up on the person you’re planning to contact before meeting them.
  • Potential good clients are passionate about what they do.
  • SMEs are easier to approach than big companies.
  • Be prepared to invest time and budget, this is a long-term project.

Attending conferences/events

  • Training events are also marketing events. Pick your events carefully.
  • Find out which events your potential clients are attending.
  • Dress the part and carry professional business cards.
  • Prepare and rehearse your elevator speech.
  • They must think you are one of them.
  • Use the Q&A part in presentations. Identify yourself quickly and ask a pertinent question.
  • Attend at least a few events per year; practice makes perfect.
  • Find [target language nationals] in international client events, they’ll be more open to talk about translation issues.

How to approach clients in events

  • Listen carefully to what they’re saying.
  • Never start with “Hi, I’m a translator, do you need anything translated?”.
  • Be friendly and positive. Never be negative about our profession with clients and don’t complain about bottom-feeders, competitors and CAT tools. When they ask “Do you make a living being a translator?”, say “Absolutely and my clients/texts/projects are super important etc.”, nothing negative.
  • Start with a nice comment as the ice-breaker; thank the organizers for a fabulous day/event etc. when talking/asking a question.
  • Express genuine interest about the industry.
  • To start up a conversation ask: “What did you think of the speaker?”, “Which presentations did you like best?”.
  • After you get them talking about themselves, go into business mode: “Do you export to [X]?” “Do you have any documentation in [language Y]?”
  • Other examples to get them to talk about translation:
    • “I just started to specialize in your industry which I find fascinating. Can you recommend events I should attend in 2013?”
    • “I see your company specializes in [X]. Based on texts I’ve translated recently, some of my clients need those services; can I give them your name?”. Don’t mention your clients’ direct names; your work is confidential.

Few more tips

  • After meeting potential clients: Send email to people you met with terminology questions, things you were talking about.
  • When quoting prices: The right price is not when they agree immediately; they should wince first (otherwise your price is probably too low). If they tell you “That’s expensive”, reply “But it’s worth it” or don’t say anything.
  • Educate clients: Explain that language services are a long-term investment rather than a quick fix

Chris also talked about the rationale behind translators signing their work. Check out her interview in Catherine Jan’s blog: To sign or not to sign? Chris Durban strikes again.

You can also read the German translation of this post by Alain Rosenmund.