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

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

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

PREGUNTAS PARA EL CLIENTE

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

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

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

Tampoco está de más preguntar:

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

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

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

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ASPECTOS ECONÓMICOS

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

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

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

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NUESTRO PAN, NUESTRO HORARIO

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

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

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

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OTRAS CONSIDERACIONES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Header image source: Pixabay

How to set a budget for your freelance business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: Pixabay

Translators vs. Translation Agencies: How Falling Rates Have Turned Once-Allies into Enemies (and What We Can Do to Fix it)

We’ve noticed something strange: though demand has risen for language services, it would appear that prices are falling. Whether due to advances in technology, economic issues, global supply, or simply more aggressive buyers, we find ourselves in an industry that’s never been more in demand and yet has never been more precarious. This understandably leaves many of us overworked, underpaid, and seriously stressed out.

So why aren’t translators and translation agencies banding together to form a united front against this downward race to the bottom? Instead of saying no to unreasonable demands or rates and seeking better clients, many of us have turned our antagonism inward and, unfortunately, at each other. How is it that translator and agency—once sworn allies—are now seemingly always butting heads?

Constant downward pressure has caused a serious rift between translators and translation agencies that did not always exist. Agencies, translators say, bring little to the table and do nothing more than take a cut of an already smaller pie. Translators, agencies assert, don’t fully understand the value in having a company bring them work, advocate for them, and pay them even if the client defaults.

However, speaking as both experienced freelance translator and now proud translation agency owner, I can say it’s not too late. Both agency and translator can work together to separate the wheat from the chaff by finding serious clients.

Growing at a compounded average growth rate of 7.76% every year, the translation industry is expected to be worth approximately US$68 billion by 2020. What’s more, due to the ever-increasing trend toward globalization, translation is often considered recession-proof. The businesses of translation, software localization, and interpreting generate revenues of US$37 billion a year—and that’s for the software-assisted segment of the market alone.

By anyone’s metrics, that’s more than enough money to go around. So how do we repair this rift and start working together again? Below, I will introduce some helpful ways both translators and agencies can remember to work together.

Translation agencies are not the enemy—translators just have to know who to choose

One step toward cooperation is realizing that translation agencies on the whole are not the enemy. For every agency employing fly-by-night tactics and offering a pittance, there is another that could serve as a worthwhile source of income.

As a translator, think of every agency you work with. Are they a serious outfit? Do they pay on time? Do they take the time to match a translation with the best translator for the job? Have any colleagues worked with them, and if so, what did those colleagues say? There are vast resources online for translators to perform due diligence before accepting work.

The main idea here is to stop accepting work from any old agency. One way to achieve that is by carrying out due diligence on every translation agency you come across. Read their website carefully; see if their copy focuses on quality over quantity. And, pro tip? If the agency doesn’t list their rates on their website, it’s probably a good sign. Excellent translation agencies know that a one-size-fits-all approach to translation is not the way to go.

It’s okay to be picky about who you work with and who you work for. At the end of the day, you bring immense value to the table, so doing what you can to protect it is just plain smart. Now you might be asking yourself what can agencies do to make translators want to work with them?

How agencies can attract excellent translators

First things first, as an agency, your job is to serve your clients’ needs. But that doesn’t mean you have to bargain hard with your language service providers, shortchange them, or overwork them.

A reputable agency should be able to strike a happy medium between happy clients and happy freelancers. It’s okay to be competitive on price, but it’s not okay to expect that your translators will work for peanuts. Setting your rates at or above the industry average is a good place to start. The better your rates, the better the translators you can work with. And for clients seeking quality, this is a winning combination.

Oh, and those translators who work for you? If you want to be a translation agency worth its salt, make sure that you take the time to call them by name in emails. If you don’t value the people doing the translations, why would they want to work with you again? And never, ever, ever mass-mail a job to every translator on your roster. Not only would your client hate this, your translators will as well.

Beyond the above, translation agencies would do well to pay on time, every time. When a client (hopefully never) defaults on payment, this is not an excuse to stiff a translator who has already handed in work.

Finally, translation agencies must take care to recognize that not every translator is suited for every job. It takes a professional translation agency to match a job with the right translator—you should never hand a finance job to a generalist or a medical job to a bilingual attorney, for example.

Putting it all together—and working together in 2019 and beyond

As translators and translation agencies, we are all part of an industry that our agency has noticed is both growing and facing downward pressure like never before. However, this does not mean that the proverbial pie is getting smaller for all of us. Instead, the best pies are now bought at the specialty shops and the artisanal bakeries. In other words, the best agencies are now concentrating on finding clients who appreciate good, quality work. They’re not interested in packaging up a million pies for wholesale distributors.

The best pies are now bought at the specialty shops and the artisanal bakeries.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think the best translations are born of organic relationships between translator and agency that are based on mutual respect and cultivated over time. Getting to know each other goes a long way—and is certainly better than a mass-mail call for the lowest rate.

So, to that end: reach out to the person behind the screen. On the one hand, translators should get to know who’s behind the agencies they work with. Conversely, agencies should make a concerted effort to know their translators: their strengths, their weaknesses, and the catalogue of services they offer. Only by communicating clearly and effectively with each other can we continue to prosper and attract better clients for all.

Image credit: Pixabay

Author bio

Prior to founding Metropolitan Translations, Audra de Falco was a freelance legal translator and interpreter for 15 years and holds a BA in Jurisprudence and an MSc in Law and Public Policy. She knows the translation industry intimately as both freelancer and translation agency representative, and believes we can all land excellent, well-paying clients.

When she’s not helping clients get the incisive (and accurate) translations they deserve, she’s working her way through the family cookbook and walking her brother’s dog (he’s the best boy!).

You can visit Metropolitan Translations at http://www.metropolitantranslations.com/ or on Twitter at @translatenyc.

 

Look Out(!) for these Red Flags in Client Communications

Over the years I’ve received a lot of spam emails from would-be “clients” requesting my services. Here are just a few of the red flags I look for to determine whether an email is from a legitimate client or a scammer.

Ambiguous requests

“Hello, I’m contacting you in regard to an English content document worth 11,633 words (44 Pages). I need this document translated into [your language here]. I would like to know if you are interested and available to get this done for me. Please get back to me as soon as you can. Thank you.”

Some of the details I noticed here:

  • No deadline
  • Nothing about the topic
  • No mention about why you would be the right linguist for the job
  • It comes from a Gmail account or some other free domain

Trying to get personal / Grammatical errors

“I hope that you are enjoying the best of health and this message meet you well.

I would like to know if you are interested and available, I got your contact from an online Directory of Translators and Interpreters.”

Note the writing errors:

  • Sentences are separated by periods instead of commas
  • Poor subject-verb agreement; “this sentence meets you well” would have been correct

Inaccurate claims about your profile

“Your portfolio published on [your association here]…”

We don’t put portfolios on our association websites! We have profile listings that describe our skills and specialties. That’s an immediate red flag.

Math about the experience of their staff

Sometimes a client will try to convince you they are great by saying they are “managed by highly erudite professionals with over [xx] years of combined experience.” We don’t know how many professionals are on the management team, so if their combined experience adds up to 50 years but there are only 20 people, this doesn’t mean much.

Unusual contracting procedures

Some clients will claim to offer a certain amount of pay per month, and will report with a 1099-k structure. That means that they are not the ones sending you the 1099; whoever processes the electronic payments is. That would be PayPal, QuickBooks, or whoever they work with. You have to receive either 200 payments or $20,000 through that system to get a report through them. In other words, they do not do their own 1099 reports.

Phone number and address

When in doubt, I call the phone number listed in the potential client’s email. If I get a Google phone message, this raises a red flag. A Google message is unusual for a language company, especially if it does not identify the company the email supposedly came from.

You can also look up their listed address on Google Maps. Occasionally it is at a Dollar Tree, a barber, or a storage unit site—I have seen all three of these! As soon as I ask why they operate from that type of address, the emails stop coming.

Better Business Bureau rating

If a company reaching out to me has a poor rating on the Better Business Bureau website, that’s a red flag too. The company isn’t worth working with if they are known to be delinquent in payment to their contractors. If a company has one star out of five, beware!

Unsolicited prepayments

Some clients will try to send me a check before I have started the job, without me asking them to do so or agreeing on a price. Once, I got the translation… and a check in the mail for an amount I had not negotiated. We had not negotiated any price at all! Then I got persistent emails asking whether I cashed the check instead of asking whether I had any questions about the translation. This is a red flag, too!

I went to the bank and discovered it was a fake account from a fake bank. The bank destroyed the check. I never cash a check before finishing my assignment; first I have to negotiate the deal, then complete the assignment, then receive payment.

When something looks off, it probably is. If you think something is questionable, it probably is. Standard business practices exist because they prevent problems. It is always helpful to find colleagues to check with when you have questions, though. Local chapters and national professional associations such as ATA are excellent resources.

Image source: Pixabay

Pursuing the Translation Dream: Professional Demeanor

Your translation career is moving right along: you have a growing slate of repeat customers and a modest circle of close colleagues. You can even hear a little voice in your head wondering whether you’ve finally “made it.” But that little voice has a devilish counterpart that doubts work will always be plentiful and that you’ll earn enough to meet your goals.

This post, which is part four of a five-part series on how to achieve a successful professional career in translation, explores what it takes to continue to build your business and foster professional relationships that will help you meet your long-term goals.

This series is inspired by the ATA’s Self-Evaluation Questionnaire for Translators. The previous three posts in the series contemplated what to know before the phone rings, what to know after the phone rings, and how to keep the phone ringing. In this fourth installment, we’ll look at selected questions from section 4 of the questionnaire, on “Professional Demeanor.”

Have I honed my “client education skills”? (For instance, what would I say to politely refuse a request for a job with an unreasonable deadline or fee?)

Sooner or later, newcomers to the profession will hear old-timers talk about the need for client education. But it can be hard for a budding translator to imagine what client education looks like until she finds herself in a situation that calls for it. Even then, it can feel easier to shy away from the problem than to figure out how to face it.

Here are two recommendations on how to help clients understand your work as a translator:

Talk to experienced colleagues. If there’s no one you feel comfortable seeking advice from, consider consulting the enlightened and lively participants of the ATA Business Practices list, where you’ll be sure to reap advice from those who have worked through their own trial and error. (For the record, we’re always happy to answer your questions here at The Savvy Newcomer blog, too!)

Use the power of visualization. In other words, put yourself in the client’s shoes. Close your eyes and imagine you’re the client. Visualize yourself in their office, at their computer, even literally in their shoes. Now think about what drives that person, what worries them.

Now think of the client’s role in the exchange at hand: Imagine you’re the one who needs the translation. You’re the project manager challenged with delivering a quality translation to the end client in a short timeframe and you must find a well-matched translator who’s also able to deliver on time. Or you’re the head of marketing trying to figure out how to produce effective copy to attract customers in other languages without the CFO questioning“unjustified” expenses.

Now open your eyes and return to your own shoes. Think about how you can communicate in a way that speaks to the “client version” of yourself. How can you help the client solve their problems, while still taking into account your knowledge of the nature and value of your own work?This may mean finding common ground with the client, or it may mean forgoing the project altogether in order to maintain your own sanity and professional standards.

Either way, understanding the other party’s perspective is key.Not only does this allow us to demonstrate empathy and solve our clients’ problems; it also helps us better understand the factors that impact negotiations. If you recognize the importance of a certain text or a critical deadline, there may even be room to negotiate a higher fee commensurate with the value you can offer.

Do I request constructive feedback on my work and services? (Do I accept criticism graciously, and consider it seriously with the intent to learn and improve my skills and services?)

We’re taught from a young age to seek positive feedback, whether in the form of good grades or “gold stars” for following the rules. This can make it uncomfortable to receive critical feedback later in life, since we often understand criticism to mean that we’ve done something wrong.

Yet constructive criticism is key to honing one’s professional skills. What master cellist, ballet dancer, or surgeon perfected their craft without any guidance? Similarly, the craft of translation is no easy feat and can’t be mastered in isolation.

Indeed, many translators are content to translate in the privacy of their own homes and share their work only with the clients who hire them. The best translators, on the other hand, spend painstaking hours teaming up with keen-eyed colleagues who help them refine their craft.

Yet, because translators are generally a kind breed, it can take time to find a colleague who has what it takes—that is, not only the talent, but the willingness—to provide the constructive feedback you need to advance your skills. That said, it’s worth the search.

You’ll find some helpful tips on how to do this and more in this post: “Hone Your Craft Before You Sell—How I Would Have Practiced as a Newbie in Hindsight.”

Do I refrain from casual discussion about an assignment or a client/bureau/colleague, realizing that such casual talk could be problematic and detrimental to everyone – the client and the translation profession as well as my colleagues?

Our job as freelance translators is both thrilling and challenging. There are inevitably times that we want to revel in a positive experience—or vent about a negative one—with colleagues.

Especially when it comes to negative experiences, keep in mind that there’s a difference between sharing factual information—such as a dubious payment record—and badmouthing a client or fellow translator. Before indulging in gossip, consider how your words will come across to others. How would you would react if your comments were to get back to the subject of the conversation (that is, the criticized client or colleague)?

Most importantly, if you have regular complaints about someone you work with, be it a client or a colleague, it’s probably time to find a new customer or collaborator whose praises you’ll want to sing!

Do I acknowledge those who refer clients to me with a thank you note or call, a reciprocal action, an agreed-upon finder’s fee, or some other mutually understood recognition?

Humans are social creatures. We function on reciprocity. A thank-you note or a return favor (for example, a return referral) goes a long way. The lack of reciprocation may go an equally long way—in the opposite direction.

In some professions, it’s customary to reciprocate referrals with a “finder’s fee.” There have been discussions about this on the ATA Business Practices list, and the general consensus has been that translator colleagues prefer a karma-based system (and a sincere thanks) over a cut of the earnings.

There are plenty of simple ways to show gratitude that may not fill anyone’s wallet, but do fill a metaphorical“bank account.” One of these is to let the referrer know you’ll keep her in mind as a resource in the future. If you know she would be a good fit, you could also hire her to collaborate on a project when the opportunity arises.

When you show gratitude for favors or, better yet, have the opportunity to return them in a meaningful way, you find yourself in a mutually beneficial cycle of reciprocity that builds trust, camaraderie, and—yes—more work.

In short, take advantage of the power of word-of-mouth referrals. Do so with grace and the benefits will multiply.

Now that you’ve armed yourself with powerful relationship-building tools and learned how to avoid pitfalls that could make things go sour,you’re ready to explore what it means to become a Promoter of the Profession, the topic of the fifth and final post in this series. Stay tuned!

Image source: Pixabay