What are ATA’s Mastermind Groups?

Preview blog post for Next Level: The ATA Business Practices Blog

 The following post is a preview of a new blogging venture by the ATA Business Practices Education Committee. Next Level: The ATA Business Practices Blog will provide helpful information about business practices for established translators and interpreters (those with five or more years of experience). If you have moved beyond the “newbie” stage or are curious about what to expect in your future career, check us out! We expect to launch in the next few months and look forward to building a community that seeks to improve our T&I businesses together. For more information or to submit a query, contact us at atabizpractices@gmail.com.

Mastermind groups are small peer-based groups formed to learn more about a specific topic. The members of Mastermind groups help each other solve problems and develop their professional objectives by sharing input and advice. The groups’ core value is the synergy of energy, motivation, and commitment, as well as everyone’s willingness to learn and grow together.

The ATA Mentoring Committee is introducing the new Mastermind concept for ATA in 2021 as part of a broader effort to expand benefits for long-term members. The application process will open every January. The pilot roll-out for the groups is planned for the spring of 2021.

The term “Mastermind” may suggest a connection to the concept of a masterclass, in which highly qualified experts share their knowledge as instructors. Mastermind groups are the exact opposite—instead of a group of people learning from one expert, the groups are self-guided and choose their own activities. Mastermind groups offer a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability, and support. Members challenge each other to set strong goals and, more importantly, to accomplish them by holding each other accountable and sharing resources and tips.

What does that look like? It means that professional peers, people who are at approximately the same level of professional experience, get together regularly to learn more about a specific topic together. The meetings follow a defined outline, which helps to share time fairly and ensures equal speaking opportunities for all members.

The group size is relatively small, typically around six people. When you think of a 60-minute meeting, a group of six gives everybody enough time to speak for five to ten minutes. Participation matters a lot in Mastermind groups. All members are expected to come fully prepared and to engage in meaningful conversation with the other group members.

The idea of Mastermind groups originated from the process of matching mentors and mentees. Although we match 30 mentor/mentee pairs of ATA members every year (https://www.atanet.org/careers/mentoring.php), the Mentoring Committee saw an unmet need for an in-depth discussion of more advanced learning topics.

Developed as a benefit for more experienced members who want to grow their translation or interpretation businesses, the new Mastermind groups at ATA will be offered once a year. ATA members can register by completing a survey form (open until January 31st). The information to be provided will include desired fields of learning and some information about professional experience. The groups will be open exclusively to ATA members and are expected to run for 6 months.

Tess Whitty and Dorothee Racette recorded a free webinar on November 5, 2020, to explain the primary responsibilities of leading a Mastermind group. The recording is available here.

We will initially offer five or six topics a year but are open to suggestions for special issues ATA members want to discuss. The groups will run from February to July. ATA will not be directly involved in scheduling or running the groups. We will expect the groups to follow shared guidelines so everyone has equal learning opportunities. The Mentoring Committee has compiled a manual with practical resources the groups can use.

Based on the responses we received after the 2020 conference and the webinar presentation, we already know there is interest in groups to discuss: Marketing to direct clients, Building a freelance website, Advanced use of CAT tools, and Building a market for a new specialization. The Mentoring Committee will put people with the same interests in contact and provide instructions for the next steps. Training will be offered to people who are interested in serving as group facilitators.

At least two years of professional experience are required to participate in ATA Mastermind groups. The concept is not an ideal fit for beginners who are still learning about the industry and their careers. A mentor-mentee group, professional development courses, or the Savvy Newcomer blog are more beneficial options for beginners.

The regular group meetings will include elements not typically addressed in a class or presentation: giving each other feedback, sharing what you learned, or pursuing specific questions. No one in the group, including the facilitator, has to be an expert on the subject matter. Activities such as selling your products and services, discussing unrelated concerns, or “hogging” everyone’s time will be firmly discouraged. Groups will decide independently where and how to meet. Venues can include Zoom, Google Meet, or similar programs.

What Does it Take to be a Mastermind Group Participant?

Before and during the first meeting, members will agree on group rules, expectations, and guidelines. That includes setting a single, definite focus for the group and clarifying the outcome everyone is looking to achieve. Confidentiality is another critical concern—be sure to talk about what everyone can and cannot share.

Mastermind group work doesn’t end after a meeting. Everyone makes time for action, learning, and research between meetings. The group can also decide on shared activities outside of meetings, such as reading an article or chapter of a book together. Groups may invite outside speakers on specific topics or arrange for presentations. The most crucial point is that activities are planned jointly and that everyone takes an active role in the conversations. Leaning back and letting others do the work is not acceptable.

Group Facilitators

When you fill out your participation survey, you have the option to volunteer as a group facilitator. Mastermind group facilitators start and run groups. They help the group dive deeply into discussions and work with members to create success by holding each other accountable.

Facilitators do NOT have to be an expert on the subject.

They will NOT be expected to teach about the topic.

Qualifications include an interest in learning about the topic and a willingness to network with peers in other language pairs/fields/locations. Mastermind group facilitation is a 6-month commitment.

Benefits:

  • An ideal way to try something new
  • No previous leadership experience required
  • The same level of professional experience as group members
  • No expectation of teaching or being an expert in a topic

Group participants are eligible to earn up to 10 continuing education points (1 CE point for every 2 hours of meeting time). Mastermind groups will be asked to keep attendance records to document CE claims.

Facilitating a Mastermind group can also help to expand your network beyond your language pair or division. Because all participants are ATA members, you will learn more about other ATA membership benefits and division activities.

The Mentoring Committee is excited to offer Mastermind groups as a new membership benefit in 2021. With your active participation and feedback, we hope to roll out a more extensive variety of groups in 2022. Questions or suggestions? The Mentoring Committee is looking forward to hearing from you! They can be reached at mentoring@atanet.org.

Author bios

Tess Whitty has been an English-Swedish freelance translator since 2003. She is also the current chair of the ATA Business Practices Education Committee. With her degree in International Marketing and background as marketing manager, she also enjoys sharing her marketing knowledge and experience with other freelance translators as an award-winning speaker, trainer, consultant, author and podcaster.

Dorothee Racette has been a full-time freelance GER < > EN translator for over 25 years. She served as ATA President from 2011 to 2013. In 2014, she established her own coaching business, Take Back My Day, to help individuals and organizations solve problems related to workflow and time management. As a certified productivity coach (CPC), she now divides her time between translating and coaching.

Three Lessons: Humility, Collaboration, Perseverance

This post originally appeared on Word Prisms and it is republished with permission.

All three – in that order – hold the key to becoming a world-class translator.

An interviewer, who was also a writer, once asked me how many words I’d translated before I published my first translated book for the American Institute of Physics. I imagined he expected an answer of perhaps ten thousand or so.

“About two million,” I replied.

Two million?! How is that possible?

“That’s a conservative figure, I think.”

I explained that I was young and had been dictating scientific translations from Russian into English for publication in scientific journals for almost a decade when I published my first book translation. I kept two technical typists busy full-time.

I might have added that I was also personally responsible for perhaps 1% of all US East Coast consumption of editorial red ink scrawled all over my translations.

It turned out that my translator-editor colleagues at the American Institute of Physics, Plenum Publishing, the Optical Society of America, the Congressional Research Service, the World Bank and the U.S. national labs, to name just a few, were even better than I was.

I thought of myself as a terrific translator at the time – don’t we all? I knew my subject-matter cold. I could write convincingly and clearly. I had completed tons of college coursework in translation at Georgetown and had published translations with nationally renowned Russian scholars at the Smithsonian. I’d been selected by scientific publishers from many hundreds of applicants, often the only translator chosen in a given selection round. The staff at the American Institute of Physics would always call me “Dr. Hendzel” when I called because many of the other translators on the translation program held PhDs in physics (I didn’t)  and they were wary of offending somebody (I would politely correct them, but they would just as politely ignore me.)

So this editorial brutalization took some getting used to.

Twice a week I’d receive these fat packets stuffed full of hard-copy final corrections (later I’d receive red-lined electronic files). It was feedback on a massive scale, constantly, every single year, across dozens of sub-disciplines in physics, optics and engineering, and seemingly without end.

It occurred to me that this level of collaboration and correction was a lot like the scientific enterprise itself.

You learn three things from this kind of decades-long editorial mauling.

1. Humility.

2. Collaboration.

3. Perseverance.

Welcome to the Commercial Translation Market

Fast forward a few years to when I jumped feet first into the commercial translation market with my company ASET.

The first of many sobering realizations you come to in the early phases of building a premier boutique translation company is that you cannot possibly do all the work yourself, even if you do dictate.

After seeking out and examining the actual translation work produced by your commercial colleagues, you soon begin to realize that something is terribly wrong.

The commercial translation market appears to be radically different from the scientific publication market in some very crucial ways.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of the work is genuinely good. This warms your heart and brings a smile to your weary face. But much of the technical, legal and even financial translations produced by some of the most visible and recognizable names in the commercial translation industry – even those with graduate translation degrees and certifications a mile long – are dramatically and bizarrely uneven.


This comes as a bit of a shock. How is this possible?

The quality spectrum and relative distribution looked something like this:

Publishable – Good – Understandable – Technical Fiction – Embarrassing – WTF?

After you’ve carefully evaluated several hundred translation samples yourself and had thousands more assessed by your former scientific-translator colleagues you do trust, a pattern begins to emerge.

The translators whose work is most solid – technically accurate, well-researched and elegantly written – are those who have had excellent technical subject-matter training (whatever relevant field) and have been translating professionally for a minimum of ten years. A decade appeared to be a tipping point.

But that’s only a start. Far more crucial to real expertise was the way these translators worked for all those years.

The Essential Role of Collaboration

The best translators had dodged the bullet of working in total isolation. They had spent their careers working in a massively collaborative environment – either physical or virtual (sometimes both). These people had been revised. They’d been edited. They’d been re-written. Their texts had been scrutinized, disemboweled, blasted apart and re-assembled.

They’d been fine-tuned and polished and burnished and shined.

Their translations had been at risk their entire careers: At risk for acceptance or rejection or revision by their own colleagues who were right there in the trenches working with them.

They would project their translations on screens at translation conferences and stand by them. They would reflect and consult and discuss with the session attendees ways to improve them.

Often conference interpreters who also worked as translators – the ultimate experts in collaboration and active learning from each other – were, surprisingly enough, much more flexible and receptive to instruction and guidance than were (written-only) translators with subject-matter training working into their native language of English.

Angry Isolationists

This rejection did not go over well with some of the translators whose work I evaluated, heavily edited and then rejected for requiring far too much intervention on every level.

“Your changes are a matter of opinion,” some sniffed (perhaps, but their translations were describing a physical world that did not actually exist).

“Here are my responses to your changes,” they would say, writing out 20-page single-spaced responses defending terms they “found in the dictionary” but made no sense in the context, to the extent that their context made any sense at all.

“Translators are creative artists and do their best work alone, like authors do,” some translators argued, often angrily and vociferously. It was pointed out to me more than once that Shakespeare worked alone (seriously). They would dispute the most minor of points and reject all feedback on principle. Most of these objections followed Sayre’s Law: “In any dispute, the intensity of the feelings is inversely proportional to the value of the issue at stake.”

“I’ve Never Had a Complaint from a Client.”

Then there were the translators who would defend their translation quality based on the specious and puzzling notion that they’d “never had a complaint from a client.”

This could not be true, first, because I was a client, and my rejection of their work based on a careful assessment was about as “complaint-y” as it gets.

Second, veterinarians never have complaints from their patients, either – nor do coroners – for perhaps the same reason that some translators don’t. Many clients cannot accurately assess translation quality – certainly monolingual clients can’t – so they say nothing at all.

Silence should not be confused with a vote of confidence.

The Exorbitant Price of Arrogance

All humans have an enormous cognitive and emotional investment in self-image. And translators are running a business, which supports their very livelihood. So these are some very sensitive grounds on which we tread.

Unfortunately, these translators had made the regrettable decision somewhere in their careers to defend their ego and self-image over all else, even (and especially) the quality of their product. This is a doomed strategy in a competitive market. It’s also an unfortunate one given the opportunities we all have to learn from colleagues through collaboration.

And even a modicum of modesty – or a realization of the limits the complexity of the world place on us – would have unwound all that defensive energy and pointed them into a much more productive – and ultimately happier – direction.

Author bio

Translator, linguist, media commentator and business executive Kevin Hendzel draws on over 35 years of experience in the translation and localization industry in a broad range of roles, including translator, language lead, company owner, lexicographer, media commentator, and national event panelist.

As the official translator of 34 published books in physics and engineering and 10,000 articles for the Russian Academy of Sciences, Kevin Hendzel is one of the most widely published translators in the English language.

Kevin’s professional background includes an extended period working on the US-Russia Direct Communications Link, also known as the Presidential “Hotline,” where he was Senior Linguist of the technical translation staff. Between 1992 and 2008, Kevin worked to advance ASET International Services Corp. to become the leading firm on all nuclear programs in the former Soviet Union before selling the company with his business partner in 2008.

Kevin was the original architect of the ATA national media program launched in 2001. Between 2001 and 2012 he served as National Media Spokesman of the American Translators Association. During that period he appeared on CNN, FoxNews Live, ABC World News Tonight, CBS News, NBC News, MSNBC, National Public Radio, Voice of America, PBS, The New York Times, the Washington Post, the AP wire service, ReutersThe Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionUSATodayWired and many more outlets promoting translation and interpretation services as vital to commerce, diplomacy, security, and culture.

The Secret Sauce for Building Cohesive Teams

Though it may seem paradoxical since many of us work independently, teamwork is a critical component of a freelance translator or interpreter’s professional life. Introverts and extroverts alike need collaboration and interaction in order to thrive, and oftentimes quality necessitates working together to resolve questions and agree on solutions. Whether you’re volunteering on a committee, working with a team of translators and editors on a big project, or joining forces in the interpreting booth, cohesive teamwork enhances and enriches your efforts.

Here at The Savvy Newcomer, we have learned the value of cooperation and collaboration time and time again as we work together to bring you content on a weekly basis. No team is perfect, but we’ve worked out quite the recipe for cohesiveness as we have been growing and stretching as a team since 2013. Starting with a team of three translators who barely knew each other and had no idea what platform we would be creating, Savvy has grown to include eight members that coordinate both a weekly blog and two conference sessions. Read on to learn more about what we’ve concocted!

Ingredients

1 core team of 2-3 dedicated individuals who share a common goal

  • Each teammate should have a role to play. Know your strengths but also be willing to back each other up when needed.
  • Add more people to the mix as you need additional support; integrate slowly, making sure they know they are valuable to the team and have an important role to play in your group’s success.
  • Sometimes teammates don’t work out; be willing to have frank conversations with teammates who can’t commit to working with you or whose work doesn’t line up with your team’s objectives.

2 people trained and prepared to take on each task

  • It’s inevitable that teammates will need breaks or go on vacation or take leaves of absence, because life happens. Make sure that no one person on your team holds all the knowledge about critical processes.
  • Keep SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) so that it’s easier for someone else to take over when one person needs a break. Update these on a regular basis, or every time your process changes.

1 communication method that suits your team

  • Agree on a platform that everyone can communicate through, whether it be email, Slack, or a listserv. Keep communication clear and concise but friendly; business colleagues can talk about everyday stuff, not just business!
  • Share ideas openly; make it clear that your team is a safe place to springboard ideas and build confidence.

1 file sharing method that suits your team

  • Whether it’s Dropbox or Google Drive, make sure everyone on the team can access the documents they need in order to pull their own weight. If one person can’t get to the SOPs, they can’t be helpful even if they want to!
  • It’s also important for your file structure to be well-organized; when new members join the team they shouldn’t have to take a crash course in how your folder system works. It should be intuitive and logical so that people can get up to speed quickly when they pick up tasks for other team members.

Instructions

These ingredients aren’t foolproof, but hard work and good camaraderie are a good combination so we believe you’ll find that this mix will make for a viable team. Keeping commitments is critical to any team effort; make sure your teammates can count on you and vice versa. Be open to improvement and adaptation; your process may need some tweaking over time, and in particular you may need to do some adjusting as you get started. Lastly, be aware that sometimes you put together the perfect dream team and it just doesn’t work out—the timing might not be right, it might not be what your audience wants, or your dream team might not mix the way you thought it would. That’s okay! Take note of lessons learned and try again.

What types of teams are you a part of, readers? What is your team chemistry like? What unexpectedly worked or didn’t work?

Translation Commons: A Community for Language Professionals

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

Translation Commons is a nonprofit, volunteer-based online community designed to facilitate collaboration among diverse sectors and stakeholders of the language industry and encourage transparency, trust, and free knowledge sharing. It was established with the idea that translated data and memories truly belong to the translators who create them and that they should be the ones to benefit from their work. By offering free access to open source tools and other resources, Translation Commons facilitates community-driven projects, aims to help empower linguists, and allows the sharing of educational and language assets.

A Brief History

Translation Commons didn’t happen in a vacuum. I first heard the catch phrase “collaborative commons” in 2014, and the concept of collaboration within the language community struck a very deep chord. How could that become a reality and how would everyone benefit? Would the platform for this collaboration offer collective translation memories and data, or perhaps merely serve as a means of talking to each other? Maybe it could serve both functions?

I discussed the idea at many conferences and networking events with language professionals, mostly in Silicon Valley, but I also had many online conversations through various LinkedIn groups. In December 2014, I created a LinkedIn group to determine the interest level for an online community serving all language professionals. I was very surprised by the positive response: just 20 days after starting the LinkedIn group, there were already 1,000 members. I felt that as far as feasibility studies go, this was a runaway success and demonstrated that there was a need for such a community waiting to be fulfilled.

I’ve always been in the language business with my husband, so after just a brief discussion we were both committed to take Translation Commons to the next level. We started a corporation and applied for nonprofit status. A few months later, to our surprise, the IRS not only granted us nonprofit status, but also determined that we could be categorized as a public charity benefiting the larger community, not just our linguistic members.

After many discussions, we managed to pin down and crystalize our objectives. In a nutshell, Translation Commons is concerned with helping all language professionals achieve due recognition for their work. More specifically, Translation Commons’ vision is to help the language industry by building an infrastructure to:

  • Help our language students by bridging the gap between academia and industry.
  • Facilitate collaboration and mentoring.
  • Organize language resources from around the world.
  • Grow the visibility and importance of our community and gain recognition.

Designing the Platform

Our first task was to create an advisory board consisting of high-profile professionals from many diverse sectors who could represent their interests and guide the community. We’ve been able to assemble an amazing group that’s still growing.

The next step was to move on from LinkedIn and start building our own online platform. Thankfully, we teamed up with Prompsit, an amazing engineering company in Spain that understood and shared our vision. We’ve been working with them for nearly two years now and have managed to expand the offerings on the website.

I would like to clarify that building such a platform is a vast undertaking. Although we now have a fully functional website, there’s still a lot to do. So far, the site architecture consists of Linux and Windows servers, 10 language applications (both proprietary and open source), docker containers (allowing applications to run virtually anywhere), MySQL, wikis, application programming interfaces, G Suite apps, and single sign-on integration.

To address all the issues in our mission, we’ve divided the Translation Commons online platform into three modules: Translate, Share, and Learn.

Translate: The Translate module offers translation tools and applications, both open source and proprietary, most of them on our servers with a few cloud applications integrated with our single sign-on integration. The goal is to create a seamless platform with all available applications. This is an extremely important endeavor as it helps students and those beginning their professional careers familiarize themselves with tools that they might not normally be able to access. We’ve found that quite a few of our members who are recent graduates are unfamiliar with the variety of tools available to help them work more effectively. By offering open source tools and free trials to proprietary applications, we hope to increase their skill set and knowledge of technology.

Share: The Share module is the main portal for all community sharing activities, including think tanks, language industry initiatives, group discussions, and working groups. This is also where any member of the community can start a new project or group and ask people to join. Because we know how difficult it is for small project groups to develop an online platform for collaboration, we offer them the tools to do exactly that: a website, mailing list, calendar, task page, and a drive and document uploader to gather their volunteers and work effectively. We also offer members the entire Google G Suite, which was donated to Translation Commons due to its nonprofit status. Currently, there are around 60 apps available to all members.

Learn: The Learn module offers a Learning Center, tutorials, skill development programs, online courses, and group webinars. Links to our free resources (both online and offline) are available in the Translation Hub. These resources include terminology databases and glossaries. Of course, this is a work in progress and we ask for everybody’s help to upload links to any free online resources to which they have access (e.g., tips, insights, and guides). We’re also talking with proprietary automation toolmakers that offer free trials and asking them to add their links in the Translation Hub. Finally, we’ve inherited and are hosting the eCoLo Project (electronic content localization), which provides useful training materials for both students and teachers to help improve skills in different areas of computer-assisted translation (e.g., translation memory, software localization, project management, and terminology). You’ll also find multilingual material, training kits, training scenarios, and full courses on various translation and localization techniques.

Working Groups

The working groups have been created from within the community. We call our groups Think Tanks because their mission is to identify areas that need improvement and the gaps that need to be filled.

Mentoring: This was the first Think Tank to emerge from the original LinkedIn group. There are some very good mentoring programs available through associations and other organizations in the U.S. and Europe (including ATA’s program) that have managed to capture the essence of mentoring and have a great group of people managing them. However, our mentoring group conducted a global survey and found that many of the freelance translators who responded were unaware of existing mentoring programs or didn’t have a clear understanding of how to get involved. Respondents also stated that expectations and responsibilities are issues of concern when agreeing on mentoring on a one-on-one basis. After analyzing the survey results, the mentoring group decided to create guidelines for freelance mentors who wish to take on freelance mentees. Under the guidance of Nancy Matis, an experienced project manager and teacher, we now have a thriving group that has written an extensive document, “Mentoring Guidelines for Freelancers,” which is currently available for download from the Translation Commons website. The group is also creating a list of mentoring programs so that graduates have somewhere to start their search for mentors.

Technology: The Technology Think Tank is an integral part of Translation Commons. Our commitment to open source resources allows us to make language and the work of translators a priority. Led by Mikel Forcada, a professor of computer science in Alicante, Spain, and with representatives from other translation platforms that include Apertium, Moses, Omega T, Mojito, Okapi, and Translate5, the goal is to catalogue all language-related open source applications and facilitate their adoption.

Interpreting: The Interpreting Think Tank is led by Barbara Werderitsch and ATA Member Arturo Bobea, who have created a very active LinkedIn group. They conducted a survey on interpreters’ knowledge and use of technology and are currently preparing the results. Their reports on various technology providers and new interpreting delivery platforms are also available on the Translation Commons website.

In addition to the working groups, we also host and facilitate volunteer groups that any member can create. Under the expert guidance of Gabriella Laszlo, who worked on Google’s Localization Operations and who now designs backend workflows for Translation Commons, we’re able to offer collaborative volunteer initiatives related to language.

Volunteers

Our volunteers are the heart and soul of the Translation Commons community. Their passion for language and expertise in technology are the cornerstones of our initiatives. Their commitment and clear vision of the roadmap that our industry needs to follow are a testament to the merit of a united global language community.

We invite everyone to join and register at http://www.translationcommons.org and to participate in the LinkedIn groups. Do you have an idea that would benefit the community? Do you want to become a mentor to the next generation of language professionals? Do you want to share your expertise, links, material, tutorials, or articles? Are you part of a small initiative and need more exposure? Then please share your knowledge with all of us!

Remember, if you have any ideas and/or suggestions regarding helpful resources or tools you would like to see featured, please e-mail Jost Zetzsche at jzetzsche@internationalwriters.com.


Jeannette Stewart is a co-founder of Translation Commons. She has a BS in business administration and her early career was in advertising and marketing. She is the founder and former chief executive officer of CommuniCare, a translation company specializing in life sciences. She created a series of workshops on language specialization and participates in industry associations and at conferences as a speaker and advocate for the language industry. She writes articles on language community initiatives for Multilingual Magazine. Contact: jeannette@translationcommons.org.

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.