Book review: Guide to Becoming a Successful Freelance Translator

The translation and interpreting industries have been blessed with a plethora of new books in the last few years. The book I’m going to talk to you about is mostly for new translators and interpreters, curious to explore and eager to learn more about their communities. Let’s see the basics of the book first.

Title: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Successful Freelance Translator
Authors: Oleg Semerikov, Simon Hodkinson
Published: March 25, 2017
237 pages
More details: Translators Book or Amazon

Chapters
1: Getting on your feet
2: Client relationships
3: Marketing yourself
4: Languages and you
5: Practical matters
6: The lighter side of translation

The author starts by listing some types of linguistic services, including a few less “traditional” ones, like copywriting and desktop publishing. That list briefly outlines all the exciting opportunities awaiting recently graduated linguists, seasoned translators looking to specialize in a new type of service, or even non-linguists looking for a career change.

In “Getting on your feet,” Oleg explains what being a freelance translator entails and what it takes to be a freelance translator (being fluent in two languages is not enough, sorry). I quite like that part; it’s useful for all those second cousins and my mum’s friends’ children who ask if they can be a translator like me. Instead of spending 20 minutes on the phone explaining why it doesn’t sound like a good idea (because not one of those people ever had anything to do with languages and no future whatsoever as a translator), I could have just recited the following list.

To be a freelance translator, the following is required: native speaker of target language, fluency in source language, specialist subject knowledge (you can’t just translate anything and everything), advanced training (university, classes, qualifications, accreditations), working experience, key skills (linguistic and others), professionalism (you’re a business after all).

In “Client relationships,” Oleg starts with explaining the difference between translation agencies and direct clients. The focus then stays on agencies: how to maintain a good relationship, how to research them to avoid non-payers, how to trust them. There’s also a part about rates with specific examples, which is quite rare to find in books about translation; however, it mostly covers translation agency rates and only translation, not the other types of linguistic services.

This chapter closes with a very interesting section: what to ask your client before starting a translation project. I remember creating a checklist like that already four or five years into my translation career, a standard template to include in emails or to ask over the phone during initial client enquiries. Apart from this first set of questions, Oleg also focuses on the importance of asking questions during translation projects and provides examples.

“Marketing yourself” starts with an important principle: being a freelance translator means running your own business. And believe me, this, along with knowing your own value, takes a while to sink in, especially at the beginning of a translator’s career. This part includes tips on building a translation portfolio, how to use social media for business, and how to find your USPs (unique selling points, which means the combination of features that make your business special).

In “Languages and you,” the author describes some of the different markets or niches a translator can specialize in: video games, technical (including tips for readable technical translations), marketing, literary. Then, he explores ways of keeping up with our source and target languages and mentions some reference tools for English.

“Practical matters” starts with a few tips from freelance translators. My favorite was Clara’s secret to a happy work life, the four Cs: composure, calm, caffeine and cake. Have you seen that image of a cityscape at night and an apartment building with only one light on? That’s probably a translator working! In the first three to four years of my translation career, I spent more nights and weekends working than I want to admit. Then, I finally learned how to say no and how to put family time and my health over work. Oleg calls this “capacity management” and offers helpful tips. Next comes a section on SEO (search engine optimization), another quite interesting niche for translators, especially for marketing translators and website localizers.

“The lighter side of translation” includes a brief history of translation, how to work from home away from home (digital nomads), and how we can beat the loneliness of freelancing (co-working is on the rise and the options are endless).

An important part of this book is the appendix, which includes useful resources for translators. I’m a big fan of lists; I love to explore resources and this section was like Christmas morning for me. Quick list of the resources mentioned: CAT and QA tools, online glossaries, thesauruses and encyclopedias, dictionaries and glossaries by subject, translation blogs (The Savvy Newcomer is there too; thanks Oleg!), podcasts for translators, popular LinkedIn and Facebook groups for translators, webinars and annual conferences, worldwide associations for translators and interpreters, and a list of the 100 largest translation companies according to the Common Sense Advisory 2016 report.

Overall, I liked the book. I think it’s a good read, especially for newbies in the translation industry. Nonacademic books that focus on the translation business can be overwhelming in some cases, because they cover so many aspects and you might think, “How am I supposed to do all that, fresh out of university?” The writing style in this book feels more personal, like reading a blog.

Have you read the book? Did it help or inspire you in any way? Any other similar books that you enjoyed reading and would like to recommend for our future book reviews?

Summary of the ATA Translation and Interpreting Services Survey

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle with permission, incl. the image

The fifth edition of the ATA Translation and Interpreting Services Survey serves as a practical tool, revealing general trends in the translation and interpreting industry.

The recently released fifth edition of the ATA Translation and Interpreting Services Survey is an invaluable benchmarking tool for nearly everyone in or affiliated with the translation and interpreting industry. The study allows an individual or company to easily compare their compensation levels to their peers. Translators and interpreters are able to review rates across languages, specialties, and location. Companies involved in translation and interpreting are able to refer to this report when determining their competitiveness with respect to compensation. Students considering careers in the translation and interpreting industry can use this tool to steer their specific career decisions and to gain insight about potential compensation. In addition, the study serves as a practical tool for a broader audience—individuals and businesses in the market for translation and interpreting services.

The survey was compiled, tabulated, and prepared for ATA by Industry Insights, Inc., a professional research and consulting firm that provides management and marketing services to dealer organizations, individual membership organizations, and professional trade associations and their members. The company specializes in compensation and benefits studies, industry operating surveys, member needs studies, educational programs, and customized research activities.

Survey Design

Responses were received from translation and interpreting professionals worldwide. Approximately two-thirds of the respondents reside in the U.S., 15% in Europe, 6% in South America, 4% in Canada, and the remaining 6% in other locations.

Upon receipt, all data were checked both manually and by a custom software editing procedure. Strict confidence of survey responses was maintained throughout the course of the project.

The seven employment classifications analyzed in this report include:

  • Full-time independent contractors
  • Part-time independent contractors
  • Full-time in-house private sector personnel
  • Part-time in-house private sector personnel
  • Company owners
  • Educators
  • Government employees

For detailed analysis, responses were broken down by age, gender, years in translation and/or interpreting, education level, ATA membership, geographic region, and certification and interpreter certification/credential. This comprehensive data allows users to compare their own income, hourly rates, and rates per word to individuals in similar situations.

Some Key Findings

Respondent Demographics: Survey respondents had varying backgrounds and experience. As shown in Figure 1, more than two-thirds were female and nearly one-third were ATA-certified. More than 60% held a master’s degree or higher, and more than two-thirds had over 10 years of employment in translation and interpreting. The typical (median) respondent was 50 years old.

Summary-Fig-1

Income Varied by Employment Classification: As shown in Figure 2, translation and interpreting company owners reported the highest gross income at $55,630, which is slightly ahead of full-time private sector employees ($55,547) and full-time independent contractors ($52,323). The lowest income was reported by educators and part-time independent contractors: $17,344 and $17,746, respectively.

Certification and Credentials Matter: On average, ATA-certified translators earned 21% higher compensation than those who were not certified. Similarly, on average, certified and credentialed interpreters earned 27% higher compensation than those who were not certified or credentialed.

Trends: Nearly half of the respondents reported that their 2014 gross compensation from translation and interpreting increased compared to 2013. Nearly one-third reported no change in income, while 23% reported a decline.

Education and Experience: Thirty percent reported having a degree in translation, while 12% reported having a degree in interpreting. Half reported having a non-degree certificate in translation or interpreting. Other credentials reported include state court interpreter certification (8%) and the U.S. State Department exam (6%).

Translation Volume: Translators’ target output per day was reported at 2,855 words. On average, they translated approximately 380,000 words per year in 2014.

Translation Income: Responding translators reported three-quarters of their income was derived from translating, while 15% was earned by editing/proofreading.

Translation Services: A little more than 14% of translators reported offering editing/proofreading services, while more than 76% reported offering translation services. Only 1% of translators reported offering post-editing machine translation services.

Interpreting Income: Responding interpreters reported the bulk of their income was derived from the following settings: judiciary (27%), medicine/life sciences (22%), and business and conference (12% each).

Interpreting Services: The interpreting services offered most frequently were consecutive (96%), simultaneous (74%), sight (44%), and phone (42%).

Compensation: Thirty-two language combinations were surveyed. Translation rates were reported per word and hourly. Hourly rates were reported for editing/proofreading services. Hourly rates were reported for interpreting services.

Summary-Fig2
Summary-Fig3
Ordering Information

ATA’s 58-page Translation and Interpreting Services Survey, Fifth Edition presents the survey results in much greater detail than is possible in this summary article. The complete report includes translation and interpreting hourly rates and rates per word for a wide range of language combinations. It’s important to remember that the statistics published by ATA should be regarded as guidelines rather than absolute standards. ATA intends the survey to reveal general trends in the industry, not exact amounts.

The full report is available to ATA members for free by logging into the Members Only area of ATA’s website. Non-members may purchase the complete report for $95. Please order from ATA’s Publications page or write ATA to order your copy: ATA, 225 Reinekers Lane, Suite 590, Alexandria, VA 22314; 703-683-6100; fax 703-683-6122, e-mail: ata@atanet.org.


Shawn E. Six is a principal at Industry Insights, Inc. His position includes marketing, design, and implementation of the company’s research efforts, with a focus on compensation and benefits studies for a wide variety of industries. He has conducted more than 200 studies during his 20+ years at Industry Insights, and the results of these projects have been cited in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, CNN, and countless association journals. He has an MS in marketing from Westminster College and a master’s degree in predictive analytics from Northwestern University.

Pursuing the Translation Dream: What to Know Before the Phone Rings

Have you ever asked yourself if you have what it takes to be a translator? You probably know it takes more than being bilingual, but did you know there is more to it than being a good translator? If you are curious to know what it takes to build a successful translation career, you may be pleased to learn of this hidden gem offered by the ATA: A Self-Evaluation Questionnaire for Translators. This comprehensive “checklist” for newcomers to the field is a juicy resource that answers the question of what it really takes to be a translator.

Let’s be honest: I would posit that few, if any, successful translators got to where they are today by methodically checking off boxes on a similar list. One example is Pilar Saslow, who writes in another article about what she learned from her follies: The Top Three Things I Wish Somebody Told Me When I First Started As a Freelance Translator. Entry into the profession is rarely a smooth and linear process. However, I do not doubt that many seasoned translators would have loved to have had such a list when they were starting out.

This post kicks off a new Savvy Newcomer series that will highlight questions from the ATA checklist for new translators. In each post, we will delve into several questions and offer additional insights. In today’s post, we explore the first section: “Professional Preparation (What I need to know before the phone rings).”

Am I willing to invest time, money, and physical and emotional energy to build a career?

There is no such thing as a career that does not require investment. However, most “traditional” careers follow a well-tread path towards success, whether that means obtaining a degree, earning a license, or getting hired at a company. On the contrary, most translators are self-employed, and this independence comes with added responsibilities, including self-motivation. A career in translation requires an ongoing commitment beyond the act of translating alone. But if you love the art itself, you will probably not hesitate to invest the time, money, and energy it takes to build a translation career. Alina Cincan elaborates on the first steps towards investing in your career in her post How (Not) to Be a Professional Translator and 6 Tips to Help You Become One.

Do I know the difference between an employee and an independent contractor in terms of tax law?

Not only are most translators self-employed; the majority are also independent contractors. Independent contractors provide services based on a verbal or written contract (hence the name) with another entity that is not their employer. Unlike the relationship between employer and employee, where the employer pays a portion of the employee’s taxes (in the US, usually 50%), independent contractors are responsible for paying the full amount of taxes owed each year.

Furthermore, it is the independent contractor’s responsibility to keep track of all payments received in exchange for work and to declare and pay taxes on this amount annually or quarterly. This means putting aside approximately 30% of all taxable earnings (i.e., after deductions such as costs, depreciation, etc.) If you live in the US, you can find more information on taxes for independent contractors via the Internal Revenue Service (IRS): Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center. Our own Jamie Hartz also offers tips on paying taxes in this review of The Money Book.

Is my resume up to date and appropriate?

If you plan to offer services as a translator, it is important to have a resume dedicated solely to translation. You may want to include experience in relevant subject areas, but the job you held at the local pet shop years ago probably does not qualify.

Once you have your ideal translation resume, make sure not to let it collect dust. There is nothing like getting a resume request from a prospective client and letting the email languish while you scramble to get your resume in order. Taking the time to update your resume periodically will save you the headache later, and might even land you the client.

Find more tips in Marta Stelmaszak’s guide to translator CVs.

Am I able to give a reasonably accurate word count (in source and/or target languages) and turnaround estimate relatively quickly after I have seen the document?

Some things you simply cannot know until you know them, and word count and turnaround estimates sometimes fall into this category. However, one way to gain control is by tracking word counts and time spent on each project.

Use a tool like Toggl to determine how long it takes you to complete an assignment based on project or document type. You can also keep track of word output per hour to get an idea of how long it takes you to translate certain documents. Once you have your numbers, continue to expect the unexpected and give yourself a buffer so you are able to submit your projects on time.

Have I prearranged quality control measures to guarantee a top-notch product (such as time to mull over my draft, proofing tools, time to proofread, a third reading by a colleague with source- or target-language background, a subject area expert to consult, etc.)?

Never underestimate the importance of quality control. Like many translators, I consider myself a perfectionist, but experience has taught me that even perfectionists make mistakes. There are some things only a second pair of eyes will catch, like the misspelling of epidural (“epdiural”) that I once accidentally added to my dictionary in Word, causing spell check to overlook the typo. Whenever possible, it is invaluable to have a subject-matter expert on hand (whose fees you can budget into your quote) and to allow for ample time to mull over your draft.

Now that we have taken a closer look at things to keep in mind when first deciding to pursue a career in translation, it is time to prepare for what to do when your first clients start trickling in. Stay tuned for the next post in the series: “What to Do When the Phone Rings” (or when the first email arrives, in today’s business world!). Can’t wait for more inspiration? Check out this post by Corinne McKay with tips for new translators and interpreters.

Image source: pixabay

The Savvy Newcomer Resources page

It was a genius who said, “Never memorize something you can look up.” But as any good translator or interpreter knows, you have to know where to look it up as well! In this case, you’re in luck: The Savvy Newcomer has done the work for you with our Resources page. You can find the list, which contains links to what we consider to be some of the most useful resources on the web, in the tab titled “Resources” at the top of our blog. As the blog has grown, we have found that it is hard to get a glimpse of the full gamut of information it contains, so we wanted to have this way to share some of the tips and tricks we have found that make our lives a whole lot easier! Here is a glance at the content on the Resources page:

Journals, Newsletters, and Style Guides

Who doesn’t love a good style guide? We have compiled a list of just a few resources that may help as you make style decisions in your translations—some in English, some in Spanish. Know of a good style guide for another language? Let us know—we would love to include it!

Technology

The three resources listed under the Technology section are great not only for translators but for any computer user—they can even help you proofread general documents in Word.

Glossaries, Terminology, and Research

The resources in this section contain a wealth of information on terms and language use. They are especially helpful for subject-specific work and term research.

Education and Courses

Translators and interpreters alike can agree it is important to receive training. These resources will give you an idea of where to get started, whether you are looking into a certificate or a degree, interpreting or translation, local or distance learning.

Resources developed by ATA’s Certification Committee

The links in this section are a great starting point if you are considering taking the ATA Certification Exam; they will help you learn more about how the exam is developed, scored, and managed. The style guide and resource list are helpful not only for those preparing for the exam, but also for use in everyday translation work.

Advocacy Resources

The resource in this category is a link to ATA’s response to the Department of Homeland Security’s request for comments on its Language Access Plans. It is an interesting read as we look for ways to explain our credentials and advocate for our profession.

ATA Division Sites

This category contains links to all of ATA’s division websites. Take a look and see if any strike your fancy! ATA members can join an unlimited number of divisions for free and access division websites, forums, and newsletters on each particular subject matter or language.

As you may know, Savvy is always looking for more great content, and our Resources page is no exception—if you’d like to suggest a resource for us to include, send us an email at atasavvynewcomer@atanet.org.

Header image: Pixabay

Resources to Help Ensure Translation Payment

Resources to Help Ensure Translation PaymentOne of the questions that many newer translators ask is “How do I find good clients?” This question is often closely followed by a second: “How do I know they’re good?” To address this topic, specifically regarding scams and non-payment by translation clients, Ted Wozniak recently presented a session at the ATA conference titled “Ensuring Payment Before, During, and After the Project” which included an overview of the many actions translators can take in order to minimize the risk of not being paid for their services.

This list contains a variety of online resources that freelancers can use to vet potential clients, report non-payers and scammers, and get/share information about translation payment issues in general.

Online Resources

“Nigerian check scam alerts”
A free database of names and email addresses of assumed “Nigerian check scams” directed specifically at translators and interpreters.
www.paymentpractices.net/Scams.aspx

Blue Board – Proz
21,432 total outsourcers, searchable by name or country, as of 21 November 2016. Not all listings have scores. The LWA (likelihood of working again) is a subjective score from 1 to 5 that is entered by service provider. While there are numerous rules governing Blue Board postings, there are no rules or guidelines on how to rate an outsourcer, e.g. what constitutes a 1 or a 5.
www.proz.com/blueboard/

Hall of Fame & Shame – TranslatorsCafe
Reserved for paying members ($110/year) or to ATA certified translators who have their certification verified by TC for $25. 6,196 registered site members have access to this forum. The Hall of Fame & Shame forum contains 12,647 rating records for 2,525 agencies of the total of 7,094 agency profiles and 6,949 rating records for service providers. Caveat – When “praising” an outsourcer you do not have to confirm that you have actually worked for them, but that you would work for them again. Conversely, when “complaining”, you must affirm that you would not work for them again. No “neutral” or third-party comments allowed.
www.translatorscafe.com

Payment Practices
The “grandfather” of all payment issues lists, founded as a Yahoo Groups list in 1999. The database is searchable by a variety of parameters and contains 11,749 outsourcers, 8,717 responses (direct experience) and 3,398 comments (non-payment related information or summary of reports from other lists) on those outsourcers. The annual subscription fee is $19.99/€19.99. A free 7-day trial is available, as is a discounted rate for ATA members.
www.paymentpractices.net

Translation Scammers
Listing of various scammers (Nigerian check scams, CV theft, etc.) Not for reporting payment issues. http://www.translator-scammers.com/

Translation Ethics
Basically dead since 2014 but still has some good advice.
http://translationethics.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html#.VP2p1-HQO9Y

Mailing Lists

Betaalmoraal (Dutch)
400 members.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/betaalmoraal/info

The TCR List (Translator Client Review List)
http://www.webelists.com/cgi/lyris.pl?site=tcr&id=634874789

the-checklist (Italian)
1,020 members, 20 messages/month.
https://it.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/the-checklist/info

TradPayeur (French)
531 members. Not very active (31 messages so far in 2016, only 21 in all of 2015).
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/tradpayeur/info

Translation Agencies Payment Practices
Online message group, 190 topics (not very active 12 messages in 2015, 7 so far in 2016).
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/transpayment

Translation Agency Payment
1,155 members, 3 messages/month.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/translationagencypayment/info

translation-agencies
Any issues connected with translation agencies, not just payment. 1,174 members, on life support; 2 message in 2016, 0 in 2015. Topics seem to go in fits and starts.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/translation-agencies/info

TranslationPaymentsWhoWhenWhat
630 members. On life support. 12 messages in 2015, 17 messages in 2016.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/translation-agencies/info

Untrustworthy Translation Agencies
The full list of 700+ outsourcers (as of 31 Aug 2010) can be obtained by becoming a member (€96/year as of 1/2014). This info has not been updated since 2014 so its extent and usefulness are unknown. www.translationdirectory.com/non-payers.htm

WPPF
1,997 members, 47 messages/month.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/WPPF/info

Zahlungspraxis (German)
2,586 members, 25,168 messages, about 100/month.
https://de.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/zahlungspraxis/info

Inactive Lists

The groups and lists below are inactive or moribund; you should ignore them if they show up in your search.

Práticas Comerciais de Tradução (Portuguese)
124 members, 5 messages/month. Dead.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/pp_brasil/info

Translators-RedAlert-Hotline
57 members, Dead.
http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/Translators-RedAlert-Hotline/

transpaybulletin
All spam. No legitimate mail since 2007.
http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/transpaybulletin/

Transref
480 members, no activity since May 2010.
http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/transref

Other resources

EU Directive 2000/35/EC
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2000:200:0035:0038:en:PDF

ATA Business Practices list
(NOT for payment issues)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ata_business_practices/

FIT Europe
Information on debt collection procedures in various countries. Go to site, then click on What We Do > Completed Projects > Debt Collection Procedures.
http://www.fit-europe.org/
http://www.fit-europe.org/en/what-we-do/completed-projects/debt-collection-procedures

LinkedIn Groups

Unacceptable Translation Rates Naming & Shaming Group
Translation Agency Business Practices
Translation Agencies – Good, Bad and Cheap

We hope this list of resources will be of help next time you are vetting a new client! If you have resources to add to this list, please comment below.

Header image credit: StockSnap

Resources courtesy of Ted Wozniak

Ted R. WozniakTed R. Wozniak holds bachelor’s degrees in accounting and German and is a graduate of the German Basic Course at the Defense Language Institute. Before becoming a freelance translator, he was an accountant, stockbroker, Army liaison officer in Germany, and an interrogation instructor at the U.S. Army Intelligence School. After pursuing graduate studies in Germanics, he became a freelance German > English translator, specializing in finance, accounting and taxation. He is also the president of Payment Practices, Inc., an online database of translation-company payment practices, a former mentor at the Graham School, University of Chicago German to English financial translation program, a former instructor in the New York University German to English financial translation course, isthe current Treasurer of the American Translators Association, and owner/moderator of Finanztrans, a mailing list for German financial translators. He resides in New Orleans, LA.