What makes a good agency?

This post was originally published in the July-August 2009 edition of the ITI Bulletin. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Herbert Eppel offers advice for ensuring the relationship between freelance translator and client remains harmonious, productive and pleasant for both sides

In the 15 years since I started diversifying into translation I have worked with around 100 different clients and have encountered dozens of others, many of them translation agencies. Based on this experience it is worth reflecting on what distinguishes these agencies in terms of their interaction with the translator.

Initial contact

Let’s start with the initial contact. It is good practice for translation agencies seeking new freelance suppliers to spend some time researching individual translators’ backgrounds – eg from their respective websites or from online directories such as the main ITI Directory, the Scottish Network Directory at http://www.itiscotland.org.uk, or the new ITI German Network Directory at http://www.itigermannetwork. org.uk – and then send out personalised invitations that are relevant to the circumstances. A less desirable approach is to send out impersonal mass mailings.

Application forms

Some agencies adopt a rather informal approach, while others use more or less complex translator information forms as a basis for their supplier databases. Before asking translators to complete lengthy forms, it is a good idea to negotiate a mutually satisfactory rate as a basis for future collaboration.

Free test translations

The issue of free test translations has been discussed at some length in various forums over the years. In my view, while anyone is entitled to request a test translation, professional translators should not be expected to provide these free of charge. In other words, test translations should be treated just like any other job. In this context, anyone who has not seen it yet and can understand German will no doubt find the ‘Gratisschnitzel’ article published by the Austrian translators’ association Universitas quite entertaining. It can be found on page 4 of the document available from http://www.universitas.org/download.html?FILE_ID=112.

Confidentiality agreements

As members of professional institutions such as ITI, professional translators sign up to a code of conduct that includes confidentiality clauses. I am not a legal expert, but lengthy and complex additional confidentiality agreements as requested by some agencies would therefore seem rather unnecessary.

Deadlines

In certain circumstances, urgent deadlines requiring a translator to work outside normal office hours are unavoidable. While many freelance translators tend to work irregular hours and may well be quite happy to adjust their schedule to accommodate urgent assignments, out-of-hours or weekend work should not be taken for granted. A good agency is a freelancer’s ally, and should be prepared to negotiate appropriate surcharges with the end-client where appropriate.

Auxiliary tasks

As the job title suggests, a translator’s main task is translation. Handling of auxiliary tasks such as PDF extraction or layout refinements in complex file formats such as PowerPoint should not be taken for granted. In this respect, a statement published by a well-known translation memory software provider back in 2002 speaks for itself: ‘Pricing is not just set on a per word basis when complex file types are involved. If you are translating in file types other than Word-like web pages, or desktop publishing formats, you will want to charge file maintenance fees to compensate you for the extra skill required to manage and translate within such file types. Typically, a 10%-20% surcharge (depending on project complexity) is customary.’

Discounts

Some clients ask for discounts on the grounds that a job is particularly large. I would suggest that such a priori discounts are inappropriate, because: a) a commitment to undertake a large job within a standard timescale may well prevent a translator from taking on work from other clients in the meantime; and b) it could be argued that translators who can offer the additional project management skills and resources required for handling such projects should in fact be rewarded, rather than penalised.

Similarly, translators are often asked to accept a sliding discount scale that was originally suggested by the aforementioned TM software provider, but is by no means cast in stone. Such a scale takes into account internal repetitions, so-called 100% TM matches and TM matches with varying degrees of fuzziness. In my experience, fuzzy matches may well require more time to adapt to a new text than translating the relevant sentence from scratch, and therefore I do not offer ‘fuzzy discounts’. On the other hand, like probably most colleagues I do give discounts in some cases for repetitions and 100% matches.

At this point, however, I feel it is worth pointing out that the origin and quality of 100% matches is a crucial factor that often seems to get overlooked in the ‘great discount debate’. In other words, the 100% matches for which the client may expect a discount could have been based on poor previous translations undertaken by third parties, in which case any revision can be more time-consuming than a new translation.

An inquisitive translator is good news

The brochure Translation – getting it right, written by Chris Durban of ITI, is aimed at end-clients and is available to download from the ITI website, http://www.iti.org.uk. Part of the text says: ‘No one reads your texts more carefully than your translator. Along the way, he or she is likely to identify fuzzy bits – sections where clarification is needed. This is good news for you, since it will allow you to improve your original. … Ideally, translators strip down your sentences entirely before creating new ones in the target language. Good translators ask questions along the way.’

A good translation agency will try to convey this philosophy to the end-client, for the benefit of all parties involved. Similarly, the agency will automatically enquire about reference material in cases where such material is not provided by the end-client.

Feedback

Feedback on completed translation assignments is important and should be encouraged. In my experience, many agencies seem to adopt a kind of ‘no news is good news’ principle, which is fine in some ways, but even better is the occasional positive feedback.

Any agencies and indeed end-clients who might be lost for words in this respect could take some guidance from the Comments section of my website at http://www.HETranslation. co.uk. Constructive corrective feedback is also to be encouraged, of course. Less helpful are general statements such as ‘the client was not happy’, issued several months after a translation job was delivered. Not only is this detrimental to morale, but I also feel that in many cases, such generic criticism fails to stand up to closer scrutiny.

‘Faffometer’

It is worth introducing the concept of a ‘Faffometer’ for measuring the satisfaction level of the working relationship between agency and freelance translator. Sadly I cannot claim to have invented the term – it appears to have been introduced by Business Productivity Expert Mike Pagan, although he uses it in a slightly different – potentially also very useful – manner. For him it is an Excel spreadsheet divided into equal time periods in the working day, each of which is allocated a productive task, and where the least possible amount of time is spent ‘faffing about’. See his video newsletter at http://video. mikepagan.com/Newsletter/Faffometer (it is less than two minutes long) for more. I am still in the process of refining my own Faffometer.

At the high end of my Faffometer scale are agencies who tend to be reluctant to ask the end-client whether source texts can be made available in a format that can readily be processed with a CAT tool and, faced with IT challenges that may be beyond the capabilities of their project managers, expect translators to deal with auxiliary IT aspects such as extracting text from PDF files and preparing nicely formatted documents or presentations in the target language.

Ideal scenario

At the other end of the Faffometer scale is an agency I have been working for on a very regular basis for around 10 years, with a total job count approaching 2,000. This rather high figure is partly explained by the fact that all jobs, however small, are assigned a separate job number. While this may seem tiresome, it avoids can-you-please-just-translate-these-few-words-for-free scenarios. The agency invariably deals with any and all file format conversion and translation memory aspects and handles any and all pre- and post-processing tasks that may be required.

Specifically, all their texts (regardless of the format of the original source document) arrive in the form of specially formatted MS Word files, where any pre-processed text (eg 100% translation memory matches or internal repetitions) is clearly identified. Such text can simply be formatted as hidden and automatically ignored on import into TM tools such as Déjà Vu and MemoQ.

The attraction of this approach is that discount negotiations and sliding discount scales are never an issue, while the pre-processed text contained in the original file can be helpful for reference. In addition, the agency tends to make translation memory and glossary extracts from their in-house TM and terminology management systems available, always tries to obtain reference material from the end-client, and happily responds to terminology clarification requests.

Header image source: Pixabay

Author bio

Herbert Eppel is a chartered engineer. Originally from Heidelberg, he has been living and working in the UK since 1988. Herbert diversified into translation in around 1995, and is a member of several ITI networks.

He deals with texts from a wide range of technical and scientific subjects. For more, see http://www.HETranslation.co.uk.

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.

 

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

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

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

Inauspicious beginnings

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

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

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

Baby steps

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

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

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

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

Peaks and valleys

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remote (im)possibility

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

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

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

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

The time is write

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

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

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

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

Goals for year two

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

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

Over to you…

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

Image source: Pixabay

Author bio

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

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

Tips on Getting and Keeping Agency Clients

Tips on Getting and Keeping Agency ClientsAfter a ten-year stretch as director of the interpreting department for a mid-sized language company on the East Coast, I have recently reentered the freelance world. The language industry has changed considerably for independent contractors since I last worked as an interpreter, and while there is more work to be had, there are also more interpreters and more rigorous standards, certification requirements and regulations. I have encountered the freelance challenges of self promotion, procuring assignments, and negotiating scrutiny in the face of fierce competition. I’ve taken stock of what interests me, what I am good at, my current qualifications and of course, what is in demand.

My strategy is to secure work with agencies as much as possible to build my practice, while concurrently developing my skills, accreditations and specializations.

Below is a systematic approach which breaks down the various elements or steps in the process. This is not intended to be linear but rather circular in that many of the elements can be revisited and are interchangeable, overlapping and ongoing.

  • RESEARCH

Knowledge is power. Keeping current means staying informed of latest trends, new regulations, recent developments and relevant technology to better understand your place in the business. Starting with a thorough and honest self-assessment will help you know how you fit into the professional spectrum and how you stack up against the competition, in order to leverage your services. This self examination can be critical in determining if and how you are equipped to be a successful freelancer in the language industry.

Self-Evaluation

Education: What was your field of study, what degrees or certifications have you attained or do you need to attain to adequately compete?

Skills and Proficiency: For interpreters, modes in simultaneous, consecutive, or sight, and for translators, what CAT tools and formats do you work in and what is your maximum capacity of words per day?

Background: What are your working language pairs and are they equally bi-directional? Are you a native speaker of one or both languages of your pair (for interpreters) or of the target language (for translators)? Have you lived or worked in the non-native country? How many years have you worked in the industry?

Personal considerations: Are there any health or family restrictions? Interpreters: Are you willing to travel? Do you have the time and resources to service a large geographical area? With small children, how many hours a day can you dedicate? Are you the main breadwinner in your family and are you capable of working at this on a part-time or full-time basis? Are you financially able to weather seasonal dry spells? This may influence the volume of work you may need to generate as an independent contractor.

Industry Evaluation

Where is the work? Is there enough work for your language pair in your region to sustain a career in the language industry? Do you plan to work solely as an interpreter, a translator or both?

What is the going rate for your services in your region?

How unique is your language group – locally or nationally – and how do your qualifications compare to those of your colleagues with similar education and backgrounds?

What and where are some of the dominant or obvious business opportunities for your language group (e.g. Pashtu/Government, Japanese/Patents). If you know that the demand for your specialization is greater than the qualified supply, it is advisable to assess the current industry value, capitalize on that uniqueness and strategically position yourself accordingly.

Agency Evaluation

Once some of the questions above have been addressed, you can begin to research and explore the agencies which might best fit some of the above established criteria. For most interpreters, starting with a local search makes the most sense. Working through your local Chapter as well as the ATA for their corporate members is another good place to begin. The ATA annual conference attracts agencies from all over the country that have legal, medical, business and government clients in states beyond the location of their headquarters. Referrals from colleagues whom you trust and respect can also be a great way to expand your services to new agencies. Ultimately, you want to find agencies that are a good match for your services and that are reputable. It is always a good idea to cross-reference a new or unknown agency with other experienced and respected colleagues.

  • RESUMÉ / CV

Once you have identified and captured your qualifications, you will need to organize and present your profile in a single document tailored specifically to feature your professional language skills. For most agencies, a one or two-page resumé should suffice to accurately package your services. Your resumé is your single most powerful marketing tool. It is your opportunity to tell your story, to pitch your unique services to a Project Manager (PM) or Vendor Manager. These are typically the ones who receive, analyze, file or discard solicitations by hundreds of applicants both locally and internationally. A resumé should be above all truthful, well organized and formatted, concise and easy to read, with consistent and accurate grammatical structure. I have seen too many resumés tossed because of poor planning, typos, gaps of information, or language skills hidden in obscure places where they are easily missed. Polish your resumé so that it is outstanding and structured so that your most salient skills are immediately recognizable at a glance.

For higher-level work (e.g. legal document review, conferences) a longer CV may be desirable which details the years, clients and specific nature of complex assignments. Resumés should always be sent in a protected format such as encrypted PDF to protect your information and prevent tampering or piracy.

  • PROMOTION: GETTING/KEEPING THE WORK

Promotional Materials

Once you have conducted the necessary research to identify the targeted ideal agencies, you will need to put together an organized outreach strategy to circulate your resumé for potential work. Utilize LinkedIn and treat it as an extension of your resumé. If you do not have a website, recruiters doing a simple Google search of your name will find your LinkedIn profile. If not already a member of ATA or your local ATA chapter, invest the time and minor funds to join and tap into the terrific resources each offers. The better agencies will always resort to the directory in their searches for linguists. ATA, Chapter or Affiliate networking and educational events offer not only professional development and social support but also provide the opportunity for face-to-face contact with sponsoring agencies. The ATA annual conference and the ATA directory profile also attract top national agencies searching for talent. More and more professional translators and interpreters are creating websites to promote their services and can be another great marketing tool to reflect a polished, professional image, which can generate a lot of online traffic. Applying the same structural, aesthetic, grammatical and ethical rules as resumés, websites also require additional maintenance and utility. It should be noted that an outdated or dysfunctional website can be detrimental to landing a job and worse, to your reputation.

Introductory and Follow-up Emails

An email is your chance to close the deal, especially if acquiring your services may satisfy a deficiency in an agency’s language roster or fill a void for the loss of another vendor through illness, death or relocation. If you are following up with an agency after personally meeting with the owner, vendor manager or PM, be sure to add a personal touch, recapping the event with perhaps an anecdote reminding them of a chat you might have had or a colleague’s introduction or referral. If you are reaching out cold, try to make it as personable as possible, addressing it to the appropriate person. Emails with an impersonal opening, poor grammar or spelling in the target language might be deleted without even getting the resumé attachment opened. Because you never have a second chance to make a good first impression, an introductory email has to strike the right note and indicate the courtesy, professionalism and communication skills that would be desirable from a vendor representing the agency if ultimately hired. At the risk of being obvious, when presented with a job opportunity, not missing deadlines and returning emails in a timely fashion are sacrosanct to a successful practice.

  • CULTIVATING THE RELATIONSHIP

One of the most rewarding aspects of our profession and an additional benefit of working with multiple agencies is the variety of assignments you can enjoy in a given week. Both legal and medical certification programs require continuing professional development as part of the code of conduct and ethics. Developing skills through diverse workshops, courses and accreditation programs, besides refining our skills, can permit you to expand the types of agencies, clients and settings that require language access. Once an agency evaluates an independent contractor as a top-tier vendor, they will always call on them first when a choice assignment becomes available because they know they can rely on quality, with consistent, fairly priced services. Another great way to keep your profile prominent on an agency’s radar is to regularly communicate to them new certifications achieved, new industries you are able to cover or an increase in your availability. Once you become a regular and can develop a relationship with one or two PMs, remind them of your services, keeping them informed by contacting them with vacation notices, birth notices and/or Christmas cards. PMs will often share these with co-workers and the preferred status is then shared among departments. All of these individuals are more than clients; they are human beings who – in addition to appreciating quality, flexibility and punctuality – respond to kindness, humor and courtesy.

Header image credit: Unsplash

Author bio

 Tony GuerraTony Guerra, the current president of the Delaware Valley Translators Association, has more than 20 years of experience in the management, marketing and development of multicultural communications services. A native of Havana, Cuba, he has worked as an independent contractor as well as in-house with companies and agencies. His Spanish<>English translation and interpretation services specialize in legal, medical, government and marketing sectors. Besides chairing DVTA’s PR and Certification Committees, he is also highly involved in numerous volunteer activities for the American Translators Association (ATA) including as National Chapters Chair, the interpretation Policy Advisory Committee, the PR Committee’s Speakers Forum and ATA’s Mentoring Program.

6 Ways to Foster a Strong Relationship with your Project Manager and Earn More Work

6 Ways to Foster a Strong Relationship with your Project ManagerAs a freelance translator, some of your projects will come from language service providers (LSPs) as opposed to direct clients. If you attend the ATA Conference, you’ll meet almost as many LSP representatives as fellow translators, looking to hire their next batch of vendors. Many of those representatives will be project managers (PMs). PMs often decide whom to hire for a project, and whether to continue working with the translator after the project ends.

Responsibilities and internal structures vary from company to company, but most PMs have the same set of fundamental responsibilities. They work with translation-buyers to determine the scope, projected budget, and client needs for a given project. They contact translators and make sure that projects are completed to client specifications. PMs save translation buyers the hassle of locating good translators themselves, while translators spend less time locating direct clients and more time translating.

As a freelancer, it’s important to establish a continuous stream of work. Since many PMs enjoy great discretion in whom they assign work to, how can you ensure you’ll get the job and keep it?

As a PM myself, I’m so glad you asked. After consulting with colleagues and reflecting on past projects, I’ve listed six ways to foster strong relationships with your PMs and earn more work.

  1. Be responsive. When a PM sends an assignment, confirm your availability immediately. Every project is a race against time, and your responsiveness is key. If a client sends changes or cancels a project that’s already started, the faster you respond to a PM, the more time you save everyone.
  2. Be communicative. The first point’s close cousin. Keep your PM up to-date on anything that might affect the quality, cost, or delivery of your project. Is there some issue with the document that will affect its delivery or final quality? Let your PM know immediately. The faster and more forthcoming you are when a problem presents itself, the easier finding a solution will be, and you’ll have helped not only your PM, but the end client too.
  3. Do your homework. This has two parts. First, it means to research the content and terminology of the document you are translating. Putting in the work to learn the industry-standard translation of a term or the correct spelling of a name shows attention to detail and commitment to your work. Second, never be afraid to ask questions. If you are not sure whether a term should be left in the original language, or what it means, there’s no shame in asking. It doesn’t make you seem ignorant or incompetent. On the contrary, you’ll come off as much more competent and thoughtful than the translator who guesses.
  4. Accept reasonable deadlines, and then meet them. It goes without saying that you should always deliver on time. Knowing the amount of time it takes to complete a project to the best of your abilities ensures that you stick to this rule. Remember, you’re being paid in part for the quality of your work. Unless explicitly told otherwise, you should never sacrifice quality on the altar of turnaround. If you know you cannot meet a deadline, say so, or even propose an extension.
  5. Step in. In translation, rush requests are common. A translator who steps in with little advance warning is helping out both the PM and the client. A PM may also be having a hard time finding a translator to take on a challenging assignment, and your strengths may match that challenge in particular. Challenge yourself,.
  6. Know when to turn work down. Finally, never be afraid to say no to a project, just do it promptly. If you can’t take the project, I need to know as quickly as possible so I lose no time in finding someone else. If a project is outside your area of expertise, I’ll know what I can and cannot send you, saving us both time. Never accept a project that you cannot complete to a good standard. I, or your editor, or the client, will notice.

I’m sure many of you have other tips that have worked for you. We’d love to hear them in the comments! Remember, the ideal translation is a collaboration between you and your project manager. I’ve literally heard colleagues spontaneously exclaim that they love working with some of our translators. You can’t buy that kind of publicity, but you can earn it by doing great work.

Header image credit: Picjumbo

Author bio

Dan McCartney

Dan McCartney is a freelance French and Spanish to English translator based in Chicago. Before translating, he worked as a consultant, instructor, and freelance math problem writer.