People Do Business with People They Know, Like, and Trust

by Jamie Hartz

It’s all about peopleOne of my more menial but surprisingly rewarding jobs during college was working at a Chick-fil-A. This came in handy recently when I had to translate a 20,000-word catalog of industrial kitchen equipment, most of which I would have never laid eyes on had it not been for the many hours I spent chatting in the “back of the house” with the Mexican kitchen staff of the franchise I worked at. But a knack for Spanish and a knowledge of the difference between fregadero and lavamanos aren’t the only thing I gained from this experience; my years there also gave me very valuable insights about customer service.

In case you’ve never been to a Chick-fil-A before, I’ll fill you in: Chick-fil-A is a fast food restaurant that regularly wins accolades for delivering on its stated goal of providing customers above-average service. From greeting customers cheerily when they walk through the door, to always responding with “It’s my pleasure” when guests say “Thank you,” to anticipating unspoken needs, the chain’s positive culture is contagious. During the four summers I worked there, I saw time and time again how genuinely impressed our customers were when we as employees provided service that went above and beyond their expectations, and it was this type of experience that endeared them to our brand and kept them coming back to us.

I’m happy to report that my Chick-fil-A days are over (the uniform wasn’t particularly flattering, and I didn’t love cleaning waffle fries off the floor), but the will and passion to serve my customers remains. As I launch into a full-time freelance career, I’m continuing to learn the importance of serving customers—and the line between that and letting them walk all over me. I don’t bend over backwards to do unpaid work when a client asks for a “quick favor,” but I do go the extra mile in order to make each client feel that they are important.

One client recently wrote me this: “Your work is like a wrist watch; every gear has to do its intended job so that the clock can function. You not only installed the gear, you did extra work, like adding oil to it.” I believe in producing high-quality work so that each client knows that I have gone above and beyond in my work for them. Providing this type of experience leads, as I learned during my restaurant days, to loyal clients who trust me because they know that I have gone the extra mile to exceed their expectations. Along these same lines, I’m also learning the truth to the saying that “people do business with people they know, like, and trust.”

This phrase puts into words a phenomenon with which I have become familiar: social capital. Similar to the concept of economic capital, social capital is the set of resources and connections that a person has and can mobilize in order to gain more resources. In a nutshell, it’s your network. In May 2015, I completed a master’s thesis at Kent State University, for which I translated a sociological journal article on this topic (interested? Read my translation here). The author actually tries to debunk the concept of social capital, but I found the phenomenon to be very applicable to my own work.

In the business world, an example of social capital is the idea that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. When I look through the list of clients I’ve done work for in the last six months, and think about how I became connected with them initially, more than 90% of my income has been from clients who I either met at an American Translators Association conference, or who were referred to me by someone I knew personally. Only 10% came from listings in online directories or marketing emails I sent. Think about where the majority of your projects come from. How many of them were the result of a connection with someone who knows, likes, and trusts you because you made a personal connection with them?

When I look at that list and think about how social capital has played a role in starting my business, it highlights something that my dad has always told me: “It’s all about people.” This is something that doesn’t come easily to me, as a task-oriented translator who works from home. It’s also part of the reason I attend the ATA conference, try to maintain my relationship with classmates from undergrad and grad school, and am getting involved in my community. Social capital is real, and we need it for more than just business reasons.

I also want to emphasize that the title of this article doesn’t only go for freelancers. I unwittingly proved it recently when I hired a lawyer to set up my LLC. I made a lot of calls and emails looking for the right person for the job. One person responded two weeks later saying that he’s not good with “these machines” (meaning email) and didn’t realize he had never responded to my message. Do I trust him? No. One person I spoke with on the phone gave me the distinct impression that I wasn’t worth his time. Do I like him? No. One person was referred to me by a translator I know in the Philadelphia area. When I called, he responded immediately. He was knowledgeable, friendly, and professional. In the words of Goldilocks, he was “juuust right.” Which of these do you think I chose to set up my business? Professionalism and quality are important—don’t get me wrong—but when push comes to shove, people do business with people they know, like, and trust.

Moral of the story: be someone that people know, like, and trust!

 

How (Not) to Be a Professional Translator and 6 Tips to Help You Become One

By Alina Cincan
Reblogged from Inbox Translation blog with permission from the author

How (Not) to Be a Professional TranslatorA professional translator’s job is not as easy as it looks. A bilingual dictionary, the internet and a working knowledge of the source and target languages are not sufficient to become a self-styled professional. Depending on the speciality area, an aspiring translator needs several hundred hours of practice, subsequent certification (in some cases) and then a quite a bit of experience before they feel ready to tackle certain topics.

What a professional translator is not

A translation professional is NOT:

  •  A person who speaks two languages, even at native level

This is certainly a prerequisite; however, this alone is not enough.

  • A student of languages

They may be on their way of becoming a translator (though they may choose a different path), but they cannot be called professional translators. Not at this stage anyway.

  • A teacher of languages

Teaching and translating require different sets of skills. Sure, a translator can also assume the role of teacher (I have done that), but that does not mean that any teacher of languages can translate. The opposite is also true: not any translator can be a teacher.

  • A dictionary

Some people assume that a translator knows all the words in their language pair and two of the questions we get asked frequently is: ‘What does … mean’ or ‘How do you say…..?‘, to which we invariably answer ‘It depends on the context‘)

translation it depends on the context

Image from the talented Alejandro Moreno (Mox) on his blog: http://mox.ingenierotraductor.com/2010/03/most-used-sentences-by-translators.html

The wrong approach

In order to be a professional translator, one must be ready to pay the price in terms of hard work, insurmountable challenges and rare opportunities for big success. If a person is merely doing translations on a casual basis, the work must also be casual – meaning, it must not be able to adversely impact the reader of the target text. Working out the instructions on a lawn mower might not need a professional translator, but anything more important than that will warrant hiring a professional. In fact, if you don’t want the service warranty on your mower to be voided, don’t even do that!

The proper approach to translation as a career

The right way to go about becoming a professional translator is… well, there isn’t necessarily a right way per se. One can take the translation studies route (Joseph Lambert and Caroline Alberoni both touched on this aspect on their blogs: The (un?)importance of translation-specific degrees to translation and Does an academic background really make a difference?) or have a totally different profession and later turn to translations, as Sarai Pahla has done and written about. Some countries require specific certifications for those who want to call themselves translators and work in this field. The UK does not. However, that doesn’t mean anyone can be a translator (regardless of what they claim).

A professional is someone who does something for a living, who is committed to continual professional development, who has the right skills (just knowing another language is not enough – I may be repeating myself, but it is the truth), who strives to find the right words, who understands the two cultures, who has excellent writing skills and the list can go on; so, until you make a career of it and are able to generate a monthly income from it, you are still an aspiring professional.

Finding the right kind of translation job

Before you embark on your long journey down The Language Highway, you need to do some forward-thinking with respect to what kind of translation you’d be happy doing for the rest of your life. If you are a primarily left-brained individual, then a career in technical translation might be suitable; alternatively, if you seek a career in the legal or medical fields, that kind of translation work is what you should be targeting.

If you want to specialise in marketing translations or if financial translations are your cup of tea, you need to make sure you understand the terminology (I am referring especially to translators without a medical or legal background). Mistakes can be costly, and especially in these two fields a correct translation can make the difference between life and death. Nowadays there are plenty of CPD courses you can embark on – some even free,  and the community of translators is a friendly one, so there will always be someone to help you.

What you should never do: accept a translation job that is beyond your abilities. Not only will it take you longer to carry out, but doing a so-so job instead of a great one will have an impact on your reputation and subsequent assignments. Not to mention potential damage you might (involuntarily) be responsible for.

Building a career

Being a professional is much more than just having a full-time translation job. Career progress is an important aspect of being a professional – one of the most important, in truth. Your work ethic is critical to this: unless you can behave like a professional, you will not be treated like one.

  • Make sure that any work that leaves your table is error free
  • Only accept projects you are qualified to take on
  • Get projects done in a timely manner
  • Use project management tools to help you schedule your work in a more efficient way
  • Never stop learning and perfecting your skills
  • Above all, maintain the cool, calm collectedness of a true professional

This is the only way to becoming a highly regarded professional translator, whether in-house or freelance.

If you think I’ve missed any points, feel free to add them in a comment below.

Header image credit: Unsplash
Header image edited with Canva

Top Five Benefits of Attending ATA’s 56th Annual Conference

By ATA’s President-Elect, David Rumsey
Republished from The ATA Chronicle, June 2015, with permission from the ATA

ATA56 badgeIt’s that time again to start thinking about your plans for ATA’s Annual Conference. This year’s conference is being held in Miami, Florida, November 4-7, 2015.

Maybe you’ve never attended, or maybe it’s been a while, but apart from the sunny weather and warm climes of Miami in November, it’s worth considering being part of the experience for the following five reasons alone!

Expand Your Network: Past conference surveys indicate repeatedly that the opportunity to network is one of the biggest draws for attendees. For many people, this means reconnecting with old friends—the people who understand you and the challenges you face as a translator or interpreter. But there are excellent opportunities to network with both clients as well as other translators and interpreters through innovative events like Brainstorm Networking and the Résumé Exchange.

As the number of translators and interpreters advertising via the Internet and social media grows, the one-on-one connections that you can make in person at the conference become increasingly valuable. For instance, staying in the conference hotel, in the center of the “action,” is one of the best ways to ensure you stay well connected.

Learn a New Skill: With over 175 sessions across 25 different topics, including various languages and specializations, the conference offers something for everyone. Veteran attendees know that the best way to get something out of the conference is to push your boundaries and attend a session or seminar that you hadn’t considered before. Sharpening existing skills and exploring new areas to grow are the key to success as a freelance translator or interpreter.

Invest in New Tools: For many attendees, the Exhibit Hall is the highlight of the conference. Here you’ll find a variety of vendors specializing in equipment, products, and programs in translation and interpreting. Products and services run the gamut from the newest and greatest CAT tool, to specialized dictionaries and databases, to headsets and other equipment for interpreters. Recruiting agencies are also included in the exciting mix.

Get Involved! ATA has nearly 10,000 members, making it one of the largest associations in the world for translators and interpreters. Attending the Annual Conference gives you the chance to understand how the organization works and how you can apply your skills to help the Association grow even larger.

There are a host of different activities organized by each individual division at ATA and by representatives from local chapters. There are also a number of sessions devoted entirely to various ATA programs— everything from School Outreach to preparing for the certification exam.

Re-energize Your Career: Let’s face it. Translators and interpreters are perhaps some of the most misunderstood knowledge-professionals out there. There aren’t many people who can relate to the issues we face. We’re asked increasingly to do more, to be faster, and to be more cost efficient. It can all be quite discouraging at times.

Getting out from behind the computer or interpreting booth and spending a few days at the conference to pick up ideas, knowledge, and skills is one of the best investments you can make. The time away from the office can give us a fresh perspective on old problems and leave us feeling re-energized and rewarded. So, when the e-mail arrives in your inbox to register for ATA’s 56th Annual Conference in Miami, seize the moment. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain—including a few days in sunny Miami.

Make sure to keep checking ATA’s conference website for updates. See you there!