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I just wrapped up the “beta” session of my new online course Beyond the Basics of Freelancing and it went well; this class has been bumping around in my head for years and it felt good to finally launch it with a full session of ten great translators! We focused on various topics for the intermediate/advanced freelancer, such as writing different marketing materials for agencies and direct clients, identifying potential direct clients and ways to make contact with them, and how to set rates for various freelance services. Here’s some feedback from the participants:

Corinne is a blessing to all of us translators that have not reached terminal velocity yet. She is very knowledgeable about all aspects of a freelance translator’s challenges and has great passion for helping her students. Her books are great, but her online course is even better, because you take a feeling of “I can do this!” from it. I had a big increase in income the year after I took Corinne’s course and I attribute a large portion of that success to Corinne. I could not think of a better way to give your freelancing career a big boost than taking her course. Very inspirational, very valuable information, great program all-round!

Corinne’s course arrived just at the right moment in my freelance translation career, at this crossroads where you know you have to move up in terms of client base, rates and overall income, but you just don’t know where to start or how to do. Corinne has been a source of inspiration and motivation, as well as a role model, throughout the course and I will do my best to follow her advice – I want to be just as happy with my career as she is!

I feel very proud of being a follower of this “beta” session of Beyond the Basics course. The course was extremely well-structured, the topics were of great use to me and to my ongoing full-time freelance activity. Corinne is a passionate and skilled professional and teacher, she is always available and is a volcano of ideas and energies. This course helped me increasing my self-confidence and faith in what I do, it helped me out of the same ideas I sometimes indulge into and opened up a variety of options I would have never thought could be possible in translating and in marketing strategies. We are important as freelancers, as translators and as interpreters, we need to believe in this and to do our best to let the others understand that as well. I warmly advise everyone to follow the course.

The next session of the course starts on May 14 ($325; $50 discount for ATA members), so please hop on over to my business website to read a full description or to sign up.

Here’s a question, prompted by a fellow tenant of my co-working office. If you had to choose one word that you hope is used to describe you as a businessperson, what would it be? When he (the fellow tenant) originally asked me that question, I drew a bit of a blank. But then yesterday, after I (hopefully successfully…) mediated a very tense professional interaction, a colleague referred to me as “truly a class act.” And then my answer came to me: if I have to be only one thing as a businessperson, I want to be classy. I want to be the person who never, ever takes personal jabs at people and never, ever operates unethically or puts my own glorification ahead of the good of the project, or the industry, or the association.

I posed this question on Twitter and other translators chimed in, hoping that they would be thought of as “Professional” (Daniela Guanipa), “Resourceful” (Angel Dominguez), “Re-hireable” (Richard Lardi), “Transparent” (Mia Wilson), “Competent” (Filippe Vasconcellos), “Trustworthy” (Kevin Hendzel), and “Appealing” (Karen Tkaczyk). It’s an interesting exercise: over to you for the comments!

In my Beyond the Basics of Freelancing class, a student asked a really good question: how to stay sane while working on an insane project. No matter how carefully you manage your work flow and your routine, everyone has “one of those weeks” once in a while. A good client needs 15,000 words in a week, and you’re the only person they can trust it to…then the kid gets sick and the car breaks down and the dog has ear mites and the washing machine overflows.

Certainly, the best defense is a good offense: if I were to give one piece of advice to premium-market translators, it would be market in consistent, small increments, even when, or especially when, you have enough or too much work. Hopefully, that will smooth out some of the Everest-Death Valley cycle. But when you have one of those weeks, you need a freelance sanity routine: a few, small things that you do every single day, no matter how crazy the day is.

Here’s mine: I find that it makes me really nuts to be on the computer as soon as I wake up, or immediately before I go to bed. So, no matter how insane the day promises to be, I give myself some time in the morning to drink coffee (my one lifestyle vice) and have breakfast with my family. I never check e-mail or answer my work phone during that time, and this helps me get my day off to a relatively calm start. At the other end of the day, I’m often finishing up work or answering e-mail while my daughter does her homework after dinner. But I never let myself work until the second before I go to bed: otherwise I’m lying there awake, obsessing about some work-related thing. So my end-of-day sanity routine is that I try to log off all of my work stuff an hour before I want to go to bed. Then I practice my lute for half an hour and do a yoga podcast for half an hour, and no matter how insane the 15 hours between my morning coffee time and my evening music/yoga time were, I at least have that little oasis to look forward to.

The secret to a sanity routine is that you can compress it, but you never skip it completely. On a really bad day, like say yesterday, I might head to the office as soon as my daughter leaves for school, and the lute/yoga time might be 10 minutes of lute and 10 minutes of yoga instead of an hour total. But I really try to never, ever skip the sanity routine completely, or it really affects my happiness and productivity right away.

Other ideas for sanity routines?

This course inspired me to take many steps necessary to transform from a dabbling newbie into a serious professional,” reports a participant in my online course Getting Started as a Freelance Translator. The next session starts on April 2, and I have five spots left (maximum of 10 students per session). In this four-week, fully-online course, beginning translators get my individualized feedback on their translation-targeted resume and cover letter, marketing plan, rates and billable hours sheet and online presence. We also do a one-hour question and answer conference call every week, and every student receives a copy of my books How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator and Thoughts on Translation.

The course registration fee is US $305 ($50 discount for ATA members) and you can read more about the course or register on my website.

If you’re interested in a more advanced course, for freelancers who have an established business and want to take it up a notch, the next session of Beyond the Basics of Freelancing starts on May 14.

Let’s look some more at the “How much should I charge?” question, since it’s such a source of stress and speculation for most freelancers. You might also be interested in these previous posts–What is the right rate for your translation services, and How and why to raise your translation rates.

If you want, you can have an absolutely 100% set price for your translation services. My accountant (who I love), charges $220 an hour, end of story. Phone calls more than 5 minutes and lengthy e-mails are billable, end of story. That tactic could work for translators too. But whereas accounting work is relatively predictable, we’re always balancing factors like the subject matter, the turnaround time, the format of the source document, the high or low maintenance-ness of the client, the appeal of the project in general, and so on. So instead of having a set rate per hour or per word, here’s another option: think zones.

The green zone is a rate at which you would almost never turn down work, as long as the project is within your capabilities. It’s your ideal rate, and ideally, you’re always trying to push it a little higher. Note: the green zone is a good place for your clients to be, because it means you’ll bend over backward for them (worth subtly pointing out to them, too!).

The yellow zone is a rate that’s not ideal, but that’s worth taking a look at. This might be a rate that you consider when work has been a little slow, or if a project is particularly interesting, or when there’s some non-economic reason to consider the project. For example, when I translate books, it’s yellow zone work. It’s interesting, it’s nice to be off the daily deadline treadmill, but it’s at the low end of what is viable for me financially.

The red zone is work that you turn down because it’s too low-paying. Point being: to have a viable business, you have to have a red zone. If you are continually making exceptions to your absolute, I-don’t-go-below-this-number rate, just for this one project and then you’ll really never work for that little again…you will never have a viable business. So whether your red zone is 9, 20 or 40 cents per word, just make sure that you have one.

I find that this zone approach really helps me; having an “I don’t turn on the computer for less than…” rate helps me feel that this is a policy, rather than a case by case decision. Over time, I also find that I’m more attracted to billing direct clients by the hour; they understand where the number is coming from (which, with per-project pricing, they might not), but I also get paid for everything I end up doing (which, with per-word pricing, I might not). But that’s material for another post…any thoughts out there on pricing zones?

If you missed yesterday’s Speaking of Translation conference call, “Speaking of Interpreting,” in which Eve Bodeux and I interviewed InterpretAmerica co-Presidents Katharine Allen and Barry Slaughter Olsen, we’ve posted a free recording for your listening pleasure. We asked Barry and Katharine to tell us about the current state of the interpreting profession, what’s ahead in the next 3-5 years, what role remote interpreting is playing in the industry, and what a new interpreter needs to do to succeed in the business. It was a great interview, so hop on over and check it out!

At 12 noon New York time today (Wednesday, March 12), Eve Bodeux and I will be interviewing InterpretAmerica co-Presidents Katharine Allen and Barry Slaughter Olsen on the topic “Speaking of Interpreting,” for our free Speaking of Translation call series. Katharine and Barry will fill us in on the current state of the interpreting profession, what’s on the horizon, and what a new interpreter needs to do to succeed in the business. The live call is limited to 100 callers, and we’ll post a free recording afterward.

To connect to the live interview in the USA and Canada, call 1-888-947-3988 and enter the code: 261313. From other countries, use the Skype “Call Phones” feature, or visit http://numbers.zipdx.com/ for international access numbers. Note! If you are calling from outside the US, please double-check the time, as some countries have switched to Summer time and some have not.

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