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Archive for the ‘Getting started as a translator’ Category

The next session of my online course for beginning translators, Getting Started as a Freelance Translator, starts on September 24, and there are currently three spots left. This is a four-week course for translators in any language combination; we focus on four targeted assignments (your resume and cover letter, marketing plan, rates and billable hours sheet and online presence), and every week we also do a one-hour question and answer conference call. Every student receives copies of my books How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator and Thoughts on Translation.

A recent participant in the course commented, “Neither in my undergraduate classes in education nor in some of the more practical classes I took as part of my MA in English (including the course connected to my assistantship as a writing consultant) did I ever experience one course that delivered as much precise and helpful information as this course.” If you’d like to join us, registration is US $325, with a $50 discount for ATA members. Visit my website for a full description or to register! And if you’re a more experienced translator looking for a nudge toward your business goals, registration is also open (same page) for the next session of Beyond the Basics of Freelancing, beginning November 12.

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The next sessions of my online courses start on August 20 (Beyond the Basics of Freelancing) and September 24 (Getting Started as a Freelance Translator). Getting Started is for students who want to launch and run a successful freelance business, and Beyond the Basics is for students who have established freelance businesses. Each class is four weeks long and consists of four lessons on which you get individual feedback from me, plus a weekly question-and-answer conference call for the whole class. Additionally, students in Beyond the Basics get a one-hour individual consultation with me.

Getting Started focuses on the basics of getting your freelance business up and running: writing a translation-targeted resumé and cover letter, creating a marketing plan and rates sheet and establishing an online presence (LinkedIn profile, translators association directory profile, website, etc.). Beyond the Basics focuses on marketing your services to high-quality translation agencies and direct clients, creating a professional profile document and identifying ways to meet direct clients on their turf.

Registration for either class is US $325, and after these sessions I’ll be raising the price to US $350, so now is a good time to register if you’ve been thinking about it. All sessions of both courses have filled up before the deadline for the past year, so hop on over to my website and read the full descriptions if you’re thinking of joining one of these sessions! ATA members receive a $50 discount on registration for either course.

Here’s a comment from a participant in the most recent session of Beyond the Basics: “This course really helped me define a path for moving my business forward, as well as giving me some helpful tools for getting there. I received valuable input and tips not only from Corinne, but also from the other students, and it was great to be part of a little virtual community.”

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Here’s a common question from beginning freelance translators, and from people contemplating freelancing: how long does it take to start a viable freelance business? The usual disclaimers apply. Is your non-English language Spanish or Japanese? Do you have just a language background, or a PhD in nuclear physics and a language background? Do you live in Tokyo or Montana? And what do you mean by “start”? But here’s a stab at an answer. To me, there are two milestones in starting a freelance business: 1) the point when you know you’re going to make it as a freelancer (meaning that you no longer stress out every single day about whether to plow ahead or just give up and get a regular job) and 2) the point when you basically always have enough work (meaning that you can focus on doing what you enjoy and are good at, rather than whatever pays the bills).

My own answers: 18 months, and three years. After about 18 months of freelancing, I knew I was going to make it as a freelancer. Halfway through year two, I had already earned more than I did in all of year one. One-time clients were becoming regular clients; a “big project” was $1,000, not $200. By the end of year three, I no longer stressed out about where the next project was coming from, because I had enough work almost all the time. I started to ease out some low-paying clients and ease in some better ones. I started to think about what kinds of translation I really enjoyed and was good at, and I looked for direct clients in those areas.

Mostly, I think that the answer to the “how long does it take?” question is, “Probably longer than you think.” Not to be sarcastic or cynical, but when beginning translators ask me this question, I often advise that if you want a booming business within a few months, offer a service that a lot of people need, and that lends itself to direct advertising. Clean houses, walk dogs, do tutoring. Don’t start a freelance translation business if you have to have a full-time income within a couple of months, unless you do a language or specialization that is both very high-paying and very in-demand.

Another question: what percentage of freelancers make it through the startup phase, and with what degree of success? I’ve been teaching my getting started course for beginning freelancers for about eight years, and I’d say, unscientifically, that the graduates I’ve followed up with are about evenly split into three categories. About a third of them launched successful freelance businesses and are doing great; about a third are translating in some capacity, but combine it with another job, and about a third either decided the whole freelance thing was too much work, or were never able to find the kinds of clients they needed to work with in order to make a full-time living.

Readers, your thoughts on the length of the startup phase?

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This morning I had lots of fun interviewing translation industry veteran Steve Lank (Monterey graduate, former ASTM translation QA standard subcommittee chair, longtime senior-level manager in agencies in the US, Ireland and Spain). Steve is currently Vice President for Translation Services at Cesco Linguistic Services, working from the Washington, DC office.

I put Steve in the hot seat and asked him:

  • Chicken/egg: how can beginning translators find their first clients?
  • What’s up with downward price negotiations? Why do agencies apply them, and how can translators best handle them?
  • What are the top dos and don’ts of translator resumes? What errors pop up again and again? How can a translator stand out among the many unsolicited applications that an agency receives?
  • How about following up on agency applications? How often should freelancers follow up, and using what method?
  • How does a translator turn a first-time client into a regular client, and become one of an agency’s preferred providers?
  • How about the increasing emphasis on specialization in our industry? Is the “learn by doing” mindset OK, or do translators need more formal training in their specializations?

To listen to the episode, cruise on over to the Speaking of Translation website.

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The translation business book genre has really exploded in recent years, fortunately for those of us in the trenches who need to know about these things. Newest on the scene is a little gold nugget of a book, 101 Things a Translator Needs to Know, written by a group of highly experienced translators known as WordLink. With members like Chris Durban, Ros Schwartz, Nick Rosenthal (many of whom have been translating since before I graduated from high school!), these are people you need to listen to.

101 Things has everything you need and nothing you don’t: each “thing” is about a hundred words, and the topics range from how to translate an idiom to how to turn lousy writing into a great translation, to how to create an ergonomic setup in your office. Each tip is accompanied by an illustration, making this book the perfect thing to grab when you need a little bit of wisdom to adjust your mindset or move your business forward. No bombastic pronouncements about what you must do if you want to claw your way to the top of this industry: expect wise, witty, well-grounded advice from translators who have walked the path that you’re walking.

Plus, it’s cute! Check it out, and then hop on over to Lulu and grab a copy for yourself (available on Amazon, etc. in 6-8 weeks).
101things

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Congratulations to English-Swedish translator Tess Whitty on the launch of her new podcast, Marketing tips for translators! Tess has a degree in marketing, and in each episode of her podcast she’ll be interviewing a guest about a niche aspect of marketing for translators. Tess has four episodes currently available:

Right this minute, I’m sitting in the New Orleans airport, listening to Tess’ interview with Anne about LinkedIn tips, and it’s really great material. I’m looking forward to listening to Marta’s interview on the plane! Tess’ hosting style is very natural and conversational, and she’s targeted guests who are very passionate about their topics. You can also subscribe to the podcast in iTunes (I just did this, so I can attest that it works). Thanks Tess for this great initiative, and here’s to a long and happy life for this new podcast!

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Here’s a quick burst of inspiration for beginning and aspiring translators. I haven’t been a translation beginner for a long time, but over the past couple of years I’ve had the urge to learn a new musical instrument. I played piano for lots of years as a kid (but never loved it) and then I played a little recorder when we lived in Boston. A few months ago, we went to a lute concert and I was completely hooked: what a cool instrument. Plus it’s portable, unique, and lends itself to playing with other people. So, as my end of year bonus, I got myself a lute and lute lessons.

But first, I stressed out. I’m 42, I’m not a naturally gifted musician, I don’t really improvise or play by ear, I’ve never played a string instrument, and on and on. And then, a translator friend who’s a very accomplished recorder player said this: Look; every musician was once a beginner. No matter how good they are now, they once picked up that instrument for the first time and gave it a shot. So why not you? And that struck me as very simple but very profound: right, why not me?

Flash forward a few months, and now I can actually play the lute a little. Better yet, I love it. It is seriously fun and a really great outlet when you’ve been reading and writing all day. So then, my recorder-playing translator friend suggests that I go play some duets with a friend of hers who plays the viola da gamba. Sounds fun, but again I stress out. I get to the friend’s house with my lute, and immediately start explaining my real and perceived deficiencies (I’ve had five lute lessons, I’m not a naturally gifted musician, I can’t play by ear…stop me if you’ve heard this before). And the friend laughs, and says that she’s been playing viola da gamba for thirtysomething years, and she doesn’t improvise or play by ear,¬† and she enjoys encouraging beginners, so let’s just get out some easy music and try it, and have some fun. And guess what, I could actually sort of play a super easy duet with her and have it sound like music, and it was really fun.

So here’s the takeaway for translators: every single person in this industry was once a beginner. Even if today, someone like Chris Durban is (as I call her, much to her chagrin) the Michael Jordan of freelance translators, she once sat down to do her first translation, to see if she was any good at it. Even the Officers and Board of ATA once walked into their first ATA conference and thought “Maybe I’ll just head for the exit rather than face this crowd of strangers.” If the “big names” in the industry can make it, why not you?

 

PS: If you’ve never encountered a lute before, here’s what it looks like! This is me playing “The Holly and the Ivy” at our Christmas Eve house concert.
lute

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