Archive for the ‘Professional development’ Category

On September 3, Steve Lank and I presented a webinar for ATA, on “Effective marketing to translation companies.” We offered to answer the remaining questions from the webinar here. I’ll put the questions in bold, and our answers below them. If you’d like to purchase the webinar recording, it’s on the ATA website.

Corinne – You put “CT” after your name on your resume. Is that an official ATA abbreviation? Or can I put the same if I’ve been certified by another organization?

Corinne: “CT” is ATA’s designation for ATA-certified translators. If you’re certified by another organization, you should see what their designation is.

For experienced translators, do you have advice on how to increase rates with agencies you have been working with for several years? If a translator has a good, long-term relationship with an agency, will the agency stop using a translator if he/she raises rates?

Steve: I think you just need to be open about it. We have to go the same thing with our end-clients and the response differs depending on the individual. But it you have a good relationship you should be able to talk about and they should be expecting it (again, we have to do the same thing). They will let you know if it is possible or not and then you take it from there. Whether or not an agency will stop working with you based on a rate increase depends on the agency. If they have an upper limit they can accept then perhaps. More likely there will be some cost-sensitive projects they won’t be able to send to you, but there will be others they can. In the ideal scenario, because of the long-term relationship you have and the value you bring they can absorb the increase and nothing changes. I myself have never stopped working with a translator with whom I had a long-term relationship for increased rates alone.

How do you move from being in an agency database to actually getting assignments?

Steve: Persistence, I would say. If you are really interested in working with a particular agency, stay in touch. That will show you are serious and keep you top of mind. It takes time, but I think persistence pays off. Of course, I am talking gentle, professional; persistence, not the pushy, stalky kind! ;-)

When asked for references, do I need to ask permission from current/past clients before listing them?  Asking more about individuals than agencies.

Steve: Yes, I think you should always ask permission to list someone (agency or individual) as a reference This in my mind is a question of professional courtesy. Besides, some companies have a policy against providing references so even if your PM loves you s/he may not be able to give a reference, so you need to check regarding their policy. And even if you know they will serve as a reference, you will need to find out how they would like to be contacted (e.g. phone or email). Finally, contacting clients for permission to list them as a reference also gives you an opportunity to reconnect with them (and to keep you top of mind) in case you have been out of touch, as well as to give them some details on the opportunity so they can be prepared and craft their response accordingly. For me, at least, there can be a real difference between how I respond to a reference request when I know it is coming vs. something out of the blue. and since you want to have the best references possible, you want to make sure your clients are prepared.

When you check the translator-scammers, do you look for the name or the email address of the translator? I just checked and my name is listed, but with an email address that does not belong to me.

Steve: I look for both the name and the email address and to date when I have found names on the list the emails have matched. However, if I found the name but not the email, I would still be cautious as these scammers are constantly making adjustments and can easily switch to another email address if another is identified as fraudulent. In the case of a mismatch, I might reach out to the individual to let her/him  know what I have found in the event s/he is actually legitimate

How do you remove your name from the list?

Steve: I am not sure of the process to get your name removed, but contact details for the site can be found here: http://www.translator-scammers.com/translator-scammers-contacts.htm

Any suggestion on how or where to find good, reputable, quality-conscious agencies to contact?

Steve: The definition of these terms can really vary by individual, depending what you are looking for and what you value. However, I would suggest looking at listings on professional industry organization websites (e.g. ATA or other national/international organizations) or industry publications, such as Multilingual and then going from there. However, I think the very best place to start is with referrals from like-minded colleagues who have had a good experience with a particular agency. I know that when I am looking for new partners (whether individuals or agencies) I look for referrals first from people I know and trust. When I have exhausted that I will go to industry listings.

Do agencies mind if translators take previously-announced vacation time?

Steve: As freelancers, you are, of course, in control of your own time and can take vacation when you want. That said, I always appreciate a heads up from my regular translators when they are going to be away so I can make alternative plans. What is problematic is when a  regular translator goes away with no notice. Again, this is the prerogative of the freelancer, but if it puts me in a bind it might lead to loss of business for the translator when s/he comes back, depending on the circumstances.

What’s your opinion of advertising your rates online (either on your website, LinkedIn, Yelp, etc.)?

Steve: I would advise against listing rates in a public forum and simply provide them when asked by individual prospects. Listing them online makes your services seem all about price and commoditizes them, basically inferring that the individual adds no value and one translator is the same as another. It can also lead to missed opportunities where someone who may have contacted you to discuss a project based on your credentials, and may ultimately be willing to pay your rate based on credentials and their conversation with you, may not ever reach out if they think they can’t afford you to begin with.

A lot of my current volunteer work is related to my religion, volunteering at the mosque, editing religious publications, etc. I hesitate to include this info because religion is such a touchy subject (and potential grounds for discrimination). 

Steve: We addressed this on in the webinar itself, but I think it bears repeating and a little elaboration. That is a personal decision that you need to be comfortable with. I would hope that people in an international industry such as ours would not resort to discrimination like this, but that unfortunately depends on the individual. In your case, I would say take it on a case-by-case basis and include it or not based on what you found in your research on the potential client you are approaching. This means you have to customize a little each time, but I think it is worth the effort.

How do you justify “volume discounts” when there are no true economies of scale?

Steve: This is again is a personal decision that can be based on a variety of factors. If there are not actual economies of scale in a project, one factor could be that a large project would keep you very busy during a period when you don’t have other work and would keep you from having to spend unbillable time rustling up work. Another could be that you can translate a particular subject matter faster than others and you feel that with the size of the project you could still make the money you need. A third is that working on a large project at a discount might help get you in with a client you have been wanting to work with by helping them out of a bind and could generate standard rate business in the future. Ultimately what is typically driving agency requests for volume discounts is end-client budget and you just need to decide if it is worth it to you. What you shouldn’t do is  accept just because you are asked for fear of losing future business. If it will keep you from more lucrative business in your pipeline, then the decision is obvious. But if it would help fill a gap, maybe it would be worthwhile. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. The key to keep in mind is that it is your decision that you need to make base on your individual circumstances and the relationship(s) you have with your clients.



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Paul Urwin recently interviewed me for his podcast 100 Percent Translations. We had a great conversation about finding clients, staying happy as a freelancer, moving up in the translation market and lots of other topics. I tried to be concise, but still talked so long that Paul split the interview into two episodes…you can listen to the first one from the link above!

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The next session of my online course Beyond the Basics of Freelancing starts Wednesday (August 19) and I have two spots left. This is one of my full-featured, flagship courses (along with Getting Started as a Freelance Translator), and it runs for four weeks. It’s designed for experienced translators who want to earn more money, enjoy their work more, market to higher-quality agencies and direct clients, or pursue more targeted specializations.

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It’s that time again, and the American Translators Association’s 56th annual conference is open for registration! We’ll be meeting from November 4-7 in sunny Miami, Florida, and the program looks fantastic. We received a huge number of session proposals for the 175 slots this year, which is usually an indicator of a well-attended conference (last year in Chicago was our second-largest conference ever).

You can read all about the conference and register at the link above. A few special features to mention:

  • Wednesday’s preconference day is always a great chance to get some in-depth training before the conference starts. This year we’re once again offering Tool Training (for SDL Trados Studio, memoQ and Deja Vu), and a number of preconference seminars (including a not-to-be-missed French to English seminar on French cultural literacy, presented by Angela Benoit and Eve Bodeux).
  • I’m also really excited about the Book Splash, where various ATA authors will be exhibiting and selling their books (I’m hoping to debut the third edition of How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator).
  • If you’re attending the conference for the first time, I highly recommend signing up for the very helpful Newbies and Buddies program. This pairs up first-time attendees with seasoned attendees before the opening reception, so that you have someone to help you navigate the conference.
  • And, oh happy day, this year we have free wifi throughout the conference space.

One final item: if you meet the requirements for ATA Voting Membership, please complete the free, fast, fully online process today so that you can vote in the 2015 ATA elections. We have a great slate of candidates (I will humbly mention that I’m honored to have been nominated for President-elect), including six people running for three Director spots, but you can’t vote for any of them if you’re not an ATA Voting Member. And you can vote by online proxy even if you’re not attending the conference.

Hoping to see lots of you in Miami in November!

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I don’t read much for pleasure and we don’t have broadcast TV, so I’ve become kind of a podcast addict. I use podcasts to bribe myself to go to the gym (here’s a Freakonomics podcast on temptation bundling, if you’re interested in that technique), my family listens to podcasts when we’re driving to go skiing or mountain biking, I listen to podcasts on airplanes, on the bus, while I’m washing the dishes or waiting for my daughter at her music lessons or sports practices, and on and on.

Claire Harmer just wrote a post about podcasts for translators over at The Deep End, and I agree with all of her suggestions (and not just because she tagged Eve Bodeux’s and my podcast, Speaking of Translation). So here are some suggestions for your iTunes or Stitcher queue.

For translation-related podcasts, I listen to pretty much every episode of Tess Whitty’s Marketing Tips for Translators, and I always learn something new! For general freelance info, I listen to Ed Gandia’s Smarter Freelancing Podcast, because I think it’s good to glean tips from other freelance-heavy industries.

To keep up my source language skills, I listen to French Voices (if you’re an advanced speaker, the exercises are pretty basic but the interviews are really interesting), and occasionally Native French Speech.

When I want some brain candy, I listen to StartUp (technically a business podcast but very entertaining) and its spinoff, Reply All. Not exactly brain candy, but if you became addicted to the first season of Serial, you can follow the same story on a totally different podcast, Undisclosed. Warning: Undisclosed is awesome, but in an “am I getting three graduate credits for this?” kind of way. It will make no sense if you didn’t listen to every episode of Serial, and even if you did, you’ll still have to think back over some stuff (what’s the importance of the cell tower near McDonald’s? why is it important whether Jay was at Kathy’s at 3:12 PM?). And Freakonomics is always fun too!

I’ve also gotten my husband and my daughter addicted to some nerd podcasts, which we now listen to on car trips. Our absolute favorite is Futility Closet, described by its creator as “an idler’s miscellany of compendious amusements.” My daughter is 12, and it’s surprisingly hard to find podcasts that are not specifically for children but don’t contain a lot of swearing (for example I think that lots of tweens would find Reply All interesting, but pretty much every episode has a language warning), so Futility Closet gets a special shoutout for being PG. Many of the episodes cover interesting historical events, including lots of unsolved mysteries. I would especially recommend The Wizard of Mauritius, about a French naval officer who claimed to be able to see ships beyond the horizon, and The Lost Colony, which has a lot of information about the Roanoke colony that you probably didn’t learn in history class! We also really like You Are Not So Smart, which focuses on current research in psychology and behavioral economics (great subject matter but the episodes are often an hour or longer, and I tend to prefer 20-30 minute chunks), plus the NPR news quiz show Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!

I’ll end this with a little call to action: if you’re a podcast addict too, make a habit of donating to your favorite shows. I figure that not having cable TV saves us a good chunk of money every month, so I force myself to donate to NPR, our community radio station and to my favorite podcasts, since they’re our major media consumption. Readers, any other fun or educational podcasts out there?

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The next session of my online course Getting Started as a Freelance Translator starts on April 1, and registrations are starting to roll in. This is a four-week online course for beginning translators (in any language combination) who want to launch and run a successful freelance business. I take a maximum of ten students per session, and everyone gets individualized feedback from me on four assignments: your resumé and cover letter, your marketing plan, your rates and billable hours sheet and your online presence. In addition, we do a one-hour question and answer conference call every week, and you receive free copies of my books How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator and Thoughts on Translation. Registration is $350, or $300 if you’re an ATA member. A recent participant in the course commented:

I learned so much about the translation industry and general business practices and the personal feedback from Corinne was absolutely priceless. I would highly recommend this course and I will take another class from Corinne in the future.

You can read the full course description or register on my website. Hope to see some of you there!

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This is more of a food-for-thought post than a helpful hints post, and please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments! In working with the students in my online courses and talking to other translators who have been in the business longer than I have, I’ve developed a theory about the three phases that most freelancers seem to go through:

Phase 1: You’ve been plugging away at your startup phase for some months or years. Work is starting to flow in with some regularity. You still have peaks and valleys, but you are making what might be termed real money, or at least semi-real money. You’re probably still working at another job, dipping into savings, or depending on a spouse’s or partner’s income, but you feel that your freelance business is a going concern: you’re going to make it! For me, this described (approximately) years 1.5 through 3 of my freelance business.

Phase 2: Reality check. Your freelance business is a going concern, but you start to realize that if you want freelancing to be your “forever” job, you need to earn more, and possibly a lot more money than what you’re currently making. If you want a similar level of financial security to someone with a salaried job, you need to be putting money into retirement, earning enough that you can afford to take a reasonable amount of time off, earmarking money for professional development, training and tools such as computer equipment and software. The euphoria that you felt at the end of Phase 1 starts to fade, as you look at the (large) number that you need to hit in order to achieve that level of security. But, hopefully, you forge ahead, maybe adding direct clients to your roster, or assertively marketing to better-paying clients of various flavors. For me, this described (approximately) years 3-6 of my freelance business, in the sense that after year 3, I managed to break out of Phase 1, but I wasn’t fully into Phase 2 for about another 3 years after that. After 12 years of freelancing, I’d say that I’m still firmly in Phase 2 but now contemplating…

Phase 3: After putting in X number of years as a freelancer and earning a healthy income in order to achieve the level of financial security you targeted in Phase 2, you start to be more motivated by doing work that is meaningful, enjoyable, and that perhaps allows more time or flexibility for your non-work interests. I’m not at this phase yet, but I’m observing it in other translators I work with: they’re still very excited by their work, but maybe they translate more books, or maybe they assertively look for work that matters to them, whether it’s lucrative or not, or they do work that fills a need for a cause they support. Although I’m not there yet (and with my child’s college tuition coming in the next decade, won’t be for a while!), I can see this on the horizon: a time when I’ll still love this job, but when I will want to look for work that lets me ride my bike and play my lute (preferably in Italy!) while doing work that I enjoy.

My observation is that a lot of freelancers get a bit stuck between Phase 1 and Phase 2: having sort-of-enough work, earning sort-of-enough money and enjoying the job sort-of-enough. That’s a great place to be when you compare it to your startup phase, but it’s not a great place to hang out for 20 years. Breaking out of that phase is another series of posts, but it might be helpful to identify which phase you’re in!

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