As I mentioned in a previous post, I have some new classes in development for 2016. If you’d like to join this year’s final session of Beyond the Basics of Freelancing, it starts on November 11 and is open for registration now.

I’ve prepared a short survey to help me decide how to configure these new classes: what topics to cover and how to structure them. If you’d like to fill it out, it’s here, and if you include your e-mail address at the end, you’ll receive an Early Bird pricing link once I get the class schedule sorted out. The survey is completely anonymous (e-mail address is not required) and you don’t need to register or create an account to complete it. Thanks in advance for your feedback!

The next session of my online course Beyond the Basics of Freelancing begins on November 11, and it’s the last session of 2015. I have some new things planned for 2016, so if you’ve been waiting to take this course, now is the time!

Beyond the Basics is a four-week online course for established translators who want to earn more money, enjoy their work more, pursue new specializations and market to higher-quality agencies and direct clients. This is a “high touch” course in which everyone gets individual feedback from me on weekly homework assignments, we do a one-hour question and answer conference call every week, and everyone gets an hour of individual consulting time with me. Registration is $350 ($50 discount for ATA members) and includes copies of my books How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator and Thoughts on Translation.

A recent participant in this class commented:

I took a four-week online course called Beyond the Basics of Freelancing, developed and taught by Corinne. Though I was more or less satisfied with my business, it had plateaued and I wasn’t sure how to up my game. Corinne’s class was exactly what I needed. She asked questions that forced me to focus on the most important aspects of my business and acted as a sounding board for marketing ideas. I especially appreciated that the class included ample opportunity to ask specific questions about nearly anything. I learned a great deal from Corinne and from the other students and came away from the class with a concrete plan and timeline for the next 6-12 months to take my business to the next level

Hope to see some of you there!

Style matters

Especially if you translate for direct clients, it’s important to think about style; not as in “she has a wordy writing style” (which I do…) but as in Chicago Style versus AP Style versus the many house style guides or subject-specific style guides that are out there, versus no style guide whatsoever, which is what many clients use now.

Why, you might wonder, is style so important? Well:

  • Perhaps most importantly, style guides keep things consistent and thus easier to read. They keep your documents from looking like a ragged mess.
  • A style guide serves as a single point of reference for everyone who writes or translates for a client.
  • A style guide saves time. Instead of looking up, for the twelfth time, how the company’s address is formatted on their website (Park Ave? Parke Ave.? Park Avenue?), you just refer to the style guide.
  • A style guide saves money, both in the time spent editing documents after the fact, and in the cost of fixing or even re-printing documents that have inconsistencies in them.

Working with clients that have a house style guide can be great: the rules are all laid out for you. But it can also be confusing, because house style guides generally mean that the client is not completely satisfied with any of the standard style guides out there (such as Chicago and AP)and decided to create their own. House style guides often tend to be long. If you translate regularly for the same clients, you get familiar with their house style; but if it’s a one-off job, it can be a significant time drain to familiarize yourself with a 27-page style guide to translate 500 words.

I’m a big fan of the Chicago Manual of Style, partially because I think serial commas (which Chicago style advocates, and AP style discourages) are absolutely the way to go. Otherwise you end up with sentences like “He was joined on stage by his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings” (thanks to the New Yorker’s comma queen for that one…). So, for general guidelines, like capitalization (West Africa or west Africa?), numbers (the second day or the 2nd day?), or plurals (she got all As, or she got all A’s?), I use Chicago. And while we’re at it, you can now get the 16th (most current) edition of Chicago Style in Spanish.

Whether my clients have a house style guide, or whether I’m using Chicago for my own reference, I often try to create a style guide of client-specific names and terms. Here are some entries you may want to put in client-specific style guides:

  • Staff names and titles, especially the head honchos. Especially if key staff have complicated names, you need the correct version: was the CEO’s name Krzyzewski or Krzizewsky? Who’s the VP who always uses her middle initial? Does the top person like to be referred to as CEO or Chief Executive Officer, or something else? Creating standard translations for job titles and departments in your language is a great idea and can be a huge time-saver: Mergers and Acquisitions? Mergers & Acquisitions? Mergers/Acquisitions?
  • The company/entity name. This sounds crazy, but organization names are often styled in a particular way, and the preferred style may change over time. And, clearly, a mistake in an organization’s name is a major source of embarrassment. In the 90s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and the American Association of Retired Persons decided to scrap their full names and just use initials. In 2004, LG suddenly decided that its initials stood for “Life’s Good.” So, make sure you have the official style of the company name.
  • Product names. This is critical if you translate for clients that sell products under different names in different regions or countries. For example, NestlĂ©’s chocolate milk powder used to be referred to as NestlĂ© Quik in the US but as Nesquik in Europe. The skin cream Oil of Olay used to go by Oil of Ulay in Europe. Definitely include things like this in your client-specific style guide.
  • Client preferences. Clients sometimes have preferences that may seem odd to us; but since they’re the ones who pay the bills, we need to accommodate them. For example I’ve had several clients that use the European floor numbering system (ground floor, first floor, second floor) in English. I have a couple of clients that mix US and UK spellings: for example UK spellings except for “ize” words, and so on. These kinds of things don’t necessarily stick in your head, so include them in your style guide.

Readers, over to you: any other thoughts on style guides?

As freelancers, no matter how hard we try to stay upbeat, focus on the positive and manage our work and non-work lives carefully, low moments happen. In Episode Four of In the Balance, I talk about how to create a low-moment survival kit so that you can deal with feeling overwhelmed, getting negative feedback from a client, or obsessively worrying about things that are out of your control. Feel free to contribute your own low-moment survival strategy in the comments! And if you’d like to watch the In the Balance episodes right when they come out (every other Friday), you can join the Standing Out private Facebook group.


Not for sale yet, but the advance copies are in the mail!


As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been enjoying hosting In the Balance (video series on work-life balance). It’s a topic I think about a lot, probably not least of all because I live in a “lifestyle town” (an expression that I learned only recently!) where prioritizing one’s non-work interests is very much the norm.

Today, a student in my class for beginning translators asked an interesting question: how would this advice apply (or not apply) to beginning freelancers, who want to have time to sleep, exercise, etc. outside of work, but who also need to actively build up their businesses.

Here’s the two-word answer: pace yourself. The advice that applies to experienced translators applies a little differently to you, but the goal is the same: don’t burn out, and let yourself enjoy some of the “free” in freelancing. Here’s what I mean: for experienced translators, work-life balance is largely about setting boundaries; it’s about achieving a similar level of financial security to someone who has a traditional job, but with the flexibility and independence of freelancing rolled into the mix. So for example I leave work at 2:30 three days a week so that I can be home when my daughter gets home; every Sunday night I sign up for my exercise classes for the week, and I treat them as I would a client appointment–I do not change them unless it’s absolutely unavoidable; I don’t work on weekends, even for my A-list clients; I try to avoid answering e-mail outside of working hours, because I don’t want my clients to expect that they can e-mail me at 10PM and get a response.

But when I was a beginner, things looked a lot different. When a client e-mailed me at 4 PM on a Friday and offered 8,000 words due Monday morning, I was elated. For years (literally, years) I worked from 7-10 PM, even on weekends. When a client called, I dropped everything, because I couldn’t afford (literally and figuratively) to miss a single job. But at the same time, you cannot work in that kind of “always on” mode all the time and remain excited about the job. So here’s the trick: pace yourself. Realize that when you’re building up your business, you have to go into overdrive sometimes. You have to be available at times and in places that experienced translators are not (month of August: great time to pick up new clients; ditto for the week between Christmas and New Year’s). But you can’t work in perpetual overdrive or you’ll absolutely burn out. So, pay attention to your pace!

Since the beginning of September, I’ve been doing a video series called In the Balance for Andrew Morris’ Facebook group, Standing Out. The series focuses on work-life balance issues that translators, and freelancers in general, face. It’s been a lot of fun to create the (very basic; I’m not much of an a/v person!) videos, and especially fun to read the discussions about work-life topics.

I’ve decided to start cross-posting the In the Balance videos here, with a one-episode delay. I’ll kick things off with the first three videos (episode four, “dealing with low moments,” comes out on Standing Out tomorrow), and from now on I’ll post a new one every two weeks. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think about these topics as well! If you watch until the end of the video, there’s an audience participation component in each one.

In the Balance, Episode 1: Work/life balance and what it means to you to be alive

In the Balance, Episode 2: I can’t, versus I choose not to

In the Balance, Episode 3: Creating positive habits


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