| Don't do it over the Internet || Jun 26, 2004 |
I've found that translating personal documents for direct clients to be a major pain in terms of time and effort, and I've quit doing it.
First, there are logistical problems. You don't want to work with the originals of anything. Do you *really* want to be responsible for losing family records from the "Old Country?" Or a driver's license or birth certificate? Faxed documents, particularly hand-written ones, can be impossible to read. If you want good copies, you have to arrange to do them yourself in the presence of their owner, or trust the owner's competence to make a good copy. All this takes time, and you're not going to get paid for it. For this reason alone I refer all inquiries regarding certificates, licenses, etc. to an agency, which in turn sends me the copies. I make a little less, but the agency has all the headaches.
The next issue has to do with legibility. Old books aren't a problem, although some fonts can be tricky, but handwritten documents are a different matter. In Germany, for example, there was a different system for penmanship before Hitler, and it can take a while to learn how to read even clear script. It can easily take twice as long to translate a handwritten document.
A third issue has to do with pricing. People frequently don't understand what's involved in translation. I was contacted a few years back by someone who wanted an early 20th century military treatise translated, 300 pages. He was willing to pay a $1.50/page, since that's what typing would cost. I told him that for $450, he could get the introduction translated. He decided that he was just as well off keeping the book with its nice leather binding on the shelf.
The final issue has to do with getting paid. Assuming that you've made an accurate estimate of what the job would cost, have entered into a written agreement and have made payment arrangements, you may nevertheless find that the customer has changed his/her mind, gotten cold feet, has lost his job or has had some sudden unanticipated expense. For very good reasons, mortgage payments, utility bills, etc. are going to take higher precedence over paying for a translation. Even with an advance deposit, you could still be stuck with a totally useless document and no way to collect from an individual. If you live in the same general area as the client, you can seek legal remedies. If you're trying to collect across state or international borders, you may as well go suck eggs. You won't get paid.
This may sound cynical; perhaps someone else has had positive experiences in this line of work.
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