What are some of the biggest blunders you made as a new translator?
Thread poster: Anne Pinaglia

Anne Pinaglia
Netherlands
Local time: 14:55
Member (2011)
Italian to English
+ ...
Nov 12, 2012

I was browsing through the "getting established" forum and I started thinking about my naivete as a "noob" way back when.

So I thought I'd ask my fellow established colleagues, what's one of the biggest blunders you made when starting out as a freelance translator? (This also serves for new translators to learn from our mistakes!)

I've got a few, but I definitely fell for the 500+ word test that was "rejected" (I realized later it was a scam to get me to do a free translation).

What about you?


Anne


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:55
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Three "mistakes" Nov 12, 2012

1. Committing to projects I wasn't really qualified to handle

This meant turning in translations that may have not been quite up to snuff, and/or spending so much time on them, that they turned out not to be very profitable ventures.

At the same time, I would have to qualify any characterization of such decisions as "mistakes" by noting that, to some degree, spending an inordinate time on translation projects is normal for any beginner, and that the entire matter of taking on work outside one's comfort zone can be a delicate issue for even more experienced translators (given that most of us don't enjoy the luxury of working exclusively within narrow specialties where we feel thoroughly at home).

In other words, accepting such jobs often led to my developing a certain level of expertise in particular areas, and thus constituted a kind of "on-the-job training."

2. Working for low rates

Again, this often goes with the territory for a beginner (at least in the more common language pairs), but there were some instances where my per-hour rate on a given project turned out to be less than $15.00. This is thin gruel indeed for any US-based translator.

3. Accepting retranslation work presented as "proofreading" projects

Ipso facto, such work is not well paid, and constitutes a deceptive and unethical practice. Yet even these types of jobs can provide opportunities for beginners to showcase their talents, and thus be considered for (better-paid) translation work at some later date by the same agencies providing the "proofreading" work.

In the end, then, it seems more fitting to classify doing the kinds of work I've listed here as part of "paying one's dues" rather than as out-and-out mistakes.


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Gyula Erdész
Hungary
Local time: 14:55
Member (2005)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
My one cent Nov 12, 2012

One of the biggest mistakes (slightly related to Robert's point No. 1):

Accepting every translation requests from user manuals of coal mining machines to birth certificates.

In our business, specialization is a must. A specialist has always got a higher value.

Cheers,

Gyula


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:55
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Trying to translate into what is actually my source language Nov 12, 2012

I'd only been freelancing for about a year when I was asked to translate a handbook for the MiG-21 fighter into Russian. I had a good knowledge of Russian as a source language and a good knowledge of the subject matter, but I'm sure my effort must have looked very odd to any Russian who read it. It was a strange job. The handbook was obviously originally in Russian, but the version I was asked to translate had been translated back into Russian from Arabic - quite well, I thought at the time, but I don't think I was a very good judge of the quality of Russian in those days.

[Edited at 2012-11-13 04:40 GMT]


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 13:55
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
All of the above Nov 13, 2012

+
1. accepting jobs with impossible deadlines!
2. accepting a job without seeing the text first!


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Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:55
Romanian to English
+ ...
Doing a big unpaid work for a regular client to help them correct their mistake Nov 13, 2012

Once a regular and otherwise nice client of mine forgot to include an embedded file in the word count they quoted to their client. It was a 5000-word file embedded in a big translation I had just completed for them.

When I delivered the file, they realized their omission and they asked me to translate it pro bono, saying that it was for a big client, it was our mutual interest to keep their client satifisfied and that I must save them blah-blah. Although I like the client and we have been collaborating profitably every since, I get slightly upset whenever I remember this issue. It was unfair of this multinational rich client to ask me, the freelancer, to pay for their mistake - the cost should have been split and they should have offered at least half of my normal rate out of their profit. Not to mention that the job had to be done overnight, and I was already exhausted after completing the big project. Brrrrr.

Interestingly, my very favorite clients never expect such absurd sacrifices, but always propose reasonable consideration for any extra efforts necessary. And of course, for their sake I too go the extra mile.


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IrimiConsulting  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 14:55
Member (2006)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Accepting a job despite mixed BB ratings Nov 13, 2012

My very first job was never paid (i.e. I was ripped off). Since then I never accept jobs from ProZ.com members without a high (4.7 or higher) rating, and only if no ratings mention payment issues.

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Gyula Erdész
Hungary
Local time: 14:55
Member (2005)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Plus one Nov 13, 2012

Accepting lower price for a certain project because client promises you larger/regular jobs. And never comes back to you again...

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Rik Schraag  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:55
Member (2007)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Rushing things Nov 13, 2012

I was so enthusiastic that I forgot to check and double-check my translations.

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Anne Pinaglia
Netherlands
Local time: 14:55
Member (2011)
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Ah yes... Nov 13, 2012

Teresa Borges wrote:

+
1. accepting jobs with impossible deadlines!
2. accepting a job without seeing the text first!


Ugh, I did this too! Luckily it only took one bad experience to turn down "tempting" offers where for xyz reason I couldn't see the document before accepting the project, and a few sleepless nights up translating before I realized I could only translate a certain amount of words per day no matter how much I wanted otherwise.


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