Proz profiles - are we doing things right?
Thread poster: Domenico Trimboli

Domenico Trimboli  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:06
Member (2013)
English to Italian
Sep 19, 2014

Dear colleagues,

After re-reading this topic, which BTW I find really interesting, a thought struck me that I wanted to share.

We (translators) often blame the market - and clients on Proz in general, in this case - for imposing low rates, requiring tight/impossible deadlines and the like. While it is certainly true that our influence on the market itself is very limited, I think we also need to stay focused and examine what we're doing to make things better for our own businesses - not for the translation industry as a whole.

My point is: in my (humble) opinion, we are not really doing enough. More specifically, the first thing we're doing wrong (again, IMHO) is about our profiles. When work is slow, I like browsing through other translators' profiles - not necessarily in my language pair - to see what they are doing and how they're marketing themselves, and I find the results depressing - to say the least.

The large majority of our profiles is acually nothing more than a list, with recurring models which can be summarized as follows:

I am X Y, based in Z, with J years of experience translating:

[List of areas of expertise - generally 5 to 10]

My average daily turnaround is XX words, and I use XY CAT Tool to ensure consistency [bla bla bla].

The end [20 lines maximum, 3 paragraphs, no title, no bullet list, no bold, no italics] - I think no less than 80% of Proz profiles are just like this, or similar.

Can we consider this a real profile? It says just nothing about the reason why we're different from the zillion other translators registered here (amateurs included). It does not distinguish ourselves from the cheapest competitor. It does not help us in any possible way. Do we really think this profile can lead good clients - even decent ones - to send a job our way?

I don't honestly think so.

Tthat's it. I just wanted to share my thought - it is not meant to be offensive to anyone - and ask other colleagues what they think about this. If your profile follows the template I mentioned above, I hope you won't find this post offensive.

Domenico


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JanaB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:06
English to German
My two cents Sep 19, 2014

I think you'd need to know the reason why translators have their own profiles here in the first place. If somebody is trying to find clients on Proz, their profiles should indeed be somewhat special, but I can imagine that lots of translators see it as a nice "gadget", which they can use to tell the world a little about themselves, but they actually don't need it, because they have their regular clients anyway. So for them there's really no need to polish up their profiles.

I personally have never blamed the market for imposing low rates, requiring tight/impossible deadlines, etc. The translators willing to work under such conditions are the ones to blame...I know that they are desperate and happy about everything they can get, but nobody actually forces them to take on such jobs.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 16:06
English to Polish
+ ...
Low rates and tight deadlines Sep 19, 2014

Low rates and tight deadlines result rather from the relative inability of translation agencies to differentiate.

Even very passive translators still have their unique identifying features. Agencies, far less so. Consequently, agencies end up competing on the price, and when there is no longer much left to compete on in terms of price, they move on to the next numerical variable than can be driven down and into the ground: the deadline.

(Which is not to say that clients don't sometimes need those short deadlines for real — whether or not they are ready to pay extra for the urgency.)

When it comes to agencies choosing translators, perhaps then it matters to some extent that translators don't differentiate themselves nearly enough. However, there is still the problem of markup, i.e. buying for less and saying for more, with the largest possible difference to keep as your profit. Some agencies will pay for better translation but only if they can sell it for a premium price (which is affected by their own marketing and sales skills and their business model, not to mention such human traits as courage, intellectual openness, energy).

Deadlines depend on a number of factors, chief among which are:

1. Can the agency set or negotiate deadlines or can it only accept or decline client-defined proposals?
2. Is the text really needed so fast or is someone trying to impress someone else with a fast turnover?
3. Is there any wiggle room (e.g. a couple of days between the job deadline and a court filing deadline or press publication deadline)?
4. How far does the agency trust the translator?

The above factors are affected only in limited ways by how well you did your profile.

However, this is not the end of the story. It's true that agencies will go to greater lengths if they believe in working with you.

The other problem is that a profile is an investment. You can't reap if you don't sow, and no plants will grow out of no seeds.

This is also the GIGO principle at work — if you make a garbage profile, you will get a garbage response.

If you really care, on the other hand, nothing bars you from consulting with PR professionals and even ad people (and designers and other relevant professionals) to help spruce up your social media and directory profiles.

As a side tip, it may be a good idea to exchange services with your colleagues who are somewhat on the copywriting/marketing translation side. People are sometimes poor advocates of their own cause, as it's difficult to find the right distance and balance between hubris and false modesty. It may be easier for a colleague to write about you and vice versa.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 16:06
English to Polish
+ ...
Next Sep 19, 2014

Next: You need to decide in what terms you want to define your work, your business, your practice — whatever you see it as being.

First try to come up with a general image and perhaps three or four determinants. They can be adjectives that describe you (as a professional or even as a person, due to how popular that is across social media), nouns expressing your core values, active verbs that show what you do. Keep it lean and stick with it.

Do the same for your desired client types. Drawn conclusions. Adapt accordingly.

Take more control of the signals you send. Make it more conscious, better thought-out.

Are you a traditional person? Then say so, and use traditional imagery, traditional language, appropriate colours, be solid, emphasize formal qualifications (usually) and so on. Are you modern? A tech generation kid? Feel free to load your profile with tech references and paraphernalia all over the place. Might want to throw some (rows of) data at your reader. But don't confuse the two. Basically choose and stick with the choice. These are only examples that don't even work in all possible cases.

It comes down to knowing what you want and pursuing it.

If you know what you want, set it as a goal, determine the means to pursue it, pursue the means, move on to the next as you accomplish things from your to do list. Enlist help along the way. Get feedback.

This comes down to an organized effort.

... And yeah, if you really want to stand out, it needs to be something better than your daily output and a set of fields you'll take texts from. If you want to build a higher profile, you can't keep emphasizing low-profile details such as that. Instead you need to talk about what really makes you shine.

Most marketers will say you need to refer that to your clients' needs and wants, and talk about the benefits you'll bring rather than the features of you and your services, but I'm not sure I agree with regard to translators.

Still, on Proz.com 'clients' are usually agencies and many or even most of them really are running a word mill, so using the same tactics as to gain direct clients probably makes little sense.

[Edited at 2014-09-19 13:32 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:06
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I don't think so, either Sep 19, 2014

Domenico Trimboli wrote:
in my (humble) opinion, we are not really doing enough. More specifically, the first thing we're doing wrong (again, IMHO) is about our profiles.

Can we consider this a real profile? It says just nothing about the reason why we're different from the zillion other translators registered here (amateurs included). It does not distinguish ourselves from the cheapest competitor. It does not help us in any possible way. Do we really think this profile can lead good clients - even decent ones - to send a job our way?

I don't honestly think so.

I don't think we can blame poor profiles for the impossible deadlines and other failings of poor agencies. However, those who put no effort into their profiles can surely not expect to land the choice jobs here or elsewhere. With the commoner pairs being offered by many thousands of translators on this site (and there will be many thousands more in reality), outsourcers have the widest choice possible. Who will they choose? Clearly, some agencies will chose the cheapest. But won't the others choose the translator whose profile interests them most, as long as the rate isn't astronomical? Why would they choose those with profiles that do nothing at all to entice them to take up the translator's service offer?

JanaB wrote:
If somebody is trying to find clients on Proz, their profiles should indeed be somewhat special, but I can imagine that lots of translators see it as a nice "gadget", which they can use to tell the world a little about themselves, but they actually don't need it, because they have their regular clients anyway. So for them there's really no need to polish up their profiles.

I really can't see that. Why would you bother to tell the world anything other than the best about yourself? Wouldn't it be better to either remove all "about me" information or even remove your profile altogether? Nowadays, we are assessed by our internet presence. We don't have to have one; but if we choose to have one then surely we must choose to have the best possible.


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JanaB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:06
English to German
... Sep 19, 2014

Sheila Wilson wrote:

I really can't see that. Why would you bother to tell the world anything other than the best about yourself? Wouldn't it be better to either remove all "about me" information or even remove your profile altogether? Nowadays, we are assessed by our internet presence. We don't have to have one; but if we choose to have one then surely we must choose to have the best possible.


I just like the idea of interacting with other translators, e.g discussions, KudoZ, etc. I really don't need to have the most outstanding profile. My own profile doesn't say anything that special or outstanding about me. I just think it's nice that others know who I am when taking part in discussions etc.

For those trying to attract potential clients it can be hard compiling a really good profile, which includes everything that might be of interest without writing a novel.


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Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:06
Spanish to English
+ ...
Profile Design Sep 20, 2014

I had some fun seeing how far Proz would let me push the use of HTML on my profile. I really like it now, and it certainly stands out a bit more. I wrote a quick guide on how to do what I did, which is available here: http://www.opl10nt9n.com/blog_list/hacking-your-proz-profile

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Domenico Trimboli  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:06
Member (2013)
English to Italian
TOPIC STARTER
Yes! Sep 22, 2014

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Domenico Trimboli wrote:
in my (humble) opinion, we are not really doing enough. More specifically, the first thing we're doing wrong (again, IMHO) is about our profiles.

Can we consider this a real profile? It says just nothing about the reason why we're different from the zillion other translators registered here (amateurs included). It does not distinguish ourselves from the cheapest competitor. It does not help us in any possible way. Do we really think this profile can lead good clients - even decent ones - to send a job our way?

I don't honestly think so.

I don't think we can blame poor profiles for the impossible deadlines and other failings of poor agencies. However, those who put no effort into their profiles can surely not expect to land the choice jobs here or elsewhere. With the commoner pairs being offered by many thousands of translators on this site (and there will be many thousands more in reality), outsourcers have the widest choice possible. Who will they choose? Clearly, some agencies will chose the cheapest. But won't the others choose the translator whose profile interests them most, as long as the rate isn't astronomical? Why would they choose those with profiles that do nothing at all to entice them to take up the translator's service offer?


Yes, that's what I meant when I mentioned low rates and tight deadlines. Even the very best agencies will have a tight deadline, sooner or later.

When translators try to market themselves in a proper way, though, they can fairly easily find much better customers, who'll make them forget about the low-paying end of the market.

JanaB wrote:

I just like the idea of interacting with other translators, e.g discussions, KudoZ, etc. I really don't need to have the most outstanding profile. My own profile doesn't say anything that special or outstanding about me. I just think it's nice that others know who I am when taking part in discussions etc.

For those trying to attract potential clients it can be hard compiling a really good profile, which includes everything that might be of interest without writing a novel.


That's something I read more and more often (translators being on Proz for networking only). In this case, Jana may be 100% right that she doesn't need more. But I honestly think translators who are here to find new clients remain the majority.

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

You can't reap if you don't sow, and no plants will grow out of no seeds.


+1!


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Texte Style
Local time: 16:06
French to English
like JanaB Sep 22, 2014

I too am just here to hang out with other translators and put a minimum of info in my profile just so people know I am a real translator.
Whenever I take a look at the messages in the e-mail address I created just for this website I do see offers for work so it must be attractive to some potential clients. Never taken anyone up, it's usually weeks out of date anyway!


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