Another newbie - feedback appreciated
Thread poster: Nikola Ivanov

Nikola Ivanov
Germany
Local time: 12:34
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
Nov 26, 2008

Hello fellow translators!

I'm a newbie! While I am sure those two exclamations can be seen at least twice daily on this website, I'd be very happy if you wouldn't be bored to death reading another "Who am I?/What to do?" topic and would provide your precious input, which would be greatly appreciated.
I just started on proz.com and I have been striving to make my profile as complete as possible. I read a lot through this forum and I've been trying to introduce major (in my view) changes to it (my profile, that is) in order to improve its quality.
What do you think about it? Do you like it? Given that I am not somebody, who has an educational background in translation per se, do I sound too cocky, or is it just about right? What about my CV? I previously had a very general CV uploaded, something you may have called an "internship CV". So is this one fine for translation purposes?
Also, are the prices I've put ok, or are they hitting rock bottom and, thus unfair in regard to colleagues in my language pairs?
What about my areas of expertise? Have I made the correct choices or are they either too broad or too narrow? Also, in regard to future assignments, do you think that the arts/culture sphere is too tough to break? To put it in other words - do you think I should try developing deeper knowledge in other areas too?
Do you know of any agencies/outsourcers working in my field of expertise (arts/culture)?

I know my newbie topic is bustling with questions (just as my head is) and that I still have much to learn about getting established (I'm not even barely scratching the surface yet) and even about working with this website, but I find pleasure in the process of translating and I am really enthusiastic about my work. So if there is any kind soul, who's still not bored of the millionth topic of that kind, and would like to take some time to help me, I have my endless gratitude to offer in return.

Thank you all in advance!
Nikola


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 11:34
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Ouch. Nov 26, 2008

Actually, I think it looks like you're off to a good start on the whole. There are a few things you could do with the profile (look at the tab for updating profiles for guidance - it's on your profile), but it is better than a lot of beginners' profiles I see.

However, there are some things that are simply inexcusable. Like your CV. There's a lot about it I like - nice picture, good basic layout (though I'm not crazy about the center justification with the address, etc.). It's concise too. However, you don't seem to have invested much effort in proofreading it. For example:

"I work quickly but thouroughly... Translation quality is my first priority."

--> Could have fooled me there

"German Ebglish"

--> In what country is that language spoken?


For God's sake, get a proofreader. If I screw up like that, an outsourcer might give me the benefit of the doubt and think I just had a bad day. Your mistakes might not be viewed so generously. That's unfair, but it happens.

[Edited at 2008-11-26 17:41 GMT]


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Nikola Ivanov
Germany
Local time: 12:34
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes... ouch! Nov 26, 2008

Thank you for pointing that out!
I did change it and, yes, shame on me. I'm not even going to try to excuse such lameness.

However, excluding the proofreading part (essential as it is), could you please elabporate on the vague "few things you could do with your profile"? I tend to spend most of my time in the "Profile update" section these days and I think I have my brain in a swirl because of that and this is exactly why I wanted some outsider input. I will be very thankful if you could please elaborate on the other improvements you could suggest. Especially the ones you put under "inexcusable", since you imply there's more of that than my CV.
I know I am a newbie, I know I am one of the many, but that doesn't make me the same as everybody else, hence - the million questions.

Thanks again!
Nikola

[Edited at 2008-11-26 17:25 GMT]

[Edited at 2008-11-26 17:28 GMT]

[Edited at 2008-11-26 17:31 GMT]


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Lynda Tharratt  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:34
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I agree with Kevin Nov 26, 2008

It is quite good compared to many beginners' profiles but you should have it proofread.
I would also like to add that you should provide a euphemism for "dropped out" as this doesn't sound very professional. Perhaps "withdrew to change major/specialization".

Best of luck!


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 11:34
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Various suggestions Nov 26, 2008

Nikola Ivanov wrote:
... could you please elabporate on the vague "few things you could do with your profile"?
...
I will be very thankful if you could please elaborate on the other improvements you could suggest. Especially the ones you put under "inexcusable", since you imply there's more of that than my CV.


I don't know if there are more errors in the CV, I stopped reading near the top when I found the second obvious one - a spelling error in a personal statement about quality invites exactly the sort of attention you don't want. Looking at the rest is the job of a proofreader.

What more might you do for your profile? The sky's the limit, really. If you're smart, you will continue to invest time in it periodically throughout your career as a translator. As I said, I think it's a great beginner's profile, but everyone's profile can be improved. Some of us are just too busy working (or posting in forums) to get around to it.

Some ideas? Localize it into Bulgarian & German. Add CVs in those languages. I have a German & an English version of my profile and CVs for both. Both get called up or downloaded according to the reports I see. Add more translation samples. Don't waste your time doing unpaid tests for outsourcers (see other threads for reasons or perhaps this rant), but if you ignore this advice, at least set the condition that you can recycle the text as a sample of your work to use in marketing your services. Get permission IN WRITING (copyright reasons among other things). Otherwise, tell the people to pay up.

Try using "transferred" instead of "dropped out". That's what we usually say when switching from one university to another.

I like to make fun of credentials and got some just so I could do so with more "authority" (the best translators I know just have lots of practical work experience and usually good academic backgrounds, no state certifications or translation degrees), but at your stage of development without 20 years of work experience as an engineer or some such thing, doing the staatliche Prüfung in one or more of your language combinations and/or IHK exams might benefit you. I like to sneer at the fact that I'm a state-examined translator for science (for some of the same reasons that Groucho Marx had his doubts about certain clubs), but I do have to admit that a number of clients I've picked up in the last two years have come to me for just that reason. I'm not a better translator for having the stupid certificate, but some of them think I am.

Oh yes - join the BDÜ if you are eligible, and if you aren't, find out how to become eligible. My listing in their online directory gets me a lot of good referral business, especially from valuable end customers. You can make a lot more working for them than for agencies.

But do team up with a good proofreader in all your languages if you can. Charge a nice, fat rate and use a big part of it to pay the proofreaders, and explain that you practice the dual review principle (Vier-Augen-Prinzip) in your work. Trust me - this will help you close deals.


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Nikola Ivanov
Germany
Local time: 12:34
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you so much! Nov 26, 2008

This is a truly marvelous advice!
Thank you so much for your effort!

I would like to translate only into my native language, as I believe this is the best thing to do, but the humble experience I have acquired while working for some Bulgarian agencies is that they tend to give translations into B languages all the time. And saying 'no' to such an offer is much more dangerous than accepting it, since they tend to find other people for your language pair very quickly (after not more than two refusals). And they couldn't care less for the reason behind it, however noble or pressing it may be, since the English-Bulgarian pair is more than overcrowded. That said, I am mostly trying to get jobs for translations into my native tongue. I do already have proofreaders in my native tongue (yes, not just one), so this type of translation is always the safer bet IMHO. I also see your point of it being in my favor, so I'll point it out in my profile text/cover letters (if appropriate).

I will also try to opt for a membership at the BDÜ, I hope this would be possible.
Do you think it would be a good idea to try for a membership at the Bulgarian Translators Association (unlike the Union of the Bulgarian Translators it doesn't require heaps of experience and tons of certificates and diplomas)? The thing is that I am not sure if this makes any sense, since I do not live in Bulgaria, so I don't know if this would end up being just a waste of time.

I couldn't thank you enough, so here's one more time!
Sincerely,
Nikola


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 11:34
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Final words for now Nov 26, 2008

It's been a long day, and I'm falling asleep at the keyboard, so this will be uncharacteristically brief.

If you are a freelancer in Germany, you'll want to look into professional liability insurance. The BDÜ has negotiated the best rates for its members, far better than what I had for years through tekom. I ended up negotiating something better after I had access to BDÜ rates, but that's another issue.

I don't have a problem with you translating into English or German nor with anyone else doing the B-language work if they do it well or get a damned good native language proofreader. The ones who gall me are the those who think their English (or German or whatever) is good enough when it really isn't. But I could say that for a lot of native speakers too. Once again: proofreader, proofreader, proofreader! Make sure that person is an experienced professional, and the work together will accelerate your career a lot if you pay attention. Once again, charge as much as I would or anyone else with experience and/or the arrogance to think they deserve to earn enough to live well, and make sure you partner up with someone good enough to ensure that you can deliver top quality. If you really want to work for 3 cents a word, by all means do, but charge 12 cents and pay your proofreader 9. It's tuition worth paying.

Forget the Bulgarian association for now. I doubt that people there will pay you nearly as well as clients in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, the UK, etc. Get into the BDÜ if you can, look into some sort of credentials (Germans just eat that sort of thing up sadly) and see what your federal state expects for you to become a sworn translator and do it if you can. None of that really made a bit of difference to my cash flow, though it did change the type of jobs I was asked to do to some extent, but in the phase you are in, look for every advantage you can to fill your calendar. And DO NOT get complacent with a few clients who keep you busy. Diversify your client base until no client gets more than 15% of your business in a year, no matter how much you like working for that client. That's just one approach to risk management, but it is very effective.

Oh well, so much for brief... good night.


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Nikola Ivanov
Germany
Local time: 12:34
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Amazing advice Nov 27, 2008

I'm in Saxony and they have some pretty harsh rules for people without an academic background, making it almost impossible to get a credential from the local court. I would hardly be eligible for the state exam in Saxony for that matter. Unfortunately, Veredigung is my only chance of getting even close to BDÜ, as I quite obviously do not have anything even remotely close to a 5 years of proven experience... So I do not really see any easy way to credentials in the next, say, four and a half years.

As for the rates, I have no clue what I have to charge (yep, I've seen tons of discussions on this one), that is why I wanted to ask if my rates are rock bottom or if they are ok-ish, or what at all I should charge. I have no clue how my language pair should be paid in Germany/Britain/USA or anywhere, where people would need those type of translations.
What about a price of Euro 1,60/line, 16 c/word. Is that anyway near normal, or is it too cocky?
Sorry for asking like that, but there is obviously no other feasible way for me to get my hands on such information.

Thanks again for you precious input!


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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 05:34
Spanish to English
Specialisations Nov 27, 2008

I personally am impressed by your natural use of English, though as Kevin says some expressions if used wrongly, as in dropped out, will really get you in trouble.

I don't know about your language combinations, but in mine, most of the work is in legal, financial and technical so I think you would do well to develop at least one of those angles, if you want to make a living from translation.

[Edited at 2008-11-27 06:22 GMT]


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Nikola Ivanov
Germany
Local time: 12:34
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes Nov 27, 2008

Lesley Clarke wrote:

I personally am impressed by your natural use of English, though as Kevin says some expressions if used wrongly, as in dropped out, will really get you in trouble.

I don't know about your language combinations, but in mine, most of the work is in legal, financial and technical so I think you would do well to develop at least one of those angles, if you want to make a living from translation.

[Edited at 2008-11-27 06:22 GMT]


Hello Lesley!

I hope it's not rude to use first-name basis. Excuse me if it is!
Thank you for complimenting my English!
I used 'dropped out' because it is what I did - I dropped out of this university entirely, because it bored me to death, and ran for my life to the other one... I didn't use 'transferred', because I simply didn't transfer. However, this is still an 'eyesore' I haven't corrected in my CV (spelling - checked; grammar - checked). There was, however, a beautiful expression used in one of the first answers to correct it and I think I'm going to use it.
In mine language combinations most of the work is exactly in the fields you mentioned. I think that's a common phenomenon for all languages. The most interesting thing is that my experience is with exactly those types of translations, because, as I've said before, I've worked ONLY for a couple of Bulgarian agencies, where nobody bothers asking what your special areas are or whether you make B-language translations. They simply drop you after a couple of refusals because the market in Bulgaria for this language pair is much more than overcrowded. So, even though I take pride in my encyclopedic knowledge in humanities, which I have expanded on during my entire (conscious) life, I am doing technical, legal, financial, and all that jazz simply because I have no choice for the time being at least.
Of course, I want all this to change as much as possible, because there is at least one obvious absurdity in this situation - I live in Germany, pay in Germany, and get the little money I have from Bulgaria, where the standard is 8 BGN (~4 EUR) per page, which may be somewhat adequate for Bulgaria, but it is absolutely ridiculous for someone, who's living in Germany...

I guess I wrote much more than came in question... oh, well, that's me when it comes to words, a waterfall of words, that is...

[Edited at 2008-11-27 07:59 GMT]


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 11:34
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
More... Nov 27, 2008

I agree with Lesley. Your use of English so far appears quite good, so you've obviously paid attention somewhere in the course of your studies. Just don't get cocky about it - and get a good proofreader. (Do I sound like a broken record... oops, that one betrays my age since nobody listens to those any more... what does one say now?) Get a good proofreader for any target language you were with.

So you're in Saxony - very good. In some other federal states they might only check your pulse before making you a sworn translator or interpreter, or at least that's how it worked a long time ago when my partner became one. You might consider setting it as a goal, though don't expect the work to come flooding in as a result. Court work in the only translation subject to specific rate guidelines in Germany. Go look up the Gebührenordnung and use it as a guideline. It's not unreasonable, and it will give you enough margin to... you guessed it... pay a good proofreader.

The BDÜ will let you in with IHK or state exams, but those may require you to document several yeras' experience. So start working and start documenting. (And get the Prüfungsordnungen from the respective bodies so you know when you are eligible to be tested.) Lots of people will tell you how hard it is to pass those tests. I think that's bullshit, but then the fact I made no preparation whatsoever (including not following my own advice about reading the examination rules) probably contributed to the fact that I only passed rather than excelled. I'm used to top marks, so I wasn't interested in more of the same - I wanted to make a political point instead. Don't be a twit like me and work your tail off preparing for the exam. Show the examiners that you are as good as your English makes me suspect you might be able to become.

As far as your rate suggestions are concerned, € 1.60 per line and €0.16 per word are far apart from each other. Learn how to convert between target and source counts, lines and words and show great flexibility in quoting the rates YOU WANT in the units the customer wants. Go read the article on ProZ I wrote about rate equivalency. I won't link it here - I'll give you the opportunity to use the search tools (which you are probably already a master of). Decide soon what you want to get from direct customers (more - your € 1.60 per line sounds about right) and what you'll accept from agencies (the € 0.16 per word which you mentioned is a bit over € 1.10 per line and should be fairly easy to get if you make it clear that high-quality dual review is a firm part of your professional practice and you document it if necessary. You might get more; you'll certainly be offered less. I'm sure lots of people can chime in here and tell you to "be realistic" - I got sniped at for suggesting high rates to another beginner a while ago, but I think my fellows missed the rest of the point (or maybe I forgot to state it because I was in a hurry) - SET YOURSELF APART IN SOME WAY WITH THE SERVICE YOU OFFER. I have the good fortune to be engaged to a merciless editor who is often as cruel to my target text as she is kind to me otherwise. You don't have to propose marriage to someone like that, but once you realize how valuable a good proofreader/editor (oh no... here I go again) is for your business, you may be tempted to. Every time a new customer calls, I copy and paste the text I keep ready in two languages (three in your case, right?) in which I explain our work methods and quality control procedures, and then I state my price. I know damned well that when they add in the usual 30% overhead for proofreaders and what good specialists charge for translation they won't be arguing price much, if at all. Lately I've been in a grumpy mood and keep raising prices in the hopes that everyone will go away and let me have a vacation, and so far I haven't found the point where enough people will back off that it matters. And other colleagues who are much nicer than me make out much better. Go find some of them, network with them and learn. In person if you can.

With regard to specialties, look at the other thread I started early this morning. Go read that article - it's great.

You might give some thought to German to English. I don't usually encourage B->C translation, and the only examples I've seen so far really suck even if the translators do think they are good, but you might quietly prepare some samples and get qualified opinions. When listing language pairs, I think less usually is more, but others disagree and would probably just say that I think that way because I've forgotten my Japanese and I'm too lazy to recover my lost Russian. But I feel I'm on really shaky ground giving any advice about language pairs. It's easier for me to say when someone may be getting it wrong than what s/he should do right here. If you buy Danilo Nogueira's arguments, which are the most plausible ones I've ever read on the idea of translating into your second language, I ought to be loading up on English to German jobs. I've been able to pass myself off as a native German whenever I felt like it for over 25 years. But I have a long list of reasons why I stick to one pair and one direction, the biggest being that I'm lazy and it maximizes my speed and income to do so. If I'm overloaded translating texts I like at good rates into my native language, I'd have to be pretty passionate to go the other way. And when passion gets mixed up in my work, I forget to charge what it's worth sometimes, so I don't charge at all for stuff like that just to keep a clear separation in my mind. A big reason I did that court certification was for the possibility of pro bono work into German after seeing a few American fathers get screwed here in custody battles.

In conclusion, look for your own way and what works for you, not what I think makes sense for me or what anyone else thinks. There are basic common ingredients to every success I think, but we all add own own spicing. Go look at Oleg's book too (http://proz.com/books). The best part about it isn't all the good advice, the nice overview of possible career progression or his obvious understanding of how to turn a buck (being deliberately over colloquially American here). It's the first-person narrative of how he took those basic ingredients - which he describes in good detail - and added his own variations. I read two chapters of it recently, and I found his information to be first-rate.


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K Donnelly  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:34
Italian to English
+ ...
Art/Culture Nov 27, 2008

Hi Nikola,
I just wanted to give you a little input on specializing in art/culture. I started translating about 3 years ago and specialize in art history and archaeology. It is not easy to find work in these fields, and I'm afraid it might be even more difficult for you since you translate into a "rare" language. I spend about 50% of my work time on documents relating to the fields that interest me. However, the rest of the time needs to be filled with something else. In the past, this has been general documents for tourism, trade shows, promotional materials, etc...

Over the past 6 months, I have realized that having an additional (more marketable) specialization would be a much better (and more profitable) use of my time. In my case, I used to work as a chemist, so I am using my science background to develop a new specialization that interests me (environment). My advice to you would be to think of a field that is marketable and that interests you, and start reading as much as you can about the subject. Also, take a look at the document that Kevin posted on developing a specialization - it is really very helpful.

Good luck!!
Karla

[Edited at 2008-11-27 11:11 GMT]


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Sebastian Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:34
Member (2004)
German to English
+ ...
How to team up with a proofreader? Nov 29, 2008

[quote]Kevin Lossner wrote:


... get a good proofreader. (Do I sound like a broken record... oops, that one betrays my age since nobody listens to those any more... what does one say now?) Get a good proofreader for any target language you were with.

I don't understand. Most projects have fixed deadlines, so even if you finish early, there isn't gonna be enough time for the proofreader to do a good job. Also, how can you make sure the proofreader is available once you complete the translation/localization? Then there's the cost aspect. Will you succeed in talking the client into accepting considerably higher rates just cuz a third party will be involved? I mean proofing rates are about one third of translation rates, which is quite something.
Can someone advise how to deal with these issues?


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