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If you had $1000 to establish yourself, what would you spend it on?
Thread poster: Andrea Shah

Andrea Shah
United States
Local time: 04:15
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Sep 4, 2009

Since everyone's advice on my last topic was so great, I'm going to pose another question. If you had $1000 to spend on establishing yourself as a translator, what would you spend it on? Membership in professional organizations? Obtaining a credential? CAT tools? Other software? Dictionaries? Full membership in ProZ?

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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:15
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It depends Sep 4, 2009

Hi Andrea.

Very good question. I think the answer would be different for different people.

I personally would use a good amount of it searching for customers. I would also make sure I had good tools such as a reliable computer, internet connection, dictionaries, etc.

A thounsand bucks should be enough to get a translator going, albeit on a shoestring. Two or three thousand could lead to a stronger kickoff.

Of course, just having the money is not everything - you have to spend it wisely.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:15
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Clarification Sep 4, 2009

This is very good question indeed.

May I ask you whether, in the scenario you propose, the following are already available:
- A computer
- DSL connection
- Telephone (at least a cellular telephone)
- Education/training in languages and preferably also in translation

OK. I reckon you mean that you already have these things on board. Now I will propose my priorities (can you borrow some extra US$ 500-700 from someone?):

1a. Obtaining a credential. Unfortunately this will already mean way above half of your budget. Going for the ATA certification will cost you a yearly membership fee plus the exam fee, to (at current fees) US$ 217 + US$ 300 = US$ 517. If you go for another option, for instance IOL's DipTrans, it will cost you 492 pounds, or US$ 806 at today's exchange rate. Other programmes might exist in the country where your main target language is spoken. You might also want to reserve this same budget for other credentials and try to obtain several recognised credentials in the long run. For now, one should suffice.

1b. If you get your credential, you will want to have business cards printed with the new information. Have an expert friend or professional service design them for you, unless you believe you have good taste and design skills in that area. Creating and printing the cards might already take some US$ 100 at the very least. You need to carry your cards everywhere and to every venue in which you will meet new people. You never know where your next best customer could be.

2. CAT Tools. There are some reasonably priced tools out there, but you probably want to use software that is compatible with the majority of tools used in the industry. As the de facto standard is Trados, you might want to buy Trados (approx. US$ 850) or MemoQ (almost US$ 900). Wordfast costs half that, approx. US$ 430, but apparently it is not as compatible as MemoQ with Trados. I think you might find other options, but they will not be a lot cheaper really.

3. Dictionaries: Calculate some US$ 300 at a very minimum to buy basic dictionaries. Reasonably comprehensive monolingual dictionaries in the source and target languages, a large generic bilingual dictionary and at least one large dictionary in your main specialty. Of course US$ 300 is what you should calculate for the first year, and keep spending that amount every year, as dictionaries are critical.

4. Membership in a professional organisation. In the case of ATA you have to be a member to do the certification exam. Personally I think ATA is the most active and serious organisation there is at the moment.

Personally I would pay for full membership in places like Proz.com only when you have started to make some income. Yes, indeed many companies rely on Proz.com's directory, but it is also a fact that 95% of them are rather uninteresting when it comes to translation rates. Focus on them if you like the idea of being a poor translator most of your professional life. Personally I would explore other marketing possibilities, like getting in touch with agencies in your area you can get to know in person and doing marketing among companies and organisations that have a budget for translation and work in areas you are specially interested or trained in. Of course this kind of marketing will require money too, particularly in local calls, international calls, travel for visits to the most interesting agencies, stationary... The amount you will need depends on the plan followed. Personally I think we are out of budget already with the things listed above!


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:15
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
It depends what you already have Sep 4, 2009

Andrea Strane wrote:
If you had $1000 to spend on establishing yourself as a translator, what would you spend it on? Membership in professional organizations? Obtaining a credential? CAT tools? Other software? Dictionaries? Full membership in ProZ?


Well, it depends on what you already have, but let's assume you already have a computer and you have an internet connection too. Then I would spend money on marketing. You can get most software for free (even if you can get better software if you pay for it). So use the money to save yourself time. I would spend it on a list of translation agency e-mail addresses. You need to get clients as soon as you can, so spending the money on getting clients seems to me like the best way to spend it.

I would also buy a few books on starting out as a translator. Alex Eames's book will always be recommended by me, but there are a few other books that recently saw the light that gives practical advice too (can anyone tell us what they are?).

CD-ROM dictionaries in your language pair would also be a good investment. Ask in the Spanish and Portuguese forums which CD-ROM dictionaries they recommend, but I would happy with the simplest bilingual ones with at least 100 000 words in them (shouldn't cost you more than $50 per dictionary). A dictionary's benefit is that it helps you with words you already know but just can remember at the moment.

Don't bother buying a CAT tool yet -- use the free versions or free programs that are available. I would recommend getting MS Word and MS Excel (and possibly also MS PowerPoint), if you can get it cheaply, but you can also get by with OpenOffice.org fairly easily.

I think it is against ProZ.com's forum rules to recommend software piracy, so I won't do it. But take a look at what you can get on second-hand type of web sites -- not everything you buy has to be new.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:15
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Lists of agency emails... no use Sep 4, 2009

Samuel Murray wrote:
I would spend it on a list of translation agency e-mail addresses. You need to get clients as soon as you can, so spending the money on getting clients seems to me like the best way to spend it.

My experience is that agencies simply scrap mass email from undifferentiated translators. I would not spend a penny in such a list. Sending mass email (for the sake of peace in this forum, I will not say "spamming") is far from being useful today.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:15
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Comments at what Tomás said Sep 4, 2009

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
1a. Obtaining a credential. ... Going for the ATA certification will cost you a yearly membership fee plus the exam fee, to (at current fees) US$ 217 + US$ 300 = US$ 517. ... 4. Membership in a professional organisation. In the case of ATA you have to be a member to do the certification exam. Personally I think ATA is the most active and serious organisation there is at the moment.


Personally I don't think a credential is worth much, unless you know that your clients prefer to see it. Membership to a professional organisation is a good investment, however, because you are listed in their directory and you have the right to mention your membership on your business cards.

2. CAT Tools. There are some reasonably priced tools out there, but you probably want to use software that is compatible with the majority of tools used in the industry.


It is not required to use CAT tools unless that is the type of market you're aiming at. Personally I'd start off with a CAT tool that helps the translator to work better. Later, when he has more money, he can invest in a CAT tool that helps his client to work better.

Personally I would pay for full membership in places like Proz.com only when you have started to make some income. Yes, indeed many companies rely on Proz.com's directory, but it is also a fact that 95% of them are rather uninteresting when it comes to translation rates.


I agree with what you're saying, although I also think that it may be worth the risk to pay the ProZ.com membership fee, if it will mean that you get preferential treatment for mailings and access to the Blue Board (which you can also use as a source of agencies to contact).


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:15
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I agree Sep 4, 2009

Samuel Murray wrote:
It is not required to use CAT tools unless that is the type of market you're aiming at. Personally I'd start off with a CAT tool that helps the translator to work better. Later, when he has more money, he can invest in a CAT tool that helps his client to work better.

I agree completely with how you put it Samuel.

Maybe I got carried away by the needs of the industry in which I work (technical translation), which requires a powerful CAT tool in all cases. Maybe in other industries you can do with a simpler tool (or no tool) at the beginning.


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Maciek Drobka  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 10:15
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
Yes and no Sep 4, 2009

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

Samuel Murray wrote:
I would spend it on a list of translation agency e-mail addresses. You need to get clients as soon as you can, so spending the money on getting clients seems to me like the best way to spend it.

My experience is that agencies simply scrap mass email from undifferentiated translators. I would not spend a penny in such a list. Sending mass email (for the sake of peace in this forum, I will not say "spamming") is far from being useful today.


I don't think that lists of agency e-mail addresses have to be used for mass/spam mailings. A list is what it is, a list, and the way you use it is entirely up to you. You can customise your e-mails to your prospective clients if you want.

That said, I once spent a hefty sum on an agency address list with a view to marketing my services. I had what I thought was a very good e-mail message, a very strong CV, I even customised the e-mail a little for various recipients. Unfortunately, my e-mail effort yielded disastrous results -- I now only have a single very infrequent agency client won with my 'campaign' out of perhaps 200-300 e-mails I sent at the time.

It was a blessed failure, though. It spurred me to subscribe to KudoZ notifications, and participating in KudoZ has generated around 90% of my current client base.

Best of luck, Andrea!

Maciek


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Anett Lindner
Germany
English to German
Dictionaries, a CAT-Tool, reference books and a good CV Sep 4, 2009

Hi Andrea,

in addition to what has already been said by Samuel I would recommend to study some reference books for your field of expertise. I saw that you are specialising in literary translation. And my perception is and this is also what one of my favourite lecturers told me that there is not too much money out there in this field, especially not for beginners. So maybe you could also consider venturing into the field of promotional prose as marketing translation shares quite some features with literary translation. Perhaps you could study basic techniques of writing good copy if you have not done so before.

And above all I would invest much time in creating a CV that bears testimony to your abilities.

Wish you a good day,

Anett


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:15
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
How to use an e-mailing list Sep 4, 2009

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
Samuel Murray wrote:
I would spend it on a list of translation agency e-mail addresses. You need to get clients as soon as you can, so spending the money on getting clients seems to me like the best way to spend it.

My experience is that agencies simply scrap mass email from undifferentiated translators.


You touch on a valid point. And I've just checked what these lists go for these dasys -- they are expensive. I would not call it a bad investment, but keep the price in mind. The list you'll encounter when you do a search for such a list will get you 900 agencies in the United States for about $300.

That said, it would be silly to spend $300 on a list of 900 agencies and then pour that money down the drain by sending a single, undifferentiated e-mail to all of them. Paying the money means you don't have to spend time gathering the addresses yourself, that's all.

Any way to get access to contact details of potential clients is a good investment. ProZ.com membership of $120 will give you access to the 13000 outsourcers listed in the Blue Board, and for $20 you can also get access to the 5000 outsourcers listed on PaymentPractices.net.

A free (but somewhat outdated) resource for about 1500 translators (among which you'll find agencies) is the OpenDirectory, at http://www.dmoz.org/Business/Business_Services/Communications/Translation/ , but you'll have to visit their web sites one by one, so that will take time (which you can save by spending money on the above-mentioned resources).


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Aniello Scognamiglio  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:15
English to German
+ ...
No CV, please! Sep 4, 2009

Anett Lindner wrote:

And above all I would invest much time in creating a CV that bears testimony to your abilities.

Anett



Freelancers are not applying for a permanent position!

When will freelancers understand that they are running a business???


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Anett Lindner
Germany
English to German
CV Sep 4, 2009

Hi Aniello,

just a quick reply: Using the term "CV" does not mean for me that I consider myself to be a wage slave and behave accordingly. It is just a document which I use to introduce myself and provide an overview of my educational and professional background as well as my writing skills in a cost-effective way so as to allow potential clients to get a first impression. Not more and not less.

Wish you a good day,

Anett


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Niraja Nanjundan  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:45
German to English
More recent books Sep 4, 2009

Samuel Murray wrote:
there are a few other books that recently saw the light that gives practical advice too (can anyone tell us what they are?).


Oleg Rudavin's "Internet Freelancing: Practical Guide for Translators" is a more recent book that gives a lot of useful advice and tips.

You can purchase it here: http://www.proz.com/books

Some other books and dictionaries have been recommended on the dictionaries and references page which is here: http://www.proz.com/references


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Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:15
German to English
+ ...
Website, memberships, professional services Sep 4, 2009

I'm surprised no one's mentioned a website yet. Much more important than business cards IMO, but it depends a bit on your market and your target clients. The actual hosting costs are minimal, but you'll have to invest in the design. Anything left over I'd spend on memberships, again depending on where you are and your market, for instance ATA or IOL. Not that there will be anything left, but I'd also budget for tax advisement/tax prep/accounting services - this pays off regardless in my experience.

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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
Assuming you have the basics .... Sep 4, 2009

Andrea Strane wrote:

Since everyone's advice on my last topic was so great, I'm going to pose another question. If you had $1000 to spend on establishing yourself as a translator, what would you spend it on? Membership in professional organizations? Obtaining a credential? CAT tools? Other software? Dictionaries? Full membership in ProZ?


By basics I mean computer, DSL etc.

If you are starting out I wouldn't immediately buy a CAT tool, as what's the point if you have little or no work? The same with dictionaries: apart from the essential ones, I've always bought them on a job by job basis.

You should have a credential of some sort, that really goes without saying.

I have done the IOL, a master's etc, but what I really feel gave my career a boost - more than those - in terms of getting interesting and well paid work was membership of a translator's association and attendance at its conferences and workshops. I learned, I started to specialise and I also networked. Quite a bit of work has come to me in this way.

Not one of the big ones necessarily (IOL, ITI, ATA), as you are just a tiny cog in a large wheel. Try to find a smaller one that is geographically convenient and where you will eventually get to know people who might, in the future, help your career along.

I also think a website is a good idea (very inexpensive, although time consuming). And creating a logo and using it in your email and stationery (invoice and letter template) creates a professional impression.


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