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What resources do I need to work efficiently?
Thread poster: Fvdamme
Fvdamme
Local time: 11:16
Apr 15, 2013

Hi all,

I've just started as a freelance translator, and right now I'm wondering what kind of things I need apart from the obvious translation skills. Suppose I want to work with clients directly (without any 'middleman', since I believe that the combined power of freelancers can replace them under the right conditions), what would I need? I'm thinking of the following things:

- the ability to convert all kinds of files
- a secured place in the cloud where I can 'park' my projects
- possibly a MT-engine, tailored to my fields of specialization
- ....

Do you have any suggestions here? I have some more ideas, but I'm also very curious about what experienced translators have to say. Thanks in advance for your reply!

Kind regards!


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ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 13:16
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
Clarification Apr 15, 2013

Do you mean hardware, software or both?

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Fvdamme
Local time: 11:16
TOPIC STARTER
Software Apr 15, 2013

Software actually, and actually software apart from the (to me obvious) CAT tools. I hope my questions is clear (sorry if not the case)

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Steve Grammer  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
Resources for starting out... Apr 15, 2013

Right off the bat, I would be focusing more on approach as opposed to specific technological issues (clouds and MT Engines, etc). While these are issues that you´ll need to define at some point depending on your particular focus, you need to have that focus initially prior to even preparing your active marketing materials to send out or your passive online profiles, which combined should be the basis for securing clients - either intermediary agencies or end-clients themselves.

Initially your approach should focus on a particular area (technical, legal, medical, etc. – you may indeed have an even more specific niche) – lacking a specifically defined area could lead a freelancer/company to become a drop in the ocean.

While I do have a handful of end-clients, they are exclusively due to the fact that I have a legally established company (I had very little luck with end-clients without it). Most translation agencies have accounting mechanisms to deal with non-official international service providers. Most end-clients would require having an established business in order for them to legally pay invoices.

If you have proper plan, it will undoubtedly be reflected during the preparation of your marketing/sales material. Clients will respond to this.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:16
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Concentrate on quality and let efficiency follow Apr 15, 2013

Steve Grammer wrote:
Initially your approach should focus on a particular area (technical, legal, medical, etc. – you may indeed have an even more specific niche) – lacking a specifically defined area could lead a freelancer/company to become a drop in the ocean.

It's unfortunate that you've told us absolutely nothing about yourself. Each freelance translator has a unique set of skills and experience that they bring to their clients. A translator between two rare language will likely offer a very different service to one translating between two FIGS languages.

I suspect you'll get the most benefit from working with agencies at first, just to learn the ropes a little. Agencies are used to dealing with inexperienced translators whereas end clients don't necessarily know what to expect and confusion can creep in easily. I'm not implying that you don't know how to translate, but freelance translating is a whole lot more than translating. You'll be running a business, too. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in the early stages of the learning curve, and losing an agency client due to misunderstandings etc. is normally less dramatic than losing an end client. Also, you need a high profile to attract end clients, and a network of reliable collaborators for proofreading, DTP etc. Not simple at the outset, although it can be very rewarding to work with end clients once you're established.

Did you really mean MT, or did you mean TM? You'll certainly need to acquire and train on a suitable CAT tool if you're going to specialise in technical translation areas. It isn't so necessary for marketing etc. but I still find a CAT tool useful.

But in a nutshell, I think you need to define your service offer before you can home in on the resources you'll need.


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:16
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Your most important resource... Apr 15, 2013

... is between your ears.

Others already gave you advice on optional stuff, but don't forget what you already have.


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 11:16
Danish to English
+ ...
Apart from the obvious Apr 16, 2013

Yes, translation skills are definitely a must.

I get by just fine with the following:

A reliable computer with plenty of storage space (I'm wildly suspicious of cloud storage and quite sure my clients would be, too!)
Microsoft Office small business (I'm still on Office 2007, works just fine)
CAT tool (SDL Trados Suite 2007 pro + Studio 2011, which now includes MultiTerm)
Adobe Acrobat pro XI (for PDF conversion and proofreading of PDF files)
A clever little freeware program called AutoUnbreak (cleans up a common problem in PDF-converted files, i.e. forced line breaks)
One electronic and a couple of on-line dictionaries (for which I pay princely subscription fees, but I haven't got the patience for paper dictionaries any more)
Internet for research
Free file transfer options such as WeTransfer

That's it...

I would not at this stage recommend the use of machine translation (MT) and most definitely not as a basic tool for a new translator.


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Fvdamme
Local time: 11:16
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Apr 16, 2013

First of all a big thanks to everyone responding. And my apologies for bringing up this unclear question. Actually, it is a bit twofold, since on the one hand I'm curious to know what practical tools etc. you are using (and what you would recommend?), but on the other hand I would also like to know what else comes into play.

As for the things you all mentioned, I will make sure to get a clear focus (which in my case would be translating business and marketing material from English and German into Dutch), but I was wondering how to actually start then. What would I need to to serve (big) customers without having to work with an agency? And indeed, working with an agency would be helpful to learn the ropes a little (and I will probably work with them at the early stages of my career) , but my ambition is to set up a network of translators (colleagues) that can work for any client without a 'middleman'.
Regarding tools; I reckoned that a CAT tool (proper TM management) is a prerequisite for translating nowadays (although not for marketing material), but I'm also thinking about the possibility to be able to deliver post-edited MT translations, made by an engine that is tailored to my specialties. As for other software, the practical things that Gitte mentioned are the ones I am looking for in the first place.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:16
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Not secure Apr 16, 2013

Fvdamme wrote:

- a secured place in the cloud where I can 'park' my projects


I wouldn't rely on the Cloud. Although there is a basic free allowance, ultimately as your usage increases, you have to pay for storage space in the Cloud. I would expect the charges to increase significantly in years to come.

Added to which you might not always be able to connect. There are many places in the world where it isn't easy to get a reliable internet connection. In such situations it would be impossible for you to access your work.

[Edited at 2013-04-16 08:11 GMT]


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Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 11:16
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
basically.... Apr 16, 2013

You need knowledge of something, in 2 languages, the skills to translate and you need to know your clients ...

You also need to know what you can charge them, and what the average is for normal non-specific jobs (English-Dutch about 0,10 euro / source word for agencies)
Rather than giving it away at lower prices (there will be plenty of bottomfeeding agencies telling you that 0,06 is the absolute maximum) you need a way to market your specific skills for better prices.

Knowing who your (end) clients are will allow you to contact them directly and get better prices, avoiding cheaper agencies...

You may need something to convert PDF to Word, but for most clients Word will be OK. For working with agencies (or if you want to build up a translation memory) you may need Trados, WordFast, OmegaT, DejaVu, MemoQ or other software, whatever suits you best...

Literary translations, books, subtitles, legal, medical and all other specific fields have their own specials resources, software and utilities...

Nobody cares about storing your projects on a cloud for safety and some clients might actually be very much against such ideas....

----
Ed


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:16
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Network or agency? Apr 16, 2013

Fvdamme wrote:
What would I need to to serve (big) customers without having to work with an agency?

I'm afraid you'll find most big companies will prefer the flexibility of working through an agency. They will no doubt want translations in many languages and will need the instant availability that only an agency can provide: if you're their one-and-only contact, are you going to be available 24/7 within a few minutes of their contact?
my ambition is to set up a network of translators (colleagues) that can work for any client without a 'middleman'.

But who's going to be responsible? There has to be one point of responsibility, both for contact but more importantly for payments, unless you're going to get your clients to pay separate people, who will all have different payment conditions, for separate parts of the job. If you're going to take the client's money for the whole job and pay subcontractor colleagues to do their bits, doesn't that make you this 'middleman', especially if it's in a language pair that you don't work in, so you'll be handing the whole lot to others, but taking a cut?

But maybe others know of ways of making this work. Personally, I've only ever worked alone (with an agency or an end client on the receiving end of my work), although I have on occasions asked for proofreading from others here on ProZ.com.


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Jane Proctor  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 11:16
French to English
Tight Network Apr 16, 2013

At risk of going off-topic, but since the topic starter raised the subject and Sheila picked up on it.. surely with a bit of common sense and a lot of trust amongst like-minded translators, small translation teams can bypass the agencies.

Of course, it comes down to the individuals in the team. Yes, things such as who handles invoicing and whether work is "outsourced" or simply passed on etc need clarification from the outset, but these are admin details that can be resolved. A good network serves as a marketing tool and a means to offering reassurance and volume to clients. Being a member of a team is a great morale booster and a good team is a great support mechanism.

So the client pays less and gets a much better service and final translation. The freelance translators are paid correctly and are part of a viable, respectable business.

Quite honestly, the current trajectory of the industry dismays me and imo new delivery models need to be put in place asap...


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Fvdamme
Local time: 11:16
TOPIC STARTER
I agree Apr 16, 2013

Yes, nice to see that there are others who share this view, and recognize the need for new delivery models (although we probably all do so)

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septima
Local time: 11:16
More ideas Apr 16, 2013

Fvdamme wrote:

my ambition is to set up a network of translators ... to be able to deliver post-edited MT translations ...


Interesting idea! In that case, in terms of resources, it would be good if you could invent an MT engine that can produce translations about 90% as good as human translations in all the languages you want to offer.

It would then be quite simple to network together a group of quality translators, who would perfect those MT translations at, say, 110% of their standard rate, i.e. 10% for the correction and 100% for translating it.


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Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 11:16
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
for big clients.... Apr 17, 2013

Friends in high places....

Very simple: just connect with your former chefs, bosses, CEO's, friends, neigbours and whatever to let them know you are a translator now....
Ultimately some of them will need a translator at some point and maybe they will remember you. They might not always be able to send you huge jobs (millions of words, years of work), but direct clients are always a plus...

Mind you, you will probably need to go through a purchase department, procurement office , receive a PO 2 weeks after the job has been deliveried and will probably need to wait 2 -3 months for payment...

Ed


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