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First proper job offer but lacking technology and know how
Thread poster: Jessica Mills (X)

Jessica Mills (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:50
French to English
+ ...
Jun 18, 2014

Hello there,

I have recieved the offer of work in my most niche language pairing and in one of my areas of expertise which is fantastic. It is also potentially a long term collaboration. However, there are certain technical issues which may mean it is beyond me: the source files are pdfs, which I know can be difficult to deal with, and the only CAT tool I have used recently is MetaTexis (though I have experience with Deja Vu and Trados from my MA Translation days which were a few years ago!); furthermore, I have no experience of dealing with pdf converters.

My question is, basically, am I completely out of my depth and should turn down the job, or are there things I can do (relatively quickly) to put myself in a position where I'm able to accept it? If it is beyond me, what steps should I take, as a new translator, to avoid being in this position in the future?

Thank you in advance for your advice.


 

DLyons  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 22:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Go for it Jun 18, 2014

The quickest solution might be a subscription to Adobe Acrobat
https://new.acrobat.com/en_us/products/pdf-pack/benefits.html

That'll buy you time and you can investigate further.


 

cranium
French to English
+ ...
Ask the agency for a Word doc Jun 18, 2014

Ask the agency to convert the PDF to a Word doc for you. When you get it, have a quick look through the doc to make sure the returns and line breaks are in the right places. Converted PDFs tend to recognize only lines, not whole sentences, so they need a second set of human eyes to
put it all right unless
you want to translate
segments that look
like these.

If the agency does not convert the PDF, check that it can indeed be converted to text. If it cannot (for example, a PDF of a scanned document), ask for a much higher rate because you'll be typing the whole thing from scratch.

Also, the "potential long-term collaboration" is an age-old carrot, so don't lower your rates based on that promise, and don't lock yourself into any one rate.icon_smile.gif


 

Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:50
Member (2012)
Russian to English
+ ...
Ask for a different file format Jun 18, 2014

Just ask the client for a non-PDF format. They usually have them unless it's a scanned PDF.

 

Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:50
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Do you need CAT? Jun 18, 2014

Hi Jessica,

Might be a silly question, but do you even need to use a CAT tool for this? When my customers provide pdf source files I just type the translation in Word. If they need it processing in a CAT tool they send me a Word file or a CAT package. This has never ever been an issue.

Have you tried asking the agency if they can send you a Word file instead of the pdf? Or if you can just translate in Word?

Regarding the CAT tool if you have used Trados, Deja Vu and MetaTexis you will probably be fine to pick up what you need to know to do a translation in any of the major CAT tools pretty quickly - they are pretty easy to use (easier than they used to be actually). If you might have a long term collaboration it might be worth finding out which CAT tool this agency uses and think about investing in that.

Hope it works out,

Rachel


 

Noni Gilbert  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Specify that your rates are applicable for Word format Jun 18, 2014

And that other formats attract a surcharge. I always quote for Word, and almost always get the documents in that format. Threatening a higher charge can work a treat, but of course it has to have been stated at the start of negotiations.

I actually don't need to do this any longer since I do now use a CAT tool, but unless the agency is insisting, there's no reason why you should have to do so - I held out for over ten years quite happily but I am now a "convert"!


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:50
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
PDF is usually an output format Jun 18, 2014

Jessica Mills wrote:
The source files are PDFs...


PDF is usually the output format of the file in a different, editable format. Unless these are scans or images, the PDF must have been created by some other program, in which the text is editable. The bad news is that you're not likely to know how to use that program either.

The good news is that the person who is responsible for putting your translation into that program will likely appreciate it is if the text is easy to copy, without any font formatting, and it is clear which text is a translation of which source text.

Do not just assume that the client wants you to recreate the layout and formatting of the PDF file. Ask him if it would be acceptable to deliver the translation in e.g. an MS Word file, in a two-column table (source+target, per line or per paragraph). If yes, then either copy/paste the text manually or hire a typist to type it for you.


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 06:50
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Seconded Jun 18, 2014

Rachel Waddington wrote:

Hi Jessica,

Might be a silly question, but do you even need to use a CAT tool for this? When my customers provide pdf source files I just type the translation in Word. If they need it processing in a CAT tool they send me a Word file or a CAT package. This has never ever been an issue.


Yes, I simply fail to comprehend how this is even a problem unless the agency is requesting something like TRADOS files as output. I mean, how on earth do people manage to do translation tests in which they had to use pen and paper, horror of horrors!


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 06:50
Chinese to English
Go for it 2 Jun 19, 2014

These challenges are the very things that get us going!

I agree with everyone above:
1) Do you really need CAT for this?
2) If you do, ask for help from the agency
3) If they won't help, pdf converters are freely available - though quality can be ropey, and you might be better off paying for a professional one.

Good luck!


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:50
English to German
+ ...
Proper price calculated by you Jun 19, 2014

Jessica Mills wrote:

First proper job offer but lacking technology and know how
...

Hello there,

I have recieved the offer of work in my most niche language pairing and in one of my areas of expertise which is fantastic. It is also potentially a long term collaboration. However, there are certain technical issues which may mean it is beyond me: the source files are pdfs, which I know can be difficult to deal with, and the only CAT tool I have used recently is MetaTexis (though I have experience with Deja Vu and Trados from my MA Translation days which were a few years ago!); furthermore, I have no experience of dealing with pdf converters.

My question is, basically, am I completely out of my depth and should turn down the job, or are there things I can do (relatively quickly) to put myself in a position where I'm able to accept it? If it is beyond me, what steps should I take, as a new translator, to avoid being in this position in the future?

Thank you in advance for your advice.


Just wanted to point out that the most important aspect of any project is the proper price which should be calculated by you, not the client.
So, proper price is what I recommend focusing on, and that will depend on volume (although that is certainly not the most important factor), complexity of the text, time-frame, format, etc. Many newcomers get drawn into projects "offered" by agencies for a low price because they think they must get the project.

Instead, before you accept any project, you need to be comfortable with what you get paid for it, the time you have to carry it out professionally, the format and every other aspect.
Your questions to us show that you are indeed considering these aspects.

With regard to calculating the price/rate, here is a link to another current thread that might be of good use to you:
http://www.proz.com/forum/business_issues/270904-rates.html

HTH

Bernhard


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:50
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
At first, let yourself be guided by clients Jun 19, 2014

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:
Just wanted to point out that the most important aspect of any project is the proper price which should be calculated by you, not the client. ... Instead, before you accept any project, you need to be comfortable with what you get paid for it, the time you have to carry it out professionally, the format and every other aspect.


I disagree. If you're a beginner in the industry, you should allow yourself to make mistakes and to learn from clients. You won't know what is "normal" unless you've experirenced a range.


 

Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:50
French to English
+ ...
What kind of pdf? Jun 19, 2014

Hi Jessica,

Totally agree with what others have said about what the client actually requires from this in terms of output/CAT tools etc, but assuming the layout does need to be reproduced fairly accurately, you need to know what kind of pdf it is. If it's a scanned pdf, you'd really need an OCR converter to convert it - I use Abbyy, which is expensive but good. However, I wouldn't recommend using it for the first time on an urgent job, as it will take you a while to fine-tune it and sort out any quirks in formatting which result - hence why I always charge a surcharge for this kind of pdf files. If it's an editable file, i.e. if you can highlight and extract the text when you click on it, then I also use Solid pdf to Word converter, which is very reasonably-priced - about $40, I think. This is their most basic package, but I personally don't need the fine-tuning offered by the more advanced packages - this simply extracts the text from an editable pdf in a usable format. It also usually does a brilliant job of recreating formatting, even complicated tables, so that you can edit in Word without any issues. I wouldn't have any hesitation in experimenting with that even on a job with a relatively short deadline - and of course the resulting output can be used in the CAT tool of your choice.

Good luck!

Claire


 

Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 00:50
Turkish to English
+ ...
A lot depends on the type of job Jun 19, 2014

A lot depends on the type of job and the purpose served by the translation.

As a legal translator in the Turkish to English pair, I would say that 80% of the work that I receive is in the form of scanned documents, mostly in pdf format. This is not something that troubles me at at all - I simply print out the source text, put the page I am working on in a copy holder that is screwed onto the side of my desk and is aligned next to the computer screen and just type out what I see, matching the source text format and layout to a reasonable degree and making sure that the source and target texts correspond precisely. This is all that is required as far as formatting goes with litigation documents. I can hear the howls of laughter about this so-called primitive way of working, but so what? As far as I know, my clients are satisfied with my work and, on a good day, with easily legible text in subject-matter areas that I am very familiar with, at a push I can produce 4,000 target words in a ten-hour day, which, according to surveys here about daily output, is more than respectable.

On the other hand, there are types of work where you will be be expected to match the source-text formatting precisely, and a different approach will be required. Your best idea would be to find out from the client how they expect the work to be returned, and proceed from there.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:50
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
How much time do you have? Jun 19, 2014

Jessica Mills wrote:
My question is, basically, am I completely out of my depth and should turn down the job, or are there things I can do (relatively quickly) to put myself in a position where I'm able to accept it? If it is beyond me, what steps should I take, as a new translator, to avoid being in this position in the future?


There are so many things we don't know about this job of yours, Jessica, that it's difficult to be really useful. A lot depends on how much time you'd have to do the job, i.e. whether you can allow yourself time to learn before delivering. We don't know exactly what files the client wants delivered: a format that's identical (or at least very similar) to the source one, a simple text file, or bilingual output from a CAT tool. Is it the client asking for a CAT tool to be used, or is it just your wish? If it's just you hoping to make use of the work for future jobs, then you can always do an alignment later, perhaps.

If you have to use a CAT tool, and you don't have one at the moment, I'd advise you to go here: http://www.freetm.com/. Wordfast Anywhere is free, simple, and handles PDFs. At least, I think all that's true though I've never got round to using it yet. But it might be a way to gauge how possible or difficult this job is going to be.

The thing is, you're going to be presented with problems of this sort often in the first few years, and occasionally after that, too. Sometimes such jobs are impossible to take on - never take on what you can't be reasonably sure to deliver. But if you have enough time, and if the option exists of simply reading from the PDF and typing in the translation (or even typing in the source first), then you can quote a fair price for the job and get on with it. You may quote 0.15€ per word, which to an experienced translator would probably work out at over 40€ per hour, and end up earning at most 10€ per hour. But that doesn't mean you're working for peanuts - it means you're spending time on training, and that's normally either unpaid or you have to pay for it.

To avoid being in this position in the future? Clearly you should be taking a PDF, downloading various converters and seeing what you get and how easily you can work from them, then paying for better ones if you think they are necessary. The same goes for CAT tools - at least try one or two out and see how you get on with them.

Specific problems can be raised in the technical forums here.


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:50
English to German
+ ...
Beginner versus unqualified person Jun 19, 2014

Samuel Murray wrote:

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:
Just wanted to point out that the most important aspect of any project is the proper price which should be calculated by you, not the client. ... Instead, before you accept any project, you need to be comfortable with what you get paid for it, the time you have to carry it out professionally, the format and every other aspect.


I disagree. If you're a beginner in the industry, you should allow yourself to make mistakes and to learn from clients. You won't know what is "normal" unless you've experirenced a range.


You can disagree, Samuel. But a serious "beginner in the industry" is not one who does a "half-a.. job" but has good reason to start as a translator. No professional agency/client will look for translations full of mistakes and done by someone who is not qualified to do it. That's no way to start a career.

Instead, the newcomer in our industry should know that accuracy is expected of him/her, and that he/she should follow professional guidelines and adequate rates are part of it. Anything else simply leads to exploitation and harsh disappointment and possibly financial ruin.
That goes for any industry. We are not working in a sweatshop.

So I must disagree with your statement, especially this one: "...you should allow yourself to make mistakes and to learn from clients."


 
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