Advice to new translators
Thread poster: Edwin den Boer

Edwin den Boer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:52
Member (2009)
English to Dutch
Jan 20, 2015

What is the most important advice you'd give to new freelance translators, even if they didn't ask for advice? In particular, I'd love to see links to articles in English or Dutch.

I have the opportunity to send an email to about 20 freelance translators who work for a bottom-feeder, because a careless PM forgot to use the BCC field when emailing all Dutch and Flemish translators. (I signed up as a test and haven't worked for them yet. Examples on their website showed word rates between $0.02 and $0.05.) Yes, this is slightly unethical; I wouldn't treat a serious client that way.

I want to refer them to the Community Rates, as well as my own workshop about rates (PDF). Do you have any suggestions about education, networking, technology and certification?

The most important thing I needed to hear when I started was that other freelancers are not just competitors in a dog-eat-dog world. I could have had a better start if I'd immediately started networking and asking for advice.


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Michal Fabian  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:52
Member (2012)
Dutch to Slovak
+ ...
USP Jan 20, 2015

It often boils down to the same thing: find out what is your unique selling point, then build your business around it. It could be a specialization, it could be advanced knowledge of a specialized software, the language combination itself or even the time zone you're in. In short, why should the client use your services and not somebody else's?

If you only compete on price, you're gonna have a bad time. If you don't have a USP at all, you're in the wrong business.

That could be a second point: you are running a business, flippin' act like it. This profession involves so much more than just sitting behind a computer and typing words.

My two cents.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:52
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
The lower the rate, the less likely it is that things will go smoothly Jan 20, 2015

I don't know about links to articles etc but there's one thing I feel strongly about and that is repeated very often by other translators here:
The less a client is willing to pay, the less likely you are to see even that paltry sum without a fight.

A client that is willing to pay what is considered to be an average rate (e.g. the community rate here) and agrees to normal business terms of payment within 30 days will, in the vast majority of cases, pay the full invoiced amount on or before the due date, though some will need one reminder. Of course, that's dependent on you doing an adequate job.

A client that takes every opportunity to get you to work for a pittance will, in a significant number of cases:
- find fault with your translation and apply/request a discount,
- tell you to wait until their client pays (),
- go quiet and fail to respond to reminders, well past the due date,
- decide to pay by a method that suits them but not you, e.g. cheque,
- change the job to include more work for the same pay,
- find 101 other ruses to save money at your expense.

Of course, that paltry payment often has to cover:
- hours of your time scanning in proof of this, that and the other,
- providing a free sample,
- reading, printing, signing, and sending by email or snail mail long contracts that only benefit one party,
- learning how to use their incredibly complex interfaces and online CATs,
- justifying every word of your translation that fails to get the approval of their often below native-equivalent level "proofreader",
- providing several months of totally free credit (what would a bank charge for that?),
- and of course, chasing them time and again to get your hands on this hard-earned pittance.

End result: if you accept a job at a quarter of the average source word rate, you are quite likely to end up with a tenth of the average rate per hour.


Edited to say that I agree 100% with what Michal says it boils down to: you are running a business, flippin' act like it.

[Edited at 2015-01-20 19:00 GMT]


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Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:52
Spanish to English
+ ...
YouTube for tech stuff Jan 20, 2015

I have been working on a bunch of YouTube videos that go over some of the technical aspects of freelancing - like building a website, customizing a Proz profile (go ahead and visit my profile and you'll see what I mean), blogging, SEO/SMM, online accounting programs, and so on.

My goal is to answer the questions that I had when I first started, and to help others avoid the mistakes that I made. I've only been working on it for a couple of months and there's still a lot more to add, but check it out and feel free to use anything that you find useful ^_^

Here's a link to the channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8t2rVU3JkSvsStFhFjfsuA


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The Misha
Local time: 12:52
Russian to English
+ ...
Do not give unsolicited advice Jan 20, 2015

To paraphrase a well-known joke,

Rule No. 1: Do not give unsolicited advice.
Rule No. 2: If you really - like, really, really - want to give unsolicited advice, please see Rule No. 1

It is an imposition, it is bad for business, and at the end of the day it usually comes around and bites you in you know where. As it well should.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:52
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
My two cents... Jan 21, 2015

Edwin den Boer wrote:
I have the opportunity to send an email to about 20 freelance translators who work for a bottom-feeder, because a careless PM forgot to use the BCC field when emailing all Dutch and Flemish translators. (I signed up as a test and haven't worked for them yet. Examples on their website showed word rates between $0.02 and $0.05.) Yes, this is slightly unethical; I wouldn't treat a serious client that way.

To me, the best pieces of advice you can give to new translators is: total privacy in whatever situation is a must in translation, since our profession is based upon trust and confidentiality. Translators must pursue the highest ethical standards, for the good of the profession as a whole. Translators do not exploit other people's mistakes and respect all members of the industry equally, whatever their importance and nature.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:52
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
From Proz's Professional guidelines Jan 21, 2015

I took this from Proz.com's Professional guidelines for translation service providers, which a vast majority of us in this portal have agreed to:

Professional translators and translation companies:
...
treat all sensitive information as confidential, and take steps to protect that confidentiality
...
do not directly contact end clients, or subcontractors, without permission


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Tiffany Hardy  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:52
Spanish to English
I wouldn't want to get your email. Jan 21, 2015

While I know the intentions are good ones, I would be put off by getting an email that someone took from an accidentally exposed list.

It is an invasion of privacy, period, and consistutes professionally unethical behaviour on your part, as you have already stated you are aware of.

In my view, if people are charging .02 to .05 cents per word, that's their problem, and what is more likely, it's their clients' problem. I have a hard time believing there are truly high-quality, credentialed, professional translators out there charging these rates. If there are, quite honestly, they make up the segment of this market that is precisely what enables me to differentiate and market my services as being higher in quality with a price tag that goes with them.

Sure, you can argue that these bottom feeders drive our whole market south. True. But they will always be there and fighting against them is impossible. I believe efforts are better served in educating clients about the differences in quality that they can expect across the range of prices they will find on the market.

[Edited at 2015-01-21 11:02 GMT]


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