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Poll: Would you recommend new translators to translate on a pro-bono basis?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 23:42
SITE STAFF
Oct 29, 2013

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Would you recommend new translators to translate on a pro-bono basis?".

This poll was originally submitted by Magda_P. View the poll results »



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Heather McCrae  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:42
Member (2012)
German to English
No Oct 29, 2013

... or at least not at first or only if they are really convinced they will gain extra work that way at some point.
It is hard enough to get established as a new translator without giving your work away for free!
Once you are earning enough to live on then ok.
When I started out nearly 20 years ago, it took me 2 years before I was earning enough to support myself. I could not afford to do any translations free of charge. And I think it is much harder (and more expensive) these days to get established as a new translator.


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dasein_wm  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 08:42
Member (2009)
Italian to English
+ ...
No Oct 29, 2013

Why would I recommend that someone give away for free what I am trying to sell?

How many other occupational fields are this beleaguered by calls for free work and discounts?


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes, for NGOs and similar Oct 29, 2013

It is one way to gain some experience, so why not? You have to start somewhere and "practice makes perfect", or so they say.

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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 15:42
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
No Oct 29, 2013

Because we are a profession not a charity.

The more translators are willing to work for nothing or almost nothing, the more agencies will feel emboldened to expect us to work for less and offer even lower rates.
I was earning more 20 years ago -- I should be seeing my income grow with age and experience instead of it being undermined by competition willing to work for peanuts. Grrr


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Enrico Zoffoli  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 08:42
Member (2013)
German to Italian
+ ...
No Oct 29, 2013

at least not until I find a plumber willing to fix my sink "pro bono".

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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:42
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Only for NPOs Oct 29, 2013

Since new colleagues are also aiming at making a living as translators, the "now and then" pro-bono translations should be strictly limited to NGOs. Working - from time to time - for NGOs will provide new translators with valuable experience while doing their good deed of the day.

All agencies and end clients are earning money with our translations and should, therefore, pay for all services. This has nothing to do with (perhaps) being greedy, but it's simply the Alpha and Omega of the business world.

After all, there are no professions that provide free services (excluding charity organisations), so why should we?


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Marjolein Snippe  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:42
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Yes Oct 29, 2013

neilmac wrote:

It is one way to gain some experience, so why not? You have to start somewhere and "practice makes perfect", or so they say.


I completely agree. It gives you experience, sometimes they ask you to do a more extensive job and are willing to pay for it (has happened to me on a couple of occasions), and they may be willing to recommend you and/or give you references.

I still translate for a few NGOs on a voluntary basis. It is one way for me to support them.
Only when I have the time and feel happy with the subject.

I would certainly not translate for commercial organisations on a pro-bono basis.


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Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:42
Member (2012)
French to English
Yes, but ... Oct 29, 2013

It's always suggested as a great way of gaining experience. After getting my MA in translation, I was (and still am, to an extent) in a position where I could afford to translate on a pro-bono basis, and have registered with several organisations that supposedly give work to volunteers. I've never been offered any work, though, apart from a couple of occasions when I was asked to go to Paris for some interpretation work (even though I specified that I'm a translator).

So yes, it's a good idea in theory, but don't expected to be inundated with job offers, even if you're prepared to work for no money.


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mk_lab  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 09:42
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
This would be bad recommendation Oct 29, 2013

Pro-bono translation means pro-bono quality

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Allison Wright  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 07:42
German to English
+ ...
No. Oct 29, 2013

There are other options for new translators. Working in-house with experienced translators is one. Working with an experienced translator/outsourcer who is prepared to be their mentor is another. Working with an agency which is prepared to take on a little of the mentor role is a third.

While it is noble to do pro bono work, there is no glory in poverty.

Charge for your translation work. Volunteer your other skills (e.g. selling cakes at fundraisers) pro bono publicum.

As to pro bono work, I do such things occasionally, normally where a personal connection exists on some level. Doing pro bono work for any organisation with a bigger bank account than mine does not seem right to me, somehow.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:42
Russian to English
+ ...
No. Absolutely not. Oct 29, 2013

Only very experienced translators should do work pro bono. You cannot train on texts that are to help other people. The texts to be translated pro bono are usually of a very serious nature -- human rights, diseases, etc. If you want to train, translate newspaper articles for yourself, and then ask your mentor to check them.


[Edited at 2013-10-29 10:30 GMT]


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macimovic
Netherlands
Local time: 08:42
English to Serbian
+ ...
No and no Oct 29, 2013

In other professions volunteering is a choice that experienced and established professionals make.

I remember when I first tried to apply as a translator in Translators without borders some time ago, I was asked about previous experience and if I was a member of Certified PRO Network here at Proz.com. At that time I didn't have much experience and I wasn't a member of the PRO Network and I wasn't accepted.

Maybe Translators without borders is a picky organization but I doubt many would accept volunteers with no experience at all. Recently I was approached to do some volunteer work after a company saw my CV and experience. I doubt they would do it when I was still a total newb.

But, I did volunteer on many occasions while I was attending my classes, which I saw as a compensation for practice that my uni lacked.


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Cristina Munari  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 08:42
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
No Oct 29, 2013

My answer is completely different. I offered my services in the past to a few NGO's looking for volunteer translators in my language and never got answered. I had my clients, I was only willing to help. Never again. I would not waste my time and efforts again.

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maryblack  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:42
Member (2013)
Spanish to English
+ ...
pro bono is a common professional practice Oct 29, 2013

Thayenga wrote:


After all, there are no professions that provide free services (excluding charity organisations), so why should we?


Lawyers work pro bono, doctors do... Many professionals work pro bono, occasionally of course (we have to earn a living!), but doing it can 1) boost experience and 2) make connections that - who knows? - might come in handy in the future. Perhaps the NGO also pays for certain projects, or perhaps the contact at the NGO later moves to another organisation and remembers the translator who did such a great job...

I see no problem with pro bono work and do not feel it demeans my profession or my own professionalism, or even my ability to earn a living.


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