When Confidence Gets Ahead of Skill

Presumption

There are countless ways to mess up your business, but here is one sure-fire method: just base your decisions on presumptions and disaster is sure to follow. There are various degrees of presumption, of course, and to be honest I’ve been guilty of a few.

An example of the mildest form of presumption is the mistakes you make when you’re learning a new language and confidence skips merrily ahead of skill.

When I had been living in the US for about a year, I was introduced by my friend Peter to someone he had told me about a few times. Continue reading

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Missteps and missed opportunities

pebbleRunning your own business feels like a steady jog uphill. There is no finish line (unless you retire or sell out I guess), only a view of the next mountain when you’ve reached the top. It’s been an enjoyable run so far, and I love what I do. This is the time of year when it’s traditional to count your blessings (for Thanksgiving, if you live in the US) and think about goals for the coming year. First, though, I need to sit down and shake some of the rocks and twigs out of my shoes that slowed me down and caused a few missteps this year. Continue reading

The Seven-Year Itch in Translation

The most dangerous drivers, statistically, are those who have had their license for about a year. They start feeling comfortable and relax their vigilance even though they are actually not that experienced yet, leading to a higher accident rate. Similarly, the seven-year mark is reportedly a tricky time in a relationship. The thrill of conquest and romance has worn off and gradually gets replaced, it seems, by bills, annoying nose-blowing habits and demanding in-laws.

Translation careers go through phases as well, some exciting and some not so much, and it’s good to be aware and prepared so you don’t wreck your career through misplaced confidence or throw it all to the wind when difficult times (inevitably) arrive. Continue reading

All About the Rates

I can’t get rid of this catchy Meghan Trainor earworm, except in my head it goes “It’s all about the rates, ‘bout the rates, no trouble”. This is not true, of course, because where rates are discussed trouble is not far behind, or so we are told, but what the heck. I’ll start.

I started my translation career working for $0.05/word on, where else, Proz.com. I just bumped into the site one day while job hunting, and I was beyond thrilled that here, apparently, was a way back into the profession I had thought I’d had to give up for good when I abandoned my Translation studies at the University of Amsterdam to move to the agricultural Central Valley of California. So when I found Proz and realized that physical location no longer mattered, I set up a profile faster than you can say “bulk-versus-premium market” and happily jumped into the bidding fray. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Agencies

The freelancer-large agency relationship is often an ambivalent one. On the one hand, the industry behemoths can provide a steady flow of work, which is a good thing if you have bills to pay. On the other hand, larger also means more layers of organization, so the people you talk to don’t have the authority to make decisions, and the people who do tend to be well-protected behind the organizational line of scrimmage. Plus some of them don’t pay a lot. When I first started translating I didn’t realize this was an issue, because I was happy to have work at all and I jumped on every job offer, no questions asked (which, in hindsight, I don’t recommend). Continue reading

How Your Personality Affects Your Business – Part 2

Didn’t recognize yourself in any of the types in Part 1? You might identify with one of these. Read on to find out more about types six through nine (If you missed Part 1, check out my previous post to read about the first five types).

6. The need for security

sixSixes are easy-going, hard-working, witty, and their special talent is a fine-tuned situational awareness. Continue reading

Take a Number: How your Personality Type Affects your Business – Part 1

eggsContrary to popular opinion, not all translators are introverted bookworms, and if we could ever tear ourselves away from the page we would totally speak up and prove it to you. But seriously though, while some of us certainly fit that description, the profession attracts a wide variety of strange and wonderful people, and this week I thought I’d take a stab at categorizing them for your enlightenment and convenience. Continue reading

Know What You’re Worth (and Work It)

confidenceIf you want to make more money you only have to do three things: deliver the goods, charge accordingly, and convince your clients that it’s a good investment.

It may seem like the first two should go without saying, but it’s amazing how many aspiring translators never get to step two. I almost got stuck at step one myself. I stumbled into the profession years ago when I discovered this intriguing site called Proz.com. I know now that the rates most agencies pay there are a tad on the stingy side, shall we say, but I am still thankful because this platform taught me a lot and enabled me to gain the experience I needed to build what is now a thriving business. (Note to agencies on Proz.com who offer subpar rates: if you’re lucky you’ll get a fledgling top translator at the start of his/her career or an experienced translator with poor business skills, but more often than not you’ll get what you pay for.)

But at some point you have to do more than just deliver the goods, or your clients will be happy to keep you working weekends at ridiculous rates. So here  is a simply two-step plan to get higher rates: Continue reading

Rants and raves from the translation desk

aggravationDo you ever have one of those weeks that is filled with small setbacks whose power to aggravate is completely out of proportion to their significance? It’s been one of those for me.

One project was a series of transcripts for a nurse who wants to work in California. The translations had to be printed, certified, notarized and sent by registered mail. I had several deadlines looming over me and all these steps were eating up precious time, and of course every. single. time I printed out one page I would find a tiny error, or an inconsistency, or a better term I could have used. After about the fifth time I just about lost it and the only reason the printer didn’t go sailing out the window is because I didn’t want to pay for another one. Continue reading

Rebranding the translation profession

I got a recruiting email this week from a group called “My Translation”, which bills itself as “A Revolution in Translation”. Naturally I was curious, thinking it might be a new type of collaborative platform for professionals, so I checked out their website. This is what is says on the home page:

Translators: a new way to make money from home. Take a test, get online translation projects and start earning money now.

The only people whom this might strike as a “new” and “revolutionary” approach would be non-translators. This is just as well, since they appear to be the target audience of this spiel, which presents translation like just another no-qualifications-required, work-at-home opportunity. Call this number, start earning $$$ right away!

It looks to me like some entrepreneur smelled a money-making opportunity and suckered some sincere people into signing up. I checked out some of the translator profiles and most of them registered in 2013 and have not been active since then, so they probably moved on, hopefully to bigger and better things. Continue reading