How to Lose Customers – A Case Study

Customer serviceI have been in business for a couple of years now, and along the way I’ve built up a pretty sizable collection of mistakes. Nothing fatal obviously, as I’m still here, but I’ve committed my share of cringers. Like cold-connecting with people when the intention was clearly to promote myself, accepting jobs without checking the details first and having to work through the night on some hideous pdf in illegible handwriting, or even something as simple as hitting “send” on an email in a hurry and realizing a nanosecond too late that I used the wrong name. Continue reading

You Are What You Read

you are what you readBack in my college days I once got into a discussion with another student once about my lack of desire to read Marquis de Sade. He argued that my refusal to read it indicated a sad failure on my part to experience everything life has to offer, refuting my claim that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it with the philosophical depth charge “don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.” Continue reading

This Job Is Not For You

Here’s a question for you: what is the worst possible job you can think of?  The restriction is that it has to be a regular job, so anything obviously detrimental to individuals or society is out.

Okay, I’ll start: three jobs that make me break out in a cold sweat just thinking about them are, in no particular order: improv comedian, wedding planner, and tour guide.

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Staying Sharp: Identifying the Brown M&Ms in Your Business

M&MsWhy do we do the things we do? Companies are continually forced to ask that question, as no one wants to be left in the wake of a paradigm shift or forced off the field by the next game-changer. As freelancers we have the monumental advantage of being able to do whatever we want without having to deal with supervisors, managers, committees, boards or focus groups. Just writing that sentence made me stop and take a moment to savor my meeting-free existence. But are we using our freedom to good effect?

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How not to get burned (again) by deadbeat clients

A few days ago, a colleague on a forum here in California mentioned a particular Canadian agency with a history of late and non-payment. Several people responded they had had similar experiences and recommended steering clear of this agency. I was glad for the heads-up, but it begs the question: how on earth do agencies like this stay in business in the first place?

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Respect and the translation industry

respectfulTwo weeks ago I wrote about the way our interactions reflect on the profession itself. This week I came across the website of FIRST, a non-profit whose mission is to help children get excited about science and technology. One of the driving forces of this group, Dr. Woodie Flowers, coined the term Gracious Professionalism®, which he defines as competing and striving to excel in a spirit of kindness and respect.  I think this is a great concept which strikes me as extremely relevant for our industry, as well.

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Translator’s guide to Project Manager pitches

Are you sure you know what you’re getting into when you accept that great new job from your friendly neighborhood translation agency? Don’t jump at that offer too fast, because not every great project is what is seems. Sometimes job offers are like real-estate pitches; you have to read between the lines or that “minimum editing” job you commit to may turn out to be a major reconstruction project. Watch out for these “opportunities”:

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Professional Feedback


The best feedback I ever received was in response to a translation for a new agency several years ago. The proofreader had a problem with the terminology I had used, explaining that the most authoritative reference in this field was this particular lexicon which I had obviously not used. I was fairly new to the field, so I immediately went out and got my hands on this holy grail of terminology, which has been a life-saver on more than a few occasions since. So even though the critique stung a bit, I am grateful for it because it told me something I really needed to know in a straightforward, non-offensive way.

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Business cross-training

cross-trainingAs a translator, I owe a huge debt to more experienced colleagues who have taken the time to give those behind them some pointers for the road ahead. If it wasn’t for your blogs, articles, forum posts, webinars and consultation sessions I might still be under the impression that bidding for 100,000-word jobs at miniscule rates is the only option for translators these days. I’m not sorry it took me a while to learn these things; it’s been a pretty colorful journey so far and I figure it’s when you start thinking that you’re too old to learn that it’s time to retire.
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A little bit laid-back, a little bit OCD

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So do you have to be just a little bit OCD to succeed as a translator? Not to make light of the actual disorder, but I’ve wondered more than once, while triple-checking a term I’ve translated before but can’t say for absolutely sure will fit in this exact context, how obsessive you have to be, or rather, how non-obsessive you can get away with being and still deliver a quality translation.

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