Dienstag, 30. November 2010

Agency vs. Freelancer

Should you hire a freelance translator or a translation agency?
by José Henrique Lamensdorf

Assuming you are not in the translation business, just need such services, either as an individual or for your organization, here are some candid tips to help you in avoiding unpleasant outcomes.
Of course they are not rules that apply always, nor they cover all possibilities. Common sense is advised to prevail, always!
You probably don't need a translation agency if:
  • Your translation is between two fairly common languages worldwide, and you are in a country where either one is the national language. It should be relatively easy to find and contact such a translator directly.
  • The content of your translation is not specifically directed to practitioners of a profession; any individual with average education will read and understand it.
  • Only a few copies of your translation will be issued, few people will read it, so the cost of perfectionism in proofreading is not fully justified. 99% right is good enough.
  • You need a sworn translation in any country that has specific laws about it (e.g. Brazil, Spain, Argentina), and therefore it should be possible to find a list of duly accredited professionals that you can contact directly.
  • Your translation involves something that requires direct contact with the translator, e.g. guidance on terminology for some new technology where reference material is not widely available.
  • It's the translation of a foreign book to be commercially published. It's your job to find a suitable translator!
  • All you need is the translated text, you have all necessary formatting, DTP, web design, whatever post-translation processes covered.
  • There is no extraordinary rush in terms of too much volume and too little time. One competent translator can handle normally 2,000 to 4,000 words per day, sometimes more.
  • No special software is involved, e.g. PowerPoint, CAD, video subtitling, DTP-specific programs... though you may find translators that work with the one you need.
  • You have means to ascertain the final quality of the job, i.e, someone dependable to have a look at it, if you don't master the target language.
You probably need a translation agency if:
  • Your translation requires relatively hard-to-find language pairs, and/or technical specialization in fields of human knowledge where translators are hard do find.
  • You need simultaneous translation into several different languages, or have a constant stream of translation work, and don't have time to deal directly with a number of translators.
  • Your translation will be printed in several thousand copies, or (hopefully) seen by millions of web surfers, and your organization's image will be at stake, so failproof checking is a must.
  • You need a certified translation for a country where there are no specific laws on that matter, hence there isn't a list of accredited professionals, and it's better to have an established organization to vouch for its accuracy.
  • You have reference material for the translation content, however you haven't manpower available to answer queries from translators all the time.
  • You need additional services, either bureaucratic (e.g. notarization, consular legalization) or technical (e.g. video subtitling or dubbing, graphic arts editing, DTP, etc.) and want a turn-key service.
  • You have a large volume to translate and time is short. You know that more than one translator will be needed, but you don't want the burden of assembling and adjusting all the pieces into something uniform.
  • You need the translation of material available in proprietary files created with some specific application, e.g. CAD, InDesign, QuarkXpress, PowerPoint, Flash, etc.).
  • The job is complex, and/or it involves several people/organizations, however you want to process only ONE invoice for it all, with all the work having been thoroughly checked in advance.
  • As translation is far away from your core business, you just want to send the job with instructions to someone who can do it, and wish that the next news you'll have from them will be the finished job and the invoice; nothing in the meantime.
Tips for hiring a freelance translator:
  • Do not trust blindly the assertions on their CVs or web sites. An impressive list of clients served may be meaningless. Imagine if all the "work" they did for, say, Microsoft or Disney, was to translate a "No smoking" sign! If available, ask how long they have been working for certain clients, or how many jobs they have done for them.
  • Don't force translators outside their comfort zone, either in languages or specialties. Just because Spanish and Portuguese are close, a good Brazilian translator working from English might not make an acceptable job from Spanish. A financial translation specialist might not be able to deal well with IT material, and so on.
  • If you are looking for rock-bottom prices and couldn't care less about quality, consider using free online automatic translation, like http://translate.google.com. Though the flaws will be different, they will be consistent throughout the text, and the overall quality of a cheap amateur translator will be about the same.
  • Don't look too far away. If you need translation between two European or Pan-American languages, what do you think your chances are in finding a suitable translator in the Far East?
  • Do care about language variants. If you want a translation for a certain country, be specific! Don't rely on the existence of a 'neutral' variant; there often isn't one.
  • Don't take loans from translators, they are not in the money-lending business. Strive to pay them as soon as the deliverables have been accepted. If you need cash, borrow it from a bank.
  • Don't fall for the 'native speaker' talk. If a translator is truly competent, they'll have mastered the target language, regardless of where they have been born. However if your material needs catchy wording, use someone actually living in the target language area (either as a translator or for final editing). A native speaker living for decades outside their homeland may be using outdated language, if some slang or wordplay is involved.
  • Ascertain whether they'll be doing it themselves or outsourcing. If they will outsource parts of the translation job, make them accountable for consistency; it's their problem. If they will be outsourcing post-translation work (e.g. DTP, dubbing), make them fully responsible for its outcomes - you don't want to have to deal with their vendors. If they'll be outsourcing the whole thing, treat them like an agency (see below), not a freelancer.
  • Don't ask for miracles. If they tell you it can't be done in the time you are giving them, believe it! Don't insist in forcing them to believe that your farfetched deadline is possible. Better safe than sorry.
  • Don't believe in translators who tell you they can do anything. Chances are that their work standards are so low for everything, that anyone would be able to improvise with such (despicable) quality.
Tips for hiring a translation agency on the Internet:
  • Don't get impressed by their web site. Any fly-by-nite business could get a great web designer to make it so. Likewise, a great translation agency may care more about their web site content than bother to dazzle you with flashy animations all over.
  • Don't get overly impressed by their clients list. A one-page memo translated ten years ago may be the only thing that led any prestigious organization to appear there.
  • If they offer unbeatable low rates, scram! Look for honest market rates. They might be using free online automatic translation, which you could do as well... at absolutely no cost! Otherwise they might be using such cheap amateurs that it will be a waste of time.
  • If their web site is multilingual, check all pages in languages you know. This should give you a good sample of the kind of translators and proofreaders they use.
  • Check their translators recruitment page. If they seem overly interested in rates, it's likely that they are hiring the cheapest vendors in the marketplace.
  • If it is available on their web site, check their payment terms to translators. There are many traslation agencies that will collect from you COD or even in advance, and yet pay their translators in 30, 60, or more days... with money from the next job they get. These agencies usually don't know (nor care) much about translation; it's just a scheme to get some interim cash at hand.
  • Also check if they demand that translators deliver fully-proofread material, while asserting that all their work is reviewed by someone else. If they do, you may be paying extra for services you won't get.
  • Don't look too far away for an agency. Try to hire one in your country, or in the target-language country. Though the cost of living in some places may be lower, most likely they'll have to find competent translators for these languages in either of the two first ones.
  • Some home-based one-person translation agencies may, in fact, be really good, as long as they don't overgrow their managerial capacity. Unless they pretend to be larger than they actually are, there is no harm.
  • Last but not least, if it's too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out!
© José Henrique Lamensdorf, originally published here.

Freitag, 26. November 2010

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Wordle: A-Z Translation Blog

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Mittwoch, 24. November 2010

30 Spooky Freelancing Practices

Courtesy of the Freelance folder.

Spooky Freelancing Habits

Are you engaging in scary freelance practices? Check out the following list:
  1. Not researching your client. You’d better believe that your client researched you before they hired you. Why wouldn’t you do a little work and research them?
  2. Not asking for a payment up front. For a new client, you should ask for at least 50% of money for the project up front. This ensures that you will get paid at least something.
  3. Starting work before there’s a written agreement in place. Contracts are important, but if you don’t get a contract at least get it in writing. Nobody’s memory is perfect.
  4. Starting work before you understand what the client wants. This one’s easy. Don’t agree to do something unless you understand what the client wants.
  5. Trying to be the lowest priced freelancer in your specialty. Let’s face it, really low prices are scary. It means that you’re going to struggle to make ends meet.
  6. Working for exposure or some other undefined future promises. How valuable is exposure, really? In most cases, a future promise is equivalent to working for free.
  7. Not checking over your work carefully before submitting it to the client. Too many mistakes are bad for business and can lose you a client.
  8. Not managing your time well. Find a time management system that works well for you and stick to it. You can tell if it’s working by whether or not you meet your deadlines.
  9. Not maintaining an online presence. In this environment, an online presence is really not optional. Get online and get involved.
  10. Failing to monitor your reputation. Do you care what your clients are saying about you? If you care about your freelancing business, take the time to find out.
  11. Taking an excessive amount of time to respond to a client. How long do you make a prospective client wait before you answer them? (Hint: Over eight business hours is too long.)
  12. Complaining or griping publicly. How do you conduct yourself online? Do you come across as being pleasant or grumpy? Would you want to work with you?
  13. Not investing in updating your skills. Technology is changing. It’s important for freelancers to stay current in their field by learning all they can.
  14. Working on outdated equipment. The machine you started your freelance business on will be outdated in a year or two. Budget for upgrades.
  15. Failing to keep track of your business expenses during the year. Business expenses are tax deductible (at least in the U.S.). Be sure to keep good records.
  16. Forgetting to take into account the amount of time a project will really take. Don’t try to cram too many projects into too little time.
  17. Not getting help when you need it. Whether it be from another freelancer, or another type of specialist, sometimes the best thing you can do is ask for help.
  18. Playing computer games and surfing when you should be working. Just because you work at home doesn’t mean that you can get away with slacking off.
  19. Not taking enough breaks or scheduling time for vacations. Everyone needs to rest from time to time, and that includes freelancers.
  20. Procrastinating. Avoid the scary habit of putting projects off. If you can, work ahead on your projects so that an emergency doesn’t catch you by surprise.
  21. Panicking. When something goes wrong in your freelancing business, stay calm. Panicking never solved a problem.
  22. Not following up on leads. It’s easy to let leads slip through the crack when you’re busy. Following up on leads could be the difference between feast and famine.
  23. Not negotiating an additional fee for services out of the original scope. Keep an eye on your project’s scope and don’t let it creep too much or the project could wind up costing you money.
  24. Not making time for your family. Your business is important, but you’ll wind it regretting it if you ignore your family and friends.
  25. Missing your deadlines. Deadlines are usually there for a reason. Try to stick to them and at least notify the client if you think you’ll be late.

The Really Scary Stuff

As if the scary list above wasn’t enough, there’s the really bad freelancing practices. These are scary mistakes that I’m sure no Freelance Folder reader would ever make:
  1. Bad mouthing a client (by name) in social media or on your blog. Unless you have evidence that the client is in fact a scammer you’re better off keeping your gripes to yourself.
  2. Plagiarizing someone else’s work. In a perfect world, every freelancer would realize that plagiarism is wrong (and illegal).
  3. Bad mouthing another freelancer (by name) to a client. Oddly enough, putting down your competition to the client winds up making you look bad.
  4. Dropping out of sight in the middle of a project. Nothing says unreliable like breaking off all communication with your client.
  5. Don’t have an emergency fund. You may be able to get by without an emergency fund if you never have an emergency, but why take the chance?

To Sum It All Up

If you’ve been reading Freelance Folder for a while, you probably know most of what I just listed. We’ve written posts on how to succeed and posts on how to fail. However, everybody needs a reminder from time to time (I know that I do). Look over the list above to make sure that you haven’t slipped into any scary bad habits.

Freitag, 19. November 2010

More on elevator speeches

Here's an interesting little training video by Ed Gandia from the International Freelancers Academy, fitting this week's topic very nicely. It's called "How to Create a High Impact Elevator Speech - How to craft an elevator statement that sparks conversation" and is part of a free new online training series for freelancers.

Here is a short summary of what Ed talks about:
  • An elevator speech is a statement that succinctly describes what you do.
  • Keep it to 15 seconds or less (it's a statement, not a speech, despite its name).
  • The 3 big elements: What do you do? For whom do you do it? Why are you different?
  • Simplicity is key! Focus on your core value and your main differentiator.
  • Relevance: Have different versions for different audiences.
  • Talk like a human, don't sound like a walking, talking brochure, be conversational.
  • Remember: It's a conversation starter, like a food sample in the supermarket.
He closes with an assignment on how to go about drafting an elevator speech, which I think is really helpful.

So go ahead, listen and learn and find new customers - maybe even in an elevator! :)

Mittwoch, 17. November 2010

How great leaders inspire action

Last weekend I was at the ProZ.com conference in Barcelona, which was not only a great opportunity for me to meet new people and practice my Spanish, but also to learn new things about how to promote my services better and use my time and resources more effectively. One session was all about getting customers to want to hire us (as opposed to other translators/interpreters/etc.), among other things by spiffying up our elevator pitch or elevator speech. The following video is a great help in developing what to say and how to say it, when asked to present our services quickly and concisely.


(c) Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action | Video on TED.com

Montag, 8. November 2010

Die Frau mit den 5 Elefanten ist gestorben

Die renommierte Literaturübersetzerin Swetlana Geier ist tot. Sie starb am späten Sonntagabend in ihrem Haus in Freiburg, teilte der S. Fischer Verlag mit. Die Schriftstellerin und Übersetzerin wurde 87 Jahre alt.
Die in Kiew geborene Geier galt als eine der bedeutendsten Übersetzerinnen russischer Literatur ins Deutsche. Zuletzt hatte sie ein Werk des russischen Schriftstellers Fjodor Dostojewski (1821-1881) bearbeitet. Geier lebte seit 1944 im Freiburger Vorort Günterstal. Sie lehrte an den Universitäten Freiburg und Karlsruhe in Baden-Württemberg sowie an der Universität Witten-Herdecke in Nordrhein- Westfalen.
 
(Quelle Text & Bild: dpa)
 
Ich habe hier und hier über den Film, der ihr Leben erzählt geblogt. 

Mittwoch, 3. November 2010

iPhone Denglisch

"Gerät ist Softwareunlocked / Gejailbreaked"
Warum muss immer alles in ein Wort gepackt werden... 
Wie wär's denn hiermit:
"Das Gerät ist für alle Software freigeschaltet."
- oder was auch immer "Softwareunlocked / Gejailbreaked" (gefängnisausgebrochen??) bedeuten soll. (Das kommt ja noch erschwerend hinzu!) Das ist zumindest nicht länger und wenigstens verständlich.
(Danke an Peter Aschoff für den Hinweis)