The business of translation has become highly competitive. Prices are constantly decreasing due to the vast availability of service providers worldwide, which does of course depend on the language combination you are offering.
Clients who need the services of a language professional often do not value the work that is done and regard spending money on translation as a necessary evil, not taking into consideration that the text that needs to be translated (be it a manual, a presentation or business correspondence) also serves as an advertisement for their business, a sector which has had rising profits over the past decades.
Why not take some of this budget and put it into high quality translation that reflects the professionalism of the enterprise concerned? This, in turn, would put the translator in a much better position since his/her work would at last be valuated appropriately. It is, however, in the hands of the translators to stop complaining and start taking action. First, translators need to develop more self-esteem and pride in their profession. Second, translators need to develop and stick to strict business ethics. Last, get in contact with each other and share your experiences with your fellow translators.
Anyone who knows two languages to a certain extent can "translate", meaning that he can put words from one language (the source language) into another one (the target language). Yet there is much more to translation than just that and many people " those offering as well as those requesting translations " unfortunately, do not recognise this. Words are more than just meaning: words convey emotions and cultural concepts, which may exist in one language but not in another.
Thus it is the job of a translator to create target texts, which are truthful copies of the original but read as if they were originals in the target language. Translation is a demanding process that not everybody who knows two or more languages can master. A good translator loves languages and is totally dedicated to his/her job.
This includes the desire to constantly improve one's linguistic knowledge and to deepen the knowledge of his specialized field(s). Since the majority of required translations are "technical" ones, meaning translations in fields, which have their own specialized terminology, as opposed to literary translation, each translator is required to specialize in one or more fields (such as legal, financial, medical, IT-related, texts).
This means that one will have to stay in touch with the developments in these areas, even if one does not have translation jobs in one or more of his specialized fields for a while. Therefore, read as many newspapers, magazines and other publications concerning your specialization as you can. Try to organize your working day, which is especially important if you work from home. Let your clients know when they can reach you, and be available at those times, but do not forget that nobody can work 24/7. Leisure time is just as important as strict office hours are.
You should always be prepared that potential clients will ask for your rates, which you will have to know by heart. If you read the manual How to calculate your per word rate you will get an idea about what your minimum rate would have to be. Add a certain amount to this basic price since of course you are working in order to make a certain profit on top of only covering your basic needs. Let your clients know that.
Networking is the key to successful self-employment. This means that you should not only send your résumé to those agencies/clients that might benefit from your experience but also get in contact with your colleagues. You will probably profit from their experiences and be able to help them out when they need your advice.
Thus you are able to market yourself and gather useful information at the same time. Moreover, try to get in contact with freelancers working in other fields, such as marketing, web design etc. Who knows when they might need a language expert to translate their texts or websites into another language? And if you feel that you are not suitable for one job or another you will probably know someone you can refer to your client. Remember that it is most important to satisfy your clients. If you feel that you might not be able to satisfactorily fulfil your client's demand at one point or another let him/her know so and, if possible, refer the services of a colleague.
When it comes to dealing with agencies and direct clients be sure you settle all terms of payment, i.e. rate per source or target word/line etc., when and how payment will be received and so on, before even accepting a job. Make sure you have all necessary contact information at hand. An email address is not sufficient; if it has not been provided ask your contact person for his/her full name, postal address and telephone number.
The correctness of this information can easily be checked via the Internet, by calling that person and any other means available. Although the Internet provides a convenient, fast and easy means to get in contact with business partners anywhere in the world, it also comes in handy for those black sheep in the business who take advantage of the seeming anonymity of this technology.
Translation resources like babelport.com aim to minimize the risk involved in doing business via the Internet by establishing platforms where your customers can be rated according to your professional experience with them. So please make sure that you rate any agency or direct client you have worked for in order to help your colleagues.
By Korina Hansel