Only Human Translators

Success revisited

Success revisited

Making it, not faking it In the last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about a subject I’ve touched on once or twice before in this blog (here, for example, and here too): success. I’ve been thinking about it for several reasons. On one hand, I’ve been finding posts by translators who claim to be a great success who in fact spend their time churning out junk at low rates for agency clients. On the other, there are translators I admire, with high standards, who, it turns out, are going through a rough time at the moment. So what is success for a translator? And does success mean anything at all? In one of the previous posts I referred to, I said we should define our own success, and I still believe that. Success can’t be the same for everyone because we’re not all motivated by the same things. Some seem to think that no-one is a success without a big house and a Porsche, others just want a pension, and still others will be happy if they can guarantee to put food on the table every day. But in this post I’m going define what success means for me. Are you the same, I wonder? What are my signs of success: You earn enough to do what you want to do. This is probably the most important of all. For some, here, we might be talking about buying the big house or the Porsche. For me, though, it means being able to take the time off I want to take, go where I want to go and do the professional...
Getting the message

Getting the message

Moving further from the agency fold I had another one of those messages last week. It came in e-mail form from an agency I’ve worked with for some years; an agency I’ve always respected and admired as one that paid reasonable rates without making unreasonable demands. I had, said the agency, expressed an interest in post-editing machine translation. Did I, they wanted to know. want to join in with their sparkling new machine translation programme and sign up for some post-editing work? It took me five minutes to ask them where they had got the idea that I’d ever been interested in machine translation and to inform them, politely but firmly, that it didn’t interest me in the least. But it doesn’t end there, of course. It’s one more step in my gradual estrangement from the world of translation agencies, which I began to describe just over a year ago. Now, I’m not against agencies as such. I’ve worked with them for all my translation career and I still work for some. I am fully aware that many translators want to continue working with them, mostly because they simply don’t want to have to do their own sales and marketing work. I am also fully aware, because they have told me so, that some translators don’t mind doing post-editing work and have found ways of making money out of it. Nor does the fact that an agency starts using MT necessarily mean that they will stop using human translators, or at least not for the moment. I am still working for some, although not all, of those which have sent me...
Take charge of your rates

Take charge of your rates

Increases are up to you Probably because it’s a New Year, there’s been a lot written recently about raising rates. I’ve even seen it said that it’s impossible to increase them for existing clients. So, having just raised mine for a large group of clients – something I’ve done many times in the past – I thought I’d offer a little inspiration and encouragement for those being put off by all the misleading noise. Because, however nerve-racking it might feel to actually do it, just like any other business you can always decide to put your prices up. Let’s have a look, then, at the how and the why (not to mention the what, where, who and when) of raising your rates. Why raise rates? This may be the biggest question of all. You’ve got clients who are happy to send you work at a particular rate. Why would you want to change that? In fact there are lots of reasons why you should. First of all, you know full well that prices go up all the time, which means your cost of living goes up. If, as a freelancer, you don’t put your own prices up, your standard of living will go down. Now you could try to find ways to improve your productivity to bridge the gap. You could, of course, work longer and longer hours to earn the same. But you can be sure your clients will put their prices to their customers up from time to time. So why shouldn’t you? Then there are clients you have perhaps been working for since you started, when...
Working together to improve

Working together to improve

An idea whose time has come Usually at the end of December I look back at the old year and forward to the new, and for 2018 one theme stands out above all: cooperation. Over the past 12 months it has come in various forms. I’ve worked on big projects with other translators, particularly a fascinating art book which I’ve been involved with over the past six months with my colleague Kate Major. I’ve also had my work revised by colleagues more than ever, and have got involved in frequent cooperation on French-English translations with Catharine Cellier-Smart, based on Réunion, in the Indian Ocean. My regular “accountability lunches” with the legal translator Rob Lunn, who happens to live just a ten-minute train ride from me, have also continued to be useful and enjoyable. More than anything else, though, 2018 has been about RevClub, the mutual revision group that Victoria Patience, Tim Gutteridge and I set up a couple of years ago now, which is why I want to return to a subject I’ve already written about here, because it’s beginning to look as if it’s an idea whose time has come. Tim, Victoria and I presented RevClub to about 20 colleagues at a successful workshop at the METM18 conference in Girona at the beginning of October, after Tim and I gave a pilot version of the same workshop with a smaller group, also for MET, in Barcelona in June. And next year we are moving on to the UK: Victoria and I will be presenting RevClub at the ITI conference in Sheffield in May, and Tim and I will be...
Going direct

Going direct

Client events offer a way in One of the most commonly asked questions in translators’ groups and forums is “How do I go about getting direct clients?”. In fact, there are probably as many ways of doing this there are potential clients to find, but I thought a recent experience of mine might offer colleagues some ideas and pointers. I discovered that an event was going on, very near to me, organised for precisely a group of clients I was very interested in contacting – in this case, people in charge of museums and similar institutions. Considering that it was open to everyone and not at all expensive, I decided to go and spent the day listening to speakers discussing the subject of cultural tourism. In fact this was something of a revelation to me, particularly when I heard Professor Greg Richards, who apparently coined the term cultural tourism, and who was a speaker, define exactly what he meant, because it actually summed up precisely the kind of translations I specialise in. I had gone in search of potential clients, and I came away with a new focus for my marketing. I was also there to make contacts, of course, and I tried to make use of the coffee and lunch breaks to do just that. I’ve written here b efore of my difficulties when faced with a room full of strangers, and, for me, that doesn’t get any easier, but I did manage to talk to at least some people who may turn out to be useful contacts. Potential I tried means of making contact other than face-to-face approaches,...
Panning for nuggets

Panning for nuggets

Getting the best from a conference When I went to my first MET meeting four years ago in El Escorial, it was like walking into a mine full of shining gold. Although I’d been translating for a good many years, much of that time I’d been working in almost complete isolation. So, when I started attending workshops and presentations, new ideas glittered in every corner. Every session opened up a new seam. It undoubtedly changed my professional life. Just over a week ago in Girona, I attended my fifth METM, and, as a more experienced conference-goer, things are no longer the same. I love MET, and probably always will. I’ve made so many good friends there and I’ve learned so much, but it seems there may only be so much to learn. That’s not to say that I know it all, just that it’s more difficult to find anything that’s really new. Nowadays, instead of whole seams of precious new ideas, it’s more like panning for nuggets. A lot of the gold dust can be found, not in the conference hall itself, but in the corridors, at the dinner table and in the coffee queue. Virtually everyone attending MET has something to interesting to say and there’s plenty to pick up by chatting with colleagues. This year, too, was special because it was the first time I had physically met my RevClub colleague Victoria Patience and the first time both of us had been together in the same room with the third club member Tim Gutteridge (you can find out about RevClub here). We were there to give our own workshop,...