The way forward

The way forward

Responses help me draft a strategy

I’ve written one or two blog posts that have provoked a reaction before, but three weeks ago I really hit the jackpot, at least in terms of the quality and relevance of the response. If you remember, it was quality I was talking about: my concerns about how to improve the quality of my work. And the help I received in the form of comments on the post and private messages has certainly helped me to clarify my thoughts about the way forward.

My post ended with a request for advice, as I admitted I really didn’t know what I was going to do about the problem, but I was equally clear that doing nothing wasn’t an option. There is a simple reason for this: as I have mentioned before, I firmly believe that within a few years time most of the standard, relatively easy translation work will have been taken over by machines. It follows that translators intending to stay in business away from the post-editing sausage machine need to move towards markets where machines won’t be able to go, and that means providing high-quality, crafted translations. At the moment, I am moving in that direction, but I’m not happy that my work is consistently error-free enough to qualify for that distinction. Something, as I have said, needs to be done.

So this is the action I’m going to take, using the same headings as I used last week to outline the difficulties:

1. Slowing down: I’m not planning to deliberately slow down the pace of my work. However, I am determined to be even stricter about not taking on more work than I can handle comfortably. I’m also going to try to reschedule my work so that whenever possible I do not perform the final edit of a translation on the same day as the preliminary edit. This might mean pushing some jobs closer to their deadline than I do at present, but I think any delay will be worthwhile for the additional safeguard against errors provided by coming to the text fresh on a new day.

2. Technology: I’m going to learn more about using PerfectIt more effectively. I’m also going to look at other proofreading tools and tricks in places like Louise Harnby’s blog, as suggested by Victoria Patience in her comment. Finally, I’m going to get to grips with QA settings in MemoQ to reduce the false positive “crying wolf” factor I mentioned last week.

3. Outside editing: I’m going to work towards having all my translations for direct clients worked on by an outside editor while recognising that it’s unlikely that I’m going to achieve this for existing clients. I will do this by quoting much higher prices for new direct clients, asking for more generous deadlines and actively seeking potential editors in the hope of finding one or two who are compatible with my style and working methods.

4. Sample reviews: In the short term, I see this as probably the best method of improving the quality of my translations. I am already in discussions with a couple of colleagues about exactly how to do this, and I’m looking forward to the results.

5. Two-tier pricing: I still don’t like the idea of giving clients price and quality options at the initial stage. However, I realise I may have to be flexible and offering alternative prices with different levels of service could be something to consider during negotiations.

I’m extremely grateful to the colleagues from at least five continents who responded with help, advice, suggestions and even introductions to possible new clients. People who are not freelancers often ask me how I cope with working on my own rather than in an office surrounding by supportive colleagues. But who needs an office when you have the whole world?



  1. I’m glad (and not surprised) that you got such a positive response from the community. A lot of it seems to come down to time, in terms of both actually factoring more hours and minutes into the translation process to allow for QA, of putting some space between drafting translations and reviewing them so that the words and mental dust can settle, and of adding some of someone else’s time for that final polish. On that note, one thing I’m planning to do next year is to track the time I spend on these different stages in more detail: I already Toggl all my working hours but I’m not very disciplined about breaking each project down. It will be interesting to get a sense of how much the quality margin really represents. I’m looking forward to hearing how your strategies pan out next year.

    • Thank you, Victoria. I’m hoping at least some of my plans are going to come to fruition through working with you (e-mail on the way)!

  2. How exciting – especially on the outside revision side of things. While compatible styles is convenient, I have discovered that being revised by someone with a very different style can lead to some interesting insights into the way I write. By the same token, my revision of other people’s work is, I believe, improving based on the rigorous revisions my own translation work has been receiving.
    It is also useful to keep a style sheet. Someone new (who is about to revise a translation of mine) asked for my ‘preferences’ as regards number conventions, punctuation, etc. In response, I have sent ahead a preliminary ‘document control sheet’ – including primary sources of reference in this case, so that she will be on the same page as I am before she reads a single word of the job. V2 will accompany my translation. ­čÖé
    Best wishes in your revision partnerships, Simon!

    • Thank you, Allison. Some very interesting insights. By compatible, I don’t necessarily mean similar, I just mean people who aren’t going to take exception to stylistic points that are important for me and aren’t actually incorrect.

    • I agree about outside revisions. Sometimes I have been looking at a document so long, I no longer see little errors, and I need a "fresh set of eyes" to help me out. You can have it done relatively cheaply via MateCat. Just run your untranslated document through their easy to use web-based platform and you will be provided with a price on translation with and without revision. You can contact them directly for revision-only pricing right on the same page.

      • Thanks for your comment, Paige. I think I’d prefer to have my revisions done by someone I know, but it’s interesting to see how other people do it.

  3. Great stuff, Simon. Onward and upward.

    Are you having your worked revised (edited with reference to the source text) or reviewed (edited without reference to the source text)? By a fellow translator or by a monolingual editor?

    And how often are you planning to do that – not all of every job, I presume, as you use the word ‘sample’?

    I hope you manage to keep the momentum going :). I’ve had some informal exchange-of-time arrangements in the recent past, but none have gone on to become a regular (or, at least, frequent) thing. Which is something that I am determined to change in the near future.

    • Thanks for your encouragement, Oliver. I’m still working on the final arrangements with a couple of colleagues, but I think that for the sample pieces of work revision is the best option, and that would be done by a translator. If I can secure new clients at the rates I would need to be able to pay for revision, this might be done by an editor.


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