Getting Started In The Industry 92008


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Getting Started In The Industry 92008

  1. 1. How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator A Helpful Guide for Translators & Interpreters to Start and Grow Your Business Jill Sommer & Corinne McKay Preconference Seminar ATA Annual Conference, Orlando, 2008
  2. 2. Contents <ul><li>Résumés and Cover Letters </li></ul><ul><li>Networking and Professional Organizations </li></ul><ul><li>Marketing </li></ul><ul><li>Rates </li></ul><ul><li>General Tips </li></ul><ul><li>Customer Relations </li></ul><ul><li>Invoicing </li></ul><ul><li>Money Management </li></ul><ul><li>Taxes & Incorporation </li></ul><ul><li>Tools & Equipment </li></ul><ul><li>Insurance </li></ul><ul><li>Ergonomics </li></ul>
  3. 3. Résumés and Cover Letters <ul><li>In addition to your name and contact information, what information should appear prominently at the top of your resume? </li></ul><ul><li>Think about adding a Summary of Qualifications at the top </li></ul><ul><li>Feel free to ditch the Objective on your resume </li></ul><ul><li>Keep the resume to no more than 1-2 pages (printed on front and back if possible) </li></ul>
  4. 4. Résumés and Cover Letter <ul><li>Localize your resume for your target audience </li></ul><ul><li>Have native speakers proofread your resume </li></ul><ul><li>Choose one name and spelling and stick with it (name recognition) </li></ul><ul><li>Clarify your gender </li></ul><ul><li>Use a professional e-mail address </li></ul><ul><li>Use proper spelling and capitalization in all correspondence </li></ul><ul><li>Consider naming the file &quot;Last name, first name_resume&quot; so that clients know what the file is at a glance </li></ul>
  5. 5. What Not to Do <ul><li>to: date: 15 Sep 2007 22:29:45 -0400 subject: General Questions From: amelia esteban Email: cutiecat23 @ juno .net hello, my name is amelia and I'm bilingual english/spanish I was wondering what or where I should go to apply for a job as a tranlator with you guys please advise. </li></ul>
  6. 6. What Not to Do
  7. 7. Business Cards <ul><li>Building a corporate identity </li></ul><ul><li>Bilingual cards are impressive </li></ul><ul><li>Good suggestion: Leave space on the back to jot down where the person met you </li></ul><ul><li>DO NOT MAKE HANDWRITTEN CORRECTIONS ON THE CARD </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on quality while staying within budget </li></ul>
  8. 8. The Importance of Networking <ul><li>Carry business cards with you at all times – and hand them out </li></ul><ul><li>Sincerity is one of the linchpins in relationship building, and it‘s something you can‘t fake. </li></ul><ul><li>According to, &quot;More people are hired by being in the right place at the right time than for any other single reason.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>To be successful in networking you should try to meet as many people as you can while still staying genuine. </li></ul>
  9. 9. The Importance of Networking <ul><li>It is easier for some people to be far more outgoing than others, but sincerity – a genuine interest in others and what they have to say – goes a long way in overcoming shyness. </li></ul><ul><li>Quieter personalities may do best meeting with small groups of people in professional organizations. The fact that the group is small and is geared to helping others will help build self-esteem and confidence. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Things to keep in mind when networking <ul><li>Be sincere. </li></ul><ul><li>Don't ask for (or expect) payback </li></ul><ul><li>Respect other people's time </li></ul><ul><li>Follow through on promises </li></ul><ul><li>Use special care with referred &quot;friends&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Don't make disparaging jokes </li></ul><ul><li>Err on the side of politeness and formality. </li></ul><ul><li>Don't wait to be properly introduced – practice a self-introduction </li></ul><ul><li>Say thank you. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Networking and Professional Organizations <ul><li>American Translators Association ( ) </li></ul><ul><li>Local ATA chapters </li></ul><ul><li>Professional groups in your subject area </li></ul><ul><li>General freelancer groups (contact your local Chamber of Commerce) </li></ul><ul><li>Webgrrls ( is an international online and offline community for women interested in new media, the I nternet, and technology. </li></ul><ul><li>G o to and type in &quot; translation &quot; </li></ul>
  12. 12. Networking and Professional Organizations <ul><li>Discussion groups on Yahoogroups like PartnerTrans (pt_- - in German), ATA German Language Division ( [email_address] ) , Espalista (ATA Spanish Language Division,, Liste FLD (, Lantra ( </li></ul><ul><li>Job lists: - U-Jobs (in German): jobs.htm - Translation jobs mailing list (free): tr_jobs-subscribe@ </li></ul>
  13. 13. Networking and Professional Organizations <ul><li>Cat tools mailing lists: - Trados users mailing list: tw_users-subscribe@ - U-Cat (in German): </li></ul><ul><li>If you use Trados, be sure to check out </li></ul>
  14. 14. Translation Job Portals <ul><li>TranslatorsCafé.com ( </li></ul><ul><li> ( </li></ul><ul><li>Translator‘s Home Companion portal ( has tons of opportunities listed under &quot;Find a job„ </li></ul><ul><li> ( &quot;Full&quot; membership costs $ 129 / 114 eur per year when you first upgrade. To renew costs $ 119/104 eur . &quot;Partial&quot; membership (allowing access to just jobs-related functions or just community-related functions) costs $ 70 and $ 48 , respectively ) </li></ul>
  15. 15. Marketing <ul><li>Finetune your letter and keep your résumé updated </li></ul><ul><li>Send via e-mail to save time and money </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid any typos or grammatical errors </li></ul><ul><li>Mention your language pair in the subject or at the beginning of your mail </li></ul><ul><li>Subject line should be clear and concise (German-English translator looking for new clients) </li></ul><ul><li>Be brief but impressive </li></ul><ul><li>Use plain text – avoid fancy HTML </li></ul>
  16. 16. Marketing <ul><li>Visit the potential client‘s web site to see if they need translators with your language combination and subject area </li></ul><ul><li>If they prefer you register through their site, do it </li></ul><ul><li>Stress the benefits of the services you offer (rather than the service itself) </li></ul><ul><li>Differentiate your services and expertise from those of other translators </li></ul><ul><li>Prepare thoroughly and be organized before you start </li></ul><ul><li>Consider what image you want to project </li></ul><ul><li>Offer several specializations and be willing to try something new if it comes along </li></ul>
  17. 17. Marketing <ul><li>Network, network, network </li></ul><ul><li>Register with FREE online translator databases (Aquarius, TranslatorsCafe,, ProZ , etc. ) </li></ul><ul><li>Apply for jobs that come through the language-specific mailing lists or the translator job lists </li></ul><ul><li>Register at consulates </li></ul><ul><li>Join and advertise in associations and publications in your subject area </li></ul><ul><li>Attend the ATA Conference </li></ul>
  18. 18. Consider Making a Web Site
  19. 19. Growing your Business <ul><li>Think about marketing to direct clients </li></ul><ul><li>You should charge direct clients more than agencies </li></ul><ul><li>If you find yourself too busy consider raising your rates </li></ul><ul><li>Raising your rates generally means looking for new clients </li></ul>
  20. 20. Setting Your Rates- Billable Hours
  21. 21. Setting Your Rates- Hourly Rate Calculator
  22. 22. How to arrive at that hourly rate? <ul><li>$48 an hour = </li></ul><ul><li>600 words @ 8 cents </li></ul><ul><li>400 words @ 12 cents </li></ul><ul><li>320 words @ 15 cents </li></ul><ul><li>240 words @ 20 cents </li></ul><ul><li>192 words @ 25 cents </li></ul><ul><li>160 words @ 30 cents </li></ul>
  23. 23. Rates <ul><li>It depends on your language combination, the subject and type of document, deadline, agency or direct client, how much you want to do a particular project, how much formatting is involved, what country your client is in... </li></ul><ul><li>Keep your rates close to the phone at all times </li></ul><ul><li>Keep abreast of what the market is paying </li></ul><ul><li>2500 words per day x $.12 per word x 5 days per week x 48 weeks per year = $72,000 – wouldn‘t that be nice? </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes a well-paying job doesn‘t pay so well when you break it down into manhours </li></ul>
  24. 24. Rates <ul><li>Most translators in the U.S. charge by the target word </li></ul><ul><li>Some German and European clients charge by the target line (based on 55 or 50 characters per word). </li></ul><ul><li>Charge extra (25-50% more or a few cents more a word) if you have to work on the weekend or more than 8 hours a day to meet the deadline. </li></ul><ul><li>If you use Trados, use the 100/60/30 rule </li></ul><ul><li>Use a word count tool to get an accurate word count </li></ul><ul><li>Set a minimum job rate and stick to it </li></ul><ul><li>Have an hourly rate for editing & proofreading </li></ul><ul><li>Charge more for machine-translated texts </li></ul><ul><li>Rate survey at </li></ul><ul><li>ATA compensation survey available for purchase ( publications/compensation_survey.php ) </li></ul>
  25. 25. General Tips <ul><li>Work for more than one or two clients (the more, the better) </li></ul><ul><li>Freelancing is unpredictable. There are periods of intense work and then dry spells. Be prepared and try to build up a 3-month nest egg </li></ul><ul><li>Be prepared that it may take some time before you can build up a sufficient client base </li></ul><ul><li>If you prefer stability, consider taking on a part-time job to ensure you can pay the rent. You can always quit later. </li></ul><ul><li>Reinvest into your business </li></ul><ul><li>Use spellchecker at all times </li></ul><ul><li>Do not offer volume discounts. If you are doing the work, they should pay for it (possible arguments: will have to work overtime and are not be available for other clients). Plus, sometimes large jobs are never as large as they say they are going to be. </li></ul>
  26. 26. Customer Relations <ul><li>Be professional and courteous at all times </li></ul><ul><li>Deliver the text on time – be early if you can </li></ul><ul><li>Add value by pointing out inconsistencies, typos, unknown abbreviations, etc. in the source text </li></ul><ul><li>If you can‘t make the deadline, inform your client as soon as possible </li></ul><ul><li>Ask for a purchase order (or use the sample contract at the ATA web site) </li></ul><ul><li>Send concrete confirmation of the details of the job (rate, deadline, special instructions) </li></ul>
  27. 27. Customer Relations
  28. 28. Customer Relations <ul><li>Set office hours and stick to them </li></ul><ul><li>Give your customers and colleagues a heads up if you are going on vacation </li></ul><ul><li>Think about sending Christmas cards to your clients or small year-end gift to your top clients </li></ul><ul><li>As for referrals and testimonials (for web site or marketing materials) </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage feedback from your client to improve your work next time </li></ul>
  29. 29. Customer Relations
  30. 30. Customer Relations <ul><li>Do not accept a project which you know is not within your abilities. </li></ul><ul><li>Do not accept a job without seeing the text first. </li></ul><ul><li>Do not accept jobs with impossible deadlines. </li></ul><ul><li>Do not hesitate to ask questions or ask if there is background material. </li></ul><ul><li>Do not accept work without knowing who your client is. </li></ul><ul><li>Do not proceed with the job until you have agreed on the rate. </li></ul><ul><li>Think about what you write in an email before sending it off to a mailing list. </li></ul><ul><li>Do not sell yourself short. </li></ul><ul><li>Keep all business records and correspondence for at least 12 months. </li></ul><ul><li>Read every clause very carefully before you sign a contract. </li></ul>
  31. 31. Customer Relations - Tests <ul><li>Tests should not exceed 250 words </li></ul><ul><li>Be wary but open-minded </li></ul><ul><li>Make sure they are okay with your rates before you take the test </li></ul><ul><li>Ask if they will pay you – after all, you are working for them </li></ul><ul><li>Offer to provide samples of work and references instead </li></ul><ul><li>Once you become established, politely decline saying you are currently too busy with paid work to be doing unpaid test translations </li></ul><ul><li>No other profession asks a potential contractor to do something for free </li></ul>
  32. 32. Customer Relations - Complaints <ul><li>Customers cannot dock you or demand reimbursement for a new translation if they didn‘t notify you and give you the chance to improve your translation. </li></ul><ul><li>We have the right to make improvements (free of charge) before a customer can demand a refund. </li></ul><ul><li>Ask to see the translation and for a list of concrete errors (did not use terms in glossary, didn‘t understand source text). After all, the editor or someone on the client's end may have made so many &quot;changes&quot; that your text is unrecognizable. </li></ul><ul><li>If you worked for an agency and the agency checked the translation before sending it to the client, the agency is liable – not you. </li></ul><ul><li>If you truly messed up, suck it up and reimburse the customer for the new translation </li></ul>
  33. 33. Customer Relations - Nonpayment <ul><li>Nonpayers are the exception and not the rule!!! </li></ul><ul><li>Check client‘s creditworthiness beforehand and you shouldn‘t have a problem </li></ul><ul><li>Send a friendly e-mail inquiry a week after the invoice is overdue </li></ul><ul><li>Include date, job number and amount in your inquiry </li></ul>
  34. 34. Customer Relations - Nonpayment <ul><li>Anyone who is not an established business should be asked to pay in advance </li></ul><ul><li>If your friendly inquiries are being ignored or you're being fed one excuse after the other, be a bit more firm in your requests and give them a call </li></ul><ul><li>If all your attempts have failed and you have kept good records of all those attempts (dates when you emailed them or called to enquire about payment, what you were told, etc . ), report the agency to the Better Business Bureau in their area </li></ul><ul><li>The last resort is either small claims court or a collection agency </li></ul>
  35. 35. Customer Relations - Nonpayment <ul><li>ATA has made arrangements with Dun & Bradstreet for US-based translators to use their collection services </li></ul><ul><li>If you use Dun & Bradstreet the fee ranges from 25-50% of what they collect, but there is no fee if they don‘t collect anything </li></ul><ul><li>Dun & Bradstreet has partner agencies overseas who would pursue the same process in the respective countries </li></ul>
  36. 36. Do your due diligence and you shouldn‘t have any problems.
  37. 37. Nonpayment groups <ul><li>Payment practices list ( $30 a year ) (www. p ayment ) </li></ul><ul><li>Translation Client Review (TCR) ($12 a year) ( </li></ul><ul><li> Blue Board (free with f ull membership ) </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  38. 38. Invoicing <ul><li>Make sure you provide the information required on your invoice (PO or job number, SSN or EIN , brief project description, PM's name, payment due date, bank information, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Be sure to include the date and your invoice number (try not to start at 1 unless it is the start of a new year) </li></ul><ul><li>Invoice as soon as you deliver the job!!! </li></ul><ul><li>Find out how the client prefers to receive the invoice (by fax or e-mail attachment, with the job or in a separate e-mail, etc.) </li></ul>
  39. 39. Money Management <ul><li>Invest in professional accounting software such as MS Money, Quicken, or QuickBooks or use a program such as Customer Pro-File or Translation Office 3000 </li></ul><ul><li>Keep track of your invoices and payments </li></ul><ul><li>Keep a running tally of your payments and expenses for tax purposes </li></ul><ul><li>Keep all business-related invoices and receipts in a separate folder </li></ul>
  40. 40. To Incorporate or Not To Incorporate, That is the Question <ul><li>Incorporating can offer liability protection and tax savings </li></ul><ul><li>Most common corporate structures are C-Corp, S-Corp and LLC </li></ul><ul><li>S-Corp requires quarterly payroll taxes, but can save approx. 10% of your net income in taxes </li></ul><ul><li>Even one-person corporations can sponsor their own 401K plans </li></ul><ul><li>See Thoughts on Translation for post on incorporating </li></ul>
  41. 41. To Incorporate or Not To Incorporate, That is the Question <ul><li>Talk to a CPA about the best corporate structure for you </li></ul><ul><li>If you are part-time and your gross earnings are $40,000 or less a year, incorporating may not be worth your time and effort </li></ul>
  42. 42. Taxes for Sole Proprietors <ul><li>Translators use the job code 541930 </li></ul><ul><li>Keep track of your payments as you get them </li></ul><ul><li>File quarterly estimates (due April 15, June 15, September 15, January 15) </li></ul><ul><li>Most translators will need to file Form 1040, Schedule C, and Schedule SE. </li></ul><ul><li>If you have a separate office in your home, you should also file Form 8829 </li></ul><ul><li>Hire a good CPA to save money in the long run </li></ul><ul><li>Deduct expenses for dictionaries, printer cartridges, office supplies, conferences, Internet access, phone, etc. </li></ul>
  43. 43. Taxes for Corporations <ul><li>Tax schedule depends on your corporate structure </li></ul><ul><li>S-Corp files quarterly payroll taxes due on the last day of the month after the end of the quarter </li></ul><ul><li>Most corporations will file federal tax, state tax and unemployment tax quarterly </li></ul><ul><li>Keep accurate records in a payroll book </li></ul><ul><li>Talk to an accountant about dividing your gross income between wages and profit </li></ul><ul><li>Hire a good CPA to save money in the long run </li></ul><ul><li>Deduct expenses for dictionaries, printer cartridges, office supplies, conferences, Internet access, phone, etc. </li></ul>
  44. 44. Tools & Equipment – The Musts <ul><li>Translation memory tools (SDL Trados, DéjàVu, Wordfast, MetaTexis, across, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Word count software such as PractiCount (, Total Assistant ( or FreeBudget ( http:// / freebudget / ) </li></ul><ul><li>Money management software (MS Money, Quicken, Customer Pro-File or Translation Office 3000 ) </li></ul><ul><li>Zip utility such as WinZip or PKUnzip </li></ul><ul><li>FTP client </li></ul><ul><li>TimeStamp (free at </li></ul><ul><li>Acrobat Reader (free at </li></ul><ul><li>E-mail program (Outlook, The Bat, Eudora, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Anti-virus software/firewall </li></ul>
  45. 45. Tools & Equipment <ul><li>PayPal or foreign bank account for foreign payments </li></ul><ul><li>Fax machine or sign up for a free e-fax number at or </li></ul><ul><li>Reliable printer (laser or ink jet) </li></ul><ul><li>Internet connection (cable vs. DSL vs. dial-up vs. satellite) </li></ul><ul><li>Professional e-mail address (or your own domain) </li></ul><ul><li>Cell phone (tri-band if you travel overseas a lot – and/or wireless e-mail device such as Blackberry) </li></ul><ul><li>Invest in good office equipment </li></ul><ul><li>Have a back-up system in case your computer dies </li></ul>
  46. 46. Insurance <ul><li>Health insurance (Mutual of Omaha available through ATA, compare several plans for best rate) </li></ul><ul><li>Open a health savings plan to cover deductibles and big-ticket expenses </li></ul><ul><li>Consider major medical insurance that reimburses you in case of catastrophe </li></ul><ul><li>Errors and omission insurance (optional, but if it offers you peace of mind it is worth it) </li></ul><ul><li>Liability insurance (ditto) </li></ul>
  47. 47. Organization <ul><li>Organization saves time and money </li></ul><ul><li>A prioritized To-Do list is really important and keep it updated </li></ul><ul><li>Consider maintaining a Job Board </li></ul><ul><li>Organize your files both on the computer and in your office </li></ul><ul><li>Keep all business-related receipts in a separate receptacle </li></ul><ul><li>Try to keep your office neat </li></ul>
  48. 48. Tips to maintain your sanity <ul><li>Shut off the computer </li></ul><ul><li>Plan at least one computer- and BlackBerry-free vacation a year </li></ul><ul><li>Plan quality time (massages, date night, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Say NO </li></ul><ul><li>Set boundaries & office hours </li></ul><ul><li>Train customers </li></ul><ul><li>Don‘t check your e-mail every ten minutes </li></ul>
  49. 49. Ergonomics <ul><li>Your health should your be #1 priority – exercise regularly and see a doctor if your wrist hurts </li></ul><ul><li>Maintain good posture </li></ul><ul><li>Invest in a good desk chair </li></ul><ul><li>Work at a reasonable pace and take frequent breaks (WorkPace) </li></ul><ul><li>Use proper lighting (no glare or reflection) </li></ul><ul><li>Limit repetitive motions and customize your computer settings </li></ul>
  50. 50. Ergonomics <ul><li>Center the monitor in front of you at arm‘s length (18-20 inches away) </li></ul><ul><li>Position the top of monitor 2” to 3” above seated eye level </li></ul><ul><li>Place source document between your monitor and keyboard or on a document stand close to your screen </li></ul><ul><li>Consider using two monitors </li></ul><ul><li>Get a good keyboard </li></ul><ul><li>Use good typing techniques and keep your keyboard in front of you </li></ul><ul><li>Use wrist support if necessary </li></ul><ul><li>Keep the mouse within easy reach (or use a trackball or touchpad) </li></ul>
  51. 51. Keep up-to-date with blogs <ul><li>Offer you insight in subjects you never thought about </li></ul><ul><li>Keeps you up-to-date with new developments in the industry </li></ul><ul><li>How to read (Google Reader, Bloglines, FeedDemon, browser plug-ins (Sage)) </li></ul>
  52. 52. Blogs <ul><li>Adventures in home working </li></ul><ul><li>Blogos </li></ul><ul><li>Dispatches from an Environmental Translator </li></ul><ul><li>False friends, bad translations, Denglish (in German) </li></ul><ul><li>Masked Translator </li></ul><ul><li>Musings from an overworked translator </li></ul>
  53. 53. Blogs <ul><li>¿Se Habla English? Life of a Translator </li></ul><ul><li>The Urban Muse </li></ul><ul><li>There‘s Something About Translation </li></ul><ul><li>Thoughts on Translation </li></ul><ul><li>Translation Journal Blog (Accurapid) </li></ul><ul><li>Translation Times </li></ul><ul><li>yndigo </li></ul>
  54. 54. Recommended presentations <ul><li>Orientation for First-time Attendees (R, 11:30-12:30) </li></ul><ul><li>How to Successfully Market Yourself to Translation Companies (R, 11:30-12:30) </li></ul><ul><li>Blogging: How and Why (R, 11:30-12:30) </li></ul><ul><li>Business Basics for Everyone (R, 2-3:30) </li></ul>
  55. 55. Recommended presentations <ul><li>Building your Business: Finding and Keeping Direct Clients (R, 2-3:30) </li></ul><ul><li>Accounting 101 for Freelancers (F, 2-3:30) </li></ul><ul><li>How to Find Work and Stay in Business (F, 4-5) </li></ul><ul><li>Business Practices Discussion Panel (S, 9-10:30) </li></ul><ul><li>Social Networking (S, 4-5) </li></ul>
  56. 56. Final thoughts <ul><li>Remember to turn the computer off and take time for yourself. </li></ul><ul><li>Try not to work on the weekend unless you absolutely have to. </li></ul><ul><li>If you choose to work on the weekend, take a day or two off during the week. </li></ul><ul><li>Go on vacation. </li></ul><ul><li>Treat yourself to the occasional massage. </li></ul>Otherwise you'll burn out quickly.
  57. 57. Translation is a rewarding career choice Have fun this year - and we hope to see you at next year‘s ATA conference!