I started to work as a professional translator in 2010. I quickly understood that I was not a translator, even though I understood, spoke and wrote perfectly at least four languages.
Translating requires skills, which I am tempted to say, you only fully acquire after at least 10.000 hours of translating (school or practice). It is very difficult to be a good translator right after leaving school and I believe it also takes a lot of people and entrepreneurial skills to survive as a freelancer, combined it takes a lot to be a successful translator.
Five years changed me a lot. From an occasional household appliance manual’s translator now I work regularly for end-clients and agencies and understand every detail of the translation procedure from server applications to machine translation, from graphic design software to branding.
Recently I started to outsource smaller jobs or jobs, which I prefer to accept and outsource to trusted people than to lose myself as referent for a client. (earlier I searched for translators in ProZ, but it was a complete disaster, so I thought, I start to ask people in my circle of pro translators…disaster2)
In the first six months I haven’t even earned money with outsourcing and considering at least 2 hours I put into writing emails, controlling the quality, invoicing and paying it is almost foolish.
This recent experience of more or less eight months make me say, that I learnt more about translators in these months than in the previous five years and six translator’s conferences before. Below I summarize the typical translators I meet when I try to outsource (all of them I met on a translators‘ conference, creme dela creme. The types do not refer to a single person, but to a type of translator)
- The Busy:
I know this person from a LinkedIn group, where we had the pleasure to exchange our pain about an agency, which from one day to another decided that a translator for the same price also has to include proofreading for every job.
I know for fact that this person is in the minimum tax payment level – meaning he earns less than 15000 € / year – and since we work for the same agency I know that foremost deadline is in a week. Nevertheless, he tells me on the 15th of the month to be busy until the end of the next month and possibly can’t start with my assignment before June – it is mid-March now.
Problem: it is an ideal answer, if you don’t want to hear anything from an agency/outsourcer/client ever again.
Solution: if you are giving impossible deadlines, either you should switch off your website offering quick processing times; stop snivel about your low yearly income or face that you are not an ambitious person and are unable to organize your services. Start a business school and start using a calendar.
- The Important
This person would never work for less than 12 cents per source word – for friends, so best-price take it or leave it – and responds to your email after two days just 20 minutes before he needs to leave town giving you only his landline number where you can call him… When you call to ask for his availability and prices – see above – he lists every goddamn thing he needs to do before he can actually take a look at your translation at all (tomorrow he is at a trade show in London, the day afterwards his son gets braces in Florence, while the coming weekend he has to attend a funeral in Berlin, right before he starts an interpretation in Austria.)
Problem: I am a busy person myself and when I need someone for a translation, I don’t want you to keep me on the line – for a call I pay for – to tell me in five minutes, what you could tell me in a sentence: I am not available.
Solution: respect your customer’s time and be short in answering, all he wants to know about you is whether you can or can’t do a translation for the money offered in the given time, the outsourcer is not your fan, but the person filling your wallet. This should change perspectives…
- The Diva
This person knows everything and everything even better.
He doesn’t even do the translations of his website on his own but outsources it to another diva, this makes him very high profile.
He is present at every translation conference and talks a lot about business practices. He knows every insider joke and is part of every association, updates his FaceBook status every 10 minutes, but when you ask him to work on something, he comes up with some really cheap excuse. 1. “in this moment I have headache” or 2. “no, thank you, I will go on holiday next week for a month” without even giving you any message of: this is a one time no, please ask me again or giving me a name of anyone suitable.
Problem: I have the feeling that most of these people are so insecure that they need to create a kind of bubble around them made of “professionalism”, but when you ask them a specific question, only fried air is coming out of their mouth.
Solution: Think about if working or being worshiped is important for you. Watch out to give away your business cards, actually someone might ask you for work!