Business, rates, Translation

Business as usual

piazzale romaI live 800 meters from the beach. Not the most beautiful one, quite famous though in Italy due to its VIP status in the 60’s.
Not too many VIP anymore, nowadays Riccione is a good place for a stag party or to pass a night in one of the beautiful discotheques.
The town lives from the tourist. There are over one hundred hotels and you can find restaurants on every corner. Awfully big conference center and 4D movie theatre – on the left –cinepalace and many other things, which usually can not be found in a 10 thousand dweller town. We have from everything one more than enough.
Since I live here I take very seriously my share of helping the local economy and the local people to survive. The last decade with the economic crisis is visible everywhere, also in Riccione. I choose to buy in small shops, possibly avoid buying at the big supermarkets and try to build up a relationship with the owner of these places, to understand, what they go through, to remain sensible that the shop helps people to survive, just like my business helps me. I know, how hard it is for some of them, when a new regulation comes, which from all of a sudden changes the severity with which their products might be sold. Regulations are important, so are people’s life though.

My situation in this town is very unique. I can freelance really calmly, I do not pay rent – my partner owns the flat – I have no car, no mortgage, no kids, no expenses really, except for the bottle of wine, which I grant myself regularly.

My business flourishes and it goes every day just better and better. This year I paid so much taxes from which a person could live off for a year (Imagine, how much I earned. And yes, I am very proud of it).

The money, which remains after taxes goes back into my activity. I started to participate on conferences, buy books about translation and how to run a business, I have up to date hardware and software. I invest into memberships in several translators associations, I want to become more and better. This year, ATA was my new investment.
Being an ATA member doesn’t mean, you also are certified by them as a translator. By paying you pretty much can get anything from them, but the certification. This was something I really wanted to try, being certified by this association would mean a lot to me. Not just because there are about 10 people in my language combination, who made it, so being one of them would be like living in a different dimension, but also for myself, to show, how good I really am.
Since at BP14 I had the opportunity to sit their exam, I decided to try it (for not less than 225 $ membership, 35 $ for eligibility test (they had to examine, if I am eligible to take the exam), 100 $ for practice tests – 2 pieces -, 300 $ exam fee). I haven’t passed.

Yesterday, when I read the “I regret to inform you blabla”, I was shocked. I immediately thought I would be the worst translator ever, it was just throwing away money to get it written on paper.

Then I thought about how much I earn doing what I am certified at not doing well.

Is it possible that no-one ever reads my translations and I am just lucky enough to pass by every time and get paid since years from the same clients? (Mainly I do manuals, now come on, how many times, after you buy a product, you search for the manual and are keen to go back to the producer to report that in the third sentence there was an inconsistency error?) But come on again, just last week I got a feedback email from a client who said that the end-client said my translation would be excellent. Yes, they used this word: excellent.)

I immediately said the result to my friend who is one of the best translators I’ve ever known and who helped me to prepare for this exam. She read and corrected all my translations for months (certainly I paid her, it is a job, friends or not friends). She responded to me saying, she’d be sorry and this news just completes her bad day, since she would struggle getting her money from the clients she worked for, which is going on since almost a year and although she loves translating and this business, she thinks to give it up, because she is never liquid enough.

Now get this. There is me, who has money and does not get certified, and there is she, who can translate and survives by the gratitude of her clients, who finally pay her for jobs, she obviously had to send off accurately meeting a deadline.

This just brings me back to Riccione, when heading home from the beach I stepped by at my optician to buy new sunglasses, since I am not able to read at the beach without. He said me the same thing: he comes from Switzerland, learnt the profession there and is pretty good at it, but thinks to move away from Riccione, because he doesn’t sell enough to survive. He is not able to sell enough sunglasses in an Italian city, right at the beach (and normal glasses too). So what counts, when you run a business?

Am I on the side where the big names with no quality sail? Is it, where I want to be? Have I found the right place to be at or should I –raise my prices//change my clients//stand up more for the right of the single translator– more than I already do and sit over a sentence for an hour, just because in that way I would lean more towards quality and care less about money? Is a financially healthy business, without certification healthy at all? Does quality and money exclude each other? Where is the balance between doing it for money and doing it good?

I have so many questions I struggle asking them all…and, more importantly I have no time to think about it all since today as for the rest of the month: I have lot of projects to work on.


Business, Linguistics, Translation

No sex at work

My idea separating my personal and business life took another step: I bought a business computer.

Surely, all things, I do to strap myself away from my business identity aims to have one goal: to give me my free-time (and life) back.

I struggled to have a good enough time-management to separate work time from free time, just by telling me, I need to stop working. It doesn’t work.

So I thought to take a very aggressive step: I separate my life from my business making myself as difficult as possible to work in my freetime or to distract myself from work doing free-time stuff. I will go on til restricting my browser’s available websites at work, if necessary – blocking websites on my business computer in certain hours, so I can’t, really can’t do anything else, then:

– either take an hour off from work so go on with something from my hobbies.

– or sticking to work.

I remember at my first workplace, when our employer the first time let us sign its internet navigation policy, we were just afraid. It was the time, where social media started. (on the first day, when company communication could/had to be managed over skype, I literally didn’t do anything else, than chatting with my colleagues. It needed to be learnt, that only, because I am reachable, I won’t respond immediately.)

Well, it takes me at least one day, until I de-install all the software from my personal laptop and install everything into the new Lenovo Ultrabook, but I am sure, this step will organize for me my day without me having to set up different policies against myself, which I am committed to break in every second, when I want to have 10 minutes off to catch up with facebook friends or watch the latest of the Big Bang Theory, or when I just want to move a 100 words short-assignment for after-dinner while watching the news.

Like Esterhazy said once: when you write on a car: it is dirty, clean writes the dirt. The same happens here: Restriction gives me freedom.

Business, Linguistics, Translation

Can I have a sample, please?

I had this e-mail since March 2013 in my inbox.

I set-up a very strict e-mail archiving policy for myself. I have a folder for every customer. I only archive my customer’s e-mails, once I created a job for the specific task, mentioned in the e-mail.

I also archive the e-mail, if I responded to a non complete order and am waiting for response.

E-mails from non-customers get into the Offers folder, after I responded to them. (these non-customers get a folder, after the first collaboration)

In this manner I only have e-mails in my inbox, which need further process: me responding to them.

So there was this e-mail since March. It was even interesting for me to respond to it, it was a collaboration offer from an Italian translation agency (usually these requests I sort out even before jobs).

You know, there are so many kinds of translation agencies and offers though. Some of them just give you immediately a small/large job, some just want to include you into their database and ask for your “best rate” – which poorly could be translated into: tell me, how far you lower your rate for me”. They might have a new client for a new language pair/specific field, and don’t want to be unprepared for the event of a large offer.

Some of these agencies want you to do a sample translation, before proceeding. They are not satisfied with your degree and/or your certifications. (Well, I have mixed feelings for these “sample translation for free”, I might even understand, since there is no proof at all, that you are, who you say, you are. In most cases I can’t even state, for which end-client I worked for because of some (stupid) non-concurrence rule, or NDA and and and. My name NEVER appears on a translation. (I bet if it would be the rule to put one’s name on it, there would be less “professionals” and more professionals in the market)

This agency wanted me to fill out a huge, complex excel file about my specialization. This included to state, how many words I did in a specific field, how many years of experience I have, if I want or not deepen my experience in that field.

I mean, right, you want to know more about me, but there were 87 different fields, I had to think about! They even made a difference between the different machinery. (I have no idea, how many packaging machinery manuals I translated, dunno how many woodworking ones and if there was or not an agricultural machinery. I have no diagrams like this. Maybe now with TO3000 it will be much easier)

Today I had this feeling of wanting to close some of my ongoing stuff. I downloaded the excel file again, opened it, and just couldn’t. Really I couldn’t go on with it. Then I read their e-mail again. They actually wanted me to fill in this endless form and only afterwards giving me translation samples to measure my translation skills and only afterwards I would have gotten into their DB (so actually not even getting a first job, just becoming a new entry). I mean, COME ON!

I responded to them, that I am happy to translate an IT text, in which I also have a certification from the  Association of Italian Translators and Interpreters and if they will be happy with the results, they can put my name among their Hungarian native IT translators.

Then I happily – and finally – archived the e-mail.

Business, Linguistics, Translation

The importance of marketing (part I)


Well, doing it the right way is very difficult.

Some days ago I saw a video on TED.

It was said not to be the demonstration of the new google-goggle, rather the philosophical background to it. Well, the speech started with a two minutes long ad and then Sergey only talked about how this will change your life, because you don’t need to look at your phone anymore, you can look right into the eyes of the people, you talk to (beside the fact, that you will look like Robocop, so people will turn around to laugh at you. It is sad like the bluetooth earpieces.) Let this be though the product, which will stop my technological being up-to-date, let’s talk about the marketing in this video.

He could have spoken about much more interesting things in relation with the product, leave completely out the ad and just talk – he is a very intelligent person, there must be tons of funny stories, background jokes about the goggle, is it possible, that all he could tell was: you don’t have to look down anymore and that for five minutes?

Why did he throw away this opportunity? I only will remember an awful speech and don’t wanna see him on TED, like never again.

Why am I talking about this now? 

There are certain individuals, who I admire in our industry (translation).

Not only, because they might be brilliant translators, but because they appear to be everywhere.

They give speeches on international translator conferences, have stands on language shows, update their blogs every week, write e-books and like “by the way” they translate (so it seems from their FB profile). And then once they fail to understand the concept of correct marketing and instead of becoming more inspirational for me, they become….dunno…sad?

I watched a video of one of these persons on a topic: how to become better to do a certain task, which helps to grow your business.

Believe or not, the 2 minutes video mentioned only 3 things:

– download my paper

– book a meeting with me

– sign up for my e-book.

This is sad. It was supposed to be a help! Help me by telling at least one important thing first and then you can give me the opportunity to learn about it more in your pdf, meeting and e-book, but DON’T TRY TO PUSH YOURSELF SO HARD!!!

This was a moment, where I thought: hey, this person is giving a speech on a conference? This person will only tell me to buy and download her material. This person just wants to grow her business on my shoulder, doesn’t really want to help me!

So true: help should be – at least seem – honest and not selfish