Songs: from translating lyrics to writing your own

Song lyrics
The last post in this series is about songs – from translating lyrics to moving on and writing your own.
1) SONG TRANSLATION
KNOW ABOUT RHYME, AND RAP!
Song translation can often be required as part of film subtitles, or as a standalone translation for an advert, for example. It’s useful to be familiar with a whole range of song styles (from pop, to country, to children’s cartoon theme tunes) in your mother tongue as you don’t necessarily need to be a specialist in a particular genre, in the way you would for book translation.
If you are asked to translate the words of a song, then there are a few things to bear in mind:
1) Rhyming is often required, if the original song contains rhyming couplets, for example.
2) For many styles (and especially with things like Rap), it is vital that you have some basic feel for music beats and how the syllables in the words of a song match these.
3) The register of the translation must match the register of the language in the original song.
As with film translation, a great, and fun, way to practice can simply be to take a song you like in your source language(s) and translate it, bearing in mind the points above. It can also be helpful to look at existing translations of songs, within films or on adverts (www.youtube.com can be useful for finding these) in your language combination(s).
READ A BIT OF THEORY

There are many interesting texts which can be found online about this topic. It’s worth looking at a few as they can really help to give you a sense of what to look out for and focus on when translating song lyrics. For example: http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:375140/fulltext02 (an academic study of song translation using famous musicals as its reference material).
ADD THE SKILL TO YOUR CV

Song translation can be required in all sorts of different environments (from a few lines in an advert, to a full song in a film or as a TV series theme tune). Recent examples of work I’ve completed include translating a French children’s song within an animation into English – complete with very challenging rhymes! – and translating a Spanish rap for Telefónica into English. It is definitely worth adding that you are interested in/have undertaken song translation to your CV and let clients know as this is not something that everyone offers up as a service. Some translators find it quite daunting and therefore it’s good for agencies and clients to know who they can come to if a song, or part of a song, should need translation. Unlike with book and film translation, there isn’t always so much of a need to prove your prior experience. But it certainly couldn’t hurt to practise with a song or two and then add these to your portfolio to demonstrate your ability.

NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS

There are plenty of songs out there that need translating, so target the places where you think such songs may arise. For example, agencies who specialise in film translation may have need of your skills, or advertising companies who often work with songs for adverts.

ESTABLISH A RATE THAT ALLOWS FOR THE TIME CREATIVITY TAKES


There is much less information out there about how to charge for translating a song. Based on experience, my key piece of advice would be ‘don’t underestimate how long it can take to translate a song’. It is not simply a case of translating some words. So, if you charge by the word, make your rate a healthy one. If you charge by the hour, make sure you allow enough hours in your quote (to give you an idea – I’ve sometimes had to spend 30 minutes or more on a translation for just one or two difficult lines in a song).
2) WRITING YOUR OWN SONG LYRICSI’ll focus here on the skill of being a songwriter, which in and of itself does not mean that you need to be an amazing musician, singer, producer etc. Writing song lyrics in your mother tongue is a skill in its own right and lyric writers often work in collaboration with musicians, producers and so on to produce a great song.

TAKE A COURSE


Songwriting is a skill which can be learned and perfected. Studying with industry professionals is therefore worthwhile as they can help you work out what area of songwriting you may be most suited to (for example, some people are great at coming up with song concepts, or themes, others with a topline melody (or ‘hook’ – those lines in a song chorus that you’re humming for hours after you hear it) and others are brilliant at producing verse lyrics, involving rhyme if necessary. There are songwriting courses available all over the world but if you truly have aspirations to get your songs played commercially/sold one day, then it’s worth finding one that is run by industry professionals. For example, https://thesongwritingacademy.co.uk/offers courses in London, Berlin and New York and is run by writers who have been working in the business for decades.

 

LISTEN TO LOTS OF SONGS AND PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE


To improve your own songwriting, listen to the experts! Simply choose the genres you like and start actively listening to the lyrics. The more you do, the more you will spot patterns in successful songs (everything from the all important ‘hook’ in the chorus, to the use of repetition). Once you’ve taken a course, you’ll spot a lot more of the techniques that are common to all hit songs – irrespective of genre.
BE PART OF A COMMUNITY AND GET FEEDBACK

Some people aren’t aware that successful songwriting often involves lots of collaboration with other writers. There are lots of Facebook forums and so on for songwriters, but nothing beats meeting other songwriters in person, as this can help foster collaboration opportunities. Joining a more ‘professional’ association can also be of benefit. Some, such as the The Guild of International Songwriters and Composers (http://www.songwriters-guild.co.uk/) provide feedback as well as collaboration opportunities. Most will also ensure you are well versed in the importance of copywriting your work.
As times goes on and you write complete songs, whether alone or with other songwriters, you will probably want to become a member of a national or international copyright collective, such as the Performing Rights’ Society (https://www.prsformusic.com/) in the UK. These organisation protect your rights and deal with the very complex issue of royalties for your work (of which there can be many kinds). Just to give you an idea (of how many different ways a song can be used to produce royalties), have a look here:https://www.tunecore.com/guides/thirteen-ways-to-make-money.

 

NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS


Networking is a must in the music industry so head to any events that you can where music industry professionals are present. These can be found with a simple Google search and are often held regularly. This little article explains very succinctly why networking is essential: https://www.horusmusic.global/music-industry-networking/. Meeting publishers and people from record labels enables you to avoid contacting people ‘blind’ when the time comes to pitch one of your songs. You can also find out about commissioned songs (of which there are many). This is where a budget is available to write a song for a specific purpose (for example, a song for an advert or a song for an artist in a specific genre).
GETTING YOUR SONG SOLD

Pitching a song to a publisher, record label or to the proposed artist is the way most songs are taken on. You generally get one chance to do this right, so it pays to know what you should and shouldn’t do, particularly if you are only starting out. I’ve found other songwriters to be an extremely supportive group of people who offer up lots of knowledge, experience and advice (a bit like the translators in SOM really!) Aside from that, there is plenty of advice on the subject online. Here’s just one of the many articles available on this topic that offer some really sound advice: https://songtown.com/dos-donts-pitching-songs/
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
As with the film industry, you need to be careful, as a good song is a good song. If you write one and don’t protect yourself, someone will probably be keen to appropriate at least a part of it ). You should therefore:
– Copyright your songs as soon as possible, even if you don’t plan to do anything with them for a while. This can be done by registering them with your copyright collective.
– Make sure you keep a date-stamped audit trail of any songs you send off on CD or electronically to publishers, record labels or artists.

 

Films: from audiovisual translation to becoming a screenwriter

 

SOM creatives post - filmThe second post in this series is about films – translating them through subtitles and also getting your own screenplay commissioned.

1) FILM (AUDIOVISUAL) TRANSLATION

WATCH FILMS (LOTS OF FILMS!) AND READ LOTS OF FILM SCRIPTS

If you want to translate films, then it’s essential that you are familiar and very comfortable with authentic film dialogue in your target language. Film translation is essentially audiovisual translation (unless you are asked to translate a whole film script) and thus involves the succinct translation of dialogue into space restricted subtitles. You therefore need to be an expert in colloquial language in your mother tongue(s).

If you are asked to translate an entire film transcript, then make sure you are familiar with the format in your target language by reading lots of them. These can be found online in places such as http://filmscriptsonline.com/

READ A BIT OF THEORYtheory

With subtitling come rules – and quite a lot of them, despite there being no internationally accepted industry standards. You can learn a huge amount about these by simply reading a book written by an expert. Anything by Jorge Díaz Cintas is usually fabulous and ‘Audiovisual Translation, Subtitling (Translation Practices Explained) is one I would definitely recommend. I still refer to it myself after many years (https://amzn.to/2L1veDu).

GET SOME EXPERIENCE

As with books, you will very rarely be given a (paid) opportunity to translate a film if you have had no prior experience. So, however little, get some. You can do this entirely on your own by doing something as simple as downloading a short film from YouTube in your source language – using a tool such as ‘Freemake Video Converter (www.freemake.com) – and then translating it in a free tool such as Aegisub (www.aegisub.org/) using the rules learnt from your previous reading. Software, for obvious reasons, is pretty much always used in audiovisual translation and there are similarities in the functionality across all tools. Familiarising yourself with one enables you to pick up another very quickly. Some of the most popular tools in the industry include Wincaps, Swift and EZTitles. Once you have practised a little, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t include your subtitled films in your own portfolio. This can only be of help when trying to get paid film translation work.

TAKE AN AUDIOVISUAL TRANSLATION COURSE

Grand Bain - Making ofMany agencies/direct clients like their translators to provide evidence of formal learning. So, something such as this online course run by Imperial College, London, can be an invaluable addition to your CV:

 

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/centras/study/professional/online/subtitling.

Otherwise, many masters courses now include audiovisual translation options.

NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS

There are agencies all over the world which specialise in film translation – for example, VSI in the UK (http://www.vsi.tv/). However, anybody who produces audiovisual film material in your source language(s) is also a potential client. So, find out about events where such people gather and go along. You may often find you’re the only translator there. If you’re doing this in your source language country, so much the better.

BE PREPARED TO COMPETE AND ESTABLISH A MINIMUM RATE

As with books, film translation work is highly sought after and there is LOTS of competition. Consequently, there are lots of ridiculous rates offered, as agencies and direct clients know translators want to do this kind of work (it is extremely enjoyable and interesting and most of us would do it for free if we could afford to!) Whilst it’s OK to accept any rate when you first start out and have pretty much no experience,  at some point, you need to live. So, get ready to reject a lot of offers and target agencies and clients in the countries you know pay better (e.g. Europe/Canada/US/Australia). If you are an English into another language translator, then you are fortunate. Internationally, there is more work in this language direction.

Once you get a feel for the industry, set yourself a baseline rate, quickly. This can be a price per subtitle or per minute (clients tend to use both, and one can be used to calculate an approximation of the other depending on the quantity of dialogue in a film).

In my own experience, I am often offered work at €2/minute for translation alone (i.e. not including spotting, which is where you create the time synchronised subtitles yourself). My baseline rate, however, after 8 years of working fairly consistently in the industry, is €9-10/minute. There are many forums online which discuss the pricing of subtitles. Do some research for your particular language combination and country(-ies).

DON’T FORGET FILM TRANSCRIPT EDITINGTranscription_Editing

There is a market for proofreading and editing other people’s film transcripts. Sites such as www.upwork.com can sometimes include such jobs and you can of course tailor your website/Proz.com profile and so on to specify that this is something you are interested in or do regularly. Editing other people’s screenplays is also a brilliant way of honing your own screenwriting skills, which leads us on to…

2) GETTING YOUR OWN FILM SCRIPT COMMISSIONED

TAKE A COURSE

Filmscript writing is a specialist writing form, with many well-established rules in terms of format/story development. Learning these rules in as consolidated a way as possible, from professionals, is a worthwhile investment. There are many courses around, from those costing a fortune at prestigious colleges, such as UC Berkley (US) to those which are more affordable, for example the one-day course by Industrial Scripts ® (UK) https://screenplayscripts.com/product/screenwriting-course/

There are even free courses, for example the one run by the University of East Anglia (UK) https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/screenwriting.

Such courses will more than likely introduce you to what is now almost the industry accepted standard for producing a film script in the right format – Final Draft software (https://www.finaldraft.com/). This isn’t exorbitantly priced, so could well be worth the investment early on if you know that screenplay writing is what you want to focus on.

READ LOTS OF SCRIPTS AND PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

Screenplay formatTo better improve your own scriptwriting, make sure you’ve read lots of film scripts by the very best writers. As mentioned previously, you can access these online in places such as http://filmscriptsonline.com/

 

 

HAVE ORIGINAL IDEAS, AND PLENTY OF THEM!

One of the first things people in the film industry will tell you is that it is the idea which often sells a film/gets it commissioned – even before a script has been written. So, have lots of them and in order to test how good they are (no – asking family and friends really doesn’t count!) it can be helpful to:

BE PART OF A COMMUNITY AND GET FEEDBACK

There are plenty of Facebook forums for screenwriters, but joining a more ‘professional’ community/association often has the benefit of enabling you get feedback on your work, which is vital. One such association is The International Screenwriters’ Association https://www.networkisa.org/

Alternatively, industry-based professional entities, such as Industry Scripts in the UK, offer fee-based feedback on everything from your concepts through to your final screenplay.

GETTING YOUR SCREENPLAY COMMISSIONED

Pitching a screenplay is pretty much the only way to get it commissioned and eventually turned into a fully produced film. There is lots of advice online for how to go about successful pitching – Google, as always, is a great source of information written by those who are really in the know in the film industry. For example:

https://www.finaldraft.com/learn/final-draft-blog/five-steps-successful-pitching/

NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS

Networking is invaluable if you want to get to know the people who can actually do something with your screenplay. Events such as those organised by companies like Industrial Scripts ® in London (https://screenplayscripts.com/) can be great ones to attend. Or anything by your own national film association/commission. ‘Who you know’ is of huge benefit in the film industry and having people know who you are and what you are hoping to achieve makes it much easier when you eventually start to make calls/write emails asking to be able to pitch your screenplay.

Warning signTHINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

The sad reality of the film industry is that it is a cut-throat as it comes. You should therefore:

– Not share your marvellous ideas with people in a much better position than you to make a film out of them, until you have a full script written and have sent it out to lots of people in the industry (preferably at a similar time.) This ensures you can sue the heck out of anyone who may try and steal your idea!

– Build up a network of credible, trustworthy industry professionals (the vast majority of them are) who can support you in gaining knowledge and experience, but not at the expense of you also obtaining success as a result of your talent and hard work.

 

Books: from creative translation to becoming an author

 

I specialise and lecture in creative translation and have also made the crossover to becoming a published author. As a result, I am often asked for advice on how break into the Creative Industries. This is the first in a series of 3 posts on translating books, films and songs along with key information for those looking to move into these industries as original authors, screenplay writers and lyricists. I hope it proves useful for all those aspiring creatives out there.

This first post focuses on books – their translation and also getting your own published.

1) BOOK TRANSLATION

KNOW YOUR GENREBooks genres

If translating books is what you’re interested in, then the first thing to decide is what kind of books. A book on social-psychology requires entirely different skills and knowledge to translating a fast-paced thriller. Know what you love, make sure you read a lot of it in your target language already, and then focus on that.

GET SOME EXPERIENCE

No matter how little (even if only a few paragraphs), you need to have some kind of experience/evidence to show people that you are a capable book translator. Unfortunately, there aren’t many authors or publishers who want to entrust a book translation to someone who has never done it before. One place where you can cut your teeth is http://www.babelcube.com/ . This website allows you to sign up and offer to translate books (for free), with a share in the royalties of any sales of your translation.

NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS

Networking creative industries

Authors themselves can choose translators when a book is self-published, so you can contact them directly. (If you can’t find their contact details online, contact one of their self-publishing companies or online stories and ask if a message can be passed on containing your own contact details). For traditionally published books, however, publishers, literary agents and foreign rights are the people who employ book translators. A simple Google search on the topic is invaluable to learn more about the process and to find out who might be looking for translators (any publisher or literary agent with a ‘foreign rights’ department should be your first port of call). In brief, translations can be organised either by a) translators making a targeted approach and saying ‘I’d like to translate this book for this reason’ or b) publishers and literary agents thinking a certain book is well-suited to a new market, and thus selling the foreign rights via a foreign rights agent and requiring a translation.

If you want to find out more about how to get paid book translation work (i.e. work where you are paid some kind of fee rather than just a share of royalties), then I would highly recommend visiting one of the many national book fairs held worldwide. For example, London Book Fair (http://www.londonbookfair.co.uk/) in the spring, Beijing Book Fair (http://www.bibf.net/en/) in late summer and Frankfurt Book Fair (https://www.buchmesse.de/en/fbf/) in the autumn.

At these events you are surrounded by publishers and agents. It pays to arrange meetings beforehand as everyone goes there specifically to buy and sell book rights and their diaries are always very full. There are very useful seminars on book translation and associated topics, where you can meet fellow book translators and industry experts, exchanging notes and contacts. Catalogues of publishers/literary and foreign rights agents who require translators can sometimes be obtained at these events as well, which can be a huge time-saver.

BE PREPARED TO COMPETE

As and when you are first offered the opportunity to translate a book (for a share of royalties and/or a fee), it is quite common for a number of translators to be ‘tested’ simultaneously at the outset. This involves translating anything from a few paragraphs to a chapter of a book so that the author and/or publisher can make an informed choice. This work is often unpaid, with the ‘winning’ translator then being paid for their work in retrospect. As in all the creative industries, competition is extremely stiff so you need to be prepared to evidence your talent when you are starting out.

After you have translated at least one book, you are in a much better position to negotiate payment for any test. Providing samples of your previous work may even make completing a test unnecessary. Once you’re really established, you will tend to be approached by authors/publishers more. You need to have a name as a book translator before you’re really in the driving seat when it comes to obtaining book translation projects.

2) GETTING YOUR OWN BOOK PUBLISHED

Self-publishing

SELF-PUBLISHING

Self-publishing has become a huge industry over the last decade, the result being anyone who wants to write and get their writing out there is now free to do so, at very little cost/risk. Here are some tips I’ve picked up in the last 6 years.

GET MAXIMUM EXPOSURE FOR MINIMUM EFFORT

Whether you choose to publish ‘print-on-demand’ hard copies or ‘e-books’, or both, you want to find a self-publishing company that distributes to as many online stores as possible. E-books tend to be the cheapest option but demand for print books continues to rise (it increased by 7% globally in 2017, according to Nielsen in its annual books and consumer survey, whilst e-book sales dropped by 4%). After lots of trial and error, including self-publishing through renowned companies such as lulu.com (https://www.lulu.com/) and Kindle Direct Publishing (https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/) – and there are many others, such as CreateSpace, Book Baby and Kobo – I was fortunate enough to come across PublishDrive (https://publishdrive.com/). They’re relatively new to the industry but making huge waves and in my experience, they provide the best service out there. It’s free to publish with them, if you format your books according to their requirements, and they take a flat 10% cut of your digital list price. If you need your book formatted or converted, they charge a very reasonable one-off fee (fees vary among self-publishing companies for this task but they all offer this option). PublishDrive distribute to the greatest number of online stores. They also offer up a huge number of language possibilities (whilst Amazon Kindle, for example, still doesn’t support many major world languages, including Chinese!)

GET USED TO MARKETING YOURSELF

The reality in the new digital world is that it isn’t now just quality which sells, it’s your brand. So, you need to have a USP, whatever your book, and you need to advertise what that is on social media – or pay someone else to do it for you. Having a profile as an author is vital for book sales.

One of the best ways to work out how to market yourself is to have a look at what other authors are doing via their social media channels – to get some inspiration – and then…DO NOT DO THE SAME THING! 🙂 You’re a creative, so copying another, more established, creative is unlikely to get you very far. It certainly won’t hone your creative skills. But you can always take other people’s ideas and give them a new twist or just come up with something that you’ve noticed other people aren’t doing.

BE PART OF A COMMUNITY

Getting together with other self-published authors can be extremely helpful for learning more about how to optimise your book’s sales potential. The Alliance of Independent Authors (https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/) is a great international organisation for this purpose. There are also lots of Facebook groups around as well.

TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING

What-Makes-A-Good-Writer

BE A GREAT WRITER!

Unlike with self-publishing, when you are looking to have your book published via the traditional route, the quality of your writing is everything. You will be competing against the best of the best and therefore being exceptional at your craft (within your preferred genre) as well as coming up with ingenious new ideas is what matters. So, get plenty of practice and lots of feedback (preferably from other published writers or publishers themselves.)

JOIN A PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION

There are a number of these out there for writers and they can be hugely beneficial for support, advice and finding out about important industry events. Two good examples (and I mention only those in the UK here, of course) include The Society of Authors (http://www.societyofauthors.org/) and The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (https://www.scbwi.org/).

GETTING A CONTRACT

I don’t currently have a publishing contract with a major publisher. I have been offered two in the last 6 months but did not feel they were right for me – based on advice from a number of other publishers and literary agents. I am now in talks with two more publishers. I hope this puts me in a good position to explain how you can go about getting a contract and what you should look out for when you are offered one. Above all, be prepared to show a huge amount of patience and tenacity (‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett was rejected 60 times before it was published!)

There are two routes to getting a traditional publishing contract. ROUTE 1 – you apply direct to publishers, ensuring that you adhere strictly to the instructions on their website for submissions. ROUTE 2 – you find yourself a literary agent who will act on behalf of you and your book and approach publishers for you. Again, instructions on submissions to literary agents are to be found on their websites and must be adhered to. To determine who to aim your book at, make sure you study the publisher or literary agent’s website carefully, as they will tell you what genres they are currently looking for (thrillers, sci-fi, young adult fiction etc) and indeed whether they are accepting submissions from new writers at all. The advantage of finding a literary agent to represent you is that they will negotiate contract deals with publishers and you as an author can tend to benefit from better conditions.

NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS (AGAIN!)

Just as for book translation, networking is invaluable if you want to obtain a traditional publishing contract. Attending book fairs, as well as other events where you know publishers and agents will be in attendance is invaluable for getting advice, meeting people who may be interested in your book and basically ‘making a noise’ (which was a piece of advice I was given in person by a very prominent member of the book industry). Again, Google can be fabulous for searching for such events as they take place in all sorts of locations in most major cities.

Warning sign

THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

As and when you do get that elusive publishing deal, take time to consider the following before accepting it:

– SCAM publishers/literary agents offering a ‘contribution-based’ contract. These are widespread these days and many new authors pay thousands of pounds to enter into a contract on the basis that they are not established and thus are more of a ‘risk’. Some publishers offering these contracts are ‘named and shamed’ online. Don’t fall into the trap of accepting such offers. A reputable publisher or literary agent will not ask you for any money if they want to take your book on.

– Make sure you are happy with the conditions for what can often be a tie-in period of 2-5 years. Ensure the royalties you will get are something you can live with as you will be legally bound by the contract, even if a better offer then comes along. There are no specific rules, but seeking advice from other publishers if you are acting on your own behalf (without an agent) can be extremely helpful.

– Other things to bear in mind are: how long your tie-in period is; whether the contract includes global rights to your book(s) and such things as merchandise; and whether someone wants to publish one or all of your books if you have written a series.

 

Strategy: 5 keys for freelancers

You’re a freelancer. Being good at what you do and being thankful when you actually have work coming in every day is surely what it’s all about, no? Well, if you ever want to earn more, get more of the work you love or even employ other people, then unfortunately not. As with any business, someone really needs to be thinking ‘bigger picture’ (a.k.a. Strategy) and that someone is you!

Strategy isn’t something that comes easy to many freelancers, who often start out with knowledge of a product or a skill as their area of expertise. But whether you like it or not, you need to start formulating and implementing a business strategy as soon as possible if you want to do more than just get by.

Here’s a quick guide to how you can find the time as well as the information required to flex your strategy muscles:

1) Know your long- and short-term objectivesGoals

Why exactly are you working as a freelancer? So you can retire early and pursue your aspiration of becoming a golf pro or world traveller? Because you love your product/industry and want to innovate within it? Because you have issues with authority and working for someone else was never going to be an option?

Once you’ve identified this, a lot of other things will immediately become clear. For example: I need to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible so that I’m freed up to do the other things I want to; I need to spend as much time as possible with other people in my industry, to enable me to be at the cutting edge of what I do; or simply, if I’m going to work with other people, I need to make sure I’m employing them so that I’m the boss!

Once you know your long-term objective, you can start to look at interim goals – anywhere from 1-5 years – to get there. To illustrate this point, my long-term goal has always been to move from being solely a freelance translator and lecturer to having more time to engage in philanthropic, creative and entrepreneurial pursuits. Two of my key objectives over the last couple of years have been participation at an international book fair and the organisation of a worldwide social media event. I needed to free up time and money to dedicate to the preparation and planning of these activities. So my 2-year strategy has involved undertaking more proofreading work because I find it more lucrative. In 2018, when my 2-3 year targets change, so will my strategy.

Talking

2) Let people know you’re strategizing

Talk to anyone and everyone about what you’re doing. People love people with a vision and they will contribute their thoughts to the mix without you even having to ask. Whether friend, family member or employee, the most valuable ideas come from collaboration. Two heads (and preferably three or four) will always be better than one.

If possible, team up with other freelancers who also want to focus on strategy (preferably in a group which also has an overriding strategy itself – for example, Standing Out Mastermind for Translators and Interpreters). Sharing strategies with others is inspiring and motivating and keeps you accountable.

Learn3) Learn how successful strategists operate

Read about the topic. Investigate how other people – from other freelancers to business magnates – strategize. Where do those who do it well find the time to do so? What habits have they developed in this regard? Copy what others do or adapt what you learn to suit your own particular circumstances.

4) Create a strategic plan and regularly monitor itMonitoring

To establish a good strategic plan, it can be helpful to use strategic planning tools. Once you’ve done this, make sure you regularly evaluate how you and your business are performing in relation to this plan. Have you had a couple of months where firefighting immediate issues has taken priority over strategy and targets? No problem. But if it’s been a couple of years then either your strategy wasn’t the right one or you perhaps aren’t making enough of an effort to focus on it.

what are you best at?

5) Know your strengths

As a freelancer, it is extremely difficult to form a strategy which encompasses every single area of your operation simultaneously (sales and marketing, upskilling, networking, outsourcing, automating activities). So, know what you’re good at and start there.

Your strategy can of course change focus over time. However, if you’re not an IT guru then try and hand over any elements in your strategy which involve this area to someone who is! For example, if you’re a translator and want everything relating to your projects and invoices automated, then entrust those tasks to people whose entire business strategy focuses on making this happen – lsp.expert, for example.

As with anything, the more you practise strategizing, the better you get and the faster you’re able to do it. If you’re doing it properly, you should also find you have more time as the years go by to focus on this very area. So, start now, get stuck in and good luck!

We’d love to hear about any tips or tools you have to help with developing a freelance or small business strategy in the comments section below 🙂 

Liberating yourself from professional labels

The other day someone I’d just met asked me what I do.  Just like that. Not even a “How are you?” An exchanging of names and then they dove straight in. As people are wont to. Because of course, in today’s world we’re all just a job title really, aren’t we? I replied, as tends to be my wont, that actually I do lots of different things, and started to list them. And suddenly, eyes widened, ears pricked up and I had my audience’s (OK, ‘her’….) undivided attention. Because it would seem that deep down, none of us really want to be definable as one thing. And we sure as heck don’t want to hear anyone who is bang on about it! We all dream of conquering the world, in our own way. And in order to do so – to be that person we truly feel we are deep down inside – one single, immutable label is the last thing we need.

This blog post is simply a nod, and a good dose of moral support, to all of those people who’ve ever had someone say to them:

“You need to stick to one thing”,

“You’ll only be successful if you become an expert in a single field” or

“Why didn’t you just carry on [in medicine/law/teaching/banking/translating – delete as appropriate]?”

and yet remain wholly unconvinced…as I always have been.

I generally tend to reply with a:

Er, no. I know what makes me happy and that just ain’t it!”

You are, of course, free to choose your own retort. In fact, being creative with your response is half the fun!

Most of us are conditioned to believe that  success  = having a lot of money and/or power (and a job title which impresses people!) I certainly was.

business-treadmill

In my own case, in the years after graduation, as all those around me made their way up the slippery ladder of corporatedom, I couldn’t shake the belief that the only true success I felt really worthy of achievement was being 100% authentic to myself. Life’s short (I knew that all too well after losing a couple of close friends by my early twenties). Why on earth would you simply get on a treadmill running towards a destination that you’d been told was the one you should be headed for?

And so I jumped off, rather inelegantly, at 2am one Christmas morning, whilst sat in a basement office with no windows. I was on my own – literally – supposedly trying to save a global IT system from falling over. I mean, WHO CARES??? Unfortunately (but rather fortuitously for my future), I certainly didn’t. Thank God for http://www.i-resign.com. Writing an articulate ‘I quit’ letter is hard for the best of us in the early hours.

Fast forward 15 years and I have tried so many things professionally, it’s simply not funny. (Although in some cases it is, as it makes for amusing dinner parties anecdotes). The thing I love most in life is helping people. So I worked in education for a while, figuring it was a vocation, and I enjoyed it; until a teenager threw a chair at me and then barricaded the classroom door. Seriously? And they thought the money I was being paid was enough??

Fortunately, I’d done a masters after my ignominious departure from the world of IT consultancy, so I set to trying to make a go of things as a freelance translator. And I have to say, all at once, I started to feel like I’d found my niche. Varied work? Tick. Mentally challenging? Tick. Control over my own working life? Tick. Until I found myself in a place that once again seemed to be more about external expectations than internal intentions. I woke up one day to find myself a mainly legal and financial translator. (Decent money? Tick!) And yet neither field floated my boat in the slightest.bored-of-job

So I did what any normal person does in a such a circumstance. I ran away to the Caribbean. And I came back having met someone equally as ‘non-conformist’ as myself. And from there, I thought “What the heck?”, I’m actually Creative, not Corporate, and jumped off the treadmill yet again, only this time for good. What happened thereafter only served to support the theory that you attract more of what you’re focused on. And that if you want a portfolio career, it pays to base it around ‘helping people’ in whatever way you can.

opportunity

I returned home and a colleague working in a university at the other end of the country got in touch, immediately. “If you’re able to learn this piece of software in 2 days, you can come and teach audiovisual translation for us.” “OK!” I said.   (How hard could it be?) And within a month I was travelling 3 hours each way every week to teach a 2-hour subtitling class, which I loved!

A few months later, the CEO of a translation company in Spain got in touch to say they were looking for a UK Director. Was I interested? “With absolutely no sales and marketing experience behind me?” I asked. “Yes, of course I am!” I continue to work with them to this day. They think outside the box and are all about social enterprise – my kind of people.

Alongside all this, I co-founded and ran a charity that’s now become international, with Mr. Non-Conformist. Because somewhere inside it felt like we could help a lot of people from the moment the idea arose. We used Google as our primary adviser in all things charity start-up related and its generosity was astounding! Those who help need help at times too.

In the last 5 years I’ve also become a published writer, again by trying to write something that would help people – young children in this case. I’ve been on property courses and have been able to help people who need a home. I’ve even helped start a Media Production company. None of it was meticulously planned, it simply involved ‘leaning into’ areas I had an interest in, saying yes to helping somebody wherever possible and learning as I went along. I think it’s fair to say that gone are the days of my being able to succinctly stick my job title on 1 by 2 inch sticky label at conferences. And I love that fact. I also adore meeting other people in exactly the same situation. Oh such colourful souls 🙂colourful-peopleSo if you have a gut feeling that perhaps you’re not destined to do the work that you’re doing now forever; or in your heart something really appeals, just because; and if anyone around you suggests that you stick with the safe, rather than the scary, or just one single thing, then I’d simply say “Don’t”. If what’s tickling your fancy also happens to help people, then so much the better.

There’s no need to go all out, jump ship and live the life of a starving artist (although it’s amazing the drive monetary pressure can generate!) Baby steps are all it takes. Contrary to common belief, those who take risks aren’t always huge daredevils. Neither are they another class of human being, untouchables, who we can admire from afar but never hope to emulate.

No, they’re people just like you and me, who decided that maybe that little voice inside really is worth listening to, no matter how loudly the rest of the world tries to shout it down 🙂 

labelling-in-society

Claire Culliford (Founder of TransTeach)

Have you got experience of breaking away from the professional ‘norm’, or creating a portfolio career? If so, we’d love to hear about it. Feel free to share your stories with us in the comments section below 🙂 

 

 

Keep Calm and…Build Resilience!

Resilience

Here at TransTeach we’re all about supporting the next generation of translators, and writers, and bloggers – indeed any young person starting out on their professional journey. Consequently, we’re keen to provide a platform for them to articulate their experiences and the realities of the working world that they currently face.

This month, we’re doing just that, with the first of our posts from younger guest bloggers who have something they want to share with others, supporting TransTeach’s focus on cross-discipline education. 

This post was written by James Hewlett (https://twitter.com/JPHewlett), a recent masters graduate in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Nottingham. Now employed as a linguist for a large translation company based in Warwickshire, his route to securing his current role involved a whole host of time-consuming applications and interviews, a few false starts, some raised hopes and a number of dashed ones. This is what led him to want to write about a very pertinent topic and one which has undoubtedly helped him arrive at where he finds himself today….

Starting out in the translation industry, or starting any new professional endeavour for that matter, is never easy, and our first few steps will always be fraught with difficulty. For all the effort and work you may have put in to get you where you are today, sometimes it feels that Lady Luck is really just not on your side. If only instant success were as easy to achieve as Bradley Cooper in the film Limitless. Alas, the only place that success comes before work is in a dictionary, at least an English one anyway. But what happens if you haven’t achieved those goals within the time period you wanted to achieve them? What happens if your translation career still hasn’t taken off? Should you throw in the towel and just give up?

It’s safe to say that in my limited professional life, I have been faced with a number of challenges, setbacks and rejections, but there are two important life skills that have got me through these challenges and have led me to finally taking my first steps in the translation industry: perseverance and resilience. Continue reading

Putting Your Money Where Your Translation Technology Tool Is

Challenge 3: How to invest wisely in CAT Tools


For anyone not already in the know, CAT tools stands for Computer Assisted Translation tools (without this key piece of information the rest of this post may not have made quite as much sense!) These are essentially the pieces of software that the translation industry now regularly relies upon. There is a wealth of training available to educate us about their functionality and use, whether this be as part of a degree or masters programme or a course dealing specifically with one piece of translation technology.

With constant new additions to the market place, every translation software provider would have you believe that their product is the best. However, this can leave new translators reeling from information overload and unsure as to what CAT tools any prospective clients are really going to be excepting them to use.

Here’s TransTeach’s low-down on what’s hot and what’s not in the CAT tool world and where best to invest your money for long-term benefit.

The Key Players

Like it or not, just as Microsoft and Apple have a monopoly in the personal computer market place, there are three or four CAT tool providers who hold the majority of the market share. Currently, these are SDL Trados Studio (www.sdl.com), MemoQ (www.memoq.com) WordFast (www.wordfast.com) and Atril’s Déjà Vu (www.atril.com). Rather unsurprisingly, these tools also rank amongst the most expensive there are (in decreasing order of market share). At the time of posting, the Freelance version of SDL Trados Studio alone costs £545 (£685 if you want the Freelance Plus version which allows you to use the software on two machines – e.g. your laptop and a desktop PC). That’s around $820 or €765. We’re certainly not talking small change!

It’s fair to say that all of these tools are widely used across the globe and are constantly in development. In addition to the functionality available for the translator him or herself, there are also corporate versions which incorporate project management components and facilitate the consistency of translations and terminology. Each piece of software has its own pros and cons. For a more in-depth comparison of just what these are, check out the tool provided by Proz.com for this purpose:

http://www.proz.com/software-comparison-tool/cat/cat_tools/

For new translators starting out, who have yet to acquire a client base, it can be very hard to determine which of these tools is the best option, which is why at TransTeach we’d suggest taking the following steps to keep both your new clients, and your pocket, happy…

Find out what any prospective agencies/clients use

When applying to agencies or making contact with direct clients (assuming they don’t offer up details of their preferred translation technology tool – which they often will) ask them which CAT tool(s) they use. Start keeping a tally, so that you get an idea of which one tends to be most popular. When the time comes, as least any choice will be based on some scientific fact rather than your own preference or the advice of other people who deal with a different set of agencies and clients.

Enquire about free licences and export file compatibility 

Over the years at TransTeach, we’ve been asked to use lots of different CAT tools. We never have a problem with this but have often had to explain that we can’t possibly invest in, or be expert users of, every single one. When we first begin working with new clients, we’ve been amazed at how many times they’ve offered us a free licence, meaning we can work using a server-based version of their CAT tool. This usually only involves a quick installation of the user front-end interface on our own computer and away we go. PLEASE NOTE: this approach does require some level of IT proficiency and a little confidence, but we find that most new translators have both of these in today’s technology-centred world.

Alternatively, when starting to work with new clients, if we don’t possess the CAT tool they usually use, there have often been file export/import possibilities. This has meant that we can still use our own CAT tool, and simply import in and export out compatible files from or to the client’s own CAT tool. Some new translators may not be aware of just how much compatibility there is nowadays using exchange formats – particularly the TMX format when exchanging files between CAT tools and localisation tools (those used specifically to help with website translation). For an article that explains this topic in more detail, try reading this comprehensive overview: http://www.maxprograms.com/articles/tmx.html

Download a free trial version

Whilst making a decision about investing in a CAT tool it may, of course, be necessary to use something, simply so that you can take on work that is offered to you from clients. In this case, we would advise investigating the trial versions of software that are nearly always available (usually for 30 days). This allows you to meet your agencies’/client’s needs whilst also getting some practice using a particular tool. Obviously, this isn’t a long-term solution, but it can give you some breathing space and make you feel more confident when you do come to invest in the full version of the CAT tool(s) you eventually opt for.

TransTeach’s own experience

Whilst we simply can’t say what your future clients will or won’t want you to use, we are able to provide you with details of our own experience. This can contribute to other input gained from other industry professionals (and we would always recommend speaking to as many translators as possible before making any final decision).

Since starting out in the industry, in 2003, we’ve found that the CAT tool we’ve most often been asked to use has been SDL Trados Studio (a combination of what was previously two tools from separate companies – SDLX and Trados). Over the years, we have used this tool on a weekly basis both in our own work and for the purposes of professional and academic teaching and we continue to use it today. We hesitate to call it an industry ‘standard’, but we certainly don’t believe you can go far wrong with it.

In recent years, we have been asked to use MemoQ more frequently and WordFast every now and again. Fortunately, most of our clients using MemoQ assign us a free licence as and when required – working from an online server version. They also allow us to work in a bilingual file format for WordFast. No extra investment has therefore been necessary in either of these tools.

There is of course no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when it comes to CAT tools. Every translator’s experience will be different and any decision must be made based on personal circumstance. We hope, however, that this post will go some way to appeasing any new translators who feel under pressure to make an immediate expensive investment. In reality, this is often not necessary. Take a bit of time, do your research, and of course, if any of your CAT tools queries haven’t been answered here, feel free to contact us at info@transteach.com.

To Become Accredited or Not To Become Accredited, That is the Question…

The second in our series of posts for new translators…


Challenge 2: Whether to gain professional accreditation or not

At some point in their career, be it earlier or later, every translator becomes aware of the different professional organisations and bodies that carry clout in the industry. These tend to be national, rather than international, for example the Insitute of Translators and Interpreters in the UK (http://www.iti.org.uk/) and the American Translators’ Association in the United States (https://www.atanet.org/). The one notable exception is probably the global Proz forum (www.proz.com/pro-tag/info/), which accredits translators as a ‘Certified Pro’. Being accredited by any of these organisations undoubtedly has benefits. But is it an essential component for success in the industry?

With an increasing number of undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications in translation becoming available across the globe, not to mention the rise in non-formal education (webinars on industry-specific topics, for instance) it can be all too easy to get lost in the translation qualification and certification quagmire. Here’s TransTeach’s advice for translators just starting out and those who’ve reached a juncture in their career where they’re considering accreditation with one of the industry’s professional associations.

Identify your priorities

If it’s practical aspects of the industry that you want to learn more about (anything from actually practising your translation skills to trying out subtitling, interpreting, translation technologies or improving your sales and marketing skills), academic or non-formal education is probably the best way forward. Professional associations aren’t really geared up to provide lots of content-rich training in this respect. That said, they do often provide information about and a another conduit to such training.

Equally, if you’ve recently completed academic or professional studies and want to focus on honing your translation skills and marketing yourself, then getting yourself an online presence and some work experience is probably a better use of your time in the immediate future. The accreditation process for many professional bodies can be lengthy and unless your studies have exempt you from some of the criteria (i.e. a module or an exam) can detract from gaining valuable work experience in the industry.

Professional bodies are, however, a good option if you want to have your existing skills accredited, increase your network of industry contacts and gain the benefits associated with accreditation.

NOTE: ‘Membership’ is not the same as ‘accreditation’. Membership of professional associations can often be obtained without accreditation. The advantages and disadvantage of membership of professional associations (reduced price subscription to industry-related publications, conferences and even professional indemnity insurance, to name but a few) warrants a whole separate post in its own right. This one deals only with accreditation.

Do a cost/benefit analysis

Accreditation costs vary from country to country and there are often different categories available to choose from. The ITI, for example, offers 3 different levels of individual accreditation (Associate, Qualified Member and Fellow) to suit different stages of your career. Only by researching the cost (which is usually annual) and the different benefits offered can you work out whether or not accreditation of a given type is going to be right for you. To illustrate what can be involved in the application procedure, the criteria required and the kind of benefits that are on offer, the following comprehensive overview of the ITI Qualified Member status is worth a look: http://www.iti.org.uk/become-a-member/membership-categories/368-qualified-member-miti.

There may be more advantages to a particular accreditation than you first realise and these can undoubtedly sway any decision. They certainly have for the thousands of translators who are already accredited!

Our own personal experience is that whilst the benefit list may appear long, the benefits that you regularly utilise can be somewhat more limited. So, ask yourself which of them you really believe you will use. There is the argument that only through trial and error can you ever really tell what you will gain from accreditation. Our aim in this post is simply to ensure that you make an informed decision before deciding to commit to gaining it.

Consider the fields you work in or want to work in

For some areas of translation (legal, scientific, medical and technical in particular) accreditation from a particular association can undoubtedly provide evidence of your credibility to other colleagues in the industry as well as clients. Inclusion in professional body directories can add to your credentials. In fields where technical knowledge is essential because the accuracy of a translation really can be the difference between life and death (or at least being sued or not), then accreditation can often be another very beneficial string to your bow. In the fields of law, science and medicine accreditation is often compulsory for practising professionals. It is therefore no surprise that they look for similar attributes in translators within their field.

Talk to translation colleagues about their experiences

Everyone will have their own stories to tell. Some may be huge advocates of becoming accredited by professional associations; others may not have found the experience to be very beneficial and may never actually have gained any of their work as a direct result of their accredited status. The more people you speak to, the more balanced a view you will obtain about the realities of accreditation. Forewarned is forearmed and all that…

Do what’s right for you

Never, ever, ever, do anything because you feel you must. Here at TransTeach we’ve always been a bit ‘outside of the box’ in our thinking and only ever opted not to become accredited by Proz.com, rather than a particular national body. Our reasons? Proz.com is internationally recognised and therefore our clients all over the world can identify with it. We were also able to gain accreditation by using samples of our actual work (no exam involved) and this method was, for us, preferable. Ironically, we’ve always loved exams and performed well in them but we’ve never felt this was necessarily the fairest way of achieving accreditation. It looks as though things may well be changing in this respect in the future, something which we would welcome.

At TransTeach, we also believe there are manifold ways of gaining credibility and an industry-specific network. We’ve therefore tended to network organically, with individuals, institutions and companies that we really want to collaborate with in the fields that we are proficient in (subtitling, localisation, creative media, travel, education, economic development) and indeed in those that we want to work more in. There really is no substitute for enthusiasm and initiative.

Through client testimonials, social media and even word of mouth, we’ve found that we’re constantly able to develop and grown our business. The wealth of information on the Internet today has probably made this kind of business model even easier to adopt than when we started out.

For any new translators wishing to take a similar route, we’d thoroughly recommend becoming a part of some of the more social/community-based online forums. One of our favourites is the Standing Out group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/standingoutgroup) and the Standing Out Exchange group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/standingoutexchange/). Whilst still relatively new – they’ve been around for a couple of years – they offer a really positive, supportive environment with a huge amount of advice, and even offers of work, from translators all over the world and with all levels of experience, from the very novice right through to the seasoned pro. They also show that when it comes to accreditation there is a complete mix, with some translators having everything going and some having none. There simply isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ formula and discovering that alone can be reassuring.

To conclude this post then, we would suggest not worrying too much about accreditation until you have regular work and some kind of client base, unless, as mentioned, one of your existing courses of study or qualifications happens to exempt you from some components of the application process. Later on, when money and work flow are less of any issue, you can revisit the topic of accreditation and decide whether you see it as advantageous in moving forward with your translation career.

It’s probably worth noting, as a final point, that we see just as many colleagues not renewing their accreditation each year as we see gaining it. Take from that what you will. Just make sure that any decision you arrive at when it comes to translation accreditation is based on thorough research and made with your own professional objectives in mind.

New Translators: Getting Out of The Starting Blocks

We’re often approached by ambitious young translators just starting out in the industry to ask for guidance and advice. Being able to remember quite clearly what it was like when we were starting out, we’ve therefore decided to write a series of posts addressing some of the challenges/dilemmas they most commonly face. We hope it’s of help and of course, let us know if you have any other questions related to starting out in the industry… 

Challenge no. 1: The ‘No experience, no work’ vicious cycle

One of the most difficult issues to overcome when starting out in any new industry (whether you’re looking to work for someone else or for yourself) is getting a foot in the door. All too often, jobs, or obtaining work from clients, is dependent on experience, and yet only by doing a job or working for a client can you gain experience. Ouch! Where to start?

As with most things in life, tenacity is vital, an element of (good!) luck always helps and thinking outside of the box never hurts. So, here are TransTeach’s tips for trying to get work and experience simultaneously…

1) Volunteer

Whilst of course this doesn’t involve payment, one of the best ways to gain experience in any industry, translation included, is to volunteer your services in the appropriate quarters. In the world of translation, there are a number of entities looking for pro bono translators, and these cn give you valuable experience as well as providing you with something solid to add to your CV.

Examples of such entities include:

www.translatorswithoutborders.orgwww.permondo.eu and www.volunteermatch.org

2) Apply for an internship

Many companies who don’t have the capacity for to pay an extra employee throughout the year will take on students or recent graduates for short-term internships. This helps the intern gain experience and provides the company with valuable extra man power – usually someone who is studying or has completed studies in a related field. Internship positions are often advertised in universities and colleges but can also be found online on common translation portals such as http://www.proz.com and http://www.translatorscafe.com.

In addition, contacting agencies directly (by phone – personal contact can often give you an edge over the competition) can yield surprising results. Some may offer you something for just a few weeks with some travel expenses included, even if full payment is not. This can be a great way of adding industry-specific experience to your CV.

3) Apply for in-house jobs

In-house translator positions are not, contrary to popular believe, generally found at translation agencies. They tend to occur in larger companies which have regular, field-specific translation needs (e. g automotive companies, banks and financial entities, press agencies). These positions are generally advertised on both the company’s own website but also on the larger online employment portals. These include international employment sites such as www.monster.com, translation-specific sites such as http://www.translatorscafe.com and also country specific job sites such as https://jobs.theguardian.com and http://www.nytimes.com/section/jobs.

The two key advantages of working in-house are the experience you gain and the regular salary you receive, but there are many others: professional development opportunities that come as a part of your role; growing your network of industry contacts; the opportunity to try other translation-related work (editing, proofreading, terminology management, desktop publishing); and of course time to decide whether or not a particular field of translation really interests you.

4) Apply for translation agency jobs

A huge quantity of the translation work that takes place around the world is done through agencies. The volumes requested by large companies who don’t have their own in-house translation team can only really be effectively managed by an agency with a team of both project managers and translators. Translation software is of course also imperative for large projects today, to ensure consistency, and generally, it is only agencies that can afford to make the investment in the variety of necessary technologies.

Consequently, working for an agency can be an extremely varied role and one which provides you with a wealth of different translation-related experience. Project manager roles provide an understanding of the overall translation process, from quote to delivery, whilst quality assessment work can give you exposure to translations performed by experienced translators, which are invaluable for honing your own skills. There are now also many industry-specific quality certifications that agencies obtain to increase their credibility (e.g. ISO 9001:2008, UNE EN-15038:2006, TÜV Rheinland). Knowledge of these can be an extremely useful addition to your CV.

A word of warning: translation agency jobs can often be very pressurised and demanding. Whilst interaction with clients and having colleagues around all day are undoubtedly two of the very positive elements of such roles, dealig with customers who want work completed within unrealistic deadlines and long working hours can also be commonplace. Before taking on any role with a translation agency, try to gauge what their corporate culture is like. Some offer a better work-life balance than others and if you are thinking of working for an agency as a long-term prospect, you’d be well advised to do your research beforehand.

5) Apply for freelance work

Where, how and with whom to find freelance translation work is the subject of another series of blogs in its own right. However, it will suffice here to say that in order to gain experience, any and every opportunity should be taken. Often, this may involve freelance work, whether full-time freelancing is the particular career you are after or not.

As well submitting your CV and a covering letter to agencies or private clients directly, get yourself an online presence as quickly as possible (as website can be created for next to nothing when you first start out these days). That way, people can contact you and it’s surprising what experience can come your way via this means.

If you do nothing else, set up your own profile on the globally renowned translator sites www.proz.comand www.translatorscafe.com.

Where possible, identify more experienced freelance translators as many of them have too much work coming in to complete it on their own and regularly outsource smaller or more generalist pieces. Contact them and explain that you are new to the industry and want to gain experience. Just as agencies often ask for a test translation, they may ask you to translate a few hundred words (do not agree to do more than this!) for free, to demonstrate your ability. If they are satsfied with your work then you could find pieces coming your way almost immediately and working with a more experienced professional will enable you get open and honest advice on rates, certain types of translation work and so on. View it as a translation apprenticeship and you could potentially be looking at a very long and fruitful working relationship. In the freelance translation industry, which is generally an extremely helpful and supportive one, this is exactly what we’re all after!

Sincere thanks to all of the new translators we teach, train and come into contact with, whose thirst for knowlege about the industry continues to inspire us and has us racking our brains to come up with more helpful information and advice.

Thanks in particular to James Hewlett (M.A. – as of today!) whose recent set of extremely articulate and detailed questions helped prompt some of the content in this series. Congratulations on the distinction in your newly acquired translation qualification James! May you have a long and successful career in the industry 🙂

If you found this post helpful or have any more questions about getting out of the translation starting blocks, drop us a line at info@transteach.com.

5 Top Tips For New Translators

Well before I founded TransTeach, I was was training new translators. In fact, I started training new translators just a few months after I stopped being one myself (a new translator that is!) With a background in education, I was approached about a year after I finished my own translation masters to teach on the very same course. And thus, over a decade of translator training was born.
 
I see lots of advice given to new translators these days, most of it extremely beneficial. I certainly wish some of it had been on offer when I started out!
 
Based on my own personal journey, the following are 5 top tips that I believe all new translators can benefit from, to ensure their career goes from strength to strength.

Tip 1 – Don’t undersell yourself!
Someone gave me this very piece of advice when I first started out and I’ve never forgotten it. Translation remains an underrated profession. If you don’t value your time and skills then no-one else will. So, do your research is necessary and then set yourself a baseline. Decide the minimum amount (daily/hourly/per word) you’re prepared to work for and then don’t budge from there. Ever! The minute you do, you make it harder for both you and every other professional translator to raise the bar and have people hold the profession in the esteem it deserves. Obviously, your minimum amounts may vary over time and indeed increase as you become more experienced. However, translating needs to pay you a wage you can live on, and are happy with, otherwise, to be frank, you might as well go and get a job which gives you holiday pay, sick pay and a pension on top!

Tip 2 – Don’t get obsessed with ‘specialising’ too early on.
When I started out, people had me down as a finance, technical and medical specialist (because my studies happened to focus on those areas). Ten years later and I’ve managed to cast off this mantle, as I discovered that I don’t particularly enjoy working in these areas. I’m creative; I like books, films, travel and the arts. Unsurprisingly, these are areas I’ve gravitated towards and the ones I now predominantly work in. I thought I had to know what I was going to want to translate from the off. I was wrong. Experiment, take on different types of work (skills and confidence permitting) and don’t pigeonhole yourself until you’ve developed plenty of experience and know yourself and your interests inside out, through trial and error.

Tip 3 – Keep your options open
I’ve seen translators come and I’ve seen them go. Some stay in the industry a lifetime, some are gone within a year. Translating, whether in-house or freelance, isn’t going to suit everyone for the long term, so keep your options open. If you have experience working in education, marketing, hospitality, the sciences or any other of a multitude of areas, don’t just let it slide. Keep your hand in, if possible, and further your knowledge and skills in that area. Not only will it serve you well if you decide you want to use it as your specialist translation ‘niche’, if you decide translation really isn’t for you at any point, then you won’t find it anywhere near as hard to get back into the job market.

Tip 4 – Develop, develop, develop…
As with any other self-employed professional, no longer will your career development be planned out for you. It’s all down to you from here on in. So, make sure you find time (and save money) to take any courses that appeal to you and keep up with the latest developments in the industry. Investigate opportunities and don’t be afraid to try out new aspects of the profession (proofreading, editing, copywriting, transcreation, localisation, subtitling etc). It’s amazing what comes your way when you have an open-mind and are willing to take on a new challenge. As with any career these days, if you snooze you lose. So, make your own professional development a priority and plan it in to your yearly schedule like your boss would do (if you still had one!)

Tip 5 – Find strategies to deal with the dry times.
Translation, if you’re working as a freelancer, offers no guarantees in terms of workload. Sometimes there’ll be so much on offer you could cry. Others, there’ll be so little available…you could cry (even more!) Very few translators love the uncertainty that comes with the professional territory but there are definitely ways of making it more bearable. Whether you use quiet times to get stuck in to administration and marketing yourself or to catch up on household chores and family time, always have a plan for the next time you’re without a deadline. And if you don’t like being without work (and I can assure you lots of us really don’t!) then find other ways to subsidise your income – teaching, part-time work in another field, writing etc – so that you don’t have all of your eggs in one basket. For any self-employed professional these days, diversity is the name of the game. We no longer live in a ‘job for life’ world, so ensuring you have several strings to your professional bow is a must, not a ‘nice-to-have’.

Claire Culliford – TransTeach founder

If you found this post helpful or have any more questions about starting out in the translation industry, drop me a line and let me know at info@transteach.com. And of course, good luck on your own translation journey. Enjoy the ride!