Confessions of a Freelance Translator: An interview with Gary Smith Reply

“Welcome to one of the best jobs in the world!” screams the back cover of Gary Smith’s new book: Confessions of a Freelance Translator, Secrets To Success, a book offering practical, easily applicable tips to make a successful living out of freelance translation.

Gary Smith, a ProZ.com member, Certified PRO, trainer, event organizer and conference speaker, is an experienced proofreader and translator from Spanish and Catalan to English. A British native, he has lived in Spain for over two decades, offering webinars and talks internationally and around Spain.

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Gary Smith, author of “Confessions of a Freelance Translator, Secrets To Success”

In today’s post, I had a chance to speak with Gary about Confessions of a Freelance TranslatorSecrets To Success, the motivation behind the book, the process of writing it and the usefulness of the tips and tricks he provides throughout the book to translators starting out or who wish to make the leap to better earnings and work.


The interview

Me: What inspired you to write this book?

Gary: This is the kind of book I wish I’d had many years ago, so I could have avoided mistakes! Back then I would have loved this book with plenty of practical, applicable tips on freelance translation to start out or move up to higher earnings and productivity.

I think today in general there’s a generally positive attitude in the freelance translation community and a good example of that is Erik Hansson’s cathartic Facebook page “Things Translators Never Say” (TTNS) (voted winner of the ProZ.com Community Choice Award for best Facebook Page), which looks at frustrating situations with clients with humor and inspired this book’s title (there is a section in the book with funny situations with clients). It’s far better to laugh about such things with our colleagues around the world than to bang your head against the desk!

Even so, I felt there was a need for a book with this positive attitude that also gives a great deal of realistic, useful advice for translators about how to improve their situation. The Things Translators Never Say group gave me plenty of examples of typical problems faced by freelance translators, which helped me understand what they need and produce a book for them, all with a dash of of humour. And here it is!

Me:  What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Gary: Strangely, the same kind of things we come across as translators, since translators themselves are writers! In other words: organisation, editing, revising, reviewing, proofreading, layout, design, etc. Then, as our translation clients sometimes do, I’d discover something new or realize I’d forgotten to mention something, so I’d have to add it in a logical, coherent way. Sometimes I thought I’d never finish it!

It’s taken about three years to write and I’ve used material from my own talks as well as studying successful small businesses and listening to advice from my experienced translation colleagues, of course.

Me: How much of the book is realistic? Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own professional life?

Gary: All of it! But the difference with this book is that there are lots of examples we can all relate to from service providers we come across in everyday life, using similar “tricks of the trade” that are in fact relevant to all professions and applying them to translation services to help attract and keep good clients.

There are also many examples from my own experience in the profession and from translators I have known over the years. Too many good translators are let down by a lack of simple, practical business nous that doesn’t seem to get taught enough in formal education. Whether we like it or not, most translators have to be freelancers and therefore entrepreneurs to a certain extent to make a good living.

Me: Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?

Gary: Hmm…I’d say above all the message is that you can definitely make a good living out of translation by being a good professional and that the pros definitely outweigh the cons. It’s a great job if you get it right!

Me: Did you learn anything from writing your book? If so, what was it?

Gary: Well, as I’ve found when preparing my talks for congresses and webinars, when you want to teach something well and clearly you always end up fact-checking and learning something yourself, yes. I learned a lot from small business experts and even about sales psychology. And I also listened to some of my successful translation colleagues, of course! But with this book in particular, I observed service providers of all kinds, learning how they deal with their customers.

Me: Can we take a sneak peek at the book before its release?

29a0fa76-d14e-474b-86f9-6dec6a4fe8deThe book, through Gary: “…First, let’s put ourselves in our potential client’s shoes. The monolingual, monocultural client needs a text translated but knows nothing about translation, how to find a good translator, or how much they may reasonably charge. Their idea of a human translator may be a studious hermit sitting at a desk piled with paper dictionaries, holding a quill poised in the air as they muse over a mixed metaphor. On the other hand, the only translator everybody in the developed world has heard of is Google Translate. Everybody has used the famous word cruncher once in a while to see what their Chinese tattoo actually means or get the gist of a foreign news article or recipe. So our potential client knows of Google Translate at least. They also know it is capable of translating thousands of words per second for free. And then they turn to you and discover that it will take days and cost several hundreds or thousands of euros. Understandably, they may well be taken aback.

To understand their predicament, imagine your car breaks down in a town you don’t know and you have to find a decent mechanic to repair it. At one garage they nonchalantly tell you it’s going to cost € 5‌‌‍0 and take half an hour. At another, they shake their heads sagely and tell you it’ll cost € 1,000 and take a week. Who’s telling the truth? Who knows what they’re doing? Who’s trying to rip you off? In order to gain a potential client’s confidence, there are little strategies that mechanics and other service providers from lawyers to doctors can and do use to allay our fears and convince us to choose their services. We, too, can apply such strategies to gain our clients’ trust. We shall look at them throughout this book.”

Me: When will the book be released and how will readers be able to purchase it?

Gary:  The book will be made available any time now at Lulu.com.

The book

Confessions of a Freelance Translator is divided into easily digestible sections relating to: finding, keeping and dealing with clients, setting fees, visibility, guiding the client through the translation process, freelance organisation in general, specialisation with some useful tips on scientific and technical translation, a general discussion of hot topics (e.g. machine and crowd translation), some tips on small interpreting jobs and of course some hilarious examples of confessions of a freelance translator!


Get this book →

From the corporate corner: New benefits for Corporate members Reply

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Translation companies are an essential segment of the industry, and one key objective of ProZ.com is to better understand their needs and to provide them with tools, opportunities and resources which will help them achieve their objectives.

And of course this also means providing better opportunities for good translators and good companies to meet for their common benefit.

In line with this goal, ProZ.com Corporate members enjoy all the benefits associated with the site’s professional membership package, such as unlimited Blue Board access, plus several other tools and opportunities available exclusively to Corporate members, such as:

  • Increased visibility through privileged positioning in the Translation agency and company directory, the industry’s busiest directory for finding language service providers
  • Full access to both the traditional and advanced directories for finding service providers and collaborators, including premium job posts and vendor management tools
  • A corporate membership badge for added credibility among service providers and clients
  • Access to a dedicated instance of the translation center to manage translation projects, assign tasks and keep all communication and data in a single platform
  • Only Corporate members may apply for inclusion in the ProZ.com Certified PRO Network, giving them increased credibility, visiblity and promotion
  • The ability to extend the Corporate membership benefits and access to employee accounts
  • Immediate job posting (no vetting required)
  • Risk management through exclusive access to a scam prevention tool that allows them to verify the contact email address of potential service providers
  • In the event of feedback or payment disputes on the Blue Board, Corporate members have the ability to work closely with ProZ.com support staff in resolving issues quickly
  • Priority response to support requests, including phone support

The ProZ.com team is currently working on new Corporate-only features such as Classic jobs notifications, a mechanism for corporate members to report feedback on non-delivery by translators, and improved features for employee accounts.

Further down the road we plan to provide better risk management tools – especially for fraud prevention – as well as advanced vendor management features for recruiting, qualifying and managing service providers.

Several channels are used to learn about the needs of translation companies, including through the site’s support center. A survey is also being conducted in order for ProZ.com to better assess the needs of translation companies and learn how it can add value to Corporate membership. If you have not yet participated in this survey, please taking a few minutes to share your concerns and feedback.

Last but not least, I would like to open acorporate corner in this blog, and extend an invitation to all ProZ.com Corporate members to share their views on industry-related issues through a series of guest blog posts. If you are interested in contributing to this initiative, please reply in the comments section below.

Let’s all grow together!

Guest post by Paula Ribeiro: Interpreting the present to translate the future Reply

Today’s guest post was written by Paula Ribeiro – president and co-founder of the Portuguese Association of Translators and Interpreters (APTRAD). This organization will be holding its first international conference on June 18th and 19th in Porto, Portugal.


APTRAD, the Portuguese Association of Translators and Interpreters, was established in February 2015 by a group of freelance professionals in response to a perceived need for a modern, creative and innovative approach in order to achieve greater cohesion and exchange of information at a national level within the profession. After almost one year of hard work we are proud of achieving some of the important goals we initially set.

APTRAD’s motto – Interpreting the present to translate the future – reflects the Association’s aim to promote and foster the growth of its professional members, and to support the integration as professionals of all future translators and interpreters into the market.

Pursuing this thought, APTRAD is holding its first International Conference on June 18-19, 2016. Taking advantage of the main festivities of our city in that month, we will try our best to turn this event into a big party, welcoming all translators, interpreters and linguists in general to join us in our beloved hometown – Porto.

The theme of the conference will be “Stages in the career of a freelancer” and will tackle the different phases in the career of a professional freelance translator and/or interpreter and what’s expected and required at each stage. We will have renowned speakers who will certainly inspire all of us with their knowledge and experience in several areas of our profession.

The organisation of this event becomes much easier with the valuable help of our partners in which ProZ.com is included as an essential reference in the career of so many professionals. A big thank you on behalf of APTRAD.

Feel free to visit our website at www.aptrad.pt and more specifically the conference website at www.aptrad.pt/conference/conference and drop us a line if you need help from us. See you in Portugal, in June!


About Paula RibeiroPaul Ribeiro

Paula Ribeiro started translating in 1997, and since then she knew that this was the career she wanted to pursue! She graduated in 2006 with a Master’s Degree in Specialized Translation and Interpretation with English and French as her working languages, and later Spanish as her third language. She is currently pursuing a postgraduate degree in Computer Assisted Translation.

In 2010, Paula decided to create her own company – Crossingwords – and to undertake translation and interpretation as her main occupation, always maintaining her education and training as a key part of her professional and personal development.

As an event organizer, Paula has planned several conferences on both a national and international scale, including the 2013 ProZ.com International Conference.

Since February 2015 Paula has been one of the founders and the President of APTRAD, the Portuguese Association of Translators and Interpreters, a formally constituted non-profit organisation based in Porto.


Did you know?

You can find APTRAD’s international conference listed on ProZ.com’s translation industry events calendar, along with dozens of other language and translation-related events that are scheduled to take place this year, ranging from workshops or seminars, to powwows, to regional events, to major international conferences.

See the announcement: http://www.proz.com/topic/298930

ProZ.com teams up with TM-Town Reply

proz_tmtown_merger_final (2)Since 2014, TM-Town creators Kevin Dias and Nate Hill have sought to provide translators with tools to better manage their linguistic assets and meet clients who are looking for language professionals in their specific areas of expertise. These kinds of services are at the core of ProZ.com’s mission statement to give translators the resources and opportunities to grow their businesses and improve their work. The ProZ.com team is happy to announce that as of April 13th, the site will be joining forces with TM-Town in the hopes of better serving translators. See the announcement »

On behalf of ProZ.com, I want to welcome Kevin and Nate to the ProZ.com community. TM-Town’s platform is constantly being improved and updated with better tools designed with language professionals in mind, and we are excited to see what will come next.

Welcome to the team, Kevin and Nate!

Guest post: Why I volunteer for Translators Without Borders Reply

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Pieter Beens is a freelance translator and copywriter working in English to Dutch, and a frequent guest contributor to the Translator T.O. 

In this post, Pieter shares his experience as a volunteer translator for Translators Without Borders.


I just completed a translation for Translators Without Borders, my fourth this year. And I must admit I was touched. This time I translated for a charity that helped orphaned children get back to school after the Ebola outbreak last year. Such a beautiful initiative needs our support. I did my small part by translating their sponsoring letter into Dutch, and hope that the letter will help raise the funds necessary to bring these children back to education. That is why I chose to register as a volunteer for Translators Without Borders a couple of years ago, and why I have already translated more than ten thousand words through this organization for several different charities. And there are many more volunteer translators doing the same, donating their time and effort towards helping various other charity initiatives that deserve support. Through Translators Without Borders, we have already translated 30 million words for a multitude of audiences in almost every country in the world.

About Translators Without Borders

Many of us know Doctors Without Borders, an international organization offering worldwide medical support in the event of humanitarian crises and other urgent situations. In 1993, two pioneers in the translation industry founded a linguistic equivalent of it, Translators Without Borders, aimed to link translators around the world to vetted NGOs that focus on health, nutrition and education. Today the platform is affiliated to ProZ.com and sponsored by many translation agencies worldwide. Translators Without Borders offers them a chance to share their knowledge and resources in order to help the needy, while at the same time sponsoring can show off their social responsibility. The translation agencies do not necessarily offer translations, but they offer funding. Translations are done by professionals who voluntarily sign up to offer their help to organizations in need of translations in their language TWBpairs.

Registering to volunteer your services through Translators Without Borders does not mean you are obligated to accept every project that comes your way through this organization, nor does it necessarily guarantee that projects will be passed to you. As you can imagine, the demand for volunteers varies greatly depending on language pair and pool of available candidates. Indeed, there is a very high demand for professionals working in certain pairs, and less demand in other pairs. There may also be many translators volunteering in some language combinations, and far fewer volunteers available in others.

Why choose Translators Without Borders

Last year I wrote about five reasons to translate for charities and tips for supporting charities as a translator. Translating for Translators Without Borders can be seen as a part of my commitment to offer my professional services to organizations that support those in need. At the same time, Translators Without Borders does not require a huge commitment. In my language pair (English into Dutch) requests are sent irregularly, from organizations like Wikipedia, street newspapers, and the International Red Cross. The nature of translation tasks varies from interviews, to fundraising letters and other important information about diseases like the Zika virus, for which I recently translated a text.

In general, project deadlines can be fairly long; in many cases the deadline for a text with 500 words may be around 10 days, while the deadline for texts with 2000 words can even be 30 days. That enables translators to focus on their important tasks and to do volunteer tasks in their own pace. After having delivered the text many clients often leave gracious feedback, knowing that without our help it would have been much more difficult to reach local audiences in their local languages.

In short, volunteering for Translators Without Borders is a rewarding opportunity that enables freelance translators to use their professionalism and passion for a higher goal. I highly recommend it!


Did you know?

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Members of ProZ.com’s Certified PRO Network do not need to undergo any additional screening process to join Translators Without Borders’s team of volunteers.

You can learn more about this initiative and apply for inclusion in the program here: http://www.proz.com/pro-tag/info/about/

A silver bullet against translation scammers 1

Scammers who prey on translators will not go away. They operate under fake names, pretending to be clients, and cheat translators out of their work or money. The community has taken on the task of creating resources and sharing information about these scams with impressive results, creating an abundance of posts raising awareness about scams targeting translators. The oldest such article I could find dates back to January 2011, and since then they have multiplied. There are also discussion hubs like ProZ.com’s Scams forum in which information about scammers is shared on a daily basis. I think it is safe to say that creating content to fight this blight is a step that has been successfully taken.

As the manager of ProZ.com’s Translator scam alert center since 2011, I have been in touch with people that have fallen for scams for a long time. A pattern that stands out is that only those who are unaware of online scammers fall for scams. Knowledge of online scams and risk management procedures, in this case, works like a vaccine that makes the one exposed to it immune to scams. The knowledge is out there and it’s being shared, but not everyone may be exposed to helpful information in regards to spotting scammers.

No amount of posts about known scammers will prevent new scammers from finding new victims, but a solid method for risk management method may. I would like to propose the following steps as the silver bullet for risk management:

  1. If you are offered a job that does not make sense to you, does not match the service they offer, is below your rates, etc., simply dismiss it.
  2. If you are offered a job that you find interesting, ask for verifiable contact information.
  3. Once you receive verifiable contact information, check it until you are sure you know who you are dealing with.
  4. After that, check payment practices and other information (for instance in the ProZ.com Blue Board).

Anyone who fails any of these checks should be deemed too risky for collaboration. This doesn’t mean they are confirmed scammers, they are just too risky to consider doing business with them.


Have you ever been the victim of a translation-related scam? If so, what could you have done differently to prevent it?

Translator training: You have the knowledge, ProZ.com has the tools Reply

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Translators and interpreters make intercultural communication possible through language, sharing ideas and concepts with people throughout the world. It is important that they understand the substance of translated material, use up-to-date software and platforms, and keep an eye on new tendencies in the industry.

The ProZ.com training platform helps beginning and  experienced professionals alike to develop their skills and reach new levels in their careers. Sessions are offered one-on-one, live, or on-demand for greater flexibility in delivering content to translators, interpreters and language professionals. ProZ.com trainers are experienced freelancers and outstanding members of the ProZ.com community who have decided to share their knowledge and expertise with their colleagues through the site’s training platform.

More than 30,000 site users have participated in training sessions proposed through the ProZ.com training area. One of the most beloved training formats – webinars – are always of interest to translators as they allow site users to communicate with the trainer directly and get answers to their questions live. Webinar attendees also enjoy unlimited access to the video recording of the session as well as any course materials. Participants are awarded certificates of attendance after these sessions, some of which can be verified as credentials at ProZ.com.

Another great source of knowledge for translators and interpreters are tutorials on ProZ.com, as well as videos recorded during the site’s free webinar weeks. You only need an Internet connection and a headset/speakers to attend, and videos, can be watched in your free time and at your own pace.

“Being a trainer helps me in my own professional development. It is a great opportunity to share what I know with other translators.”

Over the past few years, trainers from 45 countries have generously shared their knowledge and expertise through ProZ.com’s training platform, on topics ranging from business skills and marketing to software and translation tools, services and specialization, project management, industry trends, and more. Among these trainers are experienced and well-known conference speakers; experts in medical, legal, technical, literary, and environmental fields; experienced marketing specialists; and technology aficionados. Despite their varying backgrounds and specialties, these trainers all share a passion for the translation profession, endless curiosity, readiness to take a risk with a new service, and a willingness to share what they have learned with their colleagues.

“I have been a trainer at ProZ.com since 2010 and have enjoyed it immensely. The ProZ.com Training Department provides an intuitive webinar platform as well as feedback and ideas for trainers to ensure success.”

Becoming a ProZ.com professional trainer requires no previous knowledge or experience with e-learning technologies, and the course creation process offers helpful tips and comprehensive guidelines on how to create an effective promotional page for a new training.

“The amount of support I get from the ProZ.com team is what has kept me as a trainer here for 5 years, even though I have my own web-based school.  I love the ease of the communication, the extraordinarily good suggestions, the initial in-depth discussions we had when I was just starting, and the intelligent comments I receive today. Thank you for encouraging me to  become a trainer, making it possible afterwards, providing the specialized platform and technology support, creating the marketing packages, and – best of all – giving me the opportunity to work with an amazing team!”

The new year has come bringing a lot to the translation industry. Let’s learn together about new tendencies and tips for translators through training at ProZ.com.


About HelenHelen

Helen Shepelenko is a ProZ.com staff member working out of the site’s office in Kharkiv, Ukraine. As the manager of ProZ.com’s training area, Helen oversees the recruitment of new site trainers, and reviews proposals and suggestions for courses offered through the platform. If you are an experienced language professional and are interested in sharing your knowledge with the ProZ.com community, please contact Helen through the Trainers section of the site: http://www.proz.com/translator-training/trainers/