Translators Without Borders recruits ProZ.com Certified PRO members for ambitious localization program 3

For those not already familiar with it, Translators Without Borders is an independent non-profit association established in 1993, dedicated to helping NGOs extend their humanitarian work by providing free, professional translations.

The funds saved through the use of volunteer translations can then be used by the NGOs in the field, enabling them to extend the scope and reach of their humanitarian work. Some of the supported NGOs include Médecins Sans Frontières, Zafèn, Médecins du Monde, Acting for Life, Aide et Action, the Association ASMAE, ATD Fourth World, ATD Fourth World and GoodPlanet.

The core of Translators Without Borders are the about 300 volunteer translators who donate their time, efforts and knowledge to help make the world a better place, together with doctors, nurses and other volunteers working in NGO and humanitarian associations.

Since translations related to humanitarian emergencies leave no time for review (and even less room for error), Translators Without Borders looks exclusively for experienced and solid translators able to do produce strong, professional translations.

Translators willing to volunteer with Translators Without Borders can complete an application and if the application is approved they are required to perform at least a translation test as part of the screening process.

The job interface

ProZ.com has been supporting Translators Without Borders both in the screening of their volunteer translators via the ProZ.com screening center and in the posting of translation jobs.

The current Translators Without Borders jobs interface is extremely efficient. When a job is posted, the system will identify the pool of translators who are approved for the assignment (approved into the system and with the proper language pair and, eventually, field of expertise).

This pool will then be sorted. In the case of Translators Without Borders this sorting is random in nature, because the idea is to balance the load among the volunteers, but in a commercial application other criteria would be followed, according to the preferences of the company acting as platform manager.

The system will then proceed to notify the translators in batches separated by fixed delays. In the case of Translators Without Borders, these are batches of 5 translators each, and there is a 15 minute delay between a batch of notifications and the next but both of these numbers can be controlled.

These notifications include a link to a page dedicated to the job, with optional descriptions of the client, the project and the job, plus the file to be translated and any special instructions provided when posting the job. The translator can review the offered file and all the information and decide to accept it or not.

When one of the notified translators accepts the job, it immediately becomes unavailable to all other translators and no further notifications are sent out.

This interface includes a communications feature for the exchange of messages (with notifications) between the translator and the job poster, and also a feature to deliver the translated file once the job is completed.

A case study: localization of GoodPlanet’s web page

On February 17th, Translators Without Borders was contacted by the NGO GoodPlanet, who requested help in translating their new website into as many languages as possible beyond English, French and Spanish (which were already available).

Since the languages where Translators Without Borders is stronger were not required, a decision was made to contact members of ProZ.com’s Certified PRO Network and to ask them for help, offering to add any volunteer directly to the list of approved Translators Without Borders translators (the Certified PRO Network has a screening process similar to that used by Translators Without Borders).

The results were amazing; 38 translators volunteered and the GoodPlanet website is currently being localized into the following 15 languages: Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, German, Dutch, Romanian, Russian, Indonesian, Polish, Swedish, Turkish, Hungarian, Greek, Slovak and Japanese.

There is room for translation into additional languages. Any Certified PRO members who are willing to collaborate with Translations Without Borders in general, and with GoodPlanet in particular, are welcome to contact Translators Without Borders via their ProZ.com profile at http://www.proz.com/profile/1352791

Protecting yourself from fraud: another recent example 8

Thanks to Neil Payne at Kwintessential for bringing this next case out, in which both translators and agency are affected when the scammer poses as a legitimate, existing company.  I reproduce here a version of the post originally made on Kwintessential’s blog (scroll down for the link to the original posting):

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By very good fortune a translation scam using Kwintessential’s name and brand has been exposed by an eagle-eyed translator.

The email was sent to the translator, who shall be called Mr X, requesting information for a large project.

Dear Mr. X

As translation office on the west coast of the US, we are looking for freelance translators in languages: German, French and Spanish.
Our research for translators in the German language has brought up your name again and again. You have been highly recommended by some of our valued customers and colleagues.

We need to request information on your current rates, your fields of expertise (law, merchandising and advertisement needed), words per day translated also a time schedule of your availability for the months of March, April and May 2011.

The project we will be working on, enfolds a value of 80.000 words, was commissioned by a notable US American company.

We will need your documentation not later than March 01.2011.

Best regards,

[Contact information removed from this post]

Emails went back and forth between [the sender] and Mr X with the former potentially placing a large amount of work. It was by good fortune that Mr X was suspicious of the email due to 1) the email being a non-company address (xxxx@aim.com) and 2) the misspelling of Kwintessential. Out of prudency Mr X decided to reply and CC’d our USA office whose address was used in the signature. Our Manager in the USA immediately drew our attention to the matter.

It appears the scam works in the following manner: a translation agency wins a contract to carry out a translation job. In order to increase their profit margins they send emails to freelance translators requesting they take on the assignment. The poor translator naturally feels they are in good hands but will eventually come to realize they will never be paid. The scamming agency therefore makes a 100% mark-up. All the translator can do is come to the real Kwintessential who will obviously have no idea of what has happened.
It is extremely unfortunate that people feel they have to carry out their business without principles and ethics. It is these scammers that give us reputable agencies a bad name. On top of this they are taking advantage of the good will of translators who work extremely hard, are true professionals and do not deserve such treatment.

Thankfully Mr X was clever enough to work out the bad intentions of [the scammer]. We have written to [the scammer] but surprise surprise no reply.

Message of the story for translators is always check the credentials of the agency and ensure 100% they are the real deal.

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See the original post at Intercultural Communication and Translation News

Are you making the best use of social media for your business? 8

A common perception of social networking sites is that they are good for socializing with friends, family, and strangers, “goofing around”, and not too much else. But social media and social networking sites (such as Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, etc.) have been growing in popularity and utility for businesses for some time now. Many professionals are viewing these as tools, taking advantage of them, and using them to build their business. Freelance translators are no exception.

Some translators still seem reluctant when it comes to using social networks as a marketing tool for their businesses (see these poll results from 2009 and 2010). Some are testing the waters, and others have already become adept at leveraging key networks with good results.

Social networking communities provide an opportunity for you to contribute your opinions, interests, and skills on the Internet. They can help you recover, maintain, and build your professional business network. Among the most frequently cited benefits of using social media as a marketing tool for your business are:

  • Enhancing your online visibility
  • Advertising your name, personal branding and/or services on the Internet
  • Detecting and utilizing information that can help you grow your business
  • Strengthening your relationships with clients
  • Building an online reputation
  • Reminding your clients that you exist
  • Distinguishing yourself from the rest (by adding/aggregating valuable content)
  • “Entering the dialogue and the 21st century”– not using the Web for networking and prospecting for business “leaves you in the cold”
  • Building up a defined and selected network of like-minded and skilled colleagues
  • Getting your comments and opinions about translation-related topics indexed on Google and other search engines (on Twitter this can be done through a careful selection of “hashtags” like #xl8,  #L10n , #languages)
  • Staying abreast of the latest news and trends in the industry

Image from WebTreats ETC

Other benefits of social networks include:

  • Knowing what your colleagues are up to and following their tips on, and experiences in, translation
  • Finding out about interesting industry blog posts (and promoting yours!)
  • Following the news from one place (as opposed to going to and browsing every site and/or blog on the topics in which you are interested)
  • Receiving help in real-time (Twitter is a good example of this)
  • and having fun

Of course, it is important to start on the right foot. Here are some tips that may help you have a pleasant online experience:

  1. Be clear on what you want to achieve for your business overall.
  2. Build a user profile that is a snapshot of your skills and of the services you offer (this is what your potential clients and colleagues will see). Keep your professional profile and the activity you engage in with that profile professional.
  3. Find out what is out there and invest your energy in the social sites and/or groups that reach your target market or networking needs.
  4. Define and know your criteria for accepting social connections with colleagues and clients and feel comfortable with it (compare the difference of adding a valued, professional connection to simply adding an unknown name to a list of contacts.)

And remember, social networks can be your diary, your address book, a daily newspaper, your online ad and more. It is up to you!

Useful links:

What about you? How are you leveraging social media for your business? What other Do’s and Dont’s have you encountered?

Romina

 

Protecting yourself from fraud: a recent example 5

I’d like to share a recent case of a fraudulent job, which may serve as complimentary information to Enrique’s post on scams earlier this month, and as an example of how important it is for translators to do their homework when entering into negotiations with a potential new client.

A job was posted on the site. The job itself met the requirements and rules for posting a job.

However, upon entering into communication with the poster of the job, at least two site members noticed certain aspects which sent up red flags for them, and they reported these through the support system. The causes of the suspicion included a free webmail address, a resistance to provide full contact details, and in one case “awarding” the job and emitting a PO only to then cancel not long afterward.

When this was reported through support, further investigation into the matter revealed that a case of potential credit card fraud was also present. In the end the job was removed, the posting profile was removed, and translators who had quoted on the job were contacted and warned to proceed with caution if they were in contact with the job poster.

First, this is a nice example of how a couple of alert members were able to help save colleagues some time and headache. Equally important, though, is the example of being vigilant when it comes to business decisions, in this case, “Should I choose to work with this person?”

Some job postings require vetting, and this vetting is done by site staff. However, a majority of the jobs posted do not require vetting (for example when the job poster has membership or has been “whitelisted” for having posted previous jobs which were in line with site rules, having a strong Blue Board record, etc.). Regardless of whether vetting is required or not, efforts are made to ensure that the jobs posted are legitimate and to protect ProZ.com members. However, this is not a replacement for thoroughly checking out a new client! Always be sure to do your homework when it comes to entering into a new working relationship with a client. This applies, of course, in general, not just on posted jobs, and not just on ProZ.com. Following the right procedures to protect yourself and your business can seem like it takes more time and hassle, but think of the time, hassle and money you can save by avoiding being on the receiving end of a scam or of non-payment.

If you aren’t practicing a strong risk management, please start doing so. And be sure to share what you know with fellow translators! In the case above, the key information in identifying the fraud was shared via the support system, allowing staff to then alert other members. Sharing scam and risk management information on ProZ.com and other sites for translators is a powerful way of protecting yourself and your colleagues. Knowledge, procedures and common sense are the best tools for keeping safe from this kind of threat.

Alejandro

New tranfree on credit control for freelancers, check it out Reply

If you are not already following the publications of tranfree, written by ProZ.com member and moderator Alex Eames, check out this latest issue, which discusses credit control policies for freelancers (you will see a link to his blog here on the right). Be sure to have a look at Alex’s book in the ProZ.com book section as well.

Jared

Translator scams and how to protect yourself from them 26

Freelance translators should think of themselves as business people. As such, they should pay serious attention to risk management, including the actions needed to minimize the risk of being the victims of a scam.

Scams are everywhere and they are extremely varied. It is said that one in ten adults have fallen for a scam. Some of the victims are  poor and desperate, but others are educated and clever, and  believed themselves to be immune to this kind of plot.

Reports from ProZ.com members seem to indicate an increase in translation or translator-specific scams.

There are two broad categories of scammers that should be on a freelance translator’s radar screen: those who want a free translation, and those who want our money.

1 – Scammers who want to steal your translation

This kind of scam involves a “client” who will offer you a real translation assignment but is not planning to pay for it. Legitimate outsourcers who are having a bad time and are late in their payments are a real problem, but they do not fall into this category.

This kind of scam is harder to detect because the scammer is usually well-acquainted with the translation industry and can emulate the “look and feel” of a legitimate outsourcer.

There are two basic categories of translation-stealers:

  • scammers who make up a fake “agency” that will simply vanish the moment you deliver your job, and
  • scammers who falsely claim to represent a real and prestigious agency.

Scammers in the first category should be detectable through normal risk management procedures. Those in the second group are more dangerous because superficial risk control could validate that the outsourcer is trustworthy, but miss the fact that the person contacting you does not represent them.

Emails from new potential clients should be carefully scanned. A visit to the “about me” section of the real outsourcer will tell you what their email domain is, say for instance xxxx@good-agency.com. Be wary of agency emails based on a free email provider, for instance name.good-agency@gmail.com (it is OK for freelancers to operate with this kind of email but an agency doing so should trigger your alarms). Be also on the lookout for small variants in the email domains ( for instance xxxx@goodagency.com ) introduced to mimic the real outsourcer.

2 – Scammers who want to steal your money

We’ve all seen or heard of some of the more common, general scams: a notification that we’ve won the Spanish lottery, or an email from a person who requires our help in moving a small fortune outside their country, etc.

There is also a translator-specific kind of predator that is not interested in your translation, but who will offer you a fake job opportunity as a hook to take money from you.

Some classic examples of these which have hit the community more recently are:

  • a job offer where advance payment is offered, usually in the form of traveler’s or certified bank checks. The amount received by the translator turns out to be much more than the payment agreed upon and they are asked to cash the checks or money order and wire back the difference. The checks or money orders later turn out to be counterfeit or stolen.
  • a steady flow of work is offered, on the condition that the translator must acquire a certain tool (usually a CAT tool), and the scammer happens to offer that tool at a greatly reduced price. Of course once you pay, you never hear again from the “client” (or receive the tool).
  • A very convenient in-house position is offered in a different country, and some down payment is requested from the translator in order to temporarily cover a legal immigration requirement or relocation expense. Again, once you have paid you can forget about them.

These schemes usually come from people outside the industry, and there are telltale signs that should ring alarm bells in the head of savvy freelancers:

  • The language (frequently English) is uneducated and has typos and grammatical errors (note: poor English alone does not mean one is a scammer, of course!)
  • Real outsourcers tend to deliver straightforward messages (“we look for a translator in {language pair}, expert in {field}, for a job of xxx words to be delivered on {deadline}; please report availability and rate”). Fake outsourcers, on the other hand, tend to add lots of unnecessary details (“I need an interpreter for my wife and two kids who will be visiting your country for a week; they will be basically shopping and will move in a rented car. We will be there because I am senior manager of a Fortune 500 company and will be attending a conference.”)
  • They are not aware of your expertise, to the point of sometimes asking for “the language pair you are most comfortable working with”. Strange assignment where you can pick that!
  • Uncommon job descriptions such as widely varied and unrelated areas of expertise (“poetry, nuclear reactors and accounting”) or in-depth details on how the communications will be handled in the project (an important factor, but not at this point of the exchange).

In short, try some old-fashioned common sense: if someone you don’t know contacts you to ask for a payment now in order to get a huge reward tomorrow, hit the “Delete” button.

Basic risk management considerations

Risk-management is a comprehensive discipline that should be present in all your actions; in the case of scams, you should focus on the evaluation of people contacting you for the first time.

The better your risk management process, the less likely you are to find yourself having invested time, effort and money in work where no payment is forthcoming (or worse; in the case of the traveler’s checks scam mentioned above, victims also found themselves in an uncomfortable position legally, having cashed fraudulent or stolen checks).

You should be suspicious of people who contact you and:

  • offer you something for nothing. If it looks too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.
  • ask you to pay some expenses or to buy some tool in order to get access to a very convenient opportunity.
  • try to rush you into a decision

When contacted for the first time by a potential outsourcer who looks truly interested in your services, you should:

  • Get the full name, address and phone number of the company and name and position of the contact person.
  • Investigate the IP information in the incoming email (see the ProZ.com Wiki article Risk management: Email) to make sure the email comes from where the company is. Investigate discrepancies.
  • Find the company’s website, find their email domain and verify if the incoming email fits it.
  • Call the company at the number found on their web page and ask for the person who contacted you, to verify if the contact was legitimate.
  • Google for the contact’s and the company’s names. Many scams are reported in forums and this can help warn you.
  • Look for the company in ProZ.com’s Blue Board and other online risk management resources. Pay special attention to negative comments and to recent ones.
  • Make sure to get a purchase order before you start working.
  • The first job you do for a new client should be small. This is reasonable for both sides of the deal, as a new translator is also a risk for the outsourcer.

Don’t be afraid that these normal risk management precautions will offend the outsourcer and make you lose good opportunities. Professional outsourcers will recognize the actions of professional freelancers and are likely to respect you more for doing your homework.

What to do if contacted by a scammer? The best you can do when you detect or suspect a scam is to ignore the messages. Answering the message, even to insult them or try to outsmart them will at the very least let the villain know that your email address is active and all the more valuable for spamming.

Sharing your experiences in dedicated forums and other social media is also a way to help raise awareness among colleagues of this scourge.

Further reading and resources

The ProZ.com Wiki has a few articles which are meant to help out when it comes to detecting scams, and translator risk management in general. These can all be found in the category for risk management in the Wiki.

Be sure you are familiar with this information and incorporate what is useful to you as a professional into your risk management process.

Is there something missing from the risk management articles, a method you have used successfully? Help your colleagues out by adding it! All you have to do is click the “Edit” option for the article or the section of the article you wish to add to, enter the information and hit save.

ProZ.com also has a forum dedicated specifically to allowing translators to discuss and warn each other of new scams: http://www.proz.com/forum/946

Stay safe!

Enrique Cavalitto