Guest blog post: “The value and importance of a translation industry wiki”, by Niraja Nanjundan 1

I am happy to present the Translator T.O.’s first guest blogger post, this week by member Niraja Nanjundan, on the subject of the translation industry wiki. Niraja has been a regular contributor to the ProZ.com Wiki, and it is nice to have her here to explain how she sees the concept of a translation industry wiki:

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The value and importance of a translation industry wiki, by Niraja Nanjundan

In an interview with the BBC, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Wikipedia in January of this year, Jimmy Wales, founder of the well-known online encyclopaedia described it as a “temple of the mind,” a place of learning, discussion and debate. Seen from that perspective, the launch of ProZ.com’s translation industry wiki is significant, as it represents the start of an online encyclopaedia or knowledge base aimed specifically at the translation industry. The ProZ.com Wiki will be a collaborative effort of translators and language professionals covering all aspects of the profession from the technical aspects of translation and interpreting to the business side of the industry.

Officially launched last year, the wiki is divided up into several sections, including the art and craft of translation and interpreting, money matters and business issues and ProZ.com members have already been adding valuable contributions. The forum threads attached to each wiki article have proven to be very popular areas for discussion and debate, such as this discussion on the Translator Career Path. That said, more involvement from users and members will be required for the wiki to really take off as a viable resource for the translation industry. What then are the benefits of this type of specialised wiki and in what ways does it differ from an article knowledge base or a translation blog?

  • A wiki contribution is not a one-time effort by one author. It is a collaborative effort with contributions from as many different people who are interested in contributing, and is continuously growing. This means that it can be updated as things change and develop in a particular area or field.
  • As already mentioned, a wiki article can encourage discussion and debate. The fact that anyone can edit and change the content means that if one person disagrees with another person’s contribution, he/she can easily change it, which can give rise to a discussion on the issue. The forum attached to each wiki article on ProZ.com encourages this type of interaction even more.
  • A wiki can also be a platform for raising awareness on issues and creating transparency. The ProZ.com Wiki has a section on Detecting and reacting to false job offers and other scams, for example, an issue that is very important to many of us who increasingly use the internet for our work, and that has been of concern to many colleagues.
  • A translation industry wiki can also be an important and valuable resource for students and those starting out in the profession, as it can include articles and tips on what the profession involves, how to get started, rates and other issues a novice translator may have questions about. ProZ.com’s wiki already has contributions on Establishing yourself as a freelance translator, “Marketing for translators” and Determining your rates and fees as a translator.

Although wiki articles do not give their contributors as much online exposure as a KudoZ answer or a forum posting may, they still provide an opportunity to hone one’s writing skills and share knowledge about topics that may be of interest to colleagues and of value to the translation industry as whole. And as with KudoZ and the forums, the wiki and its dedicated forums also offer a platform for networking, debating pertinent issues and raising awareness.

 

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Thanks to Niraja for the insightful contribution! The ProZ.com Wiki can be found under the Education menu tab on any ProZ.com page, or at this direct link: http://wiki.proz.com/wiki/index.php

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

January in translation Reply

January is coming to a close already. The ProZ.com newsletter for this month is on its way out, and if you have not received it already you should be getting it shortly.

Some highlights worth mentioning from this newsletter:

By the way, you can view the full archive of ProZ.com newsletters at http://www.proz.com/newsletter/

The first month of this year also brought some interesting industry news. Here are some highlights of translation-related news for January:

You can follow these and other translation industry stories through the Translation news service.

Have I forgotten something? Let me know!

Jared

Translator scams and how to protect yourself from them 24

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

What does the career path of a freelance translator look like? Reply

The ProZ.com Wiki is a collaborative effort of articles and material by language professionals, for language professionals, in wiki format.

One of the newer articles in the Wiki is titled A career path for translators, and is designed to cover the different components that go into the career path of a translator. What, in your experience, can be added to this article to make it as representative as possible of freelance translator’s possible career path?

  • What goes into a well-informed decision to take up the profession of translation?
  • For those just starting out nowadays, what can be done to get going on the right foot?
  • What are the essential steps, and the possible hurdles, on the road to becoming a successful freelance language professional?
  • How does the career path continue for a professional who has built up experience and a solid clientele?

Feel free to comment here, in the discussion area below the article, or by adding to the article itself!

Lucía