Confessions of a Freelance Translator: An interview with Gary Smith 1

“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 →

ProZ.com community book: share your knowledge and stand out as a published author Reply

topOSTProZ.com has launched the ProZ.com community book project, an initiative to help language professionals to spread useful information among potential clients and colleagues, while promoting themselves as experts in a given field or topic.

The ProZ.com community book will feature articles written by site  members on topics of interest to the translation community that may range from machine translation, cloud-based translation tools and new translation technologies, to rates, training and  work-life balance, among other topics.

The initiative does not only give language professionals the opportunity to promote themselves as seasoned professionals, but also to become  published authors and enjoy  the benefits  this offers, including:

  • Visibility: published authors become visible among peers and this creates an advantage for them, especially when time comes to attract the attention of clients.
  • Credibility: book authors and collaborators get instant credibility and authority in connection with the field or topic in which they publish. This in turn translates into becoming not only a source of information, but also a resource for anyone in need of  specialized information.
  • Permanence: books are born to stay regardless of the format in which they get published and a book that goes around  is also a book that keeps promoting  its  content and author(s) at no extra cost!
  • Opportunities: many times names associated with books result in invitations to speak at events or offer training, and eve n to participate in further publications.
  • Networking:  the discussion of a book is a good  way to break the ice!  Published authors may be invited to participate in discussions with their readers  via email,  in social networks and at  events.
  • Clients:  published authors know their field, a quality searched for by good clients. And because they are seen as  experts, clients will  rarely try to get discounts for their specialized  services.

All ProZ.com members are invited to submit an article to be reviewed for possible inclusion in the community book until February 29th, 2016, 23:59 GMT. If you are not a ProZ.com member, become one today and start enjoying  all the benefits the site has to offer, including the community book.


Are you a published author?  Share a link to your material below.

Announcing the new ProZ.com service agreements tool Reply

Good Monday, everyone! The ProZ.com site team is happy to announce the new Service agreements tool designed for site members:

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ProZ.com service agreements →

The ProZ.com service agreements tool allows members to:

  • create and store standard service agreements that you can use in any working relationship,
  • send service agreements to other parties, discuss terms with them and agree on conditions before any projects are assigned, and
  • keep an online record of agreements you entered into to prevent potential disputes –or solve them quickly– or to simply use them as reference.

Any ProZ.com member can create service agreements. Site users can only be invited to review and accept them (not a ProZ.com member yet? Join now →)

You can check this new tool by clicking on “ProZ.com service agreements” above or by mousing over the site’s “Tool” menu tab and clicking on “Service agreements”.

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More information is also available in the FAQs section.

Hope you find this tool useful and that it helps you to improve the way you work. Feedback below is welcome.

Happy translating!

Ten days left to the ProZ.com 2015 international conference: “Supporting each other, learning from each other” Reply

The ProZ.com 2015 international conference is just ten days away. Translators, interpreters, students, sponsors, organizers and staff are getting ready to support each other, to learn from each other in the great city of Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Program and speakers

The conference will be a two-day event showcasing outstanding speakers and presentations on the most trending topics in the translation industry:

  • Questions You’ve Always Wanted to Ask… Answered – Konstantin Kisin
  • Drafting legislation in 24 languages – Hans te Winkel
  • Paradoxes of freelancing: maintaining individualism when belonging to a community – Marta Stelmaszak
  • The Challenge with being international – Doug Lawrence
  • The globetrotting freelancer: making the most of your work’s flexibility – Pavel Janoušek and Daniel Šebesta
  • What works for me, could work for you – Doug Lawrence
  • Top Secrets of Effective Proofreading – A powerful though underrated way to learn from each other – Francesca Airaghi
  • Social Media or Anti-Social Media: a lifestyle choice or a death sentence? – Erik Hansson
  • Famous for 10 minutes – Nigel Saych
  • Translators: Stand Up! Time to confront the devil – Sameh Ragab
  • Honing your expert skills and building an expert translator profile through cooperation with other freelancers – Anne-Charlotte Perrigaud
  • Teaching Translation Today and Tomorrow: Breeding the next generation of translators – Joop Bindels and Nathalie de Schipper
  • Training the client – Gary Smith
  • Work-life balance during illness: a freelance perspective – Ellen Singer and Joy Maul-Phillips
  • Internships and mentoring – Attila Piróth
  • The first steps of a graduate in the translation market – Fedde van Santen
  • Find your balance with the aid of technology (and some other great tips!) – Fernanda Rocha
  • TransQuiz – Gabriel Cabrera

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For more information and details about each session, click here to view the entire conference program.

Social activities

In addition to the two full days of sessions, workshops, round-tables, interviews and whatnot, the international conference will also offer attendees the possibility to network and have fun by taking part in other social events:

  • June 11th – Pre-pre-conference powwow
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Tour behind the scenes at Schiphol airport and a subsequent dinner at Vork en Mes, Hoofddorp.

 

  • June 12th – Pre-conference powwow
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A boat trip to Kinderdijk, a walking tour to Rotterdam and a ‘Rice Table’ meal.

 

  • June 13th – Gala dinner
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Dinner at the Inntel Hotels Rotterdam Centre.

 

  • June 14th – Post-conference powwow
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Dinner on the SS Rotterdam, an ocean liner.

For more details on social events planned, click here.

Conference package

This year, the conference organizer, Nigel Saych, and ProZ.com have put together a conference package that not only includes full pass to Saturday and Sunday sessions, and to the gala dinner on Saturday night, but also the following:

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Signup

There are still a few seats left for the conference. To book yours, visit the conference page and click on Buy now next to the package that best suits your needs.

For special discounts, please contact site staff through the support center.

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ProZ.com and the conference organizer, Nigel Saych, would like to thank the following sponsors for their support of this event:

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Getting the most out of industry events: Part ten 2

This is the tenth –and last– post in a series of weekly blog posts with tips to get the most out of translation industry events (click here to see a full list of previous posts). As explained in the first part, tips are grouped into “before the event”, “during the event” and “after the event” for easy reference. Please feel free to post below and share your tip(s)!


After the event

Tip 10: organize your own event

As mentioned in the first part of this series, translation industry events are probably one of the most important parts in the marketing strategy of many language professionals. By attending conferences, workshops, seminars and other industry events, translators and interpreters not only get the chance to learn about new industry trends, but also to network with colleagues while promoting themselves. The same principle applies to organizing translation industry events, where organizers can not only learn and network with colleagues, but also do something different that enhances their translation business and professional profile.

So, what are the benefits of organizing a translation industry event? Why would anyone want to devote time and effort in setting up a conference, a seminar, a workshop? Initially, language professionals who have organized at least one translator event have reported the following benefits:

  1. Interaction with people from all around the globe.
  2. Networking not only within the local community, but also within the international translation community.
  3. Acquisition of new interpersonal and organizational skills.
  4. Relationship with companies, associations and other major players in the industry.
  5. Gained exposure.

Organizing an event is not for everyone though -it requires a great deal of time, responsibility and dedication. Willingness to interact with other language professionals and form relationships with them is a must, but organizers should also meet other criteria if they want to organize an event that has the purpose of providing language professionals with the opportunity to network, learn, expand their businesses and have fun. These criteria include:

  • Experience with industry events (as attendee, co-organizer or organizer).
  • Active participation in the translation community.
  • Reactive, responsive and collaborative attitude.
  • Task orientation.
  • Business understanding (keeping in mind that the organization of an event is a business investment for all involved, including for event attendees).
  • Creativity.

If you believe that you have all of the above and you would like to learn new skills, network with colleagues and market yourself, you may consider organizing an event for translators in your country. There are several ways to do it either individually or with the support of colleagues, private companies or associations.

Becoming a ProZ.com event organizer

Rather than seeking to organize events on its own in locations around the world, or on a variety of topics, ProZ.com normally seeks to provide others with the tools, support and promotion that they need to organize events.

Applied in varying degrees for various events and event formats, this “enabling” approach make it possible to offer low-cost events that have a local focus, or that delve deeply into a given topic. It also makes it possible for ProZ.com events to be held in many languages.

ProZ.comEvents

ProZ.com conferences, powwows, workshops and virtual events.

Utilizing both online and offline approaches, a variety of specific event formats have evolved at ProZ.com:

Powwows – informal meetings, usually carried out in-person, often over a meal.

Virtual events – events with planned agendas, carried out primarily online using video, chat, etc. (sometimes with a corresponding real-world component).

In-person events – events with planned agendas, carried out primarily in-person (and ideally streamed and recorded).

Events have been held with various other formats, and more formats (for example, hybrid formats that combine virtual and in-person elements) can be imagined and explored.

If you would like to give it a try at organizing an event with the support of ProZ.com, go ahead!

In the end, the translation industry is like other industries, in that it is important for professionals to have opportunities to learn, network and socialize among peers. Then why not get the most out of an industry event by organizing it yourself?

Have you ever organized an industry event or considered organizing one? 

Please share.

Getting the most out of industry events: Part nine Reply

This is the ninth post in a series of weekly blog posts with tips to get the most out of translation industry events (click here to see a full list of previous posts). As explained in the first part, tips are grouped into “before the event”, “during the event” and “after the event” for easy reference. Please feel free to post below and share your tip(s)!


After the event

Tip 9: keep in touch

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Coffee break during the ProZ.com 2014 international conference in Pisa, Italy

Translation industry events represent a great opportunity to meet potential clients and collaborators. However, meeting them and taking to them during the event may not be enough to get them to remember you and to later contact you for collaboration. So, what can you do to make sure event attendees you met and that may become clients keep your name in mind? Let’s see…

  • Send them a nice-meeting-you email: if you did your homework during the event, you should have a few email addresses and business cards in your briefcase. Send a short email message to colleagues that have the potential of becoming business partners or clients (those who work in your expertise fields and language pairs, or those who own or work for translation companies). Let them know that it was nice meeting them and that you hope you can collaborate in the future. Make sure you are clear about the services you offer and that they may use. What’s important here is that you send them a personalized message and not a general one that you may send others as well.
  • Add them to your social networks: search for potential clients and collaborators who attended the event in social and professional networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. When doing so, just make sure that your profile is a professional one or that the posts you make and that they see are related to the services you offer (most social networks allow you to set visibility and privacy permissions).
  • Add them to your chat list: if you use chat software such as Skype, add potential clients you met as contacts. This may increase your chances of being contacted by them for rush projects or for projects for which they don’t have anyone in mind.
  • Include their names in greetings or gift list: if once in a while you take some time to thank your clients or send them a card or a gift (for Christmas or New Year for example), make sure you include potential clients’ names in the recipient list as well. This will let them know that you keep them in mind and help them to keep your name in their mind as well.
  • Invite them to future events you plan to attend: if there are any future events that you are planning to attend and that you believe may be of interest to these potential clients or colleagues, make sure you take a few minutes to invite them and show them that you are willing to see them again. You may invite them via email or social networks as long as your message is short and to the point.

In general, keeping in touch with potential clients is easier than meeting them for the first time. So, if you managed to leave your shyness aside and make an impression during the event, you should be able to stay connected afterwards, increasing your chances of getting collaboration requests and even making new friends. In the end, and as Socrates puts it, be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in, continue firm and constant.

How do you keep in touch with potential clients and collaborators?

Share below.


The next –and last– part in this series will provide you with one last tip to get the most our of industry events. Keep in touch!

Getting the most out of industry events: Part eight 1

This is the eighth post in a series of weekly blog posts with tips to get the most out of translation industry events (click here to see a full list of previous posts). As explained in the first part, tips are grouped into “before the event”, “during the event” and “after the event” for easy reference. Please feel free to post below and share your tip(s)!


After the event

Tip 8: share your feedback

So, the event is over. You are on your way to the airport, the bus station, the parking lot, or you are already home, and you have all these new ideas, and people’s names, and plans. With the conference badge still hanging from your neck, you remember some of the concepts that were discussed during presentations and the great time you had over dinner with colleges. You know your investment paid off. Well, now is the time to let others know what you think of the event, how you feel, what you learned and how much fun you had. Why? For many reasons:

  • Sharing your feedback on presentations will not only be a nice gesture towards those who gave them (i.e. speakers) and help them to know what you think, what you’ve learned and even improve upon their presentation for future events, but also encourage other attendees to do the same. Be it positive or negative feedback, all adds to the speaker’s experience and to attendees’ knowledge.
  • Sharing your general feedback on the event (event organization, timing, meals, etc.) will let the organizer know how their efforts turned out. It takes a lot of time, patience and creativity to organize a great event. If you had a good time and you are going home having learned something new, let the organizer know. Organizers will appreciate your feedback after working for months on an event that, for them, was over before they couldn’t even notice.
  • Sharing photos and videos is also a good way of reinforcing the true sense of community that is fostered during an event, and will also encourage others to do the same. Eventually, anyone can go back to those pictures and videos, see who attended, remember names and decide to attend a future event.

Tweets on ProZ.com 2013 international conference in Porto, Portugal

If you have never organized and event, you should know that there are more people and hours involved than you think. From event organizers to speakers, from sponsors to assistants, from designers to venue personnel, everyone has a lot of responsibilities and works hard so that you can just sit, learn, network and have fun. So if you are satisfied with an event you attended, take a couple of minutes and let all these people know (use the event hashtag on Twitter or Facebook, or just send them an email). All of those involved will appreciate it.

Do you share feedback on events you attend?

Share below.


The next part in this series will suggest tips to keep in touch with attendees via email and social networks. Stay tuned!