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 →

‘Giving Tuesday’ year-end donation drive: thank you all who donated! Reply

FBBoostFrom December 1st until December 3rd, ProZ.com, Dutch translator and copywriter Pieter Beens and the rest of the ProZ.com community joined forces in a ‘Giving Tuesday’ year-end donation drive and collected over $1,800 USD to be donated to Books For Africa, Concern Worldwide and SOS Children’s Villages. In turn, ProZ.com matched dollar for dollar the collected amount and over $3,600 USD will now benefit these three non-profit organizations.

Funds were collected through ProZ.com membership sales, training purchases, as well as from direct donations, and the translator community also shared their translated version of a very famous quote by Mother Teresa:

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Click here to see translated versions or suggest your own.

Special thanks go to…

  • Pieter Beens for proposing this initiative and spreading the word.
  • ProZ.com professional trainers Claudia BrauerAnneta VysotskayaKonstantin Kisin and Samuel Sebastian Holden Bramah for donating their time and knowledge.
  • ProZ.com users and members who donated through membership and training, or by making a direct donation.
  • ProZ.com users and members who proposed their translation of Mother Teresa’s quote.
  • Everyone who helped to spread the word!

Thank you all who joined ProZ.com’s 2015 celebration of Giving Tuesday!


How did you celebrate Giving Tuesday? Share below.

Guest post: The importance of translators for charities 1

This is a guest post by Pieter Beens in promotion of ProZ.com’s ‘Giving Tuesday’ year-end donation drive. To find out more about this initiative and learn how to contribute, visit the drive’s main page: http://www.proz.com/pages/drive


#GivingTuesday is an international phenomenon to raise funds for a host of charities. In the spirit of this event, ProZ.com is hosting the #ProZcomDrive, a special campaign to raise funds for three non-profit organizations: SOS Children’s Villages, Concern Worldwide, and Books For Africa. All proceeds from the ProZ.com ‘Giving Tuesday’ year-end donation drive will benefit these programs to help families in need, raise funds for emergency response programs, and support literacy initiatives.

Although fundraising within the translation community is a major aspect of the campaign, there is much more to say about the importance of translators for charities. In this article I will mention a few.

Translators often do not associate themselves with charities professionally. Of course many of us are involved in volunteer jobs, varying from caregiving to supporting political parties, but there are few translators and translation agencies that continuously support charities for free.

That is nothing to blame translators and agencies for: supporting charities is not the most obvious choice when it comes to sponsoring or even to corporate sustainable development. At the same time many charities do not ask translators and agencies to help them out with translations for free. One initiative to connect charities and translators for free translations is Translators Without Borders.

Translators can play an important role for charities. First of all, they can offer free translations (also outside Translators Without Borders), so charities can do their lovely jobs and reach their goals with a minimum of resources. However, free translations should not be the main objective for charities when collaborating with translators. Indeed, translators can offer much more than just financial help.

Language professionals, and in particular native translators who live in the countries where charities are active, have actual knowledge of the country and culture of the language in which they translate. They can be the “eyes and ears” of the charities they work for, and know how these organizations can be most successful in reaching their goals. At the same time, they can inform charities about local developments, and even point out new goals and locations where their efforts are needed.

Translators can also contribute their commercial knowledge to these organizations to help them better deliver on their mission. For example, they can share best practices in reaching out to the public or in translating different types of texts. They can help educate charities as to how they can be successful in motivating volunteers or raising funds. Translators can also apply their knowledge from particular areas of specialization, like healthcare or technology, in translating texts for non-profit organizations as well.

A final important role of translators in the non-profit sector is the role of networker. Charities often do not know where to find the right translators for a particular language or where to go in a certain country to get help, subsidies or support. Language professionals can guide them to local authorities or centers that can help the charities to realize their goals.

The #ProZcomDrive

All proceeds donated by the translation community from December 1st to December 3rd as part of ProZ.com’s ‘Giving Tuesday’ year-end donation drive will benefit SOS Children’s Villages, Concern Worldwide, and Books For Africa. In turn, Pieter Beens is also donating 10% of his income for the entire month of December to a fourth initiative: Project Jedidja, a project to fight illiteracy and discrimination among disabled children in Guinea Bissau.

Learn more about Project Jedidja here: http://veldwerkers.kimon.nl/jedidja


Are you considering donating translations to charities? Read Pieter Beens’ tips at http://www.vertaalt.nu/blog/tips-for-translators-when-supporting-charities/

Let’s join forces in a ‘Giving Tuesday’ year-end donation drive 1

Giving Tuesday is here!

After an entire year networking, expanding your business, improving your work and having fun, you now have the opportunity to give something back: whether it be through donations, fundraising, volunteering your time and expertise, or simply by calling others to support a particular cause or initiative.

At the end of October this year, one ProZ.com staff member was approached by Pieter Beens, a Dutch translator and copywriter, as well as a ProZ.com member since 2011, with the idea of a charity campaign to be promoted among ProZ.com community members. The result? A ‘Giving Tuesday’ year-end donation drive that starts today, Tuesday, December 1st, and will run until Thursday, December 3rd:

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Help spread the word on social media using the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #ProZcomDrive.

Join this #GivingTuesday movement and support the following non-profit organizations:

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Books For Africa collects, sorts, ships, and distributes books to students of all ages in Africa. They remain the largest shipper of donated text and library books to the African continent, shipping over 34 million books to 49 different countries since 1988.

concern worldwide

Concern Worldwide implements emergency response programs primarily in the world’s poorest countries, has been a leader in health and nutrition issues, and has been on the forefront of helping communities develop resilience to high-impact climate extremes.

SOS-Childrens-Villages-International-NEGATIVE-EnglishSOS Children’s Villages works to prevent family breakdown and care for children who have lost parental care, or who risk losing it. They work with communities, partners and states to ensure that the rights of all children, in every society, are respected and fulfilled.


ProZ.com will match, dollar for dollar, the first $10,000 USD donated to these charities.


Make an impact. Join this drive →

Special thanks go to Pieter Beens for the initiative, to ProZ.com professional trainers Claudia BrauerKonstantin KisinSamuel Sebastian Holden Bramah and Anneta Vysotskaya for donating their time and knowledge in support of this drive, and to the members of the translation community who join ProZ.com and Pieter Beens in this #ProZcomDrive!


Do you have any other plans for #GivingTuesday? Share below.

Meet the speaker: Oleg Rudavin and the selling of knowledge and skills Reply

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Russian and Ukrainian translator, ProZ.com conference organizer and trainer

Oleg Rudavin is a Russian and Ukrainian translator –and a garden flowers lover— who has been part of the translation industry since 1985 and an active ProZ.com player since 2001. At ProZ.com, Oleg has acted as a moderator and he is currently a trainer, the site’s local contact in Ukraine and a dear friend.

With extensive experience in freelancing as a method of conducting business, he is also the author of Internet Freelancing: Practical Guide for Translators, a book published in both English and Russian.

Oleg is also one of the organizers of the 2015 regional conference in Kharkiv, Ukraine –his fourth conference!– and the speaker in charge of the last session of the day: “Монетизация знаний, умений и навыков, или что продавать”, and his 12th presentation at a ProZ.com event.

The interview

How did you get started in translation and what was the most important obstacle for you to overcome in building your career as a language professional?

I graduated from the foreign languages department of Kharkiv University in 1985 and have been translating and interpreting since then. The most important obstacle to overcome at that time was mental stereotypes: the new opportunities that appeared with the Internet were way beyond anything I had known before.

Do you maintain relationships with your fellow professionals? If so, in what ways?

I do – in all possible ways, both in person (regularly meeting locally, or occasionally at conferences) and online, with direct communication or in social networks.

How do you see the future of translation for freelancers?

Pessimistic on the whole. The growth of the demand is mostly due to the low quality/price segment expanding; the existing supply can’t match the demand; as a result, the quality criteria and standards get worse.

Is this your first time as a ProZ.com event speaker? If so, what are your expectations and what can event attendees expect to learn or know from your presentation?

I first spoke at a ProZ.com conference about ten years ago and do it quite a lot. It’s probably because I love sharing my knowledge and experience – and know for sure that a lot of my colleagues benefit from it.

My presentation is aimed at showing attending how to apply self-criticism and how to acquire the ability (or at least the desire) to analyse and plan ahead. A conference is usually a great way to get answers to most of one’s questions – often from informal communications rather than from presentations.

The conference

Follow Oleg and the rest of speakers and attendees live this Saturday, November 21st, through Twitter and Livestream.

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Visit event page »            View event program »            View related social events »


How do you sell your knowledge and skills?

Post below or discuss in ProZ.com forums →

Meet the speaker: Sergei Leshchinsky, supporting professional QA Reply

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Sergei Leshchinsky, full-time freelance translator and entrepreneur

Sergei Leshchinsky is a translator, editor and project manager graduated from Odessa State University. Since 1995, he has been participating in the Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States project (TACIS) in Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

Sergei joined ProZ.com when the site was founded in 1999. Later, he took part in the ProZ.com Certified PRO Network after probing his translation ability in English to Russian, his business reliability and his online citizenship.

With at least a dozen ProZ.com events attended, Sergei will be presenting on the relationship between translators and editors in the context of quality assurance at the ProZ.com 2015 regional conference in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

The interview

How did you get started in translation and what was the most important obstacle for you to overcome in building your career as a language professional?

My translation career started when I joined a team of translators serving the TACIS project. Translation topics were diverse, ranging from garbage, water purification and ecology to fish breeding and transport corridors, among others. The most important obstacle I had to overcome was the lack of opportunities from educational institutions to actually develop practical skills and acquire technical knowledge.

Do you maintain relationships with your fellow professionals? If so, in what ways?

Of course! I use social networks, forums and meetings to keep in touch with colleagues.

What are your expectations and what can event attendees expect to learn or know from your presentation?

I expect students and professionals who attend my session to learn more about their translation work in terms of edition, and see how they can make their lives and editors’ lives easier.

What reason(s) to attend this event would you give to someone who is not yet sure of whether to attend or not?

Anyone interested in learning about quality criteria and control, among other topics of interest to language professionals, should attend this event.

ProZ.com Regional conference in Kharkiv, Ukraine

Join Sergei and other language professionals on November 21st in Kharkov, Ukraine, for this conference and have the chance to learn, network and have fun!

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Visit event page »            View event program »            View related social events »


Do you apply QA before delivery?

Post below or discuss in ProZ.com forums →

Meet the speaker: Irina Lebedeva, translators, editors and QA Reply

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Irina Lebedeva, certified technical translator

Irina Lebedeva is a certified technical translator, editor and sales manager who provides training and advice on the technical aspects of translation and on how to optimize translation work. She is also an International Conference Speaker, a ProZ.com Professional Trainer and a volunteer translator for Translators without Borders.

With more than nine years of experience, Irina joined ProZ.com in 2007 and she has attended more than twenty ProZ.com conferences so far! This time, Irina will be presenting on the relationship between translators and editors in the context of quality assurance at the ProZ.com 2015 regional conference in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

The interview

How did you get started in translation and what was the most important obstacle for you to overcome in building your career as a language professional?

The first time I tried my hand at translation was by joining a team of translators for a big project. The deadline was tight and the volume huge, but everything worked almost ideally. The project was incredibly difficult, but I endured. I believe this was probably the most difficult and exhausting project of my career.

The hardest part was to get out of my comfort zone, overcome fear and take the first step in an unknown direction, develop a new market, choose an area of specialization and put into practice new translation techniques. In my opinion, such a step should be taken quickly and decisively.

Do you maintain relationships with your fellow professionals? If so, in what ways?

Friendly and professional relationships with colleagues are essential for any translator. Group work, communication and exchanges of experiences are necessary from time to time to be able to get a view from the outside and as a safety net.

Regarding professional relationships, I do maintain a whole lot of them be it through private chats over a cup of coffee, conversations on Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, conversations during and after conferences, and on professional forums.

Is this your first time as a ProZ.com event speaker? If so, what are your expectations and what can event attendees expect to learn or know from your presentation?

No, this is not my first time as a ProZ.com conference speaker. I already participated in three other events in the past mainly because I like sharing experiences and exchanging views with colleagues.

In my session at the upcoming regional conference in Kharkiv, attendees will be able to:

  1. Get a better understanding of editors’ expectations.
  2. Learn how to protect their work from unfair changes.
  3. Discover how to meet standards by applying QA methods.

What reason(s) to attend this event would you give to someone who is not yet sure of whether to attend or not?

Conference participation is one of the best ways to discuss industry issues and possible solutions. In addition, attending a conference represents a great opportunity to meet and communicate with colleagues, find new clients, and learn about different ways of doing translation business.

ProZ.com Regional conference in Kharkiv, Ukraine

Join Irina and other language professionals on November 21st in Kharkov, Ukraine, for this conference and have the chance to learn, network and have fun!

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Visit event page »            View event program »            View related social events »


How do you deal with editors or proofreaders?

Post below or discuss in ProZ.com forums →