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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.

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!

EH1

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!

EH1

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 →

Meet the speaker: Anna Ivanchenko and the secrets of consecutive interpreting Reply

Anna Ivanchenko, Word4Power

Anna Ivanchenko is a translator and interpreter living in Kyiv, Ukraine, and offering language services from English and French into Ukrainian and Russian. She has a  Ph.D. in Translation Studies from the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv and an MA in Conference Interpreting from the University of Strasbourg.

With more than ten years of experience, Anna has worked for important companies and organizations such as UNICEF, the British Embassy and the Canadian Embassy, the British Council and BNP Paribas, and offered services to famous names such as Jean-Claude Van Damme, Rutger Hauer, John Malkovich, Jared Leto and Cillian Murphy, among others.

On November 21st, Anna will be presenting on the secrets of consecutive interpreting 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?

I got started as a translator even before I started at university and the most important obstacle to overcome was the general attitude towards translators and interpreters as some auxiliary staff doing low-qualified work.

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

I do, both online and offline, in general through personal meetings and social network exchanges.

How do you see the future of translation for freelancers?

I see it bright, with more job types emerging and the ever-growing importance of online and cloud technologies.

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?

Yes, this is my first time as a ProZ.com event speaker and I expect it to be a productive exchange of opinions! I will address the greatest fear of those who have never done consecutive interpretation or do it very seldom: what if I don’t interpret everything they say? There is a number of steps and shortcuts to take to minimize this risk and I will discuss those during my presentation.

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

ProZ.com conferences are a great place to find yourself among professionals and like-minded people.

ProZ.com Regional conference in Kharkiv, Ukraine

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

EH1

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


Have you ever offered consecutive interpreting services? How was it?

Post below or discuss in ProZ.com forums →