Guest post: Effective email communication with the customer for a translator Reply

Anastasia Kozhukhova is an English to Russian language professional specializing in legal and marketing texts as well as website localization. In addition to being a successful freelance translator, Anastasia is also a ProZ.com professional trainer, sharing insight that she’s gained throughout her career with the community. In today’s guest post, Anastasia shares some tips on how to effectively communicate with clients. 


“A good business letter can get you a job interview, get you off the hook, or get you money. It’s totally asinine to blow your chances of getting whatever you want with a business letter that turns people off instead of turning them on.”

Malcolm Forbes

Anastasia_KozhukhovaFor the last three months I have been thoroughly studying the issue of communication with clients from the point of view of translation business and discovered a paradox – though Translators usually make their translations in a clear and concise manner (at least, they are expected to), very often their business writing and communication with the clients lacks this persuasiveness and conciseness. As a result, many Translators do not get the results they want when cooperating with their customers.

Being Language Specialists, we must understand that each email we write is a snapshot of our writing skills. Without well-written communication it is unlikely a Translator will achieve success in the translation business on the whole. The thing is that many Translators do not know the difference between usual writing and business communication. Meanwhile, good business writing implies more than simply following the rules of Grammar. In today’s age of digital job hunting and endless online searches, email communication implies:

  • Expressing your ideas in a clear manner so that you reach your objective in each email (reach the client you want to cooperate with or win the project you want to translate);

  • Impressing your clients so that they hear your voice among the noise of hundreds of other applicants;

  • Understanding your target audience perfectly (you should know who is going to read your email).

On the whole, business communication experts describe business writing as follows:

  • Conversational but not too chatty;

  • Crystal clear, but not too simplistic;

  • Professional and polite, but not too formal

  • Action-oriented (it should encourage the reader to take specific actions)

However, it is not that easy to use these principles in practice and many freelancers keep on making the same mistakes when writing cover letters to their prospective clients. The most common of them are as follows:

  • Using ready-made templates from the Internet (When applying to a job post many Translators use cut-and-paste emails for every application. However, using one and the same template for all of your clients will never increase the number of your projects.)

  • Not mentioning the name of the Recipient (emails starting with Dear Sir/Madam)

  • Talking only about yourself, your skills and experience without linking these points with the client’s needs

  • Writing too long emails with long paragraphs without highlighting any key words (causing problems for Hiring Managers who tend to scan emails instead of reading them thoroughly)

  • Making dull endings without call to action (e.g. Thank you for your time. Please feel free to contact me at xxx@mail.com.)

  • Lack of proofreading which results in typos and lazy writing (e.g. pls, thanks) which is unacceptable in business communication

Today I will tell about one aspect which I consider to be one of the most important ones in communication with clients when you just start cooperating with them and want to prove that you deserve being their reliable partner when it concerns supply of translation services.

This aspect is about being READER-FOCUSED in each email you send to your customers. I am sure that you have already heard and read a lot about focusing on your client. But how can we achieve this in practice? This remains a confusing question for many freelancers.

This is true that people like reading only about themselves and their problems. They are not interested to know about your professional experience and skills even if the latter are really outstanding. The clients only want to know how you can solve their problems and make their life easier. To achieve this and motivate the prospective clients to read your emails, I suggest focusing on using You/Your pronouns instead of I/My in each email you send. Below you will find some examples of how in one and the same idea we can shift the focus from ourselves and our achievements to the customer’s needs and problems.

So, please compare:

  1. Responding to a job post on ProZ.com (beginning of the cover letter):

Wrong:

Dear Tom,

I am writing to apply for the position of a Freelance Translator published today on ProZ.com. Let me introduce myself. My name is XXX. I am English to Italian Translator with 10 years of experience and excellent language skills. Since 2006 I have cooperated with many companies…

Right:

Dear Mr. Smith,

I am contacting you concerning your job posting at Proz.com. As I understand, you are looking for an EN-IT Translator to translate your marketing brochure in a compelling manner by March 14th

As you see, in the first sample the Translator applying to a job post focuses only on himself and does not make an attempt to link his skills with the requirements of the company mentioned in the advertisement. In the second sample the Translator does his best to emphasize that first of all he carefully read the job post and understood the customer’s problem and main requirements.

  1. Asking the customer for further details of cooperation:

Please let me know your time zone so that I take it into account for my convenience

Please let me know your time zone, so that you can receive translations from me at the time convenient for you.

From these samples you can see how you can shift the focus to your customer even when asking such simple and routine questions like these. Please mind the usage of pronouns I and You in these samples.

  1. And one more example – Sending an update informing your customer about the new services you can provide):

I am pleased to inform you that now I have built my team consisting of Professional Translators, Editors and a Designer and that we are open and ready to accept larger projects and provide translations in a timely manner. Your projects will be turned around more quickly and you will enjoy a higher degree of accuracy than was previously available, because I have built my own team of Professional Translators, Editors and Designers which is now ready to work for your business.

So, now you see how powerful the usage of pronouns and shifting the focus to the customer can be in business communication with both your prospective and recent clients.

Start applying these easy-to-use principles in your daily business communication and see how quickly your results and effectiveness will increase and how many new projects you will get!

If you are interested in making your email communication even more effective (especially with your prospective customers), you are welcome to attend my Webinar on ProZ.com which will take place on July 28 and which is called “Effective Email Communication with the Customer for a Translator”.

During this Webinar you will receive many more examples of making your business writing reader-focused and learn how to provide solutions to the customers’ problems so that they choose YOU as their translation services partner. You will also find useful tips on how to effectively communicate with the customer in other situations:

– when submitting a quote via ProZ

– sending your CV to a prospective direct client

– accepting or rejecting a job offer

– sending an update on your skills and services, so that to keep your customers engaged.

I will be glad to see all of you on July 28th and wish you good luck in improving your business writing right after reading this article!


Thanks to Anastasia for sharing this information with us!proz-101-events

There are still a few more seats available for tomorrow’s training session, which will elaborate on some of the communication strategies touched on in this post. To register, please visit: http://www.proz.com/translator-training/course/12214-effective_email_communication_with_the_customer_for_a_translator

Be sure to check out upcoming training sessions and on-demand videos offered by Anastasia – covering topics ranging from CV writing to finding high-end clients – here: http://www.proz.com/translator-training/trainers/1234/courses

I hope you enjoyed this guest post. As always, comments, feedback, and suggestions for future topics can be submitted below or via Twitter @ProZcom

Guest blog post: Highlights from Erin Lyons’s webinar series on medical translation Reply

Erin Lyons is a full-time French to English and Italian to English translator, medical writer, and consultant. Her primary areas of expertise include clinical research, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and cosmetic products. In this guest post, Erin provides a brief overview of her ongoing webinar series on medical translation.


Erin_LyonsOver the next 3 months, I am pleased to be presenting a webinar series on ProZ.com that will be focusing on four different spheres of medical translation, patient informed consent, medical charts, journal articles, and regulatory affairs.

In the field of translation, we like to specialise and we also like to categorise. We like to call ourselves “medical” translators, “legal” translators or “sci-tech” translator., etc. However, as we know all too well, even such seemingly specific specialties entail an infinite number of sub-specialties and document types, each with its own rules, terminology and challenges.

Medical translation is no different and, while there is an abundance of general training materials on getting started in medical translation or the basics, there is a scarcity of information on the more specific sub-domains in the field that are unique to linguists and translators. This is why I have favoured this “close-reading” approach in the webinars of specific documents that one can expect to handle as a medical translator. Just like surgeons, in this webinar series we will dissect the documents in question and hone in on the greatest challenges and best language and material-specific resources to get the job done.

For example, in Part 1 of the series, “The Patient’s Perspective: Best Practices for Translating ICFs and PILs” (already completed on 8th May, but available for download), we took a close look at ICFs (Informed Consent Forms) and PILs (Patient Information Leaflets) and how these seemingly simple documents are surprisingly rife with challenges and also contain somewhat unexpected amounts of medical terminology. We reviewed the importance of writing for your audience (patients, parents, caretakers, minors, etc.), along with tools, such as readability scores and plain language glossaries that can be used to ensure proper patient-facing register.

The next webinar in the series, on 5th June, “SOAP Notes and Medical Charts: The Nitty Gritty of Medical Reports”, will focus on translating progress notes – often called SOAPs (Subjective, Objective, Assessment, Plan) – and patient records. Many translators fear translating these reports, which often come in the form of PDFs that need to be re-created, messy doctor handwriting and with an abundance of obscure acronyms and abbreviations. However, understanding how doctors and other medical professionals use and write these documents can help translators, who should always avoid staying at a superficial word level, to truly understand the entire clinical picture and capture a more meaningful and accurate translation of the document.

The third installment – “Medical Journals: Translating Like A Writer, Not A Scientist” – is aimed at translators who may even moonlight as medical writers. Translating for medical journals or writing English abstracts based on a foreign-language article can be a challenging endeavor. It can be difficult to maintain the balance between translating with a writer’s artistry, while remaining faithful to structured medical content. In this hour, we will focus on standards for medical writing and will end with an essential checklist to ensure that your translation meets industry expectations for polish and readability, while still complying with style guidelines and ethical standards, such as Good Publication Practice for Communicating Company Sponsored Medical Research.

A final, last reason to stay out of the heat and join in on this summer’s medical translation webinar series is to take part in our webinar on regulatory affairs, “Where Regulatory Rules: Translating Drug Leaflets, Packaging and Labelling”. After discussing all of these highly regulated documents – drug leaflets, packaging and labelling – you may be curious to learn more about the regulatory affairs side of the business and how to effectively gather, evaluate, organise, interpret and present data based on the source language and corresponding target FDA/EMA regulations. In our last hour together, you will become familiar with the steps of the translation, in-country review and post-marketing review processes and how to negotiate “untranslatables”. Confronting these specific translation challenges, resources and references will help you better translate regulatory medical documents in a manner that is less research-driven and more profitable.

For those interested in joining the conversation as part of this summer medical translation webinar series, please check the ProZ.com website for more information on registering and/or downloading the series:

  1. The Patient’s Perspective: Best Practices for Translating ICFs and PILs (completed, but available as an on-demand video)
  2. SOAP Notes and Medical Charts: The Nitty Gritty of Medical Reports, 5 June 2015, 3 PM CEST (GMT + 2)
  3. Medical Journals: Translating Like A Writer, Not A Scientist, 10 July 2015, 3 PM CEST (GMT + 2)
  4. Where Regulatory Rules: Translating Drug Leaflets, Packaging and Labelling, 7 August 2015, 3 PM CEST (GMT + 2)

Thanks, Erin, for this guest post.

Questions, feedback, or suggestions can be made in the comments section below or via Twitter @ProZcom

Guest blog post: Last-minute solutions in official translations Reply

As an assistant professor and ProZ.com professional trainer, Jasmina Djordjevic has sought to share the knowledge that she’s gained over her 17 year career as a language professional with others. Jasmina has a PhD in Applied Linguistics, is an appointed and sworn translator, and has published numerous articles and books on the study of translation. 

In this guest post, Jasmina shares some tips and advice on the translation of official documents.


926659_r4b29510c59f40The translation of official and court documents, such as decrees, judgments, certificates, authorisations, Powers of Attorney, Powers of Authority, last wills, Retention-of-Title clauses, etc. belong to a separate field within the translation industry. As such documents are either crucial pieces of evidence in a legal process or the product of some procedures, official and court documents depend on accuracy and precision. Therefore, they adhere to a separate set of rules when it comes to solving specific issues, such as signatures, stamps, illegible text, errors, typos, etc. Although these rather small issues might seem insignificant to some translators, when not handled correctly, an illegible signature or stamp might be the cause of serious consequences related not only to the accuracy and authenticity of an official document, but also to an entire procedure where the document might be a piece of crucial evidence or otherwise important information.

proz-101-eventsMany translators with little experience in the area of translation related to official and legal documents, resort to different solutions when faced with things they do not know what to do with. Unfortunately, such solutions are mainly incorrect. The list provided here should be regarded only as an attempt to identify the most common problems a translator is faced with, offer some solutions how to resolve them and thus provide a comprehensive review of suggestions related to some of the afore-mentioned issues, such as illegible text, handwritten insertions, errors, typos, stamps, signatures, etc. The list is actually a compilation of instructions derived from various translation instructions and style guides included in so-called Purchase Orders (PO) that agencies supply translators with when assigning translation jobs to them. Hopefully, the translation business will find a way to standardise problematic areas in translations, thus transform these last-minute solutions into standard techniques to be used by all professionals in the business.

1. Illegibility
Illegible sections in the source text should be marked in the target text with the equivalent of the word “illegible” in the target language put in square brackets. For instance, in German that would be “unleserlich”. Yet, all pieces of text and all numbers that are legible, even if only part of a sentence, should be translated or reproduced whereas the illegible part should be put in square brackets and identified as illegible.

e.g.
Target language = English
… the form of [Text illegible] is quite common…
28 [Number illegible] million Dollars

Target language = German
… die Form des [Text unleserlich] ist sehr verbreitet…
28 [Zahl unleserlich] Millionen Dollar

2. Omissions and errors in the source text
Any omission or error in the ST should be marked in the TT by writing the equivalent of “error in the original” or “omission in the original” in the TL in square brackets.

e.g.
Target language = English
[Error in the original: … the text identified as an error in the original in the source language …]
Target language = German
[Fehler im Original: … der Text, der als Fehler erkannt wurde in der Ausgangassprache…]

An alternative would be to include a translator’s note, which should be kept to a minimum and be as concise as possible.
Notes should be presented as follows (using the equivalent phrasing in the target language):

e.g.
Target language = English
[Translator’s note: … the text of the note kept to a minimum…]
Target language = German
[Anmerkung des Übersetzers: … der Text der Anmerkung, so kurz wie möglich…]

If the note is short it may be included in the main body of the text, but added in square brackets as indicated above. Longer notes should appear as a footnote or marked with an asterisk * (which may be numbered (*1) if there is more than one footnote). If the source language text contains its own footnotes, the remarks made by the translator have to be marked in a different way (for instance, by adding square brackets) and clearly indicated at the bottom of the page.

3. Stamps/seals, logos and signatures
The procedure with stamps and signature should be as follows:
The location of the respective stamp, logo or signature should be the same as in the ST. This will be achieved by typing the target text in square brackets into the area of the document approximately coinciding with the area of the original stamp, logo or signature. The type of the particular insertion has to be identified in the target language and all text appearing in the original stamp, logo or signature has to be translated and included in the square brackets inserted into the translation.

e.g.
Target language = English:
[Stamp/logo: … translation of the text appearing in the original…]
Target language = German
[Stempel/Logo: …. Übersetzung des Texts im Original…]

Target language = English
[Signature: John Smith]
Target language = German
[Unterschrift: John Smith]

If the signature is illegible, the equivalent of “illegible” in the target language should be added in square brackets, if it is written in a different alphabet, it should be identified:

e.g.
Target language = English
[Signature: illegible]
[Signature in Cyrillic: John Smith]
[Signature in Cyrillic: illegible]
Target language = German
[Unterschrift: unleserlich]
[Unterschrift in Kyrillisch: John Smith]
[Unterschrift in Kyrillisch: unleserlich]

4. Handwritten text
The procedure with stamps and signature should be as follows:
The location of the respective handwritten text should be the same as in the ST. This will be achieved by typing the target text in square brackets into the area of the document approximately coinciding with the area of the handwritten text. The exact wording of the particular piece of handwritten text has to be translated into the target language and included in the square brackets inserted into the translation.

e.g.
Target language = English
[Handwritten text: … translation of text…]
Target language = German
[In Handschrift: … Übersetzung des Texts…]

If the text is illegible, it should be stated as explained above.

5. Abbreviations
Comprehensibility should be the main consideration of a translator working with official texts. When a foreign abbreviation unfamiliar to readers occurs for the first time, it is usually best to write out the full term followed by an appropriate abbreviation in the target language in round brackets.

Thus two things may be considered crucial:
a) Standard equivalent abbreviations in the target language should be used if they exist.
b) If no standard equivalent abbreviation exists, a translation of the term in full should be written out each time rather than improvising an abbreviation in the target language.


calendar-tileThanks to Jasmina for sharing this information with us!

If you enjoyed this guest blog post, be sure to check out Jasmina’s upcoming and on-demand training sessions on note-taking, oral interpreting, and the translation of official documents here: http://www.proz.com/translator-training/trainers/946/courses

As always, feedback and comments can be submitted below or via Twitter @ProZcom

Market your translation services with the help of a practical marketing plan 7

In this guest post, ProZ.com professional trainer Tess Whitty shares some advice on how to create a marketing plan for your freelance translation business.


You are a freelance translator looking to grow your business and find those ideal clients that you enjoy working with. In order to do that we need to have some sort of a plan, a marketing plan.

In my experience there is no need to create a lengthy business plan (that will just end up in a drawer and never be put into action). Therefore, I recommend working smarter (not harder) and pulling from a variety of other tools such as mind-maps and whiteboards to create your plan.

customerIf your translation business is already up and running, the idea of adding more to your to-do list can easily feel overwhelming. As business owners, particularly when we are a one-person office, it’s easy to get buried beneath the day-to-day tasks of servicing clients and completing projects. I often hear translators say that it’s hard to find the time and energy to focus on implementing marketing tools. I know it’s hard, I have been there.

Now, because your time is scarce and precious, it is critical that you use it wisely. How are we going to ensure you get stuff done? Easy! We are going to create a list of marketing activities that will benefit your business. That way, every time your marketing appointment rolls around, you will know exactly what you need to tackle that day.

Here are the questions you can answer to begin crafting your marketing action plan:

  • How many new clients or projects do you want and in how much time?
  • How much more do you want to earn?
  • Where will you find your new clients?
  • What marketing methods will you use? (Be as specific as possible)
  • How will you market and provide service to your existing clients?
  • Can you offer additional services to your existing clients?

Based on these answers, you can make a master list of marketing actions that you need to take in order to grow your business. This master list should contain every task – big and small – that you need to execute. Then, prioritize all the actions you need to take and estimate approximately how much time you need to spend on each one. Finally, plug them into a calendar of activities you can do every week and every month. If a certain action requires long-term effort, break the task into milestones and mark the milestones on your calendar as well.

Be realistic with yourself and be careful not to try to do everything all at once. Remember that professional chefs don’t run around the kitchen and throw everything into the oven at the same time. Instead, they recognize that every task requires a different temperature and cook time. They plan their tasks strategically and never take on too much at once.

Follow up with yourself regularly to see what is working and what you need to change – perhaps you tried to tackle too much or too little, perhaps you noticed that your priorities were out of order. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments to the calendar, and remember that it exists for your benefit. After a year it will be fun to look back at just how much your business, income and client list have changed over the course of only 12 months.

If you would like to get a template for a one page marketing plan to help you on the way, please go here: http://forms.aweber.com/form/16/530744816.htm


This post is a short excerpt from Tess’s new book, “The Marketing Cookbook for Translators – For a Successful Freelance Career and Lifestyle,” now available in the ProZ.com books section: http://www.proz.com/books/95/The-Marketing-Cookbook-For-Translators.

Thanks for sharing, Tess! As always, feedback and comments can be posted below or via Twitter @ProZcom

 

Guest blog post: “The rules of engagement” by Tilly O’Neill of VSI Group Reply

In this Translator T.O. post, guest blogger Tilly O’Neill, project manager at VSI Group, shares some insight as to what qualities a translator should exhibit in order to build and maintain a successful relationship with clients.


DeadlinesVSI is a film and new media localization company and here in our London office we specialise in subtitling, dubbing and voice-over. As a project manager in the subtitling department, I deal daily with multi-language subtitling projects, including corporate, broadcast and documentary content. In the media and broadcast industry, deadlines are tight and room for error is slim. Often, I find myself dealing with clients who have only thought about the subtitles they need at the last minute, which adds to the pressure!

It’s a vibrant and exciting industry to work in, and as a project manager I often need to rely on other people; I manage tasks and deadlines for a multitude of different specialists, from sound engineers and video editors, to DVD authors and translators. I need to speak their language and understand their needs, so that I can pull everything together in a short space of time and produce a high-quality video in any number of languages. The client can then download this in the correct format at the click of a button, to show at a conference, at a film festival, on an aeroplane, in a phone app, on a DVD, on their intranet, on the internet, on television…

Such heavy reliance on other people can be stressful if, like me, you’re a bit of a control freak. To run projects efficiently, it’s very important for me to be able to trust that people can react quickly to emails and phone calls, follow instructions, are computer-literate to the necessary level for their task, and can deliver on time (no time for fake deadlines!). They should also be able to deliver to the high-quality standards VSI are known for and, of course, offer a competitive rate.

These are requirements that any supplier can expect from a client if they want to be taken seriously. The end client expects them of VSI, VSI expects them of me and, in turn, I expect them from any specialist supplier I am working with, be they a colleague, a freelancer, or another company.

Of course, it’s a mutual agreement, and two-way, honest communication is essential, in order to avoid misunderstandings and any subsequent frustrations which can ultimately lead to the breakdown of a working relationship. When there is a problem, it’s important that each side accepts responsibility for their actions. Professionalism allows relationships to endure, even when tricky situations arise. Being argumentative or uncooperative leaves a bitter aftertaste that’s likely to be remembered (and, often, professionalismpassed on to colleagues).

So how do you work towards a regular workflow with a company in the first place? What turns a one-off job into a long-standing relationship?

My colleagues and I are all of the same opinion. Apart from the extensive list above, it’s also a cheerful disposition, someone who takes pride in their work and goes the extra mile to ensure the accuracy and consistency of the project as a whole. For example, being proactive by pointing out a mistake in a source text or spotting list, so this information can be relayed to all translators.

Flexibility is also another highly valued quality. A client may decide to change a script during or even after the translation process and the project manager needs to be sure the translator can handle this change quickly and without fuss.

Finally, the GOLDEN RULE: Ask. Never assume. We’re all human and people make mistakes. We can only do our best to avoid making them, so speak up if something doesn’t look right. Chances are there’s been an oversight, and the sooner it’s pointed out, the easier it is to fix. You never know, you may save an entire project from catastrophe and you’ll be in the project manager’s good books for the rest of your days!


Thanks, Tilly, for sharing this post with us. Be sure to check out the VSI Group’s blog for more valuable tips on how to succeed in the localization industry, as told from an agency’s point of view: http://www.vsi.tv/blog