Membership: when and why should translators pay? 2

There was an inquiry this morning regarding a translator portal– to purchase membership there or not? I am copying here my reply, and would like to hear from others on this:

Hi Mike,

I’m not familiar with that site. I can give you some general advice when it comes to investing in membership at translator portals, and maybe others can add to this as well.

There are many sites which offer services for professional translators. Most of these will allow you to register and use some features or give you limited access to what they have to offer for free. What you get for free is not necessarily indicative of what the return on paid membership there will be, of course, but it can give you an idea.

I would recommend registering at several different portals, after doing some homework on each (a few Google searches can usually turn up pros and cons for a site, to begin with). Get what you need from each of those sites, no need to limit yourself to just one.

When it comes to opening your wallet for paid services for translators, make sure you’ve formed a clear idea of what you want in return. A membership fee should be viewed as an investment, and not necessarily a magic solution to get jobs– professional, well-paying clients look for professional translators (this does not mean that there is not room for other levels of translation work, see http://www.proz.com/?sp=rates&sp_mode=overview for an example of what I’m talking about), and you need to be able to show this in your online presence anywhere. Getting direct access to jobs is only a (small?) piece of the puzzle; keep in mind that networking, for example, can play an important part in building your online presence and in meeting new clients.

Ask other paid members on the sites where you’ve registered what they’re getting out of their membership. Ask more than one– most translators are more than willing to share this kind of info or to pass on a few pointers, and you may find that each person you ask is getting something different that they find valuable out of their membership (or not!).

Membership fees can differ from site to site, and it all depends on what you expect in return– is 150 bucks too expensive? If it leads to one new regular client, probably not.

Before paying for membership anywhere, also make sure it readily clear to whom you are making the payment (the person, persons or company behind the site or service), that the payment options are reputable, and what your options are for requesting a refund should you decide the service is not for you.

I know this doesn’t really answer your question, but I hope it helps.

What advice would you share with other translators or aspiring translators when it comes to the membership question? What steps should translators take to make those investments smartly?