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a freelance translator isn't just about having the
ability to take language from one culture and turn
it into another. As I allude to elsewhere in this
blog, there are aspects of this career which require
negotiation skills and business awareness. When
you start off, for example, or have a new agency
contact you promising a juicy contract, it can be
tempting to bend over backwards to get the job.
Experience has shown that there are a few important
issues to consider before taking on a new job/client
and I’ve put them together below. This is shamelessly
inspired by Mark
W. Lewis’s Top 10 Lies told to Naive Artists and
Designers (via lifehacker)
and is called Céline’s 10 Tricky
Situations Translators Might Find Themselves In
and How To Get Out of Them.
1. "We’ve a got a huge project coming in next
week. Make sure you don't take on any work in the
If you haven’t received a purchase order specifying
timescales, wordcount and price, do take work in
the meantime. A lot of projects get delayed and
even cancelled, and you might find yourself twiddling
your thumbs and regretting turning down other jobs.
2. "You need to take a free test so we can make
sure we want to work with you."
If you’ve got experience and credentials (nevermind
references), surely this demonstrates that you are
a seasoned professional who can be trusted to do
a good job. If you’re a beginner, be careful. What
some unscrupulous agencies might mean is "Do
a section of this for free, we’ll put it together
with all the other "tests" we’ve sent
round and voilà! Our project is done for free".
However, don’t dismiss all tests that agencies may
ask you to do. I agreed to do a free test this year
because the person who wanted to work with me sounded
extremely professional, was offering interesting
projects and didn’t haggle over rates. This has
turned into a mutually beneficial work relationship.
Trust your gut feeling on this one.
3. "We’ve got this 2,000 word really easy document
to translate, can you deliver tomorrow?"
Before agreeing to deliver a translation at a certain
time, even verbally, you must have a look at it.
The 2,000 words might magically turn into 20,000
words (it has happened to me) and the "really
easy" prose may be full of technical jargon
that only 8 years of study in space science could
prepare you for.
4. "Hello, we’re agency X calling out of the blue
and we’re great, can you do a translation for us?"
Maybe. First of all, ask for their details and carry
out a quick Internet check to make sure they actually
exist. Next, use translators’ lists on payment practices
to ask colleagues whether they've worked for that
agency and what their feedback is. Lastly, trust
your gut feeling: is the tone of the email/phone
call professional? Do they mention terms? Do they
give details of the project?
5. "Lower your rate for this job and we’ll give
you much more work."
No self-respecting professional would try and get
another professional to cheapen themselves. You
won’t be respected as a translator by devaluing
your own work.
6. "Hi, we’ve got this 5,000 word document, but
there are lots of brand names and repetitions in
it, so can you not charge us for those words?"
Of course, no problem. I just won’t include those
words in my translation, and you can just add them
yourself after delivery. Seriously, a text is an
entity, and it is not practical or fair to ask a
translator to not charge for certain words just
because they appear more than once. We still have
to type them, and they're an integral part of sentences.
Besides, "can" might well appear lots
of times in your document, but just because I translated
it a certain way the first time I came across it
doesn’t mean that it should be translated in the
same way in its subsequent occurrences.
7. "Your rate is too high. We normally pay our
French translator xxx."
One colleague’s rates and business practices are
nothing to do with me. I charge a fair rate, which
allows me to live decently and stay in business.
Lowering my rates might mean having to take on another
job, which would impact on the quality of my translations,
or stop translating altogether and chose a more
8. "A Purchase order? We don’t do purchase orders.
Don’t you trust us?"
Business relationships aren’t personal relationship
and have to be regulated so that both parties agree
on some basic terms. A purchase order protects the
client (you’ve signed a paper specifying when and
how you’ll deliver your translation) as well as
the translator (you have proof that you got commissioned
to do work in case of payment delays or problems).
9. "Our proofreader has been through your translation
and has spotted lots of mistakes. You must do the
Can you please send me the proofread translation
with annotations from the proofreader? I am fairly
certain I sent you a decent document and I would
like to discuss any problem that arose at the proofreading
stage before I accept to redo the translation.
10. "We can’t pay you because the end client hasn’t
paid us yet"
This is none of my business. My business relationship
is with you, not the end client. If you agree that
I delivered a quality translation on time, then
stick to the terms of our agreement and pay.
article was originally published at: www.nakedtranslations.com
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