Tag Archives: translators

Can you find the best translator?

25 Aug

Have you ever noticed how unpopular is the concept of “the best product ever”?

Although some marketer and manufacturers are trying to make use of this slogan, it seems odd that this concept has never gained much popularity among advertisers. What can be more natural? You claim you are the best (or you product/service is the best), and people will instantly join the queue to get it.

But there must be some sort of explanation why such an obviously brilliant idea does not get the popularity it (certainly?) deserves.

The thing is that “the best” is an adjective. Like almost any other adjective, it has descriptive nature. In other words, people can`t measure the portion of “best-ness”, otherwise they would have already employed the concept long time ago. So, when someone says that something is the best, they always compare the thing they are talking about with other similar objects/products/etc. One-of-a-kind objects can`t be the best or the worst.

In other words, people tend to compare things, and, based on their requirements, they can find the best expert for the text they are going to translate. Quite often these requirements include price (budgets are tight, which is why clients have to screen out translators whom they can`t afford. Although some may claim that the best translators are the most expensive ones, for these clients they are obviously NOT the best ones). Or, a lot of people will only search for native speakers of the target language, filtering out those who claim they can do it both ways.

Many prefer experts with strong translation skills and will never let translators per se with some knowledge of the specialization touch the source text, etc.

My point is that clients can`t find the best translators for every project. Without clear requirements and criteria identified prior to the search it is more like chasing a mirage. In other words, it is quite ineffective to try to make prospects believe that you are the best one for them. Some of them will (of course) take the bite, but the probability that this relationship will last much long is minimal. It is far better to let clients match their requirements related to their specific project your expertise and experience, or, yes, to let them pass you by in case they don`t need your profile. This is the only way to let them “stay by” you if they choose you.

BTW the same goes for the concept of “the best translation” (to be elaborated in another post of mine).

Words are just words, and it is a very bad when clients (attracted by catchy slogans) don`t see the profile they were thinking about – not because you are a bad translator, but because you are not the best for THEM. Defeated expectancy.


Non-payers: when clients vanish into thin air

12 Aug

Have you ever faced non-payment? Not a delay of several days, but a real nightmare, when your client vanishes into thin air?


Well, I have. Several times during 10 years in the industry. Sooner or later this happens to almost any translator: you can`t reach your client, whether a translation agency or a direct customer. Emails are left unanswered, SMS messages do not help you, phone calls don`t help either. That`s why I would like to share several examples of my actions I took to get paid.


1. The most simple method to make your PM instantly contact you in this case is to somehow find e-mail of her immediate superior. In most translation agencies this will be the general manager of the company. Once you find it on their web-site, you can send a short and polite message about the situation. I used this technique twice, saying something like “it may be that you (as the general manager) are simply not aware of the fact that your PM does not want to answer emails of translators”. This usually helps, since general managers are usually much more interested in protecting the image of their companies. In the first case it was clear that the PM was called on the carpet by her boss, because I received her reply on the same day. In the second case the president of the company openly told me they had cash problems. I asked if they could pay 70% right now, with 30% to be paid when an opportunity arrives (not a very good solution, but that`s how people negotiate. The Blue Boars score of the company was perfect). The problem was solved. It`s better to get something than to get nothing.


Well, if we take the first case, one may ask: don`t you understand that this PM will never contact you for new projects? My answer is: do you want this type of clients? I don`t. They have already showed their attitude. In the second case I was polite and sincere. We reached a mutually acceptable agreement with the head of the company. I was lucky to get my payment. The rest has been transferred in a month or two (I don`t remember actually).


2. A somewhat more serious issue I faced was when I made a translation for another translator in another country. I was contacted by her with a rush assignment to be done within the next few hours (translator who had had to deliver the project vanished). Ok, no problem. All in all, the client was generous. She also accepted the translation and promised to pay within a week. Needless to say, I never heard anything from her since then. Nothing helped: although I had her phone number, her email address, my SMS messages and emails were left unanswered. What made the issue worse was that she had no Blueboard account at proz.


What I did was to find her LinkedIn profile and browse her contacts there. Quite accidentally I came across the profile of her husband there (well, at least he had the same surname). Having written a very polite e-mail about my concern that something bad could have happened to her, I finally received both his and her apologies (with a phony excuse for this delay) and 25% compensation for this inconvenience. BTW, I still don`t think I will have the courage to work for her later on.


3. Another (similar) unpleasant thing happened to me with one Italian agency. They also were very reluctant to both pay and talk to me about the situation (although I had been working for them for 2 years). I had to first post negative entries on Blueboard. Then I had to contact one of my friends in Italy to ask him to make a call to this company. This pressure helped me get the money. Needless to say, I stopped taking assignments from this agency.


What is the moral of the post? If, after careful consideration and checking, you still come across a client who turns out to be a non-payer (well, this sometimes happens; 2-3 times during my 10-year career, for instance ), don`t be driven to despair. Use a pen and a sheet of paper to brainstorm any ideas about the ways of getting your payment. Do you have friends there? Ask them to make a serious call. Do you have e-mails of managers? Use them. Do you have access to the Internet (I believe you have?) Use it to find as much contact details as possible. Don`t be too concerned about possible consequences for your relationships – they have already shown you that they don`t take you seriously. Don`t be afraid to let this client go.

My interview given to lingo.io about translation and translation industry

28 Jul

Today I would like to share some passages from my interview which I gave to lingo.io portal several days ago (it is not published yet). Frankly speaking, I was quite pleased when I was contacted by their marketing manager Michael Eckl, who asked me to answer several questions about my translation career and prospects of the translation industry.

I hope that the info mentioned below will find its readers.

P.S. Although it is a bit lengthy for a blog post, I believe that both newbies and seasoned freelancers will find new ideas to apply.


Q. In self-marketing, which factors have helped out the most so far?

А. Marketing is the basic activity any freelancer should master. You simply can`t go without marketing. Without one you will have to accept any work you come across – just because you don`t have much of it. While a lot of freelancers tend to use their rates as the main differentiator (in other words, they try to offer the lowest or “most competitive” rates), smarter freelancers try to work less and get more. They find clients which don`t ask about the price right from the start, if you like. Here comes marketing. These freelancers learn ways how to get such clients, how to make them accept the conditions.

You have to show that you are an expert. Not THE BEST translator in the world, but the one who is an expert (who is the best NHL player? No one knows. There are some 100 of them – they all are THE BEST players). Your name should be heard. Your business card should touch hands of proper people. Your direct e-mails should land proper people. You also have to tap your network and go deeper with existing clients. They should be happy with the work you provide.

A very helpful technique is to brainstorm marketing ideas with a pen and a sheet of paper.

Q. Which of the social networks do you use most successfully for customer acquisition, which ones more for interaction with others in your industry?

A. Well, social networks have profoundly changed the way people sell things and services. First, these are very time-consuming things (you can end up spending a lot of time on-line). That`s why I don`t use Facebook (which is too complex compared to Twitter, for example). I use Twitter as the main “megaphone” of things I “broadcast”. You can choose any other social media, but there are two things to remember. First, you have to find people who will be interested in what you are talking about. Second, you have to have something to say to people who are the same as you. If you don`t have right people (in my case – translators, translation agencies, direct clients who are interested in my areas of specialization) around you, or in case you don`t have anything to say, you will waste your time there.

The last thing: don`t expect miracles. Social media alone won`t bring you too many clients. Your marketing strategy should be comprehensive. Direct contact with people at shows, fairs, direct mail campaigns, etc. should be accompanied (not replaced by) social media.

Q. In your work with clients and partners, what are you doing differently today in comparison to the early phase of your career?

A. Well, CAT tools are a must now. We also did not count repetitions back in 2004. These are the most noticeable changes.

A lot of translators now use Google Translate to pre-translate files. This was unimaginable back in 2004. Now with Google Translate the speed of translation is much higher. MT engines I saw in 2004 in my language pair (English-Russian) were pathetic compared to Google now. “Thanks” to MT you now can see a lot of ads in the Internet where translation agencies are looking for MT post-editors (BTW, this has nothing to do with direct clients; another plus of working with them).

Third, Google search engine is now a very helpful tool used for searching different terms. In 2004 search engines were far less intelligent.

Q. Where do you find inspiration for your blog?

A. Well, although I don`t blog too frequently, I try to stick to a certain schedule. Frankly speaking, it is quite difficult for me to produce words on paper, first because English is not my native language (it is quite natural, I believe. You write much quicker in your native language). Anyway, I believe that marketing is one of the most important areas freelance translators have to master, and that is the exact reason why almost all my blog posts are about marketing. Where do I find inspiration? Well, the source is everyday life. The thing is that every day you encounter people and businesses who either employ or don`t employ various marketing approaches. Sometimes you wonder how on Earth they make money! That`s when I switch on my computer and tell people how things shouldn’t be done.

I write a lot about the relationships between outsourcers and translators as well. Sometimes I am shocked to see how some translation agencies treat people who make money for these translation agencies. That is another subject I cover.

I also give a lot of valuable recommendations to my colleagues. Once again, this is my experience, and I believe that translators can and should make their contribution in order to change the industry.

Q. Which online and offline resources do you read on a regular basis?

A. First, Twitter posts of other translators and marketing gurus. Every day I read through dozens of blog posts. Some of them contain absolutely obvious information, but some reveal facts and opinions which are sound and useful.

I also buy books regularly, if I see that they are worth buying. They are not always about translation or marketing. I read a lot about physics, electronics, engineering, construction, etc. as well. These are my core specializations.

Third source of information is Internet. Every day I try to read several editorials about economy of my country, news, etc. This also helps to sharpen my language skills and stay fit. It is a must for any translator to literally devour tons of information regularly.

These are most important sources of information I use.

Q. What are CAT tools missing today, how would you envision the CAT tool of your dreams?

A. This is my favorite question. Well, CAT tools are expensive. That`s OK, but the number of glitches you come across is annoying. Why on Earth do you have to pay 900 EUR for an application which crashes frequently? I am sure that this is acceptable for freeware applications, but is abnormal when we speak about things people pay for.

Even the most expensive tools can`t open certain popular file formats, although they allegedly have to.

Simplicity is another characteristic most CAT tools lack. I also believe that such complex applications which use a lot of other programs you have to install beforehand are doomed to crash frequently. Simple systems don`t crash.

Q. What would you pass on as personal advice to translators new to the industry?

A. Frequent mistake many newbies make is that they don`t choose their specialization. Jack-of-all-trades is a myth. And that is a very bad signal to your potential clients.

Another mistake people do is that they try to compete on price. Once I heard a statement that when you compete on price you have no choice but to be the cheapest. And, once you start to compete on price then you can count on there being somebody coming along who’ll beat your prices, even if doing so ultimately bankrupts them. That`s a law. BTW, people and/or translation agencies who try to find the cheapest translators won`t stay too long with them. It is another myth that you can charge superlow rates and at the same time count on long-term cooperation with this outsourcer. Marketing is there to stop getting low rates.

But who said that it would be easy?