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7 habits of successful translators

Real advice based on actual results and own experience

I just bumped into some general article with the same title, so... DEBUNK TIME! Let's have some fun ripping it apart piece by piece.

Before you could ask: No, I will not link to that article. Let them work their @$$ off for those SEO results, just like I do. You can Google it if you want to see the original article.

1. They always ensure high quality

No. Only if they are paid for that. Do you think that one client demanding the translator to work for $0.02 and the other client happily accepting the translator's offer for $0.12 should both receive the same service? In other words, are you offered the same car for $2,000 and $50,000? There is one simple rule: if you pay beans, you get monkeys. Keep this in time the next time you want your translator work for the fraction of the price he is asking.

2. They proofread and review repeatedly

Checking and proofreading your own translation is a must, but hey, do you remember the previous one? Some clients do not deserve more than the first random keystrokes dropping out from the fingertips of the translator - provided the translator even wants to work for such a client. In order to avoid trained monkeys working for you, you should pay your vendors the price they are asking for. This not only means the rate but paying timely as well.

3. They build good customer relationships

Following the principles of the free market, the natural approach of a translator towards his clients must be friendly, polite and professional - unless the clients undermines this relationship by offering low rates, slow payment, sets up impossible work conditions, requests the translator being 24-7 available during the project, abuses the translator via Skype (e.g. by requesting status updates three times a day), changes the agreed conditions during the project, provides a wordcount analysis without giving insight into the wordcounting process and/or demands using some inferior CAT tools like MemoQ or his own online CAT tool, like Gengo or Smartling does, Any of these is an abuse of a translator and will ruin the relationship with them.

4. They learn from feedback

Provided there is feedback. Based on my experiences, feedback does not happen for 90% of the projects. Still, the majority of this 10% of feedbacks are scamming attempts, when the translation agency tries to enforce a discount or refuse payment by claiming that the quality of the translation was inferior - without giving any details about the quantity or nature of errors. These attempts typically happen only after the translator sends a reminder to the client that the payment is overdue for the invoice he made out for that particular job.

A proper feedback includes correction of each error, explaining the nature of each one and offering a correction for these. The simplest and most available method for this proper feedback, available even for clients not familiar with CATs, is using MS Word track change and adding notes. I receive proper feedback so rarely that I consider them a treasure.

broken image

No, this is not the feedback I meant.

5. They’re open to diverse topics

We can agree here, that a good translator is specialized and will not take any job of whatever subjects, so the "stepping out of their comfort zone" thing is quite a contradiction and makes no sense at all. Specialization means that a translator works in certain subjects. Unless one has text interpretation difficulties he will understand that working in certain subjects means that he does not work in other subjects. An intelligent being is open to diverse topics in order to understand as much as the world surrounding him as possible, but a translator specializes in certain areas and that's where he can call himself an expert. That's why I am a technical Hungarian translator, and I keep distance from legal and marketing projects, since these subjects demand a totally different state of mind which I simply do not have. Lawyers are from a different planet. The age of polyhistors has ended for centuries and one must understand what his grey matter is capable of and what not.

6. They manage their time wisely

Being a freelancer does not mean that you can make your own schedule as you like and you are 'free'. A freelancer is not 'free' at all (neither in the meaning that he has no boundaries nor he is willing to work without compensation), he is not someone working on the beach with his laptop just like on those silly stock photos (and now you finally understand the header image chosen for this article). Actually, being a freelancer means that you are less free than the usual office worker. A freelancer does not have standard working hours and can not finish his work and go home at 17:00. Also, going home makes no sense for someone working at home: the boundaries between home and work, between professional and private life are blurred, which is could be harmful for both. Freelancing routinely means being idle for a week, not given a simple job, and then suddenly getting three jobs to be done within two days where each job takes two days to deliver. This means that after a week of idleness the translator has two days to make one week's workload - how could he manage it? Sleep deprivation, caffeine overdose and ruining social relations is the only solution here, but you must be very naive to call these time management.

7. They keep learning and improving

This is very general (for that matter, just like all the others are). The world is evolving and everyone keeps learning and improving himself in order to float on the surface on the rough sea of business. The point is to understand what you need to learn and what to ignore. Fast and exact typing, perfect grammar of the target language and IT skills are the very basic a translator must master, and once he learnt these there is hardly anything he can improve in these areas. If something needs to be improved then it is not perfect, and without these few skills perfected one should should not sell himself as a translator. For the proper interpretation of what I have written please note that improving, updating and maintaining are different concepts and here I said that improving should not be necessary.

Today, when geek is the god, it may sound surprising that even IT skills do not need to be constantly updated. Must translators fall victim of marketing and readily update to the latest hardware and software each year, which is not only a waste of money but time as well, since with every update they have to learn again everything.

Imagine a car mechanic who empties his workshop, gets rid of all his equipment and tools, buys brand new ones and then refurbishes his workshop with these new tools and equipment in a rearranged fashion - and he does it every year. He will not only waste at least two weeks with this process, but will take him at least two additional weeks to re-learn the location of each tool he needs every day, as well as the use of all these new tools and equipment. This is not only a month of wasted time, but also a certain source of loss, damage, as well as accidents threatening not only his business but his health and life. That's why you never find a car mechanic doing this. When they find a tool or a solution which works they stick it during their professional career.

There is one thing about software they never told us: they are not like razors, they do not get dull during use. 0s and 1s remain 0s and 1s until the end of days, and what you are looking at this very moment is made of those 0s and 1s. While there will be some minor improvements in a software during the course of one year, these are not really significant. It takes about one decade for these small improvements to add up to the point where it makes sense to update. However, looking at the destructive ways CATS are being improved today, I do not see any reason to jump the bandwagon and waste my money on investing the latest IT improvements. When something works, keep using it, and for the good of yourself and your client do not experiment with brand new products just rolled out from the assembly line.

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