Q&A from Fire Ant & Worker Bee March 21, 2013Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
The latest Accurapid Translation Journal has a very interesting Q&A about Trados pricing in its Fire Ant & Worker Bee column (which is always an enjoyable read). Since I have recently received similar requests from agencies (whatever happened to the good ole 30/60/100 pricing scheme Trados used to suggest?), I was very interested in reading the answer and thought you might be as well.
Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,
I have been contacted by three different agencies over the last few weeks proposing the following table for CAT tool discounts, all of whom I have refused while remaining icily polite:
100% Matches @15%
95-99% Matches @20%
85-94% Matches @50%
75-84% and below @66%
50-74% and below @100%
No Match (New Words) @100%
Unedited Text in Graphics @100%
There appears to be some company trying to push this grid along with their CAT tool marketing. It is particularly derisory because low-grade fuzzy matches are in reality practically worthless, often costing more time than they save, especially for those of us who use voice recognition. I often set my CAT software to ignore them.
I am writing in case there is anyone new to the profession who is inclined to believe the sales pitch that this is some kind of “industry standard”. It certainly is not. The supplier of a service sets the price, not the buyer. The buyer decides whether or not to buy.
Dear No Grid,
We agree not 50 nor 66 but 100%, sir, and applaud your reminder that this grid is a negotiating tool—some might say weapon—and definitely not an industry standard.
Self-assured claims to the contrary come from vendors applying commodity-based business models. They are understandably desperate to lock in margins at the low end of the market, where prices are very definitely under severe pressure.
As you probably know, many skilled professionals insist that translation technology is above all a quality assurance tool for ensuring consistency. As one observer notes, “real-time savings are achieved consistently only with large blocks of 100% context matches.” And in other cases? Well, no one is saying that time might not be saved in some instances, with some texts. But that is not what “industry standard” grids—applied across the board—are.
This may be a good time to point out how much more sense it makes to bill by the hour, which recognizes genuine productivity-driven savings, however achieved.
A top interpreter once told us he developed the concentration he needed to perform at the highest level in the booth through intensive chess competitions. We find ourselves wishing translators would play more poker, to gain practical experience in the skills needed to call a negotiator’s bluff.
FA & WB
Being in limbo January 30, 2013Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
One of the things they don’t tell you about when you start freelancing is the art of staying calm while being in limbo. I finished a job last night. It is currently at my proofreader’s and is due back to the client later today. In the meantime, I have had three different job queries in the last week or so, and they are all pending approval by the client or still haven’t been finalized. So here I sit, trying to fill my time while I have nothing to translate. With my luck they will all be approved (although I have a feeling that one of them won’t) and will all be due on Friday or Monday. Or none of them will materialize. You never know as a freelancer. Because it is impossible to evenly distribute workload when you freelance. There is a lot of feast or famine – or waiting in limbo. November and December were extremely slow months for me. It had me questioning my decisions and toying with the idea of getting a 9-to-5 job or even a part-time job. Not having income coming in can make me panic pretty easily. My office was reorganized, my finances were in order, and I had run out of projects. I had decided to start a marketing campaign after the holidays, but luckily things improved. It still frustrates me waiting for work to be approved, but that’s the business I guess. I’m hoping the return of work will return my zest for blogging. It’s been hard to stay motivated. Anyway, I hope you all had a good holiday season and are busy with work through this new year. May we all stop being in limbo!
We can do magic… January 29, 2013Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
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One of my German colleagues sent out the following e-mail over one of my listservs about the Perfect Agency in New York with close to a million branch offices (okay, I’m exaggerating a little…)
At 5:27 p.m. [Perfect Agency] sent out a query for a legal translation with over 4,000 words with a deadline of 7 p.m.!! After all, we’re magicians!
Oh, Perfect Agency, you have quite the reputation with low rates and tight deadlines, but this one really takes the cake!
If I had a dollar for every translator… oh wait January 10, 2013Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
“Translator Registration – Become a Verified Translator
To start receiving translation projects from Diamond Translation you need to Verify your account. Once you verify your account, our translators support team will review your application and certify you as a translator and a member of the Diamond Translation Community. If you have a Paypal account you will need to make a $1.00 payment (1 USD) using your account, so we can link your Paypal account to your profile and pay you for the translations (We will refund you those 1 USD along with the payment of your first translation).”
I sincerely hope no one who reads this blog falls for this. Better to miss a chance to work with a new client then to get stuck in an unpleasant situation where you don’t know what’s going on with your sensitive data. There are many other clients out there who seem much more trustworthy
The myth of the non-paying client December 10, 2012Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
Catherine Christaki (@LinguaGreca) from Adventures in Freelance Translating has an interesting blog post about the results from the Common Sense Advisory survey of freelance translators. Her post was published on the 7th, but I am just catching up with my RSS reader today after a weekend off hosting my cousin from Florida. I found the results of the survey very interesting. Catherine was astounded that so many translators (65.3%) reported never having had to deal with a non-paying client. I don’t find that such a stretch. I think there are way more good agencies than bad agencies out there. It’s just that you never hear about all the clients that DO pay. Translators are more likely to complain about the few black sheep they encounter. I worked in the industry for 16 years before encountering my non-payer. Luckily I also knew to cut them off after the second job request, so they only ended up not paying $60 instead of several thousand dollars. In terms of numbers, that was several hundred paying clients (even if some of them were slow payers) against a single non-paying client. As I have preached time and again (and Catherine also advises), it really helps to do some due diligence on a new client before working for them. I agreed to work for the non-paying client because I was driving in my car, they said a colleague had recommended me, and they were in a terrible bind. Looking back, I should have made them wait until I could go home and check them out. But since it was such a small job I took the risk and accepted the job. If it had been a larger job I would have made them wait.
So the moral of this story is that there truly are many more good agencies than bad out there, and the numbers back this up. 65.3% of the 3,165 translators who took the survey prove this. Be sure to read Catherine’s blog post as well as click the link to the survey she has included in her post.
How a listserv works October 4, 2012Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
I was called a snot and a know-it-all on the ATA LTD listserv the other day. Some woman had asked about a PDF conversion program. This is a subject I know quite a bit about, having presented on the subject at ATA two separate times, so the attack was completely unwarranted. I had replied earlier that week that what she wanted the program to do was not within the program’s ability (as I understood it she wanted to be able to paste the English text next to the German in the OCRed file). She then proceeded to try to e-mail a file as an attachment over the listserv to one of the members to OCR for her. When the suggestion was made that the listserv allow attachments I simply replied that I voted no because I didn’t want my e-mail inbox cluttered with attachments from a listserv. The woman’s overreaction to my replies in this discussion and subsequent responses to other people’s replies defending me from her unwarranted attack (calling them scammers and spammers when they were in fact simply replying to the listserv) clued me in that the woman had absolutely no idea how a listserv worked. I’m sure most of you do, but in case you don’t, here is a quick explanation.
The term ‘listserv’ has been used to refer to a few early electronic mailing list software applications, allowing a sender to send one email to the list and then transparently sending it on to the addresses of the subscribers to the list. Incoming messages sent to the reflector address (in this case ataLTD@yahoogroups.com, but it could just as easily be email@example.com, WPPF@yahoogroups.com or firstname.lastname@example.org) are processed by the software and are
distributed to all email addresses subscribed to the mailing list. This means that every e-mail that is sent to ataLTD@yahoogroups.com gets sent to all 210 members of the listserv. Once you subscribe to the listserv you will receive all the e-mails that are sent to the list. You can’t pick and choose (although you *can* filter individual e-mail addresses into your e-mail program’s Trash, which I hope she has done with my e-mail address because I never want to hear from her again).
In the meantime, she looks like a total idiot who overreacted ‘in front of’ 209 professional translators, and, believe me, behavior on listservs plays a huge part in how people perceive you as a professional. Meltdowns such as hers last week or a few other notable instances in the past on various other listservs truly reflect poorly on the translator and influence whether someone will recommend you to their client if they are too busy to accept a job. Bad behavior on a listserv such as the ATA Business Practices listserv is even worse, because many agency owners subscribe to the listserv. So think before you write to a listserv.
Balancing client confidentiality and applying for work July 23, 2012Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
One of my friends owns a translation agency. They are currently updating their records and have their poor intern contacting translators in their database to update their information. As you can imagine, the poor intern is getting frustrated with the nutty replies she is getting. These are translators who applied to work with the agency in the past. All they are asking is for them to update their contact info, sign an NDA and supply a couple references. One translator refused because they are “requesting the names of some of my other clients, an inconsistency both with the rules of the profession and your own NDA. You should be aware that requesting or disclosing such information is illegal and unethical, and contrary to both laws governing the profession and rules of the American Translator’s Association.”
Uh, what? Dude, take a chill pill. All they are asking is for a couple references. Disclosing this information is not “illegal and unethical.” It’s actually a standard business practices everywhere. I think someone has misunderstood something they heard somewhere.
The American Translator’s Association’s Code of Professional Conduct says nothing about providing references. There are eight bullet points, and the only one that might possibly be misconstrued to mean this could be number 2 – “to hold in confidence any privileged and/or confidential information entrusted to us in the course of our work.” However, this means confidential corporate information, medical results, and business secrets. Keeping anything we learn through a translation for our clients confidential. No more, no less. It does not mean providing a reference.
According to Freelance Folder’s 10 Painful Mistakes that Cost You Freelance Work, one of the top ten mistakes is “No references.” As the writer explains, “Testimonials are a key part of marketing yourself as a freelancer. If no one is willing to say that you did a good job for them, prospects may wonder what’s wrong with you.” Freelance Folder suggests you “ask a few of your current clients if they would be willing to write a testimonial for you.” The reference can also be a former professor, another freelance translator, or a project manager that has worked with you at several agencies. They aren’t asking for references to poach your clients. I am regularly asked to provide a reference for former students. All the agencies want to know is if the student has the skills to be a translator (and is sane). In fact, most agencies probably don’t even have the manpower to follow up on the references. Asking for a reference is not equivalent to client poaching, and this translator will most likely never get work from any agency with this attitude.
Another glaring example of unprofessionalism July 20, 2012Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
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According to the Daily Echo, a murder trial was recently halted because the interpreter was not translating key phrases and incorrectly. Turns out the man was there instead of his wife, who was the actual certified court interpreter, because she “was busy.” Her husband was not qualified or registered to work in the courts – let alone to translate vital evidence in a murder trial. Are you kidding me?!?! It’s only a matter of time until the courts yank the contract with Applied Language Solutions, right?!? How can they justify all these poor business practices. The government should really go back to using their former (qualified) interpreters, because delaying costs by a day costs tens of thousands of pounds. In the end all these delays and postponements are going to cost the courts far more than the £18m they originally wanted to save when they signed the contract with ALS.
Prolonged sitting leads to glucose and insulin spikes April 25, 2012Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
One of my colleagues (and friends) shared an article from Runner’s World that talks about the dangers associated with prolonged sitting on the ATA Business Practices listserv. In the last few years evidence has emerged suggesting that prolonged sitting, which is what we translators do for hours on end, is very bad for your health. We all know it can’t be good for you, but this presents very clear evidence of a correlation between prolonged sitting and glucose and insulin spikes. As the article explains, “No matter how much or how hard you exercise, if you spend the rest of the day motionless at a desk or on the couch, metabolic changes take place in your muscles that increase your risk of nasty outcomes like heart disease and death.” At the very least we should all get up every twenty minutes and take a quick 2-3 minute walk around the house or outside.
One of our best business practices, for overall good health as well as weight control and alertness, may be getting up off of our comfortable desk chair – or, as Corinne suggests, using a treadmill desk. I have been diagnosed with insulin resistance, so it seems I’d best seriously start looking into a treadmill desk. The heck with the cat – she can find somewhere else to sleep!
Spring cleaning the office April 10, 2012Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
When was the last time you cleaned in your office – I mean *really* cleaned it? If you’re like me it was probably when you moved in, but I bet it was at least several years ago. Why not set aside a day in the next week or so and do a thorough cleaning of the office? Since it’s now officially spring and the windows will soon be thrown open, now is the perfect opportunity to spring clean your work area, which can make you more efficient and productive, and even healthier.
The first step is to dedicate a day and time for your spring cleaning. The most common reason cleaning is put off is our daily interruptions. We have every intention of going through those files, and then the phone rings with a rush job or an email arrives in your inbox that needs to be answered immediately. If you can dedicate a specific day or time for cleaning, you’re more likely to actually do it. Pick a day that is typically quieter (in my case Fridays are usually good times) or set aside a weekend by not accepting any weekend work. Push yourself to get everything done and then, on your designated day, put on some good music, roll up your sleeves, and get to it.
Be sure to break up your tasks so you don’t get overwhelmed and quit. You’ve got to cut the mountain of tasks down to size to make it surmountable. Make a list of what your spring cleaning will entail: organizing and weeding out your paper files, combing through your email inbox, sifting through the papers and invoices on your desk, cleaning the insides and outsides of your computer and peripherals, etc. Decide what needs to be done, then pick one or two projects to tackle each day or each time you need a break from your regular work. By breaking things up, you might not feel so overwhelmed, and you’ll have a sense of completion each time you conquer one item on your list.
In my case, my first step was to go through the piles of papers and magazines that accumulated and file them away or recycle them. You might be surprised by what you find during your clean up. When I cleaned my office last week I found the two replacement tickets for the musicals Million Dollar Quartet and La Cage aux Folles when I couldn’t go on my assigned days for my Broadway subscription. I had torn my office apart looking for them at the time and ended up not going because I couldn’t find the tickets. Other people may find uncashed checks from clients or unused gift certificates. Challenge yourself to go through your piles and find some lost treasure.
Once the surfaces are cleared, grab that surface cleanser and give your desk, bookcases, shelves, etc. a good scrub. Clean your monitor using the appropriate cleaning agent. Spraying Windex on a paper towel can clean up your CRT, but lint-free wipes are usually a better choice. If you have an LCD screen, steer clear of ammonia-based cleaners. Instead, use a soft cloth dampened with plain water. Just make sure the cloth isn’t too wet. Next wipe down the keyboard, microphones, lamps, phone headsets, etc. with a sanitizing disinfectant. You might want to keep a tub of wipes on the desk next to you so you can wipe these things down more often in the future. This will cut down on the germs you are exposed to on a daily basis. If you have a window in your office, spray some Windex on the windows and let the sun shine in.
Now let’s turn our attention to our computers. Computers have moving parts such as fans on their CPUs, power supplies, video cards and, in some cases, on the case itself. Each fan is important for the smooth operation of the computer because they keep the system cool. If the parts overheat it could damage your computer. If you have a desktop computer you need to occasionally make sure the fans are running unimpeded – especially if you have pets or smoke in your office. Unplug the computer from the power supply so you don’t electrocute yourself or short out the motherboard, open up the case and blow out the dust bunnies. Don’t use a vacuum cleaner. Vacuums can generate static electricity, which can kill your computer. You need to use compressed air, which you can buy at any office supply store. If you are using compressed air or a compressor, give it a test spray of air first because sometimes they can collect moisture and spray water onto your computer, which is something we definitely don’t want. Place a pen or pencil in between the fan blades to prevent it from spinning and blast the dust away from the fan blades. Next, you will need to get the dust out from the computers CPU heat sink just below the CPU fan. A good blast from a low angle facing towards the back of the case should get most of the dust out from in between the aluminum grills. Be sure to run the vacuum cleaner in the office after you’ve done this – or take the computer outside or to your garage to avoid dust being blown around.
OK, now that that is done, you should clean up your files on the computer. Remove any unwanted programs or programs you no longer need by going to Start->Control Panel->Programs or Add/Remove Programs, then remove the unwanted programs. Delete old e-mails from your e-mail inbox. Archive jobs that have been delivered. You also don’t need a ton of links on your desktop, because it just slows the system down. Delete any unneeded links.
This ensures that your computer is running at tip-top shape. I like to occasionally run a program called CCleaner on my computer. It removes cookies and temporary Internet files as well as dead links and other detritus that can slow your computer down. If your computer is running particularly slow you may want to clean up the Registry as well, but don’t clean up the Registry if you don’t know what you are doing! One option is to visit a well-trusted computer magazine website (I recommend something like CNET or PC Magazine) and search for step-by-step instructions on how to do this. However, if you don’t have the slightest clue about the structure of your computer and its files you may want to hire someone to do this. And whatever you do, always back up your system before doing this.
If you don’t want to buy a special program like CCleaner you can run a complete disk cleanup using the system tools on your computer. After clicking on “Start,” move your cursor to “All Programs” then up to “Accessories” and then “System Tools.” Click on “Disk Cleanup” and then click the “More Options” tab at the top of the page, and select all three of the following: “Windows Components,” “Installed Programs,” and “System Restore”. Clean up all three by clicking on their respective tabs. You may want to delete all but your most recent system restore point, as you probably don’t need the others.
You will also want to remove adware, malware, and spyware. Adware, or advertising-supported software, is any software package that automatically renders advertisements. This may be in the form of a pop-up, but they may also be in the user interface of the software or on a screen presented to the user during the installation process. Adware, by itself, is harmless; however, some adware may come with integrated spyware such as keylogger programs and other privacy-invasive software. These programs may be installed by websites, with programs from unknown developers or through a Trojan horse through your e-mail. I use a combination of Lavasoft AdAware and Spybot Search & Destroy.
Once the unused files and programs are purged you will want to defragment your system. Defragmenting your computer moves all your files to where they are supposed to be. Again, you can find the Disk Defragmenter tool under Start->All Programs->Accessories->System Tools. You may want to download an independent defragmenter (such as Defraggler by Piriform). It is small, concise, and more powerful, than the one distributed with Windows. But I use the Windows Disk Defragmenter, and it’s perfectly sufficient.
Once your computer is ship-shape and exactly how you want it, then go to Start->All Programs->Accessories->System Tools, then System Restore. Create a restore point, and restore it back to that point whenever your computer is running poorly. Once you do all this, your system will be running faster and you will feel lightened by the burden of a messy office. Happy Spring!