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Guest post: Do translation customers really care what kind of people they’re buying from? November 18, 2014

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Translation.
11 comments

I don’t normally accept guest posts, but I am making an exception for this one. This needs to be heard and discussed.

Guest post by Terena Bell of In Every Language.

Maybe people really don’t care. That’s what I thought this morning as I got out of bed and read today’s news on my cell phone. Maybe people don’t care, maybe they don’t want a better world, maybe there are no rewards for the good or punishment for the bad.

I’ve written in my MultiLingual Magazine column before about how American culture is trending so that people no longer want to spend money at businesses where they find the owner’s behavior deplorable. Well, I’m writing this blog to say that I was wrong. Or at least I was wrong about how or when this particular macrotrend would affect our industry.

See, there’s this little thing going on right now — maybe you’ve heard of it — Crain’s New York is calling it the TransPerfect Storm. I’ve got to admit, the title’s catchy. For those of you who haven’t seen the press, Liz Elting and Philip Shawe, co-owners of translation giant TransPerfect, are going at it in the courts, in the office, in the breakroom — pretty much everywhere these two can find a place to disagree, according to Crain’s, they’re doing it. And it’s not just Crain’s reporting the story either. It’s The New York Post and The New York Daily News, too. And when The Daily News – which let’s face it, is pretty much a fancy tabloid – starts covering the story you know it’s salacious.

According to Crain’s, the two owners “are suing each other for malfeasance and mismanagement, and each wants the other thrown out of the company. The parties have asked a judge to break the deadlock, and a hearing is scheduled for Nov. 18.” The translation industry will be watching today’s results with bated breath.

See, here’s the thing: Many in the translation industry have thought for years that Elting and Shawe are not what most people would call good people. Multiple media reports of Elting kicking Shawe with her heels and pouring coffee on him during work, all the media reports of the f-you emails back and forth, filing restraining orders against the other, all these reports of what – if true – is clearly unprofessional, childish behavior, well juicy as the news maybe, it’s not a surprise to many who work in translation for a living.

In October of 2013, the blog TranslationEthics.com called TransPerfect a “sweatshop” because of the well below standard rates it pays its translators. As far back as 2011, a different blog, TransPerfect Translation Concerns, reported, “It’s only a matter of time [before] a hungry investigative reporter will has burst the … TransPerfect PR bubble [sic], and release some less than glowing information.” Well, that time is now.

So here’s my question, and here’s what has me writing a blog entry before breakfast: Do clients even care? Court documents for the case claim Fortune 100 clients have either threatened to pull or have already pulled over $20 million worth of work. But there’s a big difference between threatening to yank your business and actually doing it. In the sales meetings I’ve been in with current TransPerfect customers, the topic hasn’t even come up. As a TransPerfect competitor, I haven’t had a single client come to me saying, “Oh my, their ethics are horrible, they’re just not good people.“ Have you?

You don’t become the kind of person who would assault your ex-fiance at work overnight. Nor do you develop so much hate for someone overnight that you would sue them in open court to the detriment of your own business. No. If the press is revealing who the owners of TransPerfect are, if this scandal is revealing the way they live their lives, then they have been the people they are for quite some time. Any client kickback now is simply because the world finally sees Elting and Shawe for who they apparently are. But where is the kickback really?

Maybe I’m wrong. What do you think? Will TransPerfect actually lose business because of this? Will clients actually leave? Do translation customers really care what kind of people they’re buying from?

Terena Bell is the chief executive officer of In Every Language, a language services provider offering translation, interpreting, and localization. She served on the Association of Language Companies Leadership Council. She is a member of the Obama Administration’s White House Business Roundtable, which has taken calls from the president and the vice-president, as well as senior advisors and members of the Cabinet. She writes the “Micro/Macro” column for MultiLingual Magazine, and has been quoted by Inc., Forbes, and CNN Money.

My impressions of the 2014 ATA Conference November 10, 2014

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in ATA, Business practices.
8 comments

IMAG1498I got back from the ATA Conference last night. I wanted to jot down my thoughts before I drown in the translations that await me in the next few weeks. I drove this year, so I had six hours to ruminate on the conference when I wasn’t talking to people on my phone to stay awake. My eyes started seriously crossing about half an hour from home.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference. Once again, there were a ton of people I wish I had been able to spend more time with. I made sure I never ate alone and took the time to talk to the people I could. I even closed down the bar on Saturday, IMAG1525which is something I haven’t done in probably four years. I simply made catching up with the people I care about my priority this year.

One highlight of the conference for me was skipping out on a morning session and spending an hour in Julius Meinl with two German colleagues – one I knew well and one I had just met. We enjoyed our Melange (one espresso shot served in a large coffee cup topped with steamed milk and milk foam) and chatted about the industry, our work, politics and various other topics. I also got to savor the most authentic Apfelstrudel I have eaten in the U.S. The crust was as paper-thin as the ones I enjoyed in Austria when I lived there. It was worth blowing the diet for!IMAG1523

My panel presentation with Sandra Alboum, Terena Bell and Ted Wozniak, Why Won’t You Work For Me, was another highlight for me. I think Terena’s idea of getting rid of the table (or as she called it “the barriers”) was an excellent idea that set the tone of the entire presentation. Our focus was on making contact at conferences, because Sandra and Terena have both attended the conference looking to hire translators and not been able to make those connections. We wanted to discuss the possible stumbling blocks and IMG_0156offer concrete suggestions to enable agencies and translators to work together. The two main take-aways (I hope) are find a way to make yourself stand out and be memorable and make your interactions a bit more personal. Don’t simply just walk up to someone at a booth, hand them your business card and walk away. Talk with them a bit, tell them who you are and what you do and ask for their card as well. And then follow up by sending an email referring to the conversation.IMAG1469 You will get a better response with “I saw this article and thought you might be interested in it based on our discussion at the 2014 ATA Conference” than “Attached please find my resume. I look forward to hearing from you.” We have had wonderful feedback from everyone in attendance and hope to present this again with a more moderated (and longer) format to get through all of the points we wanted to discuss before opening it up to questions and discussion with the floor.IMAG1479

I attended several sessions that were very good (including ergonomics, HIPAA and one in my language pair on marketing translation); however, my absolutely favorite session was Joe McClinton’s Untangling German Legalese: Talkin’ Like The Supremes. He not only clearly explained the differences between the various “Supreme Courts” in Germany and shared lots of terminology, but he showed us how he breaks down complicated sentences and citations. It reassured me to find out my terminology is identical to his – even down to the usage of parentheses in citations instead of translating all the Absatz, Paragraph, Satz/Halbsatz stuff that Germans so love to cite.

IMAG1516The Freelance Juggling Act: Tips for Living the Life You Want panel discussion with Eve Bodeaux, Corinne McKay, Marianne Reiner and Andrew Morris was entertaining and was a great way to start the conference. Andrew’s idea of a work-life balance of 85% work and 15% life made me feel much better about my choice to favor work over life most of the time. It is still a good idea to ensure you have some free time and down time, because I personally know two excellent translators who have burnt out. So work-life balance is very important. You can find a lot of good background info and Ted talks on the subject at Eve’s website.

There were so many excellent sessions on offer that I had to make tough choices and miss some excellent presentations. As a result, I ordered the eConference recordings. I look forward to IMAG1540revisiting Joe’s presentation as well as watching lots of others that I really wanted to attend but missed (such as Trisha Kovacic-Young’s Translating for the Insurance Industry, Judy Jenner’s Quote This, Sanne LeGier’s Navigating the International Payment Jungle, and Riccardo Schiffiano’s presentation on XBench – just to name a few!).

The hotel was centrally located, and I was able to enjoy wonderful meals with colleagues and friends. From deep dish pizza and stuffed spinach bread at Lou Malnati’s while staying Tuesday night IMAG1509with my newbie last year and now good friend Joe, soup and salad at Howells & Hood, the German Language Division dinner at Bar Toma, dinner with eight good friends on Saturday night at Quay to the most amazing ramen at The Slurping Turtle, each meal was enjoyable and memorable. Chicago definitely has lots of culinary things to offer! Not to mention the hotel bar’s Old Fashioned Apple Pie Moonshine. I drank many of these with various colleagues. I am going back soon.

There were so many people I wish I had had time to catch up with. I always wish the conference was longer, but each time I am happy it is over when it is because I am exhausted. IMAG1530The conference was – as always – a total rush and a huge motivation. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.

The only downer was my friend being pickpocketed on Friday night. Her wallet was in the coat pocket over her right breast that she was wearing while we were waiting to go to dinner in the hotel bar. They/he/she were definitely pros. IMAG1536They somehow knew exactly which pocket to pick, and her credit card and debit cards were maxed out within 30 minutes to the tune of almost $8000, leaving her without her cards, but also without her driver’s license, insurance cards, or cash. She was understandably upset and left a day early. No one noticed anything untoward and they knew exactly how to wipe out the cards before anyone could do anything. My tweet prompted Starwood Hotel headquarters to get involved, and I am very impressed with how they responded. But the fact remains that when we are at the conference we may feel very insular, but the hotel is a public place that anyone IMAG1491can enter. Attendees must remain vigilant of their belongings at all times. It also made me aware that I shouldn’t carry everything together and should only take the bare minimum with me at all times.

Nevertheless, I have a wonderful memory of the conference. My body is sore, my feet ache, and I went to bed early and slept really well last night. I look forward to doing it again next year. I just hope they bring back the massage chairs! See you in Miami in November 2015!

In case you missed it, here are some highlights of the conference (featuring, among other people, my newbie last year Joe, who was a Buddy this year). Derek Platt did a great job recording the conference for posterity and editing it into a coherent and entertaining video. Jost’s fish joke alone makes the video worth watching!

Dropbox vs. Spideroak July 19, 2014

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Tech tips.
3 comments

I share this with no commentary whatsoever, but it’s worth noting. I don’t ever keep client files on Dropbox or on a cloud-based server, but I know some people do. Whether you believe Snowden is full of crap or knows what he is talking about, it is still worth some consideration.

A remarkable moment from last night’s remarkable Snowden video from the Guardian.

In a discussion (around the 7:40 mark) of zero-knowledge systems whose operators can’t spy on you even if they want to, Snowden reminds us that Dropbox is an NSA surveillance target cited in the original Prism leaks, and that the company has since added Condoleeza Rice, “probably the most anti-privacy official we can imagine,” to its Board of Directors.

He contrasts Dropbox with its competitor, Spideroak, whose system is structured so that it can’t betray you, even if Condi Rice wanted it to.

Guest post – Dear Translator: Please pay your taxes! June 2, 2014

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.
4 comments

Hello, all:

I started as a translator and interpreter and now run an agency based in Arlington that serves nonprofits and mission-driven organizations exclusively.

Today I received a rather thick envelope from the IRS. Apparently, a translator who I used fairly frequently between 2005 and 2010 and for whom I submitted 1099-MISCs, had not paid some (or all) of his taxes and the IRS was approaching all those companies who had sent him work in order to levy his earnings.

This translator owed around $40,000 in taxes, but the IRS is not to be messed with: penalties added another $60,000 onto the total and he now needed to pay back over $100,000.

The IRS wanted to know if I had any pending payments for him, and if so, I had to send that money their way, and not to him.

However, here is the most alarming thing: THIS TRANSLATOR PASSED AWAY A YEAR AGO.

His estate probably has no money, and the IRS wants theirs, so they’re probably hoping that there are some monies still owed him that they could take. I don’t know, and I’m certainly not a tax professional, but that’s what I assume is happening.

Moral of the story?

Please, translators, PAY YOUR TAXES. Pay ALL of them. Pay them PROMPTLY. Don’t try any funny stuff. The IRS *will* get you (or your heirs), even after you’re deceased.

Thanks for listening!
Sandra Alboum

Sandra Alboum runs an agency that serves nonprofits and mission driven organizations exclusively, is a two-time jeopardy champion, and an amateur gourmet chef and professional mother of two. She sent this post to the ATA Business Practices listserv, and I felt it was worth reposting to a wider audience.

Nothing in life is certain but death and taxes. And as you can see your taxes may live on even after death. Be sure to pay yours and to report all of your income!!

Thought of the day April 18, 2014

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
4 comments

I read this on Tumblr and thought it was so fitting to our profession as well. It is originally from the Zibbet forum (Zibbet is kind of like Etsy – it’s a site for artists to sell their handmade works) and was written by user Sweet2Spicy (Elsie) on January 20, 2014:

A customer wanted to purchase a beautiful Wire Wrap Bracelet and spotted an artist who did absolutely amazing work, but she charged a good price too. The customer thought that the artist’s price was way too high so she approached the artist and in quite a brisk fashion stated “I want to buy a Bracelet from you, but I think you charge too much.” The artist was a little taken aback but replied, “Ok, how much do you think I should charge?” The customer replied “I think you should charge “X” much, because the wire will cost this much, and the clasp this much, and the cabochon this much. I even factored in the price of your pliers.”

The final price the customer had calculated was a lot cheaper than the artist’s original price, but she said “Ok, deal. You will get your goods in a week”. The customer was very pleased with herself and can’t resist telling all her friends what a fabulous deal she has negotiated and how smart she is, and that in a week she will have her gorgeous bracelet.

A week later her parcel arrives in a lovely packaged box. She opens it and inside is Wire, a Clasp, a Cabochon, and 2 sets of Pliers. Angrily she contacts the artist asking “How could you do this to me? I asked you for a Bracelet and you sent me a box of Wire, a Clasp, a Cabochon and 2 sets of Pliers?!?!”   The artist quietly replies “My dear, you got exactly what you paid for, if you think there is something missing, then you will need to pay for it.”

Moral of the story, when you buy handmade you are not just buying the materials you are buying the artist’s time, effort, love and dedication that goes into making your pieces.

 

This just in: thebigword pays out big bonus of over £1.5m to one of its directors November 21, 2013

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Translation.
5 comments

“With its global headquarters in Leeds, thebigword interprets two million minutes of speech and translates 35 million words every month. With 2,500 clients speaking 234 languages across 77 countries, the family-owned business has more than 8,000 freelance linguists and uses automated technology to co-ordinate its global operation.”

This “unnamed highest paid director who took home a total of £1.99m during the year” and is getting an additional “discretionary bonus of £1.68m” should be proud of the work the company has done… oh wait, none of the 8000 translators or interpreters – who do the ACTUAL WORK – are seeing any of that. I wouldn’t be surprised if they got another e-mail asking for yet another 15% pay cut. You know, because the company is hurting so much in this economy. You know they certainly won’t be RAISING rates since it seems they are now doing so well.

Q&A from Fire Ant & Worker Bee March 21, 2013

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
3 comments

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.

Q:

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:

Repetitions @10%

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.

Puh-leese

A:

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, 2013

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
12 comments

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, 2013

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
1 comment so far

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…)

[translation mine]:

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, 2013

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
7 comments

“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

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