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Business cards and resumes, oh my! October 1, 2010

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Marketing ideas.
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I just ordered my business cards for the upcoming ATA Conference and am putting the finishing touches on my resume so that I can send it to Kinko’s. My friend Susanne is redesigning my website (hopefully in time to launch for the conference), and we have come up with a cool branding idea that builds off the template for my blog. My website will feature the sun and summer colors (get it? summer? Sommer? yeah, we’re clever like that :-) ), while the blog will feature the moon (since I’m overworked). I ordered business cards that tie in with the new website and will be ordering cards for the blog as well. I have always paired my resumes with the color of my website. Our field isn’t as stuffy, so I have always printed my resumes on a light blue paper to make them stand out from the typical off-white and cream resumes. This year I will be printing them on a light yellow paper that matches my new business cards. Resumes can be placed on the table in the Job Exchange of the Exhibit Hall. I use a plastic stand with built-in slots for matching clear business card holders so that my resumes do not get covered up by other resumes or separated from my business cards. You can find them at Office Max, Staples and most office supply stores.

All this conference preparation has reminded me that many of you new translators and those of you who have never attended an ATA conference may not be familiar with how we in the industry write our resumes. A resume is a one to two-page summary of our relevant skills, experience, and education. It must be brief because the reader typically spends less than a minute reviewing its contents. You need to make sure your resume is concise, well written, and that the most important information that translation companies look for is immediately visible (such as your language pair(s) in bold or a larger font at the top under your name). You should also ensure that it does not contain anything that is irrelevant or unnecessary, such as the fact you worked at Borders (to use me as an example) or any other job that isn’t relevant to your chosen fields of specialization. If the jobs can prove your competence in a field (such as a stock broker, insurance agent or quality assurance rep at a company) then by all means include it.

The following suggestions are from “Resume Writing for Freelancers” by Beth Podrovitz and Jiri Stejskal, which was published in the February 2006 edition of the ATA Chronicle. I am not using the block quote tag, because it made the text look cluttered.

Here are some suggestions on how to make your resume stand out.

* Keep the document to one or two pages. Remember, this is a resume, not a CV. As such, it is important to summarize the most significant highlights of your professional skills that are relevant to the position you are applying for. A project or vendor manager’s time is limited. They spend only a few seconds looking at your resume to see if it is worthwhile to keep reading.

* Indicate your source and target languages. This information is important and having it clearly visible at the top makes it easier for project or vendor managers to find when they go looking for a specific language pair among the many resumes they have on file. If you translate more than one language, include it, but differentiate your strongest language pair from the others.

* Indicate your specialization. It is likely to be the second thing a project or vendor manager looks for on your resume. When looking for a particular area of expertise for a project, many translation companies use indexing and key word search tools to help them sift through the resumes on file. Having your specializations listed will help ensure that a word search leads to your resume. For example, if you are a German medical translator, make sure you list the words “German” and “medical.” If you are just starting out, you may not have substantial experience in a particular field, but it is still a good idea to indicate something you would like to specialize in and that you are actively pursuing.

* Submit your resume online, preferably in PDF format as an email attachment. A PDF file looks professional and can be viewed on different platforms without altering the fonts you use. It also indicates that you know how to create a PDF file, which many translation companies see as a valuable skill.

* List complete contact information. Make sure you include your mailing address, phone number, fax number, and an accurate email address that you check regularly.

* When saving your resume on the computer, use your last name for the filename. Don’t name your resume something generic like “U.S. resume” or “translator 1 .” This just makes good sense, especially when submitting your resume online, since translation companies will typically file an applicant’s material under their last name.

* Indicate your educational background in the proper place. If you graduated recently and do not have much work experience, make sure you emphasize your education. If you are an experienced translator or interpreter, you can move the education information to the end of your resume and emphasize your work experience instead.

* Provide relevant information only. For a freelance position, it is not necessary to show that there are no gaps in your employment history. You don’t need to write down that summer you spent pouring concrete or waiting tables, unless perhaps you were waiting tables at a cafe in Paris or Madrid.

* Indicate your experience with computer-aided translation (CAT) tools and whether you use such tools on a regular basis. Do you own and are you proficient in the use of a particular tool, such as TRADOS 7 Freelance? If the answer is yes, make sure it is reflected on your resume. Make sure you list specific CAT tools, since this is another area where translation companies use indexing and key word searches.

* Provide information on your desktop publishing (DTP) capabilities. Skills in using DTP applications such as InDesign or QuarkXpress are good to have, as they might set you apart from other translators.

* Proofread your resume thoroughly and have others proofread it. This is particularly important if your native language is not English. Of course, even native English speakers are not immune to typos and poorly worded English. Remember, you have designed your resume as a tool for selling your linguistic skills. If a resume is not flawless, your capabilities will appear questionable.

* Include relevant association memberships and credentials, such as ATA certification.

* Update your resume frequently. Sending out an updated resume is a good excuse to make additional contacts with translation companies. This will also help to keep your name fresh in the minds of prospective clients.

Things to Avoid

* Don’t use colors, photos, word art, and graphic images unless you have a good reason to do so (such as using your logo).

* Don’t state your date of birth, number of children, marital status, or other similar personal information. This is a common practice in other countries, but is not advisable for U.S. resumes.

* Don’t include an objective that is too broad. It is not necessary to state your objective at all if it is clear from your cover letter (which will typically take the form of an email message that you send with your resume attached) that you are a freelance translator or interpreter who wants to work with a translation company as an independent contractor. If you choose to include an objective, be sure to be concise. Do not make sweeping statements such as “To gain experience as a translator” or “To use my foreign language skills.”

* Don’t provide a list of your dictionaries. You can provide this information if requested, together with other resources you are using.

* Don’t describe your hardware and don’t list standard software applications such as MS Office. It is assumed that you already know how to use these programs, and the reader will wonder why they are listed. However, you might want to mention which platform(s) you are using, especially if you are a Mac user.

* Don’t leave the Track Changes feature on in Word. This may seem obvious, but the number of resumes submitted with tracked changes visible is surprisingly high. Though it is a good source of office ridicule, it is not a good way to present yourself to a potential client. Check your view settings and make sure you see what you want everyone else to see. This blooper can be easily avoided if you submit your resume in PDF format as suggested earlier.

* Don’t leave unused generic fields when using a template. Resume templates are fine to use, though they are fairly obvious to a reader who has seen hundreds of resumes. There is nothing wrong with using a template, provided it is appropriate for your purpose and is correctly customized to suit your needs.

* Don’t submit your resume in nonstandard applications, such as MS Publisher.

* Don’t include your rates. Of course, it is important that the project manager knows what you charge, but your resume is not a good place to provide such information. It is a good idea to submit a separate document containing your rate information, or to include such information in an accompanying message (or cover letter).

* Don’t use silly or unusual fonts. Use a common font like Arial, Helvetica, Times, or Times New Roman.

* Don’t use acronyms. Most of us know what ATA stands for, but standard resume writing suggests you spell out all proper names. If the name occurs more than once on your resume, it is fine to use an acronym for subsequent occurrences.

* Don’t write “references available upon request.” You can provide references in a separate document or in your cover letter.

* Don’t submit hard copies. While a paper resume can be printed on fancy paper and look impressive, it is the content, not the form, that is important to the project or vendor manager. More importantly, a digital resume is searchable and does not take up physical space.

* Last, but certainly not least, don’t make things up—be truthful and accurate.

Most translation companies receive resumes on a daily basis and have thousands on file. Because your resume is one of many, you need to make sure you use other marketing tools, in addition to providing a resume, to establish a relationship with a translation company. Examples include follow-up communication and networking at events attended by translation companies, such as a social function at a professional seminar hosted by ATA or another industry association.

Having a professional resume is an absolute must for a freelancer who wants to do business with a translation company. Investing time and effort in getting it right will lead to new business and a successful career.

It’s important to diversify October 7, 2009

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

All the financial experts talk about the importance of diversifying when it comes to investments, but it is also very important to diversify your client base.

When I first started in the translation industry I witnessed first-hand the importance of not relying on a single client. The agency I worked for back then did a lot of work (80-90%) for Microsoft. They localized all of the Microsoft programs for the German market at that time. Business was booming. The company was flush with cash. Then at some point Microsoft started delaying payment. The agency started delaying payment to their vendors and then to their employees.  The owner ended up selling the company, which was then sold again to another big agency and moved to a completely different city. There are probably only one or two people I worked with who are still working for the company.

It is so important to ensure you have a wide and diverse client base. Do not rely on just one or two clients for your income. One valuable piece of advice I received early on is to have at least seven clients. If you have seven clients you can be assured that you will be kept busy on a regular basis. Of course, you can strive to have even more than seven clients. It isn’t a hard and fast rule.

It is also a good idea to have both agency and direct clients. I have noticed many agencies are haggling on price recently (for whatever reason, be it the economy, customer demands or something more insidious), so I am glad that I have several direct clients in my arsenal on whom I can rely. I plan on adding more in the future.

It’s also a nice idea to diversify clients by location. I am so glad I have clients in Germany and other European countries, where the euro is strong. I particularly like it when I transfer the money to my U.S. account, because I get more dollars for my money. I intend to focus on adding more European clients in the future for this very reason.

Even if you have a lot of clients, it is important to keep marketing yourself. Work from my best client (which has been 30% of my income in the past) has dried up recently. It isn’t because they don’t appreciate my work. I consistently receive good feedback for the work I do for them, and they recently featured me in their company newsletter. When I called to ask what had happened they explained to me that their big client had not been sending them German-English work. The client had hired someone in-house to translate their German to save money. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted…

Things can happen that are beyond your (and your client’s) control. Clients can go out of business due to death of the owner or go bankrupt when one or more of their customers go bankrupt. The client’s office could be destroyed due to flooding, fire or a hurricane, etc. It’s important to continually market yourself. I read a recent blog post on The Wealthy Freelancer that advocated spending 10% of your time on marketing, even when you are busy. Corinne also wrote about this in her most recent post, Avoiding feast or famine by marketing consistently.

Do you have any other suggestions on diversifying your client base? Feel free to add them in the comments.

Interesting gig for a Spanish speaker in LA September 14, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Marketing ideas, Translation.
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One of my favorite guilty pleasures, Crazy Days and Nights (my favorite celebrity gossip site), is looking for a Spanish speaking volunteer for the red carpet of the MTV Latin Awards on October 15th in Los Angeles. If I spoke Spanish I would do it in a heartbeat. Don’t expect pay, but I can only imagine all the folks you could interview for CDAN… Some things are totally worth going pro bono…

Here is the necessary info:

Out [I think he means out] intrepid red carpet reporter Gustavo Arellano has a speaking engagement on October 15th so I need a volunteer to cover the MTV Latin Awards on October 15th here in Los Angeles. You may bring someone with you. If you speak Spanish it would be a bonus. By speaking Spanish, I mean more than, Esta noche estás muy bueno. ¿Qué dice usted después de todo esto es más que la cabeza de nuevo a mi sótano, tomar unas copas y ver Sábado Gigante mientras cocino un poco de tocino. Actually, if you could say that, then that would be pretty good.

Send me an e-mail if you are interested. entlawyer90210@yahoo.com

Oh, and if any of you are going to be in Irvine on the 15th of October, go listen to Gustavo speak at UC-Irvine. I’m sure it will be great.

Language Services Resource Guide for Pharmacists August 4, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Marketing ideas, Translation.
1 comment so far

One of my colleagues forwarded this e-mail to me today and I thought it might be of interest to some of you, so I thought I’d share it.

Dear Colleagues,

As you know, language barriers occur in all arenas of the healthcare delivery system, including pharmacy services where the risk is significant for unsafe use of prescription medications. LEP patients can suffer serious adverse effects, including those that arise from improper administration of, and/or adherence to, prescription and over-the-counter medications due to barriers in communication.

The National Health Law Program (NHeLP), with the generous support of The California Endowment and in collaboration with the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations and the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, is developing a Language Services Resource Guide for Pharmacists. The purpose of the Guide is to provide pharmacists the necessary information and tools to improve the provision of language services. The National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC) is proud to be collaborating with NHeLP in this endeavor and is gathering information from interpreting/translation associations and language companies that will be a key component of the guide.

If your organization is interested in being included in the Resource Guide, please complete the survey which can be found at: http://www.tinyurl.com/nhelpresourceupdate. We also request that you please forward this e-mail to any appropriate persons and organizations who may be interested as well. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Aida Cases or Jorge Ungo at: nhelpupdate@ncihc.org. If you would like more information about the Guide, contact Mara Youdelman at Youdelman@healthlaw.org.

Deadline for submissions: August 21, 2009

ProZ.com does some tweaking – and I like it July 16, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Marketing ideas.
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Hi folks, if you have your resume posted on ProZ.com but aren’t a member, be sure to head on over there and update your profile. They have opened some features (like the availability calendar) to non-paying members. I updated my location, my rates, and my availability. It had been a while since I’d updated the profile. I didn’t do everything they suggested (like add a sample translation), and I certainly don’t waste my time earning KudoZ points. I have been enjoying various discussions (like this one) on the forums recently though. The availability calendar is a great feature that allows you to show your availability – 25%, 50%, 75%, 100% or not available. I’ve been thinking about implementing one on my website, but it looks like I may not have to! Be sure to go update your ProZ.com profile and check out all the changes. ProZ.com, I like the changes. Thanks!

Translator gear at CafePress July 8, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Marketing ideas.
5 comments

100_0721CafePress has lots of fun translation-related gear available. CafePress is an online site for all kinds of customizable gear. You can buy it, design it, or sell it on CafePress. You can get all kinds of fun stuff, including t-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, mousepads, messenger bags, tote bags, mugs, bumper stickers and more! I don’t know who to thank, but there are now a lot of translation and language-related items available. This could be a fun way to start conversations and possibly gain some new clients. I treated myself to a t-shirt, a hoodie and a messenger bag a few days ago, and the package arrived this afternoon. I will be styling all my purchases at the ATA conference in New York City in October as well as around Cleveland in the next few months. Be sure to check it out!

How not to market yourself May 16, 2009

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

Social networking sites can be a great way to market yourself, but you need to make sure that the person you are looking to “link up with” is in your field and/or a potential business contact. If you are looking to stretch out of your field, you need to make sure that your message to them is targeted enough to want them to link to you. One of my friends, who is very active in social networking, received the following request through XING. The names have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty.

Dear Karen,

Johanna Onestra has requested to be connected to you on XING.

“Hello!
I would like to connect with you as I can offer you my affordable translation services.

With kind regards,

Johanna Onestra

Now, my friend is not involved in the translation field. She is an online recruiter (specifically, an in-house headhunter for a Fortune 500 company). If “Johanna” had done her homework on her potential connection (a simple Google search of her name would have sufficed – she’s all over the web) she would have immediately seen that “Karen” has no need for translation services. Instead, “Johanna” did not get a connection and actually had her e-mail forwarded to me with the wry comment “Thought you’d get a kick out of this :) I didn’t realize I was in the market for translating services!”. If she had simply written “Hi, I am a Business English trainer who is pursuing a career that combines both my academic and professional experience and would like to learn more about what you do.” (because I googled the woman and that is pretty much what her LinkedIn profile says – not a word about translation services) or even”Hi, I like your profile and would like to learn more about what you do,” my friend might have been more receptive to adding her to her network.

Marketing involves a bit more legwork than simply sending out an e-mail or link request blindly. Do a bit of research on the person or company you are contacting. I promise you will stand out from the crowd!

Unethical behavior when acquiring a new customer April 16, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Marketing ideas.
9 comments

There is an interesting discussion on the PT listserv this morning on one particularly questionable method of acquiring new customers, and I felt the need to share my thoughts on it with all of you. One of the colleagues on the listserv reports that one of her customers, who publishes a magazine in several languages, receives mails practically once a week in which one of the foreign language articles is copied and edited within an inch of its life (emphasis mine – what she really said is “mit viel Farbmarkierungen versehen” = with lots of colored changes/highlights, but I have a feeling that is what is being implied…) to show that the translation is not very good – but there are no concrete suggestions for improvement. They must be corrections for corrections’ sake – we are all familiar with this kind of “proofreading” (in German we call it “verschlimmbessern” – making something worse by trying to improve it). The person sending these mails simply marks up the text and then encloses a letter in which they claim that they can do a much better job translating the texts – and at a lower price. Luckily her client values her translators and tosses the letters out, but anyone would get upset if they got mail like this every week. The client made the comment today that she has only seen such “uncollegial” and unethical behavior from translators. I certainly hope that isn’t the case.

This kind of behavior to win over a new customer is appalling. As one colleague pointed out, the method is not only unethical, but also stupid. The person sending the e-mail and trying to win over a new customer is merely showing how devious and underhanded they are and cutting off the branch they themselves are sitting on. As one other colleague so aptly pointed out, “Das Erste, was ein Vertriebsmensch lernt: Weise auf die Vorzüge Deines Produkts / Deiner Dienstleistung hin, aber rede nie schlecht über Mitbewerber” (The first thing a salesperson learns is to point out the advantages of your product / your services, but never talk bad about your competitors). I couldn’t have said it better myself.

This is different from seeing a badly translated website or sign and making fun of it. Let’s face it, there are a lot of badly translated texts out there, and some clients probably used their secretaries who speak the other language to translate them – or thought they could do the jobs themselves because they studied in the U.S. for a year ten years ago. You can tell when a translation has been written by a professional and by an amateur. There’s nothing wrong with correcting these texts to make the company realize they need to use professionals in order to come across as professional. But tooting your own horn and making corrections for corrections’ sake in the process to try to win over a new customer is not a good way to go.

When you are marketing yourself to new customers, please try not to use this method. Point out the advantages of working with you without making their existing translators look bad. There is a huge difference. Besides, the client and translator might have a really good, long-standing relationship, and it could blow up in your face.

E-mail marketing tips March 9, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Marketing ideas.
9 comments

As a follow up to my guest post at Naked Translations, here are some dos and don’ts for an e-mail marketing campaign. I got inspired by reading Tips for applying to a job from Craigslist this morning (another tweet from someone I follow on Twitter). As the author says, it doesn’t take much to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack. This is also true for the translation field. There are certain dos and don’ts when applying as a freelance translator with a translation agency. Take them to heart to ensure your e-mail doesn’t end up in the Trash folder.

1. Don’t have any spelling errors or typos in your e-mail. Seriously, just don’t!!! You are applying for a job as a translator, which requires good grammar and spelling. You need to make sure your e-mail is flawless. Read the e-mail through a couple times before sending it to make sure you catch every spelling error or typo. You might even want to start at the bottom and work your way up so you don’t miss anything.

2. Indicate your language pair in the subject line or the first sentence. The person reading your e-mail shouldn’t have to dig through your letter to find out what language(s) you translate.

3. Use the body of the e-mail as your cover letter. Don’t attach a cover letter and a resume. No one is going to take the time to look at two files. One – maybe, two – no way.

4. Try to write a unique but catchy cover letter. Let your personality shine through. In this day and age, no one wants to read a stuffy letter that has obviously been sent to 300 other agencies or could have been written by 300 other translators.

5. Focus on what makes you special and what makes you stand out. What makes you the best choice compared to the other prospective translators sending their resumes to the agency? Do you have an M.A. in translation, are a Diplom-Übersetzer, used to work as a medical doctor or researcher, or have a law degree? Have you lived in the target country for several years? Did you grow up in a bilingual household and are equally comfortable in both languages? Be sure to mention it in one of your first sentences.

6. Make sure the agency works in your language pair. If the agency specializes exclusively in Japanese and English translations, don’t send them an e-mail unless they specifically say on their website that they are looking to branch out to include other languages.

7. Check their website out before applying and follow their directions to the letter. If they say they only accept submissions through their website, don’t bother sending them an e-mail. It will only be deleted, because it shows you can’t follow directions.

8. Tailor your e-mail to the agency. Show them you did some research and looked at the website to find out if your fields of specialization mesh with theirs. Find out who you should address the e-mail to and try to avoid sending an e-mail to “To whom it may concern:” if the website specifies a contact.

9. Make sure the person you are sending the e-mail to is in fact a translation agency and not another freelance translator. I can’t tell you how many times I have received unwanted resumes from prospective translators. All you have to do is look at my website to see that I am a one-woman show. That said, if you have a website that talks about “we” instead of “I” you are making yourself a target for unwanted resumes.

10. Localize your resume for your target audience. If you are applying to a German agency, it helps to send them a resume that is in German and conforms with other German resumes. Also, make sure your resume is proofread by a native speaker.

11. Think carefully about how you write your name. Choose one name and spelling and stick with it. This will generate name recognition. For example, I use the name “Jill R. Sommer” on my resume, on my business cards, on my website, in the ATA directory, for presentations at conferences, and anywhere else I have a presence (the exception to this being my blog). Also, if your name is somewhat exotic for your target audience be sure to clarify your gender. For example, sign the e-mail as (Ms.) Jill R. Sommer or (Mr.) Chiang Kai-shek. That takes the pressure off the person who might want to respond to you, but doesn’t know how to address you.

12. Use a professional e-mail address. It simply makes a good impression. If you have your own domain name, you give the impression that you have invested in your profession. Free e-mail services like yahoo.com don’t make a good impression. The only exception to this is Gmail, because it is a more serious provider and has outstanding online file storage capacity. There is some debate on the professionalism of aol.com addresses. Some of those who profess to be against aol.com accounts believe that since AOL started off as an entertainment site it is not as serious as other e-mail providers. Just a little food for thought… E-mail with your own domain name ensures no one has any prejudices when they see your e-mail address. And it should go without saying that e-mail addresses like “ cutiecat23@juno.net” or “BigBigGirl@yahoo.com” simply don’t convey the professionalism you need to convey.

13. Consider naming your resume “Last name first name_resume.” If your resume is called “resume,” it is simply going to get amended with resume1.doc, resume2.doc, etc. by the client’s e-mail program. Make sure the client knows what the file is at a glance and can allocate it to your application.

14. Include a Summary of Qualifications instead of an Objective. You don’t need an Objective on resumes to a translation agency. It should be apparent from your e-mail cover letter that your objective is to start working with them.

15. Keep your resume brief. Try to keep it to 1-2 pages. I send a brief resume and refer potential clients to my website, where my resume is a lot more extensive (I also include a list of all the dictionaries and reference materials I own to show I have invested heavily in my profession). If the client is interested in working with me, the information is available, but they don’t have to wade through it if they aren’t.

So, those are my top tips. Does anyone have any other deal-breaking tips? Insights from agency owners or project managers are especially welcome.

Check out my guest blog post at Naked Translations March 5, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Marketing ideas, Random musings.
1 comment so far

I’d like to invite you all over to Céline’s blog, Naked Translations, where I’ve written a guest blog post on e-mail marketing. I have been reading Céline’s blog since before I started blogging myself (she’s been blogging since November 2003). If you aren’t already familiar with it, be sure to give it a look! It’s got some great stuff. A little while ago Céline approached me about writing a guest blog post for her blog. I had mentioned my e-mail marketing campaign in one of my blog posts, and she wanted me to go into more detail about it for her blog. I have talked about this numerous times in Corinne and my preconference seminar at ATA conferences, but I was able to go into more detail on Céline’s blog. Thank you so much for inviting me, Céline. It is truly an honor.

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