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What would happen if you passed away? August 31, 2009

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

I know this is a morbid topic, but there was a brief discussion on Zahlungspraxis this morning about an agency owner who owed a translator money – and had for the past 3 years (which I hope would never happen to me. I would be sending reminders 14 days after the bill was overdue…). It seems this person was a 1-woman show, which happens a lot in the translation industry. Someone wrote in and stated that the person in question had passed away in September 2008 and chances were slim that any creditors would receive payment from the estate.

This got me to thinking about death – and specifically about estate planning and managing your online profiles. Have you given any thought to what might happen if you were to suddenly pass away? I have given this some thought recently. It has nothing to do with the fact that I turned 40 over weekend. I started last year when my grandmother passed away and my immediate family members started talking about their wishes for their funerals, burial plans, etc. I now have a notarized Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney for my personal side of things, but what about my business and online contacts? Would your family and/or executor know where to find the bills that need to be paid?

Right now I have two outstanding invoices for work I subcontracted in the last month. If something were to happen to me I would hope my executor would find the bills and pay them, but I realized I haven’t shown her how my system works. I need to have her over and show her where to find the information she will need (and how to use my money management software). Do you have an executor? Do they know where to find your legal documents and access your financial accounts? Also, something that is never discussed by estate planners but is very important in our field: do they know who to inform if you pass away unexpectedly? Do they know how to access your e-mail and notify the various forums in which you are active?

You might want to consider asking a colleague you trust to be your “online executor.” That person should have the password to your e-mail accounts so they can set up an autoresponder to notify your colleagues and clients of your untimely death. If you have a blog and/or website, it isn’t a bad idea to give the password(s) to that person as well so that they can log on and post the bad news – and eventually shut the sites down.

Just a little food for thought. Take a few minutes this week and jot down who might need to be notified if you were in a car accident or something. Your friends and family will be very grateful you took the time to do this. It is a very stressful time and careful preparation makes things a lot easier for your loved ones.


What makes a match? August 31, 2009

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

The Medical Translation Blog has an excellent explanation of the difference between translation memories and terminology glossaries. If you haven’t seen it, be sure to check it out.

I particularly like the comment suggesting discounts for matches aren’t such a good idea. In fact, Trados used to suggest a 30/60/100 scale: 100% for anything below 85% matches (some agencies use lower percentages for matches, but in my experience anything below 85% essentially needs reworking and our full attention so translators should be paid accordingly), 60% of the full word price for 99%-85% matches and 30% of the full word price for 100% matches and repetitions. In an ideal world translators wouldn’t offer discounts for matches at all. After all, we are the ones who shelled out the money for our expensive TEnTs (translation environment tools, aka CAT tools). Why should agencies expect to be able to benefit from our business purchases? It’s not like they expect discounts because we have the right specialized dictionaries on our shelves…

I know plenty of translators who do not offer discounts – period. It’s up to each individual translator to decide whether or not it makes sense for them to offer discounts on matches. I have some clients who do not demand discounts based on Trados analyses and some who do. It makes more business sense to work for ones that do not, but I also work for agencies that do require Trados and discounts. It all depends on how busy I am when I get the request and whether they provide a TM or expect me to use mine (which is a whole other can of worms)…

BTW, I have no problems offering a discount to agencies that provide me with a fully licensed copy of their required TEnT. I don’t have to pay for it, so I have no problem passing on a discount to the agency. I have one agency that provides me with their TEnT and a year license. Once the license runs out I simply get a new license code from them. I wish more agencies did this.

TGIF: Arnold Schwarzenegger in Japanese commercials August 28, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, TGIF.

This is a long video (10 minutes long), but it consists of 30 commercials that Arnold Schwarzenegger has done for the Japanese market. The videos just keep getting better as you go along, so be sure to watch the entire 10 minutes. Go grab a cuppa and sit back and enjoy a little break. Oh, I would appreciate it if one of the Japanese readers could tell me what the commercials in which he is laughing hysterically and acting psychotic are advertising. I’m guessing some kind of energy drink or nutritional supplement because it’s probably illegal to sell acid in a bottle, but I could be wrong :-).

Have a great weekend!

Yet another way Chinese and Western culture differ… August 26, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.

I read an article last night online in the LA Times called Beijing loves IKEA – but not for shopping that had me shaking my head. When I worked at Borders we used to complain about all the people who would carry piles of books and/or magazines into the Café to read and then not buy them and leave them piled on the tables, sometimes with coffee spills. I would absolutely hate to work at the Beijing IKEA. According to the article, “Customers hop into display beds and nap, pose for snapshots with the decor and enjoy the air conditioning and free soda refills. They just don’t buy much.” I’ve been to IKEA in Germany and here in the U.S. and can honestly say I have never seen a single person napping on any of the display furniture at IKEA. Shopping yes, sitting on and testing yes, napping no. Maybe I should drive to Pittsburgh and take a nap in the bed and see how that would fly here. 🙂

Oops! Was Brad Pitt mistranslated? August 23, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Translation.

The other day it was reported that Brad Pitt called Tom Cruise’s World War II movie Valkyrie “a ridiculous movie,” and the media was crowing about how Pitt and Cruise would most likely never work together again.

The Internet Movie Database is now reporting that Brad Pitt’s publicists are claiming he was mistranslated in an interview about his new film, Inglourious Basterds, with the German magazine Stern. They insist the actor didn’t take aim at his Interview With A Vampire co-star and that he was misquoted. A spokesman for the star says, “Brad has never seen Valkyrie so this is not accurate.” Ouch! I don’t know if that quote is any better…

I searched the Stern website and can’t find the original interview. I’d love to know what he actually said and what the translation was to see if he was indeed misquoted. I’d hate to be the translator behind this translation mistake – if it indeed happened and isn’t just PR spin.

TGIF: Blackadder meets Mr. Johnson August 21, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, TGIF.
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I love the BBC sitcom Blackadder, which features Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robinson as Edmund Blackadder and his servant Baldrick. Each series is set in a different historical period in British history with Blackadder and Baldrick as main characters. Ink and Incapability is the second episode of the third series, which is set in Elizabethan times. In this episode, Dr. Samuel Johnson (played by Robbie Coltrane) seeks the patronage of Blackadder’s master, Prince George (played by the delightful Hugh Laurie – yes, he of House M.D. fame) for his new book, A Dictionary of the English Language. Enjoy and thanks to Licia for sending me the link! If you get a chance, be sure to watch the entire episode. It’s a hoot! And you might think about buying the entire series. I promise you won’t regret it; I love my copy.

Paypal is not a good solution for translators August 19, 2009

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

According to a recent blog post, Paypal adds new fees with no notice, Paypal quietly started charging new fees last month to its customers with personal accounts without notifying them of the change.  As the blog post states, “The new fees apply to payments marked as “Goods” or “Services.”  Such payments were previously free but will now be charged a fee of about 2.9% plus 30 cents.” This obviously applies to translators, since we provide services (and if you provide hard copies or files to clients one could conceivably argue we also provide goods). I have a personal Paypal account that I only use for eBay purchases and am the contact person for my translator association’s business account. I never received any notification of these changes for either account. According to a follow-up post published a week later in which Paypal tried to explain themselves and did not do a very good job, Paypal allegedly sent out an email “trumpeting how those with Premium or Business accounts no longer had to pay fees for personal transfers.” I can’t say I received this notice either…

The moral of this story is that nothing in life is free – and in light of our economic climate anything that used to be free will soon not be. When asked about banking and international business dealings, I never suggest using Paypal, because the fees can be so horrendous. For smaller amounts it isn’t that bad, but for large amounts it is a better idea to maintain a bank account in an alternate country and initiate occasional wire transfers. In my case, I maintain a bank account in Germany – but I am shopping around for a new alternative as well, because my German bank just started charging me a monthly fee of almost $10. Whatever I do decide to use, it certainly won’t be Paypal!

How do you handle time off? August 19, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.

The Urban Muse’s post today, Open Thread: How Do You Handle Time Off?, was extremely timely, as I was complaining on Twitter and LinkedIn yesterday about business being slow. Several people responded to my complaints via Twitter and e-mail to assure me that it was simply a summer lull. As an overworked translator this is the first time I have experienced a summer lull though, so it was a little disconcerting. That said, as soon as I voiced my frustration to the world a 3,000 word job landed on my desk. The fact remains that business is still slower than last year. I think there are several factors at play, including the fact that my favorite client hasn’t had any German-English requests in quite a while (I think their client hired an in-house translator). I know that things will pick up again in September though, so there is that to look forward to.

The Urban Muse had a good point though when she summed it up with “This time of year it seems like everyone is either on vacation or getting ready for a vacation. Even freelancers need time off, though it can be tricky for us to swing.” We need to take time off and relax. The Masked Translator wrote a good post back in February on stinkin’ thinkin’ called Freaking Out About the Economy, and I couldn’t agree more. I think the recession and all the negative talk has made me a little crazy. Things have definitely slowed down for me, but I still have work coming in – just not the big jobs I have gotten in the past.

Susan asks several very relevant questions in her Open Thread: Have you taken any time off this summer? And if so, did you check email or work while you were gone? I know I am guilty of this. I rarely go anywhere without toting my laptop with me. I have been known to work on the rare occasions I am away from home. I am accompanying a friend to Myrtle Beach in October. She is planning a conference for hospital administrators, and I am going to keep her company in the car. I am getting a free hotel room and access to the conference – and am planning on working from the hotel room. I also plan to network my butt off :-), but I have a big project starting up in September that will be spanning several months so working from the hotel is also a necessity. However, I have also booked a vacation to the Everglades for late February/early March (when I will be sick of winter and aching for warmth and sunshine). I’ll be enjoying the Everglades and the coral reefs on an “aquatic and birding adventure.” I will not be bringing my laptop with me and will set my autoresponder. I have found sending e-mail announcements isn’t the best way for me, because inevitably some client I didn’t think to inform (because I haven’t worked with them in a year) will inevitably contact me with a job while I’m gone. An autoresponder ensures everyone is aware of my absence and can contact someone else if it is urgent – or wait until I return.

That said, I had a mini-vacation of sorts this past week. I had a couple slow days at the end of last week and early this week. Had I known it was going to be slow, I probably would have taken better advantage of them and actually done something fun instead of puttering around my apartment and checking my e-mail every hour to see if a job request had come in.  In the meantime, I will be taking it easy next week, because Susanne III and several other friends are coming into town to celebrate my Big 40 next weekend. I’m kayaking with my dad on Lake Erie on the afternoon of the 26th. Susanne and Chuck arrive the evening of the 27th. We’re going to cruise the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie on the 28th. And I have to prepare for the big party I’m throwing on Saturday at some point. I’ll probably set my autoresponder on those days too.

So, dear readers, since everyone is different and I’m sure everyone struggles with this issue at some point, please share with us in the comments how you handle time off. Do you find it hard to take a vacation as a freelancer? How have you handled time off this summer? Do you tell your clients in advance or do you set your autoresponder?

Tips for clients – top 10 ways to keep your translator happy August 18, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.

I’ve been ruminating on why I love the clients I have and am willing to bend over backwards for some, while weeding out clients that I have been less than happy with this year. I have talked at length about some of these issues in the past, but here are some tips for clients to keep your translator happy.

1. Pay us a rate that is commensurate with our education and experience. Many translators have advanced degrees and oodles of experience in a variety of different fields. We should be paid accordingly.

2. Don’t ask us to cut our rates. We have a mortgage, rent, phone bills and electric bills to pay. Asking us to cut our rates by up to 25% is the surest way to lose us quick. Educate your client on the value of translation instead.

3. Don’t bother to ask for a volume discount. Words are not widgets. In translation more volume means more work – not less. Most people in the business world get paid time and a half for overtime. If your “volume” means we have to work longer than usual (such as 12-hour days to meet an insane deadline) an offer of one cent (or more) a word more would really be appreciated.

4. Don’t even bother to ask us to translate 10,000+ words a day. It’s simply not possible – nor is it healthy in the long run.

5. Pay us on time in accordance with the standard payment terms of 30 or 45 days. 60 days is unacceptable.

6. Don’t wait for your client to pay you before you pay us. Our contract was with you – not with your client. Get a short-term loan if you have to. My parents did it numerous times for their contractors when I was growing up and their client (the state) was late paying the bills. That said, if money is tight let us know and maybe we can work something out, but don’t just ignore us or tell us the check is in the mail when it isn’t.

7. Be appreciative and give us feedback. Most of us deliver our translations into a void. We assume no news is good news, but clients who thank us for our “outstanding work” and forward client feedback really stand out. I know I for one appreciate hearing feedback – both good and bad – because it makes me a better translator in the long run.

8. Allow the vendor-client relationship to grow with the economy. If the price of eggs, electricity and gas is going up, try to explain to your clients that the price of translation is also affected by inflation. Prices have been stagnant for too long.

9. Don’t pigeonhole us. Don’t just offer us mini-jobs or proofreading jobs all the time. Ask us to translate a text now and then and have the other translator proofread our work. Most translators earn more when they translate. We would appreciate a nice juicy translation every once in a while.

10. Be friendly and communicative. Don’t demand things and assume we are available to accept your job. If you are a favorite client and even if I am busy, I will usually bend over backwards to make time for you if at all possible. A simple hello and thank you is all it takes. It is the simplest way to gain our loyalty.

Feel free to add additional thoughts in the comments.

TGIF: Kseniya Simonova’s got talent August 14, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in TGIF.

I saw this video this afternoon and was simply blown away. My undergraduate degrees are in Russian and German, so I have a strong affinity for both cultures. This performance is riveting, gut-wrenching and unbelievably powerful. As the blurb on YouTube explains, “Kseniya Simonova is a Ukrainian artist who just won Ukraine’s version of “America’s Got Talent.” She uses a giant light box, dramatic music, imagination and “sand painting” skills to interpret Germany’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine during WWII.” You have to see it to believe it! Absolutely beautiful and emotionally draining at the same time.