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ATA conference update October 29, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in ATA, Random musings.
12 comments

The biggest complaint I hear about the ATA conference every year is the fact that guests have to pay for Internet access on top of paying a large hotel bill when every Motel Six or Quality Inn offers free Internet access with rooms starting at $39.95. Last year in Orlando one of the agencies sponsored Internet access, so we got spoiled very quickly. I’ve been going through Internet withdrawal while here, because it costs $16.95 a day to connect to the Internet at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square. I knew it would be expensive, but I had no idea it would be THAT expensive. I felt cheap, but I lowered myself to go to my favorite agency owner’s room to send the agency a file on Wednesday. Luckily he had a sense of humor about it.

I bit the bullet tonight and purchased access, because I came home after the GLD dinner because I wasn’t feeling well and wanted to post on the blog and catch up on Twitter. I may even go to T-Mobile tomorrow and upgrade my phone. I’ve been meaning to do it for several months now, but I digress…

Anyway, back to my point… I was told that the hotel offered the conference attendees access for $2,000.00 a day. That may just be a rumor, but it certainly sounds credible. If that is the case, if half of the attendees would pay an extra fee for Internet access that would cover the costs of Internet access during the conference. Sure, we have the Cyber Cafe in the Exhibit Hall, but it is only open until 6 p.m. and there are long lines. Susanne III suggested an opt-in for Internet access. If ATA were to offer an opt-in check box on the Registration Form (perhaps in the area where one can order the conference DVD) for $10 for Internet access for the four days of the conference I think that would more than cover access for those who want it – and those who do not need it would not pay for it through the registration fees. I know I for one wouldn’t mind paying extra for it, because it is less than $67.80 plus tax (4 days at $16.95).

As freelancers we are dependent on the Internet to ensure our clients do not feel ignored. That means we need to check our e-mail at least once a day even if we are at the conference. I understand I could cover this by purchasing a Crackberry or a T-Mobile Dash, but I know I for one go through Internet withdrawal without access.

So what say you, ATA decision-makers? Would this be a viable solution?

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TGIF: The power of a good story October 22, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, TGIF.
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I’m home for a couple days before heading to the ATA conference. I couldn’t leave you all hanging without a TGIF video. I’m not going to give away the punchline, so all I’m going to say is “Enjoy”!

Stumbling for words on the tip of your tongue October 19, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Translation.
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I thought it was just me, always stumbling to remember a word that is just beyond the reach of my memory. Well, it turns out it afflicts bilinguals more than monolingual speakers.

USA Today has an article entitled In search of that word on the tip of your tongue that discusses how “deaf sign-language speakers may hold the keys to finding where those words are hiding.” It turns out that sign language speakers have the same problem, but they call it “tip of the finger.” As Jennie Pyers and colleagues at Wellesley College in Massachusetts recently conducted a study of bilingual sign-language speakers that offers insights for all bilinguals.

As Ms. Pyers explains in the article, “”Bilingual folks have the problem even worse… In the study, English-only speakers, shown pictures of 52 rarely recalled things (such as a metronome), averaged about seven tip-of-the tongue glitches. But English-Spanish bilinguals did worse, averaging 12 glitches.” Pyers goes on to explain that “[m]ost likely… bilingual folks only get to exercise the vocabulary of each language half as much as single language speakers, with correspondingly fewer chances to regularly use a word.”

But it’s not all bad news. The study found that “people who speak more than one language possess advantages that make a difference, beyond just fluency in another tongue.” Multiple language speakers apparently outperform monolinguals because we “possess a better attention span for hard tasks. And they seem to be better at switching their focus from one task to the next, a real advantage in our era of multi-tasking emails, cellphones and occupations. The explanation is that they practice controlling their languages, repressing one at the expense of the other, constantly,” Pyers says. “So they are just better at controlling their focus.”

How about that? Yet another benefit of being bilingual. Who knew that those momentary lapses while struggling to come up for the right word make me better suited to being a translator, because it helps us focus our attention and multi-task.

I could get used to this… October 18, 2009

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

viewHave I told y’all lately how much I love my job? Greetings from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I drove down with a friend who is organizing a conference with the promise that I could have a free room and board and could work from the room. This is the view from my hotel room. I have a couple big jobs that I am working on, so I decided to save my arms and fingers from carpal tunnel and dragged my entire work computer set-up with me – German keyboard, PCU, widescreen monitor, back-up external hard drive, etc. The desk is right next to the sliding door/window – and what a view it is!

All total with bathroom breaks and a lunch and breakfast break we were in the car for 13 hours. We left on Thursday at about 6:45 am and got into the hotel at 8:30 pm. I had a deadline the next day, so I started translating as soon as I got unpacked and got the computer set up. I delivered 6,300 the next day (Friday). I had translated some the day before to ensure I would make it. I ended up subcontracting about 2,300 words to a colleague, because there is no way I would have met the deadline otherwise. I thoroughly checked her work and tweaked it before integrating it with mine.

The second half didn’t come in on Friday as expected, so I was able to enjoy a day off on Saturday. We did some sightseeing and some shopping (and I bought a much-needed sweatshirt). In the meantime, another client sent me some medical reports to translate for delivery early next week, so I translated them today.  I also managed to have a leisurely breakfast in the hotel restaurant, take a 2-mile walk along the beach and collect seashells and rescue a monarch butterfly from the surf and carry it to the dunes to let its wings dry, and get a manicure and pedicure. Tonight I attended the opening cocktail hour and dinner for the foundation’s conference. Now I am back in my room to translate the final 330 words to the final medical report.

It’s colder than normal here, and it rained the first day (which was perfect motivation for translating). The sun finally broke through the clouds today for the first time, and it is supposed to get progressively warmer starting tomorrow. I have a facial scheduled and plan to walk along the beach again. I will also be getting two large jobs tomorrow if all goes well. I love the freedom to be able to just relocate and look out the window at the ocean and swimming pools while I work. Life is good…

Please excuse the silence October 14, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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Hi everyone,

Please excuse the silence for the next couple weeks. I have two large projects starting up in the next couple days (when it rains it pours!!) and will be in and out of town over the next couple weeks. I will of course be at the ATA conference in New York City and am frantically trying to get everything done before tomorrow. Why is it that whenever you go out of town you run around trying to get everything done you should have gotten done weeks ago? And of course I always feel my apartment should be spotless for when I return (no idea why, it really doesn’t make any sense, but that’s how it is with me). So please excuse the silence. I’ll be back in November with lots to talk about. The ATA conference always recharges my translation batteries.

TGIF: Hugh Laurie speaks French at the Emmys October 9, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, TGIF.
1 comment so far

I think Hugh Laurie is awesome and love his humor (as well as his skits on language with Stephen Fry). In this clip Hugh Laurie is speaking French at the Emmys. Enjoy! And have a great weekend.

10 tax tips you can use now to avoid pitfalls later October 8, 2009

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

Freelance Folder has an excellent post on taxes and how to avoid tax pitfalls. I agree with every single piece of advice and have lectured on these very same tips for years now to my Kent State grad students and beginning translators. I highly recommend clicking the link and following every single tax tip listed there (obviously the tips apply to the U.S., but freelancers in other countries should also take heed of the advice and apply it to their tax preparations in their country of residence). I can also recommend the book Money-Smart Secrets for the Self-Employed by Linda Stern. The book offers valuable information for any type of self-employment situation.

Blog lunch at ATA conference October 8, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Random musings.
16 comments

Since we had such a fun time last year I was thinking it might be good to organize another lunch at this year’s ATA conference for fellow bloggers and those of you who read our blogs. We met last year for lunch on Thursday, the first day of the conference. I suggest we meet in the lobby right at 12:35 or so. I will be presenting the First-Time Attendees presentation until 12:30. Feel free to meet me in the back of the room if you want to be sure to find me.

Since the conference hotel is directly on Times Square I was thinking the Stage Deli might be a good choice. There are plenty of options for both vegetarians and meatatarians. The sandwiches are massive and can be shared or taken back to the hotel to eat for a late-night snack. The hotel is located at 1535 Broadway (on W. 46th) and the Stage Deli is at 834 7th Avenue (which is at W. 53rd and 7th – just 7 blocks down and one over). If anyone has another suggestion, please add a comment here. The restaurant should be within walking distance of the hotel.

If you are interested in joining us, either add a comment or send us an e-mail so we can be sure to look for you.

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.

TGIF: Monty Python in a Language Lab October 2, 2009

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

When I was studying languages in college we had to spend lots of time in the language lab, which facilitated the learning of languages using headphones and cassette tapes. After listening to the tapes we were supposed to repeat what was said. This was apparently supposed to help eliminate accents when speaking in the foreign language. Things could get a little crazy in the language lab, since so many different languages were spoken at the same time. You really needed those headphones to concentrate. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to work as a language lab assistant. My head hurts just thinking about it. I’m sure things have changed since then (kids probably download MP3s to their MP3 players), but I thought some of you might appreciate this little throw-back to the days of styrofoam walls and bulky headphones – and who doesn’t love Monty Python?