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TGIF: My Blackberry is not working January 28, 2011

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

Well, since I did such a bad job vetting the latest video I feel you all deserve a TGIF bonus video.

This video has been making the rounds in the last few weeks, and you most likely have already seen it. If you have, I’m sure you would enjoy watching it again, because it’s quite funny. My friend Heike liked it so much she sent it to me twice 😉 If you haven’t yet seen it, enjoy.

Ronnie Corbett and Harry Enfield star in this sketch from The One Ronnie, written by Dawson Bros. A guy walks into a store and tries to return his blackberry, which isn’t working. The other guy gives him the best tech support he can. All kinds of hilarity ensues.

P.S. Orange is a mobile phone service in the UK.


TGIF: Google Translator Song January 28, 2011

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

Google Translate has been all over the news this week. According to a news report from Tuesday that was circulated on Twitter by @rinaneeman, Google admitted that its translation engines are not perfect and not yet ready for sensitive debates, saying “If we were going from zero to 10, we would be about five”. Then on Wednesday Jiri Stejskal published a news report on the CETRAblog that Google has patented its “unique” web-based translation technique. This is of course further proof that the U.S. Patent Office has their collective heads <ahem, let’s just say “in the clouds”>. So it stands to reason that this week’s TGIF video should feature Google Translate.

Respond now or you will be out of luck… January 27, 2011

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.

There is a new project in the [Agency] Order Pool. We have matched this project to your translation abilities and would like you to confirm your availability and interest in completing this assignment. The Order Pool is designed to notify all eligible translators of new projects. By confirming your interest in a project from the Order Pool, you are not guaranteed to be assigned that project. Please do not begin working on this project until it has been assigned to you.

There is nothing I hate more than receiving a generic e-mail from a client that has been sent to what seems like every single translator in their database. By the time you click on the enclosed link to look at the job (even if the e-mail arrived in your e-mail inbox a second ago…) the job has inevitably been accepted by someone else and is no longer available in “the queue.”

I have gotten to the point where I automatically delete these e-mails without even looking at them. I understand a system like this saves the project managers a lot of time since they don’t have to keep contacting translators who may not be available; however, I feel this also makes the company so impersonal that I no longer want to work with them. Looking at my client list I seem to prefer agencies who value me as a translator and show this by taking time to determine my availability and sending me a personal e-mail or quick Skype or Twitter message. If you run an agency and are reading this blog I hope you will consider this post and the comments below when you are deciding whether or not to implement such a system.

So dear readers, how do YOU feel about automated e-mails? Do you prefer them? Do you hate them as much as I do? I’m sure everyone here would really like to know what you think about them and why.

What complimentary copy of SDL Trados Studio 2009? January 19, 2011

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Tools.

I received the following e-mail this morning:

In August 2010, we gave you a complimentary copy of SDL Trados Studio 2009 Starter Edition for 6 months (valid until 31/01/2011).

We thought this would be a great opportunity for you to start working on SDL Trados Studio 2009 projects and give you an insight into the new revolutionary translation environment.

As your complimentary copy is due to expire, we’d like to remind you of the different options available to enable you to continue working with SDL Trados Studio:

Uh, what? Really? That’s news to me!

I am still working with Trados 2007. I don’t know what SDL is talking about. Had I known I had a complimentary copy of Studio 2009 I think I might have been working with it already (something which I have no intention of doing)…

Are you a whiner or a winner? January 19, 2011

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

WordCount had a great post back in December entitled As a freelancer, are you a whiner or a winner? that has me frequently reflecting back on it in my dealings with clients or while reading translation listservs. She offers a very good example of a winning football team in Oregon and how they won the championship through hard work, grit and determination. She then equated the story with being a freelancer, and it really hit home because it is true in our profession as well.

Too often I hang out with writers – in person or virtually, on writer message boards and forums – who spend a lot of time complaining about how hard they have it. This editor isn’t returning their emails. That one took months to get a story back. This assignment only pays 50 cents a word. The industry is changing,  the markets they used to work for aren’t there anymore and there’s nothing to replace them.

To which I say: suck it up.

Nobody forced you into this profession, and nobody’s making you stay.

Times are tough, but complaining isn’t the answer.

The answer is hard work, commitment, creativity – and attitude.

This is very true in our industry as well. It seems as if people are constantly complaining about “The Recession” or thinking that the sky is falling (or prices – same difference). It is this self-perpetuating negativity that keeps bringing a lot of people down. They spend their time thinking negative thoughts and thinking this behavior is normal. Since reading this article I realized I could either listen to the whiners or ignore all the negative talk and keep plugging away and being successful.

I support myself translating full-time, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am having a slow week at the moment, but I am relishing having a little time off to recuperate. Back in December when this post came out I had five translation jobs on my desk, and I had just turned down a proofreading job due to the next-day deadline. I have enough work to keep me busy most every day, and I have worked very, very hard to get here.

As an undergraduate I had an Advanced Composition teacher who belittled my German skills, and I had to work hard for the Bs and Cs I earned when I was used to getting As and Bs in everything else. I studied abroad the next year to improve my language skills and graduated from college cum laude with a double major in German and Russian. In grad school I had a teacher accuse me of cheating on an interpreting assignment when that wasn’t the case. I graduated anyway, and he later apologized to me. I also constantly felt that my German wasn’t as good as the other students, so I moved to Germany after I graduated to improve my language skills. After those six years in Germany I have an excellent grasp on the language AND the culture. When I was an intern in Germany the owner of the agency told me I couldn’t translate because I had made two errors in translations that were way beyond my abilities (texts on steel processing and making paper). He did not consider the 40+ other translations that I had translated before that without a single complaint and with nothing but praise. I stayed in Germany and proved him wrong, supporting myself as a freelancer for five more years (and have never again accepted a translation that was beyond my abilities). When I moved back to the United States I had to market myself and worked very hard by sending out resumes and networking, attending conferences, participating in listservs, writing articles for my local and national translation associations, and presenting at ATA conferences. If I had listened to all those people who kept telling me I wasn’t good enough I wouldn’t be where I am today – a single woman who supports herself as a freelance translator. I don’t need to have a second job to pay the rent. I am successful doing something that I love.

I get really tired of hearing people complain on listservs about the ATA, about clients who don’t pay on time, about agencies and their deadlines, about prices, about their colleagues, etc. Life is what YOU make of it. So the next time you find yourself wanting to complain ask yourself “Are you a whiner or a winner?” and act like a winner. I promise it will be self-fulfilling.

Money, money, money… Money! January 14, 2011

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.

For U.S.-based translators, tomorrow’s January 15th and quarterly taxes are due. You should also be thinking about getting your tax preparation started. (Thanks to Caitilin I now know we have until the 18th (see the comments). Thanks, Caitilin.) This fact and the blog post cited below have me thinking about money today.

Even though this blog is run by a company pushing their online invoicing/billing system, this guest post by Joseph D’Agnese & Denise Kiernan, authors of The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed (Crown/Three Rivers, 2010) entitled Five Money Mistakes Freelancers Make is well worth reading. These tips bear repeating over and over again, because freelancers need to hear this advice and embrace it. If you don’t I can guarantee you will have sleepless nights worrying about how you will pay your bills and could possibly run yourself into bankruptcy (if you don’t follow tips #2 and 3). Been there, done that (the sleepless nights – not the bankruptcy part).

They include:

1. Mistake #1: Not Having an Emergency Fund
2. Mistake #2: Not Saving for Taxes
3. Mistake #3: Not Paying Estimated Taxes
4. Mistake #4: Not Treating Yourself Like a Business
5. Mistake #5: Living for the Big Score (aka Save for Retirement!!! and don’t lease or buy things you can’t afford right now)

And one commenter suggests one more – Mistake #6 Not Hiring a Decent Accountant (if you’re more than a one person shop). …although I just have to say that hiring an accountant is a good idea in general. There are quite a few freelancers who do their own taxes, but they are generally stressing themselves out a day or two before taxes are due compiling their tax return. And while they are doing their taxes they aren’t translating (and are turning down any jobs that come in). It takes me a half hour to print out my report for my accountant and e-mail it to him and an hour to meet with him, sign it and pick up a copy for my records.

In a nod to Patenttranslator, here is the inspiration to the title of this blog post:

TGIF: Sherlock Holmes, Grammar Nazi January 14, 2011

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

I haven’t had a TGIF video in a while, because I haven’t really seen any that have been worthwhile. I’ll post videos on Friday occasionally when I find them, but there aren’t enough language-related videos out there to do so regularly. As always, if you find a video you’d like to share with everyone please send it to me and I will be happy to give you full credit for discovering it.

I am a Sherlock (2010) junkie. If you haven’t seen the latest incarnation of Sherlock Holmes from the BBC I suggest you do, because it is fabulous. There are only three episodes at the moment, with plans for more to come. It is set in 21st century London, and Holmes texts while Watson is a blogger. In this clip, which introduces Holmes to the audience, he visits a potential client in Minsk.

Worker’s Compensation and the Independent Contractor January 10, 2011

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.

I received an e-mail from a client the other day telling me I was required to fill out the attached Worker’s Compensation form or I would not be able to work with them in the future. My first reaction was “Heck no, I’m an independent contractor. We aren’t subject to Worker’s Compensation.” I immediately called my project manager to clarify, who then double-checked with the “Subcontracts Coordinator” who had sent the e-mail in the first place. Luckily I also twittered my indignation about my client not understanding the “Independent” in Independent Contractor.

An agency owner who is one of my followers graciously explained why the agency was doing this (and did a MUCH better job than the Subcontracts Coordinator, who just said I needed to fill it out “because she is a contractor… and resides in the U.S.” – talk about a non-answer…). The agency owner shall remain nameless, but according to her, “These are the kind of he-said she-said issues that need to be addressed at ATA. These are the things Independent Contractors don’t know but should understand.”

Her agency did not have a worker’s comp policy until this past summer because they refused to put their people through the paperwork. Many worker’s comp companies will not grant policies to LSPs unless they have their contractors complete the forms. The form is used by the worker’s comp company to then evaluate that you ARE for sure an Independent Contractor and determine for themselves if you are an Independent Contractor or an employee because if the LSP misclassifies you, and you get hurt, you can sue and win and the policy would have to cover you if the state reclassifies you as an employee.” There are some companies out there that don’t require them to do this, but they are very hard to find. It apparently took her agency 3 years to find a company that didn’t require this.

Herein lies the rub… apparently agencies even have to get the forms filled out by people they don’t use if they advertise them. According to her example, “Say we have a database of 1200 translators. If we only use 68 in a year, you still need 1200 forms because it’s on your website.” You need 100% compliance, because otherwise the insurance company thinks you are hiding something if you have fewer forms on your contractors than you claim. Her reasoning was “Some guy in China who makes $25/yr shouldn’t have to.” Her company kept looking for a new insurance company who wouldn’t make them jump through all those hoops. However, the state found out they didn’t have a worker’s comp policy and fined the company $75,000. Luckily, they were able to get the fine reduced, but in essence they were fined because they didn’t want to inconvenience their Independent Contractors.

As she graciously sums it up: “This whole independent contractor vs employee issue, misclassification, work comp, unemployment and all is a nightmare for LSPs. … The Association of Language Companies has a committee that only helps bail members out when they get sued or fined in situations like these. That’s why it’s über-important that independent contractors see themselves as such and hold up their end too. There’s one LSP I know that had to literally pay the state millions because an audit said they had misclassified employees as independent contractors since the 80s so they had to pay back everything. What made the difference? What made these independent contractors employees instead? According to the company owner, name tags with the LSP name on them.”

So the moral of this story is that even though we are Independent Contractors we should fill out the form and make our clients’ lives easier. If you don’t want to submit form, you can show proof of your own worker’s comp policy, but let’s be honest – there probably isn’t a single freelance translator out there who has their own worker’s comp policy…

Bloggers to watch in 2011 January 6, 2011

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings, Translation Sites.

Maybe it’s just the mood I’m in, but the December 21st post on the GTS Blog about the T&I bloggers to watch irritated me to no end. The list of bloggers only included one person (Jost) whom I consider to be a freelancer and he doesn’t have a blog per se – he writes an e-mail newsletter (albeit a very good one) and runs translatorstraining.com. Everyone else was an agency owner, represented a company that I feel does not have freelancers’ best interests at heart (yeah, Common Sense Advisory, I’m looking at you…), or represented the MT industry, ProZ.com or Google Translate. Seriously?!?!

So here are the translation industry bloggers who *I* feel are worth following if you are a freelance translator (in alphabetical order since they are all equally good):

1. Alex Eames – Alex Eames is the founder of translatortips.com (which I have long considered to be an invaluable resource), the author of How to Earn $80,000+ per year as a Freelance Translator, and the editor of tranfree. Since he is one of the best translation self-marketers out there, his blog posts are well worth reading.

2. Céline Graciet of Naked Translations – Céline is a freelance English to French translator who blogs in both languages (quite the feat considering I often don’t have time to blog in ONE language). Some of her most recent posts address marketing, the importance of maintaining your language skills with a concrete example from her life, and fax to e-mail systems. She doesn’t post often, but when she does it is always interesting. She is also an interesting and personable person to follow on Twitter.

3. Corinne McKay of Thoughts on Translation – Corinne always has something interesting and insightful to say about the translation industry and her tips are invaluable to translators who are new to the field and old hats alike. She is a freelance French to English translator specializing in legal and international development.

4. Judy and Dagmar Jenner of Twin Translations (Translation Times) – If you want to be successful as a translator you must think like a businessperson. Judy and Dagmar offer some invaluable tips on being an entrepreneur. Judy and Dagy translate English<->Spanish, English<->German, German<->Spanish, and French into German, English, and Spanish.

5. Kevin Lossner of Translation Tribulations – Kevin is a freelance German to English translator and a MemoQ guru. His blog features MemoQ tricks and tips, translation technology as well as insight into marketing, workflow optimization, etc. His rants on ProZ.com censorship are worth their weight in gold and are always a fun read.

6. Michael Wahlster of Translate This! – A freelance English to German translator, Michael always has a very interesting take on technology and the translation industry. He is also one of the early adapters of technology and I always value his insights.

7. Mox’s Blog – Alejandro Moreno-Ramos is a freelance English & French to (European) Spanish translator. His cartoons depicting the life of a freelance translator are inspired by real-life examples and are a huge hit among translators.

8. No Peanuts for Translators! – No Peanuts!’ About page describes it best when they say, “No Peanuts! provides support and resources to professional translators and interpreters in demanding and receiving a living wage for their work.” No Peanuts! compiles articles from freelance translators and interpreters on low wages, low-paying jobs, and miscellaneous financial-related rants, because we all know only monkeys work for peanuts.

9. Patenttranslator aka Steve Vitek – The blog’s subheading is “Diary of a Mad Patent Translator.” I haven’t figured out the point of the embedded videos (they are songs he is listening to when he is writing the post perhaps?), but his posts are interesting even though I do not translate patents. For example, his most recent post was using Google to find a sentence that you wrote on your blog or website to see who has copied and pasted it and passed it off as their own words. He is “a freelance technical translator who specializes mostly in patents and articles from technical and medical journals…, mostly from Japanese and German, but also from French, Russian, Czech and Slovak, and a few from Polish to English.”

10. Sarah Dillon of There’s Something About Translation – Sarah is a freelance French, Spanish and German to English translator. Her blog has offered insight on what should be on a business card, refining translation skills, etc. In other words, tips on actually being a translator.

It’s too bad Chris Durban doesn’t write a blog, but we’ll just have to settle to read her Fire Ant & Worker Bee column in the Accurapid Journal and buy The Prosperous Translator, which is a compilations of the best FA&WB columns spanning the last 10 years.

There are several more bloggers who I regularly follow, like Margaret Marks of Transblawg or Abigail Dahlberg of The Greener Word, but they are very specialized to my language pair and interests.

Backing up your stuff to the cloud January 5, 2011

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

To quote Paul Appleyard, who inspired this post, “As translators, our professional life is on our computers and we should do everything we can to protect it.” This tweet was part of a Twitter discussion on backing up data and backing up to the cloud.

For those of you who are unaware what “the cloud” is, as Wikipedia explains, “the term ‘cloud’ is used as a metaphor for the Internet, based on the cloud drawing used in the past to represent the telephone network, and later to depict the Internet in computer network diagrams as an abstraction of the underlying infrastructure it represents. … The fundamental concept of cloud computing is that the computing is “in the cloud” i.e. that the processing (and the related data) is not in a specified, known or static place(s).” So when you back up your data to the cloud you are basically uploading your data to Internet servers and can access the data from anywhere.

For example, I use Google Calendar to keep track of my appointments and social events. I can access this calendar from my computer, my new Android phone or any other computer such as one at a friend’s or my parents’ house, because the data is stored in the cloud. It is a good idea to regularly back up this information, so I semi-regularly sync the calendar to my PalmPilot, which I hook up to my computer.

Computers crash – usually at the most inopportune moment – so backing up your data is a very good idea in and of itself. Backing up to the cloud is a good idea in case of a fire, flood or theft, which would affect your external hard drives or computers and therefore your data.

When you back up your data to the cloud it is a good idea to use a fee-based service such as Carbonite or Mozy that uses secure services. If you are unsure which one to use, PC Mag published an overview of what they consider to be The Best Online Backup Services. Don’t forget that these fees are a business expense and should be noted as such when you do your taxes. This is not the place to be cheap or frugal. Choose the service that best suits your needs and cough up the money, because your business and livelihood depend on it.

However, there are other factors you need to take into consideration when deciding which service to use. Michael Wahlster posted an interested take on backing up to the cloud in his recent post entitled Vulnerable to the Whims of Big Companies. He stresses that it is important to also back up to a tangible external hard drive or other medium, because by backing up your data to the cloud you are vulnerable to the whims of big companies: they go bankrupt, they disappear, they merge with other companies, etc. Michael discusses this issue in great depth, and it is well-worth reading his post as well as the articles he has linked to about the perils and risks involved with backing up to the cloud.

So in summary, it is very important to use a two-pronged approach when backing up your data. Backing up to the cloud is a great idea and allows you to access your files and information from anywhere, but backing up to an external hard drive, server or other physical medium is also important. In my case, I have an external hard drive and also use Carbonite to back up my computer. Paul suggests an online data backup service called CrashPlan. Whatever service you decide to use, start using it today.

I use a free service called Dropbox to move files from my computer to my laptop (no more burning CDs or using USB drives with multiple copy and paste sessions because I ran out of storage space on the CD or USB drive!), but I never considered keeping my important files on Dropbox too. Thanks to Paul and the discussion on Twitter, that has changed.

Last but not least, here is one thing I bet you have never thought about backing up — your bookmarks! I have spent years compiling my bookmarks, and I would be lost trying to recreate them if something were to happen. Plus, it is nice to have the same bookmarks on all my computers. A tool like Xmarks is a lifesaver in this case. I first learned about it as a FireFox add-on, but it is compatible with IE, FireFox, Chrome and Safari. The company was recently bought by LastPass and is now offering a Premium service to back up your bookmarks to the cloud as well as sync with smartphones like iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc. You can bet I was one of the first ones to buy it when it was announced a couple weeks ago.

If you can recommend a service I’m sure everyone would love to hear about it in the comments.