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ATA-TCD conference wrap-up May 3, 2011

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

Seventy of the industry’s top freelancers and translation agencies attended the ATA’s Translation Company Division Business of Translation conference in Washington D.C. this past weekend. The focus of the conference was on business practices. The TCD opened up its conference to freelance translators for the first time and featured two session tracks, one for freelancers and one for agencies. Many people complain that the ATA allows agencies to be members, but I think it makes perfect sense. Although there are some behemoth translation agencies out there, many agencies are one- or two-people operations. In fact, many freelancers sometimes subcontract work when they have too much or have a client who needs a language that they don’t work in, essentially making them function as agencies themselves. The line is so fluid that I don’t feel we can or should draw a line.

I also wholeheartedly believe that the smaller ATA regional conferences offer more bang for your buck. I met two of my most valuable clients at the ATA Working for the Federal Government conference in DC back in 2004, and one of them still accounts for 25% of my income and is my favorite client (the other one is no longer in business). The smaller conferences allow you to network more and really get to know each other. Don’t get me wrong – I still love the Annual Conference, but the size of it can be intimidating and doesn’t ideally lend itself to really meeting potential clients. You exchange business cards and a potential client picks up your resume from the 100s of resumes on the Job Exchange table, but at the smaller conferences you can sit down with a potential client and truly devote time to getting to know them and what they need.

The TCD conference is without a doubt the best conference I have ever attended. Every single presentation I attended had outstanding and eye-opening content and really made me think about my business practices. Chris Durban was the keynote speaker and literally (!!) threw down the gauntlet (in this case a gardening glove) and urged us to stand behind our work and sign it. She was funny and kept our attention from start to finish with her description of a Mystery Shopping exercise where she hired 5 agencies to translate a small French text into English. The resulting work examples she shared made me confident of the quality I offer to my clients. And we were just getting started…

If you take away just one new idea you can view a conference as successful. I had many this weekend and will be sharing them over the next few days. One “aha moment” for me was a comment Ana Iaria made during Chris’ session on “10 Habits of Translators Who Prosper as Freelancers” in which she suggested freelancers take an hour lunch break to run errands and/or grab a bite to eat as if you were working in a proper office. It seems simple, but I think it will really change things for the better for me. When I get too overwhelmed I frequently let errands slide or forget to eat. I intend to implement this tip right away and see what a difference it will make.



1. frenja - May 3, 2011

Great report, Jill! This conference sounds really awesome, I wish I could have heard Chris’ keynote or session. She is just great. 🙂

2. Corinne McKay - May 3, 2011

I agree, it was fantastic! Fabulous venue, really informative sessions. Even as a speaker I came home with 10 pages of notes from other people’s talks. Great to see you there!

3. Terena Bell, In Every Language - May 12, 2011

Just a note for translators attending ATA, TCD, and other conferences hoping to get LSP clients: APPLY. I’ve met lots of wonderful translators at ATA and other places, drank with them, shopped with them, then never worked with them because they never followed up by sending me their resume. Yes, networking is great, as you mention, but please don’t forget to actually apply! (Know this is a side note, but thought it was worth mentioning.)

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