3 Benefits of In-Housing Before Freelancing

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I worked as an in-house translator for 2 years between 2009 and 2011 before turning freelance. I’m glad that I worked in-house before freelancing, and here are 3 reasons why:

  1. Mentoring

A senior translator checked my work all the time. In the beginning, she changed almost everything I translated. To me these changes seemed stylistic and it irritated me greatly. But after a year or so, I saw how skillfully she conveyed the concept of the piece and in comparison how I was translating too blandly. Looking back, she gave me the foundation to work as a professional freelance translator.

  1. Teamwork

The team I worked in consisted of several translators, an editor, a project manager, some cross-checkers and a few administrative workers. I got along with the foreigners or gaijin of the group, but I initially struggled to get along with the Japanese cross-checkers who always seemed to be nagging about small things that I thought were negligible in the English language. But dealing with these Japanese cross-checkers taught me that cooperating with Japanese natives is an important part of the production process.

  1. Production

After finishing a set amount of translations, we formatted the documents into publishable format. This was nothing complex like desktop publishing, but it consisted of adjusting the page margins, checking for cut off text at the end of pages, correcting extra spaces, typos, inconsistent fonts, etc. At the end of the process, I felt joy when having the finished work in my hands. As a team, we saw the raw Japanese text transform into translated English text and then into a published book.

In-Housing Before Freelancing?

To translation students aspiring to become professionals in the future, I totally recommend in-housing before freelancing. But, for those who don’t have that opportunity, I suggest the following three points: 1) To join a translation organization and find a mentor; 2) To work for an agency that treats you as part of their team; 3) To look at the finalized/published version of your translation when available.

Ethics in Freelance Translation: 10 Things Not to Do

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  1. Don’t translate into your non-native language.
  1. Don’t outsource work or work in a team without prior consent of the client.
  1. Don’t accept jobs in subjects you are not familiar with.
  1. Don’t accept jobs beyond your daily capacity at the expense of quality.
  1. Don’t decline jobs after once accepting them.
  1. Don’t neglect to follow project specifications, including style guides and glossaries.
  1. Don’t neglect informing PMs about important information they haven’t noticed, such as repetitions or errors in the source text.
  1. Don’t ignore follow-up emails or phone calls from PMs, especially if it’s for revisions or questions about the translation you submitted.
  1. Don’t shut down the work of others, especially when you are working together with other translators, editors and proofreaders.

10. Don’t neglect to follow security instructions, such as destroying all files (including translation memory) related to the project you did.

Job Details That Matter

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Deadline, workflow, client feedback, profit margin, etc.–these are details that may matter to project managers (PMs). But what are the details that matter to freelance translators? When a freelancer gets a job order, there are details that matter more to them than PMs may think. I’ve seen many PMs in full control of the process and workflow, but somewhat negligent of the care and consideration towards communication with freelancers; for example, by assigning jobs with an automated message that just says “a job request is waiting confirmation.”

Time Zone

Jobs should be assigned in the translator’s time zone. Some PMs assign all jobs in their own local time. The problem with this is that some jobs may be assigned at midnight translator time, even though it’s daytime PM time. Also, expecting a job to be delivered at 3 a.m. translator’s time is also rude and inconsiderate. By working in the translator’s time zone, PMs can make sure they are not assigning jobs late at night or expecting delivery before dawn.

Rate

Don’t expect that freelancer’s rates will remain the same for many years. I’ve had agencies I registered 5 years ago request a job to me for the same rate as back then. But, obviously, my rates have changed in the past 5 years and, in fact, I have changed them almost every year. Also, when requesting work by the hour, PMs should always have in mind that it takes time to prepare for a job, to review the reference files, to work out any glitches in the CAT tool, to perform QA processes, etc. It isn’t just the time spent actually translating.

Task Specification

What does the task entail? An order that just asks for translation, editing or proofreading isn’t enough. Knowing the audience or purpose of the task is critical to tailoring the language to the reader. Proofreading and editing is done more efficiently if the points that need to be checked are clearly communicated. Most importantly, PMs should know that poor translations don’t miraculously turn into a good translation by asking a proofreader. When a translation is poorly done, it may be necessary for the proofreader to send it back for re-translation.

What Matters

In the end, what matters most is the communication and follow-up with translators. They are not just one process in a complicated workflow, but rather members working in the same team. Technology automates so many processes and workflows, but the care and consideration that goes into human communication cannot and should not be automated.

Why Time Management is Important for Freelance Translators

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Freelance translators sell their time translating as a service. Maximizing output of translated words over time, therefore, increases income. But output is governed by productivity, which in turn is influenced by distraction.

Attention Span

As a freelance translator, I experience many distractions: family, chores, surfing the internet, watching tv, shopping for groceries, you name it. Once I’m distracted, I find it hard to get back on track. This is how I lose productivity.

How, then, can attention be maximized and distraction minimized? I think the first step is to break away from the habit of working 8 hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Some people are more focused early in the morning, while others can concentrate better late at night. Unless working by the hour, I find it to be more productive to work during my most focused hours.

Time Management

A successful freelance translation career cannot be separated from good time management. Some indicators of time management in freelance translation are translation output per hour, translation output per day, translation output per week and translation output per month.

Translating at maximum capacity for an hour will not convert to maximum output per day. Likewise, translating at maximum capacity for a day will not convert to maximum output per week. No one can work at maximum capacity for days on end. Only machines can. Attention is lost; quality is impacted. That’s why time needs to be managed.

Pomodoro Technique

I personally use the Pomodoro Technique to manage my time. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that breaks down work time into 25 minute intervals followed by a 5 minute break. After four 25 minute intervals, a longer 15 minute break is taken. This ensures better attention and less distraction during the 25 minutes.

I usually do four 25-minute intervals early in the morning, four during the day, and four late at night. That’s only 6 hours of work, including 30 minutes of break. I don’t work 8 hours or only during the day. But I get more done, I experience less stress, and I produce more in the long run–all thanks to time management.

Anxieties that Come with Working as a Freelance Translator

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About one year into doing freelance translation as a full-time job, I started experiencing many unusual things about my health, which I later found out to be due to stress and anxiety.

Overuse of my eyes

My work required me to stare at the computer screen for over 10 hours a day. About one year into living this way, I noticed that my eyes were drying up quicker than before, and my right eye was red all the time. It even started hurting (somewhere deep inside) at the end of a long workday, and I had to put a hot towel over my eyes to bear with the pain. At its worst, I reached the point where I couldn’t open my right eye at all, so I had to work with just my left eye.

Meeting deadlines

I also found myself dealing with multiple obligations. Oftentimes, I was working on two or three jobs simultaneously. I was working beyond my capacity, and that continued for weeks. Before I knew it, these deadlines were disturbing my sleep patterns and making me nervous all the time. I had to do more in less time and still produce the same quality.

Anxiety attack

One night, when I was out shopping, I had an anxiety attack for the first time. All of a sudden, I was sweating, breathing hard, felt like fainting and everything in front of me went blank. I had to lie down for a while until I got better. And I had to cancel or postpone my ongoing jobs. But that was only the first time, and I would experience many of these anxiety attacks over the course of my freelance work.

Making a living

After the anxiety attack, I decided to cut my workload. But when I did so, I started losing many of the clients I used to have. I became their second, third or fourth choices, due to not being as responsive and available as before. All of a sudden I wasn’t making enough for a living, and expenses like insurance, medical bills, taxes and other costs all got me worried. But I knew that getting back into the old habit of overworking would only give me more anxiety.

Quality is like a magnet

While dealing with these anxiety issues, I noticed one thing, and that is, as long as you stick to quality, there will always be someone out there who will find you. That’s been the case for me for the past 4 years, and each time I needed a job, I would somehow find one. There’s something mystic about quality. It’s like a magnet that attracts you to the right people at the right time. My personal solution to anxiety in freelance translation has been to remain confident that quality will save me in the end. And so far it has.

List of CAT Tools for Freelancers

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Platform Operating System License Type Price Link
Across Personal Edition v6 Desktop Windows Free after registration $0
Alchemy Publisher 3.0 Desktop Windows Perpetual EUR 749 Click Here
Atril Déjà Vu X3 Professional Desktop Windows Perpetual EUR 420 Click Here
CafeTran Desktop Mac/Windows/Linux Free Download $0 Click Here
Fluency Desktop Mac/Windows/Linux Monthly or Yearly USD 20, 200 Click Here
Google Translator Toolkit Web Mac/Windows/Linux Free Access $0 Click Here
MemoQ Translator Pro Desktop+Cloud Server Windows Perpetual USD 770 Click Here
LogiTerm Pro Dekstop Windows Perpetual CAD
795
Click Here
MadCap Lingo Desktop Windows Monthly (12 months, billed annually) USD 33 Click Here
MateCat Web Mac/Windows/Linux Free Access via Link $0 Click Here
Memsource Personal Edition Web+Desktop Mac/Windows/Linux Free after sign up (Max 2 Files) $0 Click Here
MetaTexis for Word Lite Desktop (Runs on Word) Windows Perpetual USD 45 Click Here
MultiTrans Text Web Windows Contact RRDonnelley N/A Click Here
OmegaT Desktop Mac/Windows/Linux Free Download $0 Click Here
SDL Trados Studio 2014 Freelance Desktop Windows Perpetual $825 Click Here
SmartCat Web Mac/Windows/Linux Free after registration $0 Click Here
Transit NXT Freelance Desktop Windows 3, 6 or 12 months EUR 75, 135, 225 Click Here
Wordbee Freelance (1 license) Web Mac/Windows/Linux 6 or 12 months USD 182, 330 Click Here
Wordfast Anywhere Web Mac/Windows/Linux Free $0 Click Here
XTM Cloud Freelancer Web Mac/Windows/Linux Monthly Euro 11 Click Here

Freelancer Metrics: Pros/Cons of Source Word, Target Word, Hourly Calculations

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Source Word

  1. Pros
    1. Easy to calculate and agree on with the client for certain file types like Word Documents, TXT files, etc.
    2. Easy to estimate daily capacity and turnaround time
    3. Easy to calculate perfect and fuzzy match discounts
    4. Fair for websites, PowerPoints, etc. that may require the output to be made more concise than the source
  2. Cons
    1. Hard to calculate and agree on with client for certain file types like PDFs or anything with images, which are not captured by word count
    2. Hard to agree on whether to charge for numbers, hyphens, symbols or other characters, which are not translated per se, but have to be checked in context

Target Word

  1. Pros
    1. Easy to calculate and agree on with client for any file type, including PDF and images
    2. Fair for culturally sensitive documents that may require in-text clarification/explanation by footnote, etc.
  2. Cons
    1. Hard to estimate daily capacity and turnaround time
    2. Hard to calculate discounts
    3. May give the incentive not to translate as concisely as one wants to

Hourly

  1. Pros
    1. Fair for documents that require additional formatting
    2. Fair for documents that require extensive research
    3. Easier to calculate rates and set deadlines
  2. Cons
    1. Preparation work done outside of actual translation may not be compensated
    2. May be hard to track the exact hours spent and hard to focus for a prolonged period of time (How many breaks are allowed?)
    3. May reduce flexibility of schedule
    4. May give the incentive not to translate at one’s maximum speed, or to spend more time researching than usual