Webinar: Fundamentals of Waste Management

Abigail Dahlberg.
We love spreading the word about conferences, seminars, and webinars. The latter are very convenient to fit into everyone's busy translation days, as you don't even have to leave the house!

One of our favorite new organizations to do provide high-quality webinars for translators is the LSP-run Alexandria Project. Judy was recently approached to moderate a series of three seminars on "The Fundamentals of Waste Management" by our dear friend and colleague Abigail Dahlberg. We are all about learning about other specializations, especially such an interesting niche, and "Trash Girl" (as she is lovingly known) is just the person to teach it! You can read a previous interview with her on Translation Times right here.

The three one-hour sessions will take place on July 10th, 15th and 17th and you can sign up here. See you there?

Other interesting webinars through Alexandria Project include the following:
SEO 2014: Advanced SEO tactics for translators & LSPs with Anne Diamantitis
Deconstruction a lawsuit presented by our friend Ana Iaria
Medical translation 104: Respiratory system with Pablo Müguerza

You Are Fired!

Don’t worry about the title of this blog post: this is not about the linguist getting fired, but about the linguist firing a client. In general, we are not big fans of the term firing clients, but it does make for a catchy title. Now that we've got your attention, let’s talk about a problem that every small business owner, regardless of the business sector, faces sooner or later: clients who are simply, well, not worth it. If this has never happened to you, consider yourself lucky.

It's all about business strategy. Photo by Judy.
It’s a well-known reality of the marketplace that some clients will be more difficult and will take up more of your time than others. We’d say that 99% of our clients are absolutely lovely, but some require more work and more hand-holding than others. Some have completely preventable emergencies that they expect us to solve. That’s not to say that they aren’t nice people or that we don’t like them, but as the owners of a small business, our only resource is our time, so we have to make choices about how we use that resource to benefit our bottom line. We run a business, and we need to always behave like one. For better or for worse, that includes making some difficult decisions about whom we want to work with. Since we work for ourselves, we are under no obligation to continue any working relationship that simply isn’t fruitful, and sometimes you have to walk away.

For instance, let’s say you have a client who is responsible for 2% of your annual revenue, but who is so high-maintenance that you spend hours and hours of the phone and sending e-mails about all sorts of minutiae. It doesn’t matter if the client is right or wrong, what matters is that you use your time efficiently. We ran into this situation recently, when we realized that a small customer, who happens to be quite disorganized, was taking up a lot of our time. We totaled up our earnings from this particular customer for  the previous year, and they were negligible. We treat all customers – small or large – the same, but at some point, it makes sense to allocate more time to your largest customers, and we decided to do so. 

Now, the question is: how do you break this news to the client? Remember that we are not employees, indentured servants and have no moral or ethical obligation to continue a working relationship that doesn’t work for both sides, but it’s still important to be polite. The less direct way is to simply decline work from the client in question. After a while, the client might or might not get the message, but our preferred way of communication is to be honest with the client. Be sure you write a kind message or have a frank, but friendly phone or in-person conversation and simply say that you’ve decided to focus your attention on other projects. If you want to tell the client the whole truth, we suggest wearing kid gloves and perhaps consider saying that your client’s goals and yours are not exactly aligned (or something similar).

On the other hand, you might have customers who are responsible for a good portion of your income, but who might so challenging to work with that the business relationship takes up too much energy. If your customer makes your stomach turn, you are losing sleep or can’t talk about anything else, perhaps it’s time to prioritize your mental health over your business bottom line, as your health is always more important than any client. In our case, we realized that our difficult client was taking up a lot of unnecessary mental space. Since this client is small, this relationship was neither lucrative nor healthy, and that combination sealed the deal: we walked away.  

How do you handle these tricky situations, dear colleagues? We'd love to hear your experiences!

Conference Interpreting: Booth Etiquette 101 (And Beyond)

Inside the booth. Picture by Judy, 2014.
We've both had the pleasure of working at many high-level conferences, with many great booth partners. Most of our experiences have been extraordinary, but we've also learned from our own (and others' mistakes). Without further ado, here is a brief (by no means exhaustive) list of what to do to make yourself popular with your booth partner.
  • Go the extra mile. If you are the local interpreter and your booth partner is flying in from elsewhere, contact him/her and offer some advice and pointers. Traveling to a new city is stressful, and suggestions are always appreciated. We usually also ask if our booth partner has forgotten something at home that we can either easily bring (say, our own hair straightener) or pick up (think healthy food). We know what it's like to be stuck in a hotel without a car, working long days, and sometimes all you want is a carrot-ginger juice. And we can certainly grab that for our booth partner.
  • Share information and glossaries. We recently heard from a lovely colleague that she routinely has to work with fellow interpreters who cover up their spreadsheets even inside the booth as to not share their information with their booth partner. This doesn't make any sense to us, as the booth is a team and you have to work together to have a good experience. Be sure to e-mail any glossaries to your booth partner ahead of time so you can share terminology and materials. Being prepared is in everyone's interest, and not sharing can backfire: if there are two women in the booth and one doesn't want to share notes, thus affecting the performance of the other, the entire booth will look bad. Attendees simply won't be able to distinguish who is speaking when, unless, of course, the team is made up by one male and one female interpreter, which is relatively rare.
  • Share the space. Booths are small and crowded spaces, so make sure you stick to your side of the booth and leave plenty of room for your partner. If you are bringing snacks, share them with your partner. Don't wear too much perfume and be aware that everything you do in such a small space will affect your partner. 
    Choose your language. Photo by Judy, 2014.
  • No goofing off. Conference interpreters usually work 20 minutes (or 30 minutes) each and then have the other person take over. However, when you microphone is not on, that doesn't mean you can leave the booth and take a break. You are the back-up, and you should be paying attention. A few weeks ago, Judy's lovely booth partner ran out of steam and they had to switch sooner than they thought -- good thing Judy had been paying attention! Another time, Judy muted her microphone to ask her booth partner: "What did he just say?" Turns out the speaker had said, "Dallas Cowboys," which for some reason Judy hadn't caught (it was completely out of context), but luckily, her booth partner had heard it.
Again, this is just a short summary of some suggestions that we think might be helpful for (beginning) conference interpreters. What do you think, dear colleagues? We'd love to hear your suggestions. Just leave a comment and share your experiences.

NAJIT Conference: Free Vegas Advice!

NAJIT's keynote speaker. Photo: Smartling.
The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) puts on one of our favorite conferences every year, and it's always in a different city, which makes for fun travel opportunities. Compared to the annual conference of the American Translators Assocation (ATA), NAJIT's conference is relatively small (250 attendees or so), and that's part of what makes it so special. Attendees have the opportunity to spend some quality time with each other and to learn from some of the most stellar representatives of our industry, including Holly Mikkelson, Tony Rosado, Agustín de la Mora, etc. This year, the conference will be held in Vegas (technically, in Henderson, which is a suburb of Vegas) and Judy had the pleasure of serving on the conference planning committee. We've recently confirmed the keynote speaker, and it's Nataly Kelly, co-author of Found in Translation and VP of Market Development at technology company Smartling. We are quite excited to have her in Vegas and are sure that NAJIT will be a great success as always!
Neon Boneyard, Vegas. Photo by Judy, 2012.

So now, dear friends and colleagues, let's get to the free advice. We know Vegas can be a bit overwhelming, but do not worry! If you are planning on coming to Vegas for the conference and need some advice about attractions, dining, shows, etc., we'd be happy to answer them here! Judy is very much a Vegas expert (19-year resident!) and is looking forward to sharing her insight with you. She is also the immediate past president of NITA (Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association), the local ATA affiliate, which will do everything they can to make this conference a success!. She won't let you go to a bad show; really. Post away and we will be sure to answer as quickly as possible.  

Translation Cartoons: LuComics

A few days ago, one of our lovely Twitter followers (Daniela Bottazi, @Vinglish_Italia)  tweeted a hilarious cartoon that we have included here in this post. It's been a few years since we discovered a new translation cartoonist (the last one was, of course, our brilliant colleague Alejandro Moreno-Ramos of Mox fame), and we are happy to report that Lu's work is great! She has a Facebook page and a Tumblr page as well.

The author is Lu, a 23-year old future literary and technical translator from Argentina. She also creates all her cartoons in Spanish, which is fantastic! 

Cartoon by LuComics, http://lucomics.tumblr.com/
We love her distinct style and spot-on commentary about our industry and wanted to spread the word about her work. Who knows, maybe she will come out with a book of cartoons similar to Mox soon? We'd be the first ones to buy it.

What do you think, dear colleagues? Do you like the cartoons?
Join this discussion! Commenting is a great way of becoming part of the translation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published . Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media are all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting!

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.