Link: Speaking of Translation Interview in Colorado

Thanks to Web 2.0 innovators and fellow translators Corinne McKay and Eve Bodeux, who host the very popular -- and only, as far as we know of -- translation podcast.

A few weeks ago, after giving my "Lessons From Business School: The Entrepreneurial Linguist" workshop, Corinne and Eve interviewed me in Denver, Colorado, in the middle of what Coloradoans call a "mild" snowstorm. In southern Nevada, it would be considered a blizzard! Thanks to everyone for braving the elements and joining us for this fantastic day of learning and collegial exchange. The members of the Colorado Translators Association who attended are an interesting, lively group, and we had many great discussions, followed by an afternoon panel.

You can listen to the podcast on the Speaking of Translation site.

Phone Etiquette

Regardless of the time of day or night, we give every phone call and e-mail the time, attention and professionalism it deserves. Even though we don't work with agencies, we frequently get calls from them. Some callers are more professional than others. It is frustrating not to know who exactly you are speaking with, and if the caller seems very hurried and does not give enough details for us to make a decision on the project, that's usually not a good basis for collaboration. Here's a recap of a phone call that we received from a New York City number on 1 p.m. PST, 4 p.m. EST.

Caller (speaking very quickly, hurriedly): "Hi, this is XYZ (first name only, could not understand it). I called you earlier and you couldn't hear me. Can you hear me now?"

Judy: "Well, yes, I can certainly hear you now. Thanks for calling. What can I do for you?"

Caller: "I wanted to see if you could take on a rush translation from English into German, 2,000 words, until tomorrow morning."

Judy: "Traditionally, we don't accept rush jobs unless they are from repeat customers and we are very familiar with the subject matter. Who are you with again (note: she had never said)?"

Caller: "I am with XYZ (didn't catch it again, caller appeared to be out of breath)."

Judy: "I am not familiar with your agency. What's the subject matter of the translation?"

Caller: "It's legal."

Judy: "Well, our thorough quality assurance process (four drafts, as a team) usually doesn't lend itself well to extreme rush jobs like the one you are describing. However, as you seem to be in a bind, you can go ahead and e-mail me the document and I will have a look at it, discuss it with my businesss partner, and get back to you."

Caller: "OK. What are your rates again? I don't know your company."

Judy: "Well, the non-rush rate is twenty-something cents a word."

Caller (very surprised, harsh): "What? That's way too expensive! Forget it!" (hangs up)

Judy: "Well, it was my pleasure speaking with you." (Ah, no one on the line anymore)

I briefly considered recommending a colleague whose rates might be more in line with the agency's budget, but 1) the caller hung up and 2) I don't think any of my colleagues want to work with someone who cannot have an educated conversation about services and rates. First impressions do matter, for buyers and for sellers, and establishing solid work relationships with clients and vendors is paramount to anyone's success in our business.

Link: Colorado Translators Association Marketing Workshop

Two weekends ago, I (Judy) had the honor to present my two-hour marketing workshop "The Entrepreneurial Linguist: Lessons from Business School" in Denver, Colorado, at the Colorado Translators Association. I really appreciate all the wonderful positive feedback I have been getting. While I have already e-mailed the actual PowerPoint presentation to anyone who requested it, I also meant to write up a short summary.

Turns out that Riccardo Schiaffino, Italian translator and fellow blogger at About Translation, has already done that. He took stellar notes, and provides an excellent summary of the workshop. Please visit Riccardo's informative blog, where he also expanded on my presentation and priovides great links to additional informatio as part of his recap. I will be presenting my workshop again on May 16, in Chicago, at CHICATA's 20th annual conference on translation and interpretation.

Great Professional Development Workshop in Germany

Our friend and ATA colleague Karin Bauchrowitz recently told us about a fantastic 2-week workshop in Erlangen, Germany. She's been attending for many years, and the workshop is an excellent combination of learning and sightseeing - it's quite unique in the world of professional developement opportunities for translators and interpreters.

Here are a few details and contact information:

8th Biennial Study Workshop for German/English Translators and Interpreters in Erlangen, Germany
September 27 – October 10, 2009

The very popular and well-received 2-week Study Workshop for German-English translators and interpreters will be held again at the Institut für Fremdsprachen und Auslandskunde in Erlangen, Germany in 2009.

This year’s presentations will address the current financial crisis, renewable energy, law enforcement, diet and health and contemporary German literature, among other things.

Site visits will include a trip to Eurocopter – the market leader in civil helicopters-- in Donauwörth, a presentation on shipping and logistics in the Nürnberg harbor, IMO a leading manufacturer of wind farm equipment, the Erlangen district heating facility (Fernwärme) and by popular demand, a repeat visit to the Schwan-Stabilo pencil factory.

We will also visit the Martin Bauer tea factory, complete with a visit to the company’s herb garden and the opportunity to try a wide variety of unusual teas. No visit to Erlangen is complete without at least one visit to a Siemens Division. This year we will visit Siemens Mobility, where the focus will be on logistics and automation, topics that some of us are called upon to translate and interpret on a regular basis.

Also included is a tour of an “Aromagarten,” the open-air museum in Windsheim, the Roman ruins in Weißenburg, a boat tour of the Nürnberg harbor. Other activities include a social get-together with the teaching staff and students of the Institut, joining our colleagues at the regional meeting of the BDÜ in Nürnberg, a visit to the Waldkrankenhaus, an optional (!!!) bicycle tour of the Erlangen environs, and a tour through the vineyards and wine tasting in Volkach.

Cost for the two-week workshop: $45 non-refundable registration fee, due immediately to reserve your place, and then €760 (or about $985 or so depending upon the rate of exchange) by June 1. Workshop fees cover 13 days of bed and breakfast at the Frankenhof, a hostel run by the city of Erlangen, all presentations, excursions, admission to all museums, etc., as well as the farewell party on the evening of Friday, October 9th.

The workshop fee does not include air fare or lunches and dinners, though occasionally some of the companies hosting factory visits have provided lunch.

Contact information:
Lois Feuerle
3036 SE Taylor Street
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 236-5593 w/voicemail

Link: Translator Community Mourns Ben Teague's Death

Ben Teague, former American Translators Association (ATA) president, German->English translator and theater aficionado, was fatally shot on Saturday, apparently by a University of Georgia professor while attending a picnic. It appears that Ben was trying to protect the real target, the shooter's ex-wife.

Although we did not know Ben Teague personally, many of our colleagues did, and our hearts go out to this corageous linguist's family. Ben had inspired many people and translators during his career, and contributed a tremendous amount to our profession. The Austin Area Translators and Interpreters Association has a short account of the tragedy and additional background on Ben on their blog. For more information, please see here.

Link: Alicia Gordon Award for Word Artistry in Translation

Thanks to our friend, fellow blogger and president of the Colorado Translators Association, Corinne McKay, for posting the following on her blog, Thoughts on Translation. The Alicia Gordon Award for Word Artistry in Translation (awareded by the American Foundation for Translation and Interpretation) competition is now accepting submissions until June 1. The winner will be announced during the American Translators Association's 50th Annual Conference in New York City at the end of October. The prize is $250 and a certificate of recognition. The passages need to be 750 words in length. The competition is open to any ATA member in good standing (all subject areas, not limited to literary translation). The languages are: French/Spanish into English or English into French or Spanish. For more information, please see this link.

Guest Post: 5 Ways a Blog Can Boost Your Freelance Business

By Susan Johnston
Photo by Rachel Hadiashar,

These days almost everyone has a website, and that can be a great way to showcase your professional accomplishments and list your qualifications. But to really stand out, I'd suggest blogging. Here are five ways that freelancers can benefit from writing a blog

1. Connect with others in your industry. Through blogging, I've "met" a ton of like-minded writers and other freelancers. Some of them have suggested new ways to market myself, and others have actually referred me to new projects. At the very least, blogging gives you the feeling of a virtual community, something that every work-from-home freelancer needs to fight social isolation or the occasional frustration over difficult clients.

2. Build credibility. Several months ago I contacted an editor about writing for her publication, and she emailed me back saying that she already knows my work from reading my blog. Who knew? Many other freelancers find that blogging helps them establish authority in their field, which can lead to referrals and even interview requests from the media.

3. Improve your online footprint. I'm one of about a million Susan Johnstons in the world. But since my blog is updated regularly and gets a lot of incoming links, it ranks #2 in Google's organic search results (my website is #1). When clients Google you (as many will), you want them to find relevant items that showcase you as the fabulous freelance professional that you are, rather than getting a bunch of outdated research papers you wrote in grad school or photos from your community newspaper. Blogging helps ensure that you maintain control of your internet image.

4. Hone your skills. The most obvious skill you develop while blogging is writing. But good bloggers are also savvy project managers, a useful skill for any freelancer who needs to meet deadlines or endure editing by committee. In the course of maintaining your blog, you might also learn how to edit and resize images, record a podcast, or tweak basic HTML. You never know when a client might say, "this is great, but could you add X?" Now you can. And of course, you can charge extra for the extra skill.

5. Show your human side. Your website and LinkedIn profile show your professional side, while blogging is a chance to let your hair down and show some personality. True, you probably don't want to get too personal and reveal details about poker night or that wild pub crawl, but you can write a bit more informally so that readers and potential clients connect with you as a person, too.
What about you? Has blogging improved your freelance business in other ways? Leave a comment and tell us about it!
Susan Johnston is a freelance writer/blogger who has contributed to The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, Self Magazine, and Yahoo! HotJobs, as well as many other websites and print publications. She shares her tips and anecdotes about writing and the freelance life at The Urban Muse.

End of an Era: Favorite Client Profile

This week, our favorite client, Mr. Stefan Wisiak, let us know that he was moving into a new position with another company. IMaGE Vienna, where he has been since 2001, runs the very successful Schoenbrunn Palace Concerts with the Schoenbrunn Palace Orchestra in the Orangery of the legendary yellow Schoenbrunn Palace. It’s the end of an era for us, and we will miss this relationship dearly, which is proof that outstanding working relationships with direct clients are certainly possible and very gratifying for both sides. We will continue working with IMaGE, but we wanted to share the profile of the person who has made this working relationship so terrific:
  • Name: Stefan Wisiak, Director of Strategic Marketing and Corporate Communications, IMaGE Vienna
  • Date of first contact: February 2005
  • Found us: Online
  • Needed: Translation of general terms and conditions. Our quote was a bit high for him, so we gave him an unprecedented first-time client discount (we really liked him). It was a small discount, and have never had a discussion about price since then. Mr. Wisiak is also the only client who gets the standard “favorite repeat customer” rate. It is still well within our range, and everyone is happy.
  • What we do: Original German-language copywriting for website, print, brochures, promotional booklets, etc. Translation of all these texts, in addition to legal texts, contracts, event announcements, banners, posters, etc. into English and Spanish.
  • Frequency of contact: Daily, sometimes several times. Weekly projects.
  • What we appreciate about him: He really values our professional services, takes our opinions seriously and completely integrates us into his international marketing strategy. He’s fiercely loyal (as are we), and even though he gets inundated with unsolicited quotes from less expensive translation professionals, he wouldn’t consider hiring anyone else. He’s always available, responsive, and incredibly friendly and easy to work with. He's fantastically well organized and always on top of things. He always treats us as the fellow professionals that we are.
  • How we built the relationship: By being reliable, available, creative and resourceful. We consistently overdeliver, and tell him up front if we don’t think we can accommodate a deadline. We work holidays if necessary and interrupt vacations for short projects. Mr. Wisiak knows that we won’t merely execute what he wants, but we will brainstorm all day to come up with ideas for him to market the Palace concerts to an international audience. We are not only language services providers, but we also act as consulting partner for the international strategies.
  • The bottom line: Customer relationships like these are rare, and when they happen, they are incredibly valuable to both sides. We are lucky and honored to have worked with Mr. Wisiak.
Mr. Wisiak has already promised us to get in touch with us when he is settled in his new position, so we might end up with two clients instead of one. For now, we are sad to see the daily contact with Mr. Wisiak come to an end. At the risk of sounding corny: he has been such a large part of our professional lives that we will miss this working relationship dearly. We wanted to take this opportunity to tell him – and everyone else here – that we really appreciate his business and his trust.

Collections: The Silver Lining

Just in time for Easter, we'd like to share a very uplifting anecdote. One of our colleagues, Jeff Whittaker from Tampa, Florida, whom we have not even met, saw our posting on our collection issue with a company in the same city a few days ago. He actually e-mailed us with the following offer.

  • He would gladly deliver our invoice to the non-paying customer's office!
  • Since we only have a PO Box for an address, Jeff researched the Florida ficticious business register and came up with a physical address
  • This address appears to be residential -- he ran it through Mapquest
  • Still, Jeff is actually volunteering to head the agency's way!
  • I must say that we are completely overwhelmed by this fantastic outpour of collegial behavior. It doesn't happen very often; but we are quite speechless.
We wish Jeff had found us a few days ago, as we already sent the non-paying customer to collections throug Dun& Bradstreet, who come recommended by the ATA. If the collection agency does collect the money, we will have to pay 30%. We'd rather have sent Jeff a fruit basket (or movie tickets) instead. We are very impressed by our colleague's generous offer. He lives in Tampa as well, and has done a great job at making sure we know that fabulous people share the city with perhaps questionable companies (just like in every city).

Thanks again, Jeff. You get the Twin Translations medal of collegiality. Jeff Whittaker is a legal translator in Tampa, Florida, and works from German, Spanish and Portuguese into English.

ATA List of Translation Blogs

We were delighted to learn that our friends at the American Translators Association have listed our little Translation Times blog on their website, along with dozens of other fantastic blogs written by our colleagues, most of which we link to on our blogroll.

With social media and web 2.0 changing the way business is done on a global level, we think it's fantastic that the ATA, as the largest translation and interpretation organization in the world, is recognizing the value of these industry-specific blogs. They are great forums for colleagiate exchange and provide us the ability to continuously learn from each other.

Thank you for including us -- we are quite honored. See the list here.

Linguists Beware: Non-Payment

This is a first (and last) for us, as we have only worked with two agencies on two projects in more than seven years in business. Unfortunately, one of these agencies has not paid us after more than 120 days. Calls, e-mails, and friendly calls from our pro bono legal folks have proved to be futile. With the advice of our friends and colleagues at the American Translators Association, we have decided to send this agency to collections. We already posted about this on payment practices sites so our fellow linguists can be aware of this company, but we also wanted to take advantage of this forum to spread the news. After all, the dissemination of this type of information is paramount to all our success.

The company in question is All Languages Inc., located in Florida. We have tried to establish two-way communication with them and were even willing to accept payment plans, but we've never even gotten past the receptionist who has no information, and we are told that the boss is not in the office but that we can call back in 30 minutes. And in an hour. Or leave the number and he will get right back to us. And what's that invoice number again? You get the idea. The owner's name is Erick Alin.

We hope that you find this information useful and that it saves you some grief -- no need for any of us to make the same mistake of working for a company that does not pay its contractors.

Tax Deductions for Freelance Translators

We finally got the taxes for the American side of our company off our desks (this is one very important task that we gladly outsource to an accountant who also runs a small business). For those of you who are still working on getting things organized, we wanted to share some of the deductions we were able to claim. We are certainly not qualified to give tax advice, but these are deductions that have been approved by our CPA. Some are pretty standard, while some were unexpected.

If you have any others that you have claimed for your business, please share them by leaving a comment below!
  • Mileage for all our business trips (to the post office, to meet with clients, to the copy shop)
  • A portion of the mortgage on the house (for the home office) and partial utilities
  • Charity donations (we donated an old laptop to a non-profit organization)
  • Dues to professional organizations (ATA, NITA, Chamber of Commerce, etc.)
  • Software and computers (new laptop, accounting software)
  • Stamps (we buy them in bulk at a discount at Costco and expense the entire book at once)
  • Gifts for existing and potential clients (holiday gifts, customer appreciation)
  • Cell phone costs (exclusive Twin Translations cell phone)
  • Internet costs
  • Webhosting costs for our websites
  • Office supplies (paper, ink, etc.)
  • Business meals (client pitches, brainstorming meetings)
  • Parking (at airports en route to conferences, presentations, for meetings, etc.)

The Freelance Translator and the Dog

Check out Masked Translator's funniest post of the week. It's a guest post written by his also anonymous dog, singing the praises of his master's (or is the Masked Translator female?) freelancing life. Our pets Junia (cat) and Luna (dog) agree that not being alone all day is fantastic. Of course, we second that -- we really enjoy running our freelance businesses, having flexible schedules and choosing our projects and our clients. We certainly work more and harder, risk more, but also have more lazy mornings, more sun, more tennis at lunch, more work time at the pool and no cubicles. The ode to the entrepreneurial life continues...

Read Masked Translator's post here.
Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become part of the translation and interpretation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published. We usually publish all comments that aren't spam, self-promotional or offensive to others. Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media is all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting! We very much look forward to your comments and insight. Let's learn from each other and continue these important conversations.

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

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