ATA Webinar Questions: Answered

Thanks to the almost 100 colleagues who attended the American Translators Association's first webinar on September 23. Judy was delighted to present a short version of her "Entrepreneurial Linguist" workshop. During the session, a lot of questions came in (which Judy couldn't see), and they were reviewed by moderators. She was able to answer a few questions during the webinar, but could not get to all of them (60 minutes go by very quickly). Hence, as promised, we are compiling and answering further questions for you right here.

Q: This question is about not co-mingling accounts (having personal and business accounts and keeping them separate). Do I need a separate business credit card?
Judy: Excellent question. I do think you need a separate business credit card. This will make it infinitely easier for you to keep your expenses organized, and you will know that all charges on that credit card are business-related. Most of the cards are free, and I got mine with my free business checking account from Chase Manhattan. You could also try your local community bank or credit union. Try to get a card that gives you points that you can redeem (I prefer cash). I put every business-related expense on that card, and I usually get a $25 credit at the end of the month. I like perks!

Q: Some translators feed their Twitter updates (=tweets) directly into their ProZ (or LinkedIn) profile. That feels unprofessional to me. What do you think?
Judy: It depends. It is a great idea to update two sites with one update (less work, more impact), but you should not feed your Twitter updates into LinkedIn (or Proz) unless they are all very professional. In my case, since I also tweet about things such as politics, food, and literature, I choose not to feed my Twitter stream into LinkedIn, where the status update appears on the very top of the page. Rather, I update LinkedIn every few days. I do, however, feed my Twitter updates into Proz (where I spend very little time, as most clients find me through my personal website).

Q: This question is about your advice not to take free translation tests. What if the translation test were the same for every translator; sort of like a standardized test? Would you still refuse to take it?
Judy: Ah, one of my favorite topics!

In general, I am happy to take translation tests (I receive very few requests for that). They are billed at my regular rate, as I do not work for free (well, I do, by being on the board of two non-profits). There are a variety of opinions on this, but mine is that giving away your product for free without any hope of immediate return on that investment (because you are investing your time; the only resource you have) devalues your product. Sure, the person requesting the translation test wants to make sure you are qualified, which is reasonable. However, we all hire people without getting free work first: you can't request a free haircut to see if you like it or a free taco at the taco stand. The risk is with the purchaser, and it can't simply be passed on to the provider. As an analogy: other service providers, such as accountants or lawyers, don't give away their products for free. They might give you a free 15-minute consultation (with boilerplate information and no specific advice), but they won't give you a free contract (=product). Neither should we -- we'd be happy to give a brief consultation, but we don't do free work (as in products = translation). On the other hand, the potential client can verify the quality of our work by samples and references that we make readily available. I think it's important that, as an industry, we set the standard that free work is not available. The restaurant industry, for example, as set the standard: how do you know a restaurant is good before you eat there? You ask your friends, you read food reviews, etc. However, you don't request a free meal to see if the quality is to your liking. You know why? Because restaurant owners have not been in the habit of giving away free food.
Hence, consumers don't expect free food to verify quality.  They've stuck to this, and so should linguists. 

Of course, you need to be flexible, and no situation is black and white. There are always exception to every internal rule that you might have, but not doing free work is quite essential to our professional survival -- individually and as an industry. 


Manuel Saavedra on October 7, 2010 at 12:39 AM said...

Concerning LinkedIn and Twitter, there is an option to not to show there all the tweets you write. You can choose to feed LinkedIn just with the tweets you publish including #in.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on October 7, 2010 at 1:41 PM said...

@Manuel: excellent point, thanks Manuel! Forgot to mention that handy tag.

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