Getting Started: 10 Tips

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We oftentimes get questions about how to get started in the profession, and that's a long answer. Actually, part of this blog is dedicated to answering precisely that question, and we have a long list of articles that we've marked for beginners. However, a dear friend of ours recently asked us to compile 10 tips on what one needs to do to get started (he was thinking about becoming a translator). We came up with these 10 tips/ideas, but of course there are hundreds more. These tips have nothing to do with language skills (we will assume everyone has those), but have to do with building a business and a career once you already have the necessary skills.

1) Read some fantastic books that will answer most of your questions about the world of translation. These books weren't around 15 years ago, so you are in luck if you are getting started now. Our all-time favorite is Corinne McKay's How to succeed as a freelance translator, and we hear our book The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation isn't bad, either.    These two books should help solve 90% of your initial questions.
2)  Invest in your education. There are many fantastic courses available for translators, and many are even online. For the Spanish/English pair, may we suggest UCSD-Extension, where Judy teaches?
3) Become a member of a professional association. Or two. Or three. The ATA has a great membership directory that clients can use to find vendors (read: translators).
4) Read the 650+ entries on this blog to get some good insight into the joys and challenges of translation. Then discover other fantastic blogs. We've listed them on our blog roll on the right-hand side of this blog.
5) Build your website and get an associated professional e-mail address. Don't tinker with it too long--it will never be perfect, and you can always change it later. Done is better than perfect.
6) Attend industry conferences and meet your peers. There just is no substitute, and translators need a network of colleagues to succeed. So go out and build it. Be sure to also join e-mail lists (listservs) that many associations offer.
7) Invest in your set-up. We are in the lucky position that starting a translation services business requires minimal investment, but there will be some (a few thousand, perhaps) you need to buy a great computer, dictionaries, CAT tools, etc.
8) Keep in mind that starting a translation business is no different than starting out any other business, but perhaps with less risk because the investment you need to make is low and you have no overhead. Remember that it will take time to build a business. It's never instantaneous.
8) Go to where the clients are. You need to get out of the house and network. If you are a legal translator, go to events where there will be lots of lawyers, such as bar association meetings, etc. 
9) Create a good pricing structure. Don't underprice everyone just because you are getting started, as that will affect you and everyone else in both the short and the long run. Do the math to see how much you need to make to have a thriving business, and charge the rate that gets you there. Not everyone will want to work with you, but you don't need thousands of clients.
10) Dedicate time to administrative and promotional work. Unless you work only with translation agencies, which essentially do all the client acquisition work for you, you must do the sales and marketing functions yourself. In the beginning, this will take up a big part of your time, but as you progress in your career it will be less so.

What would you like to add, dear colleagues?

Quack, Quack: A Museum for a Translator

One of our dear German translator colleagues recently shared a gem of information with us: there's now a museum in Germany that honors a translator (yes, one translator). 

The English->German translator is none than the amazing late Erika Fuchs, who translated all things Disney comics (specifically, Carl Barks' comics featuring Mickey Mouse) for more than 30 years. She's well-known and beloved in the German translation world, and her work was truly groundbreaking and brought Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to German-speaking audiences. In fact, our first encounters with the mouse and the duck were courtesy of Erika Fuchs, and that was long before we knew what translation even was and understood that she had opened up a world to us kids that we wouldn't otherwise have had access to. Ms. Fuchs was known for her exquisitely crafted translations that matched each cartoon character's personality and quirks. She was also a master at avoiding literal translations, and was quite free in her approach, yielding highly idiomatic results that generations of kids were addicted to (we were as well). 

If anyone deserves a medal for her work, it's certainly Erika Fuchs (and she received several during her lifetime). We would never have dreamed that she would have an entire museum dedicated to her, but it's official! The small town of Schwarzenbach an der Saale (in Germany), where Ms. Fuchs lived for more than 50 years, now has a museum dedicated to her. Here's the German-language link to it.

Did any of our lovely colleagues also fall in love with Mickey Mouse as kids because of Ms. Fuchs' translations? Please share your stories with us!

Interpreting: Anatomy of a Deposition

Today's quick blog post is a link to a video Judy recorded for Speechpool a few months ago. It's about what happens during deposition proceedings. While the video was recorded to practice interpreting, the content covers exactly what happens during a deposition, which is why many interpreters have found it helpful to prepare for this type of proceedings. We love this, as we are killing two birds with one stone here! We have had several requests to make the video available outside of Speechpool, so here it is.

There will be a second part to this video coming soon--stay tuned!

We hope you find this useful! It's been our experience that most court interpreter training focuses on proceedings that happen in actual court, which makes sense. However, in many stages, cases are also handled outside of court (arbitration, mediation, depositions, etc.), but relatively little information is available about these processes. We are hence trying to fill in the gaps here in terms of information so our colleagues can prepare for these kinds of assignments. Enjoy!

Improve your Sight Translation: Quick Tip

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Today's quick tip doesn't really directly relate to interpreting technique, but it has everything to do with preparation. As many of our readers know, sight translation (despite its name, it's considered a form of interpreting) is very frequently used in court settings. While we learn at university and at prep courses that we should never, ever start sight translating until we've read the entire document, the reality is that most of the time things move so quickly that we just don't have time to do so. The best we usually can do is to scan the text a few sentences ahead while we sight translate sentence by sentence.

Now, the best way to get better at this is to be a fast reader. Yes, mom was right: reading is good for many, many things, including sight translation. The faster you read, the better you will be at crafting good sight translation, even when under pressure. Of course we don't just mean superficial reading, but reading to really understand the texts. To practice that, we read high-level texts (good newspapers, such as the New York Times and non-fiction), and after reading a paragraph or two, we put away the reading materials and ask ourselves: have we really understood what we just read? And then we try to give a brief summary.

Needless to say, the more you read, the faster you usually get, which will benefit your sight translation. And yes, we'd say your summer reading by the pool definitely counts--everything counts!

What do you think, dear colleagues?

The Pro Bono Factor

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Happy Friday! For today's quick post, we wanted to talk about the lovely colleagues we hire as contractors for projects every week.  We recently realized that they have many things in common. The one that stands out the most (in addition to excellent language skills, of course) is that the vast majority of them are active in their translator and interpreter associations or do some other sort of volunteer work.

It's not that we specifically look for colleagues with volunteer experience or that it's a requirement at all, but we tend to naturally gravitate towards those linguists who not only want to earn a good living, but who also want to give back to their communities and to the world. We've both always done a lot of pro bono work ourselves, and we appreciate others who do as well. Going good can also be good for you! We think it says something very powerful about a linguist when she or he is donating some time to make the world better for everyone. 

We recently looked through our contractor list, and sure enough: pretty much all of them have been on the boards of their local translator/interpreter organization, and many have done lots of other pro bono work in other sectors.

We've worked with the same colleagues for years (sorry, not accepting applications), but if we were looking for say, someone, to translate something from English into Romanian, and we can think of two translators for that language pair (we actually can!), and all other things being equal, we'd probably pick the one translator who is more active in the industry. It also helps that of course those linguists who are more active in the industry (speak: pro bono) are more visible, which makes it easier for us to remember them.

What do you think, dear colleagues? If you'd like to chime in, please leave a comment below. Have a great weekend.

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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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