Taking Clients to Lunch

Today we get to write about two of our favorite things: lunch and clients. This post is based on an idea by our colleague Anabella Tidona, a court-certified interpreter in California.

We've often written about the fact that it's a good idea and a nice business gesture to take current or potential clients to lunch to take the relationship to the next level, even if you don't get any immediate projects out of this small investment  It's amazing how different a business relationship with someone can be once you've shared a comfortable meal. Please read on for our tips about the art of the business lunch. While we are far from experts on specific etiquette, we do believe that we've learned a thing or two after hundreds of business lunches in four countries.
Lovely outdoor lunch in Austria. Photo by Judy.

  • Ask. Occasionally colleagues ask us about the best way to go about this, and it can be very simple. E-mail or call and say: "I'd love to show my appreciation for your business and take you to lunch next week. I just went to this fabulous ______ place near your office. Would you be available next week? If that's not convenient for you, how about XYZ?" Alternatively, if the person is not your client yet, you could say: "It was nice meeting you at XYZ. Since the weather is so great this week, may I treat you to an al fresco lunch at ______, which is very close to your office?" If you have a specific business purpose, just state it. Don't be shy: it's a business lunch, not a date, and the purpose of business is, well, to do business. If you don't have a specific business purpose, it's perfectly fine, and you don't have to explicitly say that you'd eventually like to do business with this person. It goes without saying. And don't worry about people declining the lunch: most people LOVE a free lunch, so this is a very attractive proposition. It's not like you are asking someone to a boring three-hour meeting on Friday afternoon.
  • Pick a restaurant. Ask your lunch partner if he/she has any preferences. Perhaps she's a vegetarian, so you should probably not take her to a steak house. Or perhaps he's on Atkins and you happen to know this, so do some research into restaurants with Atkins-friendly options. Pick a restaurant that's convenient for the client, even if you have to drive to the other side of town (or walk, or bike, or take the bus, depending on your city). Ideally, go to a restaurant (at least mid-range in terms of prices) at which you have eaten before so you know it's good and so you can make recommendations. Choose a place that does a lot of business lunches. 
  • Get there early. You should be waiting for your (potential) client, not the other way around. Get here 5-10 minutes early.
  • To drink or not to drink? This is a tricky one. If it were a job interview in the US (and pretty much anywhere), we'd say no, stick to water and soft drinks. But it isn't a job interview, and perhaps your lunch partner wants a glass of Chardonnay or a martini. Our suggestion: let the client decide and then follow suit. 
  • Order wisely. No one likes arugula stuck to their teeth or a sandwich that falls apart when you bite into it. Choose something that you can easily eat without making too much of a mess. You should be able to gracefully handle your lunch and the conversation at the same time. We traditionally choose a light pasta or fish dish that we can eat with a fork.
  • Table manners. We hope you listened to your mother, but if you didn't, review some basic table etiquette (you can always watch some YouTube videos if you are a bit fuzzy on the details). Napkins go on your lap. Most fancy restaurants, which we frequent and love (yes, we are very guilty of spending too much in restaurants) will bring you black cloth napkin if you are wearing black pants or a skirt. This goes without saying, but don't talk with your mouth full, don't lick the knife, use the bread plate that's on your left, pass the entire bread basket if asked, don't slurp, be nice to the wait staff, etc. 
    One of our favorites: Vintner Grill, Vegas. Photo by Judy.
  • Making conversation. If this is your first longer face-to-face conversation, it could be a bit of a challenge to get things going, but most Americans are very proficient at small talk and you should be able to chat easily after a few minutes. This is a bit more difficult in other countries, such as Austria and Germany, at least in our experience. Come prepared with some non-controversial topics to chat about, such as local sports, a recent event, something interesting that happened at the client's company, or an anecdote about your week. Judy recently broke the ice by telling a potential client about the lost mastiff puppy (9 months old, 120 pounds) who turned up at her house last week and immediately proceeded to slobber all over keyboard. Most people love a puppy story. You don't need to start the conversation with: "So, let me tell you about my business " Actually, we think that's a bit of a turn-off. Let the conversation develop organically,and perhaps you won't even get to talk about your services during that first meeting, which would be OK, too. Don't force it. However, you will find that most business professionals have very good manners and will, at some point, ask about your business, so have something intelligent to say about it.
  • Ask questions. Most people feel very comfortable talking about themselves, so you can come prepared with some questions that aren't too personal, but still interesting. The point of this exercise is to find things that you might have in common. You could ask your lunch partner where he/she is from, about her/his alma mater, etc. 
  • You need to pay. You should make it abundantly clear that this is your treat. No splitting the bill and under no circumstances should you allow the other person to pay. This is where your business credit card comes in handy. In the US, we love to use this handy trick: pretend to make a very quick trip to the bathroom, but in reality slip your credit card to the waiter so he/she can run it before the bill even reaches your table. This is an old Jenner trick that we frequently use on each other, as we are constantly trying to take the bill away from the other person. We wouldn't use cash, because you don't want your lunch partner to see exactly how much it cost. If you are in Europe and the restaurant doesn't accept credit cards, handle the money discreetly and don't count out bills. Learn how to add 20% gratuity in your head so you don't fumble. 
  • Keep an eye on the time. If your client told you she needs to leave by 1:30, be courteous and keep an eye on the time for her so she's not late for her next appointment.
  • Dessert. If your client wants dessert and/or coffee, you should probably join him or her, even if it's just a few bites. No one likes to eat alone and feel guilty about eating dessert. You can go to the gym later.
  • Have fun. Don't forget to enjoy yourself! Ultimately, clients do business with people they like, and this is your opportunity to spend time with a (potential) client in a casual atmosphere, and you might just discover that you really like your client. 
This list of tips is not  meant to be exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination, and of course, there are always many ways to master a particular situation. Would you like to add to this list or do you have any additional ideas to share? Do you do things differently? We'd really like to hear from you, dear readers!

Clients of the Month

This month, we'd like to anonymously take our hats off to three lovely clients. We are truly lucky to have such amazing clients, and every month, we are floored by their kind words and swift actions.

  1. World's fastest payer. Judy invoiced a customer via e-mail for a small project at 10:42 a.m., and payment was received at 10:45 via PayPal. This must be some sort of world record. 
  2. Lovely note. Dagy translated a business letter (part of a dispute between the client and one of his suppliers, who doesn't speak the client's language) for one of our long-term European customers. He answered Dagy's e-mail with this sweet note: "In my next life, I want to come back with your writing and language skills." We filed this note in our online file for rainy days.
  3. Everyone wants to pay. Judy recently interpreted at a wedding, and even though both groom and his new mother-in-law were insisting on paying the balance right after the wedding, Judy told them to enjoy the day and said she'd invoice them later. She sent the invoice to the mother-in-law, who had also paid the deposit. The client sent payment within two days (wow!) and also included a very nice thank-you note. A day later, the groom e-mailed, thanked Judy for her service, and said he wanted to pay right away. Judy told him his mother-in-law had already beat him to it.

What about you, dear readers and colleagues? Do you have any heartwarming client stories to share? We would love to hear about them!

A Day in the Life of a Busy Translator/Interpreter

We frequently receive questions about how we organize our days and how exactly we get everything done. The truth is that we don't always accomplish what we set out to do, but we give it the good old college try. We have one very serious rule that we always abide by: we never miss a deadline, ever. Anything else that doesn't have a deadline is less important, and as you will see, some things simply don't get done. Judy will start our two-part series with an overview of her day. Dagy's will follow.

Here is my day on a random weekday in April:

7 a.m. I am trying to follow in my twin's footsteps and get up earlier to get more done, but I am definitely not an early morning person, as opposed to my hubby, who is bouncing off the wall, taking our dog Luna for a walk, and paying bills starting at 5:30. This is also his favorite time to talk to me, as I am most likely to agree to anything. This is how we ended up with a current major backyard remodel. I grab a quick bowl of cereal with him, pet Luna, and send hubby off to the office to play nicely with the other attorneys, which he usually does.

7:30 a.m. I am at the computer, sorting through the 100+ e-mails that came in during the night. I already responded to the most important ones from my Android while still in bed, so I now decide what's important and what has to be taken care of immediately. I answer some requests for price quotes, correspond with existing clients about projects, and receive a new project from one of my favorite clients, which I outsource to my superstar English->Spanish translator, Dolores Rojo Guiñazú, who's also a dear friend of ours. I negotiate a good deadline so she has plenty of time, and she responds within five minutes that she can take the project. I am completely buried in work, so everything that comes in this week will be outsourced to our superstar contractors.

Yes, I am wearing Snoopy pajamas.
8:30 a.m. I get a friendly reminder from my twin, Dagy, that I still have not proofed and edited her existing translation from a long-time client that she sent yesterday. I do this right away -- it's an interesting business correspondence between two parties who don't speak the same language. Her translation is very strong, but I still have some comments and corrections. We are very happy with the end result. Dagy integrates my changes, we discuss a few more details via instant message, and she delivers the project to the client. He responds saying that in his next life he would like to have our language and writing skills. This very sweet comment made my day. I read the American and Mexican news online, but don't have time to read the Austrian press. I listen to National Public Radio in the background, and they are doing a fundraiser that just started today. I grab my wallet and donate.

9 a.m. I jump in the shower to get ready for my 11 a.m. interpreting assignment at a deposition for a civil litigation matter. I'm not having a great hair day, so I throw my hair in a ponytail and put on a black suit. I continue working and answer 23 e-mails. I grade some assignments submitted by my students in the Intro to Interpreting class at UC San Diego-Extension (online) and review the grade I received a few days ago myself when I took a mock exam for the federal interpreting certification exam (I passed the mock). I receive a large project from an existing client. She's pre-paid all her translation work for the year (amazing), so I move her project to the top of the projects list. This is a project I must do myself, busy or not.

10 a.m. I turn in a short personal document translation that Dagy had proofed for me overnight.
It was due at
My officemate. 
5 p.m., but I turn in in at 10 a.m. and include the invoice in the same e-mail. The client is delighted, says everything looks good and provides payment within.... 5 minutes via PayPal. I am floored. I turn in one more short copywriting project that's due later today and get a response from my editor that she loves the article, but that I did not include one of the sources. I apologize, look up the source, and add that to the online system so the article is now complete. I issue two more invoices (using Translation Office 3000) before I have to leave the house. I pack my yoga bag because there's some hope I will work out on the way back from my interpreting assignment.

10:20 a.m. I jump in my Prius and drive the 15 miles to my interpreting assignment. I arrive significantly earlier than 11 a.m., which is one of my good/bad habits. I have 15 minutes, so I answer some more e-mails on my Android. I receive a phone call from a potential client who has an urgent request, who then calls back within a few minutes saying he doesn't need the project after all.

Let the interpreting begin.
11 a.m. As a certified Spanish court interpreter in Nevada, I have the necessary certification to interpret at this deposition, and it's pretty routine. I chat with the court reporter and try not to speak with the deponent without her attorney present, which can come across as rude. However, my code of ethics is pretty strict on this, so I make a quick (unnecessary) trip to the bathroom to avoid any chit-chat. The deposition is going smoothly until the defense and the plaintiff's counsel disagree over a technicality, so angry comments are flying back and forth, which I dutifully interpret for the deponent. She's confused and asks if she should respond to comments along the lines of: "Let the record reflect that counsel is being completely unreasonable." I interpret her question, and her lawyer says no, she only has to answer questions directed at her. The final 30 minutes go well, even though the deponent is speaking so loudly that occasionally the poor court reporter has trouble hearing me, as I am doing simultaneous interpretation, albeit without any equipment.

12:40 p.m. I break my own cardinal rule and eat a banana and a granola bar in my pristine car before rushing across town to make it to Bikram yoga (yoga practiced in a very hot room). I am a terrible yogini, but I certainly try. Everyone in the room is at least twice as flexible as I am. The instructor asks me to set an intention for the class, and I settle on survival.

2:10 p.m. I reward myself with a kale, mango, grape and lime smoothie called Brontosaurus. I am so sweaty that I have to change into another outfit before driving home.
It's really tasty and healthy.

2:30 p.m. Jump in the shower and get dressed again. Hair looks better now that it's been washed.

3 p.m. I have an hour to catch up on the new projects that have come in. I turn down an interpreting assignment for tomorrow, as I am completely booked. I follow-up on a price quote that I'd sent to a customer who has not responded. I get an e-mail from the American Translators Association asking me to do another webinar, but I have no bandwidth in the next few months, so I politely decline. I moderate some comments on this blog, check book sales (of our book, The Entrepreneurial Linguist) and correspond with a client who wants to publish some of my articles. We negotiate a fee and sign an agreement. I answer a few tweets and have a quick look at what's happened in the world.

4 p.m. I realize that I haven't done a very good job at planning today's schedule, as I have to leave the house after only one hour of working to make it to a downtown networking event and lecture. I am very involved in the revitalization of downtown Vegas, and on Fridays, I work from a cool new co-working space called Work in Progress. The so-called Downtown Project is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into downtown, and I love what's happening -- I am a self-appointed downtown cheerleader. These efforts are led by Zappos CEO and entrepreneur extraordinaire, Tony Hsieh, whom I run into at the networking event that features free organic fruit. We play the usual game of him trying to guess my name (he's close), as he's terrible with names. Oddly enough, he might actually remember my name because I constantly tease him that he doesn't. I also run into an old friend from a previous job whom I hadn't seen in ages. It was great to see her and we make plans for lunch. Networking objective accomplished. There are roughly 200 people at this event, and I talked to quite a few of them. I feel that I've gotten a bit complacent in my networking, and I vowed to change that. I am proud of self for following through.

John Mackey and Zach Ware.
5 p.m. The free lecture, part of the Downtown Speaker Series, begins in downtown Vegas. I came by myself so I would be forced to interact with other people. Every attendee gets the guest speaker's brand-new hardcover book. I am a sucker for free books. John Mackey, the co-founder of Whole Foods markets, chatted with Zach Ware, a Zappos executive who is the host of the speaker series. The conversation is candid and funny, and I had submitted a question to the speaker (via e-mail) that wasn't asked. During the lecture, I take a few pictures and tweet about this great event. After all, I am a self-appointed downtown cheerleader.

The adorable Park on Fremont.
6:15 p.m. A dear friend and client comes to pick me up at the event and we go to dinner at an adorable new restaurant, Park on Fremont. Even though the day has been unseasonably cold, we sit outside next to an open fireplace. We run into Tony Hsieh again, who's giving John Mackey the tour of downtown, and he appears to remember me now.

8 p.m. We move to The Beat coffee house for a cup of coffee. My friend/client asks me for some advice, and I try to give solid advice using some of the skills I learned in Monday's Downtown Speaker Series lecture about making decisions, which is definitely not my forte. My suggestions seem to be helpful.

9 p.m. Back home. Hubby is back from a shopping spree for our backyard remodel with our contractor and neighbor, who's doing the work. We heat up some tasty leftover meatloaf, asparagus and potatoes for him, as he has not eaten, and we sit and chat.

9:30 p.m. Since I did not do as much work during the day as I had wanted, I have no choice but to work a few hours now. I deliver two more projects and proof another translation that Dagy had sent me. She signs on to her computer at 10 p.m. my time, which is 7 a.m. in Vienna. Yes, she is an early bird. We discuss the details of a few projects and I tell her about my evening. I start the translation I accepted earlier today.

10 p.m. I grade a few submissions from my students and decide to do 30 more minutes of copywriting: a project about the state of Montana, which is due tomorrow. I end up doing an hour, and then I'm too tired to work on my simultaneous interpreting exercises for the federal court interpreter examination. I also didn't have the chance to look for hotels in Monterey, where I am going next month to take a week-long course at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. I briefly look for flights to Brazil for August (I am giving one of the keynotes at the Proz conference in Recife), but can't decide on connections. I am notoriously indecisive with big purchases, and I don't book the flight (for now). I also try to empty my inbox, but I fail, as usual. I am, however, down to 66 e-mails. I tell myself there's always tomorrow to get things done.

11 p.m. I get hubby off the couch and upstairs and finish the evening by reading a half hour or so. I am currently devouring Isabel Allende's latest novel (Maya's Notebook) in the original Spanish version. The reviews were terrible, but I am enjoying it.

The Judge and the Uncertified Interpreter

Today's feel-good story comes from a rural Nevada court, where Judy witnessed the following:

I was interpreting for a witness during a short trial at this particular court, and before my witness took the witness stand, I quietly waited, seated behind the prosecution and the defense. After a few minutes and because of references made by all parties, it became evident to me that the victim in this case, who was seated behind me, was a deaf person who needed assistance with the proceedings. She had a young girl next to her who was signing quite fast, but who did not look like a certified interpreter with the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, as she looked like a teenager. I immediately thought: this isn't right! The victim is entitled to have all proceedings properly interpreted for her into American Sign Language (ALS) by a certified interpreter. I was thinking about how to communicate this to the court without being disruptive, when the judge seemed to read my mind and said:

Judge: Ms. X, who is this young lady who is sitting next to you and who's interpreting for you?

Victim, speaking through self-appointed interpreter: That's my niece.

Judge to niece: Are you a certified interpreter?

Niece: No, I am not. But I am really good at this. 

Judge: Well, be that as it may, I will not allow you to interpret in my courtroom. I just attended a workshop on this, and we are to only have properly certified and trained interpreters at these proceedings. The victim has a right to a certified interpreter if one is available. We will continue these proceedings tomorrow once we have found a certified interpreter in our town. Thanks for trying to assist, but I must follow the law and I must ensure that the interpreter is certified. For example, we have our certified Spanish interpreter here (pointing at me), and ASL interpreters must also be certified. 

It was wonderful to see that a judge in a small town had recently attended a workshop on this important issue and was making sure all rules were being followed. Judges have a lot of things on their plates and on their minds, and many times, ensuring proper language access is not high on their list. How refreshing to see that this court is making efforts to include those who have a language barrier!

What about you, dear colleagues? Have you witnessed something similar before? We bet it's probably more likely that you've witnessed the flip side: ad hoc interpreters being appointed. We would love to hear your experiences!

Read This: Thoughts on Translation

It's time for our very first book review of the year, dear readers! Full disclosure: the author, veteran translator and industry insider (and ATA board member), Corinne McKay, is a dear friend of ours and kindly sent us review copies of her book, Thoughts on Translation. However, we are still very much able to give you an honest evaluation of her work. Let's cut to the chase: it's a great read. Read on for Judy's review of the book version of Corinne's popular translation blog, Thoughts on Translation

A prominent spot on the bookshelf.
When Corinne told us that she was planning a book version of her highly addictive and beautifully written blog, Thoughts on Translation, I started thinking about how she would go about making content that's been written for the internet attractive and compelling in book form. I wondered if this would be something I would be able to achieve, but truth be told, I wouldn't even know where to start. Would she print the posts as is? With comments? Without comments? Grouped by month? I was curious. 

The result is a very well-organized and easy-to-read compendium of some 100 articles that have been published on her blog. One of the many things I admire about Corinne is her very distinctive voice. She stays away from excessive embellishment, has a very recognizable style, and gives straightforward and highly useful advice. Yes, those are the signs of great writing, and the book doesn't disappoint. It's meant to be read in short chunks if that's all you have time for, but I read it in essentially one sitting last month. Even though I've been a loyal follower of her blog and thought I'd read every single entry, I was surprised at how much I didn't remember and how many new things I learned.

I am particularly fond of the nice structure of the book. It is smartly divided into nine chapters, and each contains articles (sans comments) that relate to that specific topic, say: freelance mindset, client relations, marketing and networking, growing your freelance business, translation technique and translation quality, etc.  The first chapter, aptly titled "Getting started at a freelance translator," is a fantastic read for new linguists. Every time I get an e-mail along the lines of: "Help! I don't know where to start!" I am tempted to send them a copy of Corinne's first book, which I have called the bible for freelance translators (How to succeed as a freelance translator) and this book, especially the first chapter. It's an honest look into the realities of running a small business, and as opposed to what you read in many glossy translation program brochures, it's not sugar-coated. Corinne candidly shares some of her own trials and tribulations, which include sending some 400 applications to translation agencies at the beginning of her career. So if you have only sent five applications and have not received a response: you've got a long way to go. One of the aspects of the book that I really enjoy is that she shares so many examples from her own practice, which make this industry come alive for those who are not yet in it or don't know what to expect. That said, this book is also a good fit for experienced translators. I learned many things, including how to say no (page 66), an art that I am constantly refining. 

Don't miss the last chapter, which is all about money, and we are all in this industry not only because we love it, but also because we want to earn a living, right? Corinne has the ability to smartly dissect difficult issues and to present both sides of an argument in a very balanced way, something that few writers do truly well. I really admire her for that ability. For instance, she tackles the hotly debated issue of translation tests for new clients. I've truly had trouble seeing the other side of the coin on this one, as I am firmly opposed to giving away one's work for free, but Corinne's clear explanation of the other side made a lot of sense. 

As usual,  Corinne is the wise and experienced translator who holds your hand a bit along the way while you explore this fantastic industry of ours. With Corinne's book as a guide, one feels as if this journey can be nothing but a success, even though she clearly points out the potential challenges and downfalls. You can purchase Thoughts on Translation here

Theater Meets Professional Development

You think interpreting is scary? Try live theater.
When you’ve been in business 10+ years, you have probably attended dozens of professional development events – or you should! We believe that honing your existing skills and adding new ones on a continuous basis is key to any entrepreneur’s success. The Austrian writer Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach used to say that those who stop trying to be better stop being good. That’s why we have embraced every professional development opportunity that has come our way. It’s not only great for the above-mentioned reasons, but also for keeping in touch with your fellow translators/interpreters and for networking with other business people when attending non-T&I events. Having attended many exciting workshops, presentations and lectures on the traditional subjects, Dagy decided it was time to take professional development to the next level: to the theater, that is.  Read on for Dagy’s insight into her experience at an improvisation techniques course. Judy has also taken a one-day class that really stretched her mind.
The chocolate with the company logo.

After having taken speech therapy classes to work on my voice for a year, I wanted to continue working on something that was somewhat related to interpreting. I love going to the theater and sometimes attend improv theater events. Just recently, I mentioned to my significant other that I would love to try improv theater, but not on an actual stage. A few days later, I learned that one of my favorite small theaters in Vienna offered a semester improv theater course. Bingo!  In seven three-hour sessions spread out over three months, we have been learning the basic techniques of improv theater. And I love it! It starts with awareness-building techniques and interacting with others, because improv theater is all about that: receiving and giving impulses to your fellow wannabe actresses and actors. The warm-up usually includes fun exercises that combine quick thinking with creativity, for example coming up with as many words as possible related to a word or concept. As interpreters, we are all used to high-speed thinking, but I wanted to take my spontaneity and on-the-spot wit to the next level, and improv theater is doing just that for me. Another plus is that it’s a class full of accessible and highly likeable people who share my passion for theater. And when we all got the munchies during a break, I figured I'd share a few of my brand-new company-logo chocolates, which I always keep handy in my purse. After all, you never know where your  next client will come from.

What about you, dear colleagues? Have you taken a beyond-the-traditional professional development course that you have really enjoyed? We'd love to hear about it!
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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