Win a Book: Happy International Translation Day!

Yes, we love September 30th -- happy International Translation (and Interpreting) Day to all our friends and colleagues around the world! Last week, we helped UNIVERSITAS Austria Interpreters' and Translators' Association celebrate both our big day and their 60th anniversary in style in Vienna, complete with a reception at Vienna's legendary city hall, a one-day conference at the University of Vienna, and a memorable event at Europe House (co-sponsored by the European Union) with a fantastic keynote speech by industry expert and VP of SmartlingNataly Kelly, who flew in from Boston for the event. Speaking of Nataly Kelly: as you know, she co-authored a fantastic book on our industry with Jost Zetzsche, which has been selling quite well and is meant for the general market. The book is called Found in Translation, and Nataly donated several books to Translation Times earlier this year.

Now, to celebrate International Translation Day, we'd like to raffle off a copy of the book. The first person to correctly identify where the pictures on this blog post were taken will win the book. They were both taken in the same city. We are not looking just for the country or continent, but the name of the city where these two pictures were taken. We will pay for postage to send the book to you, regardless of whether you live in Santiago de Chile or Sydney.

Best of luck to all of you!

AUSIT Conference Down Under: November

Our friends at AUSIT (Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators) are hosting the Biennial National Conference (titled "Transition into the future") this upcoming November 1 and 2 in Brisbane, and it's shaping up to be a great event. AUSIT was kind enough to invite Judy to speak at this event, but unfortunately, it's just a few days before the American Translators Association Annual Conference in Chicago, where both of us are presenting workshops, so we will be there in spirit!

The conference location looks gorgeous, and the gala dinner will feature a mariachi group from Mexico and fantastic views of the Brisbane skyline. The conference lineup is promising as well, and the workshops include a full day pre-conference session on MemoQ on October 31. We've never been to Australia or New Zealand, and it's certainly true that most translator events focus on the US and on Europe, but let's not forget about these lovely events in Australia and Asia. We've never met anyone who didn't enjoy a trip to Australia, and while it's a long flight from Europe, this event might just very well be worth it. AUSIT has produced a funky video, which you can view here. 

We hope to make it to Australia for the 2017 FIT Congress!

The 3 Best Things

There's no doubt that being an entrepreneur in the languages industry comes with many joys and challenges. We oftentimes talk about the challenges, as it's important for newcomers to know which they are, but today we want to focus on the joys. We absolutely love working for ourselves and wouldn't have it any other way. Now, in no particular order of importance, are three things we love about our small translation and interpretation business. These are things that go beyond the fact that we love languages and really enjoy solving linguistic puzzles.

  • Freedom. We have the freedom to decide who our clients will be. We don't have any obligation to work on projects that don't offer the right terms (think payment, deadline, etc.) and we are independent contractors to all our fantastic clients. We have the freedom to turn down work and the freedom to choose our clients, which is fantastic. We also have the freedom to work as little or as much as we'd like. We usually do work quite a lot, but we love it.
  • No boss. We are our own bosses, and we are tougher on ourselves than any boss we've ever had. However, it's incredibly liberating to not have to ask for vacation days, raises, sit through boring meetings, etc. It's empowering to be in charge of our own destiny and to make the decisions we believe are right for our company. We don't always make the right ones, but we are willing to assume the risks and the consequences of our decisions.
  • Location independence. We both travel a lot for both business and pleasure, and routinely run our businesses from Europe, Latin America, South America, the US, etc. We usually discourage newcomers from getting too attached to the notion that being a freelance translator means you will sit on remote beaches with a laptop, as that's just not the long-term reality of any professional business, but it certainly is true that translation doesn't tie you to one place. The only aspect of our business that suffers when we travel is the interpreting side. 

We love many other parts of our business,  but if we had to pick three, we'd probably stick with these. What about you, dear colleagues? We'd be most interested in knowing what you enjoy the most about our profession.

Professional Suicide

The internet is a great thing, but it comes with many dangers, and too often we've heard of and read about professionals committing what amounts to professional suicide online. We aren't just referring to professionals in our line of work, but in any other. 

This can come in a variety of shapes and forms, including leaking confidential information, writing mean things about clients, colleagues, and vendors, spreading rumors, etc. It can seem very easy to vent on Twitter, Facebook, listservs, LinkedIn groups or any other public (or even protected) forum, but our short piece of advice here is: don't do it. Resist the temptation to make anything public that you might regret later. We don't want to scare you at all, but here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to netiquette. Remember that your reputation is one of the only things you have. Let's delve into some more specifics here:

  • It is completely normal to be mad/annoyed/incredibly ticked off once in a while. It happens to us, too. However, as tempting as it may be, the internet is not the place to air your grievances, especially if you are going to be naming names. There are, as always, no black and white rules, but while we think it's of course completely acceptable to tweet that you are exhausted and not having a great day, we'd say it's not acceptable to say you are exhausted because annoying client XYZ won't stop bombarding you with e-mails. Without clients, you have nothing, so be careful what you say about them. We generally don't ever have anything negative to say about our lovely clients, but if and when we do, we discuss this in person with each other or our inside circle.
  • Use the newspaper rule. If it could potentially make you unhappy to see anything you are about to type in next morning's newspaper, then don't do it. If you hesitate about whether you should post something, don't do it.
  • Think twice before sending an angry e-mail. Invasion of privacy and computer hacking issues aside, e-mail can be viewed as a somewhat private form of communication. However, e-mails can be forwarded and shared, and while it's tempting to fire off a snarky response to an e-mail, we suggest thinking twice before hitting the send button. Better yet: have someone you trust read your e-mail to make sure it's acceptable. While it's entirely possible that the person who sent you the e-mail is rude and unreasonable, you don't need to respond the same way. Being nice is always better.
  • Stay away from gossip. We don't see any good reason to gossip about others. Nothing good ever comes out of talking badly about others. A good rule would be: if you don't have anything good to say about someone, just be quiet and try to surround yourself with positive people.
  • The beauty and danger of listservs. We truly love the listservs of the many professional associations we belong to, but they can also be a minefield. E-mail certainly isn't the best form of communication, especially when there's conflict, so we avoid getting into any sort of argument via e-mail. These lists are meant to be a positive place to exchange ideas and to solve linguistic puzzles, and everyone tends to be very, very helpful. However, once in a while 1,000+ people have to witness a personal spat between two members, and that's not a great idea. There's never any reason to air any grievances on a forum that thousands of people can read. Our tip: if you have a dispute with a colleague, take him or her to coffee and talk about it privately. If you don't live in the same city, set up a phone call. It's sad to see that some users have to get banned from listservs because they cannot stick to the netiquette rules, and unfortunately, others remember very clearly who they are.
  • Go for a walk. Again, we all get angry and annoyed. Customers and even colleagues can be unreasonable and treat you poorly, which is a fact of life. Before you make your next move, clear your head, go for a walk and ask yourself: "Will this matter a year from now?" It probably won't. Pet a friendly dog while you are out on that walk and remind yourself that no matter how tough business can be, working for yourself is truly marvelous.
What about you, dear colleagues? Do you have any other recommendations on this important topic? What's the behavior that should be avoided? We look forward to your comments.

Just Pay Me!

Sooner or later, every professional linguist will be confronted with a customer who doesn't pay for services rendered. While this is highly annoying, it's important to remember that it's usually not personal, but it sure does feel personal when you aren't compensated for your hard work, doesn't it? Now, just like most of our colleagues, we have been very lucky that in more than a decade in business, as we've only had a few non-payers. 

Photo by Judy.
We've had this great payment record because we ask for payment in advance when we work with non-corporate clients, only work with people we trust, and make sure that we have addresses and contact information for all new customers in case a dispute arises. In addition, every customer has to sign a contract agreeing to our price and terms, and that document would come in really handy if we had to go to court. In addition, in the rare case that we work with an agency for an interpreting case, we check their rating on the invaluable Payment Practices website. In spite of all these precautions, once in a while a customer hasn't paid, and here are some of the steps we've taken to remedy the situation.

  • Our payment terms are usually net 30, and if payment has not arrived after 45 days or so, we send a kind follow-up e-mail in very nice terms. Sometimes the check is in the mail (whether that's true or not) and sometimes something has slipped through the cracks, which can happen. If the customer did not have the intention of paying us promptly, this e-mail serves as a nice reminder that we are very much on top of our accounts receivable. In those cases, the situation is usually remedied very quickly.
  • If we don't hear back after that first e-mail or the customer is not too responsive, we call a few days later and/or e-mail and calmly remind the customer that we had a signed agreement, that services have been rendered and that we would like to get paid for our services in accordance with said agreement. If we don't get the response we need via e-mail or phone, we send a certified letter that the customer has to sign for and include the overdue invoice.
  • If there is still no appropriate response after several e-mails, phone calls and the certified letter or if we get an excuse along the lines of "the check was lost in the mail" and more than 90 days or so have passed, we send another letter saying that we need to resolve the matter by X day before getting a third party involved. We've only had to use that strategy a few times, and it's worked.
  • If all else fails, we take the matter to a collection agency (the ATA partners with RMS; we once referred an account to them that they did not manage to collect, so there was no fee) or, if the client is in the same jurisdiction as we are, another option is to take the client to small claims court. With a signed contract in hand, the case should be relatively clear, but even if you win, it's up to you and not the court to collect the outstanding amount. We've never taken anyone to small claims court, but in Europe, one of our clients filed for bankruptcy and we have a collection agency representing us in the bankruptcy proceedings. We are basically a low-level creditor to the company, and the odds of collecting are low, but it's worth the try.
  • On a few occasions, and if the client is in the same city, we have asked someone we trust to go the client's office and kindly tell them that they would wait until the check is issued. This is uncomfortable for all parties and usually yields the intended result: payment.

What about you, dear colleagues? How have you resolved non-payment issues? And how do they make you feel? As much as we know non-payment is not personal, it's still tough to deal with. We'd love to hear your comments and ideas. 

Fall Conference Schedule: Michigan

We are delighted to announce that Judy will be one of the two keynote speakers at the  MiTiN 2014 Regional Conference on Interpreting and Translation (Michigan Translators/Interpreters Network) on Saturday, October 2. She is quite honored to join Lori Thicke, founder of Lexworks and, most notably, the lovely Translators Without Border, which we proudly support through donations. In addition to her keynote titled "10 Habits of Highly Successful Interpreters and Translators," Judy is also giving a workshop titled "Pricing Strategies for Language Professionals." The motto of the 5th Annual MiTiN conference is "Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone," which should make for very interesting sessions. The MiTiN conference committee has been working very hard to put on this one-day event, and we hope that many of you can join us in Novi, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. Please help us spread the word! The conference, which includes lunch and a networking session, will take place at the Crowne Plaza hotel, and there will also be some exhibitors.

Here's the conference schedule with all the sessions, and you can also visit the conference website.
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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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