ESTABLISHING YOURSELF AS A TRANSLATOR – WHO DO YOU TRUST IN THIS BUSINESS?
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It is extremely annoying to spend a great deal of time and effort doing a translation job, only to find that the outsourcer who has given you the job has disappeared from the face of the earth! Like many others in the freelance business, I have had some experiences of this nature when initially establishing myself as a translator. It led me to the conclusion that one of the most crucial elements as you start off your career as a freelance translator is to find out who you can trust.
But who do you trust in this business, particularly with most of the freelance business being online, with somebody who lives on the other side of the world? Do you learn the hard way, by trial and error, accepting jobs willy-nilly until you find the right client who is willing to pay you on time and at a rate which you feel is acceptable? I believe there is an actual process to go through before accepting a job, and hope this will be of help to other freelance translators.
When dealing with translation agencies:
Firstly, it is actually helpful for a freelance translator to be a member of a couple of translators websites which have got a track record of the outsourcer in reference on systems such as the Blueboard on www.proz.com. If the outsourcer has a poor record of payment, then it is possible to check via these websites, which usually have got blacklists of some kind. Try to find out what other translators say about the outsourcer as it helps for you to form an opinion on what kind of a client they will be.
If the outsourcer is somebody new who does not have a profile on the Blueboard, try searching for their profile online via translators websites. It is highly likely that you will find them, because sometimes outsourcers are freelance translators who are seeking collaboration with other translators. If it is a translation agency, it is not sufficient for them to merely have a website, even quite an advanced one which has got a listing of all their services. You need to go beyond that and look at their actual track record of payment. Just because an outsourcer will have contacted you via a translation website, or in response to a bid you have made for a job posted online, this does not mean that they are established.
A strong indication of the outsourcer’s reputation is how organised they are. For instance, an established agency will have a job number and set standards (such as conditions of the job, terminology, etc), as well as service contracts and confidentiality agreements. Usually they will issue a project order containing these references and will expect to receive a signed service contract from you before you start on the job. Do not be deterred if the outsourcer uses a free email account such as hotmail, gmail or yahoo. Quite often it is the practice of outsourcers to use these accounts to manage their clients. Indeed, I have discovered that even if the outsourcer has got an established email account, this is no indication of their reliability!!
Another indicator of the outsourcer’s reputation is whether or not they have fixed rates. If, for instance, they ask you what your rates are, as is the practice of some outsourcers, and then they revert trying to negotiate your rate downwards, this is a danger warning sign. You may be willing to accept this type of treatment if you are trying to establish yourself as a freelance translator, however, when a client sees that you are willing to negotiate, they can take advantage of you because they will have surmised how new you are to the business. Of course, it is quite acceptable to negotiate with clients if they are willing to give you a certain volume of work, but if they start going below market rates, this is not acceptable.
An important issue is conditions of payment. The standard turnaround time in the translation industry is one to two months maximum from the date of invoicing. Be sure to find out conditions of payment immediately upon receiving the job offer, because you may be shocked to discover six months down the line what the conditions really are! Conditions of payment also refer to how the outsourcer is willing to pay you – most outsourcers prefer to pay via paypal or moneybookers, and they will specify this when they contact you.
Be very careful of being contacted by someone who is willing to just give you a job without having asked for your background details, CV and references. There is something quite fishy about someone who is willing to entrust you with an important assignment without even having checked on your reliability as a translator!!
When dealing with private companies:
The same rules apply when you are dealing with clients that are private companies. Make sure that you have their full contact details, a contract and a purchase order in advance. Most companies are usually willing to pay a deposit in advance before you proceed with the job. It is advisable to do a background check on the company before proceeding with the job, and, same as dealing with agencies, ensure that you know what their conditions of payment are!
When dealing with individuals:
Since most of my business is conducted in cyberspace, I am rather reluctant to deal with individuals online, unless they are living in my country!! If approached by an individual, make sure that you meet them personally – having talked to them on the phone is not enough. However, my experience with private individuals is that they do pay timeously, but prefer to bargain with you. The sharks in this business tend to be companies rather than individual people who just need a certificate translated!!
It is a long, hard road, but if you can find trustworthy clients, this business is the best in the world! I hope that the above hints help you as you establish yourself, or even if you are established, help you to improve your business acumen.
By Carla Selyer