Starting as a translator can be daunting. There are many pitfalls for new professionals in this field to avoid as they build their careers. Awareness of these potential issues is the first step to steering clear of them. The best guide to finding Professional Translation.
Proofreading and Post-Editing Machine Translations
Many new translators are asked to “proofread” translations that someone else has already completed. This often involves more than just checking for typos – it requires revising and improving an existing translation. While this experience can be educational, some proofreading jobs are problematic.
Sometimes, agencies or clients hire low-quality, non-specialist, or even machine translation, expecting translators to turn it into a polished final product for less money. Trying to fix a shoddy translation can take much longer than starting fresh. New translators should be wary of agreeing to per-word rates for revision when the amount of work is unclear. An hourly rate that reflects earnings for regular translation work is safer.
Post-editing machine translation is another task some new professionals are asked to take on. However, the linguistic quality is often poor, requiring extensive edits to turn it into natural-sounding text. Machine translation post-editing is frowned upon by many experienced translators and won’t necessarily impress future clients. Early-career linguists should focus on showcasing their skills.
Closed Formats and Additional Duties
New translators are sometimes given PDFs or other closed file formats without being told higher rates apply. They may also get low-quality OCR documents created through free online converters. Clients might push additional project management or desktop publishing work onto translators instead of handling it themselves.
The key is to remember that the translator’s job is translation. Taking on extra services merits extra pay. Invest in good conversion software like ABBYY FineReader for closed formats and charge an appropriate file conversion fee. Explain that you will provide translated text, not recreate complex document layouts. If asked to handle duties outside the scope of translation, either refuse politely or agree on fair compensation.
Unreasonable Payment Terms
Many agencies and direct clients impose complicated payment terms on new translators who don’t know better. Sixty-day payment windows are standard. The “30 days end of the month” trick means getting paid 60 days after submitting an invoice. Some tie payment to client payment, which is legally questionable.
Don’t let clients take advantage of excessively long payment terms. Negotiate for better conditions whenever possible. For direct clients, establish your desired payment timeline upfront when quoting. As professionals, skilled linguists deserve timely compensation for their work.
Low Rates and Free Work
Inexperienced translators often undervalue themselves by accepting meager rates. They take on weekend rush jobs without applying for urgent fees. Some get pressured into working outside their language pairs and specialties. Others agree to unclear project scopes for flat rates that require substantial time commitments.
Many new professionals also do free translation work for misguided reasons. Sometimes, it’s for companies claiming noble causes while the owners profit. Other times, it’s for valuable “experience” that often provides no functional skills or connections. Doing pro bono work for causes you genuinely care about is acceptable but should be strategic.
Remember that working for free is not sustainable. Politely decline offers that underpay for your skills and time. Focus on finding clients that respect translation as a professional service deserving of fair rates. Don’t sell yourself short.
Strategies for Success
Avoiding these common new translator traps lays the groundwork for a thriving career. Here are some strategies to help get ahead:
- Specialize – Build expertise in select fields and language pairs rather than being a generalist. Produce your best work through specialization.
- Educate clients – Explain your expertise, skills, and preferred working conditions so clients know what to expect.
- Negotiate firmly – Don’t hesitate to negotiate for fair compensation, reasonable deadlines, and professional treatment. Walk away when necessary.
- Find good clients – Seek out clients who understand and value quality translation. Check client reputations.
- Join communities – Connect with other professionals through groups like ProZ and LinkedIn. Learn from mentors.
The translation profession continues to grow globally. By avoiding rookie mistakes and advocating for themselves, new linguists can find fulfilling work with clients who appreciate their abilities. Honing your expertise and standing firm on compensation sets you up for translation success.
The Best Professional Translation Services to Work For
The global translation industry is booming, creating many opportunities for skilled linguists. For those looking to offer professional translation services, partnering with a reputable agency can provide stability and steady work. According to a recent article on the top translation providers, companies like RushTranslate, Translate, Universal Translation Services, Translated.net, GoTranscript, and Sonix are considered among the best professional translation services to work for.