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Working for Translation Agencies as a Freelancer: A Guide for Novice Translators by Lucja Biel, Ph.D.

he translation profession has recently undergone three important changes: globalization, professionalization, and specialization. Not so long ago translators would mainly operate on local markets, delivering their translations in person. With the advent of the Internet and e-mail, the profession has gone global and geographical boundaries have disappeared. n the one hand, this means that translators may solicit clients from all over the world! on the other hand, it means a markedly larger pool of translators agencies may choose from! hence, increased competition. "ombined with the recent rapid development of translator education, the increased competition means that it is more difficult to get into the profession if you do not have sufficient education and training. #he market has also evolved into higher specialization which is driven by the growing knowledge of languages, in particular of $nglish, among employees. $asier te%ts are translated in-house by clients themselves, while more specialized or technically comple% ones are outsourced to translation agencies. &y short survey of translation agencies' recruitment websites shows that most agencies re(uire translators to have at least ) to * years' e%perience +in addition to a language degree and specialist knowledge,. It is a recurrent problem of novice translators how to ac(uire e%perience if agencies do not want to work with them e%actly because they do not have e%perience, which seems to be a vicious circle. -rustrating as it may seem, remember that many people do get into the profession every year. #here are times when professional translators are on holidays or the .ob is rush and nobody else is available. /our chance will come sooner or later but you have to be ready to emulate and surpass your competitors. 0ere are a few tips on how to work with translation agencies. Before you accept the job... 1. Check the agency. #here are several websites where you can do it, for e%ample, 0all of -ame and 2hame at, 4lue4oard at, 5ntrustworthy #ranslation 6gencies at,

up3pl-p-t +7olish,. In general, it is (uite risky to accept an assignment from an agency which does not have a website, uses a yahoo e-mail address or does not answer a phone provided as a contact number. #here may be e%ceptions to this rule, though. ). 4efore you accept the .ob, check whether you are comfortable with its subject matter. If you do not feel competent enough to translate for e%ample a forklift truck manual, refuse the .ob. #he -I# #ranslator "harter emphasizes that the translator should 8have a broad general knowledge and know the sub.ect matter of the translation sufficiently well and refrain from undertaking a translation in a field beyond his competence.8 6s an independent service provider, you are liable for your translation and, anyway, under certain circumstances it may be wise to consider buying a professional indemnity insurance. 9. 4efore you accept the .ob, estimate the time you will need to complete it and if it matches the delivery time. /ou should know your translation speed and the ability to estimate the completion time is part of your translator competence. :. "heck whether the file opens and whether it is the right file for translation. 2end a return email confirming its receipt. If a message is of an in(uiry-only type, wait for the go-ahead before you start translating. *. 6sk for a 7urchase rder3Work rder with payment terms. "heck whether it has the right word count +or character count, line count, etc.,. #he easiest way to do it is to check 2tatistics in &icrosoft Word +#ools;Word "ount,. <emember to discuss all ayment issues before you acce t the assignment! for e%ample, whether you charge by a source or target word count, whether your standard translation page is 1=>>, 1?>> or 1*>> characters with or without spaces. It is unprofessional to raise your rate during or after the translation process unless you have a really good reason for it. The Translation Process 1. <ead carefully the translation brief3instructions and follow them closely. ). File name: do not change the file name but simply add an international language code at its end, e.g. 7@ for 7olish, $N for $nglish, unless an agency re(uests another coding. 9. @ayout: it is an industry standard to reserve the source te!t

layout in the target te%t.


If you have a source file in an editable format, simply overwrite source sentences. Ao not do any additional formatting. In particular, do not use the spacebar to create an indent or start a new page because it may damage the layout. <emember 2amuelsson-4rown's commandment 8#hou shalt not use the spacebar8 from his e%cellent Practical Guide for Translators +)>>:: 11:,. If you use a "6# tool, such as 2A@ #rados, it will be easier to keep the right layout. /ou will not have to delete the source te%t as the "6# will do it for you when you clean the file. It is natural that the te%t 'swells" in translation and becomes longer than the source te%t. It is mainly due to e%plicitation +regarded by &ona 4aker as one of translation universals, whereby information that is implicit in the source te%t becomes e%plicit in the target te%t to enhance its comprehension or fill in knowledge gaps. 2econdly, swelling may be caused by systematic differences between languages! for e%ample, a 7olish translation is on average 1>-)>B longer than the corresponding $nglish original, $nglish being a more synthetic and 'compact' language. #his may be a problem when translating te%t fields or forms that have to fit into a predefined space. In such a case you should clarify with the client whether you are to ad.ust the format +e.g. by decreasing the font by 1 point, or leave it as it is.

1. Tailored style and readability. If you look at a couple of translation agencies' websites and see how they advertise themselves to end clients, you will soon realize that emphasis is placed on functionality and readability: stylistic aptness, lucid translations that read like original, a tailored language style . #o prepare a fluent and readable translation, try to adopt your reader's point of view, think of his3her e%pectations, needs, potential knowledge3cultural gaps. 5se an unmarked language-language that does not draw attention to itself, is natural, and idiomatic. It is not infre(uent that the source language shows through the translation, the language of translation being referred to as translationese or a third language. It may be difficult to eradicate all source-language interference! nevertheless, it should be limited to the minimum. /ou should also focus on conveying the meaning in a clear and lucid way. If you don't understand the sentence you've .ust translated,

there's little chance your reader will. ). Accuracy# Nearly all translation agencies advertise their ability to ensure the highest accuracy. #his feature seems to be most appealing to end clients of translations and is an industry standard. 6s noted in the -I# #ranslator "harter, 8$very translation shall be faithful and render e%actly the idea and form of the original--this fidelity constituting both a moral and legal obligation for the translator.8 -aithfulness is achieved, inter alia, by attention to detail. -or e%ample, 'considerably higher' is usually not the same as 'higher', 'nearly * times faster' is not the same as '* times faster', 'beyond reasonable control' is not the same as 'beyond control'. Novice translators are more prone to omitting these little words--obviously, in some cases this may be acceptable but when you are translating a contract, they can make a difference. &ore serious conse(uences may follow when a numeral is distorted +e.g. one '>' is lost in the remuneration clause, or when a negation is overlooked. 7roblems with negation are well illustrated by the case of Cerman surgeons reported by Aer #agesspiegel +http:33www.pss.ournal.com3content31313*,. 0aving read $nglish instructions, the surgeons understood 8non-modular cemented8 as 8non cemented838without cement8 and implanted total knee arthroplasties to :D patients without cement. 6s a result, most of the patients had to undergo a surgical revision since the procedure re(uired cemented use only. 9. Terminological consistency. /ou should use consistent terminology within the te%t as well as in connection with te%ts that constitute previous discourse. 6sk for reference materials, do some research first, go to the company's website to learn their lingo. $ueries: if you have terminological problems, report them or ask for clarification in sufficient time to ensure they will not .eopardize the delivery time. :. % otting errors: If you spot an error, notify the client or add a translator's note. 6s recommended by the I#I, 8be an independent problem solver, spot things like missing pages and don't pretend that the source te%t is all right if there is a glaring error. "lients and authors make mistakes and you can actually score brownie points by drawing these to your client's attention8. *. &eadlines +delivery dates,--always keep them. Ao not accept a .ob if it has an unrealistic deadline. If for some unforeseen reason you are unable to meet the deadline, notify the agency in advance so that it can arrange a substitute. #he worst thing you can do when you fail to meet the deadline is to stop

answering the phone or responding to e-mails! face it and notify the agency how long the delay will be. &ost agencies advertise themselves as offering fast turnarounds! if you are late with your translation, the agency will also be late and may face penalties. Quality Assurance ?. Ao not send incomplete, unfinished or A<6-# translations-only finali'ed, thoroughly checked files. It is your duty to provide a spotless te%t so do not e%pect a reviewer to do a E6 check for you. <eviewers are usually remunerated on an hourly basis and it is more e%pensive for an agency to review a draft translation than a finalized one. D. &evelo your own $A rocedures. It is advisable to print out the translation, and read it in paper. 6nachronistic as it may seem, you will be surprised how many issues you have overlooked on the screen. 6 day's interval between translation and proofreading may do miracles +rarely possible, though, when you're faced with fast turnaround times,. It is also worth subcontracting a third-party reviewer. =. % elling(ty os: switch the spell checker on. 6fter you finish your translation, highlight the entire te%t and change the language setting to your target language because sometimes the spellchecker still remembers the source te%t language. It is also useful to untick 8Ignore words written in capital letters8 in #ools; ptions, which is a default setting in &2 Word - a spelling error in a capitalized title will be glaring. 2econdly, remember that the spell checker does not recognize all errors. #o give you a real-life e%ample, an $nglish menu in a 7olish restaurant has an entry tomato soap instead of tomato soup; obviously, it wouldn't be highlighted by a spell checker as both words do e%ist. Now, the restaurant has to type-set and print the menu again. Cuess who will pay for itF G. Aesthetic (ualities of the translation. )emove any double s aces and check consistency of punctuation use. -or e%ample, do all bullets start with small3capital letters throughout the te%tF 1>.

#hings to check:

Numbers: a distorted number may be a critical error or highrisk error +7ym,. -or e%ample, if a dose of >.>* is erroneously changed into >.* in translation, it may have fatal conse(uences. Com leteness# "heck if there are no omitted sentences,

paragraphs, bullets in the translation. missions are more likely if you translate from a fa%ed or scanned original rather than from a .doc file.

Conventions. 6d.ust conventions to the target audience's e%pectations: the way numbers are spelled, capitalization and punctuation, page size +letter format more popular in the 52,, weights and measurements, and currencies if necessary. It is better to spell out dates due to 52 and 5H differences: 131>3)>>D is 1>th Ianuary +or rather Ianuary 1>, in the 52 and 1st ctober in the 5H.

#his section may be concluded with the recommendation from the I#I's guide o! to get money !orking freelance for translation companies" 8<emember that you are only as good as your last .ob. "ompetition is stiff and you can't afford to let standards drop at any time.8 0ow trueJ Customer Relationship Management 1. /ou work in the service sector and deal with people. 4e courteous* hel ful and reliable to ensure that the pro.ect manager will choose / 5 out of )> other translators s3he has in the database for your language pair. ). #ry to add value to your services. 6s recommended by 6le% $ames in his #ranslatortips8: give them a little more than they e%pect--a little more than the competition.8 Professional Ethics 9. Confidentiality. 6s a translator, you may have access to protected, restricted, private, insider information. #he -I# "harter emphasizes, 8#he translator shall respect the legitimate interests of the user by treating as a professional secret any information which may come into his3her possession as a result of the translation entrusted to him3her.8 #his information may include trade secrets, proprietary processes and tools of an agency and of its clients. 2ome agencies re(uire translators to sign a Non-Aisclosure 6greement +NA6, or "onfidentiality 6greement before they assign any work. :. Non+com etition. 4e loyal to your direct clients and do not solicit assignments from your clients' clients. /ou may be asked to sign a non-competition3non-solicitation agreement.

Getting pai ... *. ,nvoice the .ob: it is convenient to do it on a monthly basis. #he invoice should be prepared in a language understandable to the client +or use a two-language version, and should include the agency's 7 number. 2pecify the method of payment +7ay7al3&oneybookers, bank transfer, check, etc., and provide all payment details, such as the 2WI-#34I" code and I46N number for bank transfers. ?. /ou may consider opening a -ay-al or .oneybookers account which will save you time and money. Wire transfers are e%pensive, and agencies usually shift their cost to translators. It may take a long time to clear a check outside the 526! for e%ample, from ? to 1) weeks in 7olish banks. With 7aypal or &oneybookers, you have the money almost instantly at low charges.
7. In case of delays in

ayment, contact the agency first to clarify the issue. If no payment is forthcoming, inform the agency politely that unless they pay you by a specified date, you will send their details to non-payers lists. #his usually works. #here are also more refined ways of getting paid--see discussion forums, for e%ample, at orhttp:33#ranslators"

=. Aon't put all your eggs in one basketJ If you work for a number of agencies, you minimize the risk. 6nd this will also give you a wonderful feeling of independence. /seful materials on the web:

I#I's guide: Cetting started-#ranslation:>*-0KInto#ran sK+)>-1>->:,.pdf I#I's 0ow to get money working freelance for translation companies:>=-0&ake&one yK+)>-1>->:,.pdf 2pecial <eport for #ranslators. "ustomers--&ake @ife $asy for #hem and #hey'll 2tay with /ou by 6le% $6&$2: http:33www.translatortips.net3freerep3freerep.pdf -I# "harter:

0!cellent books for novice translators

2amuelsson-4rown, C. )>>:. # Practical Guide for Translators. :th $d. &ultilingual &atters. 2ofer, &. )>>?. The Translator$s 7ublishing. andbook. ?th $d. 2chreiber