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Are you attending or thinking about attending this summit? Maybe my preview here will help you decide.
Last week, I got my ticket for the first Innovation in Translation Summit scheduled for October 4-6. I knew it would be a quality and worthwhile event after I looked through the website, read the session titles and list of presenters, and SAW THE COST - FREE! (or a small fee for the Power Pack, which includes some useful extras.)
Today, I signed in to the platform and looked into the details. The sessions are all 20 minutes and will be pre-recorded, so attendees can access them at their own convenience during a 24-hour period. I was very pleased to find that this summit hits on all of the growth points that I’m working on this quarter: time management/ways to work efficiently, diversification (what other services can I offer besides translation), and networking/marketing. There are other topics, of course, so I encourage you to go check out the sessions to see what appeals to you, then sign up, if you think it’s right for you.
Below are highlights of events and features that have me excited about the summit.
Summit sessions I'm looking forward to:
Features that make the virtual event feel personal:
Power Pack extras I’m excited about:
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As a business owner, I’ve learned to look at my year in terms of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters. When I pay my quarterly estimated taxes, I like to spend some time taking stock of business and life. Those were due September 15, hence this post.
This quarter started off with a bang in my personal life that is setting the tone for my business. In fact, I've been trying to write a more medical and translation-specific post, but I can't get my focus off of making the best of this "Big Bang."
I received an inheritance from my lovely grandmother and went to work spending it wisely. Among other things, I used it to pay off some debt and put a down-payment on my first home. This “windfall” of money has flipped my financial POV upside down, consequently impacting my business plans for the remainder of the year and giving me hope for my business in the coming years. What follows are a 3 specific plans I will implement this quarter, then check back in on my business in the new year and adjust accordingly.
I’m going to make a renewed attempt at connecting with people in the translation community. Gosh, saying that out loud is SCARY! Because it means showing up, being a presence in the community, despite my imposter belief that I don’t belong (which has made me very shy). By putting energy into forming connections, I will be more in touch with current trends and news and appreciate the value of my own translation services as a legit business.
I will admit that work has been slow and minimal and will consistently spend time contacting potential clients until I am working at the rate I need. This will go hand-in-hand with the above plan. As I use LinkedIn and my website to connect with individuals, those efforts will support reaching out to clients, too. Specific to this plan, though, I will need to create a “portfolio.” Currently, all I have is a CV, the key component for any freelancer/translator. I would like to add to that a sample of my work and a new description of my services.
I will allow myself 2 full days off every week, ONCE I have put 30 hours into my business. One key action that will make this possible is to track my hours. Turn on a timer every time I start/end work, and categorize that time into translation, networking, or administrative time.
This seems like a good start to me. Now, to start identifying smaller, tangible steps to take and holding myself accountable for completing them.
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My only experience as a service provider has been as a translator. On top of that, I work for large translation agencies 98% of the time. So, I have become accustomed to certain payment terms within the bounds of these limitations. I started paying attention to OTHER service providers’ payment terms when I went through the process of selling my house, and I found key differences. This led me to look further into one of those differences to better understand it - the timing of payment. It was educational, informative.
Timing of payment differences
When working as a translator for large translation agencies, net-30 or net-45 are the most common payment turnaround times. This means that I provide the invoice after completing the work, and the agency pays me within 30 or 45 days. If the agency does not pay, I have to contact their vendor relations department and ask what went wrong, then “patiently” wait to be paid.
My newest client recently missed two payments, and I was too timid to take the opportunity to charge them a late fee. Although, I did threaten to share my bad experience with the translator community and discourage LSP’s from working with this client. At this point, they hustled to pay me.
For certain service providers:
On the other hand, some service providers, such as plumbers, roofers, carpet installers, and others, ask for payment at a couple of points in time. Some will ask for a deposit before they begin work. This is common when a large quantity of materials is involved (for example 100’s of yards of carpet). This deposit seems to safeguard the service provider, ensuring I will use their service and not leave them high and dry with supplies they may not be able to re-use.
Then, once the work is completed, they expect to be paid as soon as possible, within 7 days. I haven’t tested the limits of this, though. Perhaps some providers allow 14 days. Perhaps some start adding on late fees or interest. I do not know.
Why these differences?
I believe the biggest reason translators working for large agencies are paid on lengthy terms is the size of the company paying us. Large agencies need time to process the invoices of dozens, even hundreds of vendors, and time to acquire payment from the actual client, then go through the steps of paying their vendors. In fact, I’m pretty sure agencies have entire departments devoted to this. In short, they need more time to get everything in order before being able to pay us.
Whereas the service providers I mentioned are paid by individual customers most of the time, so they only have to collect payment directly from those individuals, then the job is over.
As in my example above, you can see why it’s difficult to chase down late payments and even more difficult to enforce late payment fees (agencies don’t have a system to process such fees). This is something I have accepted. Nevertheless, I know some translators are more active and wish to promote change.
Are you one of those translators? What would you suggest needs to change to ensure better payment terms from large agencies?
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Now that I edit translations regularly, I am developing new tricks to make the process more efficient. Below, I’ll share two of those tricks. First, though, let me start at the beginning, when I would reject any offer to edit a translation.
I used to fear editing because the editor is the last set of eyes on a document, and that’s a lot of responsibility. Any time I saw “proof” or “edit” associated with a potential job, I would delete it or turn it down without a second glance. I let my fear stand in the way of Cochran Language Services reaching its full potential.
Conveniently, this spring, one of my clients started sending me weekend editing projects. I agreed to take short ones initially, my way of testing the waters. Guess what? The PM was satisfied with my efficient and thorough work, so she continued to send similar jobs. With time, this solidified my confidence in my eye for detail, understanding of scientific texts, and grasp of English grammar. Now, I look forward to seeing the project inquiry in my inbox on Fridays.
As promised, I’ll share with you two tricks I developed to streamline the editing process.
1) Analyze the source text a day or two before. I search for terminology, abbreviations, etc. that I don’t recognize and look them up. This is, of course, easiest with short projects of <3,000 words. I’m positive that it could help with longer ones, though. What this does is keeps me from wasting editing time bouncing my attention back and forth between internet searches and the target document details.
2) Edit the headers/footers/letterheads on every page first, THEN tackle the body of the text. For the same reason above – it keeps me focused on one area of the text at a time. I can make sure footers are consistent with the source text. I can zero in on phone numbers, names, and addresses without thinking about scientific terms. Also, this eases me into the editing process. Sometimes, once you get into the body of text, it can overwhelm you, especially when errors and missing text abound (after all, you never know the quality of the translation until you set eyes on it). So, headers and footers give me a feel for the translator’s work.
I hope these two tricks help you, or that you recognize them because you use them too!
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I can proudly say that, after 6 years in business, I’ve learned that there is a time for passively operating my business and for actively operating it. And, let me say, both have their challenges.
When COVID hit in early 2020, I found my stride with the active operation of my translation business. It included cold-contacting potential clients, writing bi-monthly blog posts, interacting on LinkedIn, and regularly posting on Instagram. These types of activities helped me find new clients and develop professional relationships with other translators. It didn’t feel like work, just part of my standard operating procedure.
Over the summer of 2021, though, I've had so much on my plate with selling and buying a home that I have not had time to be active in the above sense. So, I gave myself permission to stop the forward momentum of my business and to rely entirely on passive operations to simply keep it idling.
To me, being passive meant letting the work come to me. I checked my email for job offers from current clients and did those jobs. Of course, I also invoiced them and fielded client questions. I stopped investing in professional relationships, since I needed more time with friends during this high anxiety period. I knew my translator colleagues would still be on LinkedIn when I returned. These passive operations allowed me to maintain an income, my translation skills, and my long-term clients, all of which I was grateful for. However, I knew I could do better, and I started itching to move forward again (I don’t idle well, I get antsy).
Since my new home went under contract this week, I decided that I'm ready to be active again, to blog and interact with the translator community. There’s just one problem… I have to re-wire my brain. See, since I stopped using the “active operations” muscle, it’s gone all flabby and weak, and my old friends Procrastination and Perfectionism easily overpower it. For example, today, I’m having a very difficult time sitting at my keyboard to write this come-back blog post. I wrote two sentences earlier, then decided it was time to brush my dog. I returned to the computer 10 minutes later, wrote two more sentences, then got up to make a snack. By then, it was time for a scheduled phone call with a friend. Now, it’s early afternoon and my perfectionist voice is piping up and telling me, “This post isn’t good enough, so you should save it and go back to it tomorrow with a clear mind.”
I am determined to continue flexing this muscle though and return to growing my business. After all, that same determination is what got me here in the first place. I look forward to seeing you on LinkedIn or in my inbox to discuss business and life as a translator. I've got lots to say after a few months away!
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I have been working on PMTE projects (post-machine translation editing) a lot more over the last year. So, I have become aware of a few of the linguistic hurdles that make this type of translation work frustrating for translators, project managers, and translation-buying clients. Below, I describe 3 French phrases, common in medical science translations, that pose a challenge to machine translation tools.
First, though, it is important to understand the core of the issue. Many phrases/terms in French have a few possible translations (even incorrect ones) in English. Thus, translators feed the MT tool with these various options, and the tool cannot generate consistent translations of such phrases. Then, when a translator accepts the PMTE job, a few things may happen:
3 difficult-to-machine-translate French phrases:
The obvious translation is literal: hospitalization report. However, consider the nature of such reports. They contain details about the patient’s stay in the hospital, and they are usually provided at discharge (or when a patient dies). So, according to some translators, this could also be translated as: hospitalization discharge report and, maybe even hospitalization discharge summary. Others suggest a shortened version: discharge report or discharge summary. Still others might suggest hospital stay report (or summary). So, you can see how translating this phrase would produce inconsistent machine translation.
… formulaire du jj/mm/aaaa (for example, 01/01/2021), in the context of a list of documents submitted to an ethics committee
Two possible correct translations would be … form dated 01/01/2021, or even … form from 01/01/2021.
However, the machine translation segment often reads … form of 01/01/2021, which, to me, is very strange in English. I would say the War of 1812 (here the date is very formal, historically documented, and an accepted name of an event), but I would not say the … form of 01/01/2021. As mentioned above, some translators feed this type of incorrect translation to the MT, and that is how poor-quality translation is perpetuated.
Justification de l'adéquation des moyens
This is seen in ethics committee documents. It is a phrase found in the French Public Health Code that does not seem to have an exact equivalent in English. In a recent project, I searched the translation memory for previous examples of this phrase and its translation. I found:
Rationale justifying the suitability of resources
Rationale for the suitability of resources
Rationale for the appropriateness of resources
Justification of the adequacy of resources
Personally, I like the first one, it covers the bases of rationale and justification. As you can imagine, though, the client will be confused when it ends up with multiple translations of this document name.
Food for thought
I hope these examples and my explanations give other translators food for thought. My only suggestion to avoid frustration between the PM and translator is to use clear communication. The translator could include a note with his/her work explaining his/her choice and pointing out the lack of consistency in the MT-generated segments. At least then, the PM could take that information into account when deciding how to proceed.