How to work with translation agencies - English version

As promised, the text of my talk at the ITA's seminar for new translators, July 29th, 2014, at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. The Hebrew version appears here.

OK, so you’ve decide to work with translation agencies. The question now is how to do it right and make the most of it.

1. Which agency/agencies to approach?
- Do your homework. Peruse agencies’ websites. Though they’re intended mainly for end-clients, you can still read between the lines and figure out the implications for you. E.g., an agency that offers one-hour translation: is that right for you? Can you drop everything and produce a good translation within an hour?
- Agency that translates into Far East languages?
- Ask your buddies who work/have worked with agencies. Look for helpful info and relevant feedback on translators’ lists and forums. (Tapuz, Agenda/FB, Yahoo Groups, etc)
- Overseas agencies – I have no personal experience, except for Rina Ne’eman. Ask other translators.

2. How to approach an agency
- Most agencies’ websites have a link, menu option or button for translators. Complete the questionnaire and send it, along with your CV. While keeping in mind that those reading it, and your CV, are only human and can overlook or misunderstand something you wrote.
- Hever Translators’ Pool: A full questionnaire, but it’s well-hidden J
- Anytext: Basic details/info + CV
- InterOffice: No questionnaire until their new website is up and running. Meanwhile, they’ll be happy to hear from you by email, with a professional CV.
- MGS Language Services – formerly Quality Translations – no questionnaire, but a page with highly detailed info about their preferred fields of expertise.
- Transnet – Their “wanted” page is under construction. Use their Contac Us page.
- Rina Ne’eman (USA) – No link for translators. I assume you can use their Contact Us link.
If you have connections in an agency, this is the time to use it. (“protektzia”)

3. CV: How to present yourself?
Writing a CV is an art in itself. What to leave out is nearly as important as what to include. See my two earlier posts on this subject:
Tip: Writing a CV is not a one-time effort. It should be updated periodically, and adapted to suit the addressee and the job you’re applying for.
For in-depth explanations on how to write your CV, see Yael Sela-Shapiro’s excellent post.

4. What’s the most important consideration when choosing a translation agency?
- In addition to their rates  & terms of payment: Will your translation be edited, and will you receive feedback, at least on your first few submissions?
- Do you feel you have a rapport with someone at the agency?

5. Stick to what you know best, or diversify?
- For starters, I recommend sticking to what you know best. But if your expertise is shoe design, you’ll get work once a year if you’re lucky. So choose an additional field which you’ll feel comfortable with, and for which there’s demand.
For a more in-depth, and entertaining, review of this issue, see Yael Sela-Shapiro’s presentation, Diversify or Die.

6. Professional tools:
Will command of Translation Memory tools (e.g. MemoQ, WordFast, Trados) help you get work? - Probably. Command of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint is a fairly basic demand nowadays.

7. What to ask your Agency contact when undertaking a job:
- Deadline? Urgency? Urgency fee? Remember Murphy’s Laws for Translators: every job will turn out to be more difficult and will take longer than you thought.
- Who’s the target audience? Is it intended for internal company use or a fancy marketing brochure?
- What register? Formal-legal? Fuzzy-warm?
- American/British English? French/Quebec French? Castellano or Argentinean Spanish?
-  Will a glossary of relevant terminology be provided?
- Who is your go-to person for questions? When are they available?

8. Setting expectations:
What does the Agency want from you? Briefly: Do a good job, fast, at a low rate, and be nice.

9. How to submit a translation:
- On time!
- According to the agency’s guidelines
- After self-editing, polishing, proofreading, checking spelling, terminology, names etc
- Format the document as close as possible to the original
- With as few comments, highlighting etc (to indicate unclear bits) as is humanly possible
- Always keep a copy  of the original and the translation. Back-up your work every day, on an external disc, on a “cloud”, or both.
- Hit CTRL+S every few minutes!

10. The human factor:
Nurture a good relationship with your agency contact person. Be nice. On the phone, by email, and in person.

11. Money makes the world go around: Payment
- Keep track of your work in a table, Excel sheet, notebook – whatever suits you: Customer name, file name, subject, word-count, rate/fee. When you get paid, check against your records. We’re all only human.
- Software designed especially with us in mind – Avodat Milim. There’s a full version and a “light” version for non-heavy users, e.g. translators with few clients or who work only part time.
When is it acceptable to ask for a raise?
- After having worked for the agency for at least a few months and proved to be consistently good and reliable translators
- If you’ve started accepting more difficult/complex jobs that require more time and effort.

12. We all have our off-days
Even a good translator sometimes goofs; or else the client doesn’t like his/her style.
The agency won’t stop working with a good translator; but will be more careful in the future.
The translator may decide to say No to problematic texts in the future.

13. Main reasons for end-client complaint
- Client expectations weren’t clear (e.g. copywriting vs. “plain” translation; heavy editing vs. proofreading, etc.)
- The agency chose the wrong translator for the job
- The job was submitted to end-client without editing (safety net for both translator and agency)

14. Positive feedback vs. flattery
Receiving positive feedback is great. Learn to distinguish between it and flattery that comes in lieu of decent pay. Some translators will accept lower pay in return for having their egos stroked. That isn’t fair to you and is detrimental to your colleagues.

Bonus #1
AnyTEXT guidelines to their translators, verbatim:
Keep the same filename; just add your language and the word count
(i.e. filename eng xxx.docx)
Before sending us your translation, please proofread your text looking for:
· Omissions
· Typing errors
· Typos in names, dates, numbers
· Spelling mistakes
· Grammatical errors
· Use a consistent terminology throughout the text
· Apply language conventions on dates, numbers, titles, etc.
· Check format is identical (tables, bold, underline, etc.)
· In case of special requests, do not forget them.
Where appropriate,
· Use the supplied glossary to translate the text
· Read the supplied reference material before translating
· Check that references such as Table of Contents and Index entries, cross references, etc. match original
Use of Google Translate or similar software constitutes a breach of confidentiality and his prohibited to all our translators.

Bonus #2
Just in case you missed Aviva Doron’s and Eliezer Nowodworski’s talk, “It Takes Two to Tango”, here are a few of the advantages of working for a good agency:
- No need to chase clients – work comes to you.
- No need to chase payment – the agency pays like clockwork
- No need to deal with annoying end-clients – the agency serves as go-between
- Another pair of eyes goes over your work, another pair of hands deals with the graphic aspect.

Welcome to the club, good luck, and enjoy!


Nachama Kanner said...

Excellent overview, Nina

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