ENTERING THE WORLD OF FREELANCE TRANSLATION BUSINESS
As we stated earlier, translation is a one-dimensional process in the minds of the majority of people: translators simply translate documents. However, there are business matters which translators must manage as well. Understanding the process of managing a translation job will help you navigate it successfully and hopefully avoid some of the problems you can encounter.
The Translation Job
After successfully acquiring a business client, it is important to have a clear understanding of their expectations. Many clients will discuss the translation job with you, but it is very important to confirm that the details of the actual document are the same as what you discussed with the client, i.e., the source and target languages, document length, time frame and format for delivery.
Beyond these basic requirements, you need to confirm that indeed you can translate it. You must be confident that you have the requisite knowledge and resources to deal with the material and that you can complete the work within the required timeframe and deliver the job in the format desired by the client. You will quickly tarnish your budding freelance translator reputation if you fail to deliver a job on schedule. Freelance translators who are late in delivering work are the number one complaint in our profession.
After you review the assignment, if there is any doubt in your mind regarding your ability to deliver the job on schedule, you must immediately contact the client and ask for more time. Many times this is not a problem, or in some cases they may suggest another alternative, for instance, allowing you to do a portion of the assignment.
The most important point to keep in mind is to communicate with client; this shows respect for the client’s needs and your profession as a translator. It is better to disclose potential problems in the beginning to have the time to resolve them. Delivering part of an assignment done properly and on schedule is better than delivering a completed assignment late and done incorrectly.
There many times when you are working with an agency that they may not be able to tell you accurate information about the material. If that is the case, it is best to review the material for yourself before you commit to a time frame. Ensure you have the complete material or inform them that your price quote will need to be revised when all the material is received. In addition, it is best not to rely on a page count, with the wide variance in typefaces; it is of little use for estimating a translation job.
With all of the material in hand, you must now do the actual translation. Working on a computer is a given, but it cannot be stressed enough: backup your work EVERYDAY. A CPU failure, hard disk crash, or virus attack, are technological facts of life. Invariably, each one of us has experienced one or more of these disasters, but the situation is made even more nerve-wracking if you do not have a reliable data backup system in place. The best way to handle this task is to take the same precautions with your computer data as you do with your finances.
Creating back up disks of your work enables you to continue working on your project, even if this means renting time at an Internet café to do so. Another very good idea is to upload your documents to the Internet. Yahoo offers a free “briefcase” service that allows you to access data from where ever an Internet connection exists, saving you room on your hard disk and your sanity.
The other major problem that freelance translators may face with a job involves terminology, the legibility or quality of writing from the source document or unusual use of phrases, idioms and dialect.
In some technical document translations, the problem may be that an equivalent word does not exist in the target language. If you encounter this situation, you must allow the client to make the decision on how to handle this. They may have a glossary of word to use or connect you to the person who is an expert in the field to assist you.
Especially with Indo or Asian languages, the printed quality of the original becomes a crucial issue when a handwritten document is then faxed to you. But if you receive a fax of document that was photocopied, the print quality can degrade tremendously. By all means make your request for a quality print source text. If that is not possible, you may have to enlist the help of your associates to help you decipher the text.
On the other had, the phrases, idioms and dialect aspect of a translation job can be challenging and you would be well advised to network with native speakers of your target languages to assist you with the understanding of these vital components of translation.
As you gain experience as a translation, begin to build a glossary of terms, idioms, dialect, neologisms as well as official translations for proper names of business and government entities. Find the method that is the easiest to work with so that you will be able to use this on a daily basis. This is a valuable tool for yourself as well as other translators.
If the content and context of the source document is substandard, what can a translator do? Unfortunately not much or as the saying goes: “Garbage in, garbage out” the translation will reflect the source document. Your task is to translate the document, not to act as copy editor and the client cannot claim it is a bad translation. Conversely, if the source text is well written, the translation should be as well.
However, if in the rare case of a truly incomprehensible document, your only recourse is to contact the client, inform them of the matter and afford them the opportunity to make the decision whether or not they want to proceed with the translation. If they decide against the translation, you will lose some income, but gain respect for your integrity in the client’s mind.
When you perform a translation, ensure that it proofread to be free of errors, omissions by yourself and at least one other individual with a fresh pair of eyes. This final step is important because after hours of look at the same text, you as the translator may miss something. Finally, it is worth stating again the importance of timely delivery of your work.
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