Guest post: Working with agencies

Welcome back to our guest post series! Our guest today is Alina Cincan, from Romania, but currently living in England. Alina is learning how to speak Brazilian Portuguese, can you believe it? And did you know Romanian is also a Romance language? So they are quite similar. 😉

Welcome, Alina! 🙂


5 Steps to a Project Manager’s Heart

Standing out in a competitive market is a must, no matter the industry you work in. The translation industry is no exception, and it’s not just translation companies that need to stand out, but translators too, maybe even more so, especially if your language combination is not exactly rare.

Case in point: from our list of approved translators for English into German, we only work with a few of them regularly. Why? Because we LOVE them. Why we love them? See below.

For those translators who have not yet embarked on the anti-agency wagon and who like their agency clients, and want to forge a goodgreat relationship with the project managers, here are some tips.

1.     Make a good first impression

You know what they say: first impression counts. Make sure your first email shows your enthusiasm and willingness to work with them (by addressing the person not Dear Sir/Madam), as well as impeccable language skills (a sloppy and full of mistakes email will not look good). All it takes is a little bit of research (the About section of their website, LinkedIn, social media) to find out a few things about the agency and person you want to talk to. Proofreading before hitting Send also helps, of course.

2.     Respond quickly

One of my favourite translators replies within minutes. This is not always possible and sometimes it may even hurt your productivity. But there are ways to make this possible. For those who are not at their computer all the time (or checking their email regularly) and cannot give an answer as to whether they are available for a particular project, a short email explaining when you’ll be able to have a look and give an answer will do. Especially when the agency is not one to send a mass email and select the first translator to answer (we at Inbox don’t), meaning they want you to work on that project and any delay in replying is a delay for the project. If you are busy, a short line saying so as soon as possible makes all the difference. Automatic emails are another option too.

3.     Respect deadlines

Pretty obvious, right? While we try to ‘educate’ (I’m not exactly fond of this term in this context) the end client about what constitutes a suitable time frame, sometimes urgent projects (or with not the most generous deadlines) do land in our inbox and ultimately in the translator’s. So, once a deadline has been mutually agreed, it should be adhered to. Sure, if there’s an earthquake, volcano eruption or some other natural disaster, no one would blame you for not sticking to them. Otherwise, if you encounter technical problems (we all have, I’m sure) or are going to deliver later than agreed (for various reasons), let your PM know as soon as possible. Depending on the project, a new translator may need to take over or, in most cases, the deadline extended.

4.     Communicate effectively

Sometimes the source texts we have to work with as translators are not exactly the great literary pieces we’d love taking apart and putting back together in another language. It may be about typos or grammar mistakes, or maybe ambiguous sentences. When it comes to the latter, don’t just assume what it may mean, let the PM know (especially if they’ve been working with that particular client for a while, they may be familiar with what the client expects or style guides etc.); if they cannot help clarify the meaning, they can pass your questions on to the client. Of course, pointing out mistakes or suggesting improvements will always raise your profile in a PM’s eyes (and heart). Another important aspect here is to ask the questions before starting the translation or when you come across an issue while working on the project, not after you’ve delivered the translation, which will mean going back and forth with amended files.

5.     Learn to say ‘No’

If direct clients may take this as rejection, a good agency should understand when you cannot take on a project (whether it’s not exactly a topic you are familiar with or have a very busy schedule which doesn’t allow you to accommodate a particular project) and, moreover, they should be thankful. They will appreciate a translator who only accepts a project if they can do a great job. So, don’t be afraid to say no.

Thank you, Alina, for accepting my invitation and kindly taking the time to write such an interesting and helpful article. I’m sure our readers will appreciate it as much as I did. I also agree with every single point you made. I’m a fully believer that a primeira impressão é a que fica (as we say in Portuguese), that’s why dressing adequately, having a polite behavior, writing properly, having professional profile pics, among others, are fundamental. I’m also a huge advocate of responding quickly to messages in general, but specially emails. I get instant notifications of incoming emails and whenever possible I immediately respond to them, and I appreciate when people do the same. Although obvious, #3 is a huge issue, right? How come people simply do not respect deadlines and not even bother to communicate the agency? Well, that’s it, otherwise, I’ll write another post myself.

How about you, readers, do you have any comments to add? Do you agree or disagree with any points made by Alina?

About the author
inbox-translation-alina-cincanAlina Cincan is a former teacher, translator and interpreter with over 10 years’ experience, now Managing Director at Inbox Translation. She is a language geek who likes to keep up to date with what’s happening in the industry. When Alina is not writing on her own blog, she is writing on other people’s. You can get in touch on TwitterFacebookGoogle+ and LinkedIn.

Guest post: Test translations

Aaaand we’re finally back with our guest posts! 😀 Who missed them? I did! But let’s look on the bright side, at least you had a two-week vacation from us. lol

Hope you like today’s guest, Olga Arakelyan, from Russia.

Welcome, Olga!


Are test translations always evil? What can they teach startup translators?

Those who remember my story probably know that when I came into the freelance world, I already had some experience in interpreting and in translation. But I had mainly done interpreting work before. Now, as you know, interpreting and translation are very different from each other, requiring a totally different set of skills. Yes, I have a good memory, so I don’t have a problem remembering how I translated this or that term and thus maintaining consistency of my translations even without using CAT tools. But consistency is definitely not the only challenging task in translation as even the smallest details are important here.

That’s what I didn’t know when I started working as a translator. Now when I remember my first tests (I was pretty confident about my skills, so I sent out CVs and sample translations everywhere) the only thing I feel is shame… Good thing I realized that my offers were turned down by companies for a reason. So I started learning from experienced colleagues, subscribed to their blogs, studied translation samples shared by other translators on the Internet etc. All of this helped me to become a better professional, so now I don’t have a problem with clients turning down my offers because of bad test translations. Although in our profession we must never stop growing. There is always place for more growth and more professional development.

Why am I sharing all this? Here’s why. Throughout my freelance career I read tons of articles about test translations being evil. Translators say that after they send their work to an agency or a direct client they never hear back from them.

Note: this article is not about experienced colleagues whose translations are so good that they are close to impeccable. By the way, those colleagues usually get pretty fast responses to their messages, and they aren’t asked to do a test (or those requests are rare). I am writing for startup translators who don’t understand why they are being ignored after they send their work having done their best. I assure you that it doesn’t necessarily happen because agencies or companies are evil. Perhaps my personal experience will help you to look at the process from a different perspective.

I have been working as a staff editor in a boutique agency for a few months now. And there was a period when we had so much work from our regular clients that we had to look for new translators. And here’s what happened when we asked freelancers to do a test for us.

We got a lot of responses. The tests went straight to my inbox as I was supposed to assess them. At first I responded promptly to all emails. But then as the stream of messages grew, I realized I would need a secretary in order to reply to all letters. After all, I also had to do my regular work. That was the first time I remembered my disappointment as a startup freelance translator when I got no immediate response from agencies. It can happen not because people working in those agencies are bad and don’t care about you. Maybe they are just very busy, sleeping no more than 4 hours a day trying to do their regular job, plus checking the tests. They are thankful for your message and for your test, and they will read and assess it by all means. But they have so much work that they can’t possibly reply to everybody.

But that’s not all. Checking those test translations turned to be a good patience lesson. Actually, the mistakes that I saw over and over again in tests written by different people motivated me to write this post. Here are a few tips from me as an editor and reviewer. I hope they will help my startup colleagues to get positive replies more often.

  1. Don’t forget to not just check your translations by yourself, manually, but also by means of special programs. At least by Microsoft Word spellchecker, or by any other tools that you have. It’s surprising how many beginning translators don’t do that, totally relying on themselves.
  2. If you do not use CAT-tools it’s ok! But if you chose to overwrite the source text with the translation, please don’t forget to delete the source text. It’s weird to read sentences beginning with the first letters of the original text.
  3. After you have finished your test and have proofread everything, the best thing you can do is leave your desk at least for a few minutes in order to have a cup of tea or go for a walk. When you come back to the same text with a fresh mind you will notice some more things that need to be corrected. Besides, it will help you to notice typos that Microsoft Word spellchecker missed.
  4. Please don’t stop at the “Ah, they will understand me anyway” level of tranlsation. Edit your work until there’s nothing or almost nothing you don’t like about it.

So those are some of my thoughts based on a few (dozens of) tests by startup translators.

However, it wouldn’t be fair to stop here. I have to mention scammers who also love test translations. You know why? Because they think a test is a perfect way to get professional services for free. So here are my tips that will (hopefully) help you stay safe.

  1. Always google your prospective direct client or translation agency and see what other people say about them.
  2. The test shouldn’t be very big. For instance, I don’t do test bigger than 250 words. There’s obviously something wrong with a test translation several pages long.
  3. Urgency is another red flag. If a test is needed solely for the purpose of assessing your skills, then why is it supposed to be done urgently? I would definitely pay attention to it. Although, sometimes companies search for translators for a specific project and they need your test before the project starts. For those clients it’s important to get your test on time, so they do set deadlines. But in those cases I normally receive some kind of an explanation why the test is supposed to be ready by a specific date.
  4. A test that is obviously a part of a bigger file looks the most suspicious. I received those tests several times in my career and every time it turned out to be a scam. People give different pieces of text to several translators hoping that each translator will do their “test”, and in the end they will get the whole text done for free! So we do need to be careful and stay away from all suspicious offers.

So be careful and I wish you good luck in your freelance translation! By the way, there is a mistake in the text. Have you noticed it?

Thanks a lot for your kind contribution to our blog, Olga! It was a real pleasure to host you here, after you having hosted me so kindly on your blog. 🙂

Any comments?

About the author
Olga_profile-pic_2Olga Arakelyan is a professional freelance translator and a certified ESL teacher. She translates from English and German into Russian and specializes mainly in marketing, music, tourism, and education. Olga recently left the freelance world and is now managing Translators’ Training Courses at Alba Longa translation company, Saint Petersburg, Russia. You can find her on Twitter @Olenkaarakelyan, visit her English blog or, if you prefer reading in Russian, she’d be happy to see you in her Russian blog.