Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What to look for in a professional translator

Based on the previous blog you are hopefully convinced that to hire a professional translator for a translation job is the right way to go. But how can you tell whether you have found a professional translator or not? Here are some details to pay attention to.

A professional translator is:
- Educated in both source and target languages
- Translating only into his/her native language and is proficient/bilingual in the source language
- Specialized in a few specific subject areas, that usually are closely related to the translator’s background
- Someone with several years of experience in transferring messages from one language to another, either through education and/or work experience
- A good writer
- Experienced in both cultures of the target and source languages
- Passionate about his/her profession and loves to convey the content and intent of the text as exactly as possible to the target language, with appropriate style and terminology.
- Giving attention to detail
- Courteous, reliable, respectful, honest, responsible and competent.

Did I forget something? Do you agree? Please share!

13 more time management tips

Today I will continue on the subject of time management. I found 13 more tips that are very easy to follow on Zen Habits: These tips makes it easier to get the most important things done during a day and have more time for things that are not related to work and it also points out the importance of having time for non work related things. I hope you enjoy these easy tips!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Why you should hire a professional translator

This subject has been discussed in many different forums, but deserves repeating, especially these days when machine translation is a very popular subject.

Machine translations can work for some projects, but most translations require a real linguist in order to get the sentence structure, subject matter, cultural aspects, and above all, grammar correct. Many linguists also refuse to proofread or edit a machine translation, simply because it is easier to just retranslate the whole thing.

But perhaps you have a bilingual working in your company and you think that you could use this person to translate your documents? Is bilingual enough? No, in most cases not.

In order to get your message across to your target audience you need to hire a professional translator. Here are the reasons why:

Being bilingual is not enough
Someone may speak two languages well enough to communicate with native speakers, but the skills demanded of translators go beyond effective communication.

It's not only words
Translators must bridge linguistic and cultural gaps between two groups that cannot speak the same language. This means translating concepts, instead of providing a literal word-for-word version. If it is required to translate documents or to carry on negotiations with a foreign partner, then an incorrect translation (accidentally or due to lack of knowledge) can threaten the business venture with failure.

Language is a living being
Professional linguists must continuously study their working languages, because the body of spoken and written words used by native speakers is constantly evolving.

Computers can read it, but they just don't get it
Regardless of advances in technology, computers cannot replace translators. Obviously, computers are capable of compiling extremely large databases and providing a translation for a given word or expression within a split second and that is a lot faster than a human brain. However, computers cannot read between the lines and interpret the shades of meaning.

It takes a lot of research
A single word may mean different things according to the context. Love may be many wonderful things in a romantic way, but it represents a score of zero in a tennis match. Knowledge comes with experience and being familiar with the given field is of utmost importance. Translators with a strong background in one or more areas, as either professionals or enthusiasts, can provide a better version for an original material dedicated to that specific segment.

Speaking to a real audience
Translators are not only committed to providing their clients with the best services they can provide. They must also have the target audience in mind, for readers will be the end users of their product.

Many of these points have been well described by Word Awareness ( Do you have any other reasons that are not on this list? Please share! Next time I will discuss what constitutes a professional translator more in detail.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Time management – No more excuses for freelancers

As a freelancer, I always try to manage my time better; the distractions when working at home can be many, there is housework, pets, gardens, outdoor recreation, not to mention social media. Freelancers have great liberties when it comes to scheduling their time, as long as the job gets done, right?

My normal schedule looks like this:
- 6:30 Wake up, prepare kids lunches and breakfasts, eat breakfast and hustle them off to school.
- 7:30 Check email and social media
- 8:00 Work
- 10:00 Exercise (run, yoga etc.)
- 11:30 Lunch
- 12:00-3:30 Working hard
- 3:30 Kids get home from school, eat a snack and help with homework
- 4:30-5:30 Work
- 5:30-7:30 Dinner and family activities
- 8:30 Finish up work, social media

This is a good day, but I also have to throw in mommy taxi, doctor’s appointments, haircuts, grocery shopping, etc and I often end up working late in the evenings to “catch up”. Needless to say I have been studying all the time management tips I can find.

Here are some time management and organizational tips that I want to share:
· Set fixed working hours and stick to them. Do not allow housework, errands etc. into this time.
· Limit time you spend checking email, Facebook, LinkedIn etc., but if you hit a slump in work motivation, get out of your chair and have a snack, do some laundry or socialize for a short time.
· Get an office at home and close the door when you are working. This limits distractions.
· Tell your family and friends about your work hours and ask that they respect them.
· Learn to say no. Don’t take on too much
· Think like a business. Just because you are working from home does not mean you can take on all sorts of volunteer work or help out at school, church etc. all the time. One of the perks with working from home is that you can do this if you want to and have time to, but set limits.
· Organize!!! Create a filing system, both for electronic files, paper, email etc and always use it. Read and file right away. Create a project management system. This can be an electronic calendar, a “traditional” paper calendar, project management software etc. Find something that works for you.
· Create To do-lists and follow them. Prioritize, check off and add new tasks every day.
· Use “The 50 minute focus technique”. Focus intently on a project for 50 minutes without interruption and then unplug and take a 20 minute break.
· Consider hiring virtual assistants to handle administrative tasks and other chores so you can focus more on project work
· Outsource stuff that you are not good at or do not like doing. I for example have outsourced house cleaning and accounting.
· Schedule time to relax. Just as it is important to schedule your work time, it is also important to schedule time to do things that relaxes you and reenergizes you.

These are some of the tips I have learned or collected over the years. Do you have any other tips that I have forgotten? Please share!

This all looks good on paper, but can be hard to implement in reality sometimes. Recently I got introduced to the website/software “rescue time”. ( Here you can download an application that tracks your time, and if you choose to use the paid version you can also program it to block out certain media during certain hours. I have now used it for a week and it is an eye opener. I easily get sucked in to social media for example, and this one tells you how much. Here are the results from my week:

This dashboard shows me my productivity, efficiency and what kind of work and distractions I have been spending time on. Notice the tall pillar on the left? That is Facebook activity during the week. Hmmm…… At least the productive pillar on the right is equally as high, but…

I find this tool very useful for documenting my time and hopefully it will also lead to better time management. Comments? Questions?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Useful links for marketing your freelance translation business

I will continue on my marketing focus a bit more. During my quest to become an entrepreneurial linguist I have stumbled upon a few web resources that I found very useful. Here are some of them:

Shoestring Marketing – tips for free marketing

Free press release – write and publish press releases for free

The Wealthy Freelancer – lots of business tips for freelancers

Mombizcoach – for all of you who try to balance being a mom and an entrepreneur

SEO Wizardry – a blog with tons of tips on how to use social media

Rescue time - a nifty little tool for all of you who get sucked in to all the social media, you are using, email or just browsing. This will keep track of what you spend your time on and if you choose the paid version you can set the program to block you from certain things on the web during certain time periods.

Keepass - a free open-source password manager for all the passwords we have these days

Mozy - online backup of your computer, free or low cost, easy to manage and does not suck your memory or hard drive while backing up.

I also know a lot of great translator bloggers that I will share later on. Do you have any sites where you find useful business information? Please share!

Strategic Marketing of Translation Services

This is a book I found online by accident and I am glad I did. It is rare to find a marketing book targeted to translators. "The Insiders Guide to Strategic Marketing of Translation Services, by A.M. Sall is just that. As a freelancer or a small translation business it is important to market your services in order to thrive. This book give you “The 7 Parts of an Effective Strategic Translation Service Marketing System”, starting with building your moral and intellectual armors and creating a marketing mindset. Not every linguist is born with a marketing mindset, right? Then the book tells you how to create a marketing plan and do market research. It also introduces its own “Strategic Translation Services Marketing System”. You get valuable information about how to submit to portals, directories, translation agencies and how to create publicity for yourself. I found the book very useful and it gives lots of examples and practical advice. You can find the book at and you can preview the first section for free. The book can be downloaded directly from the site for $18.75, but sssshh… don’t tell anyone. We do not want everyone to become great at marketing their language services do we?

Can translators be entrepreneurial?

That thought did not cross my mind when I first started out as a freelance translator seven years ago. Translators are linguists and more creative. Sure, my educational background is in international marketing and my professional background in product marketing, but I never thought to apply this directly onto my freelance business, at least not consciously. Granted my freelancing business has thrived, but me an entrepreneur? Nah....

Until now! Yesterday I had a consultation session with the translator colleague and entrepreneur Judy Jenner under the subject "The Entrepreneurial Linguist". Judy believes that freelance translators are entrepreneurs running their own business and need to think like entrepreneurs too. The session was packed with marketing advice and business planning and gave me lots of practical tips on how to become a successful entrepreneur.

Here is my entrepreneurial to do list:
- do a SWOT-analysis on me and Swedish Translation Services
- define my competitive advantage
- define my ideal clients
- update my website to attract my ideal clients
- search engine optimization
- create marketing texts
- get media coverage
- create a local and global marketing strategy

I cannot wait to get started on this and looking forward to nurturing my business and business thinking. Thanks Judy!

Judy Jenner runs her translation business together with her twin sister Dagmar and she also does business consultation, publishes articles and gives presentations on translation and entrepreneurship. For more information, go to