Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What is administrative quality for freelance translators?

Today I would like to go a bit deeper into my previous post about quality assurance for freelance translators, or any type of freelancer. I will start with administrative quality. This is again based on information I have received from the Swedish Association for Professional Translators (

All work is easier if you use structure and routines to improve quality. It is important to organize your work and not change routines that work very often, especially routines for accepting jobs, registering jobs, purchase orders, organization of your translation work, project management, deadlines, delivery, invoicing and accounting.

Without administrative routines it is next to impossible to deal with possible complaints, since you cannot track your jobs or find proof for your case. Stress levels are elevated when you cannot find things, and the profitability decreases if you need to do rework for things you cannot find. Perhaps you forget to invoice for a job you performed, or cannot invoice properly, since you lost the purchase order.

I am not here to impose a certain way to do things for you. If you have a system that works, great! If not, try to find one that works for you. Create a filing system on your computer that makes it easy for you to find things. Use an accounting software and invoicing software. I file things by customer, project and date and also file all emails by customer. That works well for me and I can find and trace jobs easily. The most important thing is that you can go back and find that PO, that invoice, or that translation you did 11 months ago.

Do you have any other advice for administrative quality and organization? All advice welcome! Have a great, stress-free summer and good luck with organizing your business.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Is warm sunny weather affecting your productivity or schedule?

This is the second week that my children are on their summer break from school and the warm summer weather has finally reached Park City. More than ever I feel the need to plan my work time and set productivity goals, and I have noticed a shift in my hours. In the day, the warm sunny weather and my two wonderful children are pulling me away from the office, resulting in work still remaining to be done in the evenings. Good thing I am a night owl. I get up early, check email, plan for what needs to get done today, but then I take a several hour break and enjoy our garden, go to the outdoor pool or hiking with my children, plus play mommy taxi for camps and play date arrangements. My iPhone is a great help for the communication with my clients and the planning. Then I get back to the office late afternoon and start working again, often into the late hours of the evening. And do you know what? I kind of like it. I like that I can spend time with my children and enjoy the short, but fabulous, mountain summer AND work at the same time, just later in the evening. Long live freelancing!

Does your schedule change during the summer? Are you as productive? Please share!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What I learned about improving cash flow - 9 tips for freelancers

Tonight was the first time I attended the monthly meetings held by "Park City Women's Business Network". These are fun social events with a learning twist. Most of all, I enjoyed the networking with other business women in Park City. Tonight's speaker talked about improving your cash flow. The audience was very diverse and many also had business facilities and employees, but a lot of the tips were also useful for freelancers in general and me in particular with home based translation business.

Here are some of the tips I found useful for freelancers:

1. Improve profits by analyzing return on investment by customer and product line. I can very easily see from past result reports who are my most profitable customers and also which business activities that generate the most money (translation in my case).

2. Maintain customer loyalty (we all know this one, but it can never be repeated too much). Fix the problems, do something extra, follow up and ask for repeat business.

3. Sales and marketing - spend money to make money, but spend it wisely. Luckily we freelance translators have many low cost alternatives through Internet and social media.

4. Have the right tools available for your business - accounting tools, translation tools, project management tools

5. Implement a quality improvement program

6. Facilities - downsize, renegotiate lease terms or work from home. Insulate roof, attic, weather-strip doors, energy-efficient lighting, auto shutoff, check out tax credits.

7. Recycle and reuse - print on both sides of paper, buy reusable water bottles

8. Accounts receivable - be sure to put payment terms on your invoices and have a clear collection policy. Follow up with customer via phone and mail consistently and persistently. Consider requiring down payments of some portion for new customers.

9. Forecast cash flow and plan for future, retirement, have an exit plan

I also left the meeting feeling grateful that I work in a business where the level of financial investment is low and gladly skipped all tips about loans and financing. Now off to do some more translation work and improve my cash flow.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Four types of quality assurance for translators

The other day I received a pamphlet about quality for translators from The Swedish Association for Professional Translators (

One way to make the concept of quality easier to deal with for linguists, is to divide it up into four parts: administrative quality, linguistic quality, business quality and cultural quality. International quality standards focus mostly on administrative quality, since it is the easiest to measure. Linguistic quality is the most important for language professionals. Business quality is defined as the relation to the customer, and cultural quality is when a translation speaks to the end customer/reader. All four are important for linguists and warrant further investigation.

Administrative quality:
Routines for handling translation projects, inquiry, offer, order confirmation, translation, control/check, delivery, invoicing, follow up, archiving.

Linguistic quality can only be achieved if you:
- Only accept projects that are within your expertise
- Have access to suitable, current reference material
- Use relevant tools that increase quality, for example translation memory and spell checking
- Proofread the end result carefully

Business quality can only be achieved if you:

- In advance check with the customer what they want/what is needed
- Deliver a product that fulfill the terms agreed upon

Cultural quality can only be achieved if you:
- Are thoroughly familiar with the cultural context of the source text
- Translate the text based on the cultural environment of the target language so that the text will have the same meaning.

I found these definitions very useful. It is easier to work on quality assurance if you can break it up into these aspects and follow them. What do you think? Do you have a system for quality assurance?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The power of immersion for linguist

We linguists are usually all language lovers and most of us know two languages fluently and often have various degrees of knowledge of a few other languages. We might have studied other languages in school, or have been living in other countries. What is then the single most efficient way to learn a language, and the culture, of a country? I believe it is immersion!

Last weekend I was spending four days in Paris, one of my favorite cities, where I have also lived on two occasions for half a year at a time. On arrival I felt that I barely remembered any French at all, after having been away for fifteen years. By the time we left though I could once again get by in French and all of the culture came back to me, and I also could notice some cultural changes.

This started me thinking about the power of immersion for linguists. We work with languages every single day and the single most efficient way to keep up on all the small details of the “other” language, and the culture is immersion. It is important that we regularly and often immerse ourselves in the second or first language of ours. This is not only for pleasure, it is a necessity in order to keep up with all the nuances, changes, slang, borrowed expressions from other languages, and of course, the culture. Try to spend time in the country where they speak the language you are working with as often as possible, read literature, newspapers, magazines etc. Speak the language as often as you can and listen to it as often as you can. It really works and makes you more and more proficient.

Fortunately for us, this has all become much easier with the Internet. I cannot afford to go to Sweden more than once a year, but then I usually stay at least a month. In between I read Swedish newspapers online, listen to Swedish radio online and here in Utah we have even formed a Swedish book club. We are 16 women that meets every six weeks to discuss a book that we have read and to just socialize in Swedish. I look forward to every single meeting.

Have you ever thought about how easily a child learns a second, or even a third language. This “ease” is usually achieved through immersion. For example Rosetta Stone has used immersion as a language teaching method. Granted, you cannot “immerse” yourself very easily through a computer, but it sure beats a regular text book and tape.

How do you keep up with your languages? Do you immerse yourself and how often do you get to do this?

A bientot!