Category: client relations

Toil required, obscurity optional

Yesterday I attended the first in a series of webinars for researchers about the value of tweeting about their work and afterwards a colleague tweeted a link to a blog post he wrote last month for academics on the same subject:

JasminMuj - Social media for academics snip

I think his arguments are valid for translators, editors, writers, and artists as well. At the end he presents a primer for how to use Twitter and some general tips for interacting on social media — including the familiar advice to specialize and to share your knowledge.

My two cents: If you don’t want to use Twitter, you could apply his advice to your posts on Yahoo and Linked In groups and other forums where your potential clients, readers, audience, producers, grantors (etc.) are likely to congregate.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have many opportunities to mingle in person with professional colleagues on a day-to-day or even month-to-month basis. Twitter, Facebook, and online discussion groups allow me to step out of my office once in a while to see and be seen, hear and be heard. These are not just water-cooler conversations among colleagues — I sometimes find myself at the table with publishers and policy analysts.

What are your tips for interacting on social media? Any success stories?


A Meeting of the Minds . . .

. . . in person! (I had to add “in person,” because as translators and editors, we’re always working towards a meeting of the minds. Sometimes we’re downright telepathic!)

The meeting is #ATA55, the 55th annual conference of the American Translators Association, this year in Chicago. And the meeting within a meeting is Brainstorm Networking, a brand new event masterminded by ATA president-elect David Rumsey and organized by ATA’s Business Practices Education Committee.

BN ad on ATA site
The gist of the event is that participants gather around café tables (standing tables that accommodate six), introduce themselves briefly and exchange business cards, then select a question from the appropriate envelope and discuss possible solutions. There are five questions in each envelope (one envelope per round), so there should be something for everyone. After ten minutes, a chime sounds and everyone has a minute or two to move to a different table, the idea being to meet five new people in each of the four rounds.

There’s no quiz at the end, no reporting of findings. I don’t know if there are any “right” answers, but participants may find that some answers are better than others. That’s the point of the discussion. The questions are business related, not specific to any particular language pair or specialization, and generalizable to variety of situations. They cover client relations, working with colleagues, negotiating rates, subcontracting, interpreting booth etiquette, job conflicts . . .

Here are a few examples:

Scenario 3: Momo has his translations edited by Kemal before delivering them to the client. Regardless of Kemal’s payment terms, Momo should wait for payment from the client before paying Kemal’s invoice. True or False?
Scenario 8: Boryanna is a well-trained and experienced Bulgarian translator. She has no interpreting experience, although she has taken several interpreter training courses. Boryanna receives a call from a local agency needing a Bulgarian interpreter for a patient at a nearby hospital. Boryanna turns down the job, citing her lack of interpreting experience, but the PM insists that she take the job — there are no other Bulgarian linguists in the area. What should Boryanna do?
> Is it ethical for Boryanna to take the assignment?
> What if the assignment instead is to interpret a business presentation?
Scenario 13: Vladimir’s assignment is to translate some marketing materials into Russian. He translates the materials, keeping close to the original in general, but taking a more creative approach when necessary. When Vladimir calls the client to follow up, the client reveals that he was unhappy with the translation. The client sends him a copy of the reworked translation: it is an unidiomatic, word-for-word translation. What should Vladimir do?
> What if the client reveals that he personally rewrote the translation?
> What if the reworked translation is uninspired, but passable?

Lots of food for thought here, and fodder for discussion. And although this session is only an hour long, you can continue the conversation at the Business Practices Happy Hour taking place immediately afterwards. And you can participate in discussions like this year-round, and get answers to your own dilemmas, on the Business Practices List, (Note, you must be an ATA member to join, and you must give your full name when applying.)

I’m in countdown mode now — only 48 hours or so until I run out to vote and then head to the airport. I’m looking forward to meeting clients and colleages and colleagues-turned-friends as well as members of the fantastic ATA staff (and staff-members-turned-friends) in Chicago! In person!

P is for Praise

serbengIf you’ve ever been praised by a colleague, teacher, mentor, or friend, you’ll understand how I feel about this message I got last night from my colleague, teacher, mentor, and friend, Svetolik Paul Djordjević.

Hi, Paula,

I finished the batch (A to E) last Thursday. All I can say is that you were born to be an editor and proofreader. It’s absolutely incredible to me how you could do it. Yes, you yourself goofed a few times (typos and word order — very obvious things), just enough to show that even you cannot be perfect. But again, I am amazed at the quality of work you produce. To repeat myself, it’s absolutely incredible! There is nobody that I know (or have known) who is as thorough and exact in this particular field as you are. I am simply stunned.

If you are finished with the second bunch of letters, please send it to me.

We are working on his English into Serbian medical dictionary, which so far has 52,929 entries (counted by number of line breaks), and that will increase as I work on P through Z. Paul compiled the dictionary and I’m editing and proofreading. We’ve been working together now for about 11 years.

In late 2002, I begged him to let me help with his Serbian and Croatian into English Medical Dictionary as soon as I got wind of it. After some months of hesitation (he probably thought I was nuts), he agreed, and we met in the parking lot of a chain restaurant off I-95 between Baltimore and Wilmington, where he handed me a printout of the dictionary. I had nothing for him, but it felt like a ransom exchange, briefcase and all! He assured me we would be done inside of six months (the dictionary was published in December 2009).

Our initial working method involved Paul dictating changes to me over the phone during his lunch hour from the translation department of the Social Security Administration. I had questions about every single entry. Now our methods are more streamlined, and I ask a lot fewer questions. Over the years we’ve had occasion to discuss medical terms in many contexts, some unfortunately on a very personal level. Our conversations also touch on philosophy, religion, politics, and history. Nor’easters and the Santa Ana winds.

Thank you, Paul — it has been and continues to be an honor and a pleasure.

The Serbian and Croatian into English Medical Dictionary, revised 2nd edition, is now available on CD. Print editions (with errata) are also available at a reduced price. See

Below are two pages of Paul’s working notes, which I used in the slide deck of the ATA presentation he gave about the dictionary in 2005:

Working document -- pelvis terms

Working document — pelvis terms

Taber's, Stedman's, Dorland's

Taber’s, Stedman’s, Dorland’s

And in case you were wondering, the English into Serbian volume should be ready in about . . . six months.

Falling in love with your author

IMG_9299_2013-05-23Although I don’t recommend it, sometimes it just happens.

I’m speaking of a long-distance, intellectual romance, of course, not a physical relationship.

What brought this on?

I just finished working with an author on preparing a grant application for the PEN/Heim Translation Fund. It was rather spur of the moment, especially considering that the author only contacted me at the end of December. I found the grant website on January 4th, and the grant deadline was today, 20 days from our intitial contact.

The whole thing unfolded like a whirlwind romance: Tentative first conversations, looking for signs that he likes me (my translation, that is), reciprocating compliments about his writing, agreeing to commit to apply for the grant, delegating roles — who would be responsible for what sections (am I being too bossy, does he like take-charge women?), constant e-mails back and forth as we compile information and check each others’ work, getting a little jealous reading in his bio that he’s worked with other English translators, staying up all night together as the deadline looms, the last-minute flurry of messages right up until the end . . .

And now that it’s over, I wonder when he’ll call me again. 😉

First impressions

So, when meeting someone or corresponding with someone for the first time, is it better to say “I recognize you!” when you’re not quite sure and risk being wrong than to not acknowledge the possible previous contact and risk the other person remembering (or discovering) that you’ve met before?

The question comes up because I just responded to a post on the EFA Job List (great member benefit, y’all) by a researcher in behavioral economics. I recently took a course by Dan Ariely of Duke University on this subject and I thought her name sounded familiar, but didn’t want to spend time looking through course materials because these jobs always go quickly — there are so many qualified people who respond. Anyway, I mentioned I had taken Ariely’s course.

After sending my reply, I looked at this researcher’s list of publications, and there it was — she has collaborated with Ariely. I’m almost sure she was in one of the class videos, and if not, her work was certainly mentioned.

Should I have started my response with “I recognize you!” even though I wasn’t absolutely sure? It would not have gotten me the assignment (which was filled before I answered), but I would probably have made a better impression, and perhaps given her some pleasure.

Is there a downside to taking a chance? Say I’m on an e-mail discussion group for editors and there’s a Jane Smith in the group. I’m at an editing workshop and run into a person wearing a Jane Smith name tag. I extend my hand and say, “Jane Smith, great to finally meet you in person!” But it’s not the Jane Smith from the list. Would Jane’s initial pleasure of being so warmly greeted outweigh the befuddlement of not knowing what I’m talking about?

And say I run into “the” Jane Smith, but I can’t remember if the person in the group spells her name Jane or Jayne, and not being 100% sure I don’t say anything. Then a third person comes up to us and says, “Surely you know each other from the list,” and I’m embarrassed and feel compelled to explain why I didn’t say something sooner.

~  ~  ~

Lots of people claim to recognize me. I’ve often been perplexed by their exclamations of pleasure in meeting me again, but never offended. On the other hand, I don’t like having to remind someone who doesn’t remember me that we’ve already met or even worked together in the past.

Sigh. It’s only a thought experiment, not a real experiment, but I guess I have my answer. Too bad there are no do-overs with first impressions.

Where do you go to meet clients?

I think about this a lot. Where are my clients, how can I meet them, and what can I do to make a good impression?

I use what I consider passive methods, like my ATA and EFA directory listings and my website(s), as well as what I consider “fishing” methods, like membership in LinkedIn groups where potential clients may be hanging out (swimming? feeding?).

Participating in professional association discussion groups is another way to meet potential clients, not to mention colleagues who may serve as referrals or even become clients at some point.

Trade association or chamber of commerce meetings have been touted as fertile ground for client contact (my limited experience is mixed, but more about that another time).

But for translators, one of the best places to meet potential clients is the ATA Translation Company Division (TCD) Conference coming up in just two weeks10 days(!).

In a recent online discussion about whether novice freelancers could benefit from attending the TCD conference, Evelyn Yang Garland, Assistant Administrator of the TCD, had this to say (I quote her with permission):

As one of the organizers of the TCD conference, I would say that [novice freelancers] can benefit from attending the conference in several ways.

1. Meeting potential clients. The biggest challenge that new translators and interpreters often face is building up a client base. Going to conferences and having face-to-face interactions with potential clients can be very helpful. I actually just shared a story of a freelancer colleague on the ATA-TCD Facebook page. She attended the TCD conference in 2009 and obtained loyal clients.

I’m not suggesting that every translator who attends the TCD conference will go home with a bunch of clients in hand. It takes time to develop a good business relationship with certain clients before they are comfortable working with you. In my case, some of my clients have come to me years after we first met.

2. Learning about their clients’ perspective. “Know Your Client”– as they say. One of the most effective ways of getting to know your clients is to spend time with them, listen to their concerns, and talk to them. Instead of having one track for company owners and one for freelancers, we have identified a theme (“business growth”) and a number of topics that are of interest to both company owners and freelancers to encourage more interaction in the sessions.

3. Meeting colleagues. Again, in my own experience, many good clients are referrals from colleagues. Plus, many colleagues are very willing to share their experience and advice to help new translators/interpreters. No matter where you are in your career, informal mentors you meet at different events can play a big role in your career development — another reason to meet more colleagues.

4. Continuing education. We designed the conference program with freelancers’ interests in mind. A lot of the topics we’ll discuss at the conference apply to both freelancers and company owners. For example, what to do when a client complains, whether search engine optimization (SEO) is an effective marketing tool, how to assess the value of a translation tool, what to make of translation-related standards, how to plan for retirement…

More information is available on the TCD website (use this short link if you want to share: Click here to jump directly to session descriptions and speaker bios.

Oh, did I mention the conference is in Orlando, Florida? (If WordPress is doing its job, a picture of a hotel pool will appear here, so I don’t need to post one.)