Why Be A Translator
I have often said, “if I did not love translation, I would hate it.” I love making English sentences out of Japanese ones. I do not love the deadlines, the pressure, and the critical feedback. It money pays the bills (or doesn’t!), but the money always seem to be gone as soon as it comes in. Such is life.
Speaking, Reading and Writing Two Languages, Start Here
There are many websites available for finding document translation work. I recommend beginning with ProZ.com. It is a well established site with a fairly high volume of offers for work. One of the great things about your ProZ.com profile is that you can update it at any time.
To be a successful translator, you need to have the following skills in the following order:
- Deliver complete work
- Deliver work on time
- Do accurate translation
- Have a competitive rate.
Which is to say, it is more important to do accurate translation than it is to have a competitive rate. It is more important to deliver work on time than it is to do accurate translation. It is more important to do complete work than it is to deliver work on time. Ideally, you should do all four; but if you have to choose, choose he first one first.
How it Works
You can set up a filter to show you jobs that you will be interested in. Be sure to check the search results at least once a day. There will be two types of jobs listed on ProZ.com. In the first type, they will be asking for bids, and sometimes you have to pay ($1 or 1 euro) to bid. I recommend that you not worry too much about these kinds of jobs.
The second type of job is where they will ask you to submit your resume and your rate. Usually with this type of job, they will send you a short translation exam and give you a few days to complete it. With this type of job, if you do well of the exam, they will keep your resume on file, then contact you by email when they have a job for you.
My experience is that translation agencies in North America and Europe pay better and treat you better than companies in Asia. I only worked for one company in Japan, and they took forever to pay me (they actually paid me on March 11 for work I did on December 20th. The normal pay time is 30 days or less.) The companies I worked for in India and Singapore always wanted a lower rate and did not provide me with any background information. I never passed an exam for a company in China.
Conversely, the companies I have worked for in the US, Canada and UK
- Provide lexicons
- Sometimes provide actual translation software
- Provide guidelines such as technical and style guides
- Pay a good rate
- Don’t talk down to me in email.
Edisense in Bangalore never talked down to me, and did provide lexicons, and were always respectful; only the project did not take off as expected, and there were times when I had to wait 3 months to get paid. I never thought I could get the sense of ‘being talked down to’ in an email, but I certainly have. I have detected frustration from my US/CA/UK customers (especially when I am running past a deadline), but they have always managed to keep it respectful. Which is ironic to me, considering that they are by no means the same company.
Be Careful What You Ask For
If you get a job right away, there are a couple of things that you want to keep in mind. The best companies pay with a check or with a bank transfer. If companies pay by PayPal, they may take their time in paying you. Before you agree to do a job (“give confirmation”), be sure and ask clearly when the due date is (for example, if it is due ‘Friday’, does that mean the beginning of the day in the time zone they are in? or anytime on ‘Friday’ is fine, etc.), and what their expectations are in terms of quality and style. Do they want a perfect translation that they are going to publish on their website? Or do they just need a quick translation to get the basic meaning? Etc.