Thursday, 26 May 2011

Updated List

This is what I currently use.

A few good online dictionaries/reference links:

Priberam Portuguese Dictionary

Oxford English Dictionary

Spanish Dictionaries

Look up terms at Proz

Look up or post new terms at Translatorscafe


Dictionary that translates to and from several languages

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Congratulations to the Vancouver Canucks!

Looks like the Vancouver Canucks have a serious chance at the Stanley Cup this year.

Latest news on the Canucks.

Here is a story about a lottery ticket winner who got his playoff tickets and arrived in Vancouver via


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Client Experience #1 - Avoiding Traps

This is a brief story about one of my first clients and hopefully this can help you avoid a similar situation.  Out of respect, the anonymity of clients and companies should be maintained.

So this was one of my first jobs that involved a face-to-face interaction with the client, as opposed to online work.  I found the job through craigslist, and the client had a officespace in one of the trendiest areas in town, so I was excited.

When I finally got past the intercoms, and security clearance I was in a small office, very professional and fully equipped with computers and graphic design paraphernalia.  I felt at ease knowing the place seemed legit and my client and his assistant were friendly from the start.

After negotiations and contract signing I walked out with a color hard-copy of the material to be translated (just a few pages) and a really good impression.  The initial pages were a test, no doubt, to see if I was capable of the 100 page job that would follow.

The only thing was they did not have experience with translation, so we agreed on a flexible rate of $7 to $10 per page depending on content.  $10 the max that a page could be worth, and since most of the material was text saved as graphics, more or less text could appear on any given page.  So far so good, in fact I thought I had struck an awesome deal since some pages didn't have more than a couple paragraphs. 

Fast forward to my first milestone for the project, which was agreed as 100 pages for roughly $800 and more to come (estimated 10 pages).  I didn't think much of this and was happy to keep on going, and negotiate the additional pages later.  Terrible mistake.

Funny things started happening once I started the actual project.  On the first meeting to receive the milestone payment (33%) for the work, I was getting praise for my work.  I was asked if I could also translate Italian, and that (he) was going to be taking the presentation that I translated to said country, and that there would be tons of new clients, translation opportunities, etc.

Awesome.  I walked out with cash in hand, with the idea that I had secured a solid client.  Fast forward to a few weeks later.

I get paid the entire amount for the 100 pages agreed, and then the "remaining" pages arrive.  I won't go into detail, but let's just say the agreed pages went from 10 to 50, and the content changed drastically to extremely technical content that should be worth much more money.  At this point figured out how to extract the text from the PDF's using inDesign, did a word count only to find I was getting paid .03c per word on a job for a multi-million dollar franchise for pennies.

The very contents that I was translating were extremely sensitive in nature, due to competitors and such, which in turn prompted me to sign contracts.  In other words, I realized what had happened, my client had provided graphic design (outsourced) and translation (outsourced) and increased the value of his work tremendously.  In fact I doubt he did much other than put his signature on the file after underpaying freelancers to do the graphic design, wording and translation.  Such is the way of the business though.

To add insult to injury, the client who was friendly and willing to pay upfront ended up trying to catch me for my word on the "estimate" for 10 pages.  In other words, he expected to pay for 10 extra pages, and receive 40 pages of even more compressed/complex content than the original 100 pages claiming a "misunderstanding".

Finally when I went to receive the final payment with the adjustments, I was confronted about the charges and had a 1 hour negotiation battle over a $30 difference. I refused to leave the office until they agreed on it, after being guilt tripped to think I was overcharging.  Final pay .03c per word over 150 pages, which I settled for.  Unbelievable.

In short, the client played opposum at the start and lured me in.  It was my own fault to agree per page instead of per word.  Lesson learned.  The other lesson is to state terms that if additional content is added, it may carry a different rate dependent on the content.  ESPECIALLY when the content has nothing to do with the previous material.

Another trap to beware, and this is really common, is the "promise more work".  I fell for this one nicely here since the story made sense to me : client needs presentation to travel, will show other clients etc.  But after years of experience, those promises are usually empty and I have heard them several times.  It sucks because as most freelancers know, finding work can be difficult and rarely do you turn down new jobs right?  So some employers will "dangle" future jobs and promises (sometimes true), but beware of this motivational ploy.

That about sums it up, no edits.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Practical Freelance Translating Tips

This is a quick guide to get you started. It should provide the basics for you set up shop as a freelance translator, step by step. Comments, additions and contributions are encouraged.

Step 1

Basically here you are looking to find your reasons for considering the idea of professional translation. Identify what languages you are most proficient with, and which language pairs are the most PROFITABLE. An uncommon language pair can earn you a lot of money (i.e. Russian>Arabic, Chinese>Spanish), so make sure that you do your research (covered later).

Step 2

Figure out how much you are going to charge and how you will position yourself. Here is a quick excerpt from the Pricing guide from the book on translation rates, and hopefully it can help you find an ideal price to pitch. You can up-sell these rates but I wouldn’t recommend more than a cent or two initially.

General Pricing Structure

Tier 1
0.1c to 0.2c per word:

It amazes me that people will bid rates such as these, and still pay their bills. Even if you are a complete beginner, I would not accept such a rate EVER and I think clients that pay for services at this rate are doing a disservice to translators everywhere. Clearly quality isn’t a concern for these clients, and chances are these are not clients you would want to keep.

But if you are desperate, and it’s a short article it could be worth taking on a job like this for your portfolio. At least you’re getting paid right, and you can use it as a sample for a real client later. Think of it as a sort of “internship” job.

Tier 2
0.3c to .10c per word:

This is probably the actual “real” rate that most translators get. This is where you ideally want to be initially, and even with minimal experience you should be able to command .03c or .04c.

I have found that the .04c even though abysmal, can provide you with at least $1500 per month if you have constant work. It might sound like a lot of work, but if you’re using the optimal target language and a few other techniques it’s not all that bad.

Tier 3

Not going to elaborate on this range since it’s unattainable right now, but once you have the experience, qualifications, tons of clients, tons of associations and societies, etc you can command this. Getting here will require you to spend on licenses, software, and others.

Step 3
Self-Promotion and Client Search

This is probably the core of the book right here, so I’ll summarize. First things first, you need to have a understanding of the translation industry. Not to delve into specifics (data provided later), freelancers account for about 80% of the translation industry. So differentiation is key, whether it’s a niche language pair you have going or superior website design/SEO skills, certifications, educational background, skills etc.

a) The Elance route

With this in mind let’s setup a simple way to get your online presence going and so you can start searching for jobs. I would recommend starting out on Elance, and here is another brief excerpt:

The first client-

So you start searching for work on Elance, and you find a translation (bid etc). It’s exciting to wait and see if you will get the first job, but let’s make sure that you don’t mess up from the beginning before you even click that “submit proposal” button.

First of all, look up other translators that work in YOUR language pair. Don’t search for jobs but search as if you were the one needing the translation. You’re going to notice a huge variation of prices, generally agencies offering much lower prices (usually mass-outsourced) and independent translators offering higher quality/specialization for higher prices. Some charge per word, others per hour.

Just make sure you write a good proposal (like a cover letter) that illustrates your key skills/experience and that your pricing is reasonable.

Anyway, back to the first client. I would recommend that for the first jobs you undercut. This is where the title of this book is going to start making sense to you. It’s a war out there to find jobs as well as to keep them, having freelance skills can really save you.

Post your proposal after you have a good notion of what your competition is charging. General rule of thumb if you’re confused? Go with .03c or under if it’s a small project. Do not accept any massive projects (over 50k words) for less than .04c especially if you don’t know the client. God knows how picky (or exploitative) they might be and those 50k words may as well be worth your time.

Undercut. Ruthlessly at that. Even if it means earning less so you can get that first quick job in. In the Clients section I’ll go in depth on how to determine “Client Types” , which can give you hints on how to price based on the client himself and information provided about him/her , etc. For now just use common sense. Send the proposal(s) and wait.

Besides Elance, you can use tons of other job board sites such as Translatorscafe(free), Proz(membership), Freelancer, and Contractbot. However, I’m not familiar with their protection policies/escrow. Same thing goes for craigslist and other pages you can use to find jobs.


Here is where I’ll quickly explain how to set up your website, promote it and other ways to find work. I’m no SEO or internet marketing person, but with common sense and some research I found simple ways to get this done without having to learn everything from scratch. Here are a few tips.

I’ll go with what worked for me, which was lowest (or no) cost and max impact. So first I went to Wix and setup an account there, you can create a free-flash website with Wix, and use it with no limitations. It looks awesome, has a great interface and very simple to use. You can spend hours customizing your site and it’s all drag and drop, and it does all the flash programming for you.

It’s free to setup, but if you want to link it to a domain name for it to look more professional. I would recommend either Go Daddy or Network Solutions, since I had no issue at all integrating those two.

You could just keep Wix but your website would be hosted as your account @ Wix. What I chose to do was pay them monthly so I could use the Wix tools, but hosted on my own web-site domain. That way you can also add email accounts and connect it all in one.

In other words:

-Go to Wix and signup, try it out

-If you have your “business” name or freelancer pen name etc, and want it as a .com (i.e., look it up on Go Daddy and see if its available. It cost me a few bucks per month for mine, so I recommend it. You don’t have to buy your domain now, just check to make sure someone hasn’t taken it already and keep working on your site for free on Wix.

-Now you ideally have a Wix account and a Go Daddy or Network Solutions account.

-Get a paid membership to Wix, which then makes it easy for you to connect both website (Wix) and domain (Go Daddy or Network Solutions). I went with Network Solutions since they offer coupons ($70 ad credit for Facebook and Google). So once your read to promote set these up, you can adjust them to spend that credit as you see fit (i.e. daily budget for ads).

-Purchase email addresses to go with your domain name as well, you only really need a couple though.

*Optional-Translator Office 3000, this is a pretty cool program that does all the invoicing and annoying chores that normally take up your time. Check it out here.

Also don’t forget to market your site with SEO tools as well, I made that mistake when I first launched and a few days of basic SEO has changed things dramatically.

Check out iBusiness Promoter for now, I'll be going into more detail about other SEO alternatives/strategy later.

Make sure to take full advantage of social networks during your promotion campaign as well. Linkedn is fundamental when searching for clients and making contacts in the translator community.

Quick Tips for Efficient Translating

Make sure you are able to translate without CAT tools at any given time. I think that many translators rely too much on CAT (computer automated) translations and forget the real art form. Of course that maybe my own biased point of view, but nonetheless they do have their use.

Many clients and freelancers a like use Trados for this purpose, which I tend to avoid but it’s necessary for keeping projects from multiple translators on track. Honestly, Wordfast is free ( and has similar features or you can download it as well.

I personally like Babylon, since it has multiple functions, and I use it almost as a “on demand” google translate for a word/term, when you don’t have internet (i.e. laptop on the beach/mountains). It’s good because it has many dictionaries compiled into the database, so it’s perfect for referencing. Click here to check it out.

Other good sites are the Term pages on Proz, and Translatorscafe have discussions where you can ask translators for help for multiple opinions. Wordreference is good as well. Wikipedia is brilliant too for specific terms, and you can check the translation on the corresponding page of the other language once you look up the article.

What you should always do is have a txt file for your terms, even if it’s not well organized. Every word you research is a valuable source of information for future translations. Of course most CAT tools do this for you already, and that is why a term library is important. But for those of us that like to do things manually, just jot down the terms in a text file and save it.

This works well when you translate manually and don’t want to waste time researching a term that you don’t know the exact word for, but understand the meaning well enough to keep translating. Put quotes or <> around these words and go back to them later. When you’re done just CTRL + F and find and replace those once you’re done researching.

More to come soon, if you enjoyed this article, visit the blog @ for more articles like this one. Keep in mind this guide was written for informational purposes only, I do not represent any of the companies/associations listed here within.

All Links & Resources:

innTranslation- Cool website run by a group of independent translators, in flash.

Wix: Flash-website for free, easy to design

Go Daddy: Cheapest domain/hosting solution

Network Solutions: Another good hosting solution

iBusiness Promoter: SEO package to promote your site

Translators Office 3000: Integrated solution to integrate your freelancing with business, including invoicing, accounting and repetitive office tasks

Babylon: Perfect offline translation package, free to download

Translatorscafe: Job board, translation discussion and more

Proz: Job board, translation discussion and more

Elance: Job board with inbuilt escrow protection

Contractbot: Job board

Freelancer: Job board

Friday, 20 May 2011

Welcome to Guerrilla Translator!

This blog will be setup much the same way as the book, and here you will be able to access the most important parts. Since the idea also consists of having contributions from other translators (experiences, advice,etc) that could potentially be featured in the book, I encourage posting any material to the blog in the form of : tools, tips, rants, experiences, and anything else of interest.