Off to the Ardennes (Belgium)

Hi all,

I’ll spend next week hiking in the Ardennes (Belgium). Back in May with new tips and stories to share!

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Most unusual translation jobs #1

Two months ago, a Dutchman contacted me by e-mail to ask me whether I’d be interested in working with him on the lyrics of a song he’d written for an obscure Dutch female singer.

He’d learnt French at school, some 40 years ago, by reading Balzac and Zola; now he was trying to write a love song for her to sing. I told him it would be my pleasure to have a look at the texts for him. After all, it would make a very pleasant change from the documents on EU legislation I was translating at the time.

I spent about two hours correcting the texts (mostly grammatical mistakes, due to his rather rusty French) and suggesting a few stylistic improvements here and there. After I’d sent the text back to him, we had a very interesting e-mail discussion on the limits of grammatical correctness in lyrics and poetry in general, which truly helped to broaden my horizons. A very enjoyable experience!
But the European legislation was waiting. So back down to earth I came…

Could you share the story of your most original translation job with us here?

Are you a Blackberry addict?

Please, take a few minutes to read this article: Marijuana Trumps Blackberries for Productivity!

Working part-time as a freelance translator #1

This article is the first in a series on “Working part-time as a freelance translator”, in which I’ll share my experience of moving from an 8-hour working day to a 4-hour one.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been undergoing the experience of working part-time. Before discussing the benefits of this decision and the strategies I’ve implemented to reach my goal, I’d like to take a moment to identify the factors which led me to take this decision:

Insight into the value of time and money

 While I was reading Tim Ferriss’ thought-provoking book, The 4 Hour Work Week (for those interested, Tim Ferriss’ website also contains most of the principles he presents in the book), I realized that spending 8 to 10 hours translating texts was not, in fact, what I really wanted to do. First of all, because it meant that I didn’t have enough time to devote to other projects and activities and, secondly, I realized that I was actually working for the sake of working. In short, my relation to time and money wasn’t very healthy and it could even be said that I was some kind of workaholic. Please don’t misinterpret my words:  I truly love translation, it’s simply that I’d like my enthusiasm for this activity to remain intact and not be spoiled by some kind of overdose. There are also many other things I want to do and to be before I retire!

I’ll come back to the time/money relation in a future article.

 Is my job really healthy?

The second factor which urged me to give part-time work a try was made up of the following two questions:

Is working 10 hours a day at the computer and running from deadline to deadline good for me?

Am I really enjoying it?

The answer was a double “No”. Spending so much time at the computer has certainly had negative consequences, not only for my health, but also for my social life and probably on the quality of my work as well (is it possible to keep working at full steam for 10 hours, day in, day out and still maintain one’s best standards?). At some point, I also realized that I was no longer enjoying translation as much as I used to.

So I decided it was time to act and to take my life in hand again.

In the series of articles on this topic, I’ll be explaining how I managed to move from 8/10 hours a day to 4 hours by applying a few simple principles.

Don’t hesitate to share your own experiences of working as a freelance translator here!

Make your best clients your best ambassadors…

A few weeks ago, while sending an invoice to a major customer of mine, a very influential Dutch NGO, I decided that it would be a good idea to include a few of my business cards, together with a note saying, “Hi xxx, I’m including a few of my business cards. If, by any chance, you happen to know someone who needs my services, please do not hesitate to pass one on to him or her. Many thanks, Jonathan”.

Yesterday, I received a phone call from a lady working for another Dutch NGO. “Hi Jonathan”, she said, “I just got your phone number from xxx. We’re looking for a translator to work for us on a regular basis…”.

Like me, as a freelance translator, you probably can’t afford to spend a fortune on marketing campaigns. The solution is simple: use your satisfied customers: make them your best ambassadors. Word of mouth is a marketing tool that’s as old as the hills, but you don’t have to wait for it to happen by itself, you can stir it into action.

All it takes is a little imagination to come up with any number of ways you can ask your clients to become your ambassadors. Who knows, they may even be flattered by the knowledge that you think their opinion carries such weight. It costs nothing and it works wonders!

Try it and share your experience here!

Outsourcing… 5 good reasons!

In order to run your little business as a freelance translator you have to embody many roles at the same time: CEO/director, marketing specialist, administrative officer, web designer, call center, cleaner, personal assistant (to yourself, not the easiest person to deal with…), etc.

But how much time are you really devoting to your core activity , i.e. translation?

Recently, I decided to try outsourcing some of my paperwork (invoices and offers, and even some e-mails) to another freelancer. To this purpose, I used Elance, a website on which you can post a project to which freelancers from all over the world can react (a bit like Proz for translators). I was looking for a Dutch speaking person, as I mainly do business with Dutch companies, and I found a Dutch lady living in Senegal who was ready to help me!

I now have more free time (the paperwork had been taking me anything up to 30 min/day) and don’t have to worry any more about the paperwork accumulating in my office!

Here are the 5 good reasons:

  1. Paperwork is boring
    After a hard day’s work, there’s nothing more boring than sending invoices to clients or having to take care of your accounting. Having a person whom you trust to do it for you is such a relief!
  2. Paperwork takes time
  3. Paperwork costs money
    You time is money! Try calculating the amount of money you make per hour when translating. This will show you how much you lose when you take care of the paperwork yourself. This time=money equation can also be converted into the currency of free time, time for your family or for doing things you enjoy more.
  4. Outsourcing is not so difficult
    Outsourcing your administrative tasks is not as difficult as you might think. There are many websites where you can find freelancers who specialise in this kind of tasks, or you could consider hiring a student who needs some money to finance his/her studies. You can also take advantage of what Tim Ferriss calls geoarbitrage: thanks to new technologies, you can work with people all over the world. This means that you could employ someone in a lower income country and, at the same time, you can actually help this person. It’s a win-win situation: you will be paying much less than for the same services in, for example Europe or the US, while the person with whom you are working will earn more money than she may by doing a similar job in a local company. There is nothing unethical about geoarbitrage!
    On a website like Elance you can find serious freelancers, specialised in many fields, in administrative tasks, working as virtual assistants, webdesign, DTP, SEO…
  5. Outsourcing allows you to focus on your priorities
    After all, what you enjoy the most is translating, isn’t it? Outsourcing allows you to focus on your core activity, and to improve not only the quality of your work, but also and your relationships with your customers!

Do you outsource? Please share your experience!

Fingertips

Are you tired of typing things like “best regards” every time you write an e-mail or “please find the translation attached to this e-mail” every time you send a translation?

Thanks to Fingertips (a free, easy to use software) you can create shortcuts for all these sentences that you continuously need. Every time you will type the shortcut in Word, Excel, Outlook, Internet Explorer or any other software, the entire sentence will appear immediatly.

For instance, I have set up “br” for “Best regards,” so every time I type “br” at the end of an e-mail, “Best regards,” appears! “Jo” is for my name “Jonathan Faydi”…

This is only a basic function of Fingertips and I will come back to other more advanced functions in another post!

What do you think of Fingertips?