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Off topic: Hard skills, soft skills, mindset
Thread poster: Andrew Morris

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
Apr 17

There are translators who say the only way to success (in its various guises) is through hard graft, ten thousand hours, constant revision, and nose to the grindstone.

There are others who say that's all well and good, but you need soft skills (service mentality, approachability, sales, presentation) to complement those hard skills.

And there are still others who say that your own mindset – the story you tell yourself – is a vital element on top of your hard AND you
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There are translators who say the only way to success (in its various guises) is through hard graft, ten thousand hours, constant revision, and nose to the grindstone.

There are others who say that's all well and good, but you need soft skills (service mentality, approachability, sales, presentation) to complement those hard skills.

And there are still others who say that your own mindset – the story you tell yourself – is a vital element on top of your hard AND your soft skills.

Where do you stand on this?

PS, if you're in the third group, AND a ProZ Plus member, then the Translation Mastermind is for you. https://www.facebook.com/groups/thetranslationmastermind/
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Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 00:15
Member (2016)
English to German
Be professional and show it Apr 17

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that most end customers of translations are big companies and organisations, naturally those with an international audience. Therefore, as a successful translator, you have to meet the expectations of big organisations. That means to work and to communicate on a professional level, be clear in your communication and ask for clarification if the other side is not, promise only what you can deliver and deliver what you promise. On top of that, it is always a ... See more
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that most end customers of translations are big companies and organisations, naturally those with an international audience. Therefore, as a successful translator, you have to meet the expectations of big organisations. That means to work and to communicate on a professional level, be clear in your communication and ask for clarification if the other side is not, promise only what you can deliver and deliver what you promise. On top of that, it is always a good idea to be helpful and easy instead of grumpy and complicated.Collapse


Andrew Morris
Sasha Terehov
 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
Fully agree Apr 17

Couldn't agree more, Kay-Viktor. Although in my experience (10 years, FR>EN) the vast majority of my 60+ direct clients are in fact SMEs, from solopreneurs to family businesses.

Having said that, I've worked with regional museums, universities, a global petfood company and an international airline too.

But whatever the size of the company, it's still basically a bunch of human beings: the two or three interlocutors you're dealing with. And humans respond emotionally a
... See more
Couldn't agree more, Kay-Viktor. Although in my experience (10 years, FR>EN) the vast majority of my 60+ direct clients are in fact SMEs, from solopreneurs to family businesses.

Having said that, I've worked with regional museums, universities, a global petfood company and an international airline too.

But whatever the size of the company, it's still basically a bunch of human beings: the two or three interlocutors you're dealing with. And humans respond emotionally as much as rationally, so everything you say about being helpful and easy is spot on.

Most clients are unable to judge the quality of our work, the appositeness of an adjective or the flow of a paragraph, although some can, of course.

But for the majority, what they want is to get the job done, to have an easy life, or to please their boss. And the more we can facilitate that, the better.
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Suk Yoon
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
The purpose? Apr 17

@Andrew, you didn't mention your ideas first, so if it's not abstract 'IQ vs EQ', 'to be vs to appear', or 'us vs them' polemics, I think professional life is a combination of quantifiable specific skills and universal competencies coupled with true intentions.

Most even decent translators are but poor businessmen.

The problem is not business awareness, yet [most] translators neither are, nor try to be an equal party for agencies and clients, alas.

While some skills/features can compensate others, often one is at the expense of the other.

For instance, I know a translator who is not experienced, lacking interpersonal and negotiation skills. However, she is pretty sexy and not very talkative, using her natural beauty to win good rates and terms.

Whereas the end client just wants to have his job done (1) properly, (2) timely, and (3) for the price--where a language competency should do, agencies use a different approach to trick translators and clients into the affairs, cutting in between them. It's like a spider catching a fly without better flying skills.
 Little wonder, there're so many potential and real victims who can easily do without common sense and critical thinking.

As for me, I'm just walking my way, doing what I can and think is right, following my conscience as a life compass: Do as you would be done by.

In biz and life strong eats weak, so I can do a favor once or to my people only.


 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
Both...and... Apr 17

Thanks @DZiW.

I didn't make my own ideas clear from the outset here because it was a prompt for a debate, not a lecture. My own views are pretty clear on this, and I've written about them elsewhere, but here I wanted simply to see what others think.

I understand but don't necessarily agree with your view which seems to pit translators against agencies, against each other, of strong eating weak and of vict
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Thanks @DZiW.

I didn't make my own ideas clear from the outset here because it was a prompt for a debate, not a lecture. My own views are pretty clear on this, and I've written about them elsewhere, but here I wanted simply to see what others think.

I understand but don't necessarily agree with your view which seems to pit translators against agencies, against each other, of strong eating weak and of victims. That's not been my experience with my own clients over the years...

I see the endeavour as more collaborative: two parties that need each other. And I think it's perfectly possible to combine translation skills, business skills and interpersonal skills...
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DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
BOMD Apr 17

The intelligence is like a map, the emotions are the fuel, whereas the mindset is the weather.
Without understanding where you’re now, where you need to go, and why makes a voyage useless. And without the fuel (feelings) or the favorable weather (vision) it takes too long to get there, if any.
(They say unlike hard skills, soft skills are not quantifiable, yet their performance is measurable indirectly—by the results.)

Andrew, you wrote that you have never exp
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The intelligence is like a map, the emotions are the fuel, whereas the mindset is the weather.
Without understanding where you’re now, where you need to go, and why makes a voyage useless. And without the fuel (feelings) or the favorable weather (vision) it takes too long to get there, if any.
(They say unlike hard skills, soft skills are not quantifiable, yet their performance is measurable indirectly—by the results.)

Andrew, you wrote that you have never experienced “the strong eats the weak”–you mean as a translation agency or as a freelancer? The point is in ANY biz the rulemakes is the privileged one who has more (1) power, (2) information, or (3) time.

I admit you might really have never experienced low rate issues, never received unfair offers or never negotiated anything at all... You seem to be living in Utopia without frauds, crimes, and rudeness: What is your margin, I wonder?) Once I met a wild bear too.

Interpolating the situation for translators-agencies-clients plane, one can see that translator is the weakest link and allegedly must not ask or negotiate anything, flexibly offering freebies*. Could you imagine a translator asking an agency for their “best rates”, prepayment, or a little favor? Not funny.

It’s been a while since I started working mostly as an interpreter with local direct clients who eagerly pay me $.25+/word, but from my colleagues I know about the situation with unfair “discounts”, bottom-feeders, PEMT, re-outsourcers, and the rest. How do I feel about it?–It’s sad decent specialists have no ideas and no visions, yet it’s their right to stay arrogant. “Good enough”?
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Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
Dog eat dog, or live and let live? Apr 18

@DZiW I love your questions.

Am I aware of lowballing, poor-paying agencies? Yes. Am I aware that translators sometimes get into exploitative relationships? Of course.

My first EVER client on ProZ.com disappeared into the mist without paying me. That was a baptism by fire. But in the years and years of experience since, I would say that those incidents make up a tiny minority.

And in my capacity as the owner of a small agency, I have never tried to exploit
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@DZiW I love your questions.

Am I aware of lowballing, poor-paying agencies? Yes. Am I aware that translators sometimes get into exploitative relationships? Of course.

My first EVER client on ProZ.com disappeared into the mist without paying me. That was a baptism by fire. But in the years and years of experience since, I would say that those incidents make up a tiny minority.

And in my capacity as the owner of a small agency, I have never tried to exploit anyone. My Blue Board record (Morris Traduction) bears that out. I pay the rates my colleagues ask, on occasion encouraging them to ask for more, and for the vast majority of my 7 years of outsourcing, I have paid invoices in under 48 hours. That only slips (to a week or two, max) when cashflow issues raise their head in the wake of a major project.

I'm not living in Utopia. I AM living in a world where I decided long ago that I am in control of my life. And that makes all the difference. Sure there are ups and downs, but basically I decide who I work with, and whether to accept their terms. If I don't like what I see, I move on.

I enjoy my clients. I see them as colleagues, not taskmasters. They need stuff done. I need money. We exchange my time and energy for their money, and everyone is happy.

From the beginning, my experience of translators online is that they divide into two groups: those who take control in the way I've described above, set their own rates, take pride in their work, feel in control, and those who are like hamsters on wheels, constantly racing the clock to make ends meet, and generally feeling like victims of an exploitative industry.

My point, and my experience, is that this is a choice. Which is where mindset comes in. Or new ideas and visions as you put it.

If that seems idealistic, I am sorry. It's simply the way I've experienced this industry for many years... (and worked with large groups of translators who feel the same way, by and large).

Thanks for taking up the challenge of this debate. It's good to experience new perspectives.
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Philip Lees  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 01:15
Member (2008)
Greek to English
Questions? Apr 18

amorrisproz wrote:

@DZiW I love your questions.



So where are those questions? Have they been removed or hidden?

At the time I viewed this thread there were five posts, four of which were from the topic starter.

Seems a bit odd.


writeaway
Andy Watkinson
 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
Now you see them.. Apr 18

@Philip

Thanks for pointing that out! I had no idea I had to "Vet OK" the comments of @DZiW. I could see them all of course, so I assumed everyone could.

All resolved now.


 

Kaspars Melkis  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:15
English to Latvian
+ ...
professionalism first Apr 18

My opinion is that before we can do business, we need to be very good professionals with strong skills and ethics. It also includes more awareness of our purpose and what needs our services are fulfilling.

It is very hard to speak about translation industry as one unified type of service. Nevertheless, translators are facing a lot of issues due to lack of meaningful professional representation. Everybody seems to love this laissez faire market, free of any barriers of entry despite
... See more
My opinion is that before we can do business, we need to be very good professionals with strong skills and ethics. It also includes more awareness of our purpose and what needs our services are fulfilling.

It is very hard to speak about translation industry as one unified type of service. Nevertheless, translators are facing a lot of issues due to lack of meaningful professional representation. Everybody seems to love this laissez faire market, free of any barriers of entry despite that it harms translators, it harms the clients and most of all it harms end-users of our translations.

The idea that the client is always capable of or interested in evaluating translation quality is accepted uncritically and yet it is completely wrong. A lot of companies would sell dangerous products if there would be no strict regulations about the product safety and quality. In the translation area, sadly, that is often the case. It has attracted a lot of vendors with the aim to make a quick profit without any understanding what translation quality means. Proliferation of dangerous MT solutions is just one example of that.

I don't envision that the translation industry can be regulated by the government. I would rather see stronger translator professional associations which provide much needed self-regulation, ethical and professional standards and advocacy.
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Andrew Morris  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:15
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Up to us... Apr 18

@Kaspars, I'd certainly agree with what you say about professionalism.

When it comes to the "industry", then of course governments and national associations have a role to play in setting broad guidelines. However, they can't get in between every single interaction between translators and agencies, or direct clients.

Which is why it's my firm belief that as freelancers we also have to be individualists. Sure, we support our colleagues and reach out to them, but when it
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@Kaspars, I'd certainly agree with what you say about professionalism.

When it comes to the "industry", then of course governments and national associations have a role to play in setting broad guidelines. However, they can't get in between every single interaction between translators and agencies, or direct clients.

Which is why it's my firm belief that as freelancers we also have to be individualists. Sure, we support our colleagues and reach out to them, but when it comes down to the business transactions with our own clients, we have to look after ourselves, and take responsibility. If we wait for the day when things are settled for us by outside parties, we may be in for a long wait.
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Kaspars Melkis
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
Popular victim and dependency mentality Apr 20

It's fine with me that not many colleagues share my views there're should be no "pure" translators, but specialists in a field with decent foreign language skills.

When I see even a good specialist without biz experience or a mentor, I realize he is but a typical potential victim--abused by sly clients and doomed to fail by ignorance, unless he learns at least the ropes. Deliberately or not such overdependent, bootlicking, and obtrusive people, are taught via ploys and gimmicks like
... See more
It's fine with me that not many colleagues share my views there're should be no "pure" translators, but specialists in a field with decent foreign language skills.

When I see even a good specialist without biz experience or a mentor, I realize he is but a typical potential victim--abused by sly clients and doomed to fail by ignorance, unless he learns at least the ropes. Deliberately or not such overdependent, bootlicking, and obtrusive people, are taught via ploys and gimmicks like Overton window it's allegedly ok, and some even enjoy it.

How come there're so many professional freelancers who can't run their own business properly? The answer is simple: they neither are an equal party in biz (not even trying!), nor they really own any business, let alone this a-la CAT/PEMT industry.

Little wonder such individuals can't take full responsibility even for their own lives--a part of which is the biz. The Lucifer effect counts too, perhaps.


So far, while I admit there're certain inborn qualities one can't go below a certain point (there're people who can't--say--kill others even when threated, can kill only protecting themselves or their people, and those who just kill), hard skills, soft skills, and the worldview (mindset) are internalized as acquired--both teachable and quantifiable, depending on the progress, necessity and purpose, in good time.
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Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
Absolutely teachable... or rather learnable Apr 20

We come to the table with our worldviews (mindsets) formed by all kinds of experiences in our pasts, our formative years, childhood, infancy, and even our time in the womb.

But yes, my experience in adult life is that you can engage with and adopt new mindsets. Not overnight, and not without struggle, but that we can learn to see the world in different ways. And to understand our role in it, our agency (in the sense of being proactive), our ability to take responsibility.

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We come to the table with our worldviews (mindsets) formed by all kinds of experiences in our pasts, our formative years, childhood, infancy, and even our time in the womb.

But yes, my experience in adult life is that you can engage with and adopt new mindsets. Not overnight, and not without struggle, but that we can learn to see the world in different ways. And to understand our role in it, our agency (in the sense of being proactive), our ability to take responsibility.

If there's one thing I've talked about in the last five years to those who "follow" my groups, it's that: it all begins when we decide our life is a project and we're in charge. Rather than something that's immalleable and dumped on us from a great height.

So you'll never hear me say "Why does this always happen to me?" Rather "What have I done to bring this about, and what can I do differently next time?"

It's a small shift, but ultimately it changes everything.
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DZiW
 

Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 00:15
Member (2016)
English to German
Cliché or not? Apr 20

DZiW wrote:

How come there're so many professional freelancers who can't run their own business properly?


Isn't this just a stereotype? Are there any statistics that prove freelancers are poor businesspeople? A poor businessperson will fail sooner or later as a freelancer, and probably go back and search work as an employee. A freelancer who succeeds to run a business for a certain time span is a successful businessperson, by definition. In the absence of reliable statistics, I'll venture the statement that a vast majority of freelancers is able to run their businesses properly.

Running a freelancer business is not rocket science, after all. You are only responsible for yourself, at least as long as you are a one-person shop. I would imagine that running a hairdresser shop with a couple of employees would be a bigger business challenge than managing just yourself.

Happy Easter


 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
Rich freelancer, poor freelancer... Apr 21

@Kay-Viktor

I think that's a fair point. I would distinguish more between freelancers who are surviving and those who are thriving. But it's not just an economic question either, for your thriving might be my surviving (or vice versa) depending on where you live, how many kids you have, what kind of champagne you have for breakfast etc...

For me those who survive are those who feel in a position of vic
... See more
@Kay-Viktor

I think that's a fair point. I would distinguish more between freelancers who are surviving and those who are thriving. But it's not just an economic question either, for your thriving might be my surviving (or vice versa) depending on where you live, how many kids you have, what kind of champagne you have for breakfast etc...

For me those who survive are those who feel in a position of victimhood, pushed around by agencies, not in control of their own decisions. They tend to be wary, suspicious, hostile. I even came across one person with 40 years (!!) of experience claiming that all agencies were out to exploit you, get you to do free tests, rip you off etc.

That seems to me a recipe for an unhappy existence, without knowing that person's context in detail of course. Just an impression.

To me, thriving of course means having enough money to live at your chosen level of comfort, but also feeling in charge, free, able to choose, creative, fulfilled etc etc.

I've met MANY freelancers who feel that way. But equally MANY who are most definitely in survival mode.

But these things are not set in stone. My point is that awareness can be raised and people can adopt a whole new way of looking at themselves. If they want.
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