If you have recently entered the translation industry as a translator, you might think, “I will provide the best quality translation. That is the most important forte of a translator.” However, my experience tells me the different story.
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I think the three virtues freelance translators must have are:
(1) to reply emails immediately,
(2) to meet the deadline,
(3) and to be able to use various CAT tools.
I have worked as a freelance English, Japanese, and Korean translator for almost ten years, including my university days. At first, I thought the same. I thought the translation quality is the most important virtue. When I first started as a full-time translator, I earned almost $10,000 a month. I thought my translation was selling quite well because my quality was good, which was not true!
I met numerous translators whose translation quality was far superior to mine, including those who studied at graduate schools of interpretation and translation. They were language experts, many of them both native in English and Korean. (I started learning English and Japanese as a second language.) What was surprising to me was, they found difficulty in just getting a job, and asked me how!
It really wowed me. I really didn’t understand why I excelled. Then, I found out my three differences from them over a long time.
First, I set an email notification on my smartphone, my tablet, and a desktop notification (you can use this feature in Gmail). When I get an email from one of my translation companies and clients, the whole house rings. Needless to say, I replied all emails immediately.
It might degrade me to share this, but I was once told by a project manager that proofreaders tend to change my translation a lot, but she would assign me projects because I replied all emails immediately. She also said I even saved her life several times in urgent projects just by replying right away.
Most PMs are busy, and they have no time assigning projects. The fact that you’ve got an email from PMs means you have a minimum qualification. The thing you need is to set an email alarm.
Second, I almost (always) met the deadline. If I cannot take a project, I reply in email immediately so that the PM can assign it to other translators. I found out most translators didn’t know how much they could translate a day. Conservatively set your limit and calculate what you can provide.
Don’t be worried, you won’t be removed from the list just because you rejected a project. It is always better for a PM to find another translator immediately than to find a translator say “I can’t get it done” just one hour before deadline.
Last but not least at all, please be able to use various CAT tools, including SDL Trados, memoQ, Wordfast, Memsource, Smartcat, Crowdin, etc. If you have a great translation skill and don’t know how to use CAT tools, your precious skill is no use. Business translation is a process, carried out by those who understand how to use CAT tools.
Most translation companies adopted TMS(translation management system) and CAT tools to manage translation memories, glossaries, and translators. If you don’t know how to use CAT tools, you will probably now allowed to enroll in most translation companies.
Thank you for reading my post. I hope this can help you find a way to become a successful translator.