Greetings, Training for Translators subscribers! I’m headed to Miami today, for the 64th annual American Translators Association conference, and I’m excited to see some of you there! If you want to get a jump on next month’s master classes, I’m teaching How to prepare for (and pass!) an interpreting exam, and I’m teaching Breaking into the book translation market, for ProZ.com, but it’s open to anyone.
On to this week’s topic, suggested by a T4T reader: How do you find other freelancers to work with, especially if you work outside the most common language combinations? If an agency asks if you can recommend a proofreader, is it OK to just say no? How to decide who earns what, when you team up with someone else? Let’s take a look!
First, I would argue that every freelancer needs at least a couple of trusted colleagues in the same language combination, because:
- You may need to split a large project
- You may need a proofreader
- You may need someone to refer clients to, if you get sick, have a family emergency, or want to take an extended vacation
- It’s helpful to have colleagues who get it (and sometimes “getting it” involves issues specific to your language combination), when you have work-related dilemmas that could use input from another person
That being said, I don’t think it’s a disaster to tell an agency that you can’t recommend someone else. The agency may be asking this for one of two reasons: a) they want to accommodate your preference, because they want to keep you happy (I always appreciate when interpreting agencies ask if I have preferred boothmates), or b) they want you to do the work of finding someone else to work on the project, which is really the agency’s job. So, I think it’s actually fine to say that you defer to the agency’s judgment on who to work with.
However, you still need some trusted colleagues, for the reasons listed above. Here’s where I would recommend trying to find them:
- Hands-down, the best source is professional associations for translators and interpreters. When I started translating, all (literally: all) of my initial crew of trusted colleagues came from the Colorado Translators Association and the American Translators Association. When you meet someone through a professional association, you don’t know whether you click with them as a work partner, but you do know that they are an established professional who is willing to invest some time and money in their business.
- Next, you could try places where translators and interpreters gather online: LinkedIn (search for other people in your language combination), forums like ProZ.com (which, I think, has a higher population of people who work in less common languages), and even Facebook groups (I’m in a couple of translator/interpreter Facebook groups that are actually really good). If none of these groups exist for your language combination, you could consider starting a group, which also positions you as the go-to person in your language combination or specialization.
- On LinkedIn, you could recruit for people in your language combination (“Looking for other Spanish to Swedish translators for networking and potential work opportunities”). This would also open up the option of starting some sort of group or collective of translators in your language combination, or even a single-language agency if you’re interested. Once you find a few of those people, maybe have a Zoom meetup or coworking session to get a sense of what the other participants are like as people.
- If you work with direct clients, you definitely need at least an editor, if not another translator to work with you. In this case, I would consider the recruitment strategy listed above, but then give people a (paid) editing test. If you ask them to edit something like 250 words, this would probably fall into their minimum charge zone, and I think that testing two or three people would be worthwhile.
Then, there’s the question of how you split up the money. Again, I would have separate strategies for agencies and direct clients. When an agency asks if I want to bill them for my work and a colleague’s work (editor, boothmate, etc.) and then I pay the other person, I always decline. This is really the agency’s responsibility; it’s the reason they’re getting approximately half of the money that the end client pays, and I also don’t want to get in the middle of a dispute: what if the other interpreter gets sick at the last minute; what if they aren’t happy with the editor’s work.
As a rule of thumb, I typically assume that the translator will get 2/3 of the per-word rate, and the editor will get 1/3. So if I bill a client 24 cents per word, I would typically split that up as 16 cents to the translator and 8 cents to the editor. In my mind, that also equalizes the effective hourly rate between the translator and the editor, which I think is fair. A translator producing 500 words an hour at 16 cents per word is making $80 an hour, and an editor producing 1,000 words an hour at 8 cents per word is also making $80 an hour. I personally prefer to pay my editors by the hour so that they are free to do a very thorough job, but that’s a personal preference.
Bonus tip: If you work with direct clients, never (never) offer editing as an optional, add-on service. If you determine that the project needs a second set of eyes (and most do), include editing in your quote (whether it’s per-word, hourly, or a lump sum) and the client has to pay for it if they want to work with you.
I hope these tips are helpful! If you have additional ideas, post them in the comments!
Corinne McKay (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the founder of Training for Translators, and has been a full-time freelancer since 2002. She holds a Master of Conference Interpreting from Glendon College, is an ATA-certified French to English translator, and is Colorado court-certified for French interpreting. If you enjoy her posts, consider joining the Training for Translators mailing list!