Wednesday, December 23, 2009

ProZ Conference Vienna - Part II

This is the first of 3 posts on the presentations I attended at the ProZ Regional Conference in Vienna at the end of November. These presentations can be grouped roughly as follows:

  1. the business side of freelance translating
  2. marketing your services/getting (more) business
  3. language and translation itself

Group 1 included the following presentations:

  1. "ProZ oder Amateure? Der Übersetzer als Unternehmer -- Erfahrungen aus dem Büroalltag" by Dr. Michael Bolten of Newspeak-Sprachlösungen
  2. "Project administration -- the financial side of a translator's job" by Angela Starkmann
  3. "The 21st century translator" by Dipl.-Ing. Jerzy Czopik of TransDocu

Note: All presentations I attended were given in German, although the slide presentations were sometimes in English.

Michael Bolten's presentation was an interesting exchange between the translators/interpreters in the audience and translation agencies as personified by Mr. Bolten. I learned a number of things about German/Austrian industry practices from this discussion:

Standard payment terms appear to be 30 days from invoice. This stands in marked contrast with the common U.S. practice of "pay-when-paid", where agencies delay payment to their translators until they receive their money from the end client. This often leads to a delay of two or more months until the translator is paid.

Pricing is by target language word/line count. Here, generally source language word counts are used to determine the price of a given translation. For translators from German, with its concatenated extra-long nouns, this practice means a lower income for the same amount of work.

While LinkedIn includes many members based in Europe, the professional networking site of choice in Europe appears to be Xing. One of my New Year's resolutions, therefore, is to join that network, as well.

Angela Starkman presented her own survey on the business practices/background of freelance translators. Much of her presentation was unfortunatley not applicable here in the U.S., where things like multi-currency invoicing software (or even non-U.S.-dollar denominated checking accounts) don't exist. A number of practices she suggested I had already implemented in my home office before this presentation. I did, however, learn about two tools I intend to try out in 2010:

Anycount apparently is a shareware tool that lets you quickly analyze documents in terms of text length. This allows translators to prepare estimates for clients without having to convert each file into MS Word format to see word/character counts.

A dashboard on the computer's desktop that includes the day's appointments, to dos, etc. This is an interesting idea, although I am not sure how to implement it on my Windows XP-based desktop. (Given the bugs in Vista, I paid extra last Spring to buy a desktop computer still running XP).

Jerzy Czopik spoke about the definition of quality. Quality is meeting a customer's expectations, Mr. Czopik said, not what the translator perceives as quality. I have seen this first-hand when on one occasion an end client -- through the agency -- demanded that every single "the" and "a" in a text for their website be translated, even though definite articles are used much more frequently in German than in English. I had delivered a translation that read like a text originally written in English, but on the customer's request, added in all the extra articles, making for a rather clunky English version.

This presentation also emphasized the need for translators to use computer tools, including CAT tools. In this and other conferences I attended, the most commonly used CAT tool appears to be SDL Trados. I purchased Wordfast a while back and have held off on switching to Trados, both because of its price and the time (and money) required to learn it. Another of my New Year's resolutions is to download a trial version of Trados Studio and try out both Trados and the Wordfast Professional. Look for a future post on that experience.

My next couple of posts will be devoted to the presentations in Groups 2 and 3 above. Meanwhile, have a happy holiday and all the best for the new year!