ATA56: Getting the Most out of Miami

This year’s American Translators Association conference starts tomorrow!

If you’re going, I hope to see you there. I’ll be recruiting translators working to and/or from Japanese, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and more. So if you work in one of these languages, please do say hi!

Here are some last-minute tips for how you can get the most out of your conference experience:

  • Check out ATA President-Elect David Rumsey’s Top 5 Tips for Preparing for ATA’s Annual Conference. Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t done #1 yet–perhaps you can do it on the airplane! And even if not, the tips about being brave and reaching out are great.
  • Be respectful at the Resume Exchange. This will be my third year recruiting there, and I’m still longing for that magical year when all freelancers are respectful of the recruiters. Each year, there are a few freelancers who almost assault me with their resumes, or who try to monopolize my time even after we’ve established that they don’t have the qualifications I’m looking for at the moment. This actually reduces my chances of hiring them, because I perceive them as not respecting my needs. Keep your pitch brief if you think you may not be a match! Please understand that your recruiters are stressed out, because they need to speak with as many translators as possible in a very short amount of time, and if you try to monopolize their time when you don’t have what they’re looking for, they’ll remember you for the wrong reasons. If you keep it brief, though, and say “Well, I don’t have the experience your looking for, but may I give you my resume in case you have different needs in the future?” then I am happy to accept, and you may very well get a call from me if I do have those needs. See ATA Conference Notes from a Buyer’s Perspective for more information.
  • Don’t be afraid to skip a session if you’re feeling overwhelmed. I usually end up skipping one or two of the session time slots over the course of the weekend. There are sessions I planned to attend, but end up skipping just because I’m tired and need a change of pace. That’s okay! Maybe you need a nap, or a quiet sit somewhere, or want to chat with someone. Don’t worry about it. Recharge so that you’ll be alert for the next session.
  • Kick back and have fun! You’ll meet some very interesting people this week, so don’t let yourself get stressed out by your to-do list. Enjoy!

Life Happens

I’d planned to end the week with a tiny update of miscellanea on emergency planning. I’m still doing that, but originally it was going to be upbeat, and it hasn’t quite turned out that way. Still, here’s your emergency planning quickie:

1. And lo, planning works!

Almost a year ago, I had a hard drive fail on me that left me without a computer for a day or two. Luckily, I was not mid- freelance assignment, and the awesome IT department at my workplace helped me out with the full-time assignment! Still, it left me realizing I needed to plan for catastrophic computer failure. What if this had happened on the due date of a freelance assignment? So, I immediately ordered a relatively inexpensive, non-customized backup laptop, which later became my main laptop for non-video use. I installed a new hard drive in the old laptop with help from IT, and I resolved to keep BOTH laptops up and running, just in case.

At the beginning of the week, Main Laptop’s screen failed! Luckily it was under warranty, so the fix is free, but it will still take a week. Am I freaking out? Nope. Thanks to having a second laptop that I’ve kept most of the same programs and templates on, when a client came along with a $750 job, I was able to accept with no problems. Yay planning!

2. Life happens. (Also, here’s a PayPal tip.)

Like I said at the beginning of this series, emergencies can and will happen to anyone at any time. This morning, I got the call that an emergency is happening, and I need to get my butt on a plane tomorrow morning. I think many of us have been there. So yep, this isn’t just something I blog about. It’s all real!

Also, here’s a fun fact about plane tickets: American Airlines will now let you buy tickets via PayPal if you buy through their site. This is important because if you have PayPal Credit added to your PayPal account, purchases above a certain price generally have suspended interest for six months (check at time of purchase). So as long as you’re responsible and keep track of how much you’ve paid each moth, you can pay for that expensive ticket in installments instead of all at once. Which, in cases of emergency, is pretty awesome.

3. A timely video.

Remember how last time I was talking about finding a trusted colleague for emergency backup? That would sure be useful right now for this $750 project that’s getting interrupted by my second emergency of the week. I think I’ll still be able to finish it, but this is a good reminder to me of why having trusted colleagues is so smart. And here’s a video Corinne just posted on exactly that. Go check it out!

Emergency Business Planning: Illness & Injury

In my first post about emergency business planning, I asked the question, “What can go wrong?” That was a little terrifying, but now for the good news: Once we know what can go wrong, we’re ready to start strategizing!

You will probably have noticed that some disasters I listed on the “What could go wrong?” list were qualitatively different than others. #4 in particular is in a category of its own: “I could become sick or injured.”

Hopefully none of us will spend too much of our time so ill that we can’t work, but both short- and long-term illness/injury can happen to anyone, of any age. So we need to prepare for this. We don’t want short-term health problems to impact our client relationships, and we don’t want long-term ones to tank our businesses!

In preparing for this piece, I put together my own knowledge, my research, and notes from an interview with a friend who has unfortunately encountered this particular emergency. Here’s what I came up with:

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Happy 2015! Do You Have an Emergency Business Plan?

Happy New Year! Yes, it’s January, that month when many of us think about what we want our lives to be like. We ask ourselves, Do I need to lose weight? Do I want to quit a bad habit? What do I want to accomplish most? We all know the “resolutions” drill.

But if you’re a freelancer or you run a business, there’s an urgent question that you may not be asking: Do I have an emergency plan for my business?

Any month is a good month to safeguard your business, but I’ve decided to devote this January to blogging about my emergency-preparedness plan for my translation business. Today’s post is all about the first step: admitting that eventually, there’s going to be a problem.

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Setting Boundaries with Freelance Clients

I’ve read a lot of excellent posts from my fellow freelancers talking about setting boundaries with clients: establishing what type of deadline is okay and what price you’re willing to work for, or even establishing when you will be available via email throughout the day (I could swear I remember Corinne McKay giving that advice, but I can’t find it just now, so apologies if I am misattributing!). Like most of us, I sometimes have trouble saying “no” to either the client or myself, so it’s always great advice to hear.

I’d add one more type of boundary that’s helpful for freelancers: boundaries concerning the source content. I recently set a boundary with a prospective agency client that felt really good to me. The agency contact and I talked price and workload, and it was all going very smoothly, but he mentioned that sometimes his company was pitched content with “adult themes.”

Now, all of you who’ve been in the entertainment biz in the US–and also most of you who haven’t–know that the phrase “adult themes” is code for “nudity and/or sexual content.” Most of us TV/film staff have worked with it on and off since day one, and it’s just part of the job. But there is one variation on this theme that I am extremely uncomfortable with, and that’s the sexualization of children. I decided to be very upfront and honest with my new client and simply say that while I’m happy to work on most projects, I may not be able to accept a job if it sexualizes children.

Of course the client understood my position perfectly! There really aren’t many people who don’t understand that particular discomfort, so it’s certainly not a conversation to be afraid of. But all the same, sometimes in my first conversation with a prospective client, I feel hesitant to bring up content-related concerns that might not be immediately relevant. So for anyone out there who also hesitates to set content-related boundaries early, I just want you to know that coming to this understanding so quickly put a smile on my face for the rest of the morning. I highly recommend it!

Encouraging food for thought:

  • Your client will probably understand and respect your position. And even if they don’t understand it, they’ll probably still respect it.
  • If your client doesn’t respect your position, you probably don’t want that client anyway, so best to know that now!
  • If you don’t set a boundary right from the beginning, you don’t get to set it until your client unknowingly tries to cross it. That will be super awkward and you will feel worse! If you do it now, neither you nor your client have to have that awkward conversation later.
  • If you set the boundary right away, and someone later offers you a job that crosses the line, you won’t have to explain yourself again. You can just say, “Thank you very much for the offer. As I mentioned when we began working together, my policy is not to do assignments which sexualize children [or whatever].” Perfectly professional, and not embarrassing at all.
  • Setting the boundary up front is a huge mood boost and instantly makes you feel good about your future relationship the client when they respect it. Stating even your very simplest needs and feeling they will be met is a big deal in all areas of life.

One last thing–It’s good to keep in mind that when any project manager offers you a job with uncomfortable content (while of course you’re not psychic and you don’t know what they’re thinking), there’s a good chance that they are uncomfortable about it too. The difference is that unlike you, they may not be allowed to tell you how uncomfortable they feel about the content. Frankly, they may not even know what the content actually is–maybe this sounds incredible, but it’s true! Project managers don’t have time to watch every single piece of content they assign before translation, so there will usually be at least a few scenes in the middle of things that they have never seen, and if it’s a TV show, obviously they can’t watch the episodes that haven’t been made yet. So if they assign you something that crosses one of your boundaries, maybe they’re trying to test those boundaries, but it is just as likely that aren’t trying to test you at all–they just didn’t realize that content was there!

So, try not to fall into the trap of assuming things about either their position or how they might feel about your position. Just say what you need to say as professionally, calmly, and non-judgmentally as possible.

And finally, try not to be too judgmental of yourself, either. If you accept a project and then it turns into something other than what you thought it was, that happens. It really does happen to everyone. You may decide that you started the project and you’ll see it through to the end, even though if you’d known what it was up front you would have said no. Maybe you’ll find yourself evaluating what to do based on whether the line crossed is a moral one or a “this is creepy and I don’t like it” one, and ask to stop the project if it’s a moral line. Maybe you’ll realize it’s your own fault that you’re in this mess–you didn’t fully evaluate the project before agreeing to it–and therefore you’re obligated to finish it no matter what. Maybe you’ll realize there’s no way you could have known. Maybe your contract is such that it doesn’t matter either way; you simply have to finish it. Every person and project are different, but as you’re working out what to do next, remember: you didn’t know. You didn’t sit down one day and think, “Today, I will sexualize children [or whatever].” That is not the decision you made, so don’t blame yourself for it. Just do what you have to do with this project, and then use what you’ve learned to handle these issues better next time.

Backing Up Your Records in TO3000 Version 10

Most of us translators realize that one of the worst things that could happen to our businesses is a hardware failure, theft, or other event that wipes out all our data. We’ve all been told, “Back everything up, because you never know.” We know we need backups for our business security and our own peace of mind. Some of us are even paranoid enough to have both a physical backup and a cloud backup (of any data not too sensitive for one).1

I’m not a perfect person (ask my family), so when my computer’s hard drive died recently, I didn’t have everything backed up, but I had the essentials: my term bases, my translation memories, my personal photos, my financial records… However, when I got a new hard drive, reinstalled all my programs, and attempted to restore everything, I hit a couple of snags.

Quicken data? Fine. MemoQ resources/projects? Fine, if you know where to put everything. TO3000 Version 10? Tears of blood.

So here’s what I learned about backing up and restoring those records… Because it is a whole world of not-fun to be missing them at tax time.

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Demon Parades and Career Beginnings

© Yoshihiro Togashi 1990-1994 "Yu Yu Hakusho" / comics originally serialized in the WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP published by Shueisha Inc. TV animation series "Yu Yu Hakusho" is produced by © Pierrot/Shueisha.

The contemporary: Kurama, the fox spirit from Yu Yu Hakusho. (see alt text for copyright)

New Year's Eve Foxfires at the Changing Tree, Ōji by Hiroshige

The old: New Year’s Eve Foxfires at the Changing Tree, Ōji by Hiroshige

Though I didn’t manage to post about it before due to computer issues, I had two public speaking opportunities in January that were pretty fun.

First, I gave a workshop at Texas A&M University’s Stark Galleries. They’re hosting an ukiyo-e exhibit called “The Floating World” through next month, so part of their family-friendly event series is currently focused on Japanese arts and culture. The museum was kind enough to invite me down to TAMU to give a presentation on yokai–the legendary ghosts and goblins of Japan which played a big part in ukiyo-e traditions and still play a role in Japanese pop culture. (And, of course, to talk a little about anime.)

It’s a fun topic that I really like, though I worried about how it was going to go over–turns out it’s challenging to plan a family-friendly workshop about ghost stories when many of them are rated-R-worthy! Cue anxiety over how I could make it interesting enough for all ages at the same time.

But attendance was great: we had a full room, with an age distribution from about 10 to 75. We talked about how to survive an encounter with a kappa, how fox spirits possess humans, and who might show up in the deadly processional called the Night Parade of One Hundred Demons. The audience didn’t visibly react much during the lecture, which worried me, but it turns out they were just being quiet and polite. There were lots of thoughtful questions afterward, with people wanting to talk one-on-one and saying they really enjoyed learning about all the ghouls. Win!


Hyakki Yako (The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons), artist unknown

The other January “speaking engagement” was an informal video-chat interview with legal and academic translator Carolyn Yohn about how I got into my field. It went up on her blog this month (here’s the link) as her first video interview. Definitely not her first interview, though: Carolyn has an ongoing series of interviews on her blog with translators of all different fields about how they chose their specialties. Be sure to check it out!

I already knew that I far prefer delivering video/audio interviews to written ones, because written ones take more time as I get obsessive about getting just the right phrasing for everything. But I did learn something new doing this one through Google Hangout: good lighting for a girl in glasses is hard! Toward the end there are some truly epic shadows on my face. Next time, I’ll definitely ask the professionals for advice before I try to do my own lighting. ^_~ Lucky me that I work in an office with lighting professionals.

Talking to others about culture and translation inevitably means learning something new yourself, even after many years in the field. I highly recommend it, even if you don’t feel comfortable doing it on camera. Carolyn’s interview on camera was great for me: I may have a new fear of facial shadows, but I also met new people on Twitter who watched it and commented, and now I get to read cool new things they post.

The most fun thing, though, was probably finding this Night Parade a la Pokémon.

A night parade with a Pokémon spin.

A night parade with a Pokémon spin, by Pixiv artist “nojo.” (Artist page – some images contain adult content or are NSFW.)

2013 in Review, Part 1 – Filthy Lucre

Learning from the past is good for us! Which is surely part of why one of the popular topics each January is the “Year in Review” post, like those I recently read by fellow translators. Two favorites: Corinne McKay uses some questions to take stock—”what went right in 2013, what needs to go better in 2014, and where do you want to be a year from now?” and Carolyn Yohn looks back at the goals she set for 2013 and evaluates where she is now in relation to them.

These list-format posts are popular for some very good reasons, and it’s not just that we human beings love lists (though we do). It’s because:

  1. We humans love lists!
  2. Actively summarizing things helps us understand them. Just like a recap at the end of an essay helps the reader understand it, the very act of summarizing events in your own life helps you, the writer, to understand them better.
  3. Learning from our past = good. Hopefully we’ll do more of the things that had good results and remember not to do some of the things that had bad results. And we can tell ourselves it’s for the readers, too: maybe they can avoid some of our mistakes or repeat some of our successes!
  4. Knowing where we are in the present = crucial. It’s pretty hard to honestly confront where we are in life, which is why it can be painful to get on the scale at the doctor’s office or terrifying to see a financial planner. But if you don’t know where you are, you’re less likely to get where you want to go.

So, okay! I will follow my colleagues’ example and figure out where I am. What the heck did I do in 2013, anyway?!

Read on for Part 1, the money side of things, or stay tuned for Part 2, the professional development side. Continue Reading →

ATA Conference Notes from a Buyer’s Perspective

I saw and learned so much last week at my first American Translators Association conference that it will definitely take some time to process it all! But I had the unusual experience of attending for the first time both as a translation vendor and as a translation buyer, and there were definitely some things I noticed from a buyer perspective that I found fascinating.

So, all you freelance translators out there: here are four things that make you leave a good or bad impression on a potential client.

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