The business of translation is difficult enough. The process of translation requires concentration, mental capacity and competence. The business of freelance translation is even more taxing – the constant quest for that perfect contract. Most freelance translators agree that the job is not easy and there is much more to being a freelance translator than simply being a ‘good’ translator. One needs to be well-versed in the intricacies of running a business, have the ability to advertise oneself and one’s company, and finally, one needs to be able to find contracts, nurture contracts and build upon them. The freelance translator is a multi-tasker in every sense of the word.
The growth of computer technology in the latter half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century has had a huge impact on the working life of the freelance translator. Not only do they now have access to a wide range of computational tools and resources but, through the internet, they also have access to more contacts and clients. The internet truly has opened up a world of possibilities for freelance translators, however, it has also set a large number of traps for those less experienced colleagues who are new to the freelance market.
Unfortunately, many so-called translation companies and agencies use the internet in order to take advantage of those new to the translation market. There are many companies who perpetually send out offers of work either directly or through third parties in the hope that translators will reply. And reply they do. With the first hurdle overcome, these pseudo-agencies then ask the translator to undertake a ‘sample’ translation so that they can ‘test’ the translator’s skills. Once the translator sends their sample, communication, strangely enough, ceases. The agency fails to acknowledge receipt of the translation, gives no feedback, and to all intents and purposes, the agency disappears.
Third party websites that help to bring together people in the translation community are often victims of such deception, unable to filter the chaff from the corn. These bogus companies are aware of this fact and continue to function and take advantage of young or inexperienced freelance translators wanting to take their first steps in the world of translation. So what advice can be given to freelance translators? Several simple steps can sometimes help:
- Always run a background check on the company;
- Exchange emails in order to learn more about the agency;
- Ask for specific information about the company;
- Ensure that any cooperation is contract-bound;
- Enquire as to whether feedback about the sample will be given;
- Ensure that samples are not excessively long.
What else can be done to make life easier for the freelance translator? What can we do to stop these companies taking advantage?