International debt collection. Is there a happy ending?

As a freelance translator or a representative of a company in the languages industry, you work with international clients in foreign lands. The nature of our business is international, so your exposure to foreign clients is inevitable. So what do you do when such a client does not pay for services rendered?

It’s a good question which affects so many people. But the answers are not simple. Indeed, many translators and translation companies can share horror stories of how they got ripped off by a client. Sometimes the loss is very painful-thousands or tens of thousands of Dollars or Euro. The damage is not only financial, it can be physical as well. Sleepless nights? Financial stress? Welcome to debt collection hell.

The following is an excerpt from a chat that I had this week with a colleague:

The XXX translation company is scamming me for 7-8.000 euros. I am sending to international debt collection this week. If that doesn’t work, I have a friend who is an ex MMA-pro that weighs 120-130 kgs pure muscle with a bad temper … and as far as i know pretty convincing. I’d worked for them for years .. small jobs .. never had a problem. There were app 100+ files over some weeks .. everything ran smoothly … jobs confirmed and invoices accepted … then no payment. They said, that there were issues with the quality of the translation.

This kind of story is, unfortunately, pretty common. This translator is in a huge bind and is searching for solutions. The part about the MMA collector was, I assume, said in jest and is of course a crazy and stupid idea. But that only goes to prove how desperate someone can become when confronted with bad debt.

The best way to prevent a collection crisis is to avoid it-PREPAYMENT!

At GTS, our standard term is prepayment. Especially for new clients. This solves any collection issue since we get the money in advance. This is good practice for both translation agencies and freelance translators. If a new client orders a job, ask for prepayment. If they say no then you can say no too. If it is large order and the customer does not want to pay the whole thing in advance, ask for a partial advance payment.

Run a credit check

If a customer wants to pay after delivery, check them out first. If it a is translation agency, check sites like Proz and Glassdoor for the company reputation and payment practices. If your client is from another field, run a credit check on them (using BBB, D&B or equivalent). Of just use your common sense. If the company has been doing business at the same location for 30 years, they will be probably make good on their commitment and PO.

Avoid a large debt situation

If a client keeps on ordering and the debt keeps on increasing to a level which can put you in a financially precarious situation, suspend deliveries until the debt is resolved. As any utility customer knows, they will shut off your electricity if you don’t pay your bills for a while. If you default on your mortgage payments, they will eventually evict you from your home. This is common business practice and should be adopted by people in the localization industry as well.

What can you do in a non-payment situation?

Sometimes, even the most cautious business person can get burned by a dishonest company. Or sometimes the company is in financial distress and just can’t pay. What options are available in these types of situations?

Ask for the money (nicely)

This is the first step and should be done tactfully. It will not help to start your collection efforts with confrontation. OK, so with a dishonest company this will usually not help. But if the company has a financial issue, they may tell you that there is a temporary delay and that they will pay you ASAP. These kinds of discussions are better held on the phone and not by letters or emails. Emails are easily ignored and can also come across as being belligerent.

Try to settle

60 cents on the dollar may be better than getting into a fight and being left with 0 cents on the dollar. If the client has complaints and arguments to justify lack of payment, see if they will settle on a partial payment. This will take a lot of restraint on your part, but there are rewards to being pragmatic and having a half-cup full attitude. Again, try calling the client and reasoning with them. If they refuse to answer your calls, then you know you are in a collection nightmare and can go to step 2.

Go to the top

I have found that sometimes you are dealing with a non-senior person who isn’t taking your request for payment seriously. It’s not that the company does not want to pay, just that they are not getting around to it and your contact is being uncooperative. Try to write a letter to the company CEO or better yet, seek out the CEO’s secretary (if it is a large company) and tell her/him your story. This usually gets results. Sometimes, you only need to show your contact the email you are about to send and it will be enough to scare her/him into action.

Using international collection agencies

There are many international collection agencies who can try and collect your debt for you. I myself think that this is a waste of time in most cases. The collection agency has no leverage and what will they do besides ask for the money? It is easy to ignore these agencies. If they ask you for an up-front fee without guaranteeing results, you may end up throwing good money after bad.

Online Shaming

This is common practice, especially with freelance translators. They find online translation job portals or go on social media and tell the world how the so-and-so company are crooks and avoid working with them.  I find this to be a childish reaction which does little to solve the collection issue. It is more about revenge than anything else.

Some translators seem to take an altruistic approach and say “well I got ripped-off so as a public service I will tell my fellow colleagues not to work with this agency.” In debt collection, the main purpose is to get your money, not to educate the world. Writing nasty things about a company may not only not get you the payment, it may antagonize the other company to a point where they will sever contact with you.

It’s all about leverage-hire a lawyer

I am reminded of a case that we had at GTS many years ago. A client of ours, a very reputable international patent law firm, owed us about $40,000. Weeks and months went by and they were not paying. We sent dozens of emails which were not ignored. But instead of payment, they came up with all kinds of excuses. At one point, the senior partner told us that his firm owed us nothing, since they retained us on behalf of their client. When we asked if we can collect from the client, they said NO!

Getting a lawyer for debt collection gives you the most leverage and is usually the best option

After we saw that payment may never get resolved, I asked a friend of mine who is an attorney to take care of it in return for a 10% collection fee. One hour after I called my lawyer friend, he called me back to tell me that the check is in the mail. After a few moments of stunned silence, I asked my friend “are you serious?” Yes, came back the reply. The lawyer called up the senior partner and told him that they don’t pay, they would be dragged through the mud. We got the payment within a few days.

Sometimes a lawyer can get you results with just a letter (referred to as a nastygram).  A number of years ago a tech company in Kitchener, Ontario owed us a 5-figure sum which was left unpaid. I asked by friend Brian, a respectable barrister in Toronto, to take care of it. He faxed a letter to the company and we got the money wired to our account the very same day!

The lawyer you retain must be in the same country as the client who owes you the money. But as someone in the translation business, you have connections in many countries so finding a decent lawyer may not be too difficult. Asking the lawyer to send a nastygram will not cost you much.

What to do if the lawyer can’t collect? Litigation is costly and can also take years. Another issue with getting a lawyer is that it is usually not worth it for small debts. But as I mentioned, just having a lawyer on your side may give you all the leverage you need to collect.

Bottom LIne

Avoid any situation which may bury you financially. If you are in a debt collection situation, try diplomacy first and if it does not work then try and get some leverage. If you can’t collect, then just let it go and move on. Nothing is more valuable then your health!

Translation prices. Per word or per hour?

In the translation and localization industry, translation prices are typically quoted on a per-word basis. So if a document or file has one thousand words, we multiply the number of words by the price per word to get the translation price per 1000 words. It is a simple pricing system which seems to work. Translators and LSPs are happy with this pricing scheme (as long as they are getting their price). Buyers are generally also happy with the translation price per word system since it gives them good control over expenses. A fixed price per project can be easily negotiated with no hidden costs or cost overruns.

Jochen Hummer, Inventor of Trados


This reality has prevailed for as long as I am in the business. But a few weeks ago I saw this tweet that proposed changing the basis for translation prices to  a per-hour basis. This proposal came from none other than the inventor of SDL Trados, Jochen Hummel.

As anyone who uses Trados or any other TM software knows, the software counts the number of words in a file and classifies each text segment as a match/repetition, fuzzy match or no match. This word count is usually the basis for any price negotiation in the localization industry.

Why the need for change? PE(N)MT!

There is a ancient proverb that goes like this: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So why would a man who bears major responsibility for the cost structure in today’s translation industry push for such a dramatic shift?

I put this and other questions to Mr. Hummel and this was his response:

I said this because of In this workflow words as a unit do not make sense anymore.

In the post that Mr. Hummel wrote last year in the Multilingual magazine blog, he says that human translators will become obsolete and all of the translation work will be done by NMT (Neural Machine Translation) systems. The only human input in the workflow, per Mr. Hummel, will be by multilingual subject matter experts who will review the MT. These people will be paid by the hour.

What do freelance translators think?

Today, many if not most translators refuse to review MT output, which means that a per-hour rate may not be feasible. Here is an excerpt of a chat that I recently had with one of our senior translators, which I find to be typical across the industry:

 … as I see it more and more only offer post-edit at xxx rates…. (I don’t work with them) .. and the majority are killing rates … albeit a minority then wants to pay for quality.

On the other hand, some translators are not opposed to move to a per-hour rate: many translators also provide interpretation services and are used to getting a per-hour rate. Interpretation better lends itself to a per-hour rate, as the work is done on-site either in a courtroom, a business office or in a conference setting; or on the phone, and that can also be easily measured in time-units. Indeed it is impossible to bill for interpretation work on any other basis but per-hour. Transcription services, the translation industry’s cousin, is also billed on a per-minute basis.

But even if we ignore the PEMT debate, most freelance translators prefer per-word pricing. They know that their expertise in the use of CAT tools and their control in the languages gives them an advantage-their throughput is high and they can therefore make much more per hour than any employer would agree to pay. The following tweet by Rodrigo Gonzalez supports this popular sentiment.

What do buyers think?

For the translation services buyer, going to a per-hour rate is also problematic: how can we know how much time is actually spent on the task? If it is a per-hour rate, does it include coffee breaks? Trips to the bathroom? I don’t mean to get petty here but if we move to a per-hour rate, these questions become relevant. Whereas in a per-word rate, these questions are irrelevant. Let the translator work IN the bathroom for all we care, as long as the work is delivered on time and at the expected level of quality.

Mr, Hummel seems to believe that the entire industry will move to a per-hour rate, and projects will be negotiated in hours instead of words. This will require a high degree of trust between LSPs and buyers, and will also require an accepted scale of how much work can be accomplished in an hour.

Has (N)MT reached human parity?

Mr. Hummel states that NMT has reached human parity. But does this mean that NMT is as good as human translation? Well not exactly. According to Mr. Hummel, in a workflow where every translation is reviewed by a second translator as standard, the source of the first draft is not critical. A reviewer can revise a MT output in the same way that they can review professional human translation. And the final result, after review, will be the same.

Mr. Hummel is not alone in this line of thought. I heard some similar arguments by One Hour Translation‘s Yaron Kaufman in the Slatorcon conference in Amsterdam in November. Yaron also said that NMT will become good enough to replace human translators. And that software will be used to automatically determine which sentences need post-editing. Those sentences, and only those sentences, will be send to a subject matter expert.

In that kind of workflow, it does make sense to pay the reviewer per hour. But is that workflow close to reality? Will translators need to find another line of work?

The current state of the industry

The NMT revolution/vision that Mr. Hummel and others are proposing is still very far from reality. Indeed for someone like myself, who is working in a small LSP, it seems like science fiction. Human translation is still MUCH better than any MT that I have seen. And this probably holds true for the vast majority of all translation tasks.

To the extent that it exists today, the NMT revolution can only be found in large projects of at least several hundreds of thousands of dollars. For projects of such a large scale, training the NMT engines to produce good translation quality can be done  cost-effectively, provided that the company/LSP has the resources to do this kind of work (which is far from being technologically simple).

And even in these scenarios, who is doing the post-editing work? It is hard to say. As we have already stated, most freelance translators do not want to do this work. Is it done by in-house staff? Perhaps, but can any company or LSP maintain multilingual subject-matter expert reviewers in all languages and in all fields? It sounds like the job that Noah had in getting all of the animals in the world into one Ark.

The NMT vision

The vision of people like Mr. Hummel and others is that what today is the privilege of a few large companies, will become available to more and more companies in the future. And cost barriers will be reduced. And the NMT servers will be cloud-based with easy access to all. So even small jobs will be run through the NMT and only require review by a subject-matter expert. Suitable online review tools will need to be developed for the subject-matter experts.

My own opinion?

I have been saying this for years: the NMT revolution may not happen in my own lifetime. It probably will happen in the future, but in how many years? Nobody can predict that.

The effect of the NMT revolution on translation prices

Whether we are talking per word, per page or per whatever: it seems obvious that translation prices are dropping. Is this because of the NMT revolution? That also seems obvious. As more progress is made in the field of NMT, and as the workflows based around PENMT improve, more downward pressure will be made on prices.

The effect of the NMT revolution on translation jobs

Professional translators will become more specialized and more skilled. They will need to become subject-matter experts in order to stay employed in the translation business. But that is not so far from the current state in practice: the good translators today usually stick to one domain (e.g., legal, medical, technical). Translators who lack industry and/or academic focus and depth will find it increasingly harder to get work in the future.

How to Improve Your Translation Skills

Are you considering becoming a full-time freelance translator? Good for you! But before attending to the business side of the matter, you need to be absolutely sure that you know what you’re doing. Unfortunately, simply knowing a second language does not mean you can translate. Learning the profession of translation requires a lot of dedication and practice.

Although knowing a second language and translating are by no means the same thing, the former is an essential condition to master the latter. A high-school level of language command is definitely not enough. You need to be well versed in the literature, cinema and culture of the language. More than that, you should be able to use it actively and as easily as your mother tongue.

Find the best learning aids

Nobody can learn the complete vocabulary of a language. Even native speakers don’t know every single word of their mother tongue, especially when it comes to technical terms. What’s more, you may encounter difficulties when translating idiomatic expressions. That’s why you need to know what tools are available to you; a simple Google search is often insufficient.

Fortunately, there are other ways. One of them is to ask your fellow translators for advice on translation forums, such as or You also can easily lay your hands on tools to create your own bilingual corpora. One example of such programs is BootCaT. If you translate in a specialty niche (like medical or technical), a good bilingual dictionary of the terminology is an absolute minimum need.  One example of a dictionary publisher is German company Langenscheidt.

Practice makes perfect

When you’ve found out what tools are available to you, it’s time to get down to translating. Practice is the key to success in anything. The good news is that there are ways you can do so while earning money at the same time. One of the best online platforms for non-professional translators is It pays at a rate of 3 cents per word at standard level, which may not seem much. However, it’s not too bad if you take into account that you don’t need any formal qualifications to start working there; you simply have to pass a translation test. What’s great about Gengo is that, from time to time, it conducts quality checks; you get free feedback on your performance from senior translators, which is always a learning opportunity.

Taking it up a notch

If you want to take your skills to a higher level, you should consider working with texts that have already been translated. You can then compare your translation with the official one. This is a great exercise to see what mistakes you are making, especially if you have a tendency to translate too literally. The realization that your translations aren’t perfect may be painful, but it is necessary if you want to make progress.  There are a number of websites that provide translation tests, such as the EU Careers website.

Dressing up your CV

Everyone knows that you can’t get a job without having previous experience. So how does a newbie get their first job? This is conundrum that faces many young people embarking in a new career. The good news is that it is easy to for new translators to get work. Just sign up to some of lower end freelancer marketplace websites like Upwork and Fiverr and offer your services online. Never mind if you don’t make much money at the start-the main thing is to gain experience which you can list on your resume. As you gain more experience, raise your prices and target higher end clients.

Getting Certified

Once you have honed your skills as a translator to a high level, you can try to attain certification from an accredited translator guild. At the lower end, some translation companies (like One Hour Translation) provide their own certification. also provides translation tests and its own internal certification program. At the higher end, the American Translator Association and the United Nations offer translation certification. Being certified at this level puts you at the highest rank among your professional  peers and will pretty much guarantee your future as a freelance translator.

Knowing your mandate as a professional translator

The question all translators have to ask themselves is: ‘How can I get the message across?’ A good translation should have the same impact on the reader as the original text. (from the European Commission website, Juvenes Translatores)

The job of a translator is to take a text which is written in one language and write it in another language. Simple enough. But is it? On one hand, the translator has limited creative freedom. After all, the translator needs to stay true to the original text. On the other hand, one of the most common complaints that translators and translation agencies get is that “translation is too literal.” A good translator knows her/his mandate, but also knows that the translated text needs to read fluently in the target language. Word choices should be considered carefully when there a number of words that may fit. Changing the sequence of a sentence to improve readability should always be considered.

Learning to deal with feedback

Unlike in some other professions, the best feedback a translator will receive is silence (and a paycheck). A good translation is seldom rewarded by praise or adulation. But if the translator does a poor job, the feedback will rain blows on your head. Become a perfectionist and strive to get the paycheck each time with no comments or complaints.

The most important thing to remember is that translation is a skill you need to practice. Therefore, always look for ways to translate more and more. It is also valuable to reflect on your work. Is it a good translation? If not, what could be improved? If it’s possible, try to get feedback on your performance from other experienced translators.

Getting work with GTS Translation

The following are the minimum requirements to become a translator with GTS. The following is an excerpt from our Quality Management System (QMS).

All translators and reviewers must have one of the following to meet minimum competences:

* University degree from recognized institution of learning
* Certification from an accredited translation association and at least two years professional translation experience
* Minimum five years professional translation experience

All applicants must provide proof of credentials by having public web page on one of the following websites:

* Website of accredited translation association of an official country
* Profile on professional translator freelance website
* Own company/professional website

The translator and reviewer must provide references from companies that she/he worked for. At least one reference will be checked before hiring the translator or reviewer.

All translators and reviewers must submit a written test prior to being hired as a translator/reviewer.

All translators and reviewers must own a CAT tool license in order to work and maintain translation memories.

All translators and reviewers will be contacted at least once yearly to determine that they are still working as a professional translator.

If you meet these requirements, you can sign up for freelance translation work here.


8 Best Tools for Freelance Translators

Even professionals tend to make mistakes. Busy workloads, prolonged concentration and associated fatigue can cause people to make silly mistakes even in the most routine tasks. In order to avoid these situations and to detect errors on time, there are a few special assistants that will safeguard the quality of your material. If you have chose your career path as a freelance translator, then the following assistants will become your friends while enabling you to do your job perfectly, regardless of the time of day.

Great for Beginners and More – MEMOQ

The basic functions of a good translation tool are well suited for beginners who are just starting their journey. This is a great tool, as it does not require payment. And for 45 days, the user will have the opportunity to evaluate the complete package that the program can provide. Accordingly, the number of functions over these 1.5 months will grow to incredible sizes. And as has already been tested by our own experience, it is difficult to return to the “usual” format when you have already tasted that very juicy “fruit”.

As many as 100 languages will be at your disposal. Build your base of frequently used expressions, add ready-made translations to the database and work with them, improving each time.

  • Available on Windows and iOS

It’s Never Too Late to Learn – LINGVO-ONLINE

Can’t remember the right phrase or phraseology? Do you want to find a suitable synonym, but you can’t remember anything suitable? This assistant will find it at your request. Here you will have access to 15 languages, as well as to an expanded library of dictionaries. Look for not only single words but also specific expressions of native speakers. Also, here is the opportunity to contact other users and share own experience with them. Combine work and training moments, talk with users from all over the world, and get new knowledge firsthand.

  • Available on mobile devices based on Android and iOS (online and offline), as well as on a PC based Windows machines.

Your Knowledge of the Importance and Features of Translation – The Word Point

This is an assistant that holds a real treasure chest of goodies. You can and should contact it if you encounter a problem of any nature. Experienced people will help to restore the lost logical chain in your work, as well as correctly execute any translation order. However, the delights of the assistant do not end there. You can find here a regularly updated database of incredibly useful articles about all things related to translation. The best marketing moves, the importance of understanding the cultural value of the languages you are translating into, and other informative treasures are stored here for both beginner translators and those who already have more than a little experience in this business.

  • Available on Windows and iOS PC

Your Personal Word Base – TermWiki Toolbar

Do you have a word or expression that is difficult to remember? This assistant will solve this problem. It will not only help to translate any word or phrase from 90 units of available languages but also create a personal dictionary of those terms that you want to remember. The assistant is available for free, which is a nice bonus.

  • Available on Windows PC

Watching Your Literacy – Grammarly

Have you ever encountered missing commas and mechanical typos? It is rather annoying to spend additional time on repeated proofreading of a document, in search of such mistakes. Fortunately, with this extension, this time can be spent on checking the consistency and logic of the text. Ease of use will conquer any user. Write your texts in any program that is convenient for you. The extension supports work in Google Docs and also provides the ability to add your work to the program itself and conduct checks inside. This extension works great with American, British, Canadian, and Australian English.

Not a Single Sign Will Be Missed – Word Count Tool

It is normal that payment for the work of a translator is carried out according to the number of words written. You can quickly and easily perform this calculation with this assistant. Moreover, here the user will be able to find out not only the number of words and characters but also the number of paragraphs. The assistant also provides information on the length of sentences and their number in the text. All this is issued in a concise and understandable form.

  • Available on Windows and iOS PC

Your Mistakes Will Not Triumph Over Your Efforts – Antidote

There is a solution for automatically detecting grammar and spelling mistakes. This assistant, although reminiscent of its characteristics Grammarly, works with an increased database of languages. Here, not only options for the English dialect are available for the user, but also French. However, these services require payment. But the advanced translation and verification capabilities are clearly worth the cost.

Your Personal Guide to the World of Languages – Context Reverso

Do you think it is impossible to put together a dictionary, examples of the use of words, all available synonyms for a word? With this assistant it becomes a reality. All you need to do is to choose the source and target language. After pressing a button, the user receives some examples of sentences which will clearly show how and where the necessary word or phrase can be used. This method perfectly shows the possibilities of using words, taking the context into account. Indeed, in any language there is a word that has a number of different  meanings. Thanks to this tool, you no longer need to leaf through thousands of dictionaries to find possible meanings.

Summing Up

Working on our mistakes, actions, and thoughts makes us improve each day. It also happens with our work. Therefore, by using all available, and most importantly high-quality, tools you improve the level of your work and get more opportunities to be chosen as a freelance translator for the most interesting projects.

About the Author

Mary is a well-known American freelance blogger with advanced writing skills. She currently works as a translator at TheWordPoint translation service. Mary has experience in editing, marketing, and her works appeared in different publications and website articles. From 2015 to present she has been studying at William Paterson University as a philosopher. Her main goal in life is not to set any goals and to keep working every day. You can connect to her on LinkedIn.


I need more time! Top 10 excuses for missing the deadline.

As professionals in the translation industry, whether you are a translator, a PM, a designer, a sales manager or a translation company owner, we all live with the clock. Anyone who has worked in this business knows that deadlines are a part of our life and are sacred. If you promised your client to deliver by COB London time, it better be delivered on time!

However … deadlines are always being missed for one reason or another. In my opinion, there is no excuse for being late. I once heard a saying that goes like this: the best lie is the truth. If you are late with a delivery, better to come clean and tell your customer the truth. And offer a discount if you deem it necessary to keep your relationship intact. Making excuses, in my opinion, makes a person seem incompetent at best, if not outright dishonest. At GTS, if one of our translators makes an excuse for being late, we tend to write off that person as being unreliable and dishonest.

Having said this, we get LOTS of excuses and I thought I would share some of these with you.

1. Death or illness in the family. This is part of life and unfortunately these things happen. But I tend to be suspicious when someone tells me that her mother-in-law is in the hospital. Illness in itself is a valid excuse: we had a brilliant German to English translator (named Ruth Laskowski may she RIP) who tragically died of cancer. But she never used this as an excuse and always delivered her work on time. Ruth’s husband eventually informed her colleagues of her illness so they could transition accordingly.

2. The work is on my home PC and I am away. A total BS excuse in my opinion. Especially today when everything is in the cloud and smartphones are like a PC in your pocket.

3. My PC was stolen. My house was robbed. I actually just got this one today (and it in fact gave me the inspiration for this post). It does not sound like a believable excuse. I guard my PCs more carefully than I do my wife (well, maybe not but you get the picture). In over 30 years of owning laptop PCs, I never had one stolen. Also, laptops have become so cheap that the market for a stolen notebook PC can’t be much and why would thieves steal them?

4. The work is done but we need extra time for review. This is actually the most clever excuse in that it (a) assuages the client that the delivery is imminent; and (b) shows the client that quality is your top concern. But still, it is an excuse for being late and when you commit to a deadline, it should include all the time you need to deliver a good job.

5. Time zone confusion. This in another one we tend to get. “I thought we were supposed to deliver it COB West Coast time.” If you are the person or company that ordered the translation work, be very specific about the deadline (e.g., we need it by 9 AM EST on October 23).

6. I thought you assigned to work to another translator. This is usually an honest mistake. If you are the PM, make sure that everyone knows their assignments so you don’t have to be the one making the excuses yourself.

7. Sending the original files back.  Sometimes people send you back the original back instead of the translation. Is it done by mistake or is it a ploy to gain some extra time? Who knows?

8. No, please use this version instead. Sometimes the translators will send you a file and then send an email an hour later saying “no please use this version instead, I found a mistake.” This wreaks havoc on PMs who are faced with a deadline themselves. What do you do once you delivered the first version? Send the second one? Ignore it? The good translators don’t pull this kind of stuff.

9. You mean I need to translate the graphics too? Another variation on this excuse: you send an Excel file with multiple tabs for translation and it comes back with only one translated tab. As a PM, be very specific about what you need to translate so as to avoid such excuses.

10. Wow, I forgot. This excuse is one of the worst ones as it shows an absolute disregard for the client. Still it happens even to the best and most reliable people. If you use this excuse with a steady client who knows and trusts you-then OK. If you do this with a new client, don’t count on getting more orders from them.

In summary, making excuses for missed deadlines is not recommended. If you are starting out as a translation provider or are working for a new client, don’t ever miss the deadline. If you do need more time, the truth works better. Better to be honest than make up BS excuses that are transparent in their duplicity.

(thought of one more)

10a. Partial delivery. This is one of the most annoying excuses. The deadline for delivery of 5 files is looming near. Your translator delivers two or three files while assuring you that the rest are coming soon. This is bad for the PM as it makes her/him deal with multiple emails and juggle multiple files.

10b. I have some computer issues and I don’t think i will be able to finish the translation on time.  A freelance translator with computer issues is like a fire engine with no water. Yet many translators feel that this is a valid excuse. In reality, it is a crappy excuse which also makes the translator look incompetent. Computers today are pretty cheap and a good professional will have a backup in place for this eventuality.

Everything you need to know about CAT Tools

Translators face many challenges in their daily work. They are forced to deliver projects within short deadlines and are often asked to translate more words per day than reasonably possible. And all of this must be done without compromising quality. It obviously means that stress and pressure are a staple of a freelance translator’s life. Here’s where CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools become critical for any translator. There is no perfect CAT tool, but they help professionals to a great extent.

There are several CAT Tools in the market: they have their differences regarding features, pricing and usability. At the end of this post we will list some of them. All CAT tools share a common aspect: translation memories (TM). Translation memories are like a database that store linguistic units that have previously been translated. They are key for easing the job of any translator. If you are not really sure about whether to use CAT tools or not, take into account the following statements and you may change your mind after reading this.

CAT tools improve quality

A good translator and a good translation agency always base their work on previous projects. Why? It is simple, because of similarities. Not all texts are equal, but some share some common points that can be applied to different projects. When translating segments you can get some translation suggestions, check the concordance level between your memory translation and the new segment, and even search previous translation results, which eases and helps a great deal. In those cases, CAT tools can reuse information by applying it to new translation projects. So you can keep accuracy which greatly improves quality.

CAT tools share information

You can use just your own information or even benefit from other’s translators previous work. Translation services UK is a company that has been applying the idea of shared memory translations, so that different freelance or in-house translators may take advantage of different projects. When having a big TM the results can be awesome. By choosing among several alternatives or relying on common options, any translator can deliver a better job.

We work with SDL Groupshare where we can maintain our TMs easily. Since this tool is from the developers of SDL Trados, which is the leading CAT tool in the market, most translators can connect to our TMs and work with the same TM easily. Projects can be made available with an online editor so that any translator can work on the text simultaneously. Alternatively, our PMs can also split text into numerous segments so that several translators can work on the same text at the same time, depending on the volume and timelines.

CAT tools reduce time

When you are reusing data, you can save time. And by applying previous information, you can translate quicker. It helps a lot for delivering all deadlines on time and / or enjoying some free time by finishing work earlier. So why are you wasting your time translating similar texts instead of reducing many hours of work? Thanks to CAT tools, you can save time. And time is money, right?

CAT tools make money

As mentioned, time is of the essence. So CAT tools pay for themselves and make money through increased translation throughput. If you can translate quicker, you can finish your work earlier or even afford more daily words without compromising quality. Meaning that you can complete more work in an allotted time. Or you can work less time, but obtain the same monetary income, which eventually means an increase in your hourly rate.

But you must also take into account that CAT tools are not perfect, so you should not completely rely on them, as technology is just an aid; but when doing your translation work you can benefit from some of their features for easing your job.

To sum up, if you are aiming for quality, if you want to reduce your working time, and if you are striving to increase your income as a translator, you should be using a CAT tool.

Common Ground in CAT Tools

Translation Memory eXchange (TMX) file format is used by most all of the CAT tools. This allows translation companies to switch between various CAT tools while not having to worry about file compatibility issues. This also means that translation companies freelance translators with any CAT tool and be able to integrate the TM into their aligned corpora.

Creation of a TM out of existing translations

Even if your company does not have an existing TM, you can easily create one by aligning the legacy source and translated text to create a TMX file. The TMX can then be imported into your CAT tool. There are a number of alignment tools that can be used for this task. Some of these include ABBYY Aligner, SDL Trados and MemoQ.

Which CAT Tool should you choose?

The leading CAT tool is SDL Trados. This company has been in existence for over 20 years and they have products for every kind of user, starting from freelance translators up to enterprise versions for large-scale LSPs and corporate clients. The basic license works on your PC (and not in a cloud). The entry level for freelance translators is quite high, around 500 Euro. This deters many freelance translators from purchasing it.

Another very popular CAT tools is Wordfast. The reason it is so popular: there is a free version that can be used quickly and easily (Wordfast Anywhere). The free solution is cloud-based. But is lacks many features that translators have come to rely on. But you can start with the free version and graduate to premium versions with time.

Across is a cloud-based solution which has become very popular in recent years. They offer a certification program for translators and LSPs.

MemoQ is one of the more cost competitive solutions in the market and can be integrated with Trados Studio (SDLXLIFF) files, which is one of its key benefits.

SmartCAT is a computer-assisted translation web app that enables collaborative translation.

Rocio Gonzalez is in charge of communication and is a linguist for Okodia, a language service provider. You can find her on LinkedIn here.

Using a synthetic voice as a translation editing tool

Translation editing tool

I have a colleague called Ryan. He’s been with me since 2014. He’s reliable, consistent and a valued member of the team. I’m from Northern Ireland and he’s from the USA, so we’re both English speakers working in the west of France. What separates us is that I am a physical being and he is a virtual voice. In fact, I can only really refer to him as a ‘he’ rather than an ‘it’ because his/its name is Ryan and his/its masculine voice derives from a real person.

I ’employ’ Ryan to read aloud the text that I have prepared for clients: he comes in at the final stage of the translation or the editing process. In previous times I used to read this text out loud myself, but my concentration was inclined to wander after spending days poring over the same words, and although I felt that reading aloud was a sensible thing to do, I hadn’t taken the time to consider its empirical validity.

So I began to search for answers. I had to go all the way back to 1969 to find Nida and Taber’s reflections on reading aloud as an editing tool for translators:

“As the text is read, the translator should note carefully those places at which the reader stumbles, hesitates, makes some substitution of another grammatical form, puts in another word, or in any way has difficulty in reading the text fluently. Of course, some of the problems in reading may be due to inexperience in public reading, but if two or more persons have difficulty at the same point in the reading of a translation, this is a warning signal that something is likely to be wrong. Perhaps it is an awkward grammatical form, perhaps a difficult semotactic [syntax that alters the meaning] arrangement, perhaps a problem of word order. But whatever the problem may be, it should be carefully analyzed.”

It would be good to be able to quote from numerous pieces of research, but I can’t. Translation scholars have been decidedly quiet on the subject of phonological equivalence and the importance of reading aloud as an editing tool, which is a pity when reading aloud can now be undertaken by a synthetic voice. This voice may not stumble or hesitate like a human voice, but the human listener, me, is quite capable of recognising the above obstacles as the text is read out loud. Moreover, the synthetic voice can carry the listener beyond the bounds of grammatical equivalence into the textual and pragmatic equivalence of cohesion and coherence. If I lose track of the people and themes while Ryan is reading, or if I lose track of the overall meaning, then I know that something in the text isn’t right and will have to be reviewed.

As a translator who now spends more time editing than translating, I no longer need my human colleague to highlight (in yellow, which I love!) potential conflict between the source text in French and the target text in English. My remit has become one of improving an English text until it is sufficiently ‘readable’. Readable is a loaded term, defined by Anagnostou and Weir as “what makes one text more difficult or easier to understand than another” (2006), but at the very least, I would hope that the eventual reader can read my improved text with ease, which means that I have optimised the use of such devices as repetition, punctuation, sentence length, pronouns, parallel structures, polysyllabic words and syntax.

I could of course resort to one of the 200 known readability formulae to measure and adjust some of these devices – it would be quick, but these formulae focus on writing style to the detriment of content, structure and design.

And this brings me back to Ryan and the value of using a synthetic voice. Ryan does the reading; I listen; I alter; Ryan rereads; I listen; I alter, etc. I stop when the words, the grammar, the cohesion and the coherence blend into harmony. Like all translators, I have performance criteria: much of my text is read by editors from international journals and publishing houses. They are thorough, so my English has to be thorough too.

Nevertheless, Ryan has had to step in occasionally to save me from glaring errors, typographical or other, which have floated to the surface of the text after being submerged for a number of days. I had simply stopped seeing them (especially if they were missing words). What can I say? I rely on Ryan’s efficiency. Did you know that he can read about 10,000 words per hour? I could accelerate his voice within my text to speech (TTS) software, but I’m happy with his normal speed. At the moment, most TTS programs automatically highlight each word as it is read, but wouldn’t be wonderful if they could use different colours to highlight different problems, like the overabundance of passive constructions, and wouldn’t it be even more wonderful if I could set the program to highlight what I want it to highlight from a number of options?

If only…

Until then, whether you edit what you translate or you edit what others have written in your target language and you want to maximise the quality of your work, Ryan and a host of other synthetic voices may be worth considering. I have certainly benefitted from his/its input.

About the author:

Rowland Hill is a professional translator who lives and work in France. He mostly translates and edits economics/sociology articles/books and children’s books.  What does Rowland say about machine translation? “I’m not much of a machine translator. My only machine is my brain and whatever complementary software I can find, like TTS.”

How to make BIG bucks as a freelance translator

Let’s start with a few basic facts: the translation industry is huge and generated over US$45 Billion in 2018. The world has several hundred thousand translators who are making a living in this industry.  It is clear that there is a lot of money out there and freelance translators can do very well in today’s market. There are translators who make over $100,000 a year. And most of the freelancers can work out of their home and at their own hours. Sounds good right?

The downside is that there is a lot of competition out there and the barrier of entry is low. Anyone with a PC and Internet connection can open her/his own freelance translation business. So how can you fare better than the competition? This post provides a few pointers that can help you on the road to success.

Love your work. This point is banal and can be said about any profession. If you don’t get excited about your work then you won’t be successful. Words matter! While you are working, consider that the words that you are writing may be seen by millions of people. MILLIONS! With this is mind, your translation work should be crafted carefully and joyfully. And when you love your work, you will do your best to constantly hone your skills which will drive you to improve in your chosen profession.

Be Professional: the most important thing you can do is have a professional attitude about your business. A freelance translator will need to invest money in setting up her/his business. This includes buying a decent PC and purchasing software licenses. Buying a CAT tool is a must. It would behoove a professional translator to have licenses for all software products and not steal copyrighted products. Don’t skimp on other expenses which will make you look better to potential clients. Invoices, letterheads, mailers, web pages and your CV should be designed so to appear as professional as possible.

Be Quick. Another no brainer but needs to be said. You can make more money delivering 5,000 words a day then if you only deliver 3,000 words. Speed can be achieved without compromising quality. CAT tools can help speed up the process. Translators have been known to use other software aids in their work, like speech-to-text software, all in the interest of increasing throughput. The best paid translators are the ones who can work fastest.

Prepare a kick-ass CV. Your resume should be ready to go. The CV should be written in the language that your customers understand (in our case this would be primarily English). A good quality photo on your resume is recommended. Avoid listing previous jobs which are not relevant to your objectives. A resume that includes jobs as a phone receptionist, waiter or lifeguard at a summer camp are not going to make you more attractive as a freelance translator so leave them out. Likewise, avoid listing hobbies that have no relevance to your objectives. Finally, distribute your CV in PDF file format and not in Word. CVs in Word format can get messed up when viewed by your customers.

Maintain an Online Presence. There are several ways you can do this and it is highly recommended. A website will show your potential customers that you mean business. There are good low cost options for publishing a 1-2 page website in which you can tout your skills ( and are examples). Register on freelance translator directories like and translatorscafe.  Once you have profiles in these websites, send them to clients in your proposals. Sign up on online translation company websites that are looking for translators. Click here to sign up as a freelance translator on GTS Translation website.

Be Social. Be available to answer questions raised by your peers on the various forums and social networks. This will raise your profile online and get you more exposure. If will also show customers that you are an expert in your field.

Price yourself industriously. When you are out of work, bid low. When you are busy, bid high. The main thing is to keep busy and stay in business. Did you ever pass by a restaurant with people waiting on line to get in? The food is probably good there. Did you ever pass by an empty restaurant? The food is probably bad. The same with translators. The good ones are busy and often unavailable. The poor ones have plenty of time on their hands.

Follow the money. The translation business can be highly sporadic. Feast to famine. So take work when you can because it may dry up tomorrow. Try not to tell your customers that you are too busy because then they may find a replacement and cut you out of the loop in future jobs. Work 16 hours days when you can and rest during the slack times. When you are rich enough, then you can turn down jobs.

Be timely, polite and flexible. Answer all emails quickly. If you don’t have a smartphone with an email account then get one, that way you can be on top of your emails. Be polite to your customers and try to use the word YES more than the word NO. At the end of the day, your customers want to order from someone who is not only competent but is also a nice person to deal with. Be grateful to the people that provide you with work, as it will ingratiate you to your clients.

Try to solve problems on your own. Translation PMs don’t like to be besieged by pesky questions. It wastes time and delays delivery. If you have a pressing issue which you can’t solve on your own then fire away. But if it is something you can solve on your own then do so (and consider adding a translator note to the finished text).

Be a stickler for quality. This is key. Proofread your material carefully, run a spell check as much as needed. Try not to assume that someone else will catch your mistakes and avoid making any.

Deliver on time and never make excuses. If you can’t deliver on time (which is in itself a cardinal sin), then at least notify the customer of the delay in advance. NEVER make excuses and provide reasons for the delay (my mother-in-law is in the hospital, the work is in my office PC and I am now at home, etc.). These excuses just make you appear to be a liar and better just to apologize for a delay and offer a price discount if you can afford to.