New and beginning unispired translators often ask on LinkedIn, Translation Journal (which is now for sale!), or blogs and in other venues where unemployed and severely underemployed translators waste on average between 2 to 5 hours a day where to find well paying work.
What these new translators don’t seem to realize is that a “digital water cooler” is the last place where one should look for this kind of advice. Most of the people who have the time to provide free advice obviously don’t have enough work for themselves either, otherwise they would not be wasting their time answering dumb questions online.
And since translators who actually know how to get well paying jobs don’t exactly need a lot of competition from cheap newbies, most of the advice that old timers so generously dispense online is really well disguised misdirection aimed at squashing potential future competitors before they have a chance to start crowding unnecessarily the market place.
So I am not about to start explaining to inexperienced translators how to go about finding well paying translation work either. I am basically a nice guy – but not that nice. If I know where to find a well paying gig – and I just might – why would I want to share this knowledge with other people and then lose the gig?
Obviously, this is the kind of secret that I will not disclose on my blog and instead I will take it with me to my grave.
But what I can do for inexperienced translators is tell these people about the absolutely worst ways to be looking work. All of the resources listed here have work for translators. The problem is, you can count on really lousy rates and very long payment terms from all of these resources, at least 60 days net.
TOP SEVEN WORST WAYS TO LOOK FOR WORK AS A TRANSLATOR
1. Contacting agencies listed in the List of Top 100 Translation Agencies helpfully prepared for us by the Common Sense Advisory. How do you think these agencies got so big and their owners so rich? By paying translators good money and fast? Or by paying the people who do the actual work as little as possible, they way KFC, McDonalds and Burger King have been doing it for decades?
By the way, thanks so much, Nataly Kelley and Donald A. DePalma, for the list! It is so nice, thoughtful and generous of you guys to let us know which agencies are best to avoid!
2. Accepting work from translation agencies who post messages to recruit translators on translator discussion groups (such as Honyaku), especially if these postings include something like this: We are looking for a translator who can translate chemical patent materials from Japanese to English. The translator will be required to use our agency’s translation tool “CAT Revolution/Agency Paradise CAT”.
Why do you think they are so enamored of their silly CAT? Obviously, because their Translation Agency Paradise CATTM will reduce the word count in your translation from 5,987 thousand words to 2,956 words (the tool does not count numbers, repeated words and “small words”) so as to pay you about a half of what you thought you would be making.
3. Looking for work on “Portals for Translators” such as Proz, GoTranslators, TranslatorsCafe, etc. (a new one pops up online every few months). When you have hordes of underemployed translators, some of them living in third world countries, competing on these “portals” among each other who will offer the lowest bid for 1 lousy job, what do you think the result will be? It does not take a genius to figure it out.
4. Accepting work from translation agencies in India or China.
No additional explanation should be required here.
5. Accepting work from translation agencies that are based in poor countries on any continent, such as Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, especially if they prominently feature on their website the Manhattan skyline, the London Bridge, Sidney Harbor or the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame de Paris with multiple addresses in respective countries.
The address is a mail box, and the purpose of the pretty pictures (they also often use pictures of sexy, happy, smiling, young people, presumably highly qualified translators, and recently they have been also using puppies on their websites) is to convince potential customers that the agency is a respected company that is based in a major Western city with a high cost of living and high translation costs.
The translators, however, will be obviously paid the equivalent of the minimum wage paid where the agency is in fact located, such as in Moldova.
6. Accepting work from translation agencies who are looking for “post-editors” of machine translation rather than for translators. Why do you think that this new occupation of “post-editor” was created in the first place? To save money that would be otherwise paid to translators for translating. If we could only have a world where software translates for free, and post-editors post-edit for peanuts, what a wonderful world it would be for translation agencies!
7. Soliciting work by sending thousands of junk e-mails to lists of translation agencies compiled by people who sell such lists on CDs for hundreds of Euros to newbie translators. Every agency (and non-agency on the CD, including myself) receives dozens or hundreds of resumes from these poor people every day. Since these CDs also helpfully include an idiotic cover letter that all of these would-be translators simply copy and include with their resume (either because their English is not very strong or their reasoning skills are not very well developed), these offensive e-mails will be promptly deleted within a split seconds.
At this point I have only 7 top worst ways to look for work, but translators reading my advice are encouraged to submit their own proposals for other or even worst possible ways to be looking for work in all the wrong places and if I like the proposals, I will try to incorporate them in my post.
Also, if you are a masochistic kind of individual who does not really need any money and who gets his or her jollies from indescribable suffering and pain that can last for years or decades, you can use my list as a recommendation for places to go to satisfy your S&M cravings.
Whatever floats your boat. But if you are not really into S&M, don’t say I did not warn you!