Standing Your Ground: A Short Case Study

If running a small business were easy, we'd all be our own bosses.  Running a small business is challenging and we have to make many difficult decisions on an everyday basis. Perhaps the hardest part is managing customer (and potential customer) relationships. While it's impossible to make everyone happy, we need to strive to attract and retain customers and turn them into repeat customers. However, sometimes there are potential clients with whom you should choose not to work. We don't really believe in the term "firing clients," but you do need to choose your customers very carefully.

This is the first in a series of short examples meant to illustrate one particular point and what we can learn from them.

Today, we received a phone call from a potential customer saying that he had several documents to be translated. They were, according to the caller, "simple, informal, not hard, do not need to be certified." We informed the customer that we'd be happy to look at them electronically and then issue a free, non-binding quote. 

Customer: "That's really not necessary. Just tell me how much it costs. It's six, of seven, or eight pages, and they are only half-full. If you have been doing this for more than a month, you should know how much this costs."

Judy: "Actually, in order to give you an accurate price quote, we will need to get a word count, as translation is charged by the word. I am unable to issue a quote on a document I haven't seen.  We need to evaluate the document, look at the subject matter, consider the format (PDF? handwritten?) and confirm that we are the right providers for your project. If not, we would be happy to recommend a colleague."

Customer: "Ah, forget it, you can't help me here." Click.

Why we feel we did the right thing:

  • Quoting on a project sight unseen always sets you up for failure, unless you are working with a trusted repeat customer whose projects are very similar. A page could be 800 words or 50 words. 
  • Working with a customer who does not want to follow the proper procedure to ensure an accurate product is probably not ideal. Just imagine: if he can't even send us the document he wants translated, will he pay us?
  • We don't like to be bullied. Perhaps the customer's tone was not the one he wanted to choose, but our request was reasonable, is standard in the industry, and is also meant to protect the customer by providing accurate estimates. 
  • We protected our business interests. We'd set ourselves up to fail by providing a legally binding quote on something we haven't seen. 
Although it's  disappointing to have an uncomfortable conversation with a potential customer and to not be able to help him, in this case, it all worked out for the better.With that, we are off to translate documents from another customer who had the same inquiry and promptly scanned and e-mailed the document for our evaluation.

Dear fellow linguists: what would you have done in this situation? We'd love to hear your input in the comments section. 

Early-Bird Deadline for ATA Conference is Today!

Just like every year, the ATA conference, which will be held in gorgeous Denver, Colorado, this year, is going to be a fantastic event with several thousand linguists in attendance (can you tell we love this conference?). We also love saving money, so if you sign up for the full conference today, it's $325 for ATA members instead of $390. Sounds like a great deal to us! Register on the ATA website

Proz Virtual Conference

As self-employed linguists, we are always looking for professional development opportunities, as it's important to keep our skills sharp. We regularly attend in-person seminars, conferences,and educational sessions -- and there's really no substitute for meeting colleagues in person -- but we have also been very impressed with the recent online offerings. Best of all,'s all-virtual conference is entirely free! You have to sign up for it, and the event will be held on September 30, 2010. By attending all or part of the events, you will have free access to all materials after the event as well (for a limited time). We also like that the event is offering prizes -- who doesn't love prizes? -- and we were happy to donate a copy of our book to it. Register for the conference and let the virtual learning begin!

Faculty Position at National Hispanic University in San Jose

Ah, the power of Web 2.0. Through LinkedIn, we were contacted by the National Hispanic University in San Jose, California, about a faculty position. We don't live in the area, but we told the university folks that we'd be happy to post this on our blog for our colleagues in northern California. Here are the details:

Part Time Faculty—Translation and Interpretation Class 306---National Hispanic University in San Jose, CA

Established 28 years ago, National Hispanic University provides accessible and affordable quality education for underserved students. Through innovation, engagement and student-centered learning, National Hispanic University, a fully accredited, four-year university is fostering successful academic and economic futures of its students.

Part-time faculty members serve in a part-time capacity to educate National Hispanic University students by effectively and proficiently delivering information, feedback, and critique in thoughtful, carefully formulated, well written, and timely communications. This is accomplished in an environment that is respectful of student, the Faculty Member, National Hispanic University, and the discipline in which the Faculty Member is involved. Faculty Members are expected to adhere to all National Hispanic University expectations, which are set forth to the Faculty Member at the start of his/her employment with the University.

*Earned Doctoral degree, preferred. Masters Degree required in Education or English and Spanish from an accredited university
*Practical experience as a translator and interpreter
*5-10 years teaching experience in interpretation/translation, linguistics, Spanish, English, ESL, Composition and Grammar at the University Level
*Strong background in Translation & Interpretation theory and techniques, and linguistics
*Bilingual in English and Spanish
*Experience working in multicultural settings
*Certified by the State of California in Translation/Interpretation and United States courts, preferred.

For more information, please visit the university's website. Per the university, the requisition number is 00005694.

If you apply for and/or obtain this position, we'd love to hear from you!

Choosing a CAT Tool - Free Videos

If you either own a CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tool -- also called TenT (Translation Environment Tools) or are thinking of purchasing one, chances are you have heard  the name of German translator and CAT guru Jost Zetzsche (and no, you don't have to pronounce it). Years ago, when we were looking for CAT tools, both for our business use and for corporate use when Judy was working as an in-house translation department manager, we turned to Jost for help, who very graciously answered all our questions. Jost has been a relentless advocate for CAT tools, a progressive forward-thinker in terms of technology, an expert on anything computer-related that makes translators' lives easier, and the publisher of an outstanding free computer newsletter for translators, the Tool Kit. He has also created Jeromobot (pictured); the modern patron saint of translators. You can follow him @jeromobot on Twitter.

Without a doubt, the best place to find out which CAT tool is the best for you is Jost's website, which is fee-based, but worth every penny. However, there is some fantastic free content, too: he has just added 20 excellent videos about tools that give you a great overview and should make your purchasing decision easier. If you like what you see, please consider supporting his efforts by purchasing a membership. 

Studying Jorge Ramos

In preparation for tomorrow's Supreme Court of Nevada court interpretation exam, Judy has spent hundreds of hours working with court-specific terminology lists, professionally developed mock exams, and has interpreted dozens of hours of recorded testimony, opening and closing statements, and other court-related materials. All this is well-documented on Judy's new best friend: a digital tape recorder. 

After she ran out of official court materials, she turned to YouTube to interpret -- who would have thought -- Judge Judy episodes into Spanish. While those are a bit light on the legal terminology, they are somewhat representative of what happens in small claims court. However, the prize for best videos to practice to goes to any video of Univisión nightly news anchor and Spanish-language journalist extraordinaire, Jorge Ramos. If you live in the U.S., you can see him nightly at 6:30 p.m. in every time zone, and there's just something magical about his delivery, speed, eloquence, and tone (and no, none of Judy's interpretations have thus far matched Jorge's cadence). Plus, it doesn't hurt that he's extremely good-looking: somehow, it makes these interpretation exercises easier! For the English speakers, we have chosen an English-language video. For professional materials, we highly recommend the ACEBO website (warning: not a pretty website), in particular, the The Interpreter's Edge.  

The Facebook Experiment

Readers of this blog will know that we are both big fans of social media and the opportunities that these technologies create for small business owners like ourselves. The traditional marketing/advertising model seems almost obsolete because of these innovative new ways of creating interest, spreading the word, and keeping in touch with our customers. For us, Facebook is a hybrid in the sense that we use it for both professional and personal reasons -- a happy medium. We spend roughly 30 minutes a day on Facebook, and just like everyone else, we are not immune to the almost hypnotic powers of Facebook and its ability to draw one into its world -- which can result in spending more time on the site than one would like.

We are always quite busy, but this week is especially challenging for Judy, as she is presenting the oral exam in the hopes of becoming a Supreme Court of Nevada state-certified court interpreter (a long shot, due to insufficient simultaneous interpretation experience). She needs every minute she can get to study, so she has decided to save the 30 minutes a day usually reserved for FB by staying away for 7 days. Can she do it? Stay tuned and find out. Today is day #2 and she is alive and well. Note: if you are reading this posting on FB, it is because it is fed automatically into the application by our blogging software. Judy is keeping in touch with the world via Twitter.

What about our readers: can you live without any particular form of social media? 
Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become part of the translation and interpretation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published. We usually publish all comments that aren't spam, self-promotional or offensive to others. Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media is all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting! We very much look forward to your comments and insight. Let's learn from each other and continue these important conversations.

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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