translation delivery times

It’s very important not to deliver your translation too late early.

Being on time is important, but dangerous

Remember when you were just starting our as a translator, and you were so happy when you finished translations ahead of schedule? “Yeh, I’m the fastest translator! Let’s send this off now and the client will be delighted!”

Yes, but… Sending translations off early has some disadvantages that we should be aware of:

  1. It can cause a bad impression with the client. Seriously. Imagine you just agreed, through gritted teeth, to pay a translator 100 euros for a few paragraphs, and then you get the translation after two hours! Surely, someone’s taken the ****, right? You’ve just paid your translator 50 euros per hour. Surely they haven’t taken the work very seriously? …. It’s very easy for a client to think that you haven’t taken the work all that seriously when you deliver the text much too early. That’s logical. Who would like to spend a fortune on a translation only to find out that your translator barely spends any time with it? Clients, of course, usually are not aware, and cannot be expected to be, really, that a) you’re the world’s best and fastest translator b) your translation memory did it for you because they’ve send you the exact same text a week before already c) you really didn’t give a **** (though surely that’s not the case, right?).
  2. It raises expectations. Translation deadlines are tight enough. Especially if you’re like me, i.e. you yourself set your deadlines as tight as possible, just so you have to get down to it and don’t waste your time reading the sports news. (There’s just too much interesting stuff on the internet, isn’t there?) So, the only thing you don’t want to do is make your client believe it can be done even faster. But this is exactly the impression you give a client when you send off a translation before the deadline. Their reasoning will be, if he delivered it in a day last time, surely he can do it in a couple of hours, too?

It’s pretty obvious from the above that there is only one good time to send off your translated document: right on the deadline, or just before. Well, let’s say if you want to cause a good impression but avoid the pitfalls described above, as a rule of thumb, you could argue that one hour before the deadline is just right. You’re early, but not too early. And you’re not too late, either.


Yes, but I want to get rid of this now!

OK, so now that we’ve agreed on the time of delivery, there’s only one problem: We don’t want to sit around until the deadline when the work is already done. Let’s say there is nothing else to do for the rest of the day, and we just want to get out of the office, you know, out into the world, or get drunk on some whiskey, or erm, take the girlfriend out for some ice cream (yeah, right…). We could take the document with us on our modern, intelligent phone, but chances are we’ll forget to send it off after a few glasses, or a few cups of ice cream…


Luckily, Microsoft Outlook 2010 has a solution for this (and previous versions might have, too, but I can’t tell as I have never used Outlook before the 2010 version): Delayed Delivery. From the ribbon, under “Home”, when sending off an email, you have the option right there:

delay translation delivery

Make sure your translation is sent off at exactly the right time.

Just click on “Delay Delivery” and then check the box “Do not deliver before”, and set your time. You need to have an active internet connection and leave Outlook open (or minimized) for this to work. You email will stay in your Outbox and it will be sent at the exact time which you specify.


In the series, “Better Translating”, we try to help you set yourself up as a professional translator and be more efficient by using the right software and hardware, and knowing how to use it. Any suggestions? Let us know in the comments.




This is a guest post from Olga Kellen, an excellent Russian translator who we’ve recently started a collaboration with, about the dangers and annoyances of free automated translation. Hope you enjoy the read!

“I guess any translator has had this experience when a potential client turns to free online translation on their website instead of using a professional to translate the website into a foreign language(s) to get foreign buyers for the site’s product.

Here’s an example of such so called marketing to foreigners through free online translation:

At a beautiful luxury real estate website offering exclusive homes all priced over $1,000,000 in the USA, there is a button “Languages” – for free online translation into a number of languages. I used it for Russian and then translated the so called “Russian” content back to English.

Here’s how these American realtors appear to market their luxury to Russian-speaking website visitors:

“Protected, calm, and extremely particular communities dotted line with the large of the property of apartment buildings in the wide sections with that impressing opinions. With the photo the postcard is the park of tuning elevated the country- style of the stylishness, for pastoral horse passing elegance, [Kombi] enclaves to ensure peaceful solitude and with the bewitching view. These land spreading is shop window the irreproachable selection of many architectural styles, from the Mediterranean to Mizner the [Palm]- whip of Georgian French Regency of British West India, also, beyond its limits. For those, which the prize of rarified of beauty and the infinite views, which it enveloped in the peaceful solitude.”

I won’t go on, it’s the same pity all over the site, and you have the idea.

Their page name “Private Estate Enclave” turned simply into “restroom is the urbanization” – sorry, but that’s what the machine translation does sometimes…

Another convincing argument for NOT using free online translation where it does not belong:

We all know that Canada is a bilingual country. It means government agencies of all levels have to provide people with information and services in both English and French. Private companies do the same as they want to get business from both English- and French-speaking people.

Canadian websites are mostly bilingual – some by law and some by will.

Do they ever use a free translation?I’ll be very much astonished to find at least one company that does that in Canada…

Why not?

They have to serve customers FOR REAL!

Not only don’t they use free translations, they don’t even use their own bilingual staff for translating between the languages, but they hire professional translatorsto do the job properly.

Real Estate Institute of Canada (REIC) has Languages Policy published on their website that says among other things:

Translation: REIC does retain the services of a translator for the translation of the written word. Staff who are bilingual will not be expected to take on a project that requires the use of this specific skill.”

More and more American retailers open a Spanish version of their e-commerce sites. Look at BestBuy, some Amazon sites. They do this not for foreigners, but for Spanish-speaking Americans, who are actually bilingual and could very well use the English sites (!)

Why do retailers do this? Well, they are big companies with big marketing departments; they know what to do to get more sales. They decide to spend money on Spanish websites as their marketing research showed the possibility to earn more if they provide bilingual American population with the chance to read the merchandise descriptions and place orders in their mother’s language.

They don’t disclose the budget for translating and maintaining the new sites of course. They only say that their Spanish websites are not exactly the same as the original English sites, as they take into consideration some differences that targeting the Spanish-speaking population requires. (I don’t know Spanish, but if you do, you can check it for yourself)

Do the retailers use a free online translation for that?



Because they are serious about SELLING to the prospects they target!

So, if somebody wants to market their products or services to people who speak other languages than their own and they really want those foreigners’ business, these are examples to follow for them to look professional in marketing efforts and eventually get sales.

Feel free to use the above arguments to convince your clients not to look foolish in foreign languages instead of getting foreign sales. There are more examples of how companies can really compromise their business with free online translation(they are in English and Russian which are my languages).”

Olga Kellen,

English – Russian translator and Russian internet marketer


know translation clients

Knowing who your clients are will give you a decisive advantage when doing business.

One of the major characteristics of running a translation business, no matter whether you work as a freelance translator or in an agency, is this: You often don’t know who your clients are. And I don’t mean, “You don’t know them well”, as you would if you had a normal business, say, if your were a dentist or a hairdresser. In that case, you would know what they look like, who accompanies them, more or less where they live, and whether they tend to be well-natured or rather ill-behaved. It’s rather a lot of information about a person, if you look at it this way. As a translator, however, more often than not all the information we have on a person boils down to one single piece: their email address.

I think most of you would agree that this is a major disadvantage for translators when dealing with their clients. Age, professional background, nationality, etc. play an important role in knowing how to deal with an individual client, and, last, but not least, which rates to charge them. You will talk to a person your age in a different way than you would to an elderly gentleman, right? It is all too easy to offend a client by using too casual a tone in an email; or the opposite: sometimes clients can be intimidated if the language used is too formal.

Now then, here’s how to find out what’s behind an anonymous email and actually get to know your clients. And they don’t even have to notice you’re “spying on them”. Let’s get started.

LinkedIn and Facebook connectors for Outlook

I’ve said previously I am an Outlook fan. It’s mainly because the software is so feature-complete and extendable. It is mostly because of two absolutely essential plugins that I can never use another email program again: The LinkedIn connector, and the Facebook social connector.


Here’s an email from your client… and, look at this! He sent you a photo with it!

Granted, installation of these add-ins is rather complex. In typical Outlook fashion, the whole operation will fail at least one before finally installing. Or… it might never work. Just make sure you get the correct version of these plug-ins (32- or 64-bit) and good luck to you.

However, once they are installed, these little gadgets are incredibly useful. They are actually the two pieces of ingenious software which have helped me the most in making life easier for me when writing emails to clients, and receiving job offers. They do two things very well: Whenever you receive an email, they pull up the respective profile photos from Facebook and LinkedIn, identifying the author of the email by their respective email addresses. And secondly, you can easily add any person you’ve ever had correspondence with to your LinkedIn profile with one click. By just looking at the photo you gain a whole lot of information. You can guess (more or less accurately, at least) a person’s age and the kind of person they are, which makes dealing with them a whole lot easier.


People search engines

There are numerous of those out there, but the most reliable is 123 People. These search engines allow you to enter a person’s name or email address and promise you to find all data on the internet related to these people (or companies as well). Facebook, Twitter profiles, articles etc. They don’t always work as well as they should do, but trying doesn’t hurt, does it?


Will they pay me?

If you haven’t been paid for work at least once in your professional career, hold your hands up! It’s the very nature of translation work that makes us easy victims for non-paying companies: To translate means to work between two cultures, languages, and often, different countries. To go after a non-payer in a country other than your own is a right hassle, and while it is not impossible for us to eventually get our due thanks to a combination of lawyers, government agencies, and colleagues, more often than now it’s not worth the extra hours put in to get what are often relatively small sums of money.

So, if I can recommend one website for a freelance translator, it has toc Payment Practices. You can get a free trial or sign up for a year-long membership which shouldn’t set you back more than a couple of dollars. Payment Practices’ database contains information on 10057 translation agencies and clients worldwide, 6616 total responses and 1891 comments on those buyers. Agencies are rated by the responses of freelancer translators, so you should always look up new clients and agencies on this website before agreeing to work for someone you do not know. Great website and absolutely worth your money! For a couple of quid you might save thousands…


Which strategies do you use to find out more about your clients? Are you worried at all about working for someone you’ve never met? Any solutions to add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

german english email

Email is the main communications medium for translators. These days, because of the popularity of blogs and because it is getting easier and easier for freelance translators to have our own websites, we are likely to receive most of our jobs in our inbox.

Finding the right email program to suit your personal needs is thus key to efficiently dealing with correspondence with clients and colleagues. Many people swear on GMail, but there’s no doubt also Microsoft has come a long way with Hotmail, and as far as webmail clients go, Hotmail now matches GMail feature-per-feature (if not for speed) and many might argue it is even a bit nicer to look at. I nevertheless recommend the use of a full-blown desktop email client to manage your mail, for the following reasons:

  • They double as a storage solution for your received files and attachments. You might accidentally delete a document for translation (or worse, a translated document) from your hard drive, but chances are you’ll find it by doing a search of your desktop email client.
  • They make all your email available offline. Which means that clean-up and organization can be done on a plane or train, or whenever your internet connection is down. (It’s advisable to clean out your translation inbox every now and then, or use email productivity tactics like Inbox Zero to stay on top of everything.)
  • Plugins and Extensions go a long way to making your life easier. Xobni is a great search extension, for example, and the Plugins for Linkedin and Facebook (which deserve a separate post) are great for a quick lookup on the sender of an email.

Currently, there are not so many email programs out there which satisfy the needs of a freelance translator in terms of function, looks, and ease of use. Apple Mail is solid and nice to look at, but not feature-complete enough to be a valid solution for professional translators. Postbox is a better effort, like Apple Mail, but with bells and whistles, though the lack of proper calendar integration is a great drawback. In my opinion, it’s a toss-up between Postbox and Microsoft Outlook. Outlook 2010 is a lot more satisfying than its predecessors, and while it’s still rather slow and prone to the occasional crash, it is the most complete solution. Try both and decide which one you want to spend your money on. Do not waste your time with any of the thousands of alternative email apps out there; they’re either limited in functionality, or rather behind the times. Take your choice between the two and learn to use them properly. I know what you’re thinking: It’s only an email application. However, it is probably the one software you are going to spend the most time with, so let’s get to the bottom of it and see if we can make email management easier to do and speed it all up a bit.


In the following couple of posts, we will look at some handy ways of attaching and saving files, researching your clients using Outlook, and making sure emails  get delivered not too early, and not too late. Watch this space.

What are your strategies against email overload? Which software do you use and why? Sound off in the comments.




In parts I, II, and III of our Guide to becoming a more efficient Translator, so far we have looked at the design of our offices, the setup of our PCs and monitors, and the perfect web browser to use while translating. Once we have have all that in place, it’s time to think about the actual translation process… and the right software to use. We will talk about receiving project orders, billing, and organizing your file system at a later point in this series, but chances are that, while you’re busy honing your organizational skills, you’ve got some translations coming in. Let’s take a look at how we can get this done more efficiently (and take some of the pain away from translating)…

For all those new to translating, it is important to know that there is amazing software out there which helps you abbreviate the translation process by about 50 %, if you are using it correctly. If you are a young translator, and have only just started work as a freelancer, or for an agency, chances are you still translate in Microsoft Word. I never translate in MS Word; even for the shortest translation, I use a CAT tool, and I recommend that you do the same. “CAT” means “computer-assisted translation”. CAT software works with translation memories, i.e. anything you’ve ever translated is saved in a central database and re-used whenever similar sentences come along. Over the days, years, and months, this allows you to build up a huge knowledge database far bigger than the amount of information you would be able to store in your brain; unless you’re an exceptional talent, of course. It can also become a great lookup tool and as such, really makes translating more enjoyable. Never translate in MS Word again; get the right software as soon as you can.

Translation software is ridiculously expensive, but it’s a worthy investment. The main competitors are DejaVu, Wordfast, MemoQ, and SDL Trados Studio. It’s worth noting that the first two, while they deserve their place in history, almost certainly belong to the past, as they have not been able to keep up with technology developments in terms of compatibility, ease of use, and user interface. It essentially boils down two two alternatives: MemoQ and SDL Trados Studio. MemoQ is to SDL Trados Studio like LibreOffice is to MS Office: much cheaper, in some aspects better, but not as widely used and feature-complete as its rival. If you want to remain at the forefront of translation technology, and make sure the files you produce during the translation process are compatibly with the formats demanded, and delivered by, large clients or agencies, you will almost certainly want to go with SDL Trados Studio. The bad news is: The software is infamous for being overly complicated, buggy, and difficult to work out. The good news: If you know how to work with it, it’s also terribly efficient. And the 2011 version is actually usable in a way the series has never been before.

We’ll look at details of the software and how to use it to speed up the translation process next time.

Do you agree that only novices translate in MS Word? Do you use CAT tools for even the smallest translation, like me? And do you agree with my choice of SDL Trados Studio as number 1 CAT tool? Let us know in the comments.

choose the right translation software

In the last two part of our mini-guide Better Translation: How to become a more efficient translator, we looked at physical parts of our setup, i.e. office furniture and hardware (PC and multi-screen setups). Today, let us talk software. The right software makes your life a lot easier when it comes to (1) the translation process, and (2) staying in touch with your clients and/or collaborators.

It is incredibly important to use software that’s efficient, stable, and actually makes your life easier instead of adding even more steps, and mouse clicks, to what are already complex business practices. Today, let us look at research tools.

The main software we use for research is, without a doubt, the web browser. Translators need to use quick lookup techniques. This means that we need to be able to quickly search for a word on multiple sites (we will talk about translation sites, online dictionaries and glossaries in a few days). This requirement excludes two browsers, unfortunately the two browsers which are probably the best, for general requirements, at the moment: Google Chrome and Internet Explorer 9 (and the Metro IE 10 which is part of the upcoming Windows 8). These browsers have a unified address and search bar, which is very handy for casual web surfing but impractical for translation lookup. My choice is therefore Opera, the underdog browser from Norway. It’s a bit more complex and resource-intensive than its competitors, but the search bar is the most customizable of them all, which makes it our favorite. It’s also easy to set up:

Let’s open the LEO English-German dictionary, for example, the old-fashioned way (Type the address into your browser of click on this link). We’ll introduce a word into the search field like we used to do (but it’s the last time we’ll use this approach, ever). Let’s do a search for the word “translator”.


Ok, so here we go. That’s worked alright. Now, delete the word “translator” from the search bar, and what you get is an empty search field. Right-click into the space and choose “create search”. In the next step, you can change the name of the search engine, and I would recommend that you choose something simple which does not take up too much space on the screen and is easily identifiable: say, “LEO DE” (DE for German).


See what we did there? From now on, we can look up words in LEO by following these simple steps:

(1) Open Opera (or activate the window on the second screen if you are using the dual-monitor setup we talked about last time).

(2) Focus on the search bar by clicking into it or pressing ctrl+e

(3) Type your search terms

(4) After typing your search terms, use the DOWN arrow to chose your search engine/dictionary/terminology database previously added to the search box.

(5) You can re-search using a different search engine/etc. just by picking a different option in the search bar’s drop-down list.

You can add multiple, unlimited research sites by repeating the procedure detailed above (click “create search” to add search engine. Include ALL your favorite lookup sites until you end up with something like this:


Suddenly, terminology lookup got a lot easier, didn’t it?

Which web browser do you prefer for your translation research? Have you got your search field stuffed with different dictionaries? Of do you still have ten big fat physical dictionaries lying on your desk? Sound off in the comments.


Step II in our guide to becoming a more efficient translator and making the translation process a little bit less painful is about getting your hardware set up. The classic, still best hardware setup for translators is a desktop computer hooked up to two monitors. If you haven’t tried a dual-monitor set-up, I strongly recommend that you do that tomorrow, and you won’t look back. Promised.

Granted, it’s not always easy to stick to your own rules. I am writing this post from a Sony Vaio laptop with a HD resolution, which means I have to bend over slightly to see the screen, and my eyes tire when I work more than a couple of hours because everything is so small. But that’s because I need the screen real estate in order to fit two open windows side by side (Aero Snap’s your friend), and because I am travelling and working on the road. Once I am back in my office, I will be glad (and my body will thank me) for having installed the classic set-up.

So, here’s the deal. Forget about fancy laptops, tablets, netbooks etc. Get a good old desktop PC. If you assemble it yourself, you might spend as little as € 300 on a quad-core powerhouse with a decent graphics card. Then, get yourself two flat screen monitors, which shouldn’t set you back more than € 180. You see what we did there? We got a great, comfortable, powerful workplace for less than € 500. Once you have your two monitors set up, you might want to have a look at this guide about how to work with a dual-monitor setup, and then find your own preferred usage patterns. Bill Gates uses two monitors, with Outlook on one of them at all times, for example. I use the following technique: During the translation process, I have Trados Studio 2009 on the right hand-side monitor, and the Opera web browser on the left (replace these with your own preferred software. We’ll talk software in the next chapter of the guide for efficient translators.) The reason why the CAT software is on the right screen is that the right side of the brain is the creative one while the left side of the brain deals with things like memory and repetitive tasks. I for one find it much harder to work with a CAT tool or text editor on the left side rather than on the right, while I find the web browser for terminology lookup much more practical on the left. At least for me, that’s how it seems to work. While I work on my websites or blogs, I replace Trados Studio with Outlook in order to stay on top of things at all times.

One more thing: You can be just as efficient with one monitor, thanks to Windows’ Aero Snap feature, which enables you to easily pin two windows side by side, as I am doing at the moment. But that means you would have to have a very high resolution in order to fit enough functions on the screen for this setup to be useful, which in turn will harm your eyes. The main advantage of having two screens, each one dedicated to one activity, is that you can still have everything displayed nice and big, while being able to run at least two programs at the same time.

What do you think of the dual-monitor setup? How many monitors do you use, and which programs do you run on them? Let us know in the comments.