How I handle being a translator

Todays assignment: Deadline: the time by which something has to be finished or delivered

I am a translator. Have been for many, many, many years and over time I’ve learned to cope with most of the downsides of the business.  Like working in an industry, where the prices are going down due to the internet and google translate, bable fish or other translation programs and translation companies in for example India or China, who comb the market for cheap translators and dump the prices.

Like in other businesses there is a close connection between what you pay and what you get though, and many companies have seen it by now and have returned to using real translators and are actually paying them a decent salary.

The funny thing about getting paid as a translator is that those people, who do not want to pay much and who ask you to lower your price, are also most likely the ones, who will complain after they received their translation, while people who barely ask for the price and pay you right away, never complain at all.

Over the years I’ve fired quite a few customers, who want everything cheap, cheap, cheap, because when you think about it: why should I lower my price so I have to work more to be able to pay for my life and have to listen to complaints from people, who don’t know what they are talking about? It makes no sense to me.

Then there’s a fluctuation in how many translations are coming in. The first half of this year was absolutely crazy, and in the beginning I thought that it was me, or maybe my customers, when I went from a nice, pretty steady income to almost nothing, but then I talked to a lot of others who experienced the same thing. In times like that you need a good piggy bank and a soup stone.

Luckily the tide has changed again and now I have lots of work.

A third annoying thing is that some people think, if they hire me, they can occupy all my time, send emails with new instructions over and over and call me 5 – 6 – 7 times a day.  That is a big no-no.

Very often it’s the same people, who in a whining tone tell me that they are not making any money, if I have to have a decent salary.

Usually I tell people once or twice that they cannot monopolize my time (I’m a nice person, really, but I have my limits), and if they don’t get my drift, I don’t do any more work for them.

Over time I’ve also learned to skim a text very thoroughly, before I accept to translate it, because there have been a few cases, where I took a job, only to find out afterword that the person who wrote the text, was somebody I didn’t like. Imagine that you have to think the thoughts of a person you don’t like; maybe for a day or a week or a month, depending on the size of the translation. That is very bad indeed!

And finally there are the deadlines.  That’s a kind of pressure I really don’t like, even though I accept that people have to have their things when they need them.

I have deadlines pretty much every day, most of the time more than one, often several on the same day, and I avoid having them hanging over my head, by taking the job, doing it right away (even if it means working 10 or 12 or even more hours concentrated on one day) and giving it back hours or days before the deadline.

That works for me most of the time, but for some reason, every now and then, I get a translation that takes forever. It’s not especially technical or difficult in other ways, but it just doesn’t flow.

I’ve never run a marathon, but giving all you have for hours and hours and still not being able to make it, feels like asking people to keep the lights on at the finish line for me.

I hate it.

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