Focus On: New Translators (Part 2 – Resources)

I’ve been delighted with the response to my Top 10 Tips for new translators, especially since it seems that many translators, regardless of experience level, enjoyed the reminders. I also enjoyed hearing about other translators’ tips and tricks and have now incorporated a few more habits into my working week. All that being said, the resources to accompany the tips that I gave on Wednesday are as important as the advice itself. After all, you can’t do the work if you don’t have the tools. So this post accompanies today’s video on tools, tricks and resources for newcomers and old-timers.

I’ve grouped today’s post into topics, which broadly follow the tips from Wednesday’s post.

Improving your language skills (& subject matter knowledge)

I tackle this by reading, reading and reading some more. As a self-confessed bookworm, this is no great hardship. However, finding books in your source language can be tricky if you don’t reside in your source language country, and shopping sprees when you do have trips there can only get you so far with baggage weight limitations. So what do I recommend? and are both excellent resources for non-English titles. Issuu is free and Scribd is subscription-based, but there’s a 30 day free trial period.

Language resources new translators

When it comes to learning about specialist subjects and combining this with improving language skills, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are hard to beat. I’ve done several; most in English but a number in Spanish. I think they are an excellent way to improve your knowledge, and, if you can find some in your source language, it’s a double bonus. I’m undertaking one which starts on the 19th September, called The Challenges of Global Poverty and I cannot wait! Look up what’s available in your subject area or language. Here are a few links to get you started with providers:

Coursera (probably the most well-known provider)




MIT OpenCourseware

Harvard Open Courses

I thought I’d also touch on another resource that allows you to do two things:

1. Improve your (English) language skills….

…which is beneficial for both native and non-native speakers (those with English as their target language still need to keep their writing skills up to scratch!)

2. Keep abreast of issues around the world relating to business, politics and current affairs….

….which is vital for understanding how global events can shape your business and inform your strategy (yes, everybody’s, no matter how big or small your company).

It’s The Economist’s Espresso app. Its purpose is pretty obvious – it gives you an espresso “shot” of what’s going on globally, in The Economist’s famous (or is that infamous) style. It’s available on your smartphone – here’s the link for iPhones and here’s the link for Android devices.

Finally, here are a few ideas for visual and audio approaches to keeping your language levels high. The first is the good old-fashioned wireless (or the radio for everyone born after about 1960). I listen to my favourite Spanish station (RNE) through my phone; there’s an iPhone app (click here for the link) which allows you to listen live. Check out what’s available for your source language and have a quick Google. I find it great for having in the background while I work. I also recommend listening to podcasts (I love iVoox) which is also a good source of radio programs from all over the world.

On the visual side of things, I turn to Netflix. I am addicted to Narcos (it’s about Pablo Escobar) and, given it’s in Spanish, have made the executive decision that I can pass my Netflix subscription off as a business expense. My accountant is yet to get back to me on whether or not this is actually accurate (or, you know, legal.)

Money money money

I hate the taboo that surrounds rates in the translation world.

I’m in the middle of planning a live, online get-together where several translators talk honestly about their rates.

Are you in? Then sign up for updates on the newsletter, where I’ll be sharing the all-important date & time.)

How do I work out how much to charge?

What should my hourly rate be?

Do I factor in holiday pay?

It’s a bit of a minefield. I touched on the formula for working out what you must earn in Wednesday’s post, but here’s another terrific resource: Luke Spear’s Translation Sales Handbook. It’s a brilliant read (especially for established translators) with lots of useful content on sales, growth, rates and outsourcing, but it also comes with a rate calculator, which is one of the most comprehensive I have seen. Check it out. Corinne McKay (of “How To Succeed As A Freelance Translator” fame) recommends I Am Worth It by Jonathan Hine. It’s for all sorts of freelancers, not just translators, and (caveat) I haven’t yet read it, but if Corinne recommends it, it’s probably pretty good (I touch on Corinne’s book briefly in a post from last year, and I have also done her course – both of which I would highly recommend.)

Mentoring and being helpful

In the video, I mentioned two articles I’d read on the subject of mentoring. One appears in The Open Mic (check it out) and is written by a lovely colleague, Rea, and the other she actually links to in her article, and is by Whitney Johnson, author and all-round corporate rockstar.

Rea’s article tells us of how she found a mentor, and what the relationship has meant for her, and her business. Whitney’s piece, on the other hand, looks at the mentor-mentee relationship from the other side of the fence, i.e. from the mentor’s perspective. Both are terrific pieces, and I’d recommend you read them if you’re considering a mentor.

After the post on Wednesday, I got some great comments and advice from colleagues on alternative ways to “buddy up” with other professionals, and one thing that was mentioned frequently was the idea of having an accountability partner. Basically, it’s someone who you’re answerable to (not in a boss-employee sort of way) and they’re also answerable, or accountable, to you. You share your business goals, and work together to break them down into manageable chunks, then you hold regular calls/meet ups/check ins, to make sure that you’re each on track. I’ve already found my accountability partner, and we’re starting on Tuesday at 10:00.

Why don’t you consider an accountability buddy?

Don’t stop moving

I’ve talked about it in a previous post, and I’m going to mention it again: The 1 million mile challenge for translators and interpreters (seriously, it’s just for us, doesn’t that make you feel awesome?). Sign up, track your miles (you can walk, swim, cycle, run, whatever!) and help us all break that magical 1 million mile mark by April next year.

When it comes to keeping your business butt moving, I’d recommend Asana, it’s a task tracker which helps you manage the various projects you have on the go. As I mention in the video, for me, it’s cut down on procrastination massively – now, when I have an idea or an “Oh I really must look that up” moment, I pop it into my tracker on Asana, and then get on with my work. Then, later in the day I can come back and plan out how I’m going to work through it, or research it further. As opposed to slipping down the rabbit hole of tab upon tab open in my browser (or worse, forgotten tasks because I didn’t write them down)…

Asana helps me plan my work in manageable chunks.

Here’s the Asana YouTube channel which has several videos explaining a bit more about the way it works. I’ve also heard some colleagues rave about Trello, but I haven’t tried it out myself yet. Let me know if you have!

In the video, I talked about a book I recently downloaded, called the 12 Week Year.

12 week year

It’s premise (or promise?) is that it can get you to work more effectively and productively in 12 weeks than most people work in a full year. This is based on dividing your goals down into sub-goals, with mini-milestones, helping you keep moving (see what I did there?) towards your goal. I’m just at the start of the book, and I think I’ll review it for the blog when I’m finished, but it looks good to me so far.

And finally….sorting the essentials

For sorting the essentials, an Excel spreadsheet is hard to beat. I know it’s boring, I know the formulas can be a bit intimidating, but really, when it comes to a cost-effective way to have all of your business information in one place, it can’t be knocked. Here are a couple of ideas of what you can use Excel to track:

Invoicing details (invoice reference, amount, date, payment terms)

Marketing activities (who did you contact, when, what was their response?)

Editorial content (blog post topics, newsletter schedule)

Income (expenses, income, rates)

There are lots of other uses for simple spreadsheets – you can even use them to track things like how you’re doing on social media, subscribers to your blog, website visitors (Google Analytics is your friend here.) The possibilities are endless!

If you want something a little more high-tech, I’ve heard good things about Translation Office 3000, which is a software product that helps you manage your accounting and administrative tasks. The great thing about the TO3000 tool is that it’s specifically geared towards translators…which is a refreshing change! If any of you have tried it, or use it on a regular basis, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

The last two resources relate to accounting as well; they’re designed to allow you to track your projects, income, link your bank account and Paypal, sort out your taxes (they can be used by your accountant too), email invoices…basically take care of a lot of the jobs you hate doing. They’re Kashflow and Xero. There appear to be precious few differences between the two – Xero is marginally more expensive and seems to have a few more integrations.

Overall, both Kashflow and Xero are great options for small businesses.


Personally, I use Kashflow, but that’s because I availed of a special offer after the free trial period! Here’s a link to a comparison between the two, so you can see for yourself.

For those of you who’d prefer to listen to my dulcet tones and delight over my new office decor, here’s the video:

One last thing, you can get a heads-up on all blog posts if you sign up to the Silver Tongue newsletter, by clicking this link.

Do you have any resources you would recommend? As ever, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. 

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