Lingo Woman's Google tips for translators #4

I don't know about you, but I find myself constantly switching between time zones throughout my working day as a translator. I've found a really useful tool to help with this. Here it is:

Google time operator

In Google, simply type 'time' and the name of a city and you'll get the current time in that city. You can do this for any city around the world.

Try it!

Of course other options include having a collection of clocks on your wall for quick reference (or, if you have a Mac like me, on your Dashboard). You could also make use of this website for a comparative view of time zones in major cities around the world (I have this bookmarked). But for speed and ease of use, the Google time operator is a very handy tool I think you'll agree!

FTP. What's that then?

If, like me, you find yourself constantly juggling large documents, sending them back and forth to clients, you'll know that some files are just too big to send by email. You'll also know that with the speed at which we translators work these days, files need to be transferred instantly and burning the files to a CD and sending via snail mail is just not an option. You may, instead, have come across the term FTP at some point.

Now I have to admit, the first time a client said to me "upload it to our FTP site" I panicked. I had no idea what an FTP site was, where and how I could find it or how to use it. I was completely confused and tried anything I possibly could to avoid having to use it. As it turns out, no matter how much stripping out and zipping you do, some files are still just too big to send by email and using an FTP site really is the best option. But here's the thing: despite the fact that it sounds really technical and complicated, it's actually a really simple concept and surprisingly easy to use. As with most things, it's easy once you know how!

So, if you feel the same sense of panic and confusion when a client mentions downloading from or uploading to their FTP site, let me help make things a little clearer for you.

What does FTP stand for?

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. "But what does that mean?" I hear you ask. In simple terms, a File Transfer Protocol is a fast, efficient and secure method for transferring files from one server to another over the Internet (particularly those huge, gazillion-MB files that can't be sent by email because of their size).

If it's still not making much sense to you, try this: think of an FTP site as an online 'virtual filing cabinet'. The way it works is simple: you log on to the 'virtual filing cabinet' and, once logged on, you can upload or download files. As with a traditional filing cabinet, the person who does the filing decides how to organize the files and which files to keep locked and which can be made public. To access the files stored in a client's 'virtual filing cabinet' (FTP site) they'll need to give you a key so you can open it. The virtual 'key' comes in the form of a User name and Password. This will be unique for each person who is granted access.

So how do you log onto an FTP site then?

I use both a PC and Mac and the methods for logging onto an FTP site differ slightly for each. For both you'll need to know where the 'virtual filing cabinet' is located, i.e. you'll need the address (an FTP address looks much like a website address except it begins ftp:// rather than http://), plus you'll need the key (the User name and Password from the client). Once you have these, here are the steps you should follow:

Logging on from a PC
  1. Open "My Computer" or "Windows Internet Explorer" on your computer (you'll find these on your desktop or in your start menu)
  2. Type the FTP address into the address bar (e.g. and click "Enter"
  3. A small screen will pop up prompting you to enter your User name and Password. Enter these and click "Log On"
  4. You will now have access to the FTP site which will look just like any other folder on your computer. From here you can open files or copy and paste them to/from elsewhere on your computer.

Logging on from a Mac
  1. From your Mac desktop hit Command+K to bring up the "Connect to Server" window
  2. Enter the FTP address (e.g. and click "Connect"
  3. Enter your User name and Password when prompted and click "Connect" again.
  4. You will now have access to the FTP site. From here you can open files or copy and paste them to/from elsewhere on your computer.

Easy, right?

Using an FTP site really is a convenient method for transferring files and you will probably find that a number of your clients will have an FTP server set up and are therefore able to give you access to their FTP site for the purposes of sending or receiving large files. However, setting up an FTP server if you don't already have one is pretty tricky and requires some technical savvy. I personally wouldn't bother spending time doing this as these days there are plenty of free file transfer options available to you via the Internet. Two commonly-used free programs are Filezilla and YouSendIt. They are available for free download (here and here). When a client doesn't have an FTP site for me to access, I use YouSendIt and find it really simple to use.

10 lessons from my first year as a full-time freelance translator

I've been so busy with work this past month (hence the lack of blog posts) that I missed an important milestone. Three weeks ago marked one year since I made the bold career decision to quit my job and become a full-time freelance translator. Before that, I'd been translating part-time for several years, but just over a year ago I decided it was time to make the switch to full-time.

Taking the plunge was pretty scary and all sorts of questions were running through my mind, "What if it doesn't work?", "How will I survive financially if I don't get any work?". It has been a real learning curve. There have been some great times but many difficult times too.

Here are ten lessons I've learned from my first year as a full-time freelance translator that I wish I'd known a year ago:

  1. You will need at least three months' saving put aside. I cannot stress enough how important it is to prepare yourself financially. Save, save, save. And when you think you've saved enough, save some more. As you work to build up your client base, money will come in very slowly indeed. Trust me. It took a good three months for the trickle of money to turn into a steady(ish!) flow.
  2. There will be days when you will not make a penny. Don't panic. You will learn very quickly that feast and famine is the name of the freelance translator's game. The important thing is to be prepared and use your time wisely. In a quiet period, spend your time tackling activities that don't generate income, such as admin and glossary and TM maintenance.
  3. Set a realistic rate. Don't under or over-value your services. It is important to get a good idea of appropriate rates for the translation market in which you work before you set yours. Once set, it will be very difficult to change. If you set your rate too low, you could end up working all hours of the day for very little money. If you set your rate too high, you risk losing the client to a less expensive option. Think it through carefully and know your value. This is a business, not a hobby.
  4. Don't assume that you will spend all day, every day translating. This is not the reality of freelance translation. You are the translation, IT, marketing, admin and accounts departments all rolled into one. Be prepared to spend time on all these tasks.
  5. Be open to offering different types of services. The more you offer, the easier it will be for you to find clients. Aside from translation, my first year as a freelancer has involved editing, proofreading, quality assurance checking, localisation, glossary creation, alignment, translation memory updates and brand name analysis. Utilise your language skills and maximise your income. The (translation) world is your oyster!
  6. Be prepared to work hard. Anyone who thinks freelance translators get up whenever they like and sit around in their pyjamas all day is sadly mistaken. I get up at the crack of dawn and often work until late evening (weekends included). Self-motivation is key. Be prepared to work long hours and put your all into every project you take on. It will pay off.
  7. Network with fellow freelance translators. Get in touch with people who understand your career. The first year is the hardest, you'll need all the support you can get. Network with other freelance translators and swap stories. It's a great source of mutual encouragement.
  8. Be prepared for your working hours to change at a moment's notice. From last minute client changes to the source file, to a super urgent translation, your working hours can change without warning. You may decide to accept such requests or you may decide to turn them down. Either way, you're in control!
  9. Don't shy away from a challenging project (within reason). Allow yourself plenty of extra time to do thorough research into the subject matter and deal with the inevitable tricky terms that arise. When you complete the project you'll be far more knowledgeable on the subject and you'll be that much better for having done it. Don't be afraid to stretch yourself. Equally...
  10. Don't be afraid to say no. Sometimes you just know the project isn't for you but you're reluctant to turn it down. Who knows when the next one will come along, right? Wrong. There's always another project around the corner. Don't panic. Either offer the client a solution by referring them to someone else (this is where the networking comes in), or just say no.
Thinking back to where I was a year ago and comparing it to where I am now makes me very sure I made the right decision. Here I am, one year on, incredibly busy with work and feeling much happier on a personal level. Being a freelance translator definitely agrees with me and I'd recommend it to anyone who is seriously considering giving it a bash. You will encounter many road blocks along the way, but don't give up!

So, to the veteran freelance translators out there, have I missed anything? What have you learned over the course of your career as a freelance translator? What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out?