Work from Home Translation Jobs - Time Zones

Translation Tips

This page was written for our translators to give them tips how to translate. Translations can be a rewarding profession, because you can learn interesting things while translating interesting documents, learn how many companies, products and services operate while translating documents about them, and you often have the freedom to work when you want and in your own environment.

Table of Contents

Creating a Comfortable Working Environment

Setting up Your Computer Monitor

Setting up your WorkStation

Setting up Your Surroundings

Learn How to Type

Dividing up the Screen

Translation Memory Tools

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

Develop a Strategy Before Starting and Writing Over Top of an Electronic Document

Formatting Tips in Word

Tips for When Actually Translating

Finalising your Document

Counting Words and Sending your File

What to Charge

Getting Paid

Staying in Touch

Other Tips

Saving and Autosaving



Translating outside with your laptop


Create a Comfortable Translation Environment

Set up Your Computer Monitor

If you are one of the fortunate many who can work at home or in some other favourable environment of your choice (at the cottage, on the beach by the ocean, while travelling), it is important to modify your settings to make your work as comfortable as possible.

The first thing to consider is your monitor. If you plan to spend five or more hours a day staring at a computer monitor, you should set it up to go easy on your eyes. Your fingers, eyes and brain are your livelihood, and you would want to avoid any lasting damage, which is possible. The first thing I like to do is to adjust the colours of the monitor so that the background is a dark olive green and the text is a not so bright yellow.

translation tips - monitor colour

By default everyone seems to have or choose a white background with black text, because that’s how they are used to looking at printed documents. But it is very impractical, difficult and expensive to print light text on coloured paper, which is why it is as the way it is. So there is no reason why you should have the same on your monitor. I find that the white background glares radiation at me and makes my eyes sore, even leading to a headache, after many hours of working in front of the computer. So go to Start > Control Panel > Display, and play around with the settings until you find something you are comfortable with. And as with anything you accomplish on the computer, make sure you save your settings (called Themes in XP) once finished, in case Windows decides to go berserk, as it occasionally like to, and you find you have to set up everything all over again, and not even find the settings you accomplished before and have grown fondly accustomed to. There will be an advanced tab where you can fine tune the exact colours, creating your own colour pallet. I like to change almost everything, from the size of the icons, the text in boxes, the size of menu bars, and all sorts of things. If you plan to spend countless hours in front of the computer, why not invest a few now to set up your environment so that all those countless hours in the future will be as comfortable as possible? For main text which you stare at while translating, I like to make that fairly large, like size 14 font. In Word you can go to your template file and change the settings so that all new files you create will automatically be formatted in a certain way (page margins, size and type of font etc). The last thing you want to do is squint your eyes staring at a small font, with your neck straining forward while your head is buried in a blaring white screen. If so you will run into back and eye problems, and get a headache. So make sure you set everything up for the greatest comfort, and feel free to improve on this over time.

I also like to make different settings for when I take my laptop to work outside, choosing a light grey background with black text. Just save your settings with different names, so that it is easy to switch back and forth.

Work from Home Translation Jobs - Time Zones

And once everything is set up, don’t forget to play around with the monitor’s brightness and contrast settings. At night I like to turn these down. Always keep it at a minimum, so that you can work for longer hours without causing your eyes to hurt or to get a headache.

If you have one of those old, heavy, large and clunky monitors, I’d suggest buying a filter for it. Not super expensive but the amount of time you lose by not being able to stare at the screen anymore could eventually make up for the investment. Ideally, an flat screen LCD panel is good, instead of those old light tube kind, blaring radiation at you. I find an lcd screen much much more friendly to your eyes than those old monitors, even with a filter. You don’t need a big screen, because you can make your text large. But a big screen can come in handy if you are ever translating from the monitor, such as when a customer sends you a .pdf file, as opposed to translating from a printed out document. Heck, you can even get fancy and attach two screens to your computer: one for viewing the original document and the other to translate into.

If translating from a printed document, it is a good idea to have it hanging next to your computer monitor, so that you do not have to strain your neck by looking down on a table next to your hand, for example. You can usually get such a cheap plastic holder which attaches to your computer monitor.

If translating from an electronic document, you can divide up your computer monitor.

And don’t forget to have a nice desktop picture about your dog, favourite loved one, or some beautiful nature scene. Unless this will slow down your computer too much, in which case you should go through our computer tips to make your computer as fast as possible.

And speaking of beautiful nature scenes, I always like to position my desk next to the window so that I can occasionally gaze out into an open field or green forest, day dreaming. It is good to let your mind rest once in a while, and I find that staring at nature’s green somehow rests my eyes and make it possible to stare at the computer for a longer period of time. And it is supposed to be good for your eyes as well to occasionally focus into the distance. If you keep the lenses of your eyes constantly focused at a medium short distance, you can logically assume that by bending your lenses for this shorter range constantly, they will eventually stay like that and you will become short sited. So make your font big, try to keep your monitor a comfortable distance away, and look out into the distance occasionally, to stretch your lenses to a farther distance. In fact, this is another reason why lcd panels are much better, because the screen on which the text is is very flat. On the older monitors, it seemed hard to focus on exactly where the text was, and after staring at the screen for a longer period of time, I’d look up into the distance and everything was blurry, and I found it difficult to focus for a while. Your eyes are one of your most precious bodily organs and allows you to appreciate the beauty around you, so take care of them!

Set up your Translation WorkStation

So now that you have set up your computer monitor and your line of vision, lets look around your immediate settings. The next obviously important thing to think about is your seat and your ergonomic working position. There is much to be found on this subject on the internet, and this is what I found myself. You might consider getting a split keyboard so that your wrists are more straight when typing. Your fingers are complex tools, having tendons which slide underneath rings and lubricated, and a lot of typing can lead to tendonitis. So you want your hands to be in a natural and comfortable position while typing. You might consider getting some foam or cushion to place under your palms. Work on this as well.

translation tips - good working posture
view picture enlarged

And make sure that your back and neck is in an ergonomic position. One person mentioned to me that when they went to the hospital to the section where people have back problems, it was mostly filled with people around the age of 45. Not old people like one might expect. This is because we have entered the information age and everyone is stagnant in front of the computer. For millions of years we have been running around hunting, or hanging from a tree, or farming our land, or off to war, constantly moving and exercising all our muscles. But sitting stagnant in front of a computer all the time will make your back weak, your spine will start to sag, pinch your spinal nerves, lead to migraines, and lead to all sorts of problems in a few years. So be very careful about this, select a perfect ergonomic position, and exercise occasionally to keep your spinal muscles strong. Personally, one of my favourite positions is lying in bed with my laptop on my lap or stomach. Get creative and comfortable, but study this matter and save your back. The problems build up over time, unnoticeably, can lead to many problem, and take a long time to reverse. On a side note, ancient Chinese medicine talks a lot about chi, the energy of your body (your spinal nerves are a highway of electrical impulses between your brain and every nerve in your body) which flows through your spinal column. According to their medicine, disrupting this highway and flow of energy can lead to problems with various organs, and problems you would never think could relate to your posture while working. So definitely heed this matter with due gravity.

Set up Your Translation Surroundings
Once you have positioned yourself properly, now look around you at your immediate settings. I like to have pleasant pictures on the walls, classical music drifting in the background, lots of plants all around me, and one of my favourite… an aquarium!

Some people call it electro smog, but between the fan of a desktop computer, your handy mobile phone with the bluetooth running, printer clicking in the background, all your various electrical appliances and the radiation blaring at you from the screen you are staring at, our bodies are bombarded by all sorts of electrical waves of different frequencies. For this I find it is good to get away for the weekend, into nature, and away from all this. I was surprised to notice the difference once I cam back into the city. You need to rest your body from all this constant radiation, but to me it seemed that a large aquarium would suck up a lot of the radiation in the office. Between the classical music, plants and the aquarium next to me, there seemed to be a marked difference from when the office was empty and humming away to the sound of appliances alone. And besides, staring at fish in their placid little universe is a nice break from the drone of hours of reading boring legal contract.

translation tips - happy environment

I find a nice big aquarium sucks up a lot of electrosmog and makes for a pleasant, peaceful working environment. And heck, why not cheer up your workstation even more? I got a two litre plastic bottle, cut a horizontal slash near the bottom, pushed that inwards above the cut, cut a short section of the inner cardboard cylinder of the fax paper roll, cut a wedge into it and mounted that onto the bottom part of my cut into the plastic bottle.

translation tips - combat computer smog

What on earth for, you might ask? Well, with the cardboard roll mounted onto the plastic cut, it keeps the plastic above the cut bent inwards, and the other end of the roll jutting out horizontally from the plastic bottle offers a nice little stand for a tweety bird. Yes, fill up your bottle with some cheap sun flower seeds with shell, hang your bottle on a string next to your window, and give the birdies time to discover it. I once lived in a house next to a large forest, and within about four months I must have had 200 birdies tweeting away in my garden, one visiting every five seconds, swooping in to land on my little bird feeder and sending it spinning around and around. It would give us some cheery chirps before flying away, giving room for the next birdy. Between that and the aquarium, truly made the translations a much more cheery and joyful experience. Some documents can get truly boring, trust me.

For those with a laptop, you may like to take advantage of its mobility to occasionally change your environment, translating at your cottage, your friend's cottage, the local park, or a beach. Tips for translating outside you will find below.

Work from Home Translation Jobs - Time Zones

Learn How to Type

I have one monster translator who can translate a hundred pages over a weekend with only three fingers. Truly amazing, but why limit yourself? I was a few finger wonder myself for a very long time, but just imagine the difference between that and not even having to look at your fingers or the computer monitor while you type. I started from a three finger wonder, always alternating between looking at the computer monitor, then my fingers, then straining my neck over the paper document, sliding that little rock paper weight to keep my place on the page and accidentally not skip an entire paragraph, which sometimes happened. Always sliding that rock, fidgeting between this and that, until I evolved into that amazing murky world where one reads the source text, starts formulating the differently structured sentence in the target language, while the fingers blaze away unconsciously. The brain is a truly amazing devise. But to get to this level, you need to train your fingers to do the unconscious. For this you need to tell your fingers where to go every time you want to punch in a particular letter. With the three finger approach, you need to move your entire hand and watch where your fingers go, but with the ten finger approach, each finger has its allotted letters, and your palms are stagnant on one single point. If you are a three finger wonder, I can guarantee you that you will slow down markedly in the beginning, and it will take you a few months to get back to the speed you are used to. Yes, this sucks, but it is a worthwhile investment if you plan to translate for a year or more.

So get prepared for a potential drop in income, and commit yourself to the transition. It does not make sense to train your fingers only occasionally, but you start, commit yourself to the transition, so that it is as fast as possible. Otherwise you are just wasting your time.

So, very simply, place your eight index fingers on the middle row so that your left pinky is on the A and your right pinky is on the key one to the right of the L key. The G and H keys should therefore remain uncovered. Now, whenever you type, make sure to always use the finger which should logically go there. The closest, most comfortable, and logical choice. For example, I would use my right pinky finger for the P. And force yourself to do the same with numbers. It will be painful and annoying in the beginning, but if you have enough work, within a few months you should be back to normal, and then it will only get faster and faster, as it becomes fully unconscious.

Dividing up the Screen

If your source material comes in electronic format, such as a .pdf, other image file, or Word file, as opposed to a printed piece of paper, you will want to learn how to divide up your monitor. Some people like to print out their electronic files, but I consider this a waste of paper and entirely unnecessary.

If you will be working in a different program that the one you received (for example, a .pdf file opens in Adobe Acrobat and you might be typing your translation into a Word file), you will want to position your two programs so that you can view them both comfortably. If you have a very large monitor or two of them at the same time (using several computer monitors), you could place the programs next to one another. But I like to work on a small light laptop, with lots of batteries so that I can go out into nature, and I find it perfectly acceptable to work on such a small screen by having the two programs positioned one above the other. That is the one great advantage of windows, that concept which Bill Gates took from Macintosh and brought it to the archaic world of Dos. On the top right hand corner of each program (even file), you will see three little icons

The left one minimizes your program or file (puts it out of view and sends it to your task bar at the bottom of your screen), the second one maximises it so that it takes up the entire screen, or allows you to resize the program and position it where you want to. The last X closes the program or file.
In this case you see two sets of these icons, the top row being for the program, and the second row for the file embedded within it.

So I like to position the source document so that it covers the top half of the computer monitor, and the target (often Word) so that it covers the bottom half of the monitor. You can push the upper window high up so that the bar is partially covered, and push the bottom window down so some unimportant functions are not visible. Within each program you can remove from view all toolbars <how to..> you will not need, to maximise the viewable document within each program. At the middle horizontal section, the programs can overlap a bit, covering up parts you do not need. Play around with this for a while and I find it no problem to translate with both documents visible on my little laptop monitor.

To jump between the two programs, simply alt tab it, by holding down the ALT key, then pressing TAB once. Or press the TAB key enough time until you get to the program you want. Once you get to the program once, pressing alt tab again gets you back to the previous program. In this manner you can quickly jump back and forth between the two programs without depending on the mouse, which will only slow you down.

When in either of the windows, the up or down arrow should be enough to navigate in the document. Or some of the Word shortcut keys could help with this < .

If you are translating within the same program, like Word, sometimes it happens that you view one file while translating into another. So you can divide up your "panes" in Word in the same manner, so that one file takes up the top half of the computer monitor while another the bottom half. You can also customise your Word to create a shortcut key to jump between one file and another, by going to Tools > Customise > Keyboard icon > category "Windows and Help" > Next Window. Once that is selected, put your cursor into the "Press new shortcut key" box and select your shortcut combination (I like to use two: ALT F1 and ALT `) and press Assign. You can program your Word in many ways like this, and customise it in general, as explained later.

So make sure you set everything up for yourself and learn shortcut keys, not automatically always depending on your mouse, because every little corner you cut will eventually add up to more and more money.

Translation Memory Tools

And speaking of cutting corners, there are many programs out there to help you translate and speed up your work. Whether you speed up your work by learning how to type properly, memorise shortcut keys, modify your toolbars, or use software to help you with your translations, every little corner that you cut to make your work faster will, yes, TRANSLATE into money, money, money! And translation memory (TM) tools can save/make you a lot of money indeed. But only if you find yourself repeating yourself a lot, such as with contract, legal documents, or specific technical documentation. Imagine finding yourself translating a similar phrase over and over again, like "lessor agrees to pay lessee by the end of the month". But imagine translating this phrase ONCE, and every time you come across the phrase in the future, the program already offers it for you, so you do not have to type it. And imagine that 80% of a 100 page document is already translated for you, so that you get paid the full price but only have to translate 20% of it, with some extra work to connect the loose ends and pretranslated phrases? So this all depends on the type of work you regularly get, and if your customer has not clued in on TM yet. There are many TM tools out there and I will try to give a description about them later. They can get pretty pricey, but can pay off. So you should consider this as an option, and because they can get pretty pricey, weigh and research this issue carefully.
Here you will find our very own instructions how to work with Transit.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

And if you do plan to use a translation memory tool, you will definitely also want a good OCR program. Which can prove quite useful even if you are not using a translation memory tool. For example, you get a large .pdf file which has a lot of tables and graphs in it. One option is to have that file open in one program and visible in the top half of your computer monitor, as explained above < , while typing into a blank Word file in the bottom half of your computer monitor. With this approach, you will have to create the tables, possibly punch all the numbers in manually, and possibly resort to some fiddly approach concerning the graphics.

But what a good OCR program does is it scans the original document (you can use a scanner for paper documents, or simply open the file in the OCR program if it is an electronic document), creates the tables for you, punches in all the numbers, then converts the text into actual text in a Word document, or any other format that you request it to. So you can go right away and just type over the text as explained later < and not have to worry or waste your time with creating tables and punching in numbers.

Or you can take this new electronic version of the original document and import it into your translation memory software, so that repeating phrases are automatically translated for you, and you do not have to worry about formatting at all, exporting your translation into the original format once you are completed. Isn’t that wonderful?

There are many OCR programs but the best seems to be FineReader. It can recognise many languages too, and the latest versions are very good at the most complicated formatting, and can import from many different types of programs.

Develop a Strategy Before Starting, and Writing Over Top of an Electronic Document

If you will not be using translation memory software but rather type directly over top of an electronic document, there are certain tips which can help you with this.

<make reference to this section in overall strategy?> First of all, it all depends on what you receive from your customer. After all, if you deal with direct customers, you can expect that, after you read all these fantastic tips, they will be hardly as savvy as you will be in the fine art of different translation strategies. So generally it is a good idea to take a look at a document and spend some time analysing it a bit before starting. The few seconds you save lunging into a translation could cost you dearly later, so take the time to decide on a good strategy. For example, after perusing the document a bit, you might find sections which will be extremely difficult for you. Perhaps in a specialised field which you will not be able to handle. It will not go well for you if you translate 90% of a document, then realise that there are sections you cannot do, run out of time, and have to tell your customer of this problem around the deadline. You can imagine that your customer will be very angry, will have to find someone else to complete it, get it done late, and probably not want to pay you much more than half of the amount you did translate, if anything at all. Not to mention that they will probably never want to use your services again, because they cannot trust you. So before accepting any work, make sure you look through the document carefully and seriously consider if you can do a good job with it. If you tell your customer it is too hard for you, or you even help them find someone else, they will be happy that they can trust you, and it would be better than doing a bad job. If and when they find your mistakes, they will simply never trust you again.

translation tips
Translating while travelling in Cyprus, Turkey

Once you have accepted the work, you should take a little bit of time to examine it. You might be surprised to find entire sections which repeat or are very similar in content. In such as a case, there are several ways how you can deal with this, explained later < .

If the document has a lot of tables and graphs, you might consider OCRing. If it has a lot of text which looks like you have translated in the past, you can pump it into your translation memory software and reap the juicy rewards.

It might be easiest to just prepare it from scratch in an empty Word file, but for this you will need to know how to format in Word, explained in the next section.

And the last option could be to type directly in the document, whether it was sent to you in electronic format, or you converted it into that with your OCR program.

One option is to get an upgraded version of Adobe Acrobat (to which you can find a link on our Download Translation Programs pages) which would allow you to type directly in the .pdf file.

A lot of times your customer might want the translation delivered in Word, so that they can use it for their internal needs and because their secretaries and other staff are not readily equipped with a fancy program like you have and which allows you to edit .pdf files. In this case, the OCR program can convert the format to Word.

Once in Word, there are a few simple tips to keep in mind: … <

Formatting Tips in Word

A more extensive section. Please refer to the Formatting in Microsoft Word webpage.

Tips for When Actually Translating

This subject has already been covered in our Translator Information page.

Besides those tips, obviously one very important aspect of translations is the choice of terminology. For this it is highly advisable to get yourself a good computer translation dictionary. When I first started translating I had an impressive library of translation dictionaries, but once I finally migrated to a computer dictionary, I marveled at the amount of time I used to spend leafing through endless pages looking up words. Not to mention that I often had to look for the same word seven times over before it sunk into my head. And not to mention that I'd often have to leaf through several dictionaries before finding the term I was happy with. The advantage of a computer based translation dictionary is that you can add terms to it. So if you do have a fancy library of dictionaries and occasionally need to refer to it, it is no problem to add your research to custom develop your dictionary. A single dictionary you can refer to, which instantly accesses your term for you by simply typing in (or copying) the word and pressing ENTER. MUCH faster. I have to admit that, when previously referring to my paper dictionaries only, I'd often rather guess than waste another minute leafing through endless pages, so you can expect your quality to improve as well.
Custom developing your dictionary also applies to any research you might perform on the internet. There are a lot of online dictionaries to be found, and we have added a lot of them (and hope to continue with this endeavor) to our translation resources pages.
When using your computer dictionary, you obviously want to develop proficiency in the old ALT TAB, which allows you to switch quickly between different software open on your computer. Or if you are translating from a source file on your computer (such as a .pdf file as opposed to from a printed document), you may already have two programs running for your translation needs, in which case using ALT TAB for a third program could get annoying and complicated. In this case I press Escape to minimise the dictionary after use, and the mouse to summon it back.

But even with your library of paper dictionaries, robust and customised computer dictionaries, and the world of on-line dictionaries, you may still run into times when you simply do not find a clear term. In such cases, or when I am trying to decide between several possible terms, you might try searching the term on google. The term with the most results (number of pages out there containing the word) would probably be a better choice, as it is obviously being used more frequently.
Or for very specific terminology, you might try surfing for the source term, in case one of the pages mentions the translation (useful when translating into English).

Finalising your Document

Once completed with your translation and having proofread your work after yourself according to the instructions mentioned earlier < , you may want to focus on specific terminology issues. This is where you might dig out your big and bulky paper dictionaries, but it is becoming increasingly easier to use an electronic dictionary, which is much faster than leafing through a paper book. Or several books. Another advantage of an electronic dictionary on your computer is that you can add terms to it. So not only do you not have to leaf through several paper dictionaries if the term you are looking for are not in some of them, but you can develop your dictionary further. There are a lot of dictionaries available online as well, some of which may be found on our translating resources page. Or you can google your research, using your favourite search engine to look up the term and help you find an appropriate translation for it. Or even to explain to you what the term means, if you do not know that. You can look up the original word, or guess what the translation may be. You can research the company who produces the product, search for forums, and the options are unlimited. But after translating a larger document, it is very possible that you will run into a few terms which are difficult and will require more of your time. This is another reason why you should carefully examine a document before starting. If you notice that there are many such terms and imagine that you will have to spend a lot of time researching the subject on the internet, you might point this out to your customer and ask for a higher price.

translation tips
Ruins in Santa town, Turkey

Or tell your customer that you are not certain of these terms, that you can accept the same price but that you will have to guess the translation of those terms. Sometimes a customer is willing to accept this, but communicate on this matter and make sure your customer is aware and agrees. A poor option would be to just guess and hope that your customer will not notice. Remember, if you customer catches you once, it will not trust you and probably never again want to use your services. So consider this point carefully. Customers do not fall from trees like apples in fall. Anyway, once you do spend the time making sure that you produce a good translation, not only will you be able to sleep with a happy conscience at night, not only will you gain greater respect from your customer and lead possibly lead to other customers through them, but you will learn something yourself, become more professional, and have the option to add these terms to your dictionary. So make sure to use all resources at your disposal to make a good job, and do not take shoddy shortcuts with quality. The little bit of time you save now could mean lots of lost work and idle days in the future, when you will regret that you did not spend the extra time to make sure you did a job well done.

Counting Words and Sending your File

Once you have finalised your translation and feel confident and happy with its quality, you will want to send it to the customer. But first you want to know how much you have earned, and possibly send an invoice together with your translation. It is a good idea to send your invoice together with your file because this makes it easier for the company to process your invoice, and helps ensure timely payment for you. If you send the invoice at a later date, it might take a while before the email gets processed properly, and may need to be confirmed with the project manager who assigned you the translation whether you were truly assigned this project. This all causes further delays, but if you send the invoice together with the translation, the project manager can quickly forward that attachment to the accounting department.
Most agencies are satisfied with an invoice created in a Word file. You can spend a few hours one day beautifying your invoice, making sure you have your business license details, payment information and contact information on the invoice (in case the accounting department needs to contact you). But don't go overboard with choice of fonts, because it will not look how you hoped on the customer's end if they do not have the same fonts on their system as you do. You can also get a program from Adobe (or a possible free alternative here - untested by me) which converts the Word file (or any file) into a PDF document, which looks better as an invoice and cannot be accidentally altered (such as your bank account number).
Once you have beautified your invoice, you can save it somewhere as a template and always use the same file when creating new invoices.

translation tips
Moonscape near Yalikavak, Turkey

You can Save As each new invoice to create a copy and store it for your own accounting needs, or in case the customer loses it and asks for it again. You can even get fancy and create fields which hook up to an Excel file or other accounting system.
Once you are ready to issue your customer an invoice, you should include their project/order number (so that they can quickly know what job the invoice refers to), the date of delivery, the payment due date, and the word or other count.

For counting words in a Word file, simply go to File > Properties > Statistics tab. Since I do this frequently, once again I have created a shortcut key for this through the usual Tools > Customization > Keyboard. The word count statistics should usually suffice. If your customer is paying in some other way, such as by the page of 1800 keystrokes (East Europe and Russia) or by the line of 55 keystrokes (Germany), you can use the other statistics. But note that a keystroke includes the space, tab or ENTER mark after every word - essentially any key you press on the keyboard. Different versions of Word count these statistics differently, so make sure you test some files to find out how your version counts it. If you find out that the character statistics count does not include the space etc. after every word, simply add the character count to the word count first, and then divide the total by 1800 to get the number of pages. For your reference, I find that the average page of 1800 keystrokes usually works out to around 250 words. If charging by the line of 55 keystrokes, simply take the total keystroke count and divide it by 55.
However, some customers like to charge by the source text, meaning not by the target text, which is what you translated. Either the customer will give you a source word count at the beginning, or you can count it yourself through various procedures < .
If you locally charge VAT on your services but your client is from another country (or outside Europe, if you are European), you usually do not need to charge VAT. This is because you are exporting a service, and most governments do not tax exports, because they want to encourage exports. You do not want to make yourself unnecessarily expensive to your foreign clients, and you certainly do not want to pay more taxes than necessary, so look into this before issuing your first invoice to a foreign client.

When sending your file, it is a good idea to quadruple check that you have the necessary files attached to your email. There is nothing worse than being satisfied with the quality and timely delivery of your translation, and then go off to lunch or celebrate for an evening, only to come back to your computer the next day to find an angry email that there was no attachment with your email. All your efforts for timely and quality delivery have been wasted and now you must deal with damage control.
You might also consider zipping (the WinZip program on our Download Translation Programs pages) the file(s) to compress it/them to about one tenth their size. Not only does it cost less internet time for you and your customer, but sometimes very large attachments tend to wander in cyber space, arriving to their destination at a delayed time, or sometimes not at all. Or perhaps fill up your customer's online email inbox to the point that it gets bounced back to you, causing unnecessary delays.
When you are finally ready to send, you can also put your own email address in the BCC (blind carbon copy), meaning that a copy of the email is sent back to you, this fact hidden from your customer. This way you can double check that it has been sent off properly.
If you have the means, as a backup, you can also upload your file somewhere to the web and send a download link to the customer. In such cases, or when sending larger attachments, I usually like to send two emails to my customer: one with the attachment, and the other without the attachment but informing the customer I just sent them the file as a large attachment (with the download link in the email if I am using that as a backup).
Once you have received your BCCed email back and double checked that everything is okay, then you can go to lunch and party all evening with a clear conscience. However, it is always a good idea to be available for some time after you deliver a translation. Perhaps you can check your email from your mobile phone, of you can give your customer your mobile phone for sms text messaging. Things can often be found wrong with your translation, such as some missing text you have overlooked, or some problem. Until the project is finalised and confirmed by the customer, the job is not done and it is good to be on standby over the next few hours and days in case the customer needs your help finalising something.

What to Charge for a Translation Job

This section has been answered in greater detail on a translator or translation rates, charges and prices page.

Getting Paid for Translation Work

This section has been answered in greater detail in the getting paid for translation work page.
For information on getting paid by us, refer to the information for translators page.

Staying in Touch

One of the most important aspects of being a professional translator is to stay in touch, be easily reachable and to respond quickly to enquiries. Nowadays many translation companies will send out emails to several verified translators enquiring of their availability. The first to respond to such an enquiry can often be the one chosen to take the project. Hence it is within your interest to know when an email comes in and to respond quickly to it. One good way how to accomplish this is to divert all your emails as a text message to your mobile phone. Or pay for a service, such as (works all over the world, unfortunately not in English), which will divert messages sent to a special email address to your mobile phone. Usually you can set up your regular email address to forward a copy of incoming emails to your special email to mobile text message address.
    Even basic mobile phones can be used to respond to incoming emails, the details of which you should find out from your mobile signal provider (not the phone in terms of hardware but the company you pay for your mobile signal).
    Or you can get extra fancy and buy a mobile phone ppc/pda, some of which come with their own popout keyboards. For more details on setting up such an email system you can refer to our perfect email solution pages (where you will also find useful information how to knock out spam, if you are receiving a lot). You can also refer to the Internet Connection While Traveling pages for different ways how to hook up to the internet when on the road, or how to send (and receive) translated files from your laptop to your customer through your mobile phone (and other ways).
    Other ways you can get fancy, for example if you do a lot of traveling and often change sim cards, is by getting a SkypeIn account, buying a telephone number(s) from a large selection of countries and diverting the incoming calls, through the internet, to any local number of your choice.

If a customer will grow to trust that you will always respond quickly to their emails, they will have a greater tendency to depend on you and send you more work.

But using fancy gadgets and systems to respond quickly to customer enquiries is only one ingredient in keeping your customer happy and ensuring a constant supply of work for yourself. Obviously performing a good job, as explained in some sections above, is important, but overall pleasant communication is also very important. Translators can be an odd lot who spend much of their time glued to a computer screen, by themselves on their own little island, and communicating with them can sometimes get antsy, which can sour relations and lead to a loss of some customers. If there is a problem, such as slow payment or a slow response to your emails, you should exercise patience. If you are angry about something, it is good to first flush out your anger by writing them a fuming letter in your mind. Always make sure you are fully sober whenever writing out of passion, and try to maintain as professional and kind tone as possible. If you do not have a solid contract with them as explained in the getting paid for translation work section, screaming and ranting with capital letters and explanation marks wont necessarily help you at all. Being kind and appealing to their sympathy often works much better. Do not let yourself get arrogant and think you are the best translator in world that your customer could never do without but always strive to create as pleasant an atmosphere as possible. If you do that while always providing timely delivered and quality translations, you can secure for yourself as much work as you can handle. If you start to receive more work than you can handle, maintain your professional attitude and consider slowly raising the price of your valuable services, as explained in the translation rates, charges and prices section.

Other Tips

Saving and Autosaving

One of the worst things that can happen to you, which has happened to me on several occasions, is for your system to crash and you lose a lot or all of your translation. I once heard a story of someone working on their doctoral thesis, working from a file or a set of files all located on a floppy disk! The disk eventually got worn out and the data corrupted, and he lost 6 months of work! Or once I was working on a translation and, right before my eyes, many of the sections were turning into stars ***************. It seemed something was corrupted within the Word file, and it was getting worse, this while I was finishing up the translation in a frantic pace because it was due within minutes. So if you have a very large translation, you might consider creating a backup somewhere else on the disk, or better yet, onto a removable disk, such as rewriteable CD, or a floppy disk, in case your entire system is assaulted by a virus and you lose all the data on your computer. There is nothing more irritating than having to retranslate entire sections, not to mention the loss of income and valuable time. In Word you can set autosaving every X minutes by going to Tools > Options > Save tab > and select "Save AutoRecover info every X minutes". But since one can translate a lot in 10 minutes, I have often gotten into the habit of performing a manual save by pressing CTRL S. This works in most programs and I do it constantly, almost as a nervous eye twitch that you just can't get rid of. Then again, as a project manager, I often have many programs open at the same time and perform demanding tasks. But with increasingly complicated graphics and tables embedded into your translation/Word files, your Word program can crash on this alone.
When your Word does crash, later versions have an AutoRecover feature, which automatically opens your last file opened. Save As that file with a different name and compare it to the file name you have saved on your computer, to determine and use the latest version.


If you do not have a version of Word in your own language, or need a spellchecker in a language you do not have, you can purchase one or a package of languages from Mircrosoft itself. Just go to their website and you should be able to find where you can purchase this. Or order it through your local computer shop.
Another option is to use This is a freely downloadable set of programs which can open and work with Microsoft Office programs like Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and has free spellchecking dictionaries as well (refer to one and two), which may possibly be usable in Word by going to Tools > Options > Spelling & Grammar tab. There you can choose or add dictionaries through the Dictionaries icon. You can probably use several dictionaries at one time.
For later versions of Word, select your text (for example CTRL A), and go to Tools > Language > Set Language. Words not found in the dictionaries you have installed/chosen will have a red squiggly line under it. Press those words with your right mouse button, which should generate a drop down menu of closely spelt words from the dictionary. You can also add words to the dictionary, or just have them ignored in that particular document. For this function to work properly, you need to have that language dictionary installed as explained in this section above.


There are many different types of keyboard layouts. When you buy a new external keyboard, it might come with an install disk, or your operating system may automatically recognise it. This aspect concerns the positioning of the individual keys themselves, as different keyboards have keys positioned in slightly different locations or ways. If you are having problems in this area, you might try adding keyboards according to the instructions directly below, or you can try right mouse clicking on My Computer, choose Properties, Hardware tab, and click on the Device Manager icon. Open up Keyboards and right click on your keyboard, and play around in that area. You can look on the internet for a driver (search on google for the word driver plus the model or serial number of your keyboard, or other relevant information) and try installing or updating to a new keyboard driver. Or uninstall it and reinstall it, or let Windows find it itself after uninstalling it. Before tampering too wildly with in this area, you should create a System Restore Point as explained in our Computer Tips section.
Once you have your keyboard layout set up properly, you may want different languages attached to that keyboard. For example, a German to Polish translator will want at least two language keyboards installed on their computer, in case they will want to type in some German words (such as names etc.) while they are translating into Polish. To add more languages to your keyboards, in Windows XP (follow similar logic with other Windows or other operating systems) go to Control Panel > Regional and Language Options. Click on the Languages tab and then Details. Here you can add or remove various languages to your keyboard, and choose the keyboard layout as well. With the Key Settings tab you can assign a particular shortcut key to jump from one language to another (I prefer to use ALT SHIFT, because I often use CTRL SHIFT to select text with the arrow keys), which is quicker than having to use your mouse and the language bar if shown in your system tray at the bottom of your screen (notice the Language Bar icon in this keyboard layout window you are presently in).
And finally, once you have everything set up, you may want to view your keyboard layout. Or you might like a program CharMap (character map) when selecting special characters. When using the charmap program, notice the shortcut key for each character (such as ALT 0169 for the Copyright symbol - you hold down the ALT key while punching in the number 0169 on the number pad, and then let go of the ALT key. For laptops you need to switch a portion of your keyboard to the number pad, usually by holding down the blue Function (Fn) key at the bottom left of the keyboard and then pressing the key NumLk (number lock)). This ALT shortcut key should work on any keyboard, so it is good to know in an emergency. Or for crazy characters you might occasionally need. You can download the keyboard viewer and the character map programs from out translation programs website.
Another option is to buy an external keyboard for your laptop. They are not expensive.

Translating outside with your laptop

Although you may have made a perfect and beautiful translation environment for yourself according to the tips above, sometimes its nice to have a change of your working environment, such as outside in a park or on the beach. But then you run into the problem of sunlight making it difficult to see your screen properly. For this purpose I have created a special Theme in my Windows setup where my background is light grey and my text is coloured black. On your keyboard or laptop you should be able to find a brightness and a contrast key/button. Adjust those as well. You may also want to zoom in on the text more, or temporarily increase the font sizes, if possible. Then you will want to wear a baseball cap to shade your eyes. Don't forget to chew bubble gum so you look like a cool American. And lastly, you will want to be genius like me and manufacture the super cool portable laptop sunscreen. You will find a picture below, and at some point I will try to add to these pages a detailed schematic of its construction, but for its basic construction instructions, read here:
Have one or two pliers with which to bend the hard wire. You can get hard wire at any electrical shop. Get a nice thick one which does not bend easily, or use your logic. Get a wire with a plastic coating so that you do not scratch your laptop. One wire is for around your lcd monitor, resting on the top and secure at the bottom. At the top you have extra for the hinge mechanism. The second wire loops into the hinge mechanism so that, when opened, it juts out the top of the computer monitor towards you. The reason I have devised this hinge mechanism is so that I can fold it when not using it and stick it into the outer sleeve of my laptop case. Otherwise, some permanently fixed jutting out structure will make it inconvenient to carry around or store.
Once you have the wire mechanism set up properly (the hardest part, for which I will try to upload the schematic at some point), you sow over top of the top wire part some thin black textile, to keep out the light. You want some extra material for the sides of the monitor, to keep out light coming in from the sides, which you can then fasten to the back of the monitor using velcro (I have velcro attached to black cloth sown around the wire frame which clamps onto the monitor itself).
And lastly, from the textile shop you can also get some textile elastic (used around the waste for underwear and for supporting other garments), and sow that onto the dangling side textiles, near the bottom end and connecting the two sides, so that you can slide this elastic fabric under the computer, hence holding them in place so that the wind does not blow them all over the place. Genius eh? But that is just one of the great benefits of being a freelancer, so take advantage of your freedom and improve the quality of your life!

Once you have that set up, you don't want your laptop to overheat, so you might want to work under a big umbrella, or at least put a white t-shirt or white fabric draped over the back, to bounce off the hot sunlight. With your hand occasionally check the heat coming out the fan exhaust of your laptop to make sure it is not much hotter than it usually is, or does not feel excessively hot, otherwise it will wear down some component within it and greatly shorten the life of your laptop, if maintained hot like this over longer periods. It may also be hot if your processor is working hard. For example, with very large Word files, I sometimes find the processor working at 100%, which heats up the components, and starts the fan running at full speed, jetting out hot air. You can find what programs are using a lot of processor speed through the Task Manager (CTRL ALT DELETE) and stop those programs from running, if possible. Keep your laptop running as cool as possible. If it is Word that is forcing the processor to run at full speed and which you might need for translating (hence you cannot simply turn off this program), consider breaking up your file into smaller parts, or Save As into other formats. You can always paste it back together (or Insert File) at the end. More detailed tips on processor speeds through our Computer Tips webpages.

And lastly, be careful when working on the beach. Be careful about sand getting or blowing into your keyboard, and about damp salty air drawn into the air intake on your fan system. Damp salty air circulating through the interior of your laptop can do lots and lots of damage, and even clog up your fan. If your fan gets clogged up and can't spin, I found that blowing hard into the exhaust area forced the fan to spin at high speeds and help loosen it up. You laptop might not even start (a security measure) if your fan won't start spinning, so blowing inside like this is a quick solution. Otherwise, get yourself a tiny screw driver kit, and if you feel bold enough and have steady and surgical hands, you can take apart your laptop and clean the insides with a q-tip (those little sticks with cotton on the ends you use to clean your ears with). You can dip those into a little bit of clean water, possibly rubbing alcohol, to clean your motherboard and all other parts which look like they have a thin layer of salt on it. Such a thin later will eat away at your electronics, and if thick enough, will eventually become conductive, meaning it will short out your circuits, possibly leading to permanent damage.
So be careful. The heaviest and dampest salty air you will find at an elevation closest to the sea water, and at a location closest to the sea. So you may just have to suffer and work higher up and farther away from the sea. You can't have everything y'know. Generally I find I can feel the saltiness and dampness in the air (your skin gets sticky quickly). On a windy day, you will have to go away farther, or just go inside.

translation tips - escape from it all!
You will notice the laptop with white t-shirt shield sitting on the lawnchair.


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Link Exchangep align="left">More translation tips: - by Peter Suber, Philosophy Department, Earlham College - "In this hand-out I treat the notation of truth-functional propositional logic and first-order predicate logic as a language, and give guidance on translating from English into this foreign language. In general, "logical" issues, such as methods for making use of the expressions once translated, are omitted here." tips by a German translator. - Translation tips for when translating in Spanish. - Legal translations and interpretation translation tips. - a detailed book of translation tips that you can buy, with other useful resources for translators. - some useful translation tips, and a 111 page e-book on translation tips that you can buy.



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