I've numbered them 1 to 5 again as I can't seem to make the list start at 6. In fact, I've numbered them 1 to 6, as I remembered another one at the end that I hadn't bargained for:
- Don't miss deadlines. This may seem obvious enough to make you wretch, but it is amazing how many translators apparently fail to follow this one simple rule. To help me not to forget files, I immediately save them in a folder named after the month and year, inside of which I have another folder for each client I work for, and then inside those folders I make a folder for each day that I have a file due. I can thereby see at a glance what I have to do, and I also keep an Excel spreadsheet with a list of upcoming jobs. Keep to deadlines if you want them to keep coming back for more.
- Learn how to search the Internet efficiently. I'm no master at this, but I have developed a few techniques that allow me to find 90% of what I'm looking for. With the world wide web, gone are the days when only experts in a certain field could successfully translate documents relating to that area. Nowadays, most terminology is available if you look hard enough. Google's translate service is a good starting point. It is useful for finding out the meaning of obscure everyday words, but can be weak for technical terms (I use IATE first for these, as mentioned before). Google is strange, because while it comes up with some very odd answers a lot of the time, it is, I have found, surprisingly good at translating legal language if you put in a full sentence. Another tip is to type "translate: FOREIGN TERM" as a Google search, and this will bring up possible sites where translations may be found. Proz.com has another excellent service called KudoZ, where desperate translators ask their peers for help with expressions they are baffled by. Using said "translate: FOREIGN TERM" usually brings up these answers near the top of the lists, which is useful. If I'm really stuck with a term, I do a search on the original Portuguese term and see what comes up. Sometimes you'll find a company that sells that thing (and, if you're lucky, has an English version of their site), or even seeing a picture of that object may help you identify what it may be in English. If all else fails, try to translate the term literally into English, type it into Google and see if anything comes up.
- Don't be afraid to ask the client for help. When I first started translating, I was terrified of doing this, as I thought the client would regard me as a clueless buffoon for not knowing the meaning of a word. While some still might if you ask them too often, or send them a whole paragraph or a chapter or something, most Project Managers will be only too pleased to give you a hand with truly tricky language. I once had a term in a specification for a Portuguese Navy vessel that even the company requesting the translation had never heard of, so don't be shy.
- Be realistic about your workrate. Now I've learned touch typing, the number of words I can manage in a day has risen from around 2,500 - 3,000 per day to 5,500 - 6,000. If in doubt, understate your abilities rather than oversell them. At three a.m. on a Sunday night you may regret having promised to do 8,000 words a day just to secure a job.
- Do a bit of social networking. I'm pretty hopeless at this, despite knowing it's probably a very good idea. Sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook have groups for translators, and if you sign up for notifications, you can get to hear about which companies are seeking translators and generally keep up to date with what's going on in the wild world of translayshun.
- BONUS ITEM! There is a Yahoo Group called Glosspost, which is a collection of links to bilingual glossaries translators have found on their travels. Worth checking out, and available in many languages.
That's all for now. I hope a few things are useful to someone, but if they aren't, I don't really mind. It's the thought that counts.