By Marion Rhodes
CTA Social Media Director
October 16, 2013
Today, we are talking to Eve Bodeux, an active member of the Colorado Translators Association who served as vice president of CTA for four years. Eve translates from French into English and works both as a translator and as a project manager. She is also co-host of the online learning platform Speaking of Translation, where she offers free webinars together with her colleague and fellow CTA member Corinne McKay.
Marion Rhodes: You’ve been a French to English translator for more than 15 years. How big is the demand for French into English translations, and have you noticed changes over the years?
Eve Bodeux: In my case, I actually started out in this business doing vendor management for a localization company in Boulder (International Language Engineering) almost 20 years ago. This was a great introduction into the translation and localization business and it gave me insight into both the management side and the freelance side. I started translating myself as you say, about 15 years ago, and I have definitely seen the demand for French to English translations increase. Perhaps the demand was always there, but, as the Internet has become more pervasive in our lives, the demand has become easier to identify and communication with clients is easier. The translation industry was an “early adopter” of using the Internet for remote working, but I have some funny stories about the “old days” using electronic bulletin boards, and, of course, floppy disks!
One thing I have noticed over the years is that, when I first started in this industry, only a few people had (rudimentary) translation tools and there was only one player, Trados. No “into English” translations had these types of tools at all, and that language direction definitely lagged behind the “out of English” translators’ use of translation tools for many years. I think “into English” translators’ use of translation tools is catching up to that of their colleagues, but if you work “into English,” I think having a translation tool can still provide you with a competitive edge, depending on your exact subject matter niche. I also think that, from a client perspective, there is much more awareness of translation in the marketplace and the benefits it provides to business in general.
MR: You’re somewhat of an expert when it comes to international payment issues, having given presentations on the subject on various occasions incl. our own 2013 CTA Conference. What’s your preferred payment method from overseas clients?
EB: Thanks! I originally became interested in this topic because I thought there had to be a better way to pay and get paid within our industry. I was tired of stressing out about what exchange rate I would get and paying high fees for international transfers. I started using foreign exchange companies at least five years ago and was impressed with the savings involved and I wanted to share this information with the industry in general, so everyone could benefit. Over time, other options have become available as well. Banking and international money transfers can be intimidating, but there are actually quite a few alternatives out there, depending on your specific needs.
I think the best way to get paid internationally is to have a (legal) overseas account in a location that is beneficial to your overseas client base. You then have them pay you into that account using methods that they are comfortable with. Then, you transfer accumulated funds to your business account back in the US on your own schedule. This way, you offer your clients the comfort of paying you in a familiar way, but you also control the timing of international transfers into your account, minimizing fees (by minimizing transactions) and getting a better exchange rate (by using foreign exchange providers that offer a more competitive rate than banks). With the advent of the Internet, as with almost every other aspect if daily life, international financial transactions have been affected and there is competition out there for banks. These competitors often much more economical options for our (and other) industries for both small and large amounts that are transferred internationally.
MR: What should translators be aware of when they’re working with clients in other countries?
EB: Working with clients in other countries is a great way to expand your client base and to attract new business from clients who are looking for something specific in a translation vendor, such as residency in the US for cultural or linguistic reasons. It can also provide a stream of interesting projects that may lead you into new specializations or industries, depending on the needs of your non-US clients. However, there is more risk in working with international clients just by the mere fact that they are not local and you can’t go knock on their door if they don’t pay, and it may be harder to do your due diligence due to distance. Always take the time to research potential clients using payment practice sites or Dunn & Bradstreet or other methods, whether they be agency or direct clients. You can always ask for a down payment (most legitimate clients won’t balk at this) and if you have a bad feeling about someone, don’t hesitate to turn the project down; have faith that there will always be another one from someone else. In addition, if things go bad, there are options you can take to try and recoup some of your losses, even from an international client. The ATA has a collection agency members may use (for a fee) and always, always get an agreement in writing, even if it is just an email summarizing the project conditions, before you start the job. That being said, working with international clients can be very rewarding, from both an intellectual perspective as well for your pocket book.
MR: You run your own translation agency, Bodeux International LLC, where you work with a large network of multilingual translators. How did you branch out into project management?
EB: This goes back to my original start in this industry. I started out working in vendor management and have always held on to that side of the business in that I do project manage and hire translators in all different languages for my clients. My direct clients are mainly in technology but some other industries as well. I appreciate having started out this way in the industry because it keeps me balanced and I value being able to see the perspective of both an agency/client as well as the translator.
MR: As a project manager, what do you look for in hiring translators who work for you?
EB: At this point in my career, I know so many wonderful translators around the world who are amazingly good at what they do and who recognize the importance of specialization. I get turned off when translators tell me they can do “anything” and also when they quote me rates that are too low (really). I don’t mean that I don’t have budgets like everybody else, or that I will pay you $1/word, but I know what translation is worth and the effort and energy it requires to do a good job. I get scared off when people offer me rates that are not commensurate with the talent required. Also, I don’t have a lot of patience anymore for people who do not conduct themselves professionally or who complain a lot, in private or in public. I just don’t have time to deal with that kind of behavior. In addition, my vendors may end up interfacing with my clients and I want someone who comes across as professional, not kooky.
MR: The Colorado Translators Association has a very active email discussion list, in large part thanks to you. Why do you think this mailing list is so important that you were willing to serve 10 years as its administrator?
EB: I started the email list for the CTA when Yahoo Groups were the “new thing” – so you can tell it was a really long time ago! I remember thinking that we should try it out so that we didn’t have to reply to 50 people just to ask a question or set up a meeting. Administering a Yahoo Group is not that difficult, and I had quite a few years to make it more efficient as time went by. Even though there are other methods of communicating now, like the wonderful CTA Facebook page, this “old school” tool has really served us well and, because of the success of our list, I was surprised to learn last year that other local translation associations do not have the same level of activity on their lists. This is due to our members and everyone’s willingness to share knowledge and help each other out. The CTA is really a wonderful organization and I have been very glad to be a part of it throughout the years in various capacities, and now as “just” a member.