A collaborative approach
The tale of the book
I remember that in December 2018, Macarena, María, and I had this super interesting book project of over 20,000 words. We decided to give Smartcat a go and created a project.
The setup took around 5 minutes: translation memory (TM), term bases (TBs) with custom fields, custom QA checks, document split, role assignment, and deadline. We finished it quickly and used the segment-commenting section to solve linguistic disputes and doubts.
Macarena and I took care of the translation while María handled the editing and proofreading — at our heels in real time!
Helping my IT project manager
Another time I helped my PM, Daniel, tackle a 190,000-word machine translation post-editing project in just two and a half weeks. He said that I was the go-to person for this task and we decided to work on it shoulder to shoulder.
Terminology adherence (term bases) and consistency (translation memories) were two serious aspects — there were over 420 documents on different subtopics of a product! Without a real-time collaboration — me suggesting new terms, cleaning up TMs, and him validating and updating everything — we just couldn’t have done it. The Smartcat TM/TB updating features are very convenient in these scenarios.
A cloud-based platform for freelance translators
The first phrase that comes to mind with Smartcat is “you don’t have to install anything on your computer”. The technology resembles Google’s cloud approach, where everything is integrated and functional.
The other advantage is that you don’t need to buy a monthly or yearly subscription to use the translation and project-management environment. The fact that you don’t need licenses is another very interesting approach which many of us long-term users would really miss if that were to change in the future.
Other features that I really appreciate are the chat and commenting options in the segments. You can receive immediate feedback from others if a given segment needs attention or there are any issues with the TM or TB.
Oh, did I also mention that Smartcat recently integrated the option to upload images for you to see the text in context? Yep! And you can do this for the whole document or a specific segment. I was really happy to know that I never have to ask my PM again for a screenshot of that Android app UI. The days of sending emails back and forth with screenshots, questions, and other attachments are over!
Wrapping it up, Smartcat is extremely intuitive and user-friendly. Don’t get me wrong, I have been a memoQ lover since 2013, but clicking on just a few buttons to create, work on, and deliver projects is just a wonderful experience. Smartcat has quickly become one of my favorite translation environments.
Finding clients in the Smartcat Marketplace
Since I work in the English into Latin American Spanish pair — an increasingly competitive market — jobs are few and far between, and quickly snatched up when available.
But what’s great about Smartcat is that you can be directly contacted and invited by agencies and clients to take on their projects. There is a nice team from Ukraine that develops great Android products and they always invite me privately without posting the job on the marketplace.
“What’s great about Smartcat is that you can be directly contacted and invited by agencies and clients to take on their projects”
I think Smartcat has also given both companies and LSPs the opportunity to generate vendor retention, which explains why there aren’t so many EN-ES projects publicly available. The story is different for other language pairs — vendors from Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East have way more opportunities to work on projects as soon as they sign up on the platform and fill out their profiles.
Receiving money in Smartcat
It was a real headache to see my Payoneer account funds on hold because they had to go through a validation process. And the PayPal fees were killing my gross margins, especially if I later had to use third-party exchange apps (Nubi comes to mind) to convert those bucks into Argentine pesos.
With Smartcat, it takes from two hours to two business days to receive the money in my bank account, and that’s with the best exchange rate. No more boring freelancer forms to fill out (I am talking to you, Payoneer) or excessive “validation stages”. It just takes a couple of minutes to fill out your bank account details in the My payouts section of your Smartcat account. When your earnings reach a certain amount (a minimum of around $100), the money goes straight into your local bank account.
Oh, and if you don’t want to wait to reach the minimum, just tell the nice support team that you are happy to pay the very reasonable fee of around $2.50 to withdraw your money.
From freelancing to running your own translation business
When you have worked for over six years as a translator, have lived through technological transformations in the industry, and also had a taste of project- and human-talent management in different environments, you know that it’s the right time to take a leap of faith and start your own translation business.
Moreover, knowing that there are companies like Smartcat (a translation environment) and Intento (MT technology) that can seriously boost the scaling process, I realized that creating a translation business, like Translation for Health, was not a bad idea at all.
I also worked with digital marketing agencies based in Colombia and the US, so it was just a matter of applying my knowledge in this field to start luring in potential clients.
But I am not alone in this journey. Macarena “The Wellness Translator” Troscé is my partner in crime, and without her eagerness to start a business, it would have been harder for me to make the decision. Moreover, she’s the best linguistically speaking as she studied translation.
Pros and cons of transitioning from freelancing to managing a translation business
It’s definitely not easy to start your own translation business, especially when we consider the size of the market share and the mind-blowing things that the top players are achieving in terms of technological advancements (i.e. custom Neural Machine Translation, text-to-speech translation, connected Content Management System translation, etc.).
Nevertheless, your first steps will teach you that focusing on quality, human relationships with your customers and vendors can do wonders for your business.
Here are some of the pros and cons that I have experienced when transitioning from lone wolf to “tribe advocate”:
You can apply all those years of experience in your specialty and start to market them through the voice of a brand that provides tailored services to a specific sector.
You can provide business opportunities for other translators so they can do what they love and get fairly compensated.
You have the chance to fix what you saw was wrong in your freelance translation days in terms of project and vendor management. That way you create a unique footprint and contribute positively to the sector.
You get to talk with like-minded LSP owners who will give you great advice to keep growing and make better business decisions.
You evolve from self-centered to collaborative work.
“As a translation business owner, you can provide business opportunities for other translators so they can do what they love and get fairly compensated.”
You have to focus on more than just translation. Small translation business owners have to wear all the hats, namely, inbound and outbound marketing, sales, technical support, human resources, and beyond.
You might have to do the translation work yourself if cash flow is an issue. You may not be able to negotiate a good rate with that superstar linguist and end up having to take on parts of projects yourself to be able to pay other vendors, buy software subscriptions, and handle other expenses.
TMS and other tools can be expensive when you’re just starting out. Sooner or later, those Google or Excel spreadsheets won’t be enough to keep up with all your vendors, finances, projects, etc. TMSs are great for administrative and repetitive tasks and help you keep an eye on all your operations.
All in all, Smartcat has proven to be not only a very advanced cloud-based translation and project management solution, but also a strong supportive environment for translation professionals and LSPs looking to grow without the fear of falling behind.
“Smartcat has proven to be not only a very advanced cloud-based translation and project management solution, but also a strong supportive environment.”
My success story — and I shared just a few tales! — is just one of many that I know from my peers in the industry, and I was happy to learn that Smartcat is not changing scope in terms of facilitating fast local payments (one of its flagship features) and a user-friendly starting point for both newbie and experienced translators and linguists.
I’m eager to find out what’s next for this all-in-one environment. Thanks, Smartcat!