A translation partner: why you need one, where to find one


OK…that’s not the only reason you need a translation partner, it’s just me learning how to use Canva, but worry-free vacations are a good reason to have a translation partner! I get this question a lot, so let’s talk about it.

Why do you need a translation partner?

  • Because it’s critical to have a truly trusted colleague to bounce ideas off, share marketing ideas with, and so on.
  • Because, especially if you work with direct clients, you need someone to edit your work.
  • Because, especially if you work with direct clients, you need someone to cover for you when you’re on vacation. When I go on vacation, I provide my clients with my translation partner’s contact information ahead of time, and I also put it on my auto-responder (for urgent translations, please contact…) so that there is zero chance that a client is left in the lurch.
  • Because, especially if you work with direct clients, you need someone who can help out on projects that are too large for you to finish in the allotted time.
  • Because a translation partner can be a backup when things go wrong: you have a family emergency or a computer crash, for example.
  • Because you can do joint marketing campaigns, splitting the work and the cost.
  • Because it makes freelancing more fun.

I’m lucky to have worked with Eve Bodeux for over a decade; we’re very fortunate that we are great friends, work really well together, and have complementary skills. We don’t have any formal joint business entity (when we work together, the client pays one of us and that person pays the other), but we’ve collaborated on several direct client marketing campaigns and a website. This ad hoc partnership works well for us because we both maintain our own businesses in addition to the work we do together, and we’re free to collaborate, or not, as we choose. Eve and I met at an international careers event in Denver and immediately clicked, and then our work just proceeded from there.

However you set up your partnership (formal joint business entity or not; joint web presence or not, etc.), I think the key is to clarify your expectations at the start of the relationship. For example, if you have a joint web presence as Eve and I do, how do you decide who gets the work that results from it? Who translates and who edits? Eve and I tend to do this based on a) our strengths (for example she translates software and children’s books, and I don’t) and b) our availability at that time (who can start sooner). This case-by-case approach works well for us, but if you’re partnering with someone you don’t know very well, you might want to take a more formal approach. Or maybe you’re just looking for someone to edit your work and cover for you while you’re on vacation, and you don’t want any joint presence. Point being: clarify all this up front. The lowest-risk situation is just to find someone who works with you on a per-project basis at a rate that you determine. The highest-risk situation is to form a joint business entity where both of you have access to the client base (because if things go sour, you could lose a lot of work). So you have to carefully strategize about your goals and what works best for you.

I think that mindset is a key factor in a translation partnership. For example, Eve and I are both very meticulous about our work, but we both like to safeguard our time off as well. I would have a hard time working with a 70-hour-a-week person, and I would have a hard time working with a “whatever” person. Definitely something to assess before you work together!

So, if you’re interested in finding a translation partner, where do you start? A few ideas:

  • In-person events/groups are the best option, because you can get a sense of the person as a person, and assess how you would collaborate. Your local translators’ association, an ATA conference, or local networking groups are good bets.
  • The downside to in-person meetings is that you don’t get to see the person’s work; and it’s possible to be both a nice person and a lousy translator, which you don’t want. So another option is people who you meet through agency work. For example if you do editing or multi-translator projects for agencies and you’re allowed to see who the other translators are, that’s a great way to find someone who does high-quality work.
  • Translation listserves and forums (Facebook groups, etc.) are another possibility. If you’re on ATA division listserves for example, you pretty quickly get to know who the really sharp people are, or the people who do the same specializations as you, or the people who also want to find clients in Switzerland, etc. You could contact those people and see whether they’re amenable to working together.
  • You could also ask trusted colleagues for recommendations; I would probably advise against putting an “I’m looking for a translation partner” posting on a listserve, since you’re looking for a very specific type of person. But you could a few trusted colleagues and give a specific description: German to English translator who does mostly legal and some financial, is a good editor and is in a similar time zone to you, for example.

Readers, other thoughts on this topic?

12 Responses to “A translation partner: why you need one, where to find one”
  1. ebodeux August 19, 2015
  2. David Friedman August 19, 2015
  3. Sveta August 19, 2015
  4. mehdiadlany August 19, 2015
  5. Dmitry Kornyukhov August 19, 2015
  6. Beth Smith August 21, 2015
  7. Vadim Kadyrov August 25, 2015
  8. Preston Decker August 30, 2015
  9. Zorana September 2, 2015
  10. Denise Muir March 23, 2016
  11. Mandarin Thinker May 21, 2017

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