So, you know how I posted last time about how to find translation work right now? Well, I figured it would be a good idea to sit down and actually do it for myself. Now, I’m not actively translating so instead I decided to sell someone else’s service. The first thing that I did was make a video, which you can see here:
The video is only 42 seconds long and just lets viewers know that there was a special offer going on. I then took $10 and set up my ads. Now, this is the part where people get confused so let me explain a few things before moving on with the process.
– Google bought YouTube a few years ago and merged their ad placement programs
– More recently, Google made it possible to target people on YouTube based on their Google search traffic
– YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, behind Google, and receives a ton of traffic
– YouTube videos can and do appear in Google search results
– There was some drama about advertisers being upset over where their ads were being shown and demanded more control over them. At the same time, several larger companies that spent millions of dollars in ads backed out of the system until these placement issues were resolved
– AdWords now has new options that let us target YouTube users that are watching specific videos and/or that are using specific keywords, including searches done on Google within the past three days
That means that if someone does a Google search for “Spanish-English immigration translator,” I can put my ads on the videos that they watch on YouTube. If they watch 30 seconds of that ad or click on the link back to my site, I have to pay for it. However, since we’re targeting such specific keywords, there’s very little competition and the traffic is very inexpensive. For the video listed above, I spent $10 total, about $0.04 per view, and about $0.59 per click. I got 17 clicks, which made me $113 in affiliate commissions (two sales). Now, if those had been translation projects, let’s use immigration as an example, I probably would have made between $200 and $300 dollars between both jobs. Not bad for $10 in ads, right?
That’s really the point that I’m trying to drive here. So many translators are focused on word of mouth, or getting Kudoz points on Proz, and think that they’re promoting their businesses. That they just need a few more points and clients will start contacting them. Well, I was near the top for video game translators in the Proz directory and it didn’t help me one bit. Sure, you might find some work, but you have to compete against hundreds of other translators that have been on the platforms several years (I opened my account in 2010) and even then, they have no control over who contacts them or when. And that’s assuming that someone actually contacts them in the first place.
In my humble opinion, the key to any sort of advertising, which leads to good marketing, is knowing where you customers are, going to them, and letting them know that you exist and that you can fix their problems. Marketing comes afterward and is basically the relationship that you have with your customer. If you want new clients, if you want your situation to change, then you have to do something different than what you’ve been doing all this time. Things don’t change until you change them.
Now, there are a couple of things that you can do to improve on what I did in that example. First, don’t send people to your homepage, send them to a landing page made specifically for that traffic. Explain who you are and what you do at the very beginning, they need to know that they’re in the right place. Have an email capture set up. I like offering a discount on the first project that they can get when they give me their name and email address. If you’re targeting and segmenting your traffic correctly, you can go back to this email list and sell them other services in the future. Like, with immigration, the first thing that they’ll need translated are their birth certificates, passports, IDs, diplomas, marriage certificates, and so on. Then they’ll need to translate documents for a green card (in the US), then eventually they’ll need documents for their citizenship. Plus, once one person comes here, they usually want to bring their families. Or they’ll want to go back home and visit with their families from here and they’ll all need paperwork translated. The lifetime value of that client, of the list itself, grows over time so it’s good to keep in touch with those people. Especially since they only sign up if they’re actively looking for a translation.
You can do the exact same thing with game developers. Get them on your list, share interesting articles, offer discounts, let them know about any sort of opportunity that has to do with translating their games. When the time comes, they come to you for the translation and they recommend you to their colleagues. You will be amazed by how well this works.
Take $10, make a video on Adobe Spark, upload it to YouTube, and run some ads. I would bet that you’ll see some awesome results. And if you want someone else to do it for you, you can buy a video here.
Alright, hold on to your butts, ’cause it’s time to get into the cool SEO stuff! In this post, my dear translators, I’m going to show you how to find a translation project today.
The plan here is pretty simple. We’re going to create a video, upload it to YouTube, optimize it, and also run some ads to it, if necessary.
Step One: Make a Video
There are a few ways to do this. The easiest way, in my opinion, is to go to Spark.adobe.com and create a free account. You can then use the platform to create free videos! I have two tutorials here, one for very simple videos and the other that includes using video footage. Keep in mind that this is not Premiere or After Effects, the video’s we’re making are very simple. If you want more complicated stuff, we’ll get to it, so keep reading.
Video Footage One:
Those things look HUGE right now…
I would pick the branding/promo template and just fill out the spaces. You will want to talk about yourself, your services, and how you can help the person watching your video. Keep it simple, to the point, and short.
Other ways that you can make videos include:
Making a fancy PowerPoint presentation and recording it with some screen recording software, like OBS (free), while recording a voice over (Audacity works great and is free). You might need to do some light editing, which can be done in YouTube or you can
Download HitFilm Express (free) and create a video from scratch. I do something similar, but with Adobe Premiere and After Effects since I’m already paying for them.
Or option C, you can actually buy videos like this. I have a few templates that I use to promote some of my clients that can be adapted for translators. Check it out here if you’re interested: http://snip.ly/sxa4p
You can also just grab your cell phone and record yourself talking. I don’t normally mention this option because more translators are terrified of the idea of being on camera, but hey… toughen up, you wimp.
Pro Tip: It doesn’t have to be pretty. What’s important is the information that you’re communicating. Take the money you make
Pro Tip 2: If you want to target multiple locations or language pairs, make multiple videos.
Step Two: Upload and Optimization
Uploading a video to YouTube is easy. You just upload it like any other file.
Now comes the fun part. If you recall my post on SEO and using parasite rankings, then you already should know what to do next when optimizing your video. But, I’m going to assume that most of you have no idea what I’m talking about and start from the beginning.
First, you’ll want to pick a search term. I would suggest something like “[language pair] translator in [city, state]” – so I would use “Spanish-English translator Logan UT.” That’s the title of your video. You’ll also want it to be in the description of your video and paste the whole thing into your tags. Make sure to include your contact information and a link to your website in the description of your videos as well.
Now, that is sometimes enough to get your videos to appear in Google search. Sometimes you need some extra work done to your video, in which case you can hire an SEO to help push your video. However, the goal of this post is to get work fast. So, we’re going to promote this video via Google ads. You’ll want to go to Adwords.google.com and log in with your Gmail account. This part is kinda boring, so I’ll just say to follow the steps they provide. It’s not exactly complicated.
Larger budgets mean more traffic and views on your video. More traffic usually means more clients.
Step Three: Profit
So, you now have a video up on YouTube, probably Google as well, and a way to drive traffic to it. Now you answer questions, talk to clients, and convince them to give you money.
Today I want to talk about a big mistake that I made when I first started out as a freelance translator and what’s worse is that I did it again when I started out as an SEO: Jumping in head first.
In my last post, I talked a bit about how I started my little freelance gig back in 2011. It’s a good read and I try to sell you a website at the end, so I suggest you take a look. This post is a little different in that I want to list some of the things that you’ll need in order to start freelancing full time and why it might be wise to keep your day job until you’re ready to make the change. You could also look at this post as a list of things that I wish I had done when I first got started.
The first thing you need: Money
I can hear a collective “well, duh” from all of you. The simple fact of the matter is that you will typically have bills to pay, hardware/software to purchase (or upgrade), and most of us need food and caffeine in order to function correctly. This is why I would recommend sticking with your day job until you are consistently making at least the same amount of money as you are with your day job AND able to scale that amount to a higher figure should you need or want to do so. Why? Because we can’t see the future. One thing that my wife and I have learned, and have had to relearn many times, is to not get comfortable until the money is in your hands. That means don’t assume that your client is going to pay you on time (or at all, in some cases). Don’t assume that project will come in as expected (or at all). Because as soon as you need things to go a certain way, everything will go wrong. Trust me, I’m 30 now and know these kinds of things.
The problem with those situations, aside from the whole not eating or getting evicted from your house part, is that they cause you to become desperate. Desperation leads to poor decisions and you end up working on projects that you shouldn’t be working on, for clients that you shouldn’t be working with, and at a rate that makes it all not worth the trouble. So, how do we avoid desperation? By having a backup. That backup is usually called a second job or rich family members/spouse… Unless you’re independently wealthy in which case you have nothing to worry about.
I was desperate when I started freelancing – again if you want to read the whole story, check out the other post – and it caused a lot of problems. Mostly $0.03 per word, 10,000 words per day, and 120 days before they cleared my invoice problems… buncha jerks. A friend and colleague of mine recently wrote an interesting article about the All or Nothing approach to starting a business. I’d recommend giving it a read. The main idea here is simply this: it’s better to advance slowly and carefully than it is to rush in. I rushed into freelancing and, while some may consider my business a success, it certainly wasn’t like that at the beginning.
For those trying to transition to game localization from other fields, the same thing applies: don’t give up your legal or medical work to focus 100% on finding video game projects. You can make the transition slowly and not starve to death – which is generally considered a plus.
The second thing you need: Time
In order for a business to be successful, you kind of need to make some money. As translators, we make money by translating. In order to translate, we need clients. To get clients, we have to market ourselves to people that are interested in buying a translation from us. Marketing is based on the relationships that we have with our clients.
It might help if you look at it this way: a customer is someone that buys from you once, while a client is someone that buys from you all the time. I don’t have a relationship with the company that produces my socks, but I have a very long history with my gummy bear provider. I remember being a wee lad in southern California eating my Black Forest gummy bears while my mom did laundry at the local laundry mat. I would play Donkey Kong on the arcade there while munching away on my candy. Not much has changed. Sure, I know that there are other brands of gummy bears out there, even cheaper ones, like Haribo – which certainly aren’t bad – but Black Forest will always be my favorite because of the relationship that I have with them. A relationship that took almost 30 years to build.
This goes back to the money and desperation thing. If you’re just trying to survive, to pay for food and a roof, you won’t have the time or energy to build those relationships with your clients. You’ll make money then and there, but, in the long run, you will lose out on great opportunities.
The way that you use this time is important as well. When working with any kind of client, it helps to ask them what their specific needs are. This does two things: it shows that you care (yay for relationship building!) and it helps you to position yourself as a more valuable asset. I’m a Spanish to English translator and I have an apprentice translator that works in the exact same language pair that I do. She’s really good, but what’s even better is that she knows that I deal with a lot of immigration and legal documents (it can’t all be video games, after all) so she practices those kinds of translations when not working on paid jobs. What does that mean for me? It means that I have someone that’s absolutely perfect for those projects and I can confidently look for more work like that for her. She makes more money, I make more money, and the client gets an outstanding translation every time. Everyone wins! And it’s because she knows what kind of help we need. The same goes for my French and Mandarin translators. Again, those relationships take time.
The third thing you need: Tools
Hey, guess what! This has to do with the last two things! +10 points for relatedness… -20 points for poor vocabulary.
It’s not quite as bad in the translation world, but in SEO, holy bananas!
It seems like there’s a tool for everything. Do you want backlinks? Have a billion tools. Want to track your rankings? How about these 50 options that all do the exact same thing. How about a tool that automatically copies pages on your site with slightly different words on them? Done! Have three.
When it really comes down to it, for translation, you really only need a few things: a connection to the internet, something that can connect to the internet, and something that you can write with. For some, that’s a laptop with Open Office, for others a three monitor beast with the newest overpriced version of SDL Trados on one screen, all their dictionaries on another, and this blog on the third. Or like… stock tracker things and cat videos. Or Netflix.
For my computer, I’m using an older gaming rig because, well, that should be clear by now. I liked Wordfast as a CAT tool, but see the appeal of Trados, especially when dealing with strings of code – I’m still using the 2014 version myself – and I use Trello to keep track of my projects, along with my big whiteboard. Nothing crazy, but it’s easy to get lost among all the CAT tools, online dictionaries, paper dictionaries, and the other stuff that you think you need. This is where money and time come in handy – you can buy the stuff that you actually need and have the time to learn how to use it correctly and determine what helps and what does not.
Passion, or a lack thereof
Sure, you need experience and language skills, but I hope that you have that before getting into the whole make-translation-a-career thing. Otherwise, you’re in for a very bad time and a possible future as a PM (ooooh, shots fired! I’m just kidding, you guys have the worst job out of everyone involved and will get your own post from me apologizing for all the horrible things I’ve put you through over the years). But I want to share one last controversial thing with you all. I think I ran my business better when I hated it.
Honestly, I never really wanted to become a translator. I was studying to be a pilot when I fell into this line of work and I would have dropped it years ago if it hadn’t been for a side project that I’ve been working on. At first, as mentioned before, I was desperate and would do anything for money. I took every job they threw at me and at the lowest rates they could get away with.
But, as I started picking up a steady stream of work from good clients, meaning that I didn’t have to worry about getting thrown out of my house all the time, I became very picky in regards to the jobs I took. You either had to pay me a lot of money or it had to be a project that was going to be really easy or interesting (like the time I worked for Marvel or all the video games I playtested). I found that when I truly didn’t want to work was when I got the best jobs and worked under the best possible circumstances. At first, I thought that it was just me being grouchy and mildly intimidating: see image for reference.
But I’ve been told that isn’t the case…
It was because I didn’t want to spend time doing something that I didn’t like. Sure, over the years I found areas that I truly enjoyed working in, legal texts being one of them, believe it or not. But I think that a clear head when making business decisions, like who you will work with and how much you’ll work for, is incredibly valuable. If you don’t need the money, you have time and experience, and you have all your tools and resources in order – so that you know your limitations – your business will probably be in a much better position. There’s no need to suffer for your art. The internet, movies, and books romanticize the idea of pushing through hard times in order to reach your dream, but it simply doesn’t work like that in reality. I have been working on that side project now for six years and it’s finally reached the point where I can actually sell the service. Imagine if I had decided to go all in on that project from the very beginning. The technology I needed didn’t even exist yet! The translation industry isn’t going anywhere for a while (we hope), so if you’re getting started as a freelance translator, take it slow, do it smart, and focus on building relationships. Your business will fair much better than mine did.
If I had to attribute the majority of my success as a freelance translator turned agency owner to any one thing, in all seriousness, I would say it was my website. I’ll go into good detail as to why that is, but if you’re just here for a recommendation on my favorite place for websites for translators, or for your own site, then you want www.gabwin.com.
I should start at the beginning…
Triston and Gaby – 2011
Way back in the fall of 2011, I was a young in-house interpreter and translator for a vehicle finance company. I had been in the industry for four years at this point, I was making decent money, I had just bought a house, paid off my car, and I was going through the application process for my then fiance’s visa. I had traveled to Argentina just three months prior to give her a ring and ask her to marry me. Sure, I worked long hours and driving through all the traffic of St. Louis, Missouri every day was a nightmare, but I had never been happier. Then, on the 21st of September, I found out that I had lost my job. The company was going through some hard times and needed to make some cuts. I was the last new-hire and I was the first to go, along with 2/3’s of my department.
That was the first time that I ever truly felt fear. I had been robbed at gunpoint in Argentina, I drove through major tornadoes in Missouri (twice!), and I’d even left everything and everyone that I knew to live alone in a foreign country – without knowing the language – for two years, but this was different. Before I ran the risk of hurting myself, but now I wasn’t only going to lose the most important thing in the world, the ability to be with the girl I loved, but I knew that she would be heartbroken to learn that, once again, our time together would be pushed back and I didn’t know when we’d be able to be together again. I was terrified and I spent many sleepless nights searching for a solution.
I had come across Proz.com while researching a legal term sometime before all of this and knew that freelancing was an option, but I didn’t have time to build a business, I needed money and I needed it right then and there. Even so, I signed up and started bidding on every job I could find. I had this crazed desperation that drove me to take any job, on any subject, and at any price. I found a couple of agencies willing to give me a chance, one I still work with to this day. The other would pay me $0.03 per word for highly technical documents, usually 20,000+ words, and I had 2-4 days to deliver. It was awful, but those were $600 I needed to pay my mortgage, to buy food, to pay for my internet connection so that I could at least talk to my beloved Gaby. This went on for about a year and a half. I was able to bring Gaby here to the US and we were married in May of 2012. We’re celebrating five years of marriage on the eleventh of this month.
During this time, I starting working on a degree in business administration and started applying some of the techniques and concepts that they taught to my business. Sadly, they didn’t talk about websites, email lists, tracking pixels, or buying ads, but I saw the value in them. I built my first website in 2011 for my brand new freelance translation business: T.A.G. Translations and Design. Lots of people ask what T.A.G. stands for, and I’ll tell you at the end of this post, but they’re not my initials (my middle name is Michael). That website, or more specifically the things that I did with that website, changed my business. And if you’re in a situation like the one that I was in, then let me explain how that happened.
The first thing that my website did was give me a place to share all of my experience and sell my knowledge. I was still kinda new to video game localization at this point, but I was a walking dictionary of finance terminology. So that’s what I sold; my website was my portfolio. It’s like when you go to the store to buy something and you look at the packaging. The more attractive the packaging is, the better the information on it is, the more likely you are to purchase it, or at least consider it. Your website is your packaging. It’s how you present your services to the world.
The next thing that my website did was give me a place to direct all the traffic from my many social and professional profiles – like Proz, LinkedIn, Facebook, and so on. If someone asked for my CV, I sent them to my website. If they wanted reviews or referrals, they were sent to my website. My rates? Website! My tools? Website again!! This also made updating my information much easier than it would have been to go and upload my CV/portfolio to every one of those sites by hand.
Point of Communication
Probably the coolest thing that my website did was provide an easy way for potential clients to get in touch with me. I was so excited when I received my first contact form submission. It was for the translation of a birth certificate from Russian to English. I couldn’t help the guy, so I sent him to a colleague, but that was my first taste of not only agency life, but that I was a real business and I had real people interested in my services, not just faceless agencies.
It also gave me a place to get people on my email list. I would offer a discounted translation for first-time clients in order to get them to sign up for email updates. After that, every Monday morning I would send out an email to all my clients and see who had work for me that week. I could easily fill my schedule with those jobs, while still adding new clients to the list. I just picked the jobs that paid the most or were the most interesting and left the rest until I started outsourcing.
Point of Discovery and Increased Rates
Now, I wasn’t always the SEO god that I am now (ask Google who the best SEO in the universe is some time, it’s awesome), but with a well-made website, I still managed to rank for some local search terms – which is how the Russian birth certificate guy found me. I was on the first page of Google for “Spanish translator St. Louis MO” I’m not there anymore, no reason for me to be, but it is such an amazing feeling when clients start coming to you instead of you going out and competing with every other translator in the world for crappy agency gigs. Oh, I forgot to mention that these clients were used to paying agency rates. Birth certificates usually go for about $100 per page in Spanish to English, my agency clients were only paying me $25. I only needed to translate one birth certificate per day at $75 per page to cover all my bills and it only took me 30 minutes to an hour. That was equal to 2,500 words, a full day’s worth of work, at $0.03 per word.
Transformation of my Business – From $0.03 per word to $0.30
I eventually reached the point where I didn’t have time to take on all the projects that came my way, but still wanted to make money off of the work that I’d done in building this business, so I started sending work to my apprentices (that’s right, I was invited to become a Proz mentor at this point to help new translators start and grow their businesses). One job stands out to me in particular because we were working with a new beauty cream company that needed their labels and marketing copy translated into several languages. I was also in the middle of driving across the country with my wife, dog, and everything we owned as we moved here to Utah. We handled the entire translation project from my cell phone. That was the moment when I realized that I wasn’t just a freelancer anymore, I owned a translation agency. I had reached the point where my business could be automated and all I needed to do was make sure that everything ran smoothly. So much so, that I could step away from my business for an entire year to delve into the world of search engine optimization and digital marketing. That’s a story for a different day.
Websites for Translators
The point that I’m trying to make here is that if you want things to change in your business, then you have to change them. I’m not saying that buying a website is going to magically change you into a full-blown agency overnight, but I am saying that if you have the right tools, and if you use them correctly, then you can make that transformation.
There is no reason for you to go through the same trials and challenges that I did. You don’t have to waste years of your life struggling to find work like I did.
That’s the reason that I started this blog and my YouTube channel; I want to help you skip those parts of the story. Obtaining and using a website is an incredibly important step in this process. I don’t care where you get your site from, though I do have my preferences. The reason that I recommend Gabwin is because A) She’s my wife, Gaby, and her designs are awesome, and B) Because I helped her with the structure of the templates and they’re designed with search engine optimization in mind. They are exactly what I would use if I were starting over from scratch today – especially the video game translator one 🙂
As a bonus, if you use the referral code OPXL8R, so that I know you came from this site, I’ll throw in one of my own SEO service packages for free. That will help you get found in Google and other search engines and get work from direct clients that find you, instead of the other way around. I normally charge $750 for this package, just so you have an idea of what it’s worth (there’s already a special offer on there from me, this is in addition to what she roped me into doing for her clients). Shoot me an email at Triston@Utahseo.ninja if you have any questions about that. I’ll even throw in an hour-long consultation via Skype.
Again, I know Gaby’s work and I have the utmost confidence in it, plus the designs are on sale right now. You could look at some other options as well, like Weebly or BitBlox, but you’ll actually spend more on them than you would buying from Gaby and you’ll get fewer options AND no SEO deals from me.
If you’re ready to stop the struggle, to make changes in your business, and grow, then this is a great first step. All that stress can really cause you to age prematurely.
A news story came across my digital desktop this morning about censorship in video game localization, and I figured I’d share my thoughts. Partly because I generally tend to be impartial to either side of the whole censorship argument, but also because I needed a trending topic and this was perfect!
The incident in question comes from the English localization of a Japanese game. The game developer was trying to have some fun with the name of one of their in-game companies, kind of like changing the name of a car manufacturer from Ford to Bored and, without knowing what it meant, used the initials KKK for the name of their company. It would be like the joke here that to speak Spanish, you just have to add the letter O to the end of every word and have a character say something was “Cool-o.” Now, they were not aware of the reference and, when told what it meant, they changed the name of the company to something else. The guy in charge of localization thought that it was best to leave the name for the “shock value” and also ‘because it really is very “Japan”’ to use names like that unintentionally (or intentionally) – which I have also seen during my years in South America.
Now, if I may be so bold, I would say that this is probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard in all my years of translating and localizing video games. That is my personal opinion and I will try to leave it at that since it doesn’t really contribute anything else of value. That being said, I do think that this brings up some interesting points in regards to challenges faced in the localization process and censorship.
Censorship, as defined by Wiki – Praise the Wiki \[T]/ – is “the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information that may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by governments, media outlets, authorities or other groups or institutions.”
I would like to present you with two questions:
Does the removal of an unintentional reference to an “objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient” subject by the game developer count as censorship? And
Do all games deserve the title of art – pushing us, as localization experts, to fight for their preservation?
I’ve mentioned a project of mine in other posts where I was editing the English translation of a Korean game. The translation was very clearly not done by native speakers and there were some questionable word choices. One example would be the use of the word “penetration” as a reference to sneaking into an enemy base. It’s not exactly a huge deal, but my immature mind went straight to the gutter when I came across those lines of text. While you can penetrate a base, or its defenses, I felt that it wasn’t the best word in this context and changed it to infiltrate after consulting with the client.
Did I censor the game?
I believe that translators have the responsibility to advise our clients when something like this comes up in a text. They need to know if something could potentially cause problems down the road and I wonder what kind of legal repercussions could come from not telling them. It is then dependent on the client to decide whether or not they want to keep the text as-is or, and hold on to your chairs for a second, localize it so that it fits the target demographic better.
Again, this is my own opinion and I won’t be mean to anyone that disagrees, but I see translation as adapting a text from one language to another, while localization is adapting a text from one culture to another. In this case, the source text/culture did not share the same meaning, the translated meaning was an accident, and I believe that editing it was the correct choice.
Which leads us to the next question: when is it right to leave in, or even add, offensive text?
I would advise that you first have a very clear line of communication with the developer and a deep understanding of what the goal of the game is. There are games that are made artistically and talk about very difficult subjects, such as That Dragon Cancer or the Mafia series, where you would not want to edit any of the painful or difficult moments out because they’re vital to the story that’s being told. Mafia III has strong roots in the racial prejudices in the US during that time and censoring out offensive language, like calling the main character some very offensive things, would take away from the story being told. And then we have Flappy Bird. Before drawing that line in the sand, like our dear translator in this story has done, I would make sure that I’m working on a work of art and not an idle clicker. Though Idle Miner Tycoon is far deeper than most clickers. Ha! I made a pun 😊
I think that leaving something like a KKK reference for the sake of an obscure joke isn’t vital to the story being told – especially since it wasn’t even intentional.
Once more, make sure that you have that communication with the developer and remember that it’s their story we’re telling, not our own. Our job is to share their story with our people. But, that’s just my opinion.