Repost: Why Translators are the New Blacksmiths

#REPOST: Cf. “

Nataly Kelly

VP, Market Development at Smartling and Co-Author, ‘Found in Translation’


Why Translators Are the New Blacksmiths

Posted: 04/25/2013 11:30 am

A few months ago, during a talk at Google, I shared the idea that translators are the new blacksmiths. Here are six reasons why:

The translation profession is shifting from craft to science. It took three thousand years for humans to learn the science of converting metals into tools and other objects in a consistent and predictable way with a high level of quality. Likewise, even though translation has existed for as long as humans have spoken different languages, it has taken many years for the translation field to evolve in order to enable translators to convert information across languages in a consistent and predictable way with a high level of quality. Software, in the form of computer-assisted translation tools, is helping to accelerate this shift.

The impact of translation can be seen everywhere we look. In medieval times and right up to the industrial age, the work of blacksmiths was visible everywhere. Each village had a blacksmith, and they would do everything from create horseshoes to tools and weapons to keeping a fire lit long enough to bake bread. It was difficult to imagine life without them. In a similar vein, nearly every facet of modern life depends in some way on translation. With more than 6,500 languages today, nearly every society on earth is multilingual. Translation sustains the linguistic, cultural, and knowledge diversity that characterizes our world.

Translators will help us move into a new age. The work of blacksmiths was transformative in that it enabled society to move into the industrial age. Blacksmiths aided in building the machines that would help automate production and the transportation of materials more quickly than ever before. Similarly, the information age cannot move forward without translation. The language composition of the web is changing. With every human being predicted to have Internet access by 2020, the Internet will become more reflective of the language realities on the ground. English is in decline as a lingua franca, making the role of translators more important than ever before.

New technologies will spring forth from translation. Many famous inventors, such as John Deere, Studebaker, and Henry Ford, started out as blacksmiths. For the information age to move to the next level, society will rely on the ability not only to convert information across languages, but to modify it in many other ways – by reading level, by cultural fit, by linguistic preferences, and more. In order for those kinds of changes to become more widespread, the knowledge of translators will be critical, because translators already do far more than just convert messages across languages. They already know how to accommodate these issues, and technologists will depend on these skills and knowledge to help create a more dynamic and rich informational future.

The tools of the future depend on translators. An old story about King Arthur, the king asked artisans to explain why their work was critical to Camelot. Each artisan – a carpenter, a goldsmith, a stonemason, and a tailor – made a strong case. But when Arthur asked them where they got their tools, they said, “from the blacksmith.” Arthur then asked the blacksmith the same question, and he replied, “Sire, I make my own tools. That is my craft.” Computer-generated translation, such as Google Translate, doesn’t just happen magically. These tools depend directly on the existence of translated information. If there is no one to translate the content, Google cannot mine the data. The same is true of many other such tools. Their success depends directly on the work of human beings, most often translators.

The need for human translators will always exist. As a result of new technologies, the blacksmiths’ profession did not die out – it diversified. Today, a blacksmith might do custom crafted work for home decoration with no help from machines at all, or might use digital welders and metal parts cut out by computer-controlled machinery. Much of their work is now automated, but there is still a need for their craftsmanship, skills, and specialized knowledge. Likewise, the futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that there will still be a need for human translators, even when machines eventually become capable of producing human-like quality through computer-generated translation.

In short, just as blacksmiths helped move us into the industrial age, our modern-day wordsmiths – translators and interpreters – will help us move from the current age, in which information is merely available, to an age in which information also becomes highly relevant and useful.

Repost: 7 Signs that it’s Time to Walk Away from a Client [by Fundbox]

7 Signs That It’s Time to Walk Away From a Client

By Fundbox on January 15, 2014 1

Small business owners, especially those of us who are starting out, frequently live in fear that every client is going to be our last. Invariably, we are prone to hit the panic button and gladly accept any client that comes along in order to maintain a healthy cash flow.

However, as hard as it might seem, this habit has to stop. Not all clients are good clients and the wrong ones can often leave you frustrated, neglectful of high-value clients, and chasing unpaid invoices. But when should you turn away a new opportunity? Here are seven tips for identifying clients who aren’t the right fit for your business.

1. Clients Who Ask You to Work for Free

All of us do free work every now and again, but it’s usually in support of business development or relationship building with existing clients and it may only amount to sharing ideas over lunch or writing guest blogs to help gain exposure for what you do. These types of costs are typically recouped over time. But what about the client who actually wants you to work for free? Most of us have come across this particular species. They love your work, have a great business plan, and want to form a long-term relationship with you. But, they can’t afford your rates and propose a pro bono relationship where your reward is not in dollars but in the prestige and exposure you’ll get from taking on the work.

Another spin on this type of client is the one who connects with your social networks, views you as an expert or thought leader and reaches out seeking free advice.

At the end of the day, if a client is in business for profit, then they should have a concrete business plan and a budget to support their goals and labor costs. Would they get away with asking their employees to work for free?

2. Clients Who Complain About Your Fee

While you’ll often find that a client’s budget may not stretch to your rates, (the art of negotiation should get you through this one), you might want to avoid the client who questions whether the service is worth what you propose to charge. If they don’t see the value in what you do or perceive you as a rip off, what basis is there for a future relationship?

3. Clients Who Use Pressure Tactics

Dealing with tight deadlines is one thing, but the client who demands that you put all other work aside to handle their matter has “red flag” written all over them. These clients usually stand out by the fact that they have unjustified demands, are constantly on your case, and demand frequent updates. If work is light then taking on these clients might not be such a big deal, but if it means compromising other client relationships then consider turning them down. Remember, if they behave like this on your first project there’s a good chance they’ll expect quick turnarounds in the future (unless you can dig a little deeper and get to the reason behind the rush).

4. The Promise of Future Work

This is the business owners’ Achilles Heel, and the client knows it. These types of clients will often try to solicit services at a lower rate with the promise of more work to come. Each situation is different, but this is one instance where you’ll need to assess the client and the risk involved carefully, especially if you are being asked to agree to discount your services.

5. The Nature of the Project Itself

Let’s be honest you can’t be all things to all people. For example, if a project is too big you risk getting in over your head. On the flip side, the monetary benefit of a job that is too small may be outweighed by the effort involved. Or perhaps the project involves stepping outside your comfort zone and working on it would get in the way of any steps you are taking to establish your reputation or referral base in a particular niche.

6. Personal Conflicts

This is something your gut will inform. If you can’t see yourself getting along with a client or anticipate time-consuming hassles down the line, then it might be worth walking away.

7. Unresponsive Clients and the Project that Goes On and On

Ever worked on a project that you anticipated would take five weeks but ended up taking five months, thanks to an unresponsive client? While it’s hard to spot these projects before you agree to them, the warning signs soon creep in. The client might take forever to respond to email and phone calls or they take forever to review your work, delaying your ability to invoice them.  Once you’re involved it’s hard to keep momentum going, but you can learn from the experience. The next time you find you are running around and chasing a client before you enter into a signed agreement, consider putting a project schedule in your statement of work or contract, with a cancellation clause should deadlines slip unrealistically.

The Art of Saying No! How to Let a Client Down

Turning down a client is a delicate affair. Getting it wrong could result in some nasty word-of-mouth negative marketing that your business can’t afford. Here are a few ways to turn down a client without risking your reputation or future projects:

  • – Saying No to New Clients – There’s more latitude to tell a little white lie about why you can’t take on a particular project from a new client.  Lack of bandwidth, prior commitments, or statements such as “I/We are not the best fit for this project”, etc. are tried and tested ways to soften the blow of rejection. Delivered professionally and courteously such excuses leave the door open for future work (if you want it).
  • – Saying No to Existing Clients – Being honest with an existing client is your best strategy. If you have a good relationship and your work is valued, the rejection is something you’ll both get over. Reassure them that you’ll be there for them in the future, and put it down to bad timing or circumstances.
  • – Saying No During the MidProject Stage – If a client asks you to deviate from your scope of work in the middle of a project, and, whether for bandwidth or personal reasons, you don’t feel confident taking it on, try to be up-front about your reasons.
  • – Never Abandon a Client – When saying no, always recommend an alternate course of action or solution to the client’s needs. Perhaps you could point them towards someone else you know who would have less scruples about taking on the work.
  • – Don’t Rely on Email – Turning someone down over email is never a good idea. A tone might be inferred that wasn’t there or your use of words might offend. Always try and handle “no” over the phone or in person, this will ensure you can immediately correct any negative perceptions. It’s also the polite thing to do!

Building a stable of great clients isn’t easy. It requires a clear understanding of what you want and don’t want for your business – the type of people you want to deal with, the company size (smaller companies are often more flexible and collaborative than larger corporations), and the type of work you find rewarding. Knowing how to avoid unwelcome clients is a learning curve, but it’s one worth taking and perfecting.

We’d love to hear how you’ve dealt with difficult clients or turned away the sources of potential headaches? Leave a comment on the Fundbox FacebookTwitter or LinkedIn pages.


About the Author:

Fundbox is a technology company disrupting the small business payments market. Fundbox is helping SMBs, freelancers and home offices grow by managing their cash flow better and by overcoming short term cash flow gaps.

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