Nov 16, 2008

Internet Freelancing: Practical Guide for Translators

Oleg Rudavin's book has been advertised on ProZ for some time now. It's available in English and Russian. However, with the hefty price tag of USD 58.00 I wasn't particularly tempted to have a look at what I assumed would be yet another "getting started" guide for beginners. But when I gained access to Chapters 3 & 4 on Jost Zetzsche's Translators Training site I decided to have a look at the English text.

It is quickly apparent that the author is not a native speaker of English; though he communicates well on the whole, the chapters I read could have benefited from some editing. However, after some initial irritation over the flaws in the English, I got caught up in the interesting first-person narrative with which the author dispenses advice.

Chapter 3 focuses on beginners, the basics of getting established, common risks and useful tips for the early stages of a freelance translation business. While the presentation of information is very idiosyncratic and may be more relevant to the author's situation than that of someone starting out in a western country, there is a lot of useful advice, and the narrative is simply interesting. It interests me to see the diverse paths that my colleagues have taken to success, and I found Mr. Rudavin's tale of his start as an army translator and subsequent experiences quite fascinating. While there wasn't anything in this chapter that I would adopt directly for my established business, it did inspire a few ideas for how to market project experience more effectively when submitting quotations. While I find Alex Eames' material more entertaining, this book seems more up-to-date for the specific issues faced by freelancers today, including specific details on international money transfer issues and other topics that newcomers to the profession may find difficult.

Chapter 4 is for the "established translator", with numerous ideas for improving efficiency, raising rtaes, managing risks at this stage. There was nothing really new here - the topics discussed are probably familiar to some extent to any experienced translator, but once again, I found the shared personal experience of an experienced colleague to be interesting, and at many points it caused me to think more carefully about my own methods and how I might improve them. I found it interesting to see how much alike business in the Ukraine (where the author lives) and Germany (where I am) seems to be, but the fundamentals of success are probably the same everywhere.

So - based on the sample I've seen - is the book worth its price? The answer to that question is a qualified "yes". I can't compare it to many other, similar books on the subject, because I haven't read them all. For the stage I am at, with the intentions I have for the future of my business, I think there is no point in getting the whole text. Later chapters deal with successful outsourcing; I have no interest whatsoever in adopting such a business model on any significant scale, so that information would have only entertainment value for me. The sections discussing the maintenance and improvement of a mature business are good, but I have read them already, and I discuss these issues in public forums daily and benefit from the diverse experience of successful colleagues around the world. However, for someone starting out as a translator and looking for good advice and a realistic discussion of options from someone with good experience, this is in fact a useful roadmap. I can't say that it's better or worse than others I've seen - it's different. For what basically amounts to the cost of a decent restaurant meal, you can immerse yourself in an interesting story of professional development and cherry-pick the parts that may be useful to you (and there will be a lot). After reading the chapters for a while in fact, I had a mental image of sitting at a table with the author, sipping a good glass of wine and listening with interest to what he had to say. And should he have a reason to come to Berlin I will be pleased to do just that.


  1. Hi Kevin!

    Thanks a lot for finding time to comment on the book.

    As for chatting over a glass of good wine in Berlin, I'm planning to attend the BDÜ Conference this year; if you still feel like it I'm inviting you for a drink. You choose the place and I cover the bill, OK?


  2. The conference in September? You're on - I'd love to meet. Let me know your schedule and if you need recommendations for local accommodations. My contact details are on ProZ or our web site.

  3. Hello you 2,

    Kevin, your review of Oleg's book is quite interesting. He just sent me this review link as I had just written to him to ask him if he had a blog and was interested in networking.

    I have to confess that I have not read any books on "how-to" about translation, since I basically learned what (little) I know about freelancing by pure newbie experience.

    But reading your review, Kevin, I think it may never be too late to read such books, because obviously business nowadays is definitely affected by all kinds of new technological advances, so these books may always come in handy to keep updated.

    On the other hand, I wish to return to Berlin one of these days, so I may consider the September BDÜ conference, as it sounds really interesting. If you are interested, it would be a great opportunity to meet you both. Let's play it by ear.

    Enjoy your Sunday (though rather hazy/partly cloudy here in Wiesbaden, it's rather nice, so it looks like a day for outdoor activities, away from the PC, though I wanted first to write this short message here... :-) ),


  4. I think we can learn a lot from each other's stories at any stage in our career as translators, and I think one of the strengths of Oleg's book is that there is a lot of his own experience in it. My experience may be different, but it is in comparing our situations and thinking about the similarities and differences that I'll find the best approach for me. Moreover, he covers most of the basics very well for internationally focused translators.

    I think the September BDÜ conference sounds good; I definitely plan to attend. Keep me posted on your plans. Maybe we'll do a Stammtisch around that time too.

  5. Dear Oleg, is your book available in São Paulo, Brazil?

  6. Paul, I think his book an be shipped/received anywhere. It's on the ProZ book page - check there... or ask Oleg. Would be nice to find out if he has an ebook version by now....


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