Online safety for freelancers


The other day I saw a video on the internet, a little by accident really, on the international convention for hackers. A TV reporter tried to find out how easy it is to hack into a system and retrieve information on him. Well, it’s enough to say that it didn’t take long before they had everything on him, and I mean everything. There wasn’t anything that they couldn’t get. Basically they could make him homeless and penniless within minutes. They could probably put him into prison if they really wanted. This got me thinking and frankly scared me a little.

I know that I and probably a huge majority of people I know don’t have the skill nor the knowledge to protect ourselves 100%, but I guess there are ways to make it a little bit more secure. I don’t think I will ever be a target for hackers as they are usually after money and there are so many people who are more attractive targets than I am. Even though, I started thinking of ways to make myself safer online and I thought I will share it with others in case you wanted to know.

Some of the steps are obvious, others not necessarily.

  1. Keep your passwords less predictable
    If you are asked to use a capital letter, don’t capitalised the first one. The same goes with the symbols, when you are asked to use a symbol you would probably use an exclamation mark! Use a different symbol, add some numbers and capital letters. Also don’t make the actual password too obvious. If somebody can ask you a simple question and your password is the answer to it, you should change it. So anything that is your pet’s name, date of birth and an exclamation mark needs to go. Sorry.

    This may be a bit tricky but try not to use the same or similar passwords for all the sites. I know that we sign up for so many things that it will be difficult or impossible but try to keep different passwords, not connected to each other, for the important websites; emails, banks, phone company, etc.

  2. Once you post it it’s out there – personal details
    It may seem quite obvious but you should not put any personal details out there. It may be difficult for freelancers as we want people to find our contact details really easy so they can contact us with work. Also our clients and agencies have our bank details. I hope I don’t need to mention posting unprofessional comments or pictures online if you use the same name for your personal and professional social media. Keep your profiles separate by using a different, unconnected usernames for private and professional accounts.
  3. Don’t open e-mails if they look suspicious and never open an attachment in an e-mail you’re not sure about
    As translators we usually know when something is a bit fishy as we’ve received so many e-mails from “agencies” and scammers. However, it is also worth remembering that these emails can imitate an email from our friends and family.
  4. Watch out for phishing scams
    Phishing e-mails look like genuine messages from existing companies, whether a shop that you go to, a bank or PayPal. What is more, they also look legitimate and ask you for your personal information. It looks like you are on the genuine website but you are really giving your details on a platter to a hacker. In such e-mail you will usually find a link to click.Do. Not. Click.If you want to check the information in the email, type the actual website into the browser so that you go to the genuine website, Do not copy the link in the email as this may be fake and actually link to the phishing site. Remember that nobody would ever ask you to give them your password.
  5. Keep your private and professional life separate
    We should have separate professional and personal e-mail and social media accounts. If one gets hacked, the other should be safe. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
  6. Disable file sharing when you use a public WiFi
    Some of us like working in public places from time to time. Sometimes we may be forced as there may be a power cut, the internet not working or any other reason for you to have to go somewhere else to work. If you don’t disable file sharing option, you may be running the risk of anybody connected to the same network sharing your files.You can change this setting in Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Centre.
  7. Ensure you use a secured website
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    We all have seen the little lock symbol in the browser. It shows you that this website is securely encrypted and you can use it when you login to your bank or enter any other sensitive data. These URLs begin with https:// and not http://.
  8. Use a good anti-virus software
    I don’t think this is something we should save on. I’m not an expert and I haven’t done the comparison, but it seems to me that if you need to pay for something, it gives you a better security than free software. Anyway, you need to have some sort of anti-virus software on your computer.
  9. Don’t click on pop-ups
    Just ignore them, especially when they ask you for some information. Remember they may sometimes look like a system pop-up. It doesn’t mean though that it is genuine. The system shouldn’t really ask you for any sensitive data.

There you go, these are the basic steps you can take in order to protect yourself a little bit better. Since I’ve learnt that a web camera can be turn on remotely by somebody else and they can watch you, I have mine covered if I don’t use it. For 99% nobody would ever do that but somehow I didn’t feel quite comfortable with the knowledge that somebody could do that.

The chances of us being targeted by hackers in a way they would harvest all the possible information and make you homeless are quite small, probably the same as being beaten up on the street, however it is better to be safe than sorry.

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Newcomers – Avoid the common pitfalls


Newcomers – Avoid the common pitfalls

When you are new to the profession you hear so much contradictory advice that you have no idea how to go about starting out. At least this was the case when I entered the marketplace. Here are 5 pitfalls to avoid at the beginning of your career as a freelance translator.

  1. You land your first project and you are over-the-moon with it as you have all your bright future ahead. The topic however is unfamiliar and seems challenging. It is a chemical document and you struggled with chemistry at school. However, you decide to take it as you don’t know when the next job will knock at your door.

    DO NOT! It may sound weird to you. How can you say no to your first big project? Well, the truth is that you should say ‘no’ – you have to! Think what is going to happen when you deliver a very sub-standard translation to the client? Will they hire you again or will you end up on the black list never to be contacted again? Ok, you would get the money for the work, however, when you think about having a career in this profession, you need to work on your reputation, which goes a long way. Therefore, you should only accept projects you are comfortable with and decline the other ones. You can always say you are booked up or play the honesty card saying you don’t feel comfortable with this topic but you will be happy to accept a document from the medical/legal/etc. sector for instance.

  2. You are trying your best, you have figured out what rates you’re happy with and despite endless effort, you don’t get any projects at your rates. You’re considering lowering your rates.

    Unless you rates are ridiculously high, you stick to what you think you’re worth! You really don’t want to work for long hours for peanuts .

           A) you need to value your work and time
           B) You would prefer to work less for more.

    Yes, It will be more difficult to find clients at the beginning, this is true, however you will get there as you develop your marketing strategies. You will be glad you stuck to your guns.

    Unfortunately, if you start very low, you are categorised as the bottom-feeder and from what I see, people who are charging peanuts stay there as it is near impossible to increase the perception of your works worth!

  3. You got a project that you feel comfortable with but the deadline is really tight? Perhaps unrealistic for you at the beginning of your career?

    Again, it is the same story as in point number 1. If you are not 100% sure you can deliver a fantastic translation, don’t take it. As they say, your reputation is only as good as your last translation. I am afraid it is true in the real world, so only take the project you can deliver 100% quality. The agency will appreciate it in the long run.

  4. Expecting work after having sent your CV to 20 agencies/companies. You may have a carefully targeted letter and strike it lucky, but there are thousands of agencies out there of varying quality, but chances are that sending your CV to 20-40 agencies won’t bring you work. If it brings you something, it will be far from enough. Be prepared, if sending CVs to agencies, to send hundreds (400-500?) of them. It does need patience and a bit of research, ‘Does this agency deal with my language combination? In the specialism I want to work in? Do I mind whether they are based locally, nationally or abroad? Is it a small agency or a multinational company?’ You need to do research to find the agencies you want to work with. Don’t forget to always negotiate your rates!

  5. You delivered a translation and you received it back from the proofreader with a lot of comments. Well, I guess it concerns not only newcomers but everybody. Do not take these comments personally. Remember you run a business and as such, need to treat all feedback as opportunity for development. When you complain to a business for not doing the job exactly how you expected, or you have a constructive feedback, did you mean it personally or were you strictly talking about the service/product? Of course you didn’t mean it personally and neither do they! We can only learn from such comments/feedback so you need swallow your pride, and if the feedback is correct – implement it!

What should you be doing then?

You should always work on your linguistic/specialisation skills, have excellent customer service, deliver only the best quality exceeding all expectations!

Good luck!

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Do you feel threatened by machine translation (MT)?


Do you feel threatened by machine translation (MT)? Should you?

We can hear a discussion that has been going on in the industry regarding MT for some time now. Some translators, or should I specify, human translators, believe that we will be replaced within the next 3-5 years and MT will put an end to our profession, some however are convinced this is never going to happen.

The Google’s Translate team who works in Silicon Valley consists only of scientist. There isn’t  a single linguist as they claim that the only skills they need is not linguistics but maths and statistics. The MT is based on billions of websites and texts available on the Internet. When a user types a sentence in Polish and wants to be able to understand it in their native language, a free service, like Google, will search for identical or similar sentences on the Internet. The outcome will probably be digestible and more or less understandable, however it will be far from a pretty, meaningful translation. We all have used it at some point when booking a hotel in Thailand, translating a website from Japanese or checking what your Korean Facebook friend said. The result will be satisfactory for those who won’t require a well-written text and the text they translate using the service is of no importance. For any professional use, a text translated by MT needs to be post edited. In some cases, it is easier and quicker to ask a human translator to translate a text from scratch as correcting a MT translation may be a nightmare and at the end of the day take more time that translating from the scratch. I believe it also depends on languages. Obviously, there are more texts and websites in English available out there than Maltese so the results into English may be better than Maltese. Also, all the languages with more difficult grammar and with various endings of their verbs and nouns or freer syntax will be more difficult to translate to.  It also depends on the quality of the initial input and we all know it is not always great.

The world of technology, however,  as we all know, is developing incredibly fast and the situation may be completely different in 5 years. In 5 years for example simple texts or simple manuals will probably be translated by MT only and some translators will have to train to post edit these documents. It may only work with texts that are very literal and a word-for-word translation would be satisfactory. Otherwise, the MT is close to useless. If you translate a marketing text literally, I can nearly guarantee that the recipient of it will not buy the product/service as it will be a very awkward and literal translation that will not encourage the foreign potential customer as it completely ignores the culture that the recipient was brought up in and all the little things that come with it. The text won’t be convincing and won’t sounds like it was designed for this particular customer. Another example are more scientific or medical texts who are simply too difficult as, I assume, there aren’t enough texts from which MT could learn. Also literal translations will never be replaced by a MT as nobody would read the end product. Can you imagine reading a MT-translated book of 400 pages? What a nightmare!

Researchers from Oxford University and Deloitte calculated that the risk of translators getting replaced is 33%, which is not very likely.

As I said, the simple and very repetitive texts may be translated by a MT, however the MT doesn’t have the background knowledge of the target culture, hasn’t been brought up in the environment and doesn’t have the feel or the aesthetics that are necessary for a good translation.

Who should feel threatened by MT? These translators who translate like MT. They will be replaced.

Who should not feel threatened? All the professional translators who really focus on the meaning and whether the sentence sound well in the target text rather than using statistics, those who love their language and ‘feel’ what is right or wrong, what sounds better and what will work better with the target audience.

Whatever changes there are ahead us, the good translators will never lose their jobs!

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