Does it make sense to commoditize yourself to WIYRdos?
When Saddam Hussein’s ragtag militia was invading Kuwait, Austin interpreters were invading Sanantone for a military conference chock full of brass and epaulets. At dinner, one of our number worked out complex calculations to see what menu items fit the per-diem. (We were routinely allotted this perk, until the larger agencies decided to dispense with professionals). Discussion soon turned to contract terms and another intrepid interpreter announced: “I’m a whore. I’ll sign anything they set in front of me.”
Not to disparage the oldest profession, but is this an economically sound policy? Now that bureaucrats are finally noticing the difference between certified and wannabee translators, what is the point of translating and certifying personal documents for buy-low-sell-high middlemen and waiting a month and a half to see if you’ll even collect a pittance? Con artists run down the certified list on the ATA website fully expecting someone to agree to take responsibility for work that can get someone deported or interfere with some individual’s employment or citizenship papers, and do it on a per-word or minimum-order basis. Is this ethical? If you even get paid you will not have the satisfaction of any testimonial, recognition or recommendation whatsoever.
By ethical I mean right as opposed to wrong, smart as opposed to stupid, worthwhile as opposed to counterproductive. When I was a newbie I went in for a few of these assignments and decided they were a waste of time and effort. In the mosquito-swarm jungle backwaters of Northern Brazil it is still possible to hustle public translators this way, but they are a tiny minority. Certified public translators work directly for the customer, charge a retainer and settle upon delivery. This is ordinary commonsense in any line of business. Try telling a doctor or lawyer you’ll maybe be sending a check in a month in a half or so.
Only American translators have been conditioned into believing they are fungible commodities–and acting on that belief. Today, for instance, I got yet another “Hello-whatever-your-name-is” spam from the same WIYRdo in California NOT showing me a document, yet requesting “a quote.” The entity also expects me to wait six weeks before inquiring about payment (no interest, no late fee). This I knew because I keep records, for there was no mention of the delay in the whatever-your-name-is spam. It is not policy to make this known if they can avoid it. Nor are the formatting requirements revealed in this baiting-of-hooks.
The next time you receive a Hello-whatever-your-name-is What-Is-Your-Rate come-on, pay a visit to libertariantranslator.com and skim through A Beginners Guide to Handling WIYRdos. Ask yourself if the customer will get a better translation dealing directly with a certified translator or resorting to one of those whatever-your-name-is middleman services? There are middlemen dabbling in these types of documents who charge $85 per page in advance. That is publicly advertised, with samples, for all the world to see. These are the folks I want as competitors, not running interference between my practice and the clients I serve.