What the Business Practices Education Committee Is Doing for ATA Members

ATA’s Business Practices Education Committee offers many opportunities for members to get involved, give back to the Association, work with fellow members, and broaden their professional network.

Have you ever asked yourself what the Business Practices Education Committee is up to these days? Probably not. In fact, you’re more likely wondering: “What is the Business Practices Education Committee?” For the uninitiated, the Business Practices Education Committee was established in 2005 to provide ATA members with information about sound business practices for the translation and interpreting industry. Fine, you say, but what has it done for me lately? That’s a good question, so let’s elaborate.

Business Practices Listserv: To begin with, the committee’s core project remains the Business Practices listserv, which recently migrated to groups.io under the name ATA-Business-Practices. As of the end of April 2020, the group had 847 members, who typically submit anywhere from several dozen to several hundred posts per month. Discussions are moderated with a light touch primarily by Paul Merriam. The archives contain nearly 3,400 topics dating back to 2005, with the very first post by ATA Past President Dorothee Racette welcoming subscribers to a group intended for the discussion of topics related to conducting business in the translation and interpreting industry. Not surprisingly, California Assembly Bill 5 and “Sons of AB 5” have provided a seemingly endless source of discussion in recent months along with a wide variety of other topics ranging, for example, from language services providers and machine translation to nondisclosure agreements, client/project management software, unpaid translations tests, and much more. To join the group, send an email to ATA-Business-Practices+subscribe@groups.io. The moderator will contact you with further instructions to complete your subscription.

Brainstorm Networking: In addition, the committee has hosted a one-hour Brainstorm Networking event at every ATA Annual Conference since 2014. ATA Past President David Rumsey, who was president-elect at the time, first came up with the idea for the Chicago conference to replace the former speed networking event. Participants in the brainstorming event join a group of typically between four and six people around a table and have a few minutes to introduce themselves, after which they discuss a scenario provided for them involving an ethical issue or some other sort of business-related problem. When time is called, everyone moves to a different table and starts over with a new group and a new scenario.

Online Resources: The committee is also responsible for compiling, editing, and updating the resources available on ATA’s website under Resources > Business Practices. This material is listed under the general headings “Getting Started,” “Taking Care of Business,” and “Tools and Resources.” Topics include “Finding Jobs, Getting Hired,” “Determining Rates,” “Getting Paid,” “Apply Best Practices,” and “ATA Certification,” among others. If you haven’t visited the page recently, check it out. There’s bound to be something of interest to you.

ATA Mentoring Program: The Mentoring Program was originally conceived by former ATA Secretary Courtney Searls-Ridge, who administered the program alone for roughly 10 years before Susanne van Eyl took charge in 2011 and tweaked the format to boost participation. This ATA member benefit was recently brought under the umbrella of the Business Practices Education Committee, where it is once again being revamped.

The Mentoring Program pairs translators and interpreters seeking to learn a new skill with ATA members possessing more experience in the relevant area. Mentees are typically industry newcomers, although students and linguists with less than one year of experience are directed to The Savvy Newcomers blog (more on this below). Even longtime ATA members can benefit from the mentee experience if they would like to learn something new; for example, adding a new specialty, marketing to direct clients, becoming a better proofreader, or fine-tuning their business skills. Key to the mentee’s success over the course of the program is the articulation of clear and actionable goals at the outset. For more information, visit https://bit.ly/ATA-mentoring.

The program begins each year on April 1 with an application deadline in early March. Previously, it ran for 12 months, but beginning this year the program will run for six months, after which the mentor-mentee pair will have the option of extending for an additional six months. The application process is more streamlined if you have paired up with a mentor and agreed on your objectives. But if you haven’t already found one, the Mentoring Committee can pair you with a suitable mentor. Mentees and mentors generally meet about once per month, typically via Skype or a similar platform for Q&A or other discussion. It’s also worth noting that certified translators earn continuing education points for participating. If this sounds intriguing and you think you would like to be a mentor or a mentee, please contact the Mentoring Committee at mentoring@atanet.org and mark your calendar for the 2021 program year!

Masterminds Program: The committee also has a Masterminds program in the works. The idea is to bring together independent groups of around a half-dozen self-guided professional peers of approximately the same level of experience to discuss opportunities and things they have struggled with in their business. These peer groups will typically meet for six to 12 months in a venue of their choosing to brainstorm solutions and set goals, as well as to encourage and hold each other accountable for attaining their goals. This is conceived as a supplement to the Mentoring Program and other ATA continuing education offerings. The program is expected to be launched later this year at the ATA’s 61st Annual Conference in Boston—yet another reason to attend!

The Savvy Newcomer Blog: Always popular, The Savvy Newcomer blog aims to provide high-quality, peer-reviewed content directed at newcomers to the industry, although the information is often also relevant for more experienced practitioners. The blog began as an independent activity, yet always collaborated informally with the Business Practices Education Committee and looked to the Business Practices listserv as a source of inspiration for blog topics. So, it seemed a natural fit for the Practices Education Committee when ATA decided a few years ago that it was time to bring the blog under the umbrella of a committee; nevertheless, it remains essentially an autonomous operation. The Savvy Newcomer was founded by Spanish Language Division members Helen Eby, Jamie Hartz, and Daniela Guanipa in 2013, but was ultimately the product of a broader effort by ATA to assist students and newcomers to the profession that went through several stages of development before taking on its current form. Meanwhile, the founding members are part of a whole team of volunteers working to provide fresh and reposted content on a weekly basis. Topics include “So You Want to Be a Freelance Translator (or Interpreter): Starting from Scratch,” “Questions to Ask Before You Accept a Translation Project,” “Attending Your Clients’ Conferences,” and “Translating for Pharma.” Of course, this barely scratches the surface of what the blog has to offer, so if you haven’t visited lately, check it out under https://atasavvynewcomer.org.

A New Blog for Experienced Translators/Interpreters: Finally, the committee is busy developing another blog to be geared toward more experienced translators and interpreters, with content to be added initially on a monthly basis. The name of this new blog was recently determined by vote in a poll posted to the Business Practices listserv. Henceforth, it will be known by popular demand as… (drumroll please)… The ATA Business Practices Blog. A launch date has not been set, but look to this blog for guidance on next level business practices later this year when it is expected to go live.

What Can You Do to Help?

Now that we’ve answered the question of what the Business Practices Education Committee is doing for ATA members, you may find yourself wondering what you can do for the committee. As a matter of fact, the committee is currently looking for a social media manager to coordinate and promote its blog content on social media. This would be a great way for a gregarious newcomer to raise their profile or for any ATA member who enjoys social media to give back to the profession. Complete the form online at https://buff.ly/2YfpoaQ if you are interested in becoming the committee’s social media manager. And if you have any questions, you can contact Sarah Symons Glegorio at sarahsg@sharktranslations.com for more information.


Michael Engley, CT is currently a member of ATA’s Business Practices Education Committee. Previously, he served as administrator and assistant administrator of the German Language Division (GLD), as well as the dictionary review coordinator for the GLD’s newsletter interaktiv. He is an ATA-certified German>English translator specializing in corporate communications and financial translation. Contact: michael@bullishtranslations.com.

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