It’s been just over two years since I wrote my most popular blog post, on the subject of ProZ: ProZ membership – a worthwhile investment for “serious” translators? Even now, a few years down the line, rarely a day goes by without someone clicking on the post and it’s had well over 3,000 views overall – which just shows how much of a presence the site has in the world of translation. But are my views still the same? I thought it was worth revisiting the debate and examining whether my words still apply in today’s very different climate.
Since first discovering the site in 2004/2005 and joining as a paid member a few years later, this is the first year I haven’t renewed my membership. I can’t remember the last time I was approached by a client via ProZ who was willing to accept my rates. The number of KudoZ questions / forum posts seems to have dried up too, so I really did have to question whether I was getting my money’s worth. In previous years, I’ve always felt that ProZ’s excellent Google search engine ranking was worth paying for, but I’m rarely approached by clients who’ve found me via a mere Google search, so I decided to let my membership lapse this year. Sure enough, when I checked just now, searching on ‘French-English nuclear translator UK’ still brings up my (now unpaid) ProZ profile, my own website (gratifyingly!) and my LinkedIn profile on the first Google search page – so that argument no longer washes either. I do, admittedly, have a very unusual specialism, but I tend to think bona-fide clients are going to be looking on the professional association websites (such as ITI) or LinkedIn rather than (or indeed as well as) ProZ. I know that if I’m looking to outsource to another translator, I’m far more likely to consult the ITI Directory, or other networking forums, than to check on ProZ, because it’s very hard to sort the wheat from the chaff on such a large, but for the most part uncertified, site. I know they have the “Certified ProZ” scheme, but that isn’t examined or certified in the same way as a formal ITI or CIoL qualification, for example.
The reduction in the number of “interesting” KudoZ questions suggests that either all the “good” questions have already been asked, or that translators are looking elsewhere for their term queries. Don’t get me wrong: I have found the KudoZ facility a boon over the years, but many of the people I relied on for technical queries are no longer on the site, chased off by over-zealous moderators, or exasperated by out-of-their-depth colleagues asking far-too-obvious questions… The KudoZ glossaries are still a useful resource, as a colleague reminded me the other day when I was looking for a legal phrase and had forgotten to consult KudoZ, but just one of many useful resources along with Linguee, IATE, GDT, language networks and Facebook groups amongst others…
The forums too no longer seem to attract my interest as they once did, but I suspect this is mainly due to the rise of some excellent Facebook translator groups, where translators can meet like-minded colleagues in a friendly atmosphere, ask term queries, discuss business issues, seek answers to technology problems and generally network. The ease of interaction on Facebook is noticeably different to the more rigid ProZ forum set-up and I think that really shows nowadays. On the odd occasion I have visited the forums recently, I’ve found a very different atmosphere prevailing, one where people tend to be more stuck in their ways and not prepared to listen to other people’s views – or perhaps that’s just in marked contrast to the easy-going and non-confrontational approach in my preferred Facebook groups. I’m generalising, I know, but that’s the impression I have. A fellow translator very kindly posted one of my guest posts, for eCPD, on the topic of professional self-belief: The Curse of the Freelance Translator: lack of self-esteem? on the ProZ forums last summer and it was the only place where the post received very negative and defensive feedback. But perhaps that’s not surprising for a site renowned for its bottom-feeding clients and bidding wars for low-priced jobs?
Before I’m shot down in flames, let me say (again!), that I’ve been very grateful to ProZ over the years and I’m still working with clients who found me via the site before I was even a paying member. However, I’m not convinced that the approaches I’ve had in recent years have been from the same calibre of client – or maybe now that I’m more established, with many other networking opportunities, I no longer need the contacts that come via ProZ? I certainly have no intention of severing my links with ProZ altogether; I shall keep my profile updated, albeit as a non-paying (and therefore uncertified) member – although your certification is reinstated if you pay to join again. I still think having a presence on one of the largest translator websites is no bad thing in itself, but it is just one of many ways that the world can find me and not one I need to pay extra for.
That said, I’d definitely advise new and upcoming translators starting out in the current environment to join, precisely because they are starting from scratch and don’t have the networking contacts you build as you become more established. Join the Facebook groups too, and your professional associations, plus LinkedIn – the more irons you have in the fire, the better. By all means join ProZ as a non-paying member and test the water first. By paying (just over £100 at the present exchange rate) you get free access to the Blue Board, which, if you’re being approached by new and unknown clients, can be very useful to eliminate potential customers with a less-than-perfect reputation. I still refer to the Blue Board, but having earned quite a number of Brownie points over the years, have enough to check quite a few prospects before I run out! True, as a paying member you’ll come higher up the search rankings and if you’re actively seeking new clients, that’s something worth considering. I’ve enjoyed the ProZ conferences over the years too, but there is a wealth of good translation conferences out there now, and I haven’t attended a ProZ event for quite some time – I do think that others followed where they led, though, especially in providing conferences with a number of parallel tracks and having entertaining social activities running alongside the main event.
Inevitably, your position changes as your career develops and I’ve reached a point in my career where I’ve decided that ProZ isn’t offering me what it once did. That’s not to say it doesn’t still offer great opportunities to other translators – and of course there’s every possibility that I might miss it and change my mind in future years. I’ll keep you posted. Here’s to a new chapter in my professional career!
Edited October 2017: I discovered today that non-paying members can no longer access the Blue Board by using Browniz, which makes the site even less useful if the quality of enquiries no longer makes it worthwhile… Time to reconsider even free membership perhaps?