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This is a series of posts with tips for newbie translators.

They were first posted in the "Tradutores, Intérpretes e Curiosos" group on Facebook and then on Linkedin. Now, they are available on Dani's Behind The Curtains.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

What are business tools?

I have here 2 short stories to explain this concept. One is fiction and the other, unfortunately, really happened.

Their purpose is to show how certain requests do not make sense in a business context, and that “we have 2 ears and 1 mouth” for a reason, right? Well, that's what my grandmother used to say, but with the internet, the proverb should be updated for “we have 2 eyes and 10 fingers.”

Let's go on to my stories.


Case 1) Fluffy and warm bread

You go into a bakery and ask to speak to the owner. You say you are interested in opening a bakery too, the owner congratulates you (he's a nice guy), good luck, so on and on. Then you turn to him and ask, without shame, for his bread recipe, with all the tricks and tips on how to make the crunchiest crust.

What reaction do you imagine he will have?

  1. Do you think he will be surprised?

  2. Will you be able to see his wisdom tooth filling (because his jaw dropped to the floor)?

  3. Is he going to choke on the fly that went into his mouth (because it was so ridiculously open)?

  4. Possibly all of the above alternatives?

Case 2) Tell me which buttons I have to press, dude!

This case is real. Pay attention: it's a case of an intellectual tool, like our tools in translation.

A friend has a consulting company in Mathematics and Statistics for decades. In the early 2000s, the market was excellent and several companies were calling my friend for several types of projects.

A person from another area, who had never worked with Statistics or Mathematics (I think he was an IT technician or something similar), came and asked my friend for syntaxes of SAS, SPSS, R, Python, and other software. My friend showed some links on GitHub that had cool and free syntaxes.

The person then asked my friend how he got clients to "do some statistical models." After all, it was just taking syntaxes and adapting some parameters, right? My friend then gave him book references to study: Calculus books, Probability and Inference books, Multivariate Statistics books, Design of Experiments books, basically the bibliographic content used in undergraduate courses at prestigious universities in the world. This friend of mine, the Good Samaritan he is, made himself available to the person to tutor him throughout his studies, which would probably take years (as in a normal bachelor's degree).

The person got really mad. Really furious. Why give him books? Study for what? He just wanted to know which buttons he had to press in the software. There is no need to study, delve into something: it is just a matter of being “street smart” and knowing which button to press and that's all folks, R$ 10,000 projects would fall from heaven in his lap!

What reaction do you imagine my friend had?

  1. Was he surprised??

  2. Did his jaw drop to the floor?

  3. Did he move the folder with the shared books and a tutoring plan for that person (my friend, besides being a Good Samaritan, is also a very organized person) to the Windows’ Recycle Bin?

  4. All of the above (and he also blocked the person).


Business Tools are not restricted to nuts and bolts (LOL, a pun from an engineering translator). Tools are all things, material and immaterial, that help you perform a service, provide a good, and behave like an entrepreneur. This includes studies in the field and intellectual creations: they are intangible tools, but they are tools.

A CAT Tool is a very basic example of a business tool. And any intellectual creation that you develop and that ultimately serves to run your business is also a business tool.

  • My Project Control Worksheets are my business tools.

  • My translation templates for documents (think about I.D.s, driver's license, Tax I.D.s, Professional Licenses, Birth Certificates, among many others) are business tools.

  • My email signature is a business tool.

  • The website that I developed for my translation business is a business tool.

  • My database with data from companies that I use for marketing my translation business is a business tool.

  • My personal glossaries are my business tools.

  • My templates for translation estimate for end customers are business tools.

  • Etc ad infinitum.

Look, I could list a gazillion business tools here and there would still be people giving more suggestions. And I say one thing: if the suggestion given helps someone speed up their performance when providing their service (or good), IT IS A BUSINESS TOOL.

I will sum up what I said in my 1st post (this one):

In the same way that jobs/projects do not fall from heaven, business tools are also not Manna, they do not fall from heaven. They are not in Nature, ready to be harvested by some hunter-gatherer.

Business tools are a result of the intellectual creation of people who work in the area and are used by these professionals to perform their duties.

So do not push translators to "share" their business tools. They were not just found on a cabbage patch. Or, I don’t know, at the end of a rainbow, with a leprechaun next to them.

Translators will share their tools if, when, and how they want to. They have no moral obligation to share and are not bad people for not doing so. If they share, it is a voluntary act of goodwill, the result of the personal decision of each professional. And given what I explained above, personally thank the professional for their help and consideration.

And to be honest, in my experience, several of us share, anonymously or not.

In conclusion, what I think about the matter (as a translator):

When we share, we are donating our time spent developing the tool (the time at all stages of the process), and we are not getting anything in return. When we share, we are thinking of the benefit of others in using the fruit of our own labors. Please be more empathetic with those who donate and acknowledge the effort involved.


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