Avenues for Medical Translators in Brazil

12 04 2013

“Not many sectors of the Brazilian economy have grown as rapidly and consistently as the medicine market. Since 2005, expansion rates in this sector have been well into double digits. In 2011, the market grew by 19 %, with a turnover of USD 26 billion and 2.3 billion medicine packs”, according to the pharmaceutical giant, boehringer-ingelheim’s website.

Such a large market is a natural magnet for global pharmaceutical giants and, needless to say, a great opportunity for medical and pharmaceutical translators. In addition to the drug and pharmaceutical markets, there is medical and market research, which in some ways complement the first, but also have their own established markets.

There are several avenues available to medical translators who wish to initiate or expand their careers in this market. We’ll discuss a few of them briefly below.

Firstly, there is medical and pharmaceutical research. Medical research in Brazil is conducted mainly at universities or research centres and is funded by sponsoring agencies or by pharmaceutical companies. The first consideration here is whether you translate into English or into Brazilian Portuguese.  Generally, we tend to prefer native speakers to translate only into their native languages.

Based on that assumption, if you are Brazilian, researchers in Brazil are not a good bet, because they will need to translate their work into English- they have very little demand for translations into Portuguese, because they usually need their research translated for international publishing. However, due to the fluid nature of Brazilian Portuguese and how hard it is for foreigners to master its nuances, the fact that these researchers often write part of the work in English (which usually means you have to interpret how they thought in Portuguese to be able to review the content in English) and Brazilian regulations that make it very hard for them to hire services abroad (taxation and funding issues), researchers hardly ever hire foreign translators. Hence, they are not a market to be overlooked if you are able to translate well into English. Researchers are also usually demanding clients (because they speak English), but loyal and often refer you to their peers.

Pharmaceutical companies are the biggest buyers of Brazilian Portuguese translations in this market. They need the research that they sponsor abroad (clinical trials, etc.), patent documentation, prospects, marketing materials, etc. all translated and localized for the Brazilian market. Hence they are great clients and a constant source of demand. However, due to the sensitive nature of their research and products they often prefer to hire companies to provide translation services. The reasons behind this are many, but to pinpoint a couple, they can hold translation agencies more easily accountable for errors and confidentiality breaches. Plus, translation agencies will implement processes involving a series of translators and reviewers to ensure accuracy. If you do not own an agency, you are more likely to get to these clients through a specialist medical agency. Serious medical translation agencies are excellent to work for, because they are aware of the responsibility involved and pay accordingly for your expertise. In addition, they will strive to keep working with you when you demonstrate quality. You are able to work closely with their project managers, but they will require serious qualifications and experience.

Another avenue is pharmaceutical and medical market research, which is arguably the easiest to enter, but also the most price sensitive. This is driven by pharmaceutical companies and other medical product manufacturers that hire specialist market research companies to gain insight into their consumer markets. The market research companies will procure the translation services and are price sensitive, because they often work on tighter budgets and need to cover costs of travel, interviewing etc. Nonetheless, they can be an excellent avenue into the medical market and have the most dynamic demand – i.e. they’ll need documents, audio and several different other types of documents translated.

These are key features of the medical translation market in Brazil. Naturally, there a number of nuances that affect how much work you receive and how much you can earn, but as a general rule you should aim to have a mixture of clients from each of these avenues, i.e. market research companies, translation agencies and researchers. This will ensure you are both in demand and able to specialize in an area (e.g. patents), which provides an effective compensation structure for your services.





10 Things freelance translators could do everyday

1 04 2013

Today I have come across a post by J.T. O’Donnell on LinkedIn, 10 things to do every workday, which inspired me to think about 10 things that freelance translators could do every day.

I have taken the liberty to adapt her list to the reality of freelance translators. First of all, my two basic assumptions for this list are 1) every freelance translator is also an entrepreneur wishing to develop his/her translation business; 2) Freelance translators have understood the need to be visible online for their business and  make time for that on a daily basis. If you are a freelance translator and assumptions 1 and 2 do not apply to you, I suggest you consider them seriously, but on to the list…

1. Read Something related to the translation industry – There are many interesting blogs about translation, such as Corinne Mckay’s Thoughts on translation and Speaking of translation; there are interesting discussions on LinkedIn groups for translators or about translation, such as the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters and others. You may also read the news about new CAT tools on their respective websites. Feel free to ask for more suggestions if you are struggling to find interesting reads!

2. Read something related to business development – Again, some of these translation blogs and groups will have articles on business development for translators, but do not limit yourself to those. Make sure you also read other blogs and articles related to business development, as they may have invaluable insight for your business. I personally like following famous entrepreneurs on LinkedIn, like Richard Branson, and reading what they have to say about developing businesses.

3. Send two e-mails to touch base with former colleagues or clients – If you endeavor to have a positive relationship with your clients and colleagues, you’ll always be able to find something to send them that may be of interest to them or just a general e-mail to ask how things are going.

4. Empty client inbox list – This is business 1o1; enough said.

5. Have three quick non-work related conversations (in person or IM) with people in your contact lists everyday. Obviously, this is an arbitrary number, you need to work out how many of these you can have a day without disrupting your work. This is important because it is not all about work, sometimes the opportunities are in developing good relationships and focusing on the people, rather then on what business they can bring you. In my experience, a lot of my business has come from friends and people who knew in passing what I did, but were not necessarily in the industry or clients in any way. Even if they never bring you any business, having these spots of unrelated conversation everyday will keep you sane (specially if you work for hours at home and alone), so treasure them!

6. Review your top three goals for your translation business. We must keep these goals in focus. It is very easy to forget about them when we are on a working spree with enough translations to works 10-12 hours a day, but it is no good only thinking about them when work dries up. As translators, we love reading and translating, and it is easy to forget about all other aspects of our business when we can do just what we like, but the dry periods will come (less often the more established you are) and it is much harder dealing with those, if you have to start from scratch.

7. Identify and execute one task to support each of the top three goals that you’ve identified. These do not need to be massive tasks or incredibly relevant. If you make sure you do at least a little something everyday, in the long term you will be doing something major. For example, my current goals are 1) delivering high quality translations; 2) developing a solid and loyal client base and 3) promoting my business online consistently. So, today,  my three tasks are learning about a new CAT tool provided by a client to support goal 1; in addition to steps 3-5, I’ll be joining some new LinkedIn groups related to areas in which I specialize (not translation related groups, but subject matter related groups) to support goal 2; and, finally, I’ll be updating some of my social network profiles, which have not been updated in a long time to support goal 3.

8. Post five valuable pieces of content on all my major social media accounts. This blog post is one of my five valuable pieces of content for today, but I have also tweeted a couple of other interesting articles that I read when doing items 1-2. When posting valuable content, make sure you always think about whether they reflect your professional image.

9. Read articles and post at least five comments to non-translation related topics that I am interested in. This is not related to items 1 and 2, this is to be more like item 5. Not everything has to be related directly to our industry or our business. If you have other interests make sure you read about them and develop relationships with people who like them too. This is important for your sanity and because you never know where business may come from. Also, we are in the business of language, so no topic is really off-topic for us.

10. Take a full minute (or more) to appreciate what you have and how far you’ve come. Even if you are fresh out of school, obtaining your education is a milestone, and you should allow yourself to feel good about that. Forgetting about giving ourselves due credit is easy, particularly during those dry periods I mentioned in item 6, but a healthy business requires healthy leadership. You will never develop a solid business, if you don’t think of yourself as a worthy entrepreneur. Acknowledge your mistakes, but acknowledge your what do right as well.

Good luck!