Online Masters: Is It Worth the Effort?

I have my suspicions that at least some of you have been following along with my “series of articles” on becoming a freelance translator. If not, now would be the perfect time to start since I’ve been mentioning this option a lot. Remember, I’m not your average travel agent. I’ve actually got some exciting news to share with you today that will make the decision to move forward with your freelance career a lot easier.

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

You know how to read a review, right? That is, you use your judgment to decide whether or not to purchase a product based on the feedback you find in the review. Whether or not you agree with the reviewer’s opinions, you at least understand what they are saying. Reviews should never be taken at face value. That is, until now.

Over the past year or so, I’ve interviewed several high-profile writers and translators who have voiced their opinions on Amazon’s AMS platform. From my conversations with them, I’ve developed a clearer picture as to what makes AMS such a valuable tool for freelancers and what makes it less so. Here, I’ll walk you through each one, starting with the good and moving on to the bad and the ugly.

The Good

Let’s start with the good, shall we?

As a freelancer, you’ll be submitting your work to various agencies and publications. For those agencies and publications, you’ll need to find a way to get your work into shape. That is, you’ll need to put the pieces of your project together in a way that makes sense and is consistent in terms of the flow of the piece, the words used, and the information provided. This is where AMS can be a valuable asset.

In my conversations with the notable professionals I’ve mentioned above, almost all of them have noted how difficult it is to find the time to put together the perfect portfolio when you have so much else going on in your life. With AMS, you can create an entire digital portfolio in the form of a book. That book can then be distributed to potential employers so they can decide whether or not to pick you up for an interview. In the meantime, you’re free to work on new projects, take on some translation work for a company you trust, or even take a few days off to spend with your family.

This last point is important. As a freelancer, you’ll be juggling multiple projects at once. Sometimes, you’ll finish one project and immediately start working on the next. When that happens, you’ll need to make sure you keep your focus so you don’t end up producing sloppy work or work that doesn’t live up to your standards. Having a digital portfolio that you can constantly update and refer back to is key to keeping your standards high. In AMS, you can create a document that is perpetually updated with your most current work. This way, you’ll always have access to a clean copy from which you can work. You won’t need to worry about your documents being out of date because they won’t be. Not even for a single second. This is a huge advantage.

The Bad

Let’s now move on to the bad. There are a few things that I dislike about AMS.

The first and most significant problem is that Amazon handles all the copy in your book. Not only do they handle the text but they also choose the cover, design the book, and compile the index as well. If you want to keep your sovereignty over the content of your book, you cannot use the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing Platform. The good thing is that you can still use the tool with your own books but you’ll need to outsource all the copy editing and proofreading to professionals. You’ll also need to take the time to learn how to use the software properly so you can take advantage of its full potential.

The second problem involves formatting. When you’re trying to create a polished digital book, you’ll need to pay particular attention to the way the text looks. When it comes to formatting, most professional editors will agree that you need to invest the time to learn how to use something like AF’s DocuSign Docs to get your work published. Learning how to use Docs will help you work with editors to create a polished final product.

The third problem relates to the lack of support from Amazon. I’ve already mentioned that the company handles all the copy in your book. A similar issue exists with regard to the support you receive from Amazon. When you need help with the software, you’re on your own. Most of the time, you’ll need to search the web for solutions. Even then, you’ll need to figure it out for yourself. This is really frustrating if you’re a beginner or someone who isn’t tech-savvy. For example, I didn’t know how to add a hyperlink to a cell in Microsoft Word. I asked for help on Twitter and received several responses. One of them was from an employee of Amazon who helped me out. Another issue that I ran into was that the books I uploaded to my Kindle weren’t showing up in search results on the platform. The books were there but they just didn’t show up when someone searched for them. I didn’t figure out why for the longest time and finally gave up and asked for help on Twitter. Even then, it took several months before I finally got a response from someone on the platform who could help me out. All of this is completely unproductive and unnecessarily takes up time.

The Ugly

The last point I’d like to make about AMS deals with the ugly side. As I stated above, I’ve got my suspicions that at least some of you have been following along with my “series of articles” on becoming a freelance translator. If not, now would be the perfect time to start since I’ve been mentioning this option a lot. As a freelance translator, you’ll need to secure clients. Once you’ve got a few clients, you can start to build your portfolio and establish yourself as a serious contender for jobs. Naturally, you don’t want to start off by going after the biggest or most popular companies. That is, unless you’re confident that you can pull off amazing work and secure some amazing rates. Going after smaller customers will give you the opportunity to grow your reputation and build a solid portfolio. One important point to make here is that securing a few important clients can take a long time. It doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll need to build a reputation for yourself first before you can start landing those high profile jobs.

In the meantime, it’s important to have a strategy for finding new customers. If you’re looking for freelance translating jobs, start by looking for smaller agencies and businesses that need help with specific projects. Perhaps you can even offer your services for free to get a feel for how you perform before you start charging them. Even then, be careful about saying that you’re willing to work for free. Experience has taught me that most people don’t like to pay freelancers. It can be challenging to find the money to pay your bills when you don’t have any work yet. In many cases, the customer may try to weasel out of the commitment by offering you less money or offering you fewer hours than the project requires. It’s also worth noting that there are plenty of scam artists out there who will try to trick you into providing unpaid work or unapproved editing so they can make off with your money. Be very careful about giving out your personal information to clients or potential clients. As a freelance translator, you’ll be working with a lot of different people. Some will be downright scummy but a lot will be completely innocent. You’ll need to make sure that you’re protected at all times and that your own moral compass guides you in the right direction. Ultimately, you’ll need to trust yourself but that can be difficult when you’re still trying to figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are as a translator. One last thing, be consistent. This is very important. When you first start off as a freelancer, you’ll need to find your groove. This means that you have to be sure that you always follow a standard procedure. For example, you might want to send out your work on a Friday afternoon so you can have some peace and quiet to work on it without being distracted by other things going on in your life. Once you settle into a comfortable routine, you can start to develop specific hours that you need to follow so you can be as productive as possible. That is, you want to make sure that you’re not wasting any time at all but are instead utilizing every minute that you can to the fullest extent possible. This takes a lot of focus and dedication but once you get into the habit, it becomes second nature to be as efficient as possible.