Yesterday, I posted a blog on the website of the Colorado Translators Association where CTA treasurer Mery Molenaar explained how to renew your CTA membership for the coming year. It got me thinking about my own professional memberships, which will soon be up for renewal. The time has come to decide which memberships are worth keeping, and which, if any, I might want to drop in 2014.
I currently belong to the following associations and groups:
– Colorado Translators Assocation (CTA)
– American Translators Association (ATA)
– Deutscher Verband der freien Übersetzer und Dolmetscher (DVÜD) [German Association of Freelance Translators and Interpreters]
The basic question I have to ask myself in order to evaluate the overall benefits of a certain membership is this: Do I get as much out of it as I am putting in? In the case of the Colorado Translators Association, the answer is “Heck yeah!” The CTA email discussion list alone, which is open to members only, is a treasure trove of information for translators of all levels. The CTA Annual Conference is the most informative symposium for professional translators in this region. CTA’s networking opportunities, whether through member events such as our annual dinner, Happy Hour get-togethers, our annual ski trip, or our social media channels, esp. our internal Facebook group, provide a perfect balance to the lonely life of a freelancer. And of course, I am the social media director for the association, which makes my membership a no-brainer. All in all, the $40 annual membership fee (renewal rate) is an investment that’s more than paying off year after year.
My American Translators Association membership may not be quite as beneficial on a personal level, but as a translation professional, I consider belonging to my country’s largest professional group in my industry par for the course. At $190 per year for an associate member, the fee is on the hefty side, but I believe you get what you pay for. Any self-respecting American translator should be listed in the ATA directory, if only to provide peace of mind for potential clients. I can’t say that I have received many (honest) inquiries through my ATA listing, but I have referenced my listing when communicating with new clients. As a member of the ATA German Language Division, I have access to yet another very helpful email discussion list that is specific to my language combination and can be both a great networking tool and a resource for information. In addition, I frequently take advantage of ATA webinars, which are discounted for members, and I try to attend the Annual ATA Conference whenever I get the chance. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this year, which caused me to miss out on another great benefit that comes with ATA membership: the option to become a certified translator. In the USA, where being a translator is an unregulated profession, having the extra qualification of being ATA certified can be an important differentiator, and I plan on adding this credential as soon as I get another opportunity. Lastly, let’s not forget the ATA Chronicle, one of the few magazines for translators and the translation industry, which is included in the ATA membership.
My other two memberships, I’m afraid, are less certain to end up in my renewal queue. Quite frankly, the only reason I renewed my Proz.com membership last time was that I had recently been admitted to the Proz Certified PRO Network, a distinction I wasn’t willing to give up again right away. But a year later, I can’t say that I have seen much benefit from either my Proz membership or being a “Certified Pro.” This is partly my own fault, of course. I don’t use many of the features that are available to Proz members, such as online invoicing, website hosting, accessing the Blue Board database (since I have a subscription for Payment Practices) or member-only job offers. The only thing I do take advantage of is the large offer of webinars through Proz.com – but at this point, I am not so sure that the member savings add up enough to justify the rather high price tag of $133 a year.
That leaves my membership with Deutscher Verband der freien Übersetzer und Dolmetscher. It is the only association I belong to in Germany, a tie to my German colleagues. (And it comes with a fancy hard plastic membership card!) The DVÜD is a fairly new association, one I was excited about joining. The membership fee is pretty steep, at 104 Euros – considerably higher than my CTA membership. For that, I got the above-mentioned membership card (which entitles me to some discounts I never get a chance to use) and an entry in the DVÜD directory (which has yet to produce any leads for me). The DVÜD offers some interesting webinars, but the time difference between Colorado and Germany makes them challenging to attend for me. Within Germany, the DVÜD does great things, including organizing translator “Stammtische” (essentially Happy Hours) in various German cities and advocating for the translation profession. But as a US-based translator, I have not been able to get my money’s worth out of my DVÜD membership, and the only reason I might consider staying with them is the link to my native country.
There are a few other associations I’ve been thinking about joining, which might have a more direct benefit to me. One is the German American Chamber of Commerce in Denver, which holds the promise of networking with potential direct clients. As a marketing translator, I’ve also thought about joining the American Marketing Association for professional development purposes. In the new year, I may look into these options some more and decide whether their benefits would outweigh the cost of joining. In the end, it always comes down to how many offerings of an association you take advantage of. An association may have a long list of benefits for its members, but if you don’t use any of them, your membership fee will always be a waste of money.