I haven't worked before as a translator, at least not professionally and I do not know where to start.
One thing you can do is to put together a portfolio. Translate a few paragraphs each of several different texts relating to topics that you are interested in. You can use publically available texts such as standard contracts; media articles; texts from the internet, such as corporate websites, etc.
Should I send my resumé to translation agencies or is it better to try to contact direct clients?
Yes, and yes. There is no need to choose one or the other. It is useful to have a mix of agency and direct clients, for each one has its advantages.
And if so, how can I do this?
For agencies, try the yellow pages in your telephone directory. Call each agency in turn, introducing yourself. Ask whether they would prefer to receive your resumé by fax, e-mail or regular post. Ask for the name of the person you should address it to.
For direct clients, have your business cards printed, if you don't already have some. Give your family (and perhaps close friends) a supply, and encourage them to hand them out. If they are talking to someone who might need a translator, they will say (if properly coached by you), "Oh, my sister/daughter/friend/cousin/sister-in-law is a translator! Maybe she can help you. Here is her card." You yourself, too, can do the same. Every time you meet someone, whether socially or in the course of business, if the conversation should turn to professions, it provides a perfect opening for you to mention what you do (without being pushy) and give them your card. Would your dentist, your doctor, your plumber, your neighbourhood storekeeper, etc. be willing to keep a few of your cards on hand? Ask them! Click here for some interesting and creative business card ideas.
All these strategies are for local clients. To search the internet for potential agency clients around the world, try searches on phrases like "traducción español inglés", "traductor español inglés", "traducciones español inglés" and other similar ones (without the quotes). You will find many translation agency sites, and they will often have information about where to send your resumé, or even an on-line form for prospective translators to fill out and submit.
[Edited at 2003-12-15 23:26]