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how did YOU get started?
Thread poster: DagmarM
DagmarM
Local time: 14:22
English to German
May 24, 2005

Hello,
There are many of us who are at the beginning of their carrer as a translator and have many questions but no one to answer them. So I thought it would be a good idea to ask some of these questions and ask experienced translators to answer them.
How did you get started?
How sure were you about your first translatins (mistakes, etc..)?
Do you only translate into your native language?
Did you start as a freelancer or as an employee?
What if I make mistakes - is it a good idea to take out an insurance?
Should I charge very low rates at first or is it better to charge the same as experience translators?
Thank you for your anwers!


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Angela Arnone  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:22
Member (2004)
Italian to English
+ ...
Not by charging very low rates! May 25, 2005

Hi Dagmar,
Welcome to the word arena!
My first reaction to your post is ... don't undersell your skills and don't undercut your colleagues.
If you are good enough to translate text and be paid for it, you are entitled to be paid a decent amount of money for doing that.
We have had many debates about rates on this site and as it is a global site, rates and perceptions are going to swing from A to Z. But I stand by my position that you should charge a professional rate, although you will have to start at the lower end of the rates scale.
You may not be able to command what a very experienced translator gets, but you should not be selling yourself short because once your clients identify you with a low rate, they'll not be happy about raising it (ever!) and also you won't earn enough to live on, so you'll be forced to do far more words a day than is good for you (or for the quality of your work) and you'll be like a rat on a treadmill who can't get off.
In this now-global industry you will soon become identified as the "one who does tons for peanuts" and the quality leap you need to make will never happen.
How do I know?
Been there. It took some hard thinking, bad headaches and tough attitude against exploitative customers to break the habit.

The other sore note - I only translate in UK English, which is my mother tongue, although I was brought up in an Italian-speaking home and have now lived back in Italy for over 20 years, so if you believe bilingualiam exists, I'm close to it, but I still feel uncomfortable working "backwards".
So my recommendation would be only to translate into your native language unless there is some very good reason for doing otherwise and, in any case, get a native speaker to proof your job. I have plenty of work and don't need or want to "poach" work from experienced and talented Italian natives who already have trouble getting decent rates and enough work to live on.

Specialise too. You can change specialisation when you want or need to. It's fun and keeps you on the ball. Choose something you find easy to comprehend or are in a position to explore. I worked in an engineering company for many years, so I ended up writing technical manuals and translating them, simply because I was in the right environment to do so. They were quite a bit more interesting than you might imagine and it became a standing joke when an operator was off sick for the boss to say "Send Angela to run the machine, she's had it explained to her enough times". It was a great satisfaction to see machinery being sold thanks to my translations and interpreting, I got to travel quite a bit to help on training courses, and it was interesting to see someone pick up a manual I had translated, switch on the machine and make it work by following the instructions I had written (even though I didn't always understand what I was translating because I'm not an engineer).
Now I specialise in fashion and tourism, and you know what? Fashion is far more tedious than machine tools!!!!
Good luck.
Angela



[Edited at 2005-05-25 07:42]


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John Jory  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:22
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
Provide information about yourself May 25, 2005

A good start would be to let outsourcers and colleagues know your language pair(s), possible experience, credentials, etc.
Simply enter the necessary information in your profile.

Answering questions in ProZ is another way to make yourself and your abilities known.

Apart from that, I fully agree with Angela about not selling your services for rock-bottom rates.

All the best to you,

John


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 14:22
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
John is right May 25, 2005

'Make a noise' !

I was lucky enough to start in-house at an agency, and chances like that are rare nowadays.

Answer Kudoz questions, fill out your profile and put in some good arguments, not just 'I love translating', but describe what your training and background make you good at. Clients look through Proz.com profiles, and there are so many! But work your way to the top of the list with an attractive profile, and when the others are busy, you will be discovered.

Be honest, but not shy or modest!
Clients cannot know how good you are unless you tell them. Find niches - one of mine is menus, and I don't spin gold on them, but I do earn a little regular money and it's fun.

Learn to do the little jobs that are always coming up in whatever field you are interested in.

Find some good colleagues and ask them for help whenever you are not sure. Most are willing to help if you send a quick, polite e-mail, and don't waste time on a lot of chit-chat on the phone. You will be surprised - questions and jobs will start going the other way when they are busy.

Sometimes they really know the answer, and only need a sparring partner, but often a second opinion, or someone looking at the text with 'fresh eyes' is a real help. You will learn a lot too by discussing things like that, and if you help others they will help you.

Check out the library and second-hand bookshops for reference books and READ them, or at least riffle through them, so you know the technical language and the terminology in context. Dictionaries are fine, but don't tell you everything. It is hard to know in advance which books are useless and which are gold, so use the cheap options until you are sure!

Tell everyone, as John says, what you do... Tell the local newspaper, and see if there is a 'small businesses group' in your town that you can join. (And where you can find clients).

Send a good CV to agencies. Often you never hear from them, but a few reply and send work...

Don't give up, and best of luck!


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LuciaC
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:22
English to Italian
+ ...
As an employee May 25, 2005

After my translation diploma I found a job as a full-time translator in a major Swiss company. I was there for two years and this gave me an invaluable experience. I had a proofreader who allowed me to work on my weaknesses and learn the practicalities of the job. I was directly in touch with the people who wrote the texts and I could follow the life of a text, from writing and translation, to editing, proofreading and publication. I also learnt about the translation market, fees, etc. and I could benefit of their investments and expertise in computing.
When I left Switzerland I became an external translator for them and after 12 years they are still my main client and referee.
Working for them is a pleasure: I can talk directly to the people who write the texts, deadlines are humane and usually flexible (unless they concern articles for publication), I can work in team with internal and external translators and a lot more.

The same goes for a friend of mine who took up a job in a localization company as a junior translator here in Britain. At first she earned very little but then she became a senior translator and her pay increased accordingly. After three years she left the job and went freelance. Over the years she built up a good client database and is satisfied with the way things are going.

Well, as far as I am concerned, I would certainly recommend to a beginner to start out as an employee, even if this means leaving your hometown or country for a while.

Good luck

Lucia


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:22
German to English
+ ...
how did YOU get started? May 25, 2005

I agree with Lucia. If you are completely inexperienced, it is almost inevitable that you will make serious mistakes at the beginning. If you are working for someone else, they will be able to draw your attention to those mistakes.

Also with regard to Lucia's comments, I would say that leaving your home country to gain the necessary in-house experience is not a drawback - quite the reverse.

Marc


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Jerónimo Fernández  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
+ ...
My 2 cents May 25, 2005

[quote]DagmarM wrote:

How did you get started?
[quote]

I started with a student placement in a small translation company.

[quote]
How sure were you about your first translatins (mistakes, etc..)?
[quote]

As I was a student, I was closely supervised by a PM who let me know every single mistake I made. It was embarassing sometimes, but I reckon that's the best thing that could happen to me at that point.

[quote]
Do you only translate into your native language?
[quote]

No, but I translate into my native language 95% of occasions. The other 5% I just need to tell somebody what the text in my mother tongue says, but it's not something that will ever get published.

[quote]
Did you start as a freelancer or as an employee?
[quote]
See above.

[quote]
What if I make mistakes - is it a good idea to take out an insurance?
[quote]

You got me here. Maybe if that's not too expensive that would be a good idea.

[quote]
Should I charge very low rates at first or is it better to charge the same as experience translators?
[quote]

I'd recommend not to dump prices. I totally agree with Angela on this point.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:22
English to Spanish
+ ...
How I got started May 25, 2005

I got started through a local language school that had high standards and a fine reputation in the community and also operated as a translation agency as a sideline. This was made possible by the owner of this agency who became my "angel".

This enabled me:

1.- To make a living while translating, because I was able to hold down a full-time job (non-translating) for 15 years and translation was just an "extra".

2.- To learn, because without computers and the Net, practically no one could meet urgent deadlines and I was always given enough time to do proper research to insure an accurate translation.

3.- To develop the market in which a tremendous unsatisfied demand existed, because until that time no decent translation services existed either.

4.- After 15 years, to realize my independence and make translation my full-time job.


How sure were you about your first translations (mistakes, etc..)?

I was confident, because I started with fully BALANCED bilingualism and I did good research, had good resources available (for the pre-Internet era) and time to use them.

Do you only translate into your native language?

I never recognized such limitations and always went both ways, because of the factors mentioned in the previous question.

Did you start as a freelancer or as an employee?

As a freelancer, but mostly through one agency source until later I was able to develop further sources.

What if I make mistakes - is it a good idea to take out an insurance?

I've never had any insurance and know nothing about it.

Should I charge very low rates at first or is it better to charge the same as experienced translators?

Shoddy work at a low rate is worth less than nothing. If you are not experienced then you will have to do very good research and lean on your colleagues to produce good work, but you must NEVER produce anything but good work right from the start.

From that it follows that your work will be worth the best rates, which you should charge, NEVER low rates.

However, it will be much more work for you in the beginning, and more expense from having others check your work. You will also have to let urgent jobs go because you will not have time to insure quality.

People often ask me how I got started. I tell them "you don't even want to know". It was even a much longer road than I have described here, and it continues.


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Konstantin Kisin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:22
Member (2004)
Russian to English
+ ...
How did you get started? Jun 1, 2005

How did you get started?


Half of my family are translators and due to a number of circumstances I grew up being truly bilingual. As a student I got a part-time job editing news bulletins compiled of articles written by Russian journalists. At this job I also did some transcription of interviews and a little translation. Through this experience I gained confidence in my ability to do quality work and started looking for clients of my own.

How sure were you about your first translatins (mistakes, etc..)?


I was pretty confident - having a good grasp of both languages really helps. With experience I gained in confidence and ability, which in turn made me more confident...a virtuous circle so to speak. From the start I decided to never take work that I couldn't do and therefore I was never in a position where I would worry about the quality of my work.

Do you only translate into your native language?


I have two, and those are the only languages I know well enough to translate into/from...so the answer is "yes" Truthfully, my Russian is a little more passive than my English and I therefore prefer translating into English. Then again, I like to have work into Russian because it allows me to keep it a little more active.

Did you start as a freelancer or as an employee?


Employee.

What if I make mistakes - is it a good idea to take out an insurance?


First and foremost it's a good idea to not make mistakes which could lead to people trying to sue you - this applies not only to translation but to life generally as well. That said, we all do. I don't have indemnity insurance and I don't translate stuff like technical manuals, where it might come in handy.

Should I charge very low rates at first or is it better to charge the same as experience translators?


I made the mistake of starting out with charging low rates for two reasons:

1. I didn't rely on translation as my primary source of income and therefore at the time practical considerations (such as i could make more money driving a taxi) didn't really come into play.

2. I really didn't know any better.

During this short low-rate period I acquired 2-3 clients and worked with them for a month or so, until I actually talked to the translators in my family who explained the situation to me.

I changed my rates and never heard from those 2-3 clients again. It's silly, but I still feel a little bitter towards those people because they paid me so little. Of course, there is only one person to blame for that...

You should not expect to charge the same rates as some of the people who have replied to your post above but you should also charge reasonable rates. With time your experience will grow and so should your rates.


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