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As a new starter - how long did it take you to get your first work assignments?
Thread poster: Sonja Allen

Sonja Allen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:51
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
Aug 11, 2005

I have just started out as a freelance translator about a month ago and sent many CVs/application forms to agencies. So far, I have only had a couple of confirmations that I was added to a database but I have not had any work yet. I know that I need patience and therefore I try not to worry too much and just keep on applying. But like many of new starters, I wonder if I will ever get any work at all. So my question to the more established translators among you: how long did it take you to get your first work assignment? I know that every translator has a different background and, therefore, any answer cannot be taken as a definite timescale applicable to every translator. But I am just curious.

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Lindsay Sabadosa  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:51
Member (2004)
Italian to English
+ ...
My Experience Aug 11, 2005

I was actually quite lucky. I was already working as an in-house translator and had thought about going freelance so, like you, had sent my resume out to several agencies. I actually bought a "membership" to a job board (very, very inferior to Proz and which shall remain nameless) and got my first job through them. So the client turned out to take six months to pay... still, it was a job and it encouraged me to look for other clients. The first few months were still slow going but things steadily picked up and now, here I am, a few years later, already awake at 5:30 in the morning so I can have some quite time to work before anyone else is up. Just be patient and persistent, brush up your resume as often as you can, bid on jobs that you think you can handle and you'll find yourself slowly building up a good client base. Good luck to you! Lindsay

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PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:51
English to Polish
+ ...
Waiting for Godot Aug 11, 2005

Agencies may respond immediately or never...
I recently got a call from one to which I must have written more than a year ago.

Don't abandon the agencies, but look for direct clients with immediate needs.
Ask friends and friends' friends if they (or rather the companies they work in) are in need of a translator.
Write to publishers, companies - whoever fits your qualifications and/or interests.

That's how I started.

Good luck,
Pawel Skalinski


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xxxtazdog
Spain
Local time: 08:51
Spanish to English
+ ...
two weeks Aug 11, 2005

I think I was luckier than most in that I got a phone call from my very first client only 2 weeks after I had e-mailed my CV to about 100 agencies. It was only a one-page job, but that led to fairly regular work with this agency. A week or two after that another agency called to offer me a fairly big job (and that led to more regular work). I got more calls over the next several months, and even up to a year later. I'd say I was getting enough work to really call myself a full-time translator after about six months.

It could be that I was just in the right place at the right time, or maybe it was because I had had a lot of corporate experience in a number of different areas prior to setting myself up as a freelance translator, but it really didn't take me that long to get started.


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Sylvain Leray  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:51
German to French
A few hours :) Aug 11, 2005

I was very lucky: my first client called me a few hours after I officially started... but I must admit that I had already sent my resumé to hundreds of agencies before I registered by the local authorities.


Good luck!

Sylvain


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NataliaElo  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:51
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
300 KudoZ points Aug 11, 2005

Sonja Allen wrote:

So my question to the more established translators among you: how long did it take you to get your first work assignment?


Don't worry, be patient. Everything looks ok in your profile and the webpage. Use your time to self-educate yourself and explore ProZ and keep applying.

Wishing all the best
Natalia


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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 07:51
Give yourself 3-6 months Aug 11, 2005

When I finished my last in-house contract, I was tired of going from contract to contract, so I decided to freelance. I gave myself a year to make a go of it. If it didn't work out, then I would have sought other avenues of employment.
Remember, you're not just a translator, you are also an entrepreneur, I don't think many "newbies" make that connection. You've got to have your business plan sorted out.
I say give yourself 3-6 months to motivate yourself on to make yourself known as a competent reliable language service provider.

The first month I was registering with various translation sites & authorities, brushing my CV, getting my name out there.

The second month I was doing the same, except now I got about 2 or 3 teeny little jobs and developed an exchange with a more experienced freelancer where I would take up some of her excess workload.

The third month, jobs were flying in, agencies now took notice of me and it has been like that ever since.

A year and half later, I could seriously do with an extra pair of arms to satisfy the demand for my language pairs!

I get most enquiries through Proz, so make sure you put a lot of effort into creating a top-notch profile and hopefully new clients will find you through Proz. This site really does work.

Viel Glueck!

Orla


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PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 08:51
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
Just do your best! Aug 11, 2005

I had my first job within approx. 2 weeks of becoming freelance.

I have not sent CVs to companies, but I have registered with all translators' sites I could get access to, and I continued to brush up my CV on the sites that include them (also, I would have the 'best' CV to send to potential clients).

I spent a lot of time browsing the internet and translators' sites to see what might happen and looking for any advice, hints, links, dictionaries, glossaries etc. (This WILL come in handy when you have so much work that you don't have much time to search for such things.)

As for your CV - no need to include Hobbies and Personal details. Keep it simple - only include what might be interesting for at potential client (this should not look like the CV you would send with a job application - get right down to business!).
Perhaps I would prefer to mention my experience within specific fields right after the mention of education, i.e. mention whatever types of texts you have been translating (preferably under headings like "Business and Financial" / "Technical and Engineering" or something - though in your in-house job perhaps, but no need to point that out. It's all translating experience.

And....answer and comment on KudoZ answers!!! This will look VERY GOOD on your ProZ-profile!!! Good luck with your new freelance life. ;o)


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flavie99
Local time: 08:51
Dutch to French
+ ...
Got lucky Aug 11, 2005

Same here. Starting did not take me too long.
I sent three emails to present myself to agencies.
One answered right away and thought they don't give me much work, they were happy with my work and put me in contact with two or three other agencies who do give me quite a lot.
Another one of the first three contacts gave me work after about a year and we now have a nice collaboration.
Then there's been Proz.com, who provided me with my two biggest customers... amongst the tens of other people who don't answer when you react to their ad.
I started in March and had enough work by september...
So don't worry, there's work out there, keep looking for it.


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Sonja Allen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:51
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Aug 11, 2005

Thank you all for your replies and tips.

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xxxBrandis
Local time: 08:51
English to German
+ ...
almost immediately Aug 11, 2005

I should say I was lucky. I was working at the university and could adjust my time well. Brandis

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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:51
Partial member (2003)
Spanish to English
Get a loan! Aug 12, 2005

The first three months were tough, hardly any work at all (despite having had translations to do before I went freelance, which is why I decided to give up my teaching job), but then suddenly things picked up, I got several responses from the CVs I had sent out and I've never really looked back since. The biggest problem was the payment terms (mainly 3 months in Spain, at least that was my experience), so I had no option but to get a loan to tide me over until I got paid.

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Dusica Cook  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 08:51
English to Bosnian
+ ...
be patient Aug 12, 2005

when i first started, it was easy as there were not many people speaking english, and i just had too many things to do! then i made a break and left the country, to return a few years later to a disaster!

translators put the prices down, market was disasterous, work was given to people with not much experience etc... it was really hard to start again!

i started sending out information to businesses, offering services and - most importantly - i started encouraging a 'word-to-mouth' advertising! but, that is all on a local level

proz is my first exit to the world - two months ago! i have never before sent my cv to an international translation agency... when i foud proz, i had to do something. i started by answering language questions and reading otheran peoples' profiles. i understood that there are many good translators, but that i am not too bad myself... then i started giving quotes...

i had my first job after one month, and i have never had my second job yet... LOL... still, i am not worried... wait, send your cvs, send your quotes and apply for jobs... it is with the quotes that you can be sure that your cv will be read and paid attention to!

i wish you all the best...


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:51
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
It takes two years, I was told Aug 12, 2005

Sonja Allen wrote:
So my question to the more established translators among you: how long did it take you to get your first work assignment?


When I started out, I was told by experienced translators that it can easily take two years to build up your network of regular clients. I got no jobs via advertisements in the newspaper (well, I got many queries, but they all expected me to work for peanuts). I created a web site for myself back then, and this was how I got my first job, from a British agency. I think I was not aggressive enough in my marketing initially. Don't be shy... sell yourself.


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