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How long does it take to get work as a freelance translator?
Thread poster: Francine Ryder
Francine Ryder
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:25
English to French
+ ...
Feb 6, 2006

Hi guys,

I have been trying to get some work as a freelance translator for just over a month now but haven't really got anywhere.
What I have done so far:
-sent letters (+CVs and business cards) to local business within my specialisation area (IT)
-sent letters (+CVs and business cards) to local translation agencies
-joined proz.com and filled out all the bits I could (profile, credentials, CV, rates etc...)
-looked on proz.com for available (and suitable) jobs and applied for a couple (ongoing)
-set up a website
-submitted my website URL to as many search engined I could
-placed a couple of ads in local newspapers
-e-mailed friends and former colleagues about my services and asked for any potential contacts
-created a profile on another translation website
-updated my CV and covering letter on various jobsites.

I would like to know how long it took most of you to start getting work as a freelance translator and are there any other things that I could do to attract/contact clients?
I have received a few responses, most of them negative and one of them saying that they may need me in future but that no current work is available.
Have you any tips? Is there anything I haven't done?

I'm guessing that it does take a while to get established and start getting work, but I would just like to know roughly how long most translators have to "wait". When do you give up (if ever)?

I hope you can all take a few minutes to reply, it would really help.

Thank you very much.

Fran


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Soren Petersen
United States
Local time: 04:25
Member
English to Danish
+ ...
Still not there yet... Feb 6, 2006

Hi Fran,

I'm probably not the most qualified to answer, but it does take quite some time before you've built up a 'base' of good agencies - enough so that you can quit your dreary day-time job. Alas, I'm still not there yet either, but I feel that after nearly two years, I'm getting close. I'm waiting for some promised 'long-term' projects to come through and if they do, I might just take the final step...

Your profile looks fine to me, nice and detailed. One thing though... the colour of your website is a bit... erm - strong? Maybe tone that down a bit..

Hang in there and if you have a full-time job, don't give it up just yet. The day will come. (Fingers crossed)

Cheers,
Søren


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Daniela Zambrini  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 11:25
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
You seem to be doing fine! Feb 6, 2006

Dear Fran,

you seem to have started very well!

Be patient, and keep going...it will take a while, maybe a few weeks, maybe a few months, but things will start rolling, don't worry!

I may be wrong, but I believe the language combination you offer has quite a lot of competition, so keep up your specialisation fields and consider investing in Platinum membership to enjoy all the site options offered on proz.com and more visibility.

All the best, Daniela

[Edited at 2006-02-06 15:11]


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Yazan Quandour
Jordan
Local time: 11:25
English to Arabic
+ ...
Patience and perseverance Feb 6, 2006

Dear Fran:

Chill and wait, something's bound to come: I've been having that same problem for 6 ongoing months before I found this job (this is my 3rd day). Just relax your nerves and keep going, something's bound to pop up soon God willing.

Good Luck


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Ian M-H
United States
Local time: 05:25
German to English
+ ...
Two very quick tips Feb 6, 2006

1. Consider answering KudoZ questions in your language pair. If you can help colleagues when they ask about terms in your specialist fields, you may find that some of them approach you with offers of work.

2. Consider doing some work on your website. At least some potential clients could be put off by "Ce site est en construction..."

Good luck,
Ian


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Rosemary Harvey
Local time: 10:25
French to English
Don't worry - it doesn't take that long. Feb 6, 2006

Hi,

Like you, I recently started working as a freelance translator (about 6 months ago full time). I just applied to all the agencies I could find. I don't think they have to be local: I live in the UK but I work for agencies in France, Belgium, Switzerland and the UK. However, it is useful if they are in one of the countries where your languages are spoken.

After 6 months, I find that I'm working to about 80% of my current capacity (which admittedly is smaller than a more experienced translator), but I was expecting it to take much longer than that.

I think the key is to be very professional in the way you interact with clients, respect deadlines, always be friendly to them etc.

I found searching on Google, ProZ and Translator's Café very useful when I wanted to find new agencies to apply to.

Good luck!


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Francine Ryder
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:25
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your replies Feb 6, 2006

Thank you all for your replies.

Soren, thank you for your insights and the comment about the colour of the website has been noted, I will find something a bit softer on the eye.
Just another point: I have already left my full-time job to be a freelance translator. My previous job within the IT industry was quite demanding: stressful, long hours, overtime, on-call during weekends etc. After a couple of months trying to start as a translator and holding a full-time job at the same time, I realised I was not getting anywhere because I was simply unable to dedicate enough time to the translation business, nothing was getting done. I decided that (after much much thought, mainly about what I wanted out of life, where my current career was taking me etc...), unless I free a lot more time to get established as a freelance translator, I would never succeed. Unfortunately, this meant leaving my full-time job. So far, I don't regret it but I hope that I can make this work.

Daniela, thank you for your post and I will definitely consider upgrading my membership when my purse lets me

Ian, Yes thank you for tip 1. I know exactly what you mean about the website, I'm working on that when I can, I'm hoping to have it finished soon.

Hi Rosemary, thank you for sharing your experience. I realise that, with the Internet, translators don't need to work with agencies in their country but it seemed like the most obvious way to start. I will definitely look at contacting agencies abroad. I must say that, if I am anywhere near where you are within 6 months, I'll be delighted. Thank you!

Cheers again guys and take care.
If you have any more tips for me, do not hesistate to post them

Fran


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:25
German to English
+ ...
Networking is the key Feb 10, 2006

French Fran wrote:
-e-mailed friends and former colleagues about my services and asked for any potential contacts


I think the above is the one step you have taken that will likely be the most efficient/effective in getting you work. Web sites, profiles, etc. are all good, but I think the key is networking, particularly when you already have industry experience. You don't have to be pushy (sometimes "networking" has a negative connotation), just keep up with your colleagues and acquaintances regularly in a friendly and unobtrusive way. Be ready to help them out, too. It really works!

I would also recommend that you join a translators' group and start attending conferences and workshops, particularly ones in your field.


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Francine Ryder
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:25
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Networking Feb 13, 2006

Thank you...
This hasn't given me any results yet. However, I will certainly keep telling friends, family, colleagues... you never know

Good luck!

Fran


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Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:25
Member (2004)
German to English
Just one small point Feb 13, 2006

Hi Fran,

Keep going - you seem to be doing all the right things, and I wish you luck. Have you tried using the internet to identify agencies etc. in France (and other likely countries) as well as those in the UK? - remember that, since almost everything is done by e-mail, you can look for clients almost anywhere.

I had a quick look at your website and found it good, but wondered if you might do well just to change that opening sentence: "Do you need a translator ... but cannot afford an expensive professional?". I know you're not intending to imply that you're not professional, but it could be read that way ("come to me because I'm not really a professional so I don't charge as much as the real people"). I think it's important to stress that you are in fact ultra-professional in every aspect of your work, so I would consider finding a different way of putting this. (Perhaps something like: ".. but find that the rates some translators charge are beyond your budget?" .. or change the sentence more radically to "Are you looking for high quality translation at an affordable price?"). Tell people by all means that you provide value for money, but don't make out that you're cheapskate. Too much emphasis on low prices can in fact misfire if people interpret that as implying correspondingly low quality. You could even think of marketing your relatively low terms as a "special introductory offer", or something like that.


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Francine Ryder
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:25
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the feedback Feb 13, 2006

Hi Armorel,

Thank you for replying.
Ok, nobody has ever commented on this about the introduction on my website and I thank you for your feedback.
I see your point... you are right. I didn't want to mislead customers by telling them I was the bee's knees the way other translators do ("I am the best")... Just wanted to be honest but I see that it can be perceived negatively.
In fact, I am not cheap, but simply affordable, so I will reflect this in my new intro
I really appreciate you telling me this as I realise other people may have held back (don't want to offend and all that).

Thank you!
Fran


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R-i-c-h-a-r-d  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 06:25
Member (2006)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Be who you say you are... Feb 13, 2006

Hi Fran,

I read your post with great interest because I too work as a Freelance Translator in the IT field, although in my case I translate Portuguese to English, currently living in Brazil.

I had a quick look at your website and the first thing I saw was a missing graphic. Where is it? Is it your logo?
You say that you've worked in the IT industry for many years, doing various (50) IT translations, have much experience etc... Is that completely truthful?
If you declare yourself as an IT specialist you need to show that you ARE indeed very competent, and it should be logical to have a nice and professional website. NO missing graphics!

Agencies are not stupid. They know who is new and who is experienced. Just be honest.

I noticed also the date of you post. January is notoriously slow for translators so don't be too discouraged by lack of work. There is very little work and LOTS of competition. February gets better, and it will keep on getting better.

Good luck.

Richard.


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Francine Ryder
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:25
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I am who I say I am Feb 14, 2006

Hi Richard,

Thank you for your reply.

I've just opened my homepage and can't see any missing graphics... I have a button under the title of the page, it says "version Française". I think this is what you are referring to...
I've just asked my partner to check the homepage from his workplace and there is no problem.
Perhaps you need to refresh the page in your browser a few times?

Just to make sure, can other people tell whether they can or can't see the graphic please?
http://frenchtranslations4u.nxs6.co.uk

Yes it is true that I have translated over 50 documents within the IT industry. I worked in IT for 6 years as a systems analyst. I would not make up such a claim as this could truly backfire! I am not willing to do anything I am not actually capable of doing.
I understand what you are saying about the website, but once again, from my end, it looks fine. Besides, mistakes do happen.
As for the website being nice and professional, I guess everyone has their own opinion... I think my website looks nice but I have had a couple of comments regarding the colour which I have taken into consideration and modified. It's professional enough in that it has everything that a customer may want to know about the service I provide and me. My website is not fancy and it's meant to be this way.

I am honest.

I understand January is slow for translators, it is slow for everybody, in most industries. It's the worst time of year to be looking for work, I agree. Thank you for your words, I will carry on what I am doing and hope that work starts coming in soon.

Thank you again.

Fran


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Katharina Wawrzon-Stewart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:25
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
Plugin required Feb 14, 2006

Hi Fran,
I'm using Firefox and all I can see is a white rectangle with a little green sign in it. When clicking on it I get the following error message: "Additional plugins are required to display all the media on this page." It works fine in Explorer and Safari though - the "version francaise" button is clearly displayed. You might want to open the website in different browsers and see what happens.
Regards
Katharina



[Edited at 2006-02-14 17:58]

[Edited at 2006-02-15 08:56]


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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:25
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
lot of competition but also lot of jobs Mar 5, 2006

Daniela Zambrini wrote:I may be wrong, but I believe the language combination you offer has quite a lot of competition, so keep up your specialisation fields and consider investing in Platinum membership to enjoy all the site options offered on proz.com and more visibility


This pair has a lot of competition, as Daniela said, but also many offers, so yes, keep up your specialisation and be patient, and yes as Platinum verified member you will have more chance, at least this is what happened to me

Good luck

Angio


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