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Thread poster: Anna Frandsen

Anna Frandsen  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:02
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Mar 20, 2007

Hello fellow translators!

I'm a newbie! I've been translating for a few years now casually but am just now starting to leave other employment to commit myself completely to translation. Up until now, I have not needed to/been able to offer my services online, and astonishingly enough, have not used the internet as a forum/resource to promote my work.

Suggestions? Advice? Info?? How did you get started? What did you need? Is everyone using Trados? Are you enjoying it? How is the quality of life? Pros and cons of the profession? I feel prehistoric as I translate with dictionaries and the occasional websearch...also a bit frightened to leave other employment and dedicate my time only to translating. Also very excited. This website seems like an amazing tool!

Would really appreciate your thoughts/ideas/responses.

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Inga Jakobi  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:02
Member (2006)
Chinese to German
+ ...
I started last year Mar 21, 2007

Hi afrandson,
I am also a newbie and started working as a freelancer last year just after having finished my translation studies. As you have already been translating for years, you might already have some clients. I started everything from scratch and was in the beginning happy to still have a flexible side job. It took not very long until I got my first client whom I am still working with and althgough it took quite some patience to be able to live on my translations, I think it is worth it. In my 8th month I am now earning enough to live and to pay my insurances and I still enjoy this life and I am happy to have chosen this profession. In the beginning it was hard because I was always searching for jobs, never felt like having spare time, but in the meantime, I learnt to switch the notebbok off early evening and I even dare to have it switched off half days on weekends
I think proZ is a very good place to work, as soon as you have worked fo anyone, make an entry for him and ask for an entry for your project history or a WWA entry. Update your profile with as many information as possible and be active on KudoZ. People get to know you and by reading the forums you get a lot of good tips and advice and you see what is going on.
I guess having registered at proZ is the first step to be successful.
Trados: I bought it as soon as I could afford it from my first translations and now I am happy about that. Not all customers require it but you can always use it, saving your time. You could also buy another CAT tool, but AFAIK, Trados is still the one requested most often (whether it is as good as many people say - or not).
Maybe I could give you some help.
Good luck,

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Paul Malone  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:02
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
Go for it! Mar 21, 2007

Hi Alfrandsen,

Welcome to the profession! My advice would be 'go for it'. I've just passed my fifth anniversary as a freelancer and I'm coming up to my eighth anniversary as a professional translator.

I started on my own with a second hand computer that cost me 150 euros at the time.

It was difficult at first; either the work didn't come in, or too much came in at once, which is a classic problem. So when I had to work through part of the night to make my cheap computer earn its keep, I did so, hoping that things would get better. And they did. For me, the first two years were the most difficult, but even then things began to fit into place and work out a lot more quickly than I would have expected.

Remember, the more experience you have of both translating AND marketing your services, the easier it gets.

At the beginning I used to cold canvas clients, now they cold canvas me!

All I spend on marketing is my annual ProZ membership fee (they're not paying for me to say this). You could also have your own website with a link from your ProZ profile page, but personally I haven't found it necessary. I don't do any other advertising. Some other translators I know in my area advertise in the local Yellow Pages. Personally I don't because the result is that you get lots of sales and marketing calls to interrupt you while you're trying to work, but very little in the way of sales. I don't aim to work with the general public, but rather on a business to business basis. I see myself as a service provider to companies.

Maybe you see your situation differently. But that brings us nicely to your question, 'What do you need?' First of all, you need a strategy, or a least an idea of what you are offering and who your clients will be. Once that is reasonably clear in your mind (it will, of course, naturally evolve over the course of time), you will have a clearer idea of what your marketing/selling your services approach will be.

If you have a few contacts, say in business, who can put any work your way, that can be a real help, especially at the beginning, so you may want to think about that and explore the possibilities. Even one or two good contacts can bring you tons of work - maybe they have no immediate need, but they may know someone who does. People in business in general tend to network and have lots of contacts, and one thing very often leads to another.

For me, now, the business just runs itself - like a dream. I have so many inquiries from potential clients that I can pick and choose as unfortunately I don't have the capacity to do all the work I'm ask to do. Even with regular agency clients, I tend to accept the projects that suit me and reject the ones that don't, for reasons of deadlines, text content, or whatever. But nobody minds - when they know your busy and have lots of clients who are eager to give you work, it just makes them all the more keen to get you to do a translation for them. I suppose the key for me has been to have plenty of clients, but slowly weed out the slow payers and the ones that I don't feel comfortable with, and give priority to the ones that look after you, that pay you on time, or even early.

But for you, all that will begin in a year or two.

I've told you a bit about how I got started - but I still remember the doubts; am I really doing the right thing here? Will it work? Will I be able to get any clients and translation work, and will I starve to death in the process of trying to find out.

You may recognize some of that, but that's all about me.

What do need?

You need,

I would say, number 1 on the list and above all, the courage to really take the plunge. Commitment; being prepared to keep going when the hours are long and the money is not coming in. The firm conviction that things will improve rapidly. If you have it, they will.

Secondly, you need a computer, any computer that works, and an internet connection. Oh, and a bit of software, of course.

Thirdly, and very important in my view, you need, if possible to find the money to become a paying member of this site. Why? Because it gives you credibility. Non-paying members, I believe, are seen as part timers or people who are not quite sure whether they want to be full time translators or not. It's all psychological, but psychology goes a long way in marketing. The guys who've paid look like full-time, fully committed professionals. So which category would you choose if you were the potential client? Think about it. It's pure marketing psychology, it's simple, but it works. I would almost be prepared to wager (and I'm not a betting man usually) that your membership fee would be paid back to you many times over within the first year. My accountant thinks I'm some sort of marketing genius because I spend so little per year on advertising and get so much business from it. I'm no marketing genius, I've just found a system that works for me, and could work for you too.

Fourthly, to address your question about Trados. I know some people who do not work with it, and they mostly manage OK. I should also say at this point that Trados is not the only CAT tool out there - there are others, some of which I understand are less expensive, but I use Trados, always in the most recent version. Why? Well, it's great fun, I thoroughly enjoy using it, it has enormously improved the way I work overall as I can have every sentence I've ever translated in the past at my fingertips, so it speeds up translating enormously and makes it more interesting. But the main point, I think, about Trados, is not that it's fun to use and it can do almost everything but make the coffee. The point is that, like ProZ membership, in my experience it brings in tons and tons of business. Well organised translation agencies these days want Trados, or at least another CAT tool. Using Trados helps them market their services and bring in business, but in order to do so they need freelancers who are also equipped with Trados. Some translators complain that Trados pushes rates down. OK, it does, but so does all new technology that increases productivity. And does it really matter if your rates go down a bit if you've got twice as much work and clients with repeat business who are very keen to work with you because you've go that little bit of software that they want? I believe it's a win-win relationship between translator and agency client. They get more business, so you get more work, so your overall income increases. I'm happy to go along with that - it's working for me. About the cost of Trados, again, I would say that within six months at the most you'll have recovered the cost of buying the software.

Another bit of advice, which I think is important. To be blunt, your rates are far too high for a newbie. I think they are too close to the average for comfort in your language combination. Purely from a marketing point of view, I believe you should be considering rates well below the average at this stage. Once business picks up you can easily negotiate higher rates, particularly with new clients who are keen to work with you. You may like to give that some thought. Some new translators tend to head straight for the average rates, but I think it is worth considering who charges the below average rates, which, as the statistics show, do exist, and why they charge these rates. Could it be that they are keen to bring in a bit of work? I think so, at least, that's the tactic I used and it paid off.

Well, those are my thoughts for this evening. May they inspire you! I should just mention at this point that being a translator is the most rewarding, satisfying job I've ever done. There is never a dull moment, you are always learning something new, you are constantly having to make your mind work hard, solve problems, make improvements. The lifestyle is great, it gives you so much flexibility as a freelancer. Taking a few days off whenever you want, choosing your own working hours, only accepting the projects that you find interesting, not having to be at a certain place at a certain time every morning dressed in a certain way to do certain tasks that are invariably dictated to you by somebody else. No gossiping or noisy or antisocial colleagues to put up with. Absolute luxury.

So, in a nutshell, my advice is: Go for it!!

And good luck!!
Best wishes,

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Anna Frandsen  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:02
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Thank you so much!! Mar 22, 2007


Thanks so much! Those are great responses! I really appreciate the time that you have taken to help out a newbie! Im quickly getting more and more excited and less and less aprehensive. I've got the computer, I've got the internet membership is on it's way as is contemplating myself as a business with a business plan, target clientel, etc (and lowering my rates until later...). Ill try to get by for a bit before I make the plunge to purchase Trados, but it looks like a great system and Im excited to learn more about it.

Until then, I just turned a large translation project, I have my first interpretation gig next week and things are trickling in quite nicely...

Very excited.

Again, Paul and Inga, thank you so much for your time and energy. You don't know how important your words and ideas are to me right now. I know you both understand as you both had to start...those feelings of "should I jump in head first? Or should I just dip a foot in and keep doing what Im doing now until I see that I can maintain myself..."

Take care! And AMEN for helpful, friendly people on!!


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Alaa Zeineldine  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:02
Member (2002)
English to Arabic
+ ...
Topic moved Mar 22, 2007

I have moved this topic to "Getting Established" where you can get more responses to your questions.

Wish you the best in your efforts.

[Edited at 2007-03-22 10:15]

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