CV tips badly needed
Thread poster: carly

carly  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:35
Italian to English
+ ...
May 8, 2008

Hi all
I've only recently given up my day job (as an English teacher) to dedicate myself to translation as my only source of income. Before this move translation had been pretty much a sideline; I had a small but steady stream of work from the school I taught at, as well as the odd job here and there through agencies or sometimes from direct clients.

While things have got off to a great start and offers of work are flying in, I still have to tackle my CV, which I haven't updated for several years, and which I'll undoubtedly be asked to submit to a potential client/agency/outsourcer sooner or later.

Apart from the fact that I don't even know where to start, most of my work experience is in other fields (not entirely unrelated, admittedly, but still). I also haven't the foggiest idea how to present any of the translation experience I do have, humble and all as it may be.
Who and what can I mention? Can I refer to companies etc whose catalogues/websites/publicity material I translated even though they weren't my own direct clients? What about material which was published but without crediting the translator?

So basically my question is: how does a fledgling freelance translator like me create a CV which may tip the scales in my favour when applying for a translation job?


ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:35
English to French
+ ...
Some ideas May 8, 2008

I think that you first need a marketing plan. Not the whole shebang like large businesses have, but a basic plan outlining who you want to sell your services to. Would you prefer working with direct clients or would you rather concentrate on agencies? There are pros and cons for both. Also, what do you specialize in? This can help you define what companies you will target. You have one very specific specialization but you also translate texts in much broader fields. Do you plan on working mainly in the textile field or would you also like to get an interesting volume of work in other fields as well?

Once you know who you want to sell your services to, you need to look at them from close to figure out what matters to them most when it comes to translation. Would most of your prospective clients be interested in cost-effective translation or do they prefer quality over price? This will help you determine what information will be crucial in your resume (diplomas, hand-on experience, CAT tools, etc.) and what information you'd better skip as it may be totally irrelevant.

Once you have figured out what information is key and what is not so important, you can start prioritizing it. What are the two or three bits of information your prospective clients will look for if they decide not to read your entire resume? Put those at the top of the first page. In my case, my specializations are listed in order of proficiency (I list the specialization I am best at and have the most experience in first, and so on), as I do mostly technical translation and what matters most to my clients is how versed I am in a certain field. They are looking for expertise and so that is what I put forward.

Some people mention their studies early on, some mention them at the very end and there are even people who don't bother mentioning their studies at all - there are markets and situations where clients couldn't care less about what or if you have studied. It's a matter of knowing what your client is looking for.

Make sure your resume is as complete as possible - in some cases, mentioning your payment terms is a good idea, as well as giving some information on your computer and your software licenses. When your resume is very explicit, people have a more precise idea of what you can do for them and how good you are at it, and they can even get an idea of what your terms of business are. They know what to expect - they will know you are the right person, and if you aren't, they will not bother you whereas they would have otherwise which would have been a waste of time for both of you.

Also, a translator resume is different from a regular resume in that nobody in this business is interested to know what you did for a living in college or that you are a volunteer Big Sister. Only use information that is relevant. Of course, if you have taught sewing as a volunteer, that is more than relevant to your specialization, so make sure you use that.

As for translation or even freelance translation experience, you should only name the clients you have worked with, and their clients in the case of an agency, if they authorized you to name them. As you get more experience, you will find that there is no way you can list every single project you have worked on unless you want your prospect to carry your resume in a binder. That is why it is better to give only summary information. I group my projects by specialization, and then by document type (website, manual, press release, etc.). Next to each item in the list, I give an approximate wordcount so they have a clear idea of how much experience I have within a certain specialization, and with a certain document type.

Finally, it doesn't really matter if you've only translated 25,000 words so far - you can compensate for lack of translation experience by mentioning everything else that is relevant to your freelance translator career. Many outsourcers prefer someone who speaks the target language perfectly and is well versed in the subject matter to a translator who has a masters in translation and 25 years experience but not much subject matter knowlegde.

Hope this helps. All the best!


Stanislaw Czech, MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:35
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
Have a look here: May 8, 2008 and at another 2 articles written by Michael. There is also an interesting article written by Natalya -

Good luck


Nadejda Vega Cespedes  Identity Verified

Local time: 19:35
Spanish to Russian
+ ...
Apparently different approaches work May 9, 2008

Looks like Viktoria and I have had diametrically opposite experiences optimizing our respective CVs. The "top of the first page" passage initially got me so puzzled that I thought I had misread thaticon_smile.gif. For the record, I don't have the slightest doubt that Viktoria knows what she is talking about. That said, effective approaches now seem to vary. My advice is keep your CV short (in other words, the first page should also be the last) and include a link to detailed information available elsewhere. If you'd rather not publish your info openly on the web, prepare a separate file and tell your clients that additional details are available upon request. Whichever publicity level you opt for, be sure to have a brief version of your CV at hand because things tend to be urgent in this industry these days, and when your recipient needs to make a fast decision, a pile of ten-page-long résumés is the last thing they want.


Anna Sylvia Villegas Carvallo
Local time: 12:35
English to Spanish
One more... May 9, 2008

Just write your story: smoothly, elegant, short and getting to the point. No more than one page. It will surprise you.

That's it.


Niraja Nanjundan  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:05
German to English
The advice is good, but do your own thing May 9, 2008

The others have given you some very good advice, which you could follow as a basic guideline, but I think each one of us has our own individual experiences and aspirations and a CV should also reflect these. For example, I am an Indian translator working in a European language pair, and it's very important for me to show where I got my knowledge of German and English from and the fact that I spent many years in Europe. I therefore put my educational qualifications first on my CV.

You may also have to adapt your CV according to the specific requirements of clients. I therefore don't think it's a good idea to upload a CV onto your profile or personal website, as you may have to make some changes, depending on the client and area of specialisation.

Listing published translations is quite important, but then again, may not be necessary for some clients. You may like to keep a list of published translations in a separate file and just attach this for clients that require it.


Karen Stokes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:35
Member (2003)
French to English
Tailor and target May 9, 2008

There's lots of good advice here, but I'd emphasise:

- the need to tailor your CV to the job/client you're targeting. You might try writing a "master" CV that you can then edit as appropriate for different areas of specialisation and clients (agencies, direct clients, whether they're based in your source or target language country, etc.) The Europass CV (see might make a useful starting point, as it helps you focus on the skills you've acquired and how you could apply them in other areas.

- making sure the person you're sending it to is actually likely to want it (if you're canvassing for new business rather than responding to a specific job ad, say) - I get many unsolicited CVs sent to me despite the fact that I don't indicate anywhere that I'm an outsourcer, and I'm afraid they just don't get read.

Best of luck!



Stephanie Sirot  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:35
English to French
+ ...
Just give relevant information May 11, 2008

Agencies usually want to know: your native language, your language pairs, fields of translation, diploma, memberships, experience as a Translator, computer equipment and softwares you have.

Sometimes they will also want to know and ask for your rates and how many words you can translate per day.

A potential customer will also want to know the same thing...more or less. You will probably have to target a bit more for a direct customer, i.e. showing you are the right person for this job.

So just give relevant info and forget everything that is not. Go "straight to the point" and keep it simple.



carly  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:35
Italian to English
+ ...
thanks everyone... May 15, 2008

...for all the good advice. I checked with a few of the agencies I regularly work for about mentioning some important clients /jobs in my CV and they've given me the go-ahead. I also found one of my translations on the internet. Things are looking up...

All that's left to do now is sit down and type it out.

Thanks again


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