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What am I doing wrong ?
Thread poster: frederique sannier-lowry

frederique sannier-lowry  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:42
English to French
Nov 17, 2008

Sorry if this sounds like a rant but I'm having a bad hair day and I'm getting slightly worried.
Since mid September now I've sent dozens of resumes, answering kudos, quoting for numerous jobs (making sure they were within my abilities), getting lots of information from forum posts, even did a pro bono translation and generally worked at making myself visible and all I've had is one test (that came out positive, that's the cheerful bit!). In 2 months, nothing else. I spend a lot of time on Proz but not only. I know my pair is rather crowded, I can only translate from one language, my specialties are not the most sought after and maybe my cv needs polishing. But still ... Was I a bit presumptuous in thinking I could achieve a lot more in 2 months?
I got my first assignments years back almost without wanting it - I was not really in the business at that time. But now that I want to be a freelancer full time, nobody wants to give me a job!
Rant over
Just want to know of similar experience.
Fred


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 20:42
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Relax and give it time Nov 17, 2008

When I started fishing for assignments about eight years ago, things were enormously slow the first year. I was, of course, rather preoccupied with a full-time consulting job, but I think I might have landed two assignments in the first 5 or 6 months, then a small trickle after that, followed by a proper flood that hasn't stopped.

Your mileage will differ, of course, given the fact that you have a different language pair, other working fields, etc. Maybe you should take this time to prepare the "infrastructure" of your business; make sure you have a good system in place for organizing, invoicing and archiving projects, read a few good books on getting started (the ones from Alex Eames, Oleg Rudavin or Corinne McKay are good places to begin). Read the forums & articles on ProZ & elsewhere. Enjoy the quiet while you can. If you get your act together, you may soon look back wistfully on those free afternoons past


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:42
English to German
+ ...
Self-confidence Nov 17, 2008

Might be the keyword here.

Your resume sounds like you are looking for a full time position.

You are answering KudoZ-questions with questions.

I am certain that you are one fine translator - right now you are a product that comes in the wrong packaging. You need to build up trust and confidence - the confidence that outsourcers need to have before they entrust you with a project.

Drop stupid lines such as
"- Ability to learn new skills quickly and to adapt to different working environments.
- Ability to work well in a team and also act on own initiative when required."

You are a freelancer, right? You are a business. Act like one.



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frederique sannier-lowry  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:42
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Kevin Nov 17, 2008

You've cheered me up a bit
I've done the admin bit, PO, invoices and all that. Revised my Wordfast and Trados, booked myself for the next SFT training session on how to get started and find customers. I guess I could do with a bit more patience now.
Thanks for the book references, I'll look into that.
Fred


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:42
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Your English is really good Nov 17, 2008

Hi Fred,
You might want to consider adding French>English to your pair. Your English is much better than some people who post here and are already working in both pairs.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:42
English to German
+ ...
One more thing Nov 17, 2008

Kevin's suggestions are excellent, as usual.

Wordfast, Trados and consorts don't make a translator. I don't even have and need any of those things, BTW. (!)

Learn to think the way your outsourcers may think.

Example:

Will they have you translate a thundering motivational speech by a CEO to a global enterprise when your resume sounds like an application for an internship? It think not.

You MUST prove your writing skills, your personality and your quality in your resume.

A concoction of copied and mediocre standard phrases as a resume won't do.


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Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
I can relate Nov 17, 2008

First, welcome to the translation business!

I can relate. Both of us work in high-demand language pairs. That does mean a large need but it also means a lot of competition. I'm also rather new.

Have you tried looking for direct clients? How about focusing your search for work?

Keep on doing what you are doing. You will gradually get more work.

frederique sannier-lowry wrote:

Sorry if this sounds like a rant but I'm having a bad hair day and I'm getting slightly worried.
Since mid September now I've sent dozens of resumes, answering kudos, quoting for numerous jobs (making sure they were within my abilities), getting lots of information from forum posts, even did a pro bono translation and generally worked at making myself visible and all I've had is one test (that came out positive, that's the cheerful bit!). In 2 months, nothing else. I spend a lot of time on Proz but not only. I know my pair is rather crowded, I can only translate from one language, my specialties are not the most sought after and maybe my cv needs polishing. But still ... Was I a bit presumptuous in thinking I could achieve a lot more in 2 months?
I got my first assignments years back almost without wanting it - I was not really in the business at that time. But now that I want to be a freelancer full time, nobody wants to give me a job!
Rant over
Just want to know of similar experience.
Fred


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Multitran
Argentina
Local time: 16:42
English to Spanish
+ ...
Contact agencies directly Nov 17, 2008

If I were you I would offer my services by contacting agencies and sending my Cv, but a
dozen agencies is not enough, there are many more and you can finally find one that
needs you.

It is also sensible not to put all your eggs in one basket, see to different other ways.

Good luck.


Liliana


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Basil Ballhatchet  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:42
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Networking/use of past contacts Nov 17, 2008

I think you have already made one step in the right direction by taking a translation test and receiving a positive response.

I think the key issue to be proactive. Have you told your friends, contacts you meet? Have you got a business card? Have you worked out your areas of specialisation?

Have you worked full time prior to your move into freelance translation?

Most of the translators I know start by working with the company where they used to work, as they have built up a good rapport and there is no gatekeeper that you have to bypass.

Or they secure the initial contacts through friends/etc/or both.

Have you thought about the EU/ Have you any contacts there?

Do you have other skills that you can leverage?

As well as translating, I write articles. Could you offer your services to French magazines which target an English-language audience?

Above all, think outside the box. Work won't come to you.

I have never obtained work through proz, but have not really tried to. I don't like bidding wars, where inevitably someone will undersell you!

If you do want to work through proz to build up experience, however, then submit a ridiculously low bid, just to gain that experience. Once you have the first few engagements under your belt, you will feel much better!

KBest regards,

Basil


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:42
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Don't give up Nov 17, 2008

Sorry if this sounds like a rant


join the crowd!

I've sent dozens of resumes, answering kudos, quoting for numerous jobs (making sure they were within my abilities), getting lots of information from forum posts, even did a pro bono translation and generally worked at making myself visible


Good. That's exactly what you should be doing. Keep at it! These quiet periods are for polishing your presentation.

I've had is one test (that came out positive, that's the cheerful bit!). In 2 months, nothing else


things can be very slow sometimes. I go through periods of real anguish.

I can only translate from one language


Like all serious and honest translators, you don't claim fluency in any language other than your one mother tongue. I wish everyone was as honest and professional as you are. When I see people who claim to able to translate to/from a language, claiming equal fluency in both directions, I simply don't believe it. At this point I shall avoid going off on a rant of my own

my specialties are not the most sought after


That gives you a big advantage, over time. Your specialities are what will bring you your work, establish you as an authority in your field, make the work interesting and enjoyable for you, and get you known as "the first person to approach" when the subject falls within your specialised field. But it takes time.

Was I a bit presumptuous in thinking I could achieve a lot more in 2 months?


well, you're learning to be patient

now that I want to be a freelancer full time, nobody wants to give me a job!


Work on your Proz profile, especially your CV and examples of your previous work. Above all resist any temptation to lower your rates.


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frederique sannier-lowry  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:42
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
All really useful comments Nov 17, 2008

posted here, thank you all.

Amy: although I appreciate the compliment, I wouldn't take the risk, I agree with Tom on that matter. One can only translate perfectly in one's own language.

Nicole: you're probably right about my lack of self confidence. But there's a fine line between selling a genuine expertise and advertising skills you don't have and sounding cocky. I see your point though, I have to pay more attention to presentation, not my strong point I'm afraid. I promise to work on my resume a bit more

Srta: I've contacted direct clients too, although not as many as I'd like.

Liliana: Ive been contacting many agencies, in fact the vast majority of my applications have been to agencies. Found on the web, the yellow pages or the Blue Board.

Basil : I worked in the speech industry before that and I try to use it as much as possible. But that buseiness field is rather small.

I absolutely refuse to lower my rates. Being able to translate takes much more than being able to speak the language and the majority of people don't appreciate this. It takes a strong educational background and more often than not some external experience. All that needs to be valued. I don't mind doing the odd pro bono translation, quite the opposite, but I don't want to be exploited thank you very much.

Tom: I'll read your post at the beginning of each working day from now on

Fred


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mariana24  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 16:42
Spanish
+ ...
Been there... Nov 17, 2008

Hi Frederique,

I think Tom and Kevin have said everything I could say, but anyhow...probably it helps you to know that even more of us have been -and sometimes are- there.

It is not easy and it does take time. The feeling may be just as Tom says, of anguish, after what we consider a long period of inactivity (which is also not true, because you've been very active, only that not producing money). And when I've felt like that I also appreciated others telling me I was not subnormal, or anything of that kind. Quite the opposite, rather. So, yes, keep at it. You sound quite determined about what you want, so stick to it. There is always room for improvement, but it also comes with time and experience, I think what you are doing is exactly the way to go. And being honest saying that you are finding it difficult, to me at least, is only a plus: you are not ashamed of saying you are not being that "successful" at the moment, and that is not very common in any area of activity. Bear that in mind: all of us, sooner or later, to a greater or lesser extent, know how you feel because we have gone through similar things, whether we admit it or not (because, yes, it is painful). As Tom said, join the crowd...and keep it up.


All the best,


Mariana


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:42
Portuguese to English
+ ...
I usually feel that way, too... Nov 17, 2008

frederique sannier-lowry wrote:


Amy: although I appreciate the compliment, I wouldn't take the risk, I agree with Tom on that matter. One can only translate perfectly in one's own language.



And almost always agree with Tom, but I found your English to be so good that I thought I'd mention it. But of course only you know the best thing to do....I also never translate from English to Portuguese, even though I am fluent in Portuguese.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 20:42
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Good advice all around Nov 17, 2008

Tom in London wrote:
Work on your Proz profile, especially your CV and examples of your previous work. Above all resist any temptation to lower your rates.


Well, that's a good summary of the essentials at this point. Your rates are rock bottom, so don't even dream of lowering them. Instead, you might even think of upping them a bit. Also, put in an hourly rate (nothing ridiculous - try using your average hourly throughput times your word rate as a guideline for an hourly rate for translation, proofreading and other tasks). Look at lots of profiles and get ideas for how to upgrade yours. Add a nice picture of yourself - a personal touch certainly couldn't hurt if a potential client views your profile.

Your CV in English is better than a lot of the documents I've seen from non-natives, but it is still worth polishing. There are numerous minor errors of capitalization and punctuation that could bear cleanup. You might also want to post it as a protected PDF rather than an MS Word file, maybe restructure it more like a profile and add a picture. (I haven't done so myself for lack of time - where I come from, pictures in a CV are the kiss of death for a job application, but a translator's CV is something quite different, and after long consideration and some rather nice examples I saw at a seminar some months ago, I've come to the conclusion that a brochure/profile format would be more effective.)

Listen to Nicole. She sounds as cranky as I feel today, but she's right. A bit of chutzpah goes a long way in this business if you have the skills to back it up, so sell your services with confidence and avoid any statements that have a servile or tentative tone.

Once again... just relax and give yourself time. A lucky few might be up and loaded with projects full time and others (probably the majority) will take a year or two or three to find the right groove. Don't get desperate and start dropping rates that are already too low. There really is no bottom to that pit, and better-paying clients are much more appreciative on the whole.


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frederique sannier-lowry  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:42
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
How was life before Proz? Nov 17, 2008

Mariana: what a kind message. It's true that there's a looming feeling of guilt, working all day and achieving next to nothing. But tomorrow's a new day, I'll take onboard all the advice I got here, make changes to the way I present myself and ask hubby to take a nice picture of myself

Thank you all again for your input.

Fred


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