How to start
Thread poster: martaat

English to Catalan
+ ...
Dec 13, 2008

I am a student in Barcelona, Spain, and I would like to start on this bussiness, but I have to admit that I am a bit lost, and I don't know how to get started.
I found this website and I've been trying to find some job offers to translate documents from home, but I sincerely don't know how to get in contact with the companies.
Is there something I should do? Does anyone have any advice for me?
I would be really grateful to hear any kind of reccomendation from you!
The languages which I can speak and write are spanish, catalan and english, and I don't actually know about the prices I should set up. Any comments on that?
Thank you very much, best regards,


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:13
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Advice Dec 13, 2008


My first three pieces of advice would be:

1. Do not offer your services as a translator into languages of which you do not have complete command or which you do not use on a daily basis; in that regard, I notice that there are errors in your use of English. When agencies see these, this will have a negative effect on your professional profile. In principle, you should only translate into your own mother tongue.

2. Specialise ! Rather than claiming that you are able to translate every type of document, offer your services in a limited range of specialised fields. Over time, this will help you to build a clientèle who know that these are your specialisms.

3. Learn how to use some software tools that other people may not be able to use fluently, such as website editing software, with which you can translate websites. There is a big demand for that type of work.

Good luck!


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Susan Welsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:13
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
How to start Dec 13, 2008

martaat wrote:

I am a student in Barcelona, Spain, and I would like to start on this bussiness, but I have to admit that I am a bit lost, and I don't know how to get started.

There is a ton of information already on this site, but it's not easy to orient yourself. Someone asks the same question that you do every week in the Forums. Learn now to do a Forum search. If you watch the Forums for a week or so for topics that interest you, many of your questions will discussed.

There is a user's guide to the site at:

Read the Frequently Asked Questions at:

Most of this is stuff you probably don't want to know right now, but take a look anyway.

One thing you will learn from the FAQ is that rate information for different language pairs is only available to paying members of the site.

Good luck,

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Mohamed Mehenoun  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:13
Member (2008)
English to French
+ ...
Tips Dec 14, 2008


There is no secret to it, as a starter you'll need a lot of patience and perseverance. However, here are some tips to start your business:

1/ Only translate to your native(s) language(s) ...

2/ Get yourself a proz membership, believe me you'll get back your investment in less than three months...At least I did !

3/ Update your profile to the best with all the details.

4/ Be proactive, once you get your membership and even if you don't, browse the agencies directory (or the INTERNET) and contact as many as you can with a detailed CV + rates. Create a profile on for example and join the translation groups there (there is a proz group too). You'll always need to prospect for potential clients at the start.

5/Bid on as many jobs as you can and eventually you'll find a client.

6/ Specialize yourself (it helps to translate in something you know or like).

I'd also advise you to join a team, and try to get yourself a mentor.

I hope it helps you out, perseverance is the keyword anyway. The prices are up to you, but you should apply something reasonable as the main point for you at this stage is to get experience and feedback on your profile.

Good luck !

[Edited at 2008-12-14 00:57 GMT]

[Edited at 2008-12-14 00:59 GMT]

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Siegfried Armbruster  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:13
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
Why? Dec 14, 2008

"I am a student in Barcelona, Spain, and I would like to start on this bussiness..."

Why do you want to work as a translator? What are you studying?

Everybody seems to welcome you here on this side.

As long as I don't know the answer to my first question, I do not belong to this group. If you are looking for a job to earn some money next to your studies, go and get a job flipping some burgers. This will give you some money and it will give us one competitor less who is only spoiling the rates and produces bad translations.

Do I sound harsh and unfair, - sorry. But translating is a business, I'm not yet convinced that you will have a real chance to earn any money.

If you need money, look somewhere else for a job.

If you want to become a translator, you have to invest, - first of all - a lot of time to read the information available on this site. Be prepared that it takes several months before you will get your first - bad paid - job. And It will take 30-90 days to get your money afterwards.

That what you want? Fine in this case read, read, read...

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irina savescu  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:13
English to Romanian
Algo para empezar Dec 14, 2008

Your profile on proz is almost empty but your blog was a nice Sunday morning read.
What I got from it: you've spent 3 years studying English, love to read and study Biology.
That's a pretty good place to start but will not be sufficient for translation.

First of all you need to know the language you are translating into extremely well.
That's why people almost always prefer native speakers. But just being native will not do it. You need to invest a bit of time in studying the way your language works, buy a good Spanish grammar book and make bookmarks of useful resources available on the web (you could start with this one

I second Tom in London that you should not go into translating from Spanish into English. At least in the beginning just try using either Spanish or Catalan as your target language (I could not tell which one is your native language).

Here's a book a bought when I was in Spain (many years ago):
Manual de traduccion ingles - castellano
it's full of useful tips a beginner could use and it will help you understand common pitfalls when translating from English to your own language.

And should you decide to specialise in technical translation (going for a major in biology is definitely a plus in that case) you could go through
A Coursebook on technical texts: contrastive activities in English-Spanish
this one contains a lot of practice material divided between different fields
(IT, Medicine, Biology etc).

These books are from the time I was only considering translation as a career so there might be better ones on the Spanish market right now. Perhaps someone from Spain could advise you better.

You could also try this site:
just click on Cursos and start reading. This link came up at least three times in the forums the reason being that although it's a free resource but it's pretty thorough.

You should also go through the Spanish section of the forum. The were many threads there discussing the specifics of working as a freelancer in Spain and in the EU.

I apologise for this long message but I hope this helped you a little bit.

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