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Fantastic aptitude...no certification, little official experience
Thread poster: Julia Ryder

Julia Ryder
United States
Local time: 20:14
French to English
+ ...
Apr 21, 2009

Greetings all,

I would appreciate advice for someone in my situation (see title) to get established as a translator. I know that clients would be thrilled with my work if they were to engage me... but getting them interested in doing so is another story. It's that usual catch-22 I suppose...I am so discouraged and frustrated!

I have read previous threads here, but if anyone has time to comment on my particular case, I would be much obliged.

Thank you,
Julia


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liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:14
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
Quote for any job that comes along Apr 21, 2009

Hello

I see you are a new member:-)

Although we are doing the same languages and you may be competing for work I quote for (!!) I would recommend you quote for any jobs that come along via ProZ....now you are a member you are eligible to do so.

The only way sometimes is to get a foot in the door and you could maybe do this by quoting for jobs, hopefully getting one and proving yourself to the client, who hopefully will earmark you for future work. Who knows? Though it seems to be down to supply and demand most of the time:-)

You will need to provide a convincing CV stating your qualifications and experience in translation, and perhaps even posting examples of your work on your own Proz site..

These are tough times to start out as a translator but I wish you all the best.

[I have just read your details and note that we won't be competing for jobs...phew!]

I forgot to say, it would be a good idea for you to actively participate on ProZ by helping other colleagues; you will learn a huge amount this way and will learn important terminology in your field of work....this is what I did, and by golly I have a huge list of medical terms now!
Liz Askew

[Edited at 2009-04-21 16:48 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-04-21 16:50 GMT]


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Richardson Lisa  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:14
Member (2009)
French to English
Me too!! Apr 21, 2009

Hi Julia

I'm also trying to launch myself as a freelance translator, but as Liz points out these are difficult times so I think we must try not to get discouraged if the work isn't flooding in!

The hardest part is clearly to gain experience. I would really like to specialise in the Arts as I've recently completed a Masters in Art History and therefore feel competent and confident of my capacities in this field. I've been living in France now since 1995, have excellent writing skills and cultural awareness of both Sl and TL, and am now preparing to sit the IOl exam(next Jan) in order to put an official seal on qualities I believe I already have. As you say it is very frustrating.

The little experience I have so far has come from some small jobs on proz.com(in the arts) so I'm convinced it pays to join. However, I am only quoting for jobs in my field which tend to be few and far between. I've also sent out to lots of agencies, but with no luck so far. I am now in the process of contacting institutions such as museums, galleries etc that might have need of my services and I hope that this will work.

Hopefully , if I'm successful with the exam i'll be able to expand into other fields, I've chosen business and social science as specialities.

Well, it's good to know that Im not alone - sorry I can't offer more help, only some moral support.

Do let us know how you get on

best wishes

Lisa


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:14
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Join a professional association Apr 21, 2009

MsRyder1991 wrote:
I would appreciate advice for someone in my situation (see title) to get established as a translator. I know that clients would be thrilled with my work if they were to engage me... but getting them interested in doing so is another story.


My advice is that you join the American Translators Association (www.atanet.org) and take part in their conferences, seminars, etc. You might well meet potential customers that way.


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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 04:14
Italian to English
It's not a question... Apr 21, 2009

... of what translation can do for you.

The point is what can you bring to translation?

If you look at Liz's profile, it's clear that she has some very useful medicine-related experience that will enable her to produce medical translations with an authentic ring that you or I could never match.

Lisa's arts background will no doubt help her to gain a foothold in the market, and she seems to be approaching the problem very logically, particularly as she is preparing her examination in business, an area with plenty of potential.

You have good training in linguistics but outside academe, no one is really interested in that. Not to worry, though, because your languages are an important part of your capital as a translator and you must have other areas of expertise or interest that could broaden your market appeal. Hone them. Improve them. Get some serious mileage out of them

Tomás is also right to suggest you should attend translation conventions but you probably won't get much work through them directly. Decide on the sectors you want to specialise in and consider attending appropriate trade fairs. Again, you won't get much work directly but people will remember your face when they need a translation.

Finally, take agency work to begin with but aim for direct clients in the long term. They tend to pay better and if they like your work, they are very loyal.

Best,

Giles


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:14
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Do an official certification Apr 21, 2009

Like IOL's (http://www.iol.org.uk/) DipTrans. It can be a good proof of your capabilities, both to yourself and to customers. Diptrans is well known in the translation industry world-wide.

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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:14
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
A few tips for your profile Apr 22, 2009

In addition to the good advice others already gave you, I would suggest two things related to your profile.
One is about your user name.
I have no idea what the 1991 represents there, my first guess was your year of birth (as I have seen many people use numbers in their nicks that way). A quick calculation gave me an age of 18 years, which would imply very little experience, and not even a college degree. Of course, it is only an assumption, but it is the first one that comes to mind, and it would place you at an immediate disadvantage when clients look for experience.
Now, after reading the description on your profile, it is clear that you do have advanced degrees, so I am pretty sure the 1991 is not your year of birth.
Either way, I would suggest changing your user name to something that does not contain a number that looks like a year, as it would give a false impression.
Unless you have a compelling reason not to do so, I think it is better to use your real name, in my experience clients prefer that. But there are others saying otherwise, and I do respect their opinion.
It is your choice, but I would definitely do away with the 1991.

The second suggestion is to clean up the credentials section in your profile.
I understand from the title of the thread that you have no certification, and that can be frustrating for the time being, as it is hard to stand out in language pairs with plenty of translators available. But that does not justify to fill the "Credentials" section with whatever you can think of. For example, being a "former longtime resident of France" is not a credential in French to English translation. If you have stuff like that listed there, people may not take you seriously, including all the otherwise impressive things you may have in your profile.

You may want to read through the Credentials section in the FAQ:
http://www.proz.com/faq/695#695

I hope I was not too harsh, I was just trying to point out things that you can easily improve, right away.

In addition to all this, you can always look around and see how others present themselves, see what makes people stand out. Imagine you are looking for someone to do a job for you, and search the directory with that in mind - see who comes up, study their profiles, what would convince you to hire one of them but not the other? Make sure you price your services right - this is a whole other topic and you can find plenty of past forum discussions about it.

Good luck
Katalin

[Edited at 2009-04-22 00:10 GMT]


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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 21:14
Spanish to English
Specialization Apr 22, 2009

As you do not have any translation experience, customers will be looking for other skills.

It is not enough to write beautifully or to know foreign languages. I think if you want to just exploit your beautiful writing skills, you should look to your native language skills and study English Literature, for example, so that you have the skills to render the subtleties of a novel or poem into your own language.

If that does not interest you, then look to law, business or technical knowledge. At the moment your language knowledge is very general, but these areas do not require beautiful prose as much as an understanding of the subject and vocabulary.

Good luck


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Julia Ryder
United States
Local time: 20:14
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
forming specializations Apr 22, 2009

I appreciate the valuable feedback in each response and will make adjustments accordingly.

ATA membership is forthcoming; I am in the process of obtaining paperwork that proves I am studying translation part-time, so I may have student membership.

On the subject of specializations -- I don't have the funds or time to go get an MBA, or a degree in IT or engineering. Does this mean there is no hope for specialization? How much does one's undergrad work factor into the equation? Mine was international relations -- which basically means world politics and NGO-speak.

I expect to earn a master's in teaching ESL within the next 2-3years, which is part linguistics, part education. Does this not constitute a "specialization"?

I also expect to earn a translation certificate along with the master's.

I'm sure you understand, though, that I need to lay the groundwork for my translation activity now, not wait until certain pieces of paper are in my hand.

I have no shortage of personal interests and pursuits -- buy how does one go about converting personal interests and pursuits into an actual "specialization" with sufficient credibility, if no degree is attached to it?

Here is the situation: I have extensive knowledge of French. I "get" translation; I have had training in it, and performed very well within that context. I think it would be an enormous waste of my language experience and ability to abandon translation as a career option. So I need to work with what I've got, and find out how to make something valuable out of it. I have a hard time believing that every quality translator out there has multiple post-graduate degrees. But if this is the case, I suppose I should pull out of the running now. I know no one means to be harsh, but I have the strong impression from this thread that I shouldn't bother with translation -- I fall far shorter than I thought.

As far as looking at others' profiles as examples, I think this is as much a trap as it is a help...the idea of putting my residence in the credentials section came from seeing a few others doing that, and thinking it is good practice.

Many thanks for your useful responses.


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chica nueva
Local time: 16:14
Chinese to English
Language Proficiency tests Apr 22, 2009

Hello Julia

How about taking proficiency tests in your languages. Though I don't know whether it really counts or not. What do the peers think?

Lesley


[Edited at 2009-04-22 02:49 GMT]


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:14
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
You have many options - no need to give up prematurely Apr 22, 2009

Julia - thanks for changing the nick
Do not get pessimistic, your enthusiasm is a great value.
I think you need to decide, whether translation is what you really want to do as your full time job, or teaching (you seem to be very enthusiastic about teaching, and that's what your expected degree is), or do you want to do both?
Do you imagine yourself working as a freelancer, or as an employee?
Most people here on ProZ are freelancers, so our experiences and advices mainly relate to being a freelancer. But you could just as well become an in-house translator, either at a translation agency, or at a non-translation business, or and NGO, with a regular salary and a regular work schedule.
Being a freelancer requires you to run a business, that means you not only translate, but also do all the marketing, accounting, financial planning, etc. You have to be able to manage your time, your money and all the risks that come with being on your own, and you will have to provide your own benefits (health insurance, social security, retirement funds).
When you work in a "popular" language pair, it may be increasingly difficult to get your feet in the door, let alone, to get ahead of the race, to stand out. Not many people are able to "break into" the market quickly. It usually takes months, sometimes years of hard work to establish yourself. This is not easy, and it is frustrating sometimes. But I think you are doing the right thing trying to figure it out now.

You asked about how to bring personal interests into the picture. I don't know what specific interest you have, but I know several people who became specialized translators precisely due to their interest in something specific (such as music, photography or computer games). I assume if you have a special interest or hobby, you can find literature about it in your languages, and train yourself in the specific vocabulary of that field. Try translating some texts, have your translations reviewed and evaluated by someone you trust (your professors may help). You can slowly build up your specialization - start little, take baby steps.

Good luck
Katalin


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:14
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
A vicious circle Apr 22, 2009

Julia Boukara wrote:

On the subject of specializations -- I don't have the funds or time to go get an MBA, or a degree in IT or engineering. Does this mean there is no hope for specialization? How much does one's undergrad work factor into the equation? Mine was international relations -- which basically means world politics and NGO-speak.


When you finally have the funds, time is on short supply. So do it now, and not just based on market projection -- a specialization means you'll be living with it, like a life partner. Make sure it's something you enjoy.

Some things factor a lot, whether undergrad, masters or work experience. Many of our younger colleagues have earned some points doing volunteer work for NGOs. Hour credits spent in UNHCR refugee camps count for something, for example.

By the way, what does the Arizona public library system say about it? The public library systems in some US States (NY is a model) are spearheading community programs on cultural intermediation. The premise is, that people who love to read are in more of a position to serve as community interpreters/translators, particularly amongst bilingual population groups.

I expect to earn a master's in teaching ESL within the next 2-3years, which is part linguistics, part education. Does this not constitute a "specialization"?

I also expect to earn a translation certificate along with the master's.


Any chance of getting practicum built into that training? I found the process enriching, not just for what you learn from it -- it also provides you with contacts.

I have no shortage of personal interests and pursuits -- buy how does one go about converting personal interests and pursuits into an actual "specialization" with sufficient credibility, if no degree is attached to it?


Love. Not as trite as it sounds, but a certain authority on a breed of dogs and all the terminology related to them got there thanks to his pet. Just by way of example.

Here is the situation: I have extensive knowledge of French. I "get" translation; I have had training in it, and performed very well within that context. I think it would be an enormous waste of my language experience and ability to abandon translation as a career option. So I need to work with what I've got, and find out how to make something valuable out of it. I have a hard time believing that every quality translator out there has multiple post-graduate degrees. But if this is the case, I suppose I should pull out of the running now. I know no one means to be harsh, but I have the strong impression from this thread that I shouldn't bother with translation -- I fall far shorter than I thought.


If people around here do have multiple post-graduate degrees, don't think all that came before the first job. Some areas might just have been interesting enough to merit more attention later on.

I tend to think most people (in an older generation, anyway) just came to the field with one or two background areas, some of which were almost totally unrelated, and just fitted them in. Nowadays, there are more courses that specifically relate to languages and translation.

In a nutshell, we all started somewhere and can't have forgotten that so fast. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:14
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
From one art specialist to another Apr 22, 2009

phillisa wrote:

I would really like to specialise in the Arts as I've recently completed a Masters in Art History and therefore feel competent and confident of my capacities in this field. I've been living in France now since 1995, have excellent writing skills and cultural awareness of both Sl and TL, and am now preparing to sit the IOl exam(next Jan) in order to put an official seal on qualities I believe I already have. As you say it is very frustrating.

The little experience I have so far has come from some small jobs on proz.com(in the arts) so I'm convinced it pays to join. However, I am only quoting for jobs in my field which tend to be few and far between. I've also sent out to lots of agencies, but with no luck so far. I am now in the process of contacting institutions such as museums, galleries etc that might have need of my services and I hope that this will work.


Jockey and position yourself. Answer KudoZ questions on art. Expand into tourism (so many tourism guides and websites are art-dependent). Raise your visibility for the target institutions.

I can tell you at the outset that museums working directly with translators tend to look for art history credentials (not so much the agencies). But one way of getting there is through municipal websites giving less exhaustive information.

Galleries tend to depend on agencies, but direct marketing may work in your favour. And DO conduct a study on the (often unsuspected) potential clients who may need your services. (I.e., who owns/runs a certain museum? What agency is reponsible for a certain cultural event? Etc.) And plant yourself squarely in their paths as a reliable reference person. (The job comes with a certain "consultant" profile).


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Richardson Lisa  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:14
Member (2009)
French to English
thanks for the advice Apr 22, 2009

Parrot wrote:

Jockey and position yourself. Answer KudoZ questions on art. Expand into tourism (so many tourism guides and websites are art-dependent). Raise your visibility for the target institutions.

I can tell you at the outset that museums working directly with translators tend to look for art history credentials (not so much the agencies). But one way of getting there is through municipal websites giving less exhaustive information.

Galleries tend to depend on agencies, but direct marketing may work in your favour. And DO conduct a study on the (often unsuspected) potential clients who may need your services. (I.e., who owns/runs a certain museum? What agency is reponsible for a certain cultural event? Etc.) And plant yourself squarely in their paths as a reliable reference person. (The job comes with a certain "consultant" profile).


Hi
Thanks so much for the advice. Yes, I'm working on a document to send out at the moment; A friend who's in marketing is helping me and as somebody said earlier you really need to make the client think that they need you in order to enhance/develop/ expand their public. I live in the south west of france not far from the coast and looking at the existing touristic/cultural material available in the tourist offices, and their websites there is definitely a need for good French to English translation. Some of them are well done but others would put off an English speaking clientele rather than attract one.

I'm trying to create a document to send out that is somewhere in between an advert and a letter of motivation. I'll let you know what response(if any) i get


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Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:14
German to English
+ ...
Suggestions Apr 22, 2009

Generally speaking, to be perceived as a professional worthy of business relations, you have to conduct yourself like one and actively project that image. (To paraphrase Giles: Why should I choose you? What do you have to offer?) A few concrete suggestions for you Julia:

- Upload a picture or logo. I will probably catch some flak for this, but I would invest in a professional portrait if not a "glamour" shot. Can't be more than $100 or so in the US I'm guessing?
- Get a CV or brochure uploaded ASAP.
- Sign up at XING, LinkedIn, etc. Not because I necessarily believe in them, but when outsourcers look for you online, these sites are all crosslinked, and it emphasizes your professionalism (like the plumber who has a website, AND takes out an ad in the yellow pages, AND supports the Kiwanis, etc.). Also good for Google rankings. Consider having your own website too.
- Publish your contact info on your proz.com profile, at any rate at least your telephone number. Make it easy for customers to reach you, especially the potentially less tech-savvy ones in art, politics, international relations, etc. I can't tell you how much work I get via telephone.
- I agree with previous posters, "former longtime resident of France" is not really effective as advertising.
- You are apparently starting grad school but I cannot for the life of me figure out what your undergrad degree is in. Don't you want to emphasize this, regardless of major? Your profile should scream this to the reader IMO.
- The mention of AP classes makes me think you are young (like 16?) and inexperienced; I would drop this and focus on your university honors program (if at all).


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