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How can I get enough jobs
Thread poster: Uli Eberhardt

Uli Eberhardt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:28
Member (2010)
English to German
+ ...
Jun 15, 2010

Hello fellow translators,

I have not posted anything here yet. The simple reason why I do it now is that I really would like to work in this industry, but it somehow doesn't work out yet.

I know, this subject is not new at all. I have already worked myself through many posts about it, as well as many well-written articles here and elsewhere about how to get established in the translation industry.

I started freelance translating in 2007. Sometimes I had a reasonable amount of work, sometimes nothing at all. In the end it's hardly ever really enough to live from it. But from reading articles etc. I get the impression that there are people who obviously live from this profession!

I know that I can work professionally, I can handle languages quite well, I can do research, I am friendly and reliable. Clients have given me good feedback. I'm not as expensive as I could be either. But I'm still not able to market my skills effectively enough to have enough work coming in. It's frustrating because I realised that even with a few hours of work every day - but consistently - I could live quite well.

I don't know how many applications I have already sent out - hundreds? Probably it's not enough to rely only on Proz and similar online platforms. I have contacted translation agencies independently from these, but once again, they replied to the effect of "we are happy to include you in our database" and that was it.

My cards are of course not ideal because my degree is not in translation, but I have no idea if it would really help. Other people have obviously managed really well without one. How??

The only things that I still know I should try are a) wear a proper shirt on my next profile photo and b) network with other translators. If these don't work either, I don't know what to do anymore.

I'm happy about any suggestions (including absolutely radical critique of my profile).
Uli Eberhardt


 

Paula Borges  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 00:28
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Hello Uli Jun 15, 2010

Hi, Uli. I do not know what you mean by "living quite well" with only working a few hours a day. I don't get the living quite well or the working only few hours a day, but I do enjoy my work.

I see you have a Master's Degree (very interesting!), you could certainly specialize in the areas that you've studied! Certificates of Proficiency in the languages you work with are also helpful, as well as some training as a translator.

But, above all, continue marketing yourself. Change your e-mails, focus on the areas you're good at and network. Patience pays off, most people give up after a while, but it's always slow in the beginning. If somebody had told me a couple of years ago that I'd have more work offered to me than I can possible handle, I wouldn't have believed them. You need to persist.

A lot of the agencies you haven't heard from will contact you at some point and if you manage to impress them, they'll come again.


 

Sandra Peters-Schöbel
Germany
Local time: 05:28
Member (2007)
English to German
+ ...
some remarks from my side Jun 15, 2010

Hi Uli,
just some short remarks from my side, as I am one of those always busy translating.

I am working as a fulltime freelancer since 2008, leaving volunteerily a well-paid job in the IT industry... but I really enjoy being independant.

How I startet? I started 1 year ealier with replying regularly on offers on proz.com and got my first jobs there. I worked 1 year in parellel and could then afford to give up my employment when I had enough regular clients.
BUT: at that time it was quite realistic to get a job via proz.com. I am not trying that any longer, as for any badly paid job offer you have hundreds of applications. How separating one's application from the others???
I am sometimes posting jobs myself here, but after the first 40 applications I give up answering them all... Mostly I am taking one of the first ones coming in..

It is like always: as soon as you have done a good job for an agency they will contact you with work directly next time, as nobody loves posting jobs and going through all those applications.

- So, how to help you: I did not care so much about your shirt on your photo, but you sometimes have kind of holiday photos or family photos here, that is an absolute NO GO for me; those translators are trying to present themselves as professional translators???
- BUT: what strikes me regarding your profile is the lack of CAT tools. Most clients require the use of a CAT tool and sufficient experience with Translation memories. I know, at the beginning bying Trados is a big expense, but start with
using Wordfast and Across, as those are available for free.Make youself familiar with those and state them clearly in your profile, as agencies will search for them.
This is much more important than degrees for them.

- Website: Well, I don't have a very good one myself, but what I learned from a professional that you should avoid presenting yourself as a solitary working person behind his/her
desk, but present yourself as a professional agency ("we", "our team")...
- be creative with your experience, as actuallly you don't have much to present there. "Pimp up" the existing information, be a bit creative. You are not handing out your
CV to en employer who is checking it carefully, but you are marketing yourself here!!
- and delete those entries like "basic language skills" as this is of no help for anybody. state the language pairs and services you are going to offer.

- Prices: when I am sometimes asking collegues for help they state prices which make me speechless. I mean, I would love to charge 0,10€ per source word to my agencies,
but honestly - this if far from realistic.
You can have regular and daily work if you prices are somehow realistic. A lot of agencies are "benefitting" from the economic crisis and trying to reduce the prices drastically,
though I am not always sure if their end customers do the same...
- I would love to have more end clients, as I could charge higher prices, but they are hard to find. So I am happy with my regular agencies sending me daily work; they have
their quality systems implemented so I have the second pair of eyes... and they are paying in time. That's all I am requiring...

- But I guess the second point you mentioned is important: networking with collegues is important. When I am searching for help I often don't have the time to
check all profiles on proz.com or post a job, so I am relying on the ones I have already worked with and to whom I can send a quick email.

Well, was I said, just some (unorganized) thoughts from my side. If you have questions/remarks, we could continue that...
Heads up!

Regards
Sandra


 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:28
German to English
+ ...
Networking + profile suggestions Jun 15, 2010

Yes, I agree that networking is important. Join the BDÜ, if you can, or another organization for translators. Attend their Stammtische and seminars. You never know when you might meet someone looking to outsource some work.

Are you focusing your marketing efforts on specific agencies that mesh with your language pair/direction and subject areas? For instance, I do German > English financial translation, so it would be useless for me to apply to a company that handles medical texts or that mainly works in Asian languages. A little research will save you and the agency some time, and if you wish to focus on a few specific subject areas, you should get better results applying to specialized agencies rather than the big, general players who handle every language and text type.

That brings me to the next question - what is your specialization? You list a pretty broad range of subjects, so it would be better if you narrowed that down. Your profile emphasizes academics so much that I would assume you want to specialize in translating academic papers and that sort of thing. Is that true?

Profile:

* A few words and phrases in your profile indicate lack of experience - remove them. You need to sound confident and skilled. I am thinking of these: "motivated" in your tag line (I hope you're motivated if you're freelancing!) and "I have learned about the importance of effectively getting a general idea of a text’s contents" (you better understand the text if you're a translator!)

* It's OK to move away from the strict German CV format in the global marketplace. As a matter of fact, it's a good thing. I have bullet-point lists on my profile, too, but I focused on the key points (what exactly I translate).

* Again, your profile very heavily emphasizes the academics you have done. I understand the temptation to do that with just a few years of experience, but emphasizing what you have translated over the past two years would be better. Even if you are focusing on academics, this section needs to be tightened up - Why write a paragraph about your English writing skills if you are translating EN>DE? Why talk about SP, IT & PT if those are not working languages for you? And, as I mentioned, the last paragraph simply outlines skills that must be a given for translators - nothing special there.

I hope I haven't been too harsh. I am sure that if your clients have been pleased with your work over the past couple of years, you have a foundation to start from. You just need to tweak your marketing and make sure you are clearly and concisely telling clients what you can do for them. Good luck!


 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:28
German to English
+ ...
Disagree on your view of pricing Jun 15, 2010

Sandra Peters-Schoebel wrote:


- Prices: when I am sometimes asking collegues for help they state prices which make me speechless. I mean, I would love to charge 0,10€ per source word to my agencies,
but honestly - this if far from realistic.


With experience and specialization, that's actually low, even in agency work. But getting to that point means getting training and tools & always staying on top of what is going on in the marketplace.

PS I agree about CAT tools. Subscribe to Jost Zetsche's newsletter on tools for translation, and you'll spend some money buying software, but save lots of time and make your work more efficient. Choose your tools carefully to fit the jobs you want to get and your working style.

[Edited at 2010-06-15 15:28 GMT]


 

Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:28
German to Spanish
+ ...
How can I get enough jobs Jun 15, 2010

Uli Eberhardt wrote:

Hello fellow translators,

I have not posted anything here yet. The simple reason why I do it now is that I really would like to work in this industry, but it somehow doesn't work out yet .../...


I agree to all what Sandra and Daina have already said to you. At this link you will find some tips I wrote some time ago on how to win tenders. And nor a little thing: May I ask how many hours a day you dedicate to marketing yourself or your services?

Looking at your site (I acknowledge, I haven't one already...), imho you have made some bulk errors:

a) Wich lead will search a site trough your name?

¿Nobody? Your friends, relatives and behalfs may be your customers too, but this is NOT what you are looking for. You are looking for new customers and more or better paid jobs. Think about the keywords a lead may search at Google. And put them into the url, into the title tags, and into the metadata. Do not abuse. Abuse is taken in account by the current search engine algorithms. Put your URL manually at the DMOZ directory.

b) Can your basic info be seen at glance in the first page of your site?
As human beings we are lazy. And nobody read more than it is necessary. Do not expect customers to search info behind second page. It will leave your site before...

c) Do not put exit or distracting links (references to interesting stuff for translators and so far) at your site. I have seen this error near in all the translator's sites I have visited. Y/our goal is that y/our customers stay at y/our site, not to help y/our concurrency...

d) Emphasize the benefits that your services can give to the client (business expansion in foreign countries, avoiding misinterpretations modes of employment, etc.) , rather than your skills. Customers consider them for granted.

In short, forget you're a service provider and put the customer's hat instead...
If yo are not able to do so (it is not easy at all), ask to a trusted client or a trusted friend (not a translator himself) for the strengths and weaknesses they see in behalf to you (marketing plan, site, social networks, etc.)

Good luck!

[Editado a las 2010-06-15 18:09 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:28
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
My 2 cents Jun 15, 2010

Hello Uli,

Others have already given a lot of advice so I'll restrict mine to a couple of specifics:

For more jobs on ProZ:
1. Be active on KudoZ. KudoZ points, along with your membership, will make you more visible to clients searching the directory. It's also very good experience, enlarges your vocabulary (particularly of specialist terms) and can give you a good feeling. It's also highly frustrating at times, but then nothing's perfect.icon_smile.gif
2. It might pay you to put religion and anthropology as your top specialisations (always assuming you want to translate such texts, of course). There are a lot of competent English-German business translators on ProZ.

You can play about with your profile and then see what effect it has on your visibility using "my directory ranking". Note that a lot of the best jobs are never posted on ProZ. Clients often prefer to contact a selected list of translators who they find in the directory.

More generally (but also very valid for ProZ jobs):
Have you considering translating from Italian to German? I see you've lived in Italy. If you offer this language pair to your clients (and maybe Spanish-German, too) you will be a larger fish in a smaller pond. Try searching on ProZ for a translator specialising in Italian to German religious translations and you'll see what I mean. If your profile and CV stressed this as your main specialisation, you would probably get the job. On the other hand, there may not be very much demand!icon_smile.gif

By the way, I agree with others that for a long-term, satisfying career you need to charge a decent rate. Only that way can you demand respect and have self-respect. Obviously, you have to be realistic but you don't have to work for peanuts - it would be better to work part-time as a translator and part-time in McDonalds.

Hope that helps. Good luck and don't give up yet!

Sheila


 

Uli Eberhardt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:28
Member (2010)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Jun 18, 2010

Hello Paula, Sandra, Daina, Pablo, Sheila,

First of all, thanks for the quick replies & all the constructive advice. It's good to know that there are others who know the situation and are happy to share their experience.

I have already changed a few things on my profile & website (which is completely stripped down until I have written some better texts). For example, I am offering Italian & Spanish again now - I had taken these from the list because I thought it's more professional to focus only on what you feel really confident with. However, I have translated not-too-simple texts from these languages in the past (not professionally) & it worked.

Regarding fields of expertise - I'd love to focus on texts from the fields of anthropology or other humanities, or music or other arts - because these are the subjects I come from and that I feel most competent with. But I never see jobs from these fields posted, and when I had the luck of being assigned a translation, it was always from different fields, that's the reason why I added business etc. on my profiles.

I was not aware enough that some outsourcers don't post jobs, but contact translators after looking through the directories. Maybe there's some hope here.

To answer the question how much time I dedicate to marketing myself, I haven't measured it, but I can say it is a regular activity. But there is a limit to one's energy, I just don't get the impression that it's of much use. I don't think I'm a person who gives up early in general.

About rates: so some people say it's better to have lower rates to make sure to have regular work. Others suggest that high rates make a better impression. € 0.10 - interesting. I usually charge $0.08 or €0.06 (/source word) - according to Translatorscafe this is low average. Personally I don't like the idea of pressing prices down, I would like to communicate that my work is worth something. But if noone is interested in that - ??

Concerning CAT Tools, I don't exactly understand the things people wrote. I had actually listed Open Language Tools & Transit on my profile. I also don't know if a program like Trados would be of any use if I had the luck of actually working in my fields of expertise (I've only used related programs for texts with lots of repetitions)? And some research showed that Wordfast and Across are not free (the demos might), but cost 330 and 980 Euros respectively.

I know I sound all negative, I have not always been like this, but I got the point where I think I might just give this translation thing up, although I'm aware that languages are among my strong points. Oh, I forgot to mention that right now I'm actually part of a large translation project (computer game), but the whole thing is organized in a more than chaotic way, my first (big) payment came very late, so in the end this helps making me wonder why I cannot "attract" projects & people that have clarity & professionality as a focus (there have been periods where I actually thought I had reached that point, and people appreciated my work)... It must be me. If I knew how to change it, I would do it immediately.

Best,
Uli


 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:28
German to English
+ ...
More market research? Jun 19, 2010

Two more comments, Uli.

Can you pinpoint why your satisfied customers don't seem to be coming back to you? Is it that they give you one-off jobs and then don't have any related work to give you? I could see that with academic papers or the like. If you have completed translations successfully, the clients should be willing to come back and give you work regularly. Perhaps this is the result of your text types, as I mentioned. For instance, I translate things like press releases and quarterly reports, which are published regularly, so it keeps a steady stream coming in.

Another point - Where are you looking for jobs in the fields of anthropology, music, art and the others you listed? I'm guessing jobs like this might be outsourced from universities, institutes, museums, government agencies, maybe some very specialized companies. I doubt agencies or ProZ are the place to look. You might need to network in a very different way to reach this audience.

Best of luck to you - don't give up yet!



[Edited at 2010-06-19 13:44 GMT]


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:28
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
A marketing problem - Possibly wrong expectations Jun 19, 2010

I must say that there is certainly a luck component in this industry. If you land a job with a potentially big customer and make it well the first time, that company will have no reason to search for anybody else and they will always feel inclined to get back to you: after all they want it done and done it well, and other considerations are secondary.

It could well be that you started freelancing in a time when the market is awfully competitive, companies have lower translation budgets and therefore turn to the people they already know will do a good job even if they cost a bit more. This reduces the chances to newcomers. Just be patient, keep doing courses, pay the maximum attention to every detail in every job and be prepared to respond quickly to any request or question (don't look your email twice a day; must be checked at a minimum every 30 minutes during office times in your area, and all emails must be answered immediately).

Now, I wanted to comment on the following:
Uli Eberhardt wrote:
I know that I can work professionally, I can handle languages quite well, I can do research, I am friendly and reliable. Clients have given me good feedback. I'm not as expensive as I could be either. But I'm still not able to market my skills effectively enough to have enough work coming in. It's frustrating because I realised that even with a few hours of work every day - but consistently - I could live quite well.

1) Every time I hear that someone praises him/herself I get immediately suspicious. I encourage you to be humble in these expressions. Ability is something you cannot express: you must prove it.

2) You are not as expensive as you could be. OK. What keeps you from being expensive? For high-end customers, a non-expensive service sounds negative. Maybe you should evaluate your skills with the help of an experienced translator in your pairs who can review samples of your work (you will have to pay, of course) and, if you are really good, raise your rates. This will help interesting customers choose you among the run-of-the-mill translators who "are not as expensive as they could be".

3) "a few hours of work a day"... this does not exist: it's either nothing or everything. If you are generally available, respond quickly to questions and requests, and do good translations on time, you will be automatically swamped very soon. I'd say that you really have to protect yourself from the idea that dwells in the minds of some translators: working just enough and have a life in the free time. No successful professional can boast having a life, and finding balance is really difficult.

Good luck!


 

Uli Eberhardt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:28
Member (2010)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Probably Jun 19, 2010

Hello Tomás,

Thanks for reading & replying to my post. What you describe below is probably part of the explanation - actually I really hope it is.

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

I must say that there is certainly a luck component in this industry. If you land a job with a potentially big customer and make it well the first time, that company will have no reason to search for anybody else and they will always feel inclined to get back to you: after all they want it done and done it well, and other considerations are secondary.

It could well be that you started freelancing in a time when the market is awfully competitive, companies have lower translation budgets and therefore turn to the people they already know will do a good job even if they cost a bit more. This reduces the chances to newcomers. Just be patient, keep doing courses, pay the maximum attention to every detail in every job and be prepared to respond quickly to any request or question (don't look your email twice a day; must be checked at a minimum every 30 minutes during office times in your area, and all emails must be answered
immediately).


I think I don't praise myself a lot these days. Actually I'm quite down. If I couldn't remember some basic qualities that I have, I could as well give up. I'm also aware that I'm still rubbish at marketing myself - that's why I started this thread.
No worries, I don't approach agencies boasting how great I am, but in the end it is about communicating excactly this in some clever way, isn't it?

1) Every time I hear that someone praises him/herself I get immediately suspicious. I encourage you to be humble in these expressions. Ability is something you cannot express: you must prove it.


It sounds interesting. So you'd say higher rates are the more sensible strategy in the end? I think, once again, I have not been daring enough here. I get the impression it is all about a very subtle balance. In the end, marketing myself seems more complex than some of the actual translating!

2) You are not as expensive as you could be. OK. What keeps you from being expensive? For high-end customers, a non-expensive service sounds negative. Maybe you should evaluate your skills with the help of an experienced translator in your pairs who can review samples of your work (you will have to pay, of course) and, if you are really good, raise your rates. This will help interesting customers choose you among the run-of-the-mill translators who "are not as expensive as they could be".


Maybe I should not have written this. But it has been my simple experience: I had some phases with steady translation work coming in, & I still had enough time & energy left (actually, more) for other things, & at the same time, I was earning a substantial amount of money. & yes, I do think that "a life" is possible!

3) "a few hours of work a day"... this does not exist: it's either nothing or everything. If you are generally available, respond quickly to questions and requests, and do good translations on time, you will be automatically swamped very soon. I'd say that you really have to protect yourself from the idea that dwells in the minds of some translators: working just enough and have a life in the free time. No successful professional can boast having a life, and finding balance is really difficult.


Thanks a lot!
Good luck!


 

Paula Borges  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 00:28
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Please remember... Jun 19, 2010

That translation portals are not the only way to get work. I go through the same thing and haven't reached the point in which I only work with what I'd like to, but things have improved. They say there is an element of luck (like everything in life), but its 1% luck and 99% hard work.

A lot of people seem to think translators (or even writers) work a few hours a day in the comfort of their homes and relax sipping capuccinos. Yeah, right. Since I started working full-time as a translator, I haven't worked less than 10 hours a day, and I haven't had a day off (not even weekends).

That is partially because I am a perfecctionist, but that pays off because the clients come back. Some don't, they just adverstised a job on a translation portal because they were desperate and didn't have anyone else to do that at the moment.

Also, remember that some CAT Tools allow you to use the DEMO version for as long as you want, and that is often enough at first. And as someone suggested, have the discipline to contact agencies and clients for a few hours a day, it is work after all.

Good luck!


 

Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:28
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
In you language combination it's not low average: it's a pittance Jun 19, 2010

Uli Eberhardt wrote:

I usually charge $0.08 or €0.06 (/source word) - according to Translatorscafe this is low average. Personally I don't like the idea of pressing prices down, I would like to communicate that my work is worth something.


In your language combination, $ 0.08/word is much below average, even when working for translation companies. So, if you charge that, you are already pressing prices down.


 

xxxJ Celeita  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:28
Spanish to English
+ ...
Uli Jun 19, 2010

your degree in Comparative Religion sounds absolutely fascinating. I am jealous! =-)

 

Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:28
German to Spanish
+ ...
How can I get enough jobs Jun 20, 2010

Uli Eberhardt wrote:

Hello Paula, Sandra, Daina, Pablo, Sheila,

First of all, thanks for the quick replies .../...



Hi Uli:

It is not just you. We are all living hard times and services is one of the things that tend to be deleted first, if they are not absolutely necessary. The downside is that they are necessary, but once they realize it the budget has been spent or they should pay for them twice.

When I asked about the hours you spent on marketing, I was not implying at all that you did not do it. But, when I started in the translation world forteen years ago, my marketing activity was 30% marketing and 70% translation. Today, due to the economical crisis and the fiercest competition, it is exactly the reverse. I need an effort of 5 to 10 times more of what i did before, just to get a new single client. So, I quite agree with Tomás's additional comments.

You can not expect to be in a couple of years at the same level as those who have been for some decades in the translation world. But with patience, high-level quality and persistence, everything gets accomplished in more or less time.

[Editado a las 2010-06-20 22:14 GMT]


 
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