Starting with some experience but without qualification
Thread poster: xxxYuliya Khilk

xxxYuliya Khilk

Local time: 11:09
English to Russian
+ ...
Oct 18, 2010

Hello everybody! I hope I can get some advice here on where to start.

I've been translating for our family business since I was still at school, but when I became a student I started doing quite a lot of translations on a regular basis, mainly purchase contracts, emails, interpreting as well.
I studied International Business with German language in London. I could study for my BA and do some work for the company at the same time.
After graduating I worked for an international company where I had to monitor loans and repayments. I had to translate loan agreements there from English to Russian.
Couple of years later I decided to work for the family business again, full time. I managed production projects. Again - I had quite a lot of translations to do. Purchase contracts, license agreements, service contracts. This time I also translated technical descriptions and operation manuals of some high tech equipment for LED industry.
Recently I tried to evaluate what I do and what I would like to do in the future professionally and I realised that translation is actually what I enjoy the most.

So the situation at the moment is that I’ve got some experience in translating but none of the relevant qualifications. I found that IoL Dip Trans is a highly recognised qualification in UK and found distance learning course, which could help me to prepare for it. But the exam takes place only in January and the courses usually start in January as well. I won’t be on time to enrol for anything this upcoming January, so I would have to wait at least a year until the exam or until I can start the course. Is there anything I can do in the mean time? Would I be able to get some work without qualifications?

I would like to be a freelance translator because that’s what I really like doing, so I’m prepared for not being able to earn much straight away. But I’m willing to learn and try hard to get into this field.

Thanks in advance for your help!


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Patricia Viana de Lemos
Local time: 18:09
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Having qualifications is a big plus Oct 18, 2010

Hi,

I am replying because I think I kind of understand your situation.

Two years ago I decided to become a translator after being a journalist for over 10 years, working as a reporter, then a correspondent and also doing well as a freelancer. I guess I was tired of the profession and wanted to try something new. I had also moved back to Europe and felt like embracing a whole new life.

As a journalist, I translated/adapted many hundreds of words on a daily basis on all sorts of topics, becoming specialised in several areas, so I thought it would be easy for me to compete in the market of translation. Also worked in multicultural environments such as Macau and dealt with loads of translators while working as an editor. I had experience without having, let’s say, a "professional" experience in the translation field.

Apart from master in journalism and a degree in Marketing and advertising, I also studied creative writing, webdesign so I felt I kind of knew a lot about communication so why study again?

I arrived to London thinking that it could not be that hard with my experience. After a year of sending cvs, register myself in all sorts of websites to work as a freelance translator, I realised that without qualifications and without good contacts it is harder to get freelance work. Even with contacts, some people try to take advantage of your skills and you end up doing some of their work and not even being able to put it in your cv. I guess if you have good contacts, a language pair and a translation field that are in high demand, things could be much easier, but I have to be honest and tell you my experience.

It is hard to explain in short, but I feel this market is very complex and without the right qualifications it is not doable on the level I feel you are looking for. Also, because there are many people translating for very low money and without a serious attitude towards the industry, some agencies and people operating in the market might not be taken seriously, because you don’t have the qualifications.

What I honestly feel is that most agencies, especially the ones you really want to work with, have their own team of freelance translators and you are there waiting for one of them to fail so you can step in and prove yourself.

If I was in your place and I feel I kind of have been in that situation, although I am sure we have a very different background, I would start looking for work, sending cvs and letters to agencies, offering to do a sample work, but at the same time do a masters in translation and dip in trans course (IOLD) as well as the exam. That is what I did and I am hoping it will all work fine for me from now on, since I just completed my masters.



I honestly wish you all the luck and will keep looking at the comments you might have on this query. I guess it might be useful for me to. In the meantime, I hope my experience can be helpful.


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Oleksandr Kupriyanchuk  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 13:09
Russian to English
+ ...
Turn your problems into your advantages :) Oct 18, 2010

Solid experience is often better than the formal qualification.

At least FIVE years of relevant experience may substitute for the formal qualification. This is a commonly accepted point of view.

You write you translate into Russian. Therefore, frankly speaking, the best choice for you would be... to go to a Russian speaking country and obtain a relevant degree from a University with a solid course in Russian/translation. Being in the language environment and a solid degree from Moscow/Kyiv/Kharliv/Minsk University is much better than, for instance, "DipTrans" in London. Of course, if you want to learn something, rather than show off a cool paper/certificate.


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Eyob Fitwi  Identity Verified
Ethiopia
Local time: 13:09
Member (2013)
English to Amharic
+ ...
Its a tough but flexible industry, so keep trying Oct 19, 2010

Hi,

I have a similar starting point as you do. I managed to get only very few jobs online, but they gave me some good ideas. So here's my suggestion.

There are pretty various kinds of clients. Some will look for solid qualifications, some would just take any as long as they think they got something, etc. Frankly, I don't know half the time of what factors they look into when they select a translator, I just apply in simple plain but formal language explaining my skills.

As you can see, I have nothing concrete to show for my skills, even though I have a small translation venture with my friends and work as a journalist, which exposes me to many translation functions. So I hope that potential clients would give testing samples through which I could show my skills (reasonable amount, of course - a page or two). And it worked once for me, with a very important document which kind of surprised me.

Some would look for cheaper rates. This is perhaps where you might find it challenging for a time being until you figure out the 'average' qoute for your language pair during your negotiations. (NOTE; I believe it is important that you learn to negotiate effectively).

Qualifications/experience would be a plus, if you can get them, but that shouldn't stop you.

In simpler words, just keep searching for available jobs and/or applying and eventually you will find someone will respond to you. Whenever you get such opportunity, show them how serious you are with these jobs by being timely and so, because our kind of translators will need contacts to ensure we float in this online translation business.

You'll probably get the grips slowly, just as I am, but that's better than nothing. You'll also learn the ups and downs along the way and pretty soon you'll get an idea of how to go about the business. Just keep trying (and learning about the business).

I hope this helped a little


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xxxYuliya Khilk

Local time: 11:09
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your opinions! Oct 19, 2010

Patricia, thank you for sharing your experience! So you'd say that just the Diploma wouldn't be good enough without MA?

Alexander, I'm definitely considering doing some further courses or a degree, but I actually live in UK with my family, so going to Russia or Ukraine to study at this point would not be acceptable for my husband or my one year old And if I take MA or a course, for example, I would have to choose distance learning and study from home as I can't attend lessons full time at the momentt.


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Aisha Maniar  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:09
Member (2003)
Arabic to English
+ ...
All is not lost... Oct 19, 2010

Hello Yuliya,
I agree with Alexander that experience is often more important than qualifications. I'm sure you'll also find that there are far more translators out there than "qualified" translators. Qualifications do help and I would (personally) argue that some kind of structured training (such as towards the DipTrans) is helpful overall, but that's not the point here...
I think there is a lot you can do over the next year, which would help you to decide whether or not you want to be a freelance translator and/or help you to prepare for the DipTrans exam.
Patricia mentioned qualifications and contacts in her post - the two are not the same. Building up a client base - as in any business - takes time and although I guess there are the lucky few, I think most freelance translators have their period of wandering in the wilderness... You have the experience, so what you need to do is put together an amazing CV (lots of tips on that to be found here) to send to agencies and direct clients highlighting that experience. You've already got fields you work in - your experience seems to be mainly legal/financial/hi-tech - write that up as your "specialisations".
You said you've got experience interpreting - interpreting is a good way to get translation jobs too and there is often a greater need for interpreters of some languages and in some (geographic) areas. You could see if this interests you more as a profession (more interaction with people/different set of skills).
You can also use the time as you set yourself up - having qualifications and sending out your CV doesn't guarantee work - to brush up on your language skills and maybe make yourself a business plan. + Check out the forums here for more tips.
You can also join the Institute of Linguists as an associate member.
Hope that helps, Aisha


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:09
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Indeed Oct 19, 2010

Alexander Kupriyanchuk wrote:
At least FIVE years of relevant experience may substitute for the formal qualification. This is a commonly accepted point of view.

And also one of the criteria for admission for the ATA certification programme. Either a degree in translation and interpretation or 5 years of proven experience (you have to provide letters of satisfied customers stating 5 years of satisfactory cooperation).


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Patricia Viana de Lemos
Local time: 18:09
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Starting with some experience but without qualification" Oct 22, 2010

Aisha mentioned qualifications and contacts are not the same, but are both important in most professions in the field of communication.

To be honest, I still believe being a qualified translator is a plus, also because with a good education you are actually given the tools to do specialised translations in different fields. Of course experience is extremelly important, vital I would say, but I have translated for years when I was not qualified and your perspective changes completely when you have learnt how to do it professionally. It is so much better!

My path in life tells me that experience is important, but the qualifications will also give you confidance in your work, apart from the credibility and so on. I have had that experience both in journalism and translation, because I started without the qualifications. Truth be told, starting by the qualifications is not very usefull because you don't know how this knowledge will really help you, although is better than nothing. But that is not your case because you have the experience.

My opinion is still the same: start applying and along the way look for the qualifications but be sure this is not easy.

I did the IOL exam and a Master because I felt the course for the diploma in translation was just about practise. I felt I needed theory in order to fully "understand" what I was doing when translating. I respect theorectical perspectives and I have to say I learnt a lot. Masters tend to be very intensive but there is always part-time master courses.

I am a bit of a perfectionist but I don't think that not having the qualifications should stop you. Go for it! I understand you also have a baby so take it easy, but make your plan as previous colleagues here advised.

I wish you all the luck in this world and email me if you feel I can help in anyway now or later, altough I only got my qualifications recently and I am now trying to find my space in this intricate world of translation. I understand how hard this is, I am in the same boat...

patrícia


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xxxYuliya Khilk

Local time: 11:09
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
started planning Oct 22, 2010

Thank you all for your help!

So the plan is - prepare a good resume, maybe a website, start sending out CV's, research available distance learning options and read read read all the info on this forum... Fingers crossed!

By the way, as I have a small child, I'm planning to work part-time. I'm not sure, but I don't think agencies would be particularly happy to work with someone who's not able to work a certain amount of hours per week. Would it be better to try and target final clients directly in this case?


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Veronica Lupascu  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:09
Dutch to Romanian
+ ...
Specialization Oct 22, 2010

Hi Yuliya and welcome!

You have real specialization (International Business knowledge, real experience dealing with loans, payments etc) and this is a great advantage. There are many outsourcers that will always search for a SPECIALIZED translator and nor for a QUALIFIED one.

There are many translators with qualifications, but they don't have enough knowledge about the specific field of the text. When texts are highly technical (with many specialized terms and concepts) qualifications are not enough.

I think you have more advantages to start working as a translator than many already working translators, which graduated translation schools.

You are specialized and have previous experience, what else do you need? I don't say you should not try to get qualified. I want simply to point out that you can start at this stage and you could study in the meantime, if you will still consider it necessary. Browse this forum, especially the "Getting established" forum and you will find answers to many of your possible questions. Start to market your services and Good Luck!


Veronica


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:09
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
No real problem with part-time work Oct 23, 2010

Yuliya Khilko wrote:
By the way, as I have a small child, I'm planning to work part-time. I'm not sure, but I don't think agencies would be particularly happy to work with someone who's not able to work a certain amount of hours per week. Would it be better to try and target final clients directly in this case?


I would target anyone who might want to use your services!

Not being available to work full-time for an agency is not a problem. In fact, having less than about 10 clients is considered dangerous. What if your one-and-only client stops giving you work? Does a full-time self-employed electrician work just for one client, even if they specialise in business applications?

The important thing is to be as available as possible, to manage your time so that you say "no" to the lower-paying jobs and "yes" to the better-paid, more interesting work.

Edited to say that that's the ideal! I certainly don't manage to put it into practice all the time and I doubt that you will, either. Why is it that freelancers are always bombarded with work one week and sitting waiting the next?

[Edited at 2010-10-23 07:25 GMT]


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Ewa Erdmann  Identity Verified

English to Polish
+ ...
Good point Oct 25, 2010

Sheila Wilson wrote:
Why is it that freelancers are always bombarded with work one week and sitting waiting the next?

[Edited at 2010-10-23 07:25 GMT]


Good point Sheila, this is a one little drawback of being a freelancer ... yet we still love it don't we

As for the qualifiacations, as many of you pointed out, experience and specialisation is sometimes more important than just a DipTrans. I myself, have MA in Linguistics and a Degree in Law (as a specialisation) and I still feel I am not fully qualified, I think I could do with some trainings and workshops to get more 'working knowledge'. We, translators need to constantly upgrade our skills and qualifications.


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Michael Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:09
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Practice makes perfect. Oct 25, 2010

Hello Yuliya,

I would recommend that you simply translate as much and as often as you can. That is all the qualification you need. If you are good, it will show.

Also, the better you get, the more confident you will feel, and you will soon enough notice that you have stopped thinking about qualifications altogether, because you are too busy translating;)

Michael


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xxxYuliya Khilk

Local time: 11:09
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Oct 25, 2010

This all sounds promising, so I guess I'll concentrate now on changing my career path. I'm sure there can be some complications along the way, but this is just too exciting to be able to do what you really like to pay them much attention

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Aisha Maniar  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:09
Member (2003)
Arabic to English
+ ...
Value of qualifications... Oct 28, 2010

Just to clarify, I have not said that qualifications are of no use. My own background is the opposite in that I gained my degree in translation before starting to work as a translator, i.e. qualification before experience. I have also taught translation on a postgraduate degree course and have been involved in other training for translators, so I wouldn't knock the qualification side of things, but there is more to it than that...
I agree fully with what Ewa has said and have stated elsewhere that there is a need for some form of training (whether that leads to a diploma or not) for translators and I would also personally like to see some form of structured professional development too. The great thing about being a translator is that you are always learning
Onwards and upwards, regards, Aisha


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