PROZ.COM COVID-19 RESOURCE CENTER
Access Covid-19 jobs, answer relevant terminology questions, read industry news and more.

How to take freelance translation to the next level
Thread poster: S E (X)

S E (X)
Italy
Local time: 13:20
Italian to English
Nov 2, 2010

Hello,

I began working as a full-time freelance translator a year ago, and am wondering about how to proactively move to a higher level, by which I mean, more work, work that more directly takes advantage of what I have to offer, work that is better paid.

Some background. Before becoming a full-time translator, I had a serious career, more than ten years, as a professional researcher and writer. I have a PhD in Art History from a leading US university and have worked at
... See more
Hello,

I began working as a full-time freelance translator a year ago, and am wondering about how to proactively move to a higher level, by which I mean, more work, work that more directly takes advantage of what I have to offer, work that is better paid.

Some background. Before becoming a full-time translator, I had a serious career, more than ten years, as a professional researcher and writer. I have a PhD in Art History from a leading US university and have worked at a professional level in several major US art museums. I have been working professionally in my language pair as a scholar since 2003 (Italian into English) and have been living in my source language country since 2007 (Italy).

Thanks to some skill at learning new systems and software, I am up and running with both SDL Trados and Wordfast. I have been signed on by a dozen agencies, most of which have become repeat customers, and am completing the translation of a scholarly book to be published by a major American university press.

The problems are: I am not yet working consistently to full capacity (it's feast or famine) and not enough of the work I do speaks to what I have to offer (my strengths as a writer and researcher and background as an art historian).

So I am asking for guidance and advice about how to increase the amount of work that comes in and how to figure out how to make more of that work draw more directly on what I have to offer.

Having closely followed the proz discussion threads for about six months, I have learned several things particularly related to these questions: first, most work for most translators comes from clients contacting them through their profiles (and not from applying for posted jobs); second, asking too low a rate can backfire (my rate is currently at the low end of the spectrum, which I thought would be necessary since have not been a full-time translator for very long, but I do have a PhD so maybe I should be asking more anyway); and third, that sending unsolicited cvs to agencies is not a good use of time.

Many thanks for your thoughts and insight!

[Edited at 2010-11-02 12:31 GMT]
Collapse


 

Krys Williams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:20
Member (2003)
Polish to English
+ ...
Do not undersell yourself Nov 2, 2010

Hello Sarah,

First of all, do not underestimate and undersell yourself! A PhD and academic experience is extremely valuable since it gives you a full understanding of a subject that is not possible to achieve simply by mugging up on terminology. As a subject expert, you should be charging a premium for your specialist knowledge.

Secondly, perhaps you need to broaden out your marketing. In your place, I'd be looking at contacting academic journals, publishers and former
... See more
Hello Sarah,

First of all, do not underestimate and undersell yourself! A PhD and academic experience is extremely valuable since it gives you a full understanding of a subject that is not possible to achieve simply by mugging up on terminology. As a subject expert, you should be charging a premium for your specialist knowledge.

Secondly, perhaps you need to broaden out your marketing. In your place, I'd be looking at contacting academic journals, publishers and former colleagues in your subject area rather than translation agencies.

I found in the past, when living in one of my source language countries, that a lot of translation work from local clients manifested after I had made myself known to them as a good editor/corrector/reviewer of English language material. It seems as if I needed to prove myself in this way for people to trust me with translation. Also, there were a lot of people (especially academic authors) wanting their English texts to be corrected and/or polished. In this way, I developed a huge network of contacts, who would recommend me to their contacts, workplace colleagues, etc. Obviously it depends how you feel about doing this sort of work in addition to translation.

Krys
Collapse


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 18:20
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Network Nov 2, 2010

Krys Williams wrote:
I found in the past, when living in one of my source language countries, that a lot of translation work from local clients manifested after I had made myself known to them as a good editor/corrector/reviewer of English language material. It seems as if I needed to prove myself in this way for people to trust me with translation. Also, there were a lot of people (especially academic authors) wanting their English texts to be corrected and/or polished. In this way, I developed a huge network of contacts, who would recommend me to their contacts, workplace colleagues, etc. Obviously it depends how you feel about doing this sort of work in addition to translation.


This is exactly I am living on and am survived!

Soonthon Lupkitaro


 

Alex Eames
Local time: 12:20
English to Polish
+ ...
Your own web site is an important part of the mix :) Nov 2, 2010

Sarah,

ProZ is a great site, but there is a lot more to marketing than just having a profile here. It is a useful part of the mix though.

What you need is your own web site. Many people achieve this by blogging, but I have to say that most of the blogs out there are of poor quality. There are a few gems though. Only create a professio
... See more
Sarah,

ProZ is a great site, but there is a lot more to marketing than just having a profile here. It is a useful part of the mix though.

What you need is your own web site. Many people achieve this by blogging, but I have to say that most of the blogs out there are of poor quality. There are a few gems though. Only create a professional blog if you've got something to say that may be of value to someone. (I don't include blogs for fun in that statement.)

It's clear from your intial post that you write well. Perhaps you have something to offer in the blogosphere? If it related to your interest in Art History then you would automatically be generating potential targeted leads with an interest in your specialist subject.

Why not write some articles in English about Italian Art? With permission, you could possibly translate some that other people have written in Italian as showcase examples of your work.

Even if blogging is not for you, some sort of web site is important. (I see from your profile that you have a WordPress blog already. Great start. All you need to do now is fill it with great content.)


Alex Eames
http://www.translatortips.com
helping translators do better business

[Edited at 2010-11-02 14:14 GMT]
Collapse


 

Lucia Leszinsky
SITE STAFF
Strategies to get jobs Nov 2, 2010

Hello Sarah,

If what you are looking for is to meet more clients and work for them on a regular basis, know that ProZ.com offers the tools for you to improve your site and web visibility to potential clients and attract their attention.

Strategies to improve your visibility and get jobs include:

1. A good profile, as your profile serves as your business card and directory listing, and it is the first impression of you that colleagues and potential cl
... See more
Hello Sarah,

If what you are looking for is to meet more clients and work for them on a regular basis, know that ProZ.com offers the tools for you to improve your site and web visibility to potential clients and attract their attention.

Strategies to improve your visibility and get jobs include:

1. A good profile, as your profile serves as your business card and directory listing, and it is the first impression of you that colleagues and potential clients will have when they find you at ProZ.com and when running web searches.

2. Membership, as members are ranked ahead of non-members in the directory of freelancers and interpreters, http://www.proz.com/translator-directory/ , and are then more visible in searches. Visit this page to check your current directory ranking.

3. KudoZ PRO points in your language pairs and fields of expertise, as this is how directory search results are ranked among the first group (members) and the second group (non-members). A few minutes of effort, a few times a month, may be all that is needed to boost your position in the freelancer directory.

4. Specialization. Let potential clients know what your fields of expertise are by listing fields in your profile in order --your specialty fields must be ordered accordingly, earning KudoZ points in those fields and in your top language pair, providing details in your "About me", etc. More tips on how to show your specialization are available here.

5. PRO status, as becoming a certified PRO will allow you to network and collaborate in an environment consisting entirely of screened professionals, including companies seeking the services of certified PROs only. (it is extremely important though that all previous strategies are put into use, and that all required information is gathered, before applying for inclusion into the Certified PRO Network).

If you are willing to give these strategies a try --some of them you have already implemented, please let me know and I will be glad to assist you personally.

Hope this helps!

Kind regards,

Lucia
Collapse


 

Marie Thiriet
Germany
Local time: 13:20
Member (2010)
English to French
+ ...
Website: I do agree Nov 2, 2010

Dear Sarah
I do agree: I invested about 2000 € in a professional website with visit cards and so on, and I think this pushed my turnover immediately. I highly recommend to let a specialist take care of that, the best with a CMS so you can maintain the contents on your own (and this save money).

Or attend a course of your employment agency for improving business: this helps, is mostly for free or cheap and brings many ideas.

I wish you a lot of success.
... See more
Dear Sarah
I do agree: I invested about 2000 € in a professional website with visit cards and so on, and I think this pushed my turnover immediately. I highly recommend to let a specialist take care of that, the best with a CMS so you can maintain the contents on your own (and this save money).

Or attend a course of your employment agency for improving business: this helps, is mostly for free or cheap and brings many ideas.

I wish you a lot of success.

Best regards, Marie
Collapse


 

S E (X)
Italy
Local time: 13:20
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
thank you for sharing your insights! Nov 3, 2010

@ Krys: Thank you for the encouragement and for sharing so much of your experience, these are great ideas and much appreciated - I had in fact visited your profile several times before and wondered about the steps you took when getting started! I especially like the sound of a "huge network of contacts" - sheer music. Thank you!

@ Soonthon Lupkitaro: Good news!

@ Alex: Thank you for the encouragement and
... See more
@ Krys: Thank you for the encouragement and for sharing so much of your experience, these are great ideas and much appreciated - I had in fact visited your profile several times before and wondered about the steps you took when getting started! I especially like the sound of a "huge network of contacts" - sheer music. Thank you!

@ Soonthon Lupkitaro: Good news!

@ Alex: Thank you for the encouragement and all of the great marketing ideas. I look forward to taking a look at your translatortips site and your short list of blog gems. I purchased my domain name a month or so ago and am slowly working towards getting the site set up. It helps a lot to know that the effort won't be in vain!

@ Lucia: Thanks! I'll work through your list and see what I may have missed.

@ Marie: Wow, thanks for writing about your decision to have a website professionally designed, and divulging the cost. I look forward to checking out your site and will explore my own options for having one designed. If you don't mind my asking, how did you chose the agency who designed yours?
Collapse


 

Sara Freitas
France
Local time: 13:20
French to English
Positioning and networking Nov 3, 2010

You mentioned that you are seeking "more work, work that more directly takes advantage of what I have to offer, work that is better paid".

The first step is to determine exactly what you have to offer and who is looking for those things (not only the type of business or organization, but the *role* or *person* within those organizations that *use* and *purchase* (not necessarily the same person, incidentally) what you have to offer.

The next step is to find out where t
... See more
You mentioned that you are seeking "more work, work that more directly takes advantage of what I have to offer, work that is better paid".

The first step is to determine exactly what you have to offer and who is looking for those things (not only the type of business or organization, but the *role* or *person* within those organizations that *use* and *purchase* (not necessarily the same person, incidentally) what you have to offer.

The next step is to find out where these people hang out, what publications they read, what professional organizations they belong to, what trade fairs they attend, etc. The idea is to read what they read, go where they go...basically build a non-translator network of potential clients. What can you offer these networks? Could you do an informational (not promotional) talk at one of their events? Are their organizations open to membership to people like you? Would they be more open to you joining if you were very clear that you will not harrass their members with sales solicitations and are willing to help out with event organization and other thankless tasks (a great way to get to know people in your target group and build rapport/credibility)?

A website is important. In our line of work, I would spend 80% of your budget on copy and translation. Make sure your website is impeccable in the language of your clients. We actually hired a French copywriter to help with ours as French is the primary language of our clients. Sad but true: most translators' websites are poorly written and poorly translated. I would invest maybe 10% of your budget in some professional graphic design and the remaining 10% on the technical aspects of the site (CMS, hosting). (Although not to everyone's liking our website www.sfmtraduction.com has garnered a lot of positive feedback for clarity and effectiveness, and good natural SEO optimization has started to generate good leads.)

DO NOT invest in print materials (brochures) until your business has reached at least semi-maturity. Most small businesses continue to adjust their positioning and value proposition over the first five years of their existence. Don't carve things in stone at this point...it is a waste of money. A website can be updated for free, so it is not as much of a commitment.

A blog is a great idea if you know who you are writing for and have something interesting to say. We have recently revived our blog after floundering since 2006. We now write only in French (in the language of our customers) and only about subjects we feel are relevant to them (we don't write for other translators on our blog...we have a separate blog for that). Again, if you are blogging in your second language, each and every post must be proofread. (We do this for our business blog, but for our translators blog I often publish directly in French for better or for worse).

If you actively pursue a clearly defined market segment and work diligently every week to build your network, you should see some results in six months to a year.

If you are busy working for agencies, make sure you take a couple of half days a week for marketing to your new prospects!

Good luck!
Collapse


 

Marie Thiriet
Germany
Local time: 13:20
Member (2010)
English to French
+ ...
Choosing a marketing agency Nov 3, 2010

Hello Sarah,
thank you for your comment.
Well, I must admit that I first intended to create my website on my own, since I made this for former hobbies and personal websites but: I attented a course for "new coming" free-lancers and this gave me totally different directions. It's important that your website, which reflects your image in the world actually, is made by professionals and looks like this, even if it costs some financial invest. However it's quite difficult to create a pr
... See more
Hello Sarah,
thank you for your comment.
Well, I must admit that I first intended to create my website on my own, since I made this for former hobbies and personal websites but: I attented a course for "new coming" free-lancers and this gave me totally different directions. It's important that your website, which reflects your image in the world actually, is made by professionals and looks like this, even if it costs some financial invest. However it's quite difficult to create a proper website according to your personal specification, and the toolboxes offered for free nowadays are not satisfactory enough if you do have some special requirements in terms of image and identity. And above all: this takes a lot of time, that you should rather invest in your core activity.

So I asked several people I personally know for a quote: web designers are ten a penny in my region, and they are all struggling for jobs just like us, so you can make the best of it.
For me, it was important to keep the absolute control on the design and the contents, since I have experienced a lot translating company websites for my former employer, so did I want to do this for me as well at lower costs. That's why I made my decision finally in the favor of a good friend of mine, that have a design agency, and understood my needs exactly. The result is exactly what I wanted, after 3-4 months discussions and work, but at lower costs as with anyone else.
And I can change all the texts, especially in the languages, as I want, I can design everything as I want, and I can add options or not just like I want. That's why I suggest to use a CMS like Joomla, which is quite intuitive for non specialists. It's importnat for you to ask for extensive administrator rights if you want to keep control on all of this.

I hope this helps. Here is my website: www.transfr.de
Just feel free to ask more if necessary.

About blogs: it's true. Even if I never felt attracted from such medias, I know someone that can build his onw personal business now just with his blog concerning ... pocketbooks. It has become incredibly successfull, and this was only one of his hobbies. You can address very specialised people there. So this would be a good accompanying measure to your general website.

Best wishes,

Marie
Collapse


 

Sara Freitas
France
Local time: 13:20
French to English
Interesting blog post - evolution of a freelance website Nov 3, 2010

http://www.abccopywriting.com/blog/2010/11/03/freelance-website-evolution/

 

Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 14:20
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Up to the to next level and further Nov 3, 2010

Sarah Elizabeth Cree, PhD wrote: I ... am wondering about how to proactively move to a higher level, by which I mean, more work, work that more directly takes advantage of what I have to offer, work that is better paid.

Dear Sarah,

You are in a lucky position because the translation segment you are interested in is amongst those least threatened by MT or introduction of industrial processes characteristic for many other segment.

You precisely identify your aims and targets; that's a good start. Now, there are a few things I would like to comment on:

- Tough as it is, you can nevertheless increase your currently low end rate with the existing customers. They tried you; they come again; that means they are satisfied with you as a translator (your low end rate being only one of the factors - not necessarily the primary one). It's better to inform customers of the planned rate change well in advance: some of them have contracts with end clients that have to be renewed annually, and they feel more comfortable if given some buffer time.

- Ups and downs are an indispensable part of freelancing. Considering your specialization and potential clients that tend to be more scheduled as the entire publishing industry has to be, you can, to an extent, regulate the inflow of jobs. I suggest that you inform your customers about your workload, especially when you are booked for a longer period; it both helps to strealin the process and serves as a subtle reminder in case the PM forgot about you

- One potentially good place to meet clients is specialized fairs, exhibitions, conferences and similar events. Any book fairs in the vicinity? Any conferences where archaeologists will be discussing ancient cultures? Give it a thought.

- The already mentioned networking: the closest opportunity is here I guess:-)

BR,
Oleg


 

S E (X)
Italy
Local time: 13:20
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
the insights that you have shared are invaluable Nov 4, 2010

@Sara: Thank you for the highly polished and content-rich advice. It is enormously helpful to have your thoughts about how to manage the budget for website design and the various steps to take -- and when to take them -- while developing the business, as well as your assessment of the various pitfalls to avoid along the way. You should consider publishing this material, if you haven't already. And I will most certainly check out your website and your blogs. And of course the intriguing link that... See more
@Sara: Thank you for the highly polished and content-rich advice. It is enormously helpful to have your thoughts about how to manage the budget for website design and the various steps to take -- and when to take them -- while developing the business, as well as your assessment of the various pitfalls to avoid along the way. You should consider publishing this material, if you haven't already. And I will most certainly check out your website and your blogs. And of course the intriguing link that you posted about the making of a freelance website.

@Marie: I am so grateful that you mentioned that you originally planned to design your own site and then your reasons for deciding to have it done professionally. I had planned to design my own, too, liking to do creative things and thinking that I could make it work (famous last words: how hard can it be?). It is tremendously helpful to have an idea of how long the process took and to get an inkling of things that I might need to consider. When I visit (read: study!) your website, it will help so much to keep in mind the various elements that you mentioned as key to its flexibility.

@Oleg: Your insight into how agencies work is hugely valuable: I don't want to suffer the repercussions of underselling myself and nor do I want to suffer the empty inbox of overselling myself! Several of the agencies that I work with in fact had me commit to a certain price for the calendar year, and now I have an idea of how to read that. Thank you also for your encouraging words regarding my field's rhythm and its safety from the ills that are affecting other translation sectors. It's very reassuring to hear your perspective on that!

@Everyone who took time out to reply: Thank you all for setting aside time to write such thoughtfully considered replies -- I myself am compiling a small handbook from the guidance I received in response to my post, and I am certain that many many others will benefit as well!

It's a real boon to have such excellent colleagues. Now I just have to hope for a down week so that I can take action.

Best of luck to all of you,

Sarah
Collapse


 

melindak
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:20
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Developing your own webpage Jun 14, 2011

Hi Sarah,

Having your own website can help you get freelance translation jobs online. It also gives you somewhere to direct prospective clients who want to learn more about your services.

Some advantages:

It creates your own online presence – clients can come to your website, instead of you looking up them. You can create your own message, show samples of your work, testimonials and give potential clients an easy way to contact you.

It is a
... See more
Hi Sarah,

Having your own website can help you get freelance translation jobs online. It also gives you somewhere to direct prospective clients who want to learn more about your services.

Some advantages:

It creates your own online presence – clients can come to your website, instead of you looking up them. You can create your own message, show samples of your work, testimonials and give potential clients an easy way to contact you.

It is a cost advantage compared to print advertising. Internet is very affordable and you are always accessible. It is easy and fast to change the content compared to print media and you can reach a bigger audience.

Get found by search engines – 80-95% of all website traffic comes from search engines. Get found by search engines such as Google.

Your information is always available 24/7, whenever it is convenient for the visitors.

Reach world markets, more people, and become accessible from any country in the world

You can post or change information anytime, anywhere (if you manage the website yourself)

Cheap market research – See website statistics of how many visitors, from where, how they found you etc. It is also easy to post polls to the visitors.

Improve credibility – On a website you can tell potential clients what you offer and why you deserve their trust. Clients can also make more informed buying decisions.

Added value – You can provide added value by featuring tips, advice and general interest content. It is also a great complement to the rest of your online presence.

I hope this was useful !

Best wishes,

Melinda

http://www.transl.net
Collapse


 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

How to take freelance translation to the next level

Advanced search







PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »
CafeTran Espresso
You've never met a CAT tool this clever!

Translate faster & easier, using a sophisticated CAT tool built by a translator / developer. Accept jobs from clients who use SDL Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast & major CAT tools. Download and start using CafeTran Espresso -- for free

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search