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The impossibility of "making it" as a young translator
Thread poster: Roman Lutz

Roman Lutz  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:25
English to German
+ ...
Feb 7, 2011

Hello everyone,

I am sure there are similar threads on this, but I wanted to describe my particular situation in detail and maybe receive one or two tips and hints.

Facts:

- Native German, born in 1988 (22 years old, soon 23)

- I acquired my translator's degree in 2008, specializing in economics

- I was sworn by a County Court in Germany in April 2010, entitling me to produce certified translations.

- I started working as a freelancer in January 2008 (so even before I obtained my degree, due to an acquaintance who regularly trusts (or rather, used to trust) me with translations for the company she's employed by (insurance company).

The Problem(s):

- Naturally, looking at my age and the year I started working as a freelancer, I have almost NO experience whatsoever. I have only been able to gain experience worth mentioning in this above-mentioned area of insurance. This includes Court Judgements and legal corrsepondence, medical reports, Correspondence between insurance companies, accident reports. There have been some random assignments (contracts, proofreading, the occasional letter as well as certified translations like birth certificates and school diploma)

- My degree in "economic translation" is not enough of a credential that allows me to get jobs in this area (that's my experience at least)

- Due to this lack of experience, I continuously fail at successfully applying for jobs posted on websites such as this one. Even the ones that I know would be suitable for me, I don't even receive an answer and I think it is my lack of experience. I just CANNOT compete when there are some colleagues who offer 30 years of experience and a master's degree in the area of expertise required.

- For most jobs, I don't even apply because it says "at least 5 years of experience etc.". You catch my drift.

- I do not (yet) work with any CAT tools. I have seen some members on this forum say that you don't need a CAT tool to be able to compete, but I disagree. The big question is: Will use of Trados, for example, enable me to get more jobs IN SPITE OF my lack of experience, thus allowing me to get my money's worth? I shun investing 500 - 1000 € in a software tool when the end result is the same as before (hardly any jobs) due to my lack of experience.

The Solution(s):

So what can I do to improve my work situation short- mid- and long term?

- Specialize in another field? I have, however, just read that you REALLY need to knuckle down if you want to specialize in a field like medicine, automotive etc. , like studying it for years and years.

- Keep trying and improve my marketing skills (any book recommendations?), hoping that one day I'll have enough customers to heave a steady source of income?

- ???

I know this is a lot to read but I could REALLY use some help here.

Thanks in advance,

Roman


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EMANUELA ROTUNNO  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:25
English to Italian
+ ...
cat tools Feb 7, 2011

Hi Roman,
the use of a cat tools is an important point when you apply for a translation job. I'm sure you saw a lot of agency requiring at least one cat tool (like trados or wordfast). I know a number of collegues working without but WE (new in translation business) have to offer some surplus. I begun to translate with a free demo of trados but it has a time limit of 60 days (so I bought the full version but now it is not necessary for you) and Wordfast demo: the last one gives you more chance because it hasn't any time limit but just a TM limit (500 TU) so you have enough for your fist translation: you can write in your profile the you currently use a cat in order to have more chance.
PS: the experience come with time: don't desperate and be tenaciuos


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:25
English to German
+ ...
My first impression as an outsourcer Feb 7, 2011

- Your qualifications are very good.

- There is a typo in your German CV.

- I am not crazy about the party photo. Is that an arm around your shoulder? Nothing wrong with that, but if you want to make up for the lack of experience you have to create a more professional first impression. If you want to compete with true professionals you should appear as one because as a freelancer you are a business owner. Borrow a nice jacket and take a neat picture.

- I have no idea why you don't list your expertise in event marketing and such as your specialty. Instead you are listing medical translation. What is the thought behind that? Because it is paid well? If your are a medical doctor.

- Your hobbies are fun. However, why don't you mention your know-how in sports and music as specialties instead and forget about the hobbies?

- Start answering some KudoZ questions to gain respect from others. ProZ.com is one huge network, not a job board. Good jobs are never advertised, you receive them by recommendation.

I hope this helps!

Greetings,

Nicole


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:25
French to German
+ ...
Is "lack of experience" a problem? Feb 7, 2011

Roman Lutz wrote:


The Problem(s):

(.../...)

- Due to this lack of experience, I continuously fail at successfully applying for jobs posted on websites such as this one. Even the ones that I know would be suitable for me, I don't even receive an answer and I think it is my lack of experience. I just CANNOT compete when there are some colleagues who offer 30 years of experience and a master's degree in the area of expertise required.



Hallo Roman,
FWIW, you are not applying for an in-house position; you are an independent professional who has strengths on his own. The problem is with the job posters or their representatives, who are acting as if they were in some HR department.

I know this will not solve this "problem", but even experienced translators have their quote rejected - often on spurious grounds! To some outsourcers, there will always be a "problem" in a profile preventing them from assigning a job to someone...

I remember that one outsourcer even told me that I had no experience when I started freelancing in 2007, although I had translated for 11 years at that time. It seems there are some difficulties defining what "experience" really means.

Furthermore, some of the most demanding outsourcers are also some of the poorest ones (be it in support, payment and so on).

My advice:

- Don't rely solely on the Internet to get assignments.

- Forget about your alleged lack of experience or turn it into something positive.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 14:25
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Learn to use a CAT and keep trying Feb 7, 2011

You don't NEED a CAT, but once you have it, you can suddenly apply for all the jobs where the client insists that you should use it. You simply have far more chances.

Start with a free CAT like Wordfast Classic or try several.
Wordfast delivers files that are compatible with Trados 2007, which is still widely in use.
So far I have not met any clients who insist on Studio 2009, but I have found it useful for one or two large jobs where the client did not mind. (So you need not regard it as priority before you are ready.) It is just difficult to get hold of Trados 2007 separately, I suspect.

Nicole has added some very good advice.
Experience is desirable, but not ALWAYS necessary.

Start bidding for as many 'General' jobs as you can find.
In practice lots of jobs are on the level of newspaper texts, and as a trained translator, you are qualified to take them on. This will give you experience - it does not all have to be highly specialised.

Look at marketing... and look beyond Proz.com. Try to find some direct clients, because you can talk to them about what they want, and specialise in meeting precisely their needs. (And clients are often helpful with specialist terminology if you ask the right questions.)

Ask about working for museums, hotels, the tourist trade, anywhere you can get a foot in.

I am not scorning specialisation, far from it, but you do have to pay the bills!

There are short courses in specialist subjects, depending on your language pairs, but check them out. Admittedly, you are still a beginner after them, but you have taken a sensible step in the right direction, and clients will respect the fact. You can build on them and specialise more later.

Are you a member of BDÜ or a similar organisation?
I don't know what they can offer in the way of help, as I do not work in German, but they are there to help you, and it is another thing you can mention to clients to prove you are serious.

Best of luck!


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Roman Lutz  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:25
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks so far - Will be commenting this evening Feb 7, 2011

Thanks everyone so far! You have made some very valid points and given some great advice.

I will comment on each reply this evening.

Any additional advice / comment on my original post is appreciated.


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:25
Member (2008)
French to English
Contact potential clients directly Feb 7, 2011

Roman Lutz wrote:

...
- Due to this lack of experience, I continuously fail at successfully applying for jobs posted on websites such as this one. Even the ones that I know would be suitable for me, I don't even receive an answer and I think it is my lack of experience.
...
Roman


I might suggest that the reason you are failing "at successfully applying for jobs posted on websites such as this one" is because jobs posted here are highly competitive and it's relatively rare for any individual to win much, if any, of what's posted on this and similar sites. You would probably do better to put together your own lists of prospective clients/agencies and contact them directly. You will find that many of them have their own procedure for evaluating translators - short tests, small trial jobs, etc. - and they will usually judge you on your results.

[Edited at 2011-02-07 12:50 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:25
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
General lack of coherence, perhaps Feb 7, 2011

I wonder whether outsourcers aren't looking at your profile and/or your CV and saying to themselves "Yes, but ...".

Let me explain what I thought:

- You say you have a B.A. - I imagine it's "equivalent" rather than the actual B.A. awarded by Anglo-saxon institutions? In other words it's the same level but it doesn't have the same name. Also, on your profile you say you have a "diploma" in translation studies, which doesn't quite say the same thing.

- You have a degree in event management, but you only studied for a few months? I think you may be misusing the term "degree" here.

- Clearly you're (in theory - I can't vouch for you, of course!) able to translate from English and Spanish into German. But French? There's nothing anywhere to support that.

- The same thing with medical translations. It's a very specialised area with dreadful consequences if you don't know the terminology. There doesn't seem to be any foundation for this in your CV. Why should an outsourcer entrust a medical translation to you?

- Do you not do translations in the business and finance areas? Isn't that what you qualified to do? And you are a sworn translator but you do not work in the area of certificates and diplomas? I find that bizarre.

- Another odd thing is that you say you (only) accept Mastercard. Does that really mean outsourcers can pay you by credit card? It's unlikely I would have thought, seeing as the banks charge quite a lot for this service.

Some of the above is nitpicking and is meant as constructive, rather than destructive, criticism. However, I think you should know that these inconsistencies are bound to be putting outsourcers off. I think you need to be much more straight with them. Fill in your ProZ profile as much as you can and do some work on your CV. It shouldn't be more than one page - as you say, you're inexperienced. What's important for the reader? (1) language pair(s) (2) experience (in terms of fields and document types) (3) qualifications (although you might want to reverse those last two for a while until you get more experience).

Good luck.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 15:25
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Some advice Feb 7, 2011

I keep getting job offers from some agencies that pay quite well but do not seem to care about experience at all.
You must stop sitting and waiting and get registered with as many agencies as possible. When they get work they will not post on proz or the like but look at their own database and might select you.
More advice in private mail, if you contact me. As you live in Germany there are special resources.

Regards
Heinrich

[Bearbeitet am 2011-02-08 08:02 GMT]


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svenfrade  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:25
French to German
+ ...
Agree with Sheila and Heinrich Feb 7, 2011

The lack of coherence is what struck me as well. She has said it all, so I don't need to repeat it.

I would also suggest to choose a different photograph. You don't need to wear a suit and tie, but this is just a bit too casual IMHO.


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Marleen Pieper  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:25
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Take advantage of you age Feb 7, 2011

So you're 22 years old... My advice would be to take advantage of your young age and look for products, texts which are aimed at a young target group> mobile phone app's, gaming, facebook applications, latest computer gadgets, pop music, latest bands, adventure sports, etc. Lots of translations are done for this group and being a youngster yourself you could really present yourself as somebody who knows how to write for his own generation.
In this way you can stand out from the older generation of translators.
You've already got marketing, sports and music as your specializations anyway.
Don't wait for these type of jobs on proz, but look for direct clients in this field or look for agencies which specialize in this field.


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Roman Lutz  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:25
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Replies... Feb 7, 2011

Thanks for your reply.

Nicole:

- I will see to it that the Foto is updated as soon as possible.

- I have updated my Resumes accordingly

- I am going to try and answer as many Kudoz questions as possible

Sheila:

- I have updated my resumes and my profile, eliminating most of the incoherences.

Christine:

- I got myself WordFast and I am going to use it for all my future assignments until I decide to get Trados

Marleen:

That is indeed great advide. I am, however, not sure how to approach taking advantage of it because I don't know how exactly to get a hold of assignments like this. I guess I'm gonna start asking master google A LOT in the next few weeks.

Everyone else:

I will try and look beyond sites like this one (although I must say, this is a GREAT Resource for translators, not only Job-Wise)

Thanks SO MUCH everyone for your replies. I'll update the "About Me" section soon (regarding Fitness, Sports, Music, young age etc.)


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Krzysztof Kajetanowicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:25
English to Polish
+ ...
samples Feb 7, 2011

1. Outsourcers want the job done - and (hopefully) it shouldn't matter to them whether it's done by a university professor or a hobo, as long as it's a quality translation. A good sample may work to your benefit. Translate passages from Wikipedia texts or any other non-confidential material that you aspire to specialise in and that you are relatively comfortable with. Post them in the relevant section of your profile and in your...

2. website perhaps? I don't have nearly enough experience to say if it's worth the effort but others have said that a website is a good way to introduce yourself. You can always refer clients to your website, and sometimes you'll get a decent job because a client visited your website clicking through the link in your proz.com profile (my experience).

I assume you can't or won't pay a professional to design the website, so unless you're a web geek, use a free template or ask a friend (if your friend is a website designer, amateur or pro, they might be interested in website localisation in return?).

Caveat: I don't have that much experience in the freelance market, so it's just a couple of things I noticed you could do.

[Edited at 2011-02-07 16:50 GMT]


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Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 12:25
Japanese to English
Exactly Feb 7, 2011

John Fossey wrote:

You would probably do better to put together your own lists of prospective clients/agencies and contact them directly. You will find that many of them have their own procedure for evaluating translators - short tests, small trial jobs, etc. - and they will usually judge you on your results.

Exactly what I was going to say. You can't bid on a few Proz jobs, fail and then get depressed so quickly. Luckily for you, you work in a very common language pair. That means competition is high, but it also means there are thousands of agencies that work in that field. Sit down, put together a list of 250-500 (no, I'm not kidding) agencies and contact them systematically, keeping a record of your communication. Try to contact at least 5 a day. It'll be slow going, but eventually it should pay off.

In the meantime, keep working on your skills in your chosen field so you're ready whenever a job does come your way.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:25
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
CV and profile updates Feb 7, 2011

Congratulations on the changes you've made to your CV and profile, Roman. I think an outsourcer will look much more favourably at your offers now. I hope so, anyway.

One thing I have to react to:
"I got myself WordFast and I am going to use it for all my future assignments until I decide to get Trados"

Why does everyone get the impression that Wordfast is some sort of a poor cousin to Trados - something to "put up with", "the best I can do for the moment". It's actually right up there on the leader board! It just doesn't seem to have the "clout" that Trados has.


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