Best ways to get established
Thread poster: Magdalena H

Magdalena H
German to Polish
+ ...
Mar 2, 2011

Hi All,

I am new to your world and anxious to get some advice for new starters.

About me:
finance professional from London, native Polish speaker, fluent in English and German. Lived in America for 8 years and got my graduate degree in finance there, also studied in Germany. 5 years of legal experience in the US. No translation/interpretation certs.

Parallel to my career in finance (which I do not enjoy), I am trying to get my foot into the world of professional translators. Main reason: flexible work schedule and possibility to work from home. I am good at languages and enjoy studying them. Currently I am fluent in Polish, German and English, looking to add French within the next 5 years or so (just starting). My experience with translations is limited to job related tasks - technical translations/interpretations GermanPolish and legal translations/interpretations (also in courts) EnglishPolish. I also have a very good understanding of finance and financial vocabulary, mainly in English and Polish.

I am sorry for such a long introduction, now the questionsicon_smile.gif

1. Is it possible to get established while holding a full time position (banking)? I am willing to work hard and put long hours to start with.
2. I think of switching to full time translations when I reach an income level of about GBP40K. Any idea how long it may take?
3. What certifications/qualifications would you recommend to obtain? Which ones are desirable by clients and agencies?
4. How do you get your first job? Any agencies worthwhile approaching?
5. Any experience with bidding for the UN/EU translations? Does it make any sense to look into it and get certified or without experience it is a waste of time?

Thank you in advance for any feedback you could give me. I really appreciate it, especially because it sounds like helping your potential competitoricon_smile.gif

Thanks again!
Magda


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:09
English to German
+ ...
I do miss one critical aspect Mar 3, 2011

You do realize what distinguishes a bilingual person from a translator, right?

It is the passion for writing. And acting.

Translating is no manufacturing industry. You do not make money or gain success by accumulating hours, months or years of experience, degrees, certificates or additional languages. You do not put a text into another language that you are good at, you are supposed to BE the author, the organization or the enterprise that you are representing.

Without this skill, this passion and this commitment you will never be a good translator. Which means that you won't make much money.

A note about "working from home". Hahahahaha! You do not work "from home". You live in your office.

icon_smile.gif


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
. Mar 3, 2011

I used to be in your situation, working as an analyst for a London bank. I decided I preferred words to numbers, and began doing translation in the evenings.

Eventually, when I couldn't stomach the bank any more, I became a full-time freelance, convinced that there wouldn't be enough work to support me full time. That was 22 years ago, and I've never looked back, so I hope you have the same good fortune as me.


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
PS Mar 3, 2011

You asked about qualifications: basically, they are irrelevant. All that matters is whether you have the knack for translating.

And you also asked about EU translations. I used to work for the Parliament a long time ago, but the selection process was horrendously complicated - they really didn't make life easy for would-be translators. I don't know if that's still the case.


 

IrimiConsulting  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 10:09
Member (2006)
English to Swedish
+ ...
experience > certificates Mar 3, 2011

Certifications and diplomas are all nice and good, but all of my clients have valued practical experience and proof of translation skills much more. I got my first job as an in-house translator by passing the agency's translation test. All of my current clients have asked me to be tested prior to receiving work, and I passed all their tests. There are many threads on testing here.

I have also been a translation coordinator and project manager. I would have loved to have a larger selection of people with specific competence in specific fields who chose to become translators. In some cases a subject specialist (BSc or higher) is needed or desired -- and that is knowledge that no course or translation in education includes.

Find a mentor, i.e. a professional translator, to read your translations and provide feedback. I consider this the most important step if you want to get started, regardless if the translations are practise pieces or paid project work.


 

Oleg Osipov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 11:09
English to Russian
+ ...
If... Mar 3, 2011

Magdalena H wrote:

1. Is it possible to get established while holding a full time position (banking)? I am willing to work hard and put long hours to start with.


Why not?
If you have enough clients providing sufficient work for you to satisfy your target income.
That's essential.

KR

Oleg


 

Roy OConnor
Local time: 10:09
German to English
Yes it is possible, but... Mar 3, 2011

Hello, Magdalena,
About 20 years ago I made the transition from translating part-time to full time translating. At that time I had been translating part time for about 7 years, evenings and weekends, along with my full time day job as an engineer. I did the sums then and I suggest you do the same to remain realistic. Here are some thoughts.

1) Part-time earnings of 40K GBP means by my reckoning that you will have to translate about 500K words per year at a decent rate of about 10 cents per word, say 10K words per week. 2500 words per day seems to be a reasonably average rate for Proz correspondents, so that means five days per week EXTRA to your day job. Unless your present day-job employer is going to allow you to sleep on the job, this is a little unrealistic.

2) Do you currently translate for your present employer? If so you may be able to arrange that your present employer is your first full-time customer, i.e. working on an order basis. This would help to ease the transition to full-time employment.
3) Does your present employment contract allow you to work part time? If not, your employer might agree to it. Mine did.

4) Can you work and/or make phone calls in your dinner hour? You need to make use of every available moment.

5) As a woman, what are your home commitments? At home I was able to concentrate on my part-time job, because my wife supported me 110%. You are going to get very tired – let's hope your present employer does not notice how tired you have become.

6) Regarding the EU – I went through all the hoops to get on the list of EU freelance translators some years ago. It was a very complicated procedure with references and sample translations, etc. Although the EU kept up correspondence with me over the next couple of years or so with their newsletter, I never received one word to translate. Apparently they overestimated the amount of translating they would need.

7) Yes there are good agencies who pay decent rates, so don't sell yourself cheaply. But also look for direct clients in your own speciality, finance/banking I presume.

Translating has got a lot harder since I made the transition to full time. So do the sums and stay realistic. But if you are determined to do it, I wish you luck!

Roy


 

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:09
Flemish to English
+ ...
An attempt. Mar 3, 2011

Magdalena H wrote:

About me:

I am sorry for such a long introduction, now the questionsicon_smile.gif

1. Is it possible to get established while holding a full time position (banking)? I am willing to work hard and put long hours to start with.
To earn 40K, this will be a must.

2. I think of switching to full time translations when I reach an income level of about GBP40K. Any idea how long it may take?

Perhaps, three to five years, being highly specialised in a field, the use of M.T., CATs and speech-recognition (120 wpm) as a possible preparation for interpreting and working long hours 7/7.
Thank you in advance for any feedback you could give me. I really appreciate it, especially because it sounds like helping your potential competitoricon_smile.gif

Given that translations into Polish are made in Poland at Polish rates and that some of our Polish colleagues here are staunch advocates of Trados reductions, these will be your competitors. Don't forget, into Polish only, because of the native language rule to which the British adhere fanatically.

3. What certifications/qualifications would you recommend to obtain?
Learning by doing. In your case, a translation training is a waste of time.
Which ones are desirable by clients and agencies?
None. A specialisation in a certain field prevails.

4. How do you get your first job? Any agencies worthwhile approaching?
By doing a tour of the Brussels translation agencies and presenting them my CV.
No internet back then and fax was expensive. In the following week, I had five assignments.
Perhaps a tour of the London agencies is an old fashioned way of selling your services, but at least they have seen your face. Don't you have contacts in the world of finance?

5. Any experience with bidding for the UN/EU translations? Does it make any sense to look into it and get certified or without experience it is a waste of time?

E.U.: Call for tender with proof of experience (tax-bills), verifiable references, copies(tax-bills) of degrees and certificates and a minimum number of pages translated in the field.
Say:
Degree in finance, proof of having translated 400 pages.
Degree in translation : proof of having translated 1000 pages for the same field.






[Edited at 2011-03-03 09:39 GMT]


 

3ADE shadab
Local time: 13:39
Hindi to English
+ ...
Passion ?? Mar 3, 2011

philgoddard wrote:

You asked about qualifications: basically, they are irrelevant. All that matters is whether you have the knack for translating.

And you also asked about EU translations. I used to work for the Parliament a long time ago, but the selection process was horrendously complicated - they really didn't make life easy for would-be translators. I don't know if that's still the case.



I agree with philgodard, WHAT MATTER IS KNACK FOR TRANSLATING, thing which looks easy from outside is very difficult from inside, If you can manage then why not ?


 

Magdalena H
German to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Mar 5, 2011

Thank you All. I can see a light in the tunnel!icon_smile.gif

I would not say that translating is my passion, but I really enjoy it. I have been translating for pretty much every employer for the last 12 years on top of my regular jobs in legal and finance. What I love is studying languages and using them.

Plan:
- I will definitely try to get in touch with couple of agencies and start translating part-time (no kids and a supportive husband with a steady monthly incomeicon_wink.gif, so hopefully I will be able to survive couple of years with two jobs).
- Once I have enough experience, I will try to use my City contacts and get jobs directly from the clients. As a matter of fact even now I am correcting and updating translations in accounting we get, so fingers crossed.
- As to living in my office - sounds better than living in the bank's office, doesn't it? Another plus is the ability to move your office whenever you want and walk the dog during the day!
- A worrying aspect right now is the "the native language rule to which the British adhere fanatically". I really would like to use my German skills. Let's hope that the Germans have a different view here and I will be able to do more than English-Polish and vice versa.

I have my heart set on 1 year of working two jobs. Once that is over I decide what to do next. Even though I am quite successful in my professional life, going to the office every morning is becoming harder and harder every day. I hope I can last another year...

Another question for experienced translators: how do you feel about teaching languages and translating at the same time?

I have a feeling that translation itself may be:
a) not challenging enough from the intellectual standpoint (i.e. you learn language skills and the subject you are translating, but is that enough?)
b) a bit lonely at times (I actually like that, but seeing people from time to time could be a nice change)

Once I get established, my idea was to translate and also teach little kids once or twice a week. More for fun than for money. Does it make sense?

Hope you are all enjoying your weekend. No rain in London with some sun trying to get through the clouds. Life is good on weekendsicon_smile.gif


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:09
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You need to feel challenged and stimulated by it Mar 5, 2011

Magdalena H wrote:

- A worrying aspect right now is the "the native language rule to which the British adhere fanatically". I really would like to use my German skills. Let's hope that the Germans have a different view here and I will be able to do more than English-Polish and vice versa.


It's the "vice versa" that could potentially cause problems for you. Your most obvious pairs are English to Polish and German to Polish. The reverse pairs and translating between English and German mean that you are not translating into your native language. Now you clearly have an excellent command of English, unlike some translators who translate into English,icon_smile.gif but whether you can guarantee never to make mistakes or render something in an unnatural way is another thing. But you could certainly do the translations then have them proofread by a native speaker - at least to start with.

Another question for experienced translators: how do you feel about teaching languages and translating at the same time?


I do it all the time. It causes conflicts but then there are always conflicts in life.

I have a feeling that translation itself may be:
a) not challenging enough from the intellectual standpoint (i.e. you learn language skills and the subject you are translating, but is that enough?)
b) a bit lonely at times (I actually like that, but seeing people from time to time could be a nice change)


Aie! If you feel like that about it then don't give up the day job.


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:09
English to German
+ ...
I can only agree with Sheila Mar 5, 2011

Magdalena H wrote:
a) not challenging enough from the intellectual standpoint (i.e. you learn language skills and the subject you are translating, but is that enough?)


Sheila Wilson wrote:
Aie! If you feel like that about it then don't give up the day job.



The language is only the vehicle. Your job is to convey meanings. Which means that you have to learn and to understand technical, psychological, economical, or political concepts and most of all: your readership, before you can even translate an annual report. Translation has nothing to do with "putting a text into the target language", your job is to communicate and to be the voice of the company, person, institution, authority, etc. that you are writing for.

Right now you might feel comfortable translating any text on behalf of your employer because you know the company inside out. Now try to do the same thing for a company or a product that you don't know anything about.

There are number crunchers - and there are word crunchers. The latter ones will never make good translators. Which will sooner or later show on your bank account.


Edited for typo.

[Edited at 2011-03-05 17:56 GMT]


 

Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:09
German to English
+ ...
Translation is (or should be) challenging. Mar 5, 2011

Magdalena H wrote:
...
I have a feeling that translation itself may be:
a) not challenging enough from the intellectual standpoint (i.e. you learn language skills and the subject you are translating, but is that enough?)
b) a bit lonely at times (I actually like that, but seeing people from time to time could be a nice change)
...


A. Personally, I think that the intellectual challenge of getting it right is what makes translating fun (there really is a ton of things to keep in mind). I find translating to be more of an intellectual challenge than law.

B. Translating is lonely: Unless I go to a powwow, inter alia, then I never meet a soul while or in connection with translating.

P.S. I think that teaching and translating can go well together; I've done it for years. Having to deal with a bunch of students also tends to cancel out the lonliness of translating (as does this site).

Good luck!
icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2011-03-05 18:21 GMT]


 

sailingshoes
Local time: 10:09
Spanish to English
You have an advantage Mar 7, 2011

If you find that you can manage the translation process, you will have a big advantage if you work in your current field of banking. Once you find a few clients, you will have no trouble hanging on to them. It's not easy to find translators with good hands-on experience in a demanding field that's in demand.

I'm not sure if it will be easy to break into translation on a part-time basis. Also because the first year or so can be very hard. Your first few translations can be nightmares. You should certainly consider consecutive interpreting (being there in a business situation to translate between the parties), as you may already be familiar with the process.

Money-wise, depending on the tax regime you work under (country-wise), you should think net income. If you're self-employed you may find it possible to earn decently off a modest gross income. This has changed in some countries (Ireland) with the crisis, but it's still generally true (though not of Italy, for example).


 


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