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Breaking the cycle of inexperience
Thread poster: Manuel Rodriguez

Manuel Rodriguez  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:19
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Apr 23, 2004


I'm new to the translation business (I don't have any diplomas, but I do have enthusiasm) and wanted to know about your first experiences on the job. It is difficult for me to see how it's possible for an agency to hire you if you don't have experience, and at the same time, you can't acquire any experience because nobody will hire you.... Mi question is, how did you manage to break that vicious cycle?

Thanking you in advance,


Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:19
Spanish to English
Other aspects Apr 23, 2004

Well what do you have? What have you studied, worked at, had as a hobby? How and where did you learn English? Have you ever had anything you've written published?
If you haven't got anything there that is saleable, maybe you should be patient and get a diploma in translation for starters.


Eng2Span  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:19
English to Spanish
+ ...
just a suggestion... Apr 23, 2004

I know it doesn't sound inviting, but how about starting out translating small projects for free?

There are two big advantages to doing this:

1- You find work much quicker, and get to see if your skills really are at the level the job requires without the commitment of a payed project. These projects can help build a portfolio that you can present as "experience".
2- When you do start charging you can do so at a market rate, without the hassle of having to explain to people that your rates went up. It's actually smoother to go from Free to Market Rate than from 40% below market to Market. Less resentment from customers, odd as it may sound.

Well, this is just a wacky suggestion, I hope it at least gives you some ideas to get you started!

Hope you break that cycle!



PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:19
English to Polish
+ ...
My first jobs were based on simple contacts Apr 23, 2004

I know it's easier said than done, but I started out with a minor job on a friend's recommendation. Keep asking - maybe somebody needs a letter translated, or some short document.
Also, there are so many agencies, that one is bound to give you some work without "experience". Keep trying and you'll build up references before you know it.

Good luck,
Pawel Skalinski

[Edited at 2004-04-23 19:32]


Brian Edwards
Local time: 12:19
German to English
+ ...
I'm a newcomer too Apr 23, 2004

Hola Manuel - I discovered less than a week ago, & like you, am wondering when I'll get my first break. I have done small, frequently gratis, jobs for years but felt it was time to see if I could extend myself into the paid domain. It's taken me several visits just to become familiar with all proz's features, & each time I come, I flesh out my profile a bit more. I have lodged a few bids but have heard nothing back, which is frustrating - I think my Australian time zone sometimes works against me too: bids often fill up while I'm asleep & it's a bit daunting to become bid #33 in line knowing that one's relative inexperience is showing. Anyway, I'm happy to say I'm in solidarity with you as a new member of the community & I look forward to hearing of your first assignment; I hope to be able to speak of mine too. Saludos - Brian


Dorian Kenleigh
United States
Local time: 20:19
Japanese to English
Connections are key Apr 23, 2004

I can completely relate to those lamenting the cycle of inexperience. As a recent graduate with an engineering degree and what I would consider competetive linguistic skills and a solid engineering foundation, I've discovered the the real key to getting the big break is having a connection that will hook you up with the right people. Nepotism runs deep in every field, such as in my case where often I'm told I haven't enough experience only to see the friend or relative of the interviewer get a job with the same credentials I carry. Its an unfortunate fact of life that knowing who you know is as important as what you can do.

Have you considered trying to drum up work through a friend, or offering gratis services to get yourself established? Ive been considering offering free services for a project, just to show that I'm up to the task. If its free, what does someone really have to lose other than a bit of time? Any of the more experienced posters have thoughts on this approach?


Thierry Lafaye
Local time: 02:19
English to French
+ ...
There some very valid points already Apr 23, 2004

Hello all and especially our newcomers,

I personally got into translation because I was where I needed to be at the right moment. Actually, I started with pure localisation, then into translation: The totally other way around of the "classical" pathicon_smile.gif. Someone was needed urgently with very specific terminology knowledge for my language pair and in a country in the middle of its economic boom. I just proved that I was capable of doing the job by running tests, demonstrated that I was very much willing to learn, extremely demanding on myself, proactive and on top of all enthusiastic and easy to deal with. You would not imagine how much being helpful and enthusiastic tends to open doors and also puts you in the snowball effect of getting healthy business relationships. These are more inter-personal skills I would say, which you may already have but may need to show it more obviously to the people you are aiming at. My 2 cents.

This said, on a more professional side, Eng2span, Lesley and PAS have very interesting and valid points. I have heard quite a few times since I am a Proz member that some translators acquire their knowledge and experience through free work, often for non-profit organisations. Also, through Proz you may be able to get to know some people who already have a very notable experience for example and probably would need to pass some work onto you if they are too busy or would get further resources to look out for first paid hands. I got my first customer as a free lancer, only a couple of months ago, by having plenty of contacts in my address book who are actually friends that I have known over the years while working as an in-house localiser. Here again, my 2 cents, I am not sure how applicable this would be to your situation.

Sorry if I don't put more new ideas but I thought that confirming very important points could help out slightly at least.

Best of luck to our dear newcomers.


Charlotte Blank  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:19
Czech to German
+ ...
Go to a Powwow! Apr 24, 2004

Hi Manuel and all the other "newbies",

have you ever attended a Powwow? This is where I got my first contact to an agency and it turned out to be a really good one, with regular work and regular paying:)
So if you have the opportunity in your region don't miss it - you may as well find many colleagues from there who have been in a similar situation (after all, everyone has once been a beginner!) like you and will be willing to help.

Good luck!



Irene N
United States
Local time: 19:19
English to Russian
+ ...
One way to do it Apr 24, 2004

Even though I received the right education and experience in Russia, I started out in the U.S. as a typesetter for a huge in-house international oil project. I became an insider and to this day I do not have any regrets about one year lost to typing. In three months the editors began to trust me with certain translations and proofreading, and I did not complain about the same rate or moving me to the translator's position - it was impossible logistically anyway, and I knew I was paving my way. I became a knowledgeable PC user, learned DTP etc. while studying and comparing great and awful translations (typists see it all:-). When the project was over I was invited to join the staff of the agency, which assigned me to that project, and started climbing up. I'm not saying you should take the same position or like, but I firmly believe that becoming a part of such project is a great way to start out, one of them for sure - you will not be facing all the accopmanying horrors alone, nobody will rely solely on you for deadlines and quality, you will have a luxury of on-job training and extra minute to think or ask. Finally, you will get the most important thing - a chance to prove yourself in many aspects to those who already have connections or are the connections themselves.

Believe it or not, but the circle you reasonably worry about has just as much to do with your tested reliability as it does with your quality. In most cases the clients are pressed for time. Nobody gives us weeks for 10 pages. The client has to be sure you will turn it back correct AND in time, and that your files will be manageable not only in terms of editing but formatting as well. Agents/clients do not want to risk, they seek oldtimers first, or their recommendations, this is true.

If there is a chance to join a good team, do it. You might be giving up your freelancer's freedom for a while, but in the long run it will pay back.

Patience and devotion to good clients will do it for you.

Best of the luck,

[Edited at 2004-04-24 11:19]


Manuel Rodriguez  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:19
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Muchas gracias Apr 24, 2004

Many thanks, your optimism puts my mind at ease. Yes, it does seem very reasonable to start gratis, and then move from there. Although, I'm not so sure about nepotism, seems rather unfair.

Again, thank you all, and kudos to you Brian.

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