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I'm a n00b. How to boot-strap?
Thread poster: Pedro Godfroid

Pedro Godfroid
Local time: 08:14
English to French
+ ...
Mar 15, 2012

I'm a n00b here at nearly 60 and it seems a vicious circle: I need experience to get a job and I need a job to show my experience.

I just decided to become a translator because, here in Spain, old and experienced geeks like me are banned from IT jobs due to their age (the guys who hire are old and have no idea of tech and so believe all people as old as them as as null as them in tech). I think I can do the job better than a lot of professionals because I often get mad at how badly translations are done. So bad that I can spot the errors without the need to know the original text. I often see it in manuals and movies, for instance.

I have some experience in translation, both as a translator myself and as a supervisor in several IT jobs I've had but, of course, my career has been with computers. And during that career I've translated ans supervised translations of games, technical manuals and similar.

So my question is how do I get my first jobs to show that I'm worth it? I'm ready to work for free for the first assignments just to show my expertise. I've stated that in job applications but I get as few offers as I get in computers when they know my age.

Is age an handicap here too as in computers in Spain?


--
Pedro Godfroid Goffin


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Pedro Godfroid
Local time: 08:14
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Note Mar 15, 2012

Oh, and I have no money to spend in courses, certifications and so on. When I get my first jobs and paid, I will be able to do that but until I get paid for something, I cannot spend anything.

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Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:14
English
+ ...
My first reaction, Pedro, Mar 15, 2012

is that you shouldn't mention age at all.

I mean if you don't tell anyone, how are they going to know?

OK, your photo isn't that of a young buck, but.... instead of old and washed up,* people might see "experienced."

I started by volunteering to translate a website text about a local artist I admired. That gave me something for my portfolio and experience for my CV. My next job was a paid assignment.

If you have to, translate newspaper and magazine articles just so you have samples for your portfolio.

This might also give you experience and a little more insight into what's involved in translating. It might be a little more complicated than noticing how bad some translations are... You say you have some experience in translation. I would talk more about that experience in my profile if I were you than about age discrimination.

Your profile should, I think, focus on your abilities, not your desperation. But who knows, maybe because it is so out there, your maybe too-straightforward approach will result in an offer or two.

Good luck.

[Edited at 2012-03-15 10:31 GMT]

*Edited to say I do not mean you look old and washed up in your photo, but you complain that people perceive you as that.

[Edited at 2012-03-15 14:48 GMT]


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 02:14
Member (2008)
French to English
Age is not a disadvantage in this field Mar 15, 2012

In this field age and experience can make up for lack of credentials and formal training, unlike IT. I would suggest you read the articles on this site about setting up your profile and CV. Don't sell yourself short. If you are truly able to translate accurately through experience, say so confidently. Self-denigration, while possibly an admirable personal trait, doesn't contribute to a marketing effort - you need to put your best foot forward and arouse confidence in potential clients. Don't forget that everything you write on these forums is public and potential clients will be reviewing it.

It will take you about six months to become established, just because you will need to wait for the opportunities to arise. There will be clients willing to try you out and your goal will be to develop a loyal clientele that will keep you busy. It would be advisable not to charge low to start, because once you have a client it's hard to raise prices afterwards. A higher price will attract better paying clients. You may want to review the charts on this site for typical prices in your language pairs (you may need to subscribe to view them).

[Edited at 2012-03-15 12:15 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:14
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Attitude change? Mar 15, 2012

Hello Pedro,

I think you will get plenty of advice from others when they see your profile here on ProZ.com. What it says to me is:

I'm really old (i.e. over the top)
I hate all young people and programmers in work
I have a massive chip on my shoulder about not being valued
I'll do anything for money - I couldn't care less about your translation, just pay!
I don't know anything about translating
Most translators are worthless
Why pay a pro? I'll do it for free and help kill the industry (search for "bottom-feeders" here)

That's the message I get when I read your "About Me" section. Is it the one you want to give?

I hope that helps. I don't mean to be destructive.

Sheila


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Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:14
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Some tips Mar 15, 2012

Hi Pedro,

The expert knowledge that you have in IT can put you head and shoulders above others who translate in the same field.
I can spot the errors without the need to know the original text

This is indeed what makes an expert: when you understand not only what is written but why it is written. There are good clients out there who value such expertise. You need to find them and convince them.

To that end, you definitely need to rework the message you send out on your profile page. The part that shows desperation must absolutely go: it will simply frighten lots of potential customers.

You complain about HR management in IT companies. Many translation companies may have better HR policies, and will consider professionals with 30+ years of industrial experience - but explaining the lack of credentials or experience will not work in your favor. Explain in detail what you have done, what you are capable of doing.

And scrap the free offer right away. It just weakens your negotiation position no end. Working for free for for-profit companies does not give a professional image at all. The only acceptable way is to work for a non-profit organization - a charity whose aims you support, or an open-source IT solution. If you accept any such free work, make sure that you will have abundant networking opportunities with professional translators, and that your name will appear somewhere. (I manage a group of translators who regularly provide pro bono help to a French humanitarian NGO, and they are happy to add the names of the translators to their crafted brochures, like this one, or this one; see page 2.)

However, like in any other business, getting established and building a stable client base will take some time (3 to 12 months is a good ballpark), and some investment. If you do not have any reserves, it will be more difficult to avoid the catch-22 of accepting low-paid jobs that do not leave you sufficient time for finding better clients and that do not provide opportunities for professional development.

If I were to pick a reference to find useful tips, it would be Chris Durban's The prosperous translator. It covers quiet a lot of aspects of our trade, and tips are consistently thought-provoking.

Best of luck,
Attila

[Edited at 2012-03-15 10:42 GMT]


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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 08:14
French to English
+ ...
Ouch! Mar 15, 2012

After I read Sheila's post I checked out your profile.

Everything she said is right.

And, by the way, if you are going to be stressing your abilities, at least be right: "most of the translations I encounter as very bad".

Terry (57 year old ex-IT director making a living in translation)


[Edited at 2012-03-15 14:36 GMT]


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Pedro Godfroid
Local time: 08:14
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Tx but I have not the time. Mar 15, 2012

Tx everybody for all your kind answers but it looks like another impasse. I need money and I do not have the time. Contrarily to the young, I'm not beginning a career but just trying to survive until I die and to help my family until then.

Sadly all these things I'm trying are showing me that the only real alternatives I have left due to my age are the illegal ones. It was a bad idea to try to get into this world. It just get me madder and more desperate. FTW.

Thanks anyway.

--
Pedro Godfroid Goffin


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Pedro Godfroid
Local time: 08:14
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Tx everybody but I have not the time. Mar 15, 2012

Thanks everybody for your kind answers but I do not have the time, nor the money, to do that. I'm not trying to build a new career but just to survive until I die and to feed my family until then.

So it seems that it was, yet another, mistake to try this. I must limit myself to the only thing where a discarded old fart like me is not discriminated: illegal stuff.

So thanks and sorry for the stupid question. And bye.


FTW.




--
Pedro Godfroid Goffin


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János Untener  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 08:14
Member (2010)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
... Mar 15, 2012

How illegal?
You could join Anonymous (if you are such an IT genius), after the FBI raids of the previous months I guess they may be hiring...


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Frankie JB
France
English to French
+ ...
About a "flash" marketing campaign Mar 15, 2012

Pedro,

It seems actually your problem is not finding a pleasant job/supplementing an income but rather getting money.

Unfortunately, this attitude (this need for money) often leads to sound like someone whose intentions are not sound, who is not credible or who is here to land jobs desperatly quickly (you don't need to be an experienced recruiter to feel that and be wary!)

You must understand that marketing is no innate skil.
You must learn marketing or you will never get clients, whatever your freelance profession.
It will take some time but if you are determined you can set up a strong profile and a solid CV for this industry within a couple of days. (ProZ is a bonanza of info on this matter, dig deep and absorb knowledge!)

After that, considering you are in a tight spot financially and time is running out, you need active marketing, not passive marketing.

Instead of hoping someone will find you or trying to bid endlessly, I advise that you collect as many translation company addresses as possible (blue board here on ProZ, + there are other websites where you can find very long lists) and then literaly "blitz" them (you don't need tailor-made CV/cover letters, just need to fill in application forms or copy/paste the same slick rhetoric).

Following this easy-to-understand recipe, you could get clients within 10 days, which is almost the least you can imagine when you have no "formal" translation background.

Good luck anyway, bear up!

Do no forget that marketing is powerful and that there are some wise hobos on this planet that make more money begging in strategical places in 3 hours than people earn sweating 10 hours per day!

PS: FYI "marketing is beautifulness", i.e. the exact opposite of criticizing (even constructively often!). Always keep a high profile, don't sell yourself short, and don't be envious of others, never!

Frankie


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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 09:14
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
What Sheila and Frankie said Mar 15, 2012

I heartily agree with what Sheila said about your profile, and what Frankie said about marketing. In its current state your profile is simply not attractive to any potential clients. The text is more like an angry rant than an introduction by a professional person. It doesn't take any marketing skills to realize, that complaining and words like "trash", "desperate" and "illegal" in your profile don't do any good for your business.

I also agree with the others that it's not about age. Your clients don't even need to know your age. It's simply about how you present yourself and what you have to offer.
And yes, it takes time to get started, like in any other business. Translation is not really a way to make quick money out of the blue.


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Pedro Godfroid
Local time: 08:14
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Clarifying your muddled concepts about IT and Anonymous. Mar 15, 2012

János Untener wrote:

How illegal?
You could join Anonymous (if you are such an IT genius), after the FBI raids of the previous months I guess they may be hiring...


FYI, all geeks and computer people are not hackers. My specialities are CHI (Computer-Human Interaction), interface design, usability, control systems and writing fault-tolerant bullet-proof code but I have no experience in hacking ans such. And it's been more than a year since I've been giving a hand to the global Anonymous/15M/15O/OWS doing what I can and what I know but definitively not hacking as I have no skills. And Anonymous is *not* a way to make money but to change the world for better.

I hope this has cleared up some things you seems to be confused about.


--
Pedro Godfroid Goffin


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Pedro Godfroid
Local time: 08:14
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
About my current approach Mar 15, 2012

To all those who have criticised my current approach, I must say that it was not, of course, the firs thing I tried.

First I intended a conventional approach, copying what other people did and mimicking their rates, only a bit lower, and so on. And I applied to jobs that way. And it did not worked. So I changed and tried the current and more aggressive one.

So it seems a catch-22 situation. At least for an old fart like me


--
Pedro Godfroid Goffin


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Pedro Godfroid
Local time: 08:14
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I guess I did not expressed myself very well... Mar 15, 2012

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Hello Pedro,

I think you will get plenty of advice from others when they see your profile here on ProZ.com. What it says to me is:

That profile was *not* the first one and is the result of the failure of the more conventional one.

I'm really old (i.e. over the top)

It is not what I think but what HR and hiring people have been telling me for may years.

I even made the following experiment. I shaved 20 years off my curriculum and, lo and behold, my curriculums begun to be answered and I got one job interview after another. Everything changed and went well... Until they saw me and everything was back to normal because I can look 10 years younger, not 20.

I hate all young people and programmers in work

Wrong. On the contrary, all the jobs I got lately were because the hiring people were not old farts like myself but young people who appreciate experience. I've already stated that that the problem is that most HR and hiring people are older and they have a null understanding of new technologies and project their own incompetence on me.

So it seems I must insist more on this point and make it clearer as you understood the contrary that I meant. My mistake.

I have a massive chip on my shoulder about not being valued

Wrong. It's not "a chip on my shoulder" but an experimental fact.

For the age problem, I just explained the experiment i made to check that my problem was discrimination due to age.

And here I've tried first a more conventional approach but it failed utterly.

I would be happy to try yet another one but I really do not know which.

I'll do anything for money - I couldn't care less about your translation, just pay!

The first part is right. I'm a family head and a grand-dad who needs resources to feed his family. I think it's normal.

The second part is wrong. On the contrary, I stated that I *do* care very much about translation. That's the reason why I got into this. because I often detect translations mistakes in manuals, movies and so on

If you understood the contrary that I meant, it's obvious that I did not expressed it well and I must stress much more how I care about good translations and how bad jobs make me angry.

I don't know anything about translating

I said that I do know a bit about it and that I do have experience but, of course, that it is limited compared to a life dedicated to IT.

So I guess I'll have to stress that point too.

Most translators are worthless

Yes, I should have used another qualifier. But I did not applied it to translators, only to the *translations* (jobs, not people) that I've encountered. And it's true. I repeat: that's the reason I think I can do the job despite my lack of professional experience in the field. Because I can detect bad translations without the need to know the original text. It happens to me all the time.

I know it's more politically correct to hide the fact but then, what would be my arguments? How can I compete with an established translator if I did not have at least some advantage as this one?

Why pay a pro? I'll do it for free and help kill the industry (search for "bottom-feeders" here)

Really, I do not think I expressed it so badly as you understood.

I think I made it quite clear that I will work for free to demonstrate my value as there is no other way to do it. But I do not think I said anywhere that I will work for free forever. On the contrary, I make quite clear that the work for free is just to get experience and the brownie points others customers use to evaluate the translators.

That's the message I get when I read your "About Me" section. Is it the one you want to give?

Well, if that's your impression, I really messed up because in some case it was even the contrary that I wanted to express.

I hope that helps. I don't mean to be destructive.

Oh, it is, don't worry. But I'm used to it

And I have no alternative...

Sheila





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