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Getting work when you have little experience
Thread poster: clairemcn
clairemcn
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:26
Member (2013)
French to English
+ ...
Jan 19, 2013

Hi everyone,

I'm in the process of setting myself up as a freelance translator. I've finally become a member on Proz, I've worked on my CV and I'm now contacting agencies. I'm having the typical 'newbie' problem - they all want X years of full-time experience and I just don't have it.

That's not to say I'm a complete beginner - I have a Master's degree in Translation and have done bits of translation work over the last few years, which I've listed in my profile. I've been busy doing some pro-bono work over the last few months and I've also had a number of jobs (teaching, call centre, tourist board) which required me to use my language skills and translate here and there, but I'm worried that this might not be enough. How can I make myself more attractive to clients and agencies? I don't want to be dishonest in any way - would it be appropriate to say that I don't have much paid translation experience, but that I have worked on a number of projects?

If anyone could offer any advice or could even take the time to have a quick look at my profile and let me know what they think, I'd be really grateful!


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Hazel Underwood  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:26
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Mentoring programme Jan 19, 2013

Hi Claire,

Have you looked at the Proz mentoring programme as a possible way of gaining more experience?

I'd be happy to look at your CV if you want to send me a copy?

Kind regards,

Hazel


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Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 15:26
English to German
+ ...
My advice Jan 19, 2013

Keep away from translation, when you have other paid jobs. Do translation in your spare time and offer the agencies a free test translation.
Rolf

[Bearbeitet am 2013-01-19 20:43 GMT]


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clairemcn
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:26
Member (2013)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Proz mentoring programme Jan 19, 2013

Hazel Underwood wrote:

Hi Claire,

Have you looked at the Proz mentoring programme as a possible way of gaining more experience?

I'd be happy to look at your CV if you want to send me a copy?

Kind regards,

Hazel


I hadn't, but I will look into it! Thanks!


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clairemcn
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:26
Member (2013)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Working part time Jan 19, 2013

Rolf Kern wrote:

Keep away from translation, when you have other paid jobs. Do translation in your spare time and offer the agencies a free test translation.
Rolf

[Bearbeitet am 2013-01-19 20:43 GMT]


Hi Rolf,

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by this. I obviously have to work part time while I get started as a translator because otherwise I won't be able to pay my rent. I work as a tutor in the late afternoon and evening, so have most of the day (9am-4pm) and the whole weekend to do translation work. I am planning to offer to do a free test translation and send some samples of texts I've already translated along with my CV.


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:26
Danish to English
+ ...
The truth of the matter... Jan 20, 2013

... is that you don't become an experienced translator until you have gained some experience. Sounds daft, but it's that simple. Your Master's in translation is an excellent starting point, but the amount of translation you have done in the course of your studies will only correspond to a few weeks' or months' work at the most in the real world of translation. Agencies know this and it is quite understandable that they prefer people with experience.

What you are already doing is probably the best you CAN do, i.e. submit your introductory letter detailing the kind of courses you have followed during your Master's studies, any translation or other relevant experience you have, and much more importantly, a couple of excellent translation samples. I wouldn't offer to do a test translation initially, as that is like saying, 'I know you will think I don't match your standards, but please give me a chance to prove myself'. Be as professional as you can, don't think with your student's cap on, you are in business now. If an agency then gets back to you because they are sufficiently impressed by the material you have sent them, but they still want you to do a test translation, then by all means go ahead and do that.

Be prepared to be patient, it takes a bit of time to get established as a translator.


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clairemcn
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:26
Member (2013)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Translation samples Jan 20, 2013

Gitte Hovedskov Hansen wrote:

... is that you don't become an experienced translator until you have gained some experience. Sounds daft, but it's that simple. Your Master's in translation is an excellent starting point, but the amount of translation you have done in the course of your studies will only correspond to a few weeks' or months' work at the most in the real world of translation. Agencies know this and it is quite understandable that they prefer people with experience.

What you are already doing is probably the best you CAN do, i.e. submit your introductory letter detailing the kind of courses you have followed during your Master's studies, any translation or other relevant experience you have, and much more importantly, a couple of excellent translation samples. I wouldn't offer to do a test translation initially, as that is like saying, 'I know you will think I don't match your standards, but please give me a chance to prove myself'. Be as professional as you can, don't think with your student's cap on, you are in business now. If an agency then gets back to you because they are sufficiently impressed by the material you have sent them, but they still want you to do a test translation, then by all means go ahead and do that.

Be prepared to be patient, it takes a bit of time to get established as a translator.





Hi Gitte,

Yes, it is totally understandable that agencies prefer translators with experience, but it does lead to that typical problem where you need experience, but nobody wants to give you experience because you don't already have experience!

I will take your advice about the test translation. It's just hard to know what approach to take at first. I know I probably need to acknowledge that I don't have much experience, but I don't want to come across as desperate either. Would it be OK to send translation tests I've done (and passed) for NGOs as samples?


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Natalia Mackevich  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:26
Member (2009)
English to Russian
+ ...
Careful with test samples Jan 20, 2013

clairemcn wrote:
Would it be OK to send translation tests I've done (and passed) for NGOs as samples?

You need to ask the NGOs, not us. Tests are usually confidential (sort of), and one cannot discuss them online where everyone can read the discussion, so I assume one cannot share these tests without the client's permission.


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clairemcn
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:26
Member (2013)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Samples Jan 20, 2013

Natalia Mackevich wrote:

clairemcn wrote:
Would it be OK to send translation tests I've done (and passed) for NGOs as samples?

You need to ask the NGOs, not us. Tests are usually confidential (sort of), and one cannot discuss them online where everyone can read the discussion, so I assume one cannot share these tests without the client's permission.


Yes, I would ask them first. I obviously wouldn't share them publicly on my Proz profile or forums, but perhaps it'd be better to just find something else to send.

Is there any point at all in sending samples of literary texts? I'm quite proud of the short story translations I did at university, but I know I probably wouldn't be doing that kind of work for agencies.


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:26
Danish to English
+ ...
Go for new texts Jan 20, 2013

Do you already have some subject areas that you want to specialise in? If not, I would have a little think about that, or go for subjects that are close to your heart/private interests. Then look for openly available texts on the Internet, preferably texts that are not too old, and translate a couple of those, clearly stating the source for each text.

This will indicate that you are up-to-date with your chosen speciality fields and that you have put a bit of work into preparing good material for your application. It will also be quite clear that these are not merely college translations that have been corrected by a teacher and which would therefore not give a completely clear picture of what YOU are capable of.

The translation samples only need to be about 500 words each, which is quite sufficient for an agency to assess your skills. Try not to choose texts with too many very simple sentence structures, and try to find texts that involve a variety of linguistic challenges, so that you show you can do both 'standard, down-to-earth' translation and more complicated things, e.g. metaphors, puns, colloquialisms, fancy new terminology, slang, technical terminology or whatever is relevant for your chosen fields.

As for literary texts - if this is the field you want to work in, then by all means, forward literary texts. However, my (completely unsubstantiated) impression is that most agencies do not handle huge amounts of literary texts. If this is the area you want to get into, maybe you need to research and approach publishers instead?


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clairemcn
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:26
Member (2013)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Types of samples Jan 20, 2013

Gitte Hovedskov Hansen wrote:

Do you already have some subject areas that you want to specialise in? If not, I would have a little think about that, or go for subjects that are close to your heart/private interests. Then look for openly available texts on the Internet, preferably texts that are not too old, and translate a couple of those, clearly stating the source for each text.

This will indicate that you are up-to-date with your chosen speciality fields and that you have put a bit of work into preparing good material for your application. It will also be quite clear that these are not merely college translations that have been corrected by a teacher and which would therefore not give a completely clear picture of what YOU are capable of.

The translation samples only need to be about 500 words each, which is quite sufficient for an agency to assess your skills. Try not to choose texts with too many very simple sentence structures, and try to find texts that involve a variety of linguistic challenges, so that you show you can do both 'standard, down-to-earth' translation and more complicated things, e.g. metaphors, puns, colloquialisms, fancy new terminology, slang, technical terminology or whatever is relevant for your chosen fields.

As for literary texts - if this is the field you want to work in, then by all means, forward literary texts. However, my (completely unsubstantiated) impression is that most agencies do not handle huge amounts of literary texts. If this is the area you want to get into, maybe you need to research and approach publishers instead?


Hi Gitte,

Yes, I do have some subject areas I want to specialise in. I will try to find some texts online (perhaps short articles) and translate them. I'm also interested in offering transcription and have done quite a bit of this pro-bono, transcribing French videos and audio clips and translating them into English. Would it be worth sending a sample with the transcribed text and my translation underneath?

I would like to get into literary translation, but have always had the impression that it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to break into, so I'm more than happy to translate other types of texts.


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david henrion  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:26
Member (2010)
English to French
Be like no others ... Jan 20, 2013

Hi Claire,

All actors in all industries, bakery, truck driving, physiotherapy, ... and translation ask for experience and while you have not you won't get the chance to get it. I agree with Gitte when saying that you shouldn't offer free services, it won't be a professional way to enter the business as it would be received as if you say "hire my services, it's free, even if it's bad you have nothing to loose". Don't worry if agencies or clients want you to do a test sample they will ask for it.

Try to add value to all your translation related jobs or tasks, try to ask your previous satisfied clients to add a feedback on your proz profile. And keep bidding on proz to all job notifications you received and you think are in your field of expertize. Rates are important too, even if you are not experienced you mustn't apply too low rates, you should have a look at the rates information provided on proz and translatorscafé, just not to be off track when bidding obviously too low.
When I entered the business a few years ago I had the chance to get in touch with a translator who assigned me some paid jobs, the rate offered was rather low but it has helped me building my CV so chance is a factor that you can count on without of course count only on that.

A quick look at your CV on proz makes me think that your experience is not so narrow, it's just that you display it as "translations for a magazine", "a number of ...", "proofreading of essays ...", you should detail a little more and add the title or topic of the document adding the number of words (if not too low). Doing so your CV would be enriched and would appear much more pro.

Looking at your rates, you indicate a range of 0.02 to 0.10 gbp/word, it's a huge gap between the two ends, which criteria do you apply?. 0.02 is way too low whatever the topic and 0.10 is maybe high except for a very specific and complex job.

Keep the pressure up and welcome in the business,
davitrad@gmail.com

[Modifié le 2013-01-20 14:13 GMT]

[Modifié le 2013-01-20 14:25 GMT]

[Modifié le 2013-01-20 14:33 GMT]


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:26
Danish to English
+ ...
Literary translation, transcription and in-house jobs Jan 20, 2013

Hi Clare

I'm afraid I'm not the right person to ask about transcription and translation of transcribed texts. I did some of that a few years back when I worked as an in-house translator for a translation agency, but other than that, my experience in the field is zero. Someone else will (hopefully) be able to advice you on this. I would suggest, though, that you only send such samples to agencies who specifically state that they do this type of work as a lot of agencies don't. In general, make sure to check the different agencies' websites so that you know you meet their criteria and match their profiles.

Again, as for literary translation, my experience is limited to contacting a couple of publishers and generally being told that they already had a team of experienced and trusted translators and that they were not interested in adding to the group at the moment. One kind response, however, said, "keep applying to different publishers; at some stage, someone will need new translators and they will consider you". Mind you, my field of interest was not exactly 'literary' in the classic sense, as I was aiming for translation of children's books, books about architecture, and cookery books. Probably different to what you would call 'literary'.

Have you considered NOT starting out as an independent translator straight away? You will find it so much easier to get freelance work later on if you DO have translation experience. A lot of people who are now independent translators have a background in other professions or maybe as in-house translators for translation agencies or in other contexts. My own background is a mixture, i.e. 8 years in non-translation work abroad before I started studying translation, then 4 years as a technical translator for a production company, then 7 years as an in-house translator for a translation agency before I went self-employed. The experience I gained from my years abroad and both full-time translation jobs is invaluable to me now that I run my own business, because I got masses of practice in speaking my main foreign language (which is still the basis for my confidence as a translator into my foreign language) and lots of experience in many different types of translation, and because I learnt general business skills along the way. Just a thought. We all follow different paths...


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clairemcn
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:26
Member (2013)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
In-house work very difficult to find Jan 20, 2013

Gitte Hovedskov Hansen wrote:

Hi Clare

I'm afraid I'm not the right person to ask about transcription and translation of transcribed texts. I did some of that a few years back when I worked as an in-house translator for a translation agency, but other than that, my experience in the field is zero. Someone else will (hopefully) be able to advice you on this. I would suggest, though, that you only send such samples to agencies who specifically state that they do this type of work as a lot of agencies don't. In general, make sure to check the different agencies' websites so that you know you meet their criteria and match their profiles.

Again, as for literary translation, my experience is limited to contacting a couple of publishers and generally being told that they already had a team of experienced and trusted translators and that they were not interested in adding to the group at the moment. One kind response, however, said, "keep applying to different publishers; at some stage, someone will need new translators and they will consider you". Mind you, my field of interest was not exactly 'literary' in the classic sense, as I was aiming for translation of children's books, books about architecture, and cookery books. Probably different to what you would call 'literary'.

Have you considered NOT starting out as an independent translator straight away? You will find it so much easier to get freelance work later on if you DO have translation experience. A lot of people who are now independent translators have a background in other professions or maybe as in-house translators for translation agencies or in other contexts. My own background is a mixture, i.e. 8 years in non-translation work abroad before I started studying translation, then 4 years as a technical translator for a production company, then 7 years as an in-house translator for a translation agency before I went self-employed. The experience I gained from my years abroad and both full-time translation jobs is invaluable to me now that I run my own business, because I got masses of practice in speaking my main foreign language (which is still the basis for my confidence as a translator into my foreign language) and lots of experience in many different types of translation, and because I learnt general business skills along the way. Just a thought. We all follow different paths...


I have been working full time for the last 5+ years, using my languages/translation skills quite a lot. I started off in tourism (multilingual customer service), then did some temp work in various companies (mainly admin work) and then moved into teaching English as a foreign language. I completed my MA in Translation while continuing to teach in the afternoons and evenings. I'd love to do in-house translation work, but that seems even more difficult than going freelance. I only ever see a handful of positions advertised and so far I haven't had any luck.


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:26
Danish to English
+ ...
Apologies Jan 20, 2013

Hi Claire

First of all, sorry for misspelling your name before.

Secondly, I had not read your Proz profile before replying to your post, but now that I have, I would say that it looks to me like you have lots of experience to offer translation agencies. Now it becomes more a matter of how you present yourself. You say in your profile that you have 3 years' experience as a translator. But then you list the translation jobs you have undertaken and it doesn't sound like all that much, so without being untruthful, I would recommend that you either expand on the "several years of ...." or leave out the examples altogether and instead go into more detail about the services you offer, mentioning the fields that you work in, including specific document types (this will show that you know what you are talking about, and that you are aware of what kinds of jobs are likely to fall within your chosen fields). You have to convince outsourcers that you are a professional, not a newbie.

I must admit that I would also skip the bit about having wanted to work with languages since you were a child, because it makes it sound like you have not yet started working with languages, which clearly you have.

All the best

Gitte

[Edited at 2013-01-20 16:30 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-01-20 16:31 GMT]


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