Almost established - advice needed
Thread poster: Salithealbo
Jun 30, 2013

Hello everyone,
I think I have gotten so close to starting out as a freelance translator(part-time first then hopefully full-time, someday), but sometimes I stop and think "Do I really have a chance?" because I don't feel too powerful with some things about me which are holding me back from starting. I do read on here a lot, especially the "Getting established" forum.
So, here I go with the questions:

1. I don't have a diploma or any experience at all, for which the advice is to start as an in-house translator first. Unfortunately, I already have a full-time job and pretty much have no way of working as an in-house. I want to start as a part-time freelance translator. I see that clients want you to have experience, at least. What do you suggest about this?

2. Languages were just about the only subjects I loved in school, so now I speak five of 'em. Many experienced translators tell us to not work with so many combinations [and I only plan to translate from all four languages into Albanian only, maybe adding Albanian to English later so that will make it five combinations]. Even though you know you would do a good job working with them, why is it still not a good idea to do so? How many language combinations are enough?

3. CAT - I don't know anything about them. A lot of agencies want you to have a CAT. Would I be able to make it without one?

4. I was at the bank and asked a worker there about how bank transfer works. She warned me to be careful who I send that one number to. Can somebody that uses bank transfer let me know what to be concerned about when using it and how it works?



Thanks in advance.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:32
English to Polish
+ ...
... Jul 1, 2013

Dear Salithealbo, I experienced the same feeling in 2008 when I was thinking about translation already but found a job with a law firm. And then in early 2009, when I had to make decisions. And then in early, 2010 when it was time to register a sole-proprietorship. There's always something holding you back, well, except perhaps for those people who are entrepreneurial by birth (if anybody actually is). Getting established and eking out a place for yourself in the economy and society requires you to make such decisions and follow through on them. It's a bit like growing up. Those decisions form a part of the beauty of what you do. In 30 years from now, you'll be looking at them from a different perspective. Make sure it's not a bitter one!

Just one note to make before we proceed: from starting out as a freelancer to getting established there is a long way. In fact, getting established is probably somewhat of a continuous process. Okay, perhaps 20 years down the road you're indubitably and unquestionably established, but even then you still have steps to make and places to conquer. (So don't despair.)

Now regarding those concerns you put it points. Learning by doing is possible, and some agencies will let you do that. By this I mean testing you, giving you all the pep talk you need, making sure the proofreader has your back. (On the other hand there might be con agencies that don't care as long as you return files. Watch out and don't step into a land mine.)

This said, it would help you better if you could pass some sort of examination to prove that while you don't have formal training or experience, you can deliver results (which some people with degrees can't). As a minimum, you should get yourself certified in language skills alone. With English, that should not be difficult; you're only limited by time and money.

Next, five languages is quite a lot. Claiming all five may reduce your credibility, as it's certainly possible to be fluent in so many but not statistically frequent. Hence, people might be reluctant to believe you're really that good at all of them, and they might think you're grasping at straws. My personal take is that as long as you are a translator, even a complete rookie, you shouldn't stay in the closet with any language in which you can claim C2-level proficiency. Or possibly C1 for simpler texts. (Experienced, cautious and imaginative linguists can get away with lower levels of proficiency because they know their limitations.)

Now is too early to talk about how many language combinations you should stick with, or which ones. Once you hit the streets as a freelance translator, you will gain some insight about your market that will help you make such decisions.

As for CAT tools, yeah, you can initially do without them. In fact, there are translators who do without them permanently. This said, you should probably get Trados at some point once you realise you're missing out on jobs due to not meeting the requirement. (Which is not the case if you're up to your neck in work without a CAT, for example.)

I use wire transfer all the time. In fact, the only other way I've ever been paid is cash. You can use PayPal if you want, some agencies actually prefer it. Just make sure you're okay with the commission they charge.


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 19:02
English to Hindi
+ ...
You will do fine Jul 1, 2013

It is like any business. You need to work hard to get established. Complete your profile, make good use of the resources of this site - the blueboard, the agency lists, kudoz, forums, knowledge articles, etc.

The most important thing is to have a passion for languages, which you have, and good writing abilities, which also you demonstrate in your post. So what have you to fear?

You will have to be patient though, for it takes time to get noticed by clients, and you will also of course have to do your bit.

CAT tools have become a necessary evil, so you should plan to acquire them. They are costly, so may be you could start with the free ones and the trial versions.

Wire transfer is safe, we use it all the time, but it is costly for small amounts. So explore other possibilities too, paypal or skrill for example, which are good for small payments.

How many languages should you work in? That only you can tell. To be able to translate well, you need to know both source and target languages very well. Most people clearly have a dominant language in which they have full command, and that becomes their target language. There are also rarer people who have high-level proficiency in more than one language, if you happen to be one of them, there is no reason why you shouldn't translate into many languages.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:32
English to Polish
+ ...
Trial version of Trados Jul 1, 2013

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:

CAT tools have become a necessary evil, so you should plan to acquire them. They are costly, so may be you could start with the free ones and the trial versions.


The Trial version of Trados is only time-limited, but it has all the functions and is free for commercial use within the trial period. If you're lucky, it will pay for itself, especially if you get a good discount. I got their 50% student discount for being a Ph.D. student of legal science, you know.icon_razz.gif

[Edited at 2013-07-01 02:28 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-07-01 02:28 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:32
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
To add to others' advice Jul 1, 2013

Salithealbo wrote:
1. I don't have a diploma or any experience at all, for which the advice is to start as an in-house translator first. Unfortunately, I already have a full-time job and pretty much have no way of working as an in-house. I want to start as a part-time freelance translator. I see that clients want you to have experience, at least. What do you suggest about this?

As others have already advised, there's no one thing that's indispensable, apart from language skills. But language skills alone aren't enough. You have to be able to tick at least two boxes from the following list, I would say, in order for outsourcers to take you seriously:
a) Qualifications proving your source language level, or proof of having lived using the language
b) Qualifications or experience in your specialisation area(s)
c) Long experience in another sector (i.e. second career bringing 'life experience' to translation)
d) Qualification in translation techniques, even basic, to show that you know how to tackle a translation, as opposed to being able to speak a foreign language.
Unfortunately, we don't know enough about you to know whether you can tick those boxes. If you can't, you may still succeed in getting those first few vital jobs if you can demonstrate good writing skills and you can market yourself well. There's a certain amount of luck involved in every deregulated profession, after all, but of course you have to deliver the goods to make a viable career out of it.

The problem that will face you is that, not only do you have little in the way of credibility to offer clients, you also have little in terms of availability. That could be the killer. I imagine translations have always been needed yesterday - that's business - but the need to deal with short deadlines certainly isn't receding. Most outsourcers have a database of translators and it's normally only when they've exhausted all other possibilities that they look to untried talent. By that time, it's generally truly urgent. If you're spending most of your time in a full-time job, you'll have to turn down most offers that come your way. OTOH, I'd say that a part-time job is actually essential to a new freelancer who absolutely has to earn money to survive. It can take a long time to establish yourself as a freelancer in any industry.

How many language combinations are enough?

If you really excel in those languages, go for it, but not if you just "get by". The real problem is when people claim to be able to translate both ways between several languages, and even between two languages where neither is their native language. That's to be avoided at all costs.

3. CAT - I don't know anything about them. A lot of agencies want you to have a CAT. Would I be able to make it without one?

Why would you want to do that? Would you go for a job delivering potatoes without knowing how to drive? If you mean "Do I have to pay for Trados from day 1?", I'd say no. But you should find out how they work, what they do, when they are and aren't necessary. There's no excuse for ignorance about them, particularly as some are free and largely compatible. Those nearing retirement age can turn their backs on them (and at 57, I've limited my use to the simple Wordfast Classic), but not a young person just starting out.

4. I was at the bank and asked a worker there about how bank transfer works. She warned me to be careful who I send that one number to. Can somebody that uses bank transfer let me know what to be concerned about when using it and how it works?

It's good advice in general to be careful what information you provide to others. Some agencies expect you to input your bank details just to register with them. All they get from me is "to be advised". But if you've received a real job from a real client, it's in your own best interests to provide him/her with the means to pay you.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:32
English to Polish
+ ...
One more thing Jul 1, 2013

One more thing. It was like 4 a.m. last time I posted, so I was a bit more forgetful than the usual. So, without further ado, while translation does not come down to knowing languages or even being a good writer, if you have some writing qualifications to show, that should go a long way towards establishing your credentials.

Nobody likes translations, even otherwise done to an expert level, that teem with typos, wrong capitalisation, missing or unnecessary commas, questionable grammar, unfit style or anything of the sort. A translation degree course will not necessarily unteach one that, IMHO it boils down to solid primary school and perhaps secondary school education with a lot of reading and a solid emphasis on correctness (rather than 'communication') in teaching.

At any rate, if you can get yourself certified for correctness in your own native language, that will show to agencies that any risk of embarrassment is minimal, as is proofreader/editor attention required. Agencies make a living out of these two factors. If you can get yourself certified for writing skills (even just winning some kind of competition), that makes you a stronger candidate for marketing translation, correspondence translation, anything that's supposed to be printed on paper and especially published anywhere important.


 

Salithealbo
TOPIC STARTER
I and my own world, sorry; and Thanks Jul 3, 2013

First, I want to thank you folks for the advices.

Just because I (myself) know what I mean, I sometimes don't make it clear enough for everyone else to know what I'm saying, too. I really meant to say "Almost established [to get started]" so I really should have asked to get advices about getting started and if a moderator could change that to "Almost started" or anything close to that, I'd appreciate it.

I do have high-level proficiency in more than one language and I was going to mention this in my original post but I didn't. As far as if I am a good writer, I'm a much better writer if I'm translating rather than just expressing myself.

Being available to get translation work done won't be a problem for me, though, as I and my family run a business and do our own schedule, but I still couldn't do a different job in addition to that, while I can find time to do some translation jobs just to get started.

I plan to start as part-time then jump into the middle of part-time and full-time. After that, hopefully one of my dreams will come true and call myself "a full-time freelance translator". Now that I know a lot more about the profession I have fallen in love with my languages more than ever before.

However, the start seems like a hard one. I now see why so many translators have done jobs for very low rates or even free when they started. It's the feeling that you do whatever it takes to get what you need.


 


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