Getting started and looking beyond the job boards
Thread poster: Daniel McCartney

Daniel McCartney  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:13
French to English
+ ...
Jan 16, 2014

I've recently decided to make a go at translation as my main job, and I'm looking for ways to get experience beyond just the job boards here at ProZ. I've set up my profile and CV, answered the only Kudoz question I felt qualified to answer, and looked at a few postings, but I still feel generally unqualified. I have a BA in linguistics from the University of Chicago and near-native proficiency in French, but extremely little experience in translation itself. If anyone can offer tips on the following, I'd be extremely grateful:

  • Volunteer translation, translation for non-profits, etc.

  • Finding proofreading work - I've had several people recommend proofreading as a way to get started, but I haven't seen anything like that posted here.

  • Anything that helped you find your first clients or that you've seen work for other rookies.


  • Thanks in advance for any advice or thoughts you can offer!


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    Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
    Spain
    Local time: 10:13
    Member (2007)
    English
    + ...
    Congratulations on your new-found status Jan 16, 2014

    So, a New Year's resolution to be a freelance translator, with paying membership of ProZ.com: a good start to the year, if you can make money from it, and I wish you every success. Do keep active on KudoZ as it's essential for visibility here in your pairs and anyway it's a valuable community involvement that's rewarding for both parties.

    As you'll have realised if you've looked through the http://www.proz.com/guidance-center, the important thing here is visibility in the directory, getting clients to come to you, and KudoZ points count for a lot after paying membership, especially in the FIGS pairs. Next in importance is a 100% coherent profile message, with subject specialisation in the FIGS pairs being extremely important. Here, everything is consistent until it comes to your "About Me" section where you suddenly introduce a specialisation in technical translation - I'm wondering what backs that up. Your CV is good - perhaps a little too "employee" but I've seen a whole lot worse.

    But then there are some important items that are missing. No translation samples? No website or blogs? You don't have to have all, but clients will need something to reassure them that their selected poetry/literature translator has excellent English writing skills. No credentials? What about that degree in linguistics in your CV? So, although you say you've set up your profile here, I think it can be improved quite a bit.

    To answer your specific questions:
    - I think volunteering can be useful experience, but you won't necessarily get much in the way of feedback. Mentoring would be far more useful and it's possible on this site. Most NGOs look for experience and never give feedback.
    - Proofreading, i.e. checking other people's work, is surely best left to those who cut their teeth long ago.
    - I daresay offering really low rates as you do could get you some work, but would it be the right sort? You say you feel unqualified but with a "BA in linguistics from the University of Chicago and near-native proficiency in French" you should stand tall and demand average rates for quality work. Anything else is a slippery slope to total disillusionment.

    HTH and please accept that I mean all criticism to be constructive.


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    Daniel McCartney  Identity Verified
    United States
    Local time: 04:13
    French to English
    + ...
    TOPIC STARTER
    Thanks! Jan 16, 2014

    This is all fantastic and miles beyond anything I'd hoped for! Thank you!

    If you don't mind, I have a follow-up question.
    Here, everything is consistent until it comes to your "About Me" section where you suddenly introduce a specialisation in technical translation - I'm wondering what backs that up.
    The technical translation is meant to refer to my experience working in the so-called "big data" industry and software testing. I suppose I should be more specific, yes? Or have I mislabeled the subject area?

    Again, thank you.


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    Rob Prior
    Germany
    Local time: 11:13
    German to English
    Join your local translator's organisation Jan 17, 2014

    Hi Daniel,

    I can back up everything that Shiela said. Another good step would be to join your local professional organisation, for the US this is the American Translators Association: http://www.atanet.org/

    I don't have the time to go through the specifics at the moment, but an associate membership costs just under 200 dollars per year, which sounds like a lot but it is worth it. These kind of organisations can offer courses, local meet-ups, will put you in their directory so you are visible to potential clients, etc. and being a member looks really good. It's also worth looking to see if there are any similar organisations in your local area or state.

    Also start thinking about a specialisation. Software and "big data" is a great place to start, try and find some source-language websites or publications so you can swot up on terminology, current trends in the industry, and who knows, maybe even find some clients.

    My main point is that there is more to finding work as a translator than just proz, to be honest a lot more. Having said that, have a look at the mentoring scheme, the online courses and webinars and check to see if there are any powwows (meet-ups) in your area.


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    Tiffany Hardy  Identity Verified
    Spain
    Local time: 11:13
    Spanish to English
    Welcome! Jan 17, 2014

    Hi Daniel and welcome to the community!

    I think that both Rob and Sheila have given you excellent advice.

    I think the most important thing about finding work in addition to what Sheila and Rob have already mentioned is having a very effective set of marketing materials to send out to potential clients. If you are interested in working with agencies, this will be your CV and a very good opening email message introducing yourself. And this is precisely where I think you can improve: your CV.

    There are some aspects of your CV that are slightly confusing. You claim to translate from French and Spanish to English, noting your near native French. But this leaves me wondering, what about the Spanish? How and why are you qualified to translate from Spanish? Also, "proofreading" in the translation world, often means revising what other translators have translated, so to say you proofread from Japanese means that you must also be fluent in Japanese. But it is unclear if you are or not and if you are, why are you not providing Japanese to English translation services, which would be much more lucrative than Spanish/French ones? So, in short, I'm scratching my head over your languages a bit. This needs to be very clear.

    Second - your education is hidden at the bottom and this is, I would say, one of the strengths of your background and gives you instant credibility as a language specialist. A degree in linguistics from the University of Chicago? Are you kidding? How many among us would like to have this on their CV? That needs to be mentioned in your paragraph summary at the top of your CV, my friend.

    One of the things that makes for a great CV is that absolutely everything on it furthers your career objective. That means that to write an effective CV you need to place weight on those aspects from your past that support your goals and diminish the importance of those that do nothing to help you. Your professional experience section needs to emphasize those things that are directly relevant to translation. So, for example, under "Personal English Instructor" the task of "providing feedback to student's parents" really has nothing to do with your current goals, so you need to think about what you did in this job is directly relevant. Focus on how you honed your grammatical expertise and gained an deep knowledge of both Spanish and English grammar. Talk about time organization, juggling a busy schedule, etc. The same is true with your other jobs. You gained business and computer expertise at these jobs that have logically lead you to specialize in those fields, but what you gained in those jobs that is directly relevant to why you are now a specialist in those areas should be reflected.

    Regarding your translation experience, I don't think it helps your cause to list specific translation projects when you have done so little. You describe two jobs of under 12,000 words each. This amounts to a couple of weeks work for many full time translators. If anything, this calls attention to your lack of experience more than anything. Rather than focusing on your experience, I would focus on your areas of specialization, since this is what potential clients will want to know anyway. So, directly underneath your summary paragraph I would have a section called "Areas of Specialization" where you can list your areas and perhaps the types of documents you have done or offer. Without being dishonest and saying you have experience translating certain things you clearly do not have experience doing, you can simply say "I offer the translation of...." and list the types of documents you would feel comfortable translating. There you have it. You fill the most prominent part of your CV with the services you are offering rather than wasting that space waving a red flag of the experience you do not have. Think of your CV as a brochure showcasing what you offer rather than a CV in the traditional sense of what you've done, writing to the future (i.e. what you want) rather than the past.

    And finally, the dreaded talk on CAT tools. Do you use them? Because this may be a deciding factor for clients on willingness to work with you. If you don't use them, I would make that a number one priority. If you do already use them, you should mention them in your CV.

    One more thing: consistency. Once you have finished with your CV make sure that your Proz and LinkedIn profiles are 100% aligned. Right now your CV says French and Spanish to English translator but your Proz file also says Japanese to English.

    Best of luck!

    [Edited at 2014-01-17 11:31 GMT]


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    Tim Friese  Identity Verified
    United States
    Local time: 04:13
    Member (2013)
    Arabic to English
    + ...
    Greetings from another U of C Ling alum Jan 17, 2014

  • Volunteer translation, translation for non-profits, etc.

  • My experience is that it's easier to get cheap translation work than volunteer translation work. Translators without Borders, for example, has a minimum amount of time you must have been in the industry to volunteer with them. However, set your rates at around $.05 or $.06 and you should find work, some of it from quite sleazy agencies.

    Volunteering as an interpreter is also possible. Consider doing volunteer interpreting for CommunityHealth, Heartland Alliance, or any number of other orgs.
  • Finding proofreading work - I've had several people recommend proofreading as a way to get started, but I haven't seen anything like that posted here.

  • Again, I think you're more likely to find cheap translation work. For what it's worth, it will probably pay better than cheap proofreading. However, watch the job boards and you should find some proofreading jobs.
  • Anything that helped you find your first clients or that you've seen work for other rookies.

  • I got my first jobs by applying to every single job on the job boards here for weeks with rates that were low to start off with (and then started raising them heavily after just 2 months).

    Like you, I also have put work into kudoz questions - keep it up; it does pay off.

    Lastly, figure out whether you can translate Japanese. If you think you can, you probably can, and you'll learn a lot along the way. I should also mention that I've heard that Japanese > English is one of the strongest pairs in terms of both volume and rates, but I don't have personal experience in it.

    Lastly let me just mention that I too graduated from U of C in linguistics - small world, right?


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    Ildiko Santana  Identity Verified
    United States
    Local time: 02:13
    Member (2002)
    English to Hungarian
    + ...

    MODERATOR
    3 tips Jan 18, 2014

    I can highly recommend

    1) joining
    http://www.atanet.org/
    https://www.iapti.org/

    2) reading
    The Translator Guide -
    The #1 resource for ambitious professional translators and students

    http://translationinstitute.org/TheTranslatorGuide.pdf

    3) volunteering with
    http://translatorswithoutborders.org/Volunteers/Translator-app

    Best wishes with your new endeavors!


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    Daniel McCartney  Identity Verified
    United States
    Local time: 04:13
    French to English
    + ...
    TOPIC STARTER
    . Jan 20, 2014

    Everyone, the advice you've offered goes completely beyond anything I could have hoped for. I've updated the CV, I'm looking into listing myself with the ATA and a Chicago-based translation organizations, and I'm currently putting together a more coherent 'About me' section. Thank you all so much!

    I did have one remaining question. Tiffany, you wrote:
    And finally, the dreaded talk on CAT tools. Do you use them? Because this may be a deciding factor for clients on willingness to work with you. If you don't use them, I would make that a number one priority. If you do already use them, you should mention them in your CV.

    I'm confused as to what CAT entails. Does OmegaT not count, or do I need to advertise that I use OmegaT more prominently? The price tag attached to Trados is prohibitively high for me at this point.

    Again, thank you everyone.


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    Rob Prior
    Germany
    Local time: 11:13
    German to English
    Omega T is a CAT tool, but... Jan 21, 2014

    Omega T is a freeware CAT tool. I use it for some work. It has nowhere near as many bells and whistles as Trados Studio, for example, but it has basic CAT tool functions like fuzzy matches, the ability to add glossary entries etc. Some people on here swear by it.

    Trados is expensive but there are plenty of special offers available on here, so keep your eyes peeled. At some stage you will want to get it or another leading CAT tool like MemoQ, because many agencies only work in Trados or MemoQ (in the same way that when you apply for a job, the job description will usually ask for MS Office skills because it's the main software in that area).

    What a CAT tool essentially does is divide the source text into segments, which you then translate. The translated segments are then saved as pairs in a so-called translation memory or TM. When you later do another translation for the same client or in a similar subject area, you can load and attach the TM to your project. If the new source text contains segments which are similar or identical to one saved in the TM, the TM will either insert the so-called matches directly into the translation or suggest them as "fuzzy-matches", i.e. they are not identical but are maybe 80-90% similar.

    This basically boosts your productivity, as it saves you having to translate the same segments again and again, and can also help you stay consistent with style or specialist terms for example. On the other hand, a lot of agencies are not willing to pay the full fee for words that count as matches of fuzzy matches, sometimes you will only get half of the fee for a 75% match, for example. But generally, the pros massively outweigh the cons, which is why most professional translators will use some form of CAT tool.

    (P.S. I am aware that there are many excellent translators who do not use CAT tools at all, please don't jump on me!)

    [Edited at 2014-01-21 10:15 GMT]


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    Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member because it was not in line with site rule

    Marc KWAKMAN  Identity Verified
    Netherlands
    Local time: 11:13
    French to Dutch
    Functionality Omega T Mar 26, 2014

    Thank you Rob Prior for explaining the basics about Omega T.
    I have downloaded Omega T 2.6.3 for Mac yesterday and am trying to understand how it works. The segmentation principle I understand. I would like to know how the memory tools work. I don't know what 'fuzzy's' are. Do you perhaps know where I can find detailed information for beginners ? I have watched 2 video's on the basics, but I am really curious how to start using memory and dictionary tools. Best regards, Marc


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