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Getting established is not as easy as it seems.
Thread poster: Mark Sanderson

Mark Sanderson  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 01:43
Chinese to English
Jan 28, 2014

Hello,

I have decided to become a full-time freelance translator working in the Chinese to
English language pair. After many years of Chinese study, as well as living in the country of my source language for some time, I have finally decided to take the plunge as I feel ready. However things are not always as straightforward, or as easy as they first seem.

Here is a list of things that I think need to be accomplished before starting to take on cases, or apply for agency work. I hope that others who are considering starting out will find some benefit in this rather comprehensive list.

  • Buy and setup a new computer system specifically designed for translation work
  • Learn how to use CAT software such as Trados, MemoQ etc.
  • Setup financial accounts and payment methods such as dedicated bank, PayPal, and Moneybookers accounts.
  • Write a template bank of letter heads, invoices, rates pages and other important documentation
  • Apply for a paid Proz membership
  • Write a professional resume in both the source and targets languages
  • Setup tax information, fill in forms and complete other official registration
  • Read appropriate translation theory books
  • Read other books regarding learning to become a translator and the translation industry
  • Brush up on the target language writing skills i.e. reading style guides and other guidance books on how to write well


Of course this is a professional industry and a lot of preparation work should be expected as par for the course. However I have started to make a substantial financial and time investment in all of the above, and I am now left surrounded with piles of unread books, an unfinished list and little motivation to actually start translating.

Hopefully once I get fully setup it will feel like less of a burden.

icon_smile.gif


 

Mark Benson (X)  Identity Verified

English to Swedish
+ ...
Just a question Jan 28, 2014

Hello and welcome Mark,

You're presenting a list. First you say that you want to share it with others who will hopefully find it useful, then in the last part you say that you haven't actually gotten any work yet (you're still setting up the things on the list.)

Do you want advice or do you want to give advice? This part of the forum often gets topics where advice is sought, rather than spontaneously given, and most of the regulars like to give advice, so I just thought I'd ask if it's ok to give you feedback on the points you posted too?

Best regards/
Mark

Edit, And if we could add points to the list I would just throw the basic one in there: Profile content! Would be lovely to read something under 'About me' in your profile.

[Edited at 2014-01-28 19:52 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:43
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Great to see you taking it so seriously Jan 28, 2014

There's certainly a lot more to do than some people seem to expect if you want to make a career as a professional freelance translator, rather than just making a few dollars/euros/pounds.
I am now left surrounded with piles of unread books, an unfinished list and little motivation to actually start translating.

Can I suggest you

  • use the ProZ.com invoicing interface for the first few jobs, and just set up an email signature so your quotes, emails and invoices look professional; go with your English CV for the moment - I've seen a lot worseicon_wink.gif
  • get yourself legal asap, but in as simple a way as possible, and just set up Excel spreadsheets to keep track of income and expenses, as long as that's enough for your tax authorities
  • invest in good dictionaries and style guides and then refer to them when needed - don't read them from cover to cover. Basically, if you haven't got good writing skills at this point then you're probably looking at the wrong career path
  • make sure your current, all-purpose computer has current versions of OS, office software, backup, anti-virus, etc., plus a free, easy-to-use CAT tool
  • log onto ProZ.com as often as you can: build a full profile, gain KudoZ points, attend webinars (some are free!), get help with just about any problem, and network; you could also join the mentoring programme

Apart from those points, put all your efforts into finding jobs and doing them to the best of your ability, learning all the time.


 

Mark Sanderson  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 01:43
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for all of the early replies. Jan 28, 2014

Mark Benson wrote:

Hello and welcome Mark,

You're presenting a list. First you say that you want to share it with others who will hopefully find it useful, then in the last part you say that you haven't actually gotten any work yet (you're still setting up the things on the list.)

Do you want advice or do you want to give advice? This part of the forum often gets topics where advice is sought, rather than spontaneously given, and most of the regulars like to give advice, so I just thought I'd ask if it's ok to give you feedback on the points you posted too?

Best regards/
Mark

Edit, And if we could add points to the list I would just throw the basic one in there: Profile content! Would be lovely to read something under 'About me' in your profile.

[Edited at 2014-01-28 19:52 GMT]


Hi Mark,

I can see that maybe my original post was a little confusing. Please, by all means offer advice and guidance on my list. After all, that was the true reason for posting - to check with more experienced members to see if I am on the right track.

I am still working on the "About Me" section in my profile. I hope to have it finished and posted today.icon_smile.gif

Great to see you taking it so seriously


Hi Sheila,

Thank you for bullet pointed list of advice. There are a few things on there that I hadn't thought about.

All the best,

Mark


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 01:43
Chinese to English
One step at a time Jan 29, 2014

I think your list is good as a list of stuff that an established translator might have done. It is a bit intimidating for someone who hasn't even started yet!

To give some examples of things that you don't have to rush into:
Computer system - depends on what you've got already. You don't necessarily need something new, any reasonably powerful and reliable machine will do. If you're worried about security, the basic precautions are enough (Kaspersky or similar).
CAT tools - useful indeed, but not a sine qua non. You can start without, then buy when you feel the need.
Theory books - useful, but more useful when combined with practice. Do some work, then look at the theory and see how it applies.
Rates pages - you don't yet know what work takes the time, what is quick and easy for you, and what you want to avoid. You might want to do a few jobs and then try working out a more comprehensive set of rates.

I feel your pain, because I hate all the administrative malarky as well, but if you let yourself build it up over time it's not too bad.


 

Mark Benson (X)  Identity Verified

English to Swedish
+ ...
Good profile. Jan 29, 2014

Mark Sanderson wrote:

Mark Benson wrote:

Hello and welcome Mark,

You're presenting a list. First you say that you want to share it with others who will hopefully find it useful, then in the last part you say that you haven't actually gotten any work yet (you're still setting up the things on the list.)

Do you want advice or do you want to give advice? This part of the forum often gets topics where advice is sought, rather than spontaneously given, and most of the regulars like to give advice, so I just thought I'd ask if it's ok to give you feedback on the points you posted too?

Best regards/
Mark

Edit, And if we could add points to the list I would just throw the basic one in there: Profile content! Would be lovely to read something under 'About me' in your profile.

[Edited at 2014-01-28 19:52 GMT]


Hi Mark,

I can see that maybe my original post was a little confusing. Please, by all means offer advice and guidance on my list. After all, that was the true reason for posting - to check with more experienced members to see if I am on the right track.

I am still working on the "About Me" section in my profile. I hope to have it finished and posted today.icon_smile.gif

Great to see you taking it so seriously


Hi Sheila,

Thank you for bullet pointed list of advice. There are a few things on there that I hadn't thought about.

All the best,

Mark





Very well done! You have a great looking profile now. I'm sending you my comments on it in a private message.

The way I see it, with such a strong profile already as you're starting out, you might as well buy the membership right now. You won't regret the marketing value it will have as the years pass. I never did that myself, which I consider a mistake today.

Don't think that you're saving money. If you like ProZ (and chances are that you do, since it's to us you're turning) this is something you want, and the price of it is more or less symbolic. Don't learn that the hard way by missing out the way I did.

Another thing that I've heard about the membership is that once you start grabbing for jobs on the Job Board, you 'earn back' the membership fee quite rapidly.

Unless your next step is going to be a couple of hundred dollars worth of work, I strongly advise you to buy the membership and take it from there. Also check out if the CPN is something you might be interested in: http://www.proz.com/cpn.

/Mark


 

Tiffany Hardy  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:43
Spanish to English
yes, good job Jan 29, 2014

I want to second Mark and say you have a really nice profile description. I think you answer all the questions a prospective client would have and you present yourself with confidence. It's great!

Another couple of tasks to add to the list, they aren't absolutely necessary, but now I'm happy I have them close at hand:

- scan your degrees and certificates and make sure they are easy to locate in case they are requested.
- make an attractively formatted table with your rates. Be sure to include your minimum fee, technical rate, standard rate, rates for different file types if applicable (I think this might be what you meant by rates page, but others may not know).
- If possible, ask a few people if you can use them as references. I never ask this of direct clients, but other colleagues/agencies that can attest to your translation ability could be used and you'll want to ask their permission in advance.

I would also come up with a really solid cold-prospecting letter in both source and target languages to use when contacting agencies.

Best of luck!


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:43
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Not so sure about writing rates on tablets of stone Jan 29, 2014

Tiffany Hardy wrote:
- scan your degrees and certificates and make sure they are easy to locate in case they are requested.
Why not? I've been asked for mine at least twice in 15 years, so it was (just) worth doing.
- If possible, ask a few people if you can use them as references.
That's where ProZ.com really scores. I don't expressly ask clients (agencies or direct) for references. I did it once for entry into the PRO-tag network and my direct client was very happy to oblige but I didn't feel very happy about it, even though it was for staff use only. But often clients ask how they can give feedback (we're all used to giving on-line reviews nowadays, I'm sure) and then I just send them a WWA link. Some enterprising clients have found out for themselves how to do it. I think this is the way to go - so much of our work is covered by NDAs, and even when it isn't, client confidentiality is so important.
- make an attractively formatted table with your rates.
Sure, it's possible, but I wouldn't want to do that myself. For one thing, anything you put online today can be found months (years?) later. Not a good idea for potential clients to get last year's rates!icon_frown.gif Also, why be limited to standard rates? I'm free to set rates as I see fit, not as I've written down. If I have bad vibes about someone or their job, I'll quote high, as I will if I'm already busy. Conversely, if it sounds interesting or I get really good vibes from early communication, or things are a bit slack, I want to be free to quote a little low, maybe as an "introductory offer" or whatever. It's not as though we're selling an identical product to each client.
I would also come up with a really solid cold-prospecting letter in both source and target languages to use when contacting agencies.
Yes, it's really important for it to be as perfect as possible. Every word needs to be considered carefully, so it needs advance preparation - you can't just dash off a few lines. But then there should always be a dash of personalisation added to each text.


 

Tiffany Hardy  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:43
Spanish to English
I'm used to negotiating a standard rate with each client Jan 30, 2014

Sheila Wilson wrote:
Why not? I've been asked for mine at least twice in 15 years, so it was (just) worth doing.


I've had quite a number of agencies request my degrees, especially the ones that have involved online application processes.

Regarding references, Sheila is absolutely right in the importance of respecting client confidentiality. Even when that isn't an issue, it can be a delicate thing to request them, especially when starting out. I used one of my coursework professors, a colleague I had collaborated with a few times, and my former employer who also happened to have launched a translation portion to his English academy and for whom I had done a few translations. All three were close references who I felt more than comfortable approaching.

Sheila Wilson wrote:
Tiffany Hardy wrote:
make an attractively formatted table with your rates.

Sure, it's possible, but I wouldn't want to do that myself. For one thing, anything you put online today can be found months (years?) later. Not a good idea for potential clients to get last year's rates! Also, why be limited to standard rates? I'm free to set rates as I see fit, not as I've written down. If I have bad vibes about someone or their job, I'll quote high, as I will if I'm already busy. Conversely, if it sounds interesting or I get really good vibes from early communication, or things are a bit slack, I want to be free to quote a little low, maybe as an "introductory offer" or whatever. It's not as though we're selling an identical product to each client.


I don't mean to publish your rate table anywhere online, but when a prospective client responds to your request to collaborate or contacts you via your proz profile and wants to know rates, I feel it's best to provide something "official-looking" rather than just stating them in the email reply. Given the circumstances, I modify the table very quickly. You can also choose to note that the table is for reference only and that each project is subject to rate evaluation. I have one set up in my source language, one in target, one in EUR, one in USD. It just makes it very quick for me to be able to apply to inquiries with something that looks professional. I do not put these rates anywhere online.

Sheila, your way of working sounds ideal - quoting for individual projects rather than being tied to a standard rate - but for me the norm has been to agree to a rate with an agency and then move forward with collaborating, rarely touching the rate issue again. When you begin working with a new agency do you not agree to some type of standard rate, which can then later be modified?


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:43
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I understand your rates tables now Jan 30, 2014

Tiffany Hardy wrote:
Sheila, your way of working sounds ideal - quoting for individual projects rather than being tied to a standard rate - but for me the norm has been to agree to a rate with an agency and then move forward with collaborating, rarely touching the rate issue again. When you begin working with a new agency do you not agree to some type of standard rate, which can then later be modified?

I always give my hourly rate, Tiffany, so they have a rough ball-park figure: they know that if they want someone ultra-cheap there's no point continuing negotiations. If they send me a text, I'll give my rate per word for that particular job. Actually, I do often give a rate per word for translation - I've published it here. But it doesn't apply to each and every translation. I reserve the right to amend it as I see fit, just as a client has the right to ask me to lower it for a job that's particularly "easy", or not at all urgent, or for internal use only, etc.

Actually, I don't often work with the bigger translation agencies as I find they focus too much on price and not enough on quality. More often, I work with direct clients, communications/marketing agencies and small outsourcers here, aka fellow translators.


 

Mark Sanderson  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 01:43
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Feb 5, 2014

Thank you for all of the replies, you advice has been really great.

I am still in the process of getting things set up, but hopefully will be ready to take on cases as soon as possible.


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

Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:43
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
When the recommended database is your own database Feb 10, 2014

Silvia M. wrote:

Maybe this translation agencies database of over 5000 e-mail addresses of translation agencies worldwide to could be the answer


Silvia, I don't think advertising is allowed here, but even so, at the very least it would be nice if you made it clear that you have a "conflict of interest" since you are the owner of this database.


 

Siegfried Armbruster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:43
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
E-Mail lists, the new pest in our industry Feb 10, 2014

I do support the idea of diversification, i.e. finding other income streams, but the idea of creating and selling lists of email addresses is in my opinion a bad one. I don't remember any application I got via these every increasing stream of applications that ever resulted in us giving a job to one of the applicants. It is just a pest. spamming and clogging our inboxes.

 

urbom
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:43
German to English
+ ...
spam, spam, spam Feb 10, 2014

Siegfried Armbruster wrote:

just a pest. spamming and clogging our inboxes.


Not to mention the eight other identical messages posted in various proz forum threads in quick succession.


 
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