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Should I give up trying to work as a freelance translator?
Thread poster: Antonio Arizcun

Antonio Arizcun  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:25
Member (2013)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Mar 25, 2014

Hi everyone,

I registered as proz.com paying member in July 2013 and have been since trying to establish myself as a freelance translator. I have an English degree by Madrid´s Universidad Complutense as well as a Masters in Translation by Bristol´s UWE. I lived nearly ten years in the UK before moving back to Spain shortly before I registered here. I have attended all the courses I could regarding a wide variety of business issues as well as applying my own professional experience. I learned to use CAT tools and I would say I am fairly competent with them. I had a website professionally designed and made business cards, I am also part of the mentoring program and I have contacted hundreds of agencies, editors, etc., hardly receiving any replies. I am aware that my language pairs and my specialties are very common and that does not help me in my search for clients. That is why I decided to specialize further and take a couple of courses on localization. Last but not least, I believe my language skills are good and I can deliver good, quality translations.

That being said, I am becoming more and more desperate finding I hardly get any replies, let alone job offers. I find this to be a very "closed" industry with very little room for newcomers. My mentor has offered me some occasional work but he works mainly in different languages / specializations to mine.

I have listened to the advice received on different webinars and I have worked on having a good profile. I have also tried to answer kudoz answers but I am finding there are lots of people answering them and it seems that there are less and less questions coming.

I have heard people say it takes up to two years to establish yourself as a translator but I feel I am not making any progress. Is there just no room for me in the industry? Should I do something differently? I would love to be able to work as a freelance translator but I can´t wait forever for things to start happening.

What are your views?

Many thanks,


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:25
German to English
+ ...
Networking - preferably in person Mar 25, 2014

Hi,

Have you attended any industry events in person? I would start with whatever translation conference you can get to - many of these happening in Europe - and make some contacts there. From your profile, I see that you have experience in gaming, sports, retail. Find out what trade shows are happening in your countries (Spain, UK) in those industries and which companies do business in both and see if you can make connections that way. Is there an ES/UK chamber of commerce? That would be a good place to start gathering information on companies.

Also, I am from the USA, so maybe this isn't common in Europe, but we are usually provided with access to some sort of career center/career services after we graduate university. If there are services like this provided at your institutions, definitely use them. At the very least, write each of your coursemates a friendly card (really - you don't need to mention work at this point) and see what they are up to. Maybe someone will connect you with some work.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2014-03-25 13:24 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:25
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Could you do more? Mar 25, 2014

I agree with Daina's advice - networking is what it's all about nowadays. It isn't enough to just put out some information and wait for jobs to arrive. There are millions of people doing that, and a good fair percentage speak Spanish and English - OK, that doesn't make them translators, but if their rates are low they will attract some of YOUR translation clients.

You need to be pro-active and exude self-confidence; you need to get out there and meet potential clients, either on-line or in person. Try to get some of them to come to you by promoting a blog, taking part in discussions, etc. For your client base, don't just target agencies. There are potential clients in every nook and cranny: fellow members of ProZ.com (don't spam them though), local businesses, 'friends' on social networking sites, real friends who would never want/need a translation yet have families and friends who may...

I think you would do well to revisit your marketing texts, by the way (something we all need to do on a regular basis). If I were to come across your profile and CV, I would guess that you are an employee first and foremost, taking a break from the 9-5 grind. Although you turned freelancer almost a year ago, the project seems to have stopped at the "objective" stage. Where are the projects, the results, the reference (however veiled) to clients, the word-counts? All are seen as proof that you've produced successful translations in the past, but they're all absent from your texts. This is what potential clients expect to see, to give them confidence that you'll do a good job for them.

I'm getting a "could do more" feel, especially in what you say about having tried KudoZ. That area of the site is very important if you wish to use ProZ.com to showcase your skills and find clients here, and yet you've only answered about two questions per month? I'm all for only answering those where you actually know the answer (rather than rushing in for the sake of maybe picking up a point), but if you don't have much work on then you could presumably give it some priority.

Please take the above the way it was intended: as advice from an "old-timer", not an attack on you or your abilities.


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 10:25
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Positive spin Mar 25, 2014

It's all a matter of how you say it, I think.

For example, I wouldn't mention in my CV that I was starting my career, nor since when I have been translating. Likewise I would only say that I spent six years working in retail, without stating the dates. No problem with dates for education and courses, because you could well have been working on translation at the same time.

I'm not telling you not to tell the truth, but it's not necessary to stress your lack of experience! And there are various points in your CV where you dwell on how new you are to the career.

I don't know what others think about this, but I'm always quite impressed when I read things like ">500,000 words translated in the automotive sector". In fact, that's not a huge amount (and I'm just plucking figures out the air here) so you could put in few more. One way and another you'll have racked up some good totals in various areas (even if only when you were doing your MA!).

Another thing you could do is spend more time posting Kudoz (good practice for honing your research skills, but don't get addicted!). In EN>ES/ES>EN at least, we're generally quite a friendly lot, and I have received work directly from fellow Kudoz contributors (and on quite a number of occasions), and I'm pretty sure my activity has meant potential clients have been more interested in me.

Welcome to the community Antonio - and good to know there are fellow Prozians so nearby!

Noni


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Have you at least had *some* work? Mar 25, 2014

If so, have you asked the clients (a) for honest feedback and (b) whether they have any more jobs for you? Don't be afraid to say business is a bit quiet at the moment, or to dress it up as a customer satisfaction questionnaire. It's just as important to market yourself to existing clients as to find new ones.



[Edited at 2014-03-25 15:28 GMT]


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Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:25
Spanish to English
+ ...
Video Games Mar 25, 2014

Hi!

Yes, we work in a crowded language pair, but there's so much work out there that we can still make a decent living. One area that I would suggest that you look into, if it's something that you really enjoy, is video game translation. There is a lot of work in this field right now, and there aren't that many translators "qualified" to work in it.

Check out Linkedin forums and try to get in contact with local developers. You can get a little editing/QA experience by going through beta and alpha releases and double checking the translations and/or source text (and the developers will love you for it). You might want to look into QA testing for one of the larger developers, I think SEGA has an office there somewhere. It doesn't pay that much, but it's good experience and you can build your freelance client base until you're ready to take the plunge.


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Eleonora Chyc  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:25
Member (2013)
Russian to Ukrainian
+ ...
Never give up! Mar 25, 2014

Antonio, concentrate on your goal, but leave your life , everyday doing something connected with it. Don't except any limits - it doesn't matter whether your language pair is quite common or not, there are cheap and desperate translators/interpreters who work for low rates, general economical stagnation etc. YOU want this job !As our colleagues have mentioned - do your homework on networking and Kudoz. By the way, according to wise men it's always hard at the beginning and easy at the end. Everything what is good needs to be done with care : when you plant a rose ,you have to monitor what's going on every day.Only weeds grow without anyone's help.
Good luck,

Eleonora


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Antonio Arizcun  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:25
Member (2013)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks very much Mar 25, 2014

Hi all,

Thank you very much for your responses. Some great advice there too!

It is great to have some experienced fellow translators looking at your operation and ways you can improve it. At no point did I feel offended since it is all very clean and clear feedback, thanks again!


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:25
German to English
+ ...
A few more resources Mar 25, 2014

Secrets of Self-Employment by Paul and Sarah Edwards:
http://elmstreeteconomy.com/the-elm-street-library-bookstore/secrets-of-self-employment/

How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator by Corinne McKay:
http://thoughtsontranslation.com/about/


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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:25
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Forget Proz as a source for jobs Mar 25, 2014

First step on your road to being a professional translator is to forget Proz as a source of jobs, don't get me wrong I like Proz but I've never gotten a single job through it. Job wise Proz is a bidding war and the lowest bid usually gets the job.

What I like in particular are the forums and blue board, in fact the blue board is the only reason I'm a paying member, but it's also OK for things like kudoz and keeping informed.

If you want to become a freelance translator you have to dedicate all your time to finding clients, there are many ways of finding clients and lots of resources on the Internet how to go about that but basically there are two types of clients agencies and direct clients, they both have their disadvantages and advantages and you look for them in different ways, but there are loads of blogs and other resources that will explain all this to you.

The main thing I want to transmit is that you should not base your job search (or your success as a freelance translator) on Proz, if you do you will be disappointed. You need to look for clients in other ways.


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GP Translations  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 03:25
Spanish to English
+ ...
Friends and acquaintances can help a lot Mar 25, 2014

Give your business cards to friends and acquaintances. I completely agree with Alex about Proz. It's a great resource, but not a great resource for jobs, in my opinion. Direct clients have been my best bet so far.

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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:25
German to English
+ ...
ProZ profile Mar 25, 2014

I agree with Alex in general, but some clients do find translators through their profiles - keep a descriptive one with good keywords!

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loca  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:25
English to Danish
+ ...
Persistence Mar 25, 2014

If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise. (William Blake)

I've been in the field for donkeys years and I enjoy it, there is no need to give up but you must be flexible to manage the dry periods, and with dry I mean months with an income lower than $1000.

Don't fret during the times when you twiddle your thumbs because that's your time to learn new tricks, in any trade really. Essentially, the job security as a freelancer is far greater than being employed, you can't get fired, you just dump abusive clients and replace them with new ones.

It gets easier when you get more established and create a loyal client base. However, I'm not the Facebook/Twitter and LinkedIn type most of my work is 'cold calls' in the sense that I have many first time clients every month as well as the ones I have worked with for years.

I can tell you, that you do not need a fancy website, I have never had a business card, I rarely send Christmas cards etc. and I absolutely do not network with anyone or anywhere (check my kudoz and reply history) and I never answer phone/skype calls. I absolutely stink at customer pampering.

So how do I do it? I exclusively use email, but I am EXTREMELY reliable and ultra selective. I never quote on any job offer from an agency suffering from "best price syndrome". Slave-drivers and sweatshop conditions aren't hard to find, so steer clear of such.

Basically, apply yourself professionally and let the clowns fight over the scraps.

I have gotten many jobs via ProZ and I wouldn't be a member, if I didn't find it worth it. Business is business and time is money.

Good Luck Antonio and stay with it...

(I must be getting old and soft since I even replied to your outcry, or peradventure it is because I am listening to GuruGanesha)


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Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:25
Member (2004)
German to English
It's easy to be nitpicking ... Mar 25, 2014

but decisions about what translator to turn to are often taken on the basis of small details. So I will be nitpicking - with kindly intent - and say that I wouldn't risk giving work to a translator who claims to translate into English and yet uses apostrophes incorrectly in his CV ("the translator's professional network"). There are a couple of other dodgy points in your CV, too ("a different number of CAT tools" jumps out at me). Noni has already given general advice on your CV, which I would entirely agree with - and to her comments I would also add that things like "ability to meet deadlines" and "initiative and ability to work as an individual" are such basic and essential requirements for a freelance translator that it feels odd to me to dwell on them - frankly, any client is going to assume that if you are a translator worth your salt you will meet their deadline without question. I would focus much more on your language experience and skills and omit some of the other stuff, even if you end up with a shorter CV as a result.

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Little Woods  Identity Verified
Vietnam
Member
English to Vietnamese
I have the same thought Mar 26, 2014

I experienced the same thing as Alex and it is true. If you think Proz is the source for job you'll be disappointed and exhausted because of the price competition.

And if you truly worked on translation, for a start, you should state the workload you have completed. Later on, after a few year, you can state that you worked on millions of words and dont have to give details about them anymore. It really worked for me that way (stating what I have done and I have clients not from job post here) and I believe that a few year of office work just wont guarantee that you are up to the job. You can send emails, skypechatting in different languages but texts require in-depth understanding wont be that easy. If otherwise, everyone will be translators and there is no jobs for you because you are not that special. I hope you wouldn't like that idea and if you truly work on some translation, you understand what I mean.

From my own experience, I know people who can send email in foreign language and claimed to have degree in language but always have to copy the email samples from colleagues to use for their own so I would stay away from those who claim they have xx working experience to justify themselves as translator.

You can also work as proofreader for other translators, that way you can learn a lot and have something as experience.

And dont count on every job posts here as the source of work and dont sell your true quality short. What in the long run would be what you aim for.

Alex Lago wrote:

First step on your road to being a professional translator is to forget Proz as a source of jobs, don't get me wrong I like Proz but I've never gotten a single job through it. Job wise Proz is a bidding war and the lowest bid usually gets the job.

What I like in particular are the forums and blue board, in fact the blue board is the only reason I'm a paying member, but it's also OK for things like kudoz and keeping informed.

If you want to become a freelance translator you have to dedicate all your time to finding clients, there are many ways of finding clients and lots of resources on the Internet how to go about that but basically there are two types of clients agencies and direct clients, they both have their disadvantages and advantages and you look for them in different ways, but there are loads of blogs and other resources that will explain all this to you.

The main thing I want to transmit is that you should not base your job search (or your success as a freelance translator) on Proz, if you do you will be disappointed. You need to look for clients in other ways.


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