In database but agencies don't contact me
Thread poster: Konstantin St

Konstantin St  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:51
English to German
+ ...
Mar 26, 2014

I currently started working as a freelancer and so far I'm quite content with the amount of work I have received. Yet there is one thing that I'm not sure how to deal with. The problem is that some agencies don't get back to me once I'm in their database.

I'm aware that many agencies just don't answer your applications and that's ok. I guess my language pair is probably among the top 5 most crowded. But then there are other agencies that gave me good or great feedback for my test translations, there is apparently nothing wrong with my rates or at least they didn't tell me, the contract is signed and then...silence.

What would be the best strategy in such cases? Shoot them an e-mail that says "I'm currently available", or would this seem to needy? I remember that when I was working as a PJM I would have been happy about such mails at the right time. Or should I just accept that I wasted time with acquisition that I could have spent otherwise?

I'm also studying Spanish at the moment which means that I'm OoO quite frequently. Is this something I should avoid mentioning when it comes to my availability? In my current situation, jobs take precedence over studies, so I would leave class if I received a job.

Thank you for your feedback and please let me know if there's been a similar topic which I couldn't find with the search function.

[Edited at 2014-03-26 19:15 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-03-26 19:16 GMT]


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Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:51
English to Russian
+ ...
What if Mar 26, 2014

The problem is that some agencies don't get back to me once I'm in their database.

I'm aware that many agencies just don't answer your applications and that's ok. I guess my language pair is probably among the top 5 most crowded. But then there are other agencies that gave me good or great feedback for my test translations, there is apparently nothing wrong with my rates or at least they didn't tell me, the contract is signed and then...silence.



we imagine
that
one person in an agency is responsible for recruiting talents (filling the database up)
and
another one is assigning translation projects to them...

What if the number of projects is no so abundant as the number of talents willing to work for this agency?


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Konstantin St  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:51
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
expecting others to work like I would Mar 26, 2014

Sergei Tumanov wrote:

The problem is that some agencies don't get back to me once I'm in their database.

I'm aware that many agencies just don't answer your applications and that's ok. I guess my language pair is probably among the top 5 most crowded. But then there are other agencies that gave me good or great feedback for my test translations, there is apparently nothing wrong with my rates or at least they didn't tell me, the contract is signed and then...silence.



we imagine
that
one person in an agency is responsible for recruiting talents (filling the database up)
and
another one is assigning translation projects to them...

What if the number of projects is no so abundant as the number of talents willing to work for this agency?


Hi Sergei, thank you for the response. No, this is nothing I would imagine since I have been on both sides of this outsourcing thing. Maybe the problem is that I expect others to act like I did when I had to outsource jobs. I generally liked to test the newbies.


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Pablo F Medina  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
Being in the right database at the right time! Mar 26, 2014

Hi Konstantin,

Your problem is one that a lot of us face - we spend a lot of time looking for agencies, we send them our latest and most polished CV, wait for their response, which usually entails a lot of paperwork and in the worst cases, a translation test. After we put up with these 4-5 hours of unpaid work, we get told that we are great and that we are now on the database. And that could be seen as a synonym for being in a coma.

I worked in a big translation agency as a Project Manager for some time and the reality is this: agencies tend to have a small number of translators that they usually work with. Sometimes when the agency is bigger, they may have regular translators for a particular field ("the" legal translator, "the" life science translator") or if they are more business-oriented, a translator for each client ("the" translator for Coca-Cola, or "the" translator for adidas). You have to think of it as if these translators somehow had permanent positions within the company.

So why are always looking for people and they accept new applications? Well, firstly as Sergei points out, usually the people who deal with "talents" are not the project managers - these are people whose job is solely looking for suitable translators on a daily basis: their job is not to give you work, but simply to find you. The reason why they are always looking for more linguists is because they may always need a back up. Working with people remotely is much more challenging than working with someone who comes physically into the office every day - you can't just turn up at their desk and ask them to do something urgently, or ask them to stay late. Also, most of us have at least a handful of regular clients and the workload they put on us varies and clashes enormously. This may make you unavailable, and that's when they make use of these databases.

Sometimes translators decide to stop working for an agency (because the work the agency sends is no longer interesting, or they decide to increase their rates and the agency doesn't agree, or they quit translating altogether!), so the database comes in handy in those situations too. To give you an example, we had over 2,500 linguists in our database and we used about 150-180 (not even a 10%) on a regular basis.

Sending out "availability" e-mails as such doesn't usually work - it would be pretty much like winning the lottery if you contacted someone the minute they needed a linguist with your profile. Instead, you may want to think of something close to a Marketing Tool - I would suggest e-mailing these potential clients with a Monthly or Bi-Monthly newsletter of what you latest projects have been, what CPD you have carried out (how your Spanish courses are going), if you have a blog you could send a summary of your most popular entries, or even talk about trips you have taken! This will remind them that you are still around, working and developing your business and skills, and also make you a bit more human, which some people like.

In a nutshell, don't despair, it's all about being in the right database at the right time!

¡Buena suerte!
Pablo


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Michael Marcoux  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:51
Russian to English
+ ...
Pablo said it very well Mar 27, 2014

From what I've gathered, most PMs have "go to" people. But that's not to say that PMs will always and exclusively use them- it can be the case that there is enough work to go around for everyone, but one translator opts to be the agency's "workhorse." One way I worked around that was by finding PMs, contacting them through linked in, and just chatting with them, about work or otherwise. I attempted it out of desperation and had serious doubts, but it worked, and in the past 6 months I received two major projects that way, and one of them for an agency that I hadn't heard from in over a year!

Most people don't send messages though linked in, and then, those who do will use a formula (congratulations on your promotion, how are things lately, here are my latest projects, etc) that you can guarantee a PM will gloss over or send straight into the trash can. The rarest commodity out there is care, and taking 5 minutes to craft a personal message can make a tremendous difference in getting people to pay attention to and remember you - which incidentally was the theme of last month's NCATA (National Capital Area Translators Association) meeting.

In the end, it's a numbers game - but as the old Welsh proverb goes, constant blows break the stone.

(P.S. - fellow translator Tim Friese has been an advocate for using direct mail- I haven't got back with him to see how successful of an endeavor that has been, but I would certainly give it a try. Someone at least has to pick it up rather than click-and-delete! Also: have you tried reaching out to direct clients?)


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EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:51
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
This probably doesn't concern your pair, Mar 27, 2014

but sometimes I receive ProZ enquiries from agencies that already have me in their DB, asking me to register with them - they don't even look at their DB! But I suppose this happens in pairs that are rare to them - they just cannot believe they already have somebody for that pair. Or - if their system is not very structured - they just have me down for the speficic pair I worked in for them, never looking at my other pairs.
Usually, you will receive requests from agencies that you have given up on at a moment when you are very busy:) This happened to me yesterday - it is important to take the job then, even if it's difficult for you - to establish contact, to show your superior quality (provided you have one:)).


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:51
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Greetings Mar 27, 2014

I regularly receive Christmas greetings etc. from agencies that have ever given me any work. So I'm on their databases for the sole purpose of receiving "Merry Christmas" messages.



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Domenico Trimboli  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:51
Member (2013)
English to Italian
Interesting Mar 27, 2014

Pablo F Medina wrote:

Hi Konstantin,

Your problem is one that a lot of us face - we spend a lot of time looking for agencies, we send them our latest and most polished CV, wait for their response, which usually entails a lot of paperwork and in the worst cases, a translation test. After we put up with these 4-5 hours of unpaid work, we get told that we are great and that we are now on the database. And that could be seen as a synonym for being in a coma.

I worked in a big translation agency as a Project Manager for some time and the reality is this: agencies tend to have a small number of translators that they usually work with. Sometimes when the agency is bigger, they may have regular translators for a particular field ("the" legal translator, "the" life science translator") or if they are more business-oriented, a translator for each client ("the" translator for Coca-Cola, or "the" translator for adidas). You have to think of it as if these translators somehow had permanent positions within the company.

So why are always looking for people and they accept new applications? Well, firstly as Sergei points out, usually the people who deal with "talents" are not the project managers - these are people whose job is solely looking for suitable translators on a daily basis: their job is not to give you work, but simply to find you. The reason why they are always looking for more linguists is because they may always need a back up. Working with people remotely is much more challenging than working with someone who comes physically into the office every day - you can't just turn up at their desk and ask them to do something urgently, or ask them to stay late. Also, most of us have at least a handful of regular clients and the workload they put on us varies and clashes enormously. This may make you unavailable, and that's when they make use of these databases.

Sometimes translators decide to stop working for an agency (because the work the agency sends is no longer interesting, or they decide to increase their rates and the agency doesn't agree, or they quit translating altogether!), so the database comes in handy in those situations too. To give you an example, we had over 2,500 linguists in our database and we used about 150-180 (not even a 10%) on a regular basis.

Sending out "availability" e-mails as such doesn't usually work - it would be pretty much like winning the lottery if you contacted someone the minute they needed a linguist with your profile. Instead, you may want to think of something close to a Marketing Tool - I would suggest e-mailing these potential clients with a Monthly or Bi-Monthly newsletter of what you latest projects have been, what CPD you have carried out (how your Spanish courses are going), if you have a blog you could send a summary of your most popular entries, or even talk about trips you have taken! This will remind them that you are still around, working and developing your business and skills, and also make you a bit more human, which some people like.

In a nutshell, don't despair, it's all about being in the right database at the right time!

¡Buena suerte!
Pablo


Hi Pablo,

Lots of interesting points here, and yeah, in my experience as a translator things have always worked like this: I've been assigned to a client/area and then occasionally received work for other accounts/in other areas. Sometimes, the 'other' clients/areas became a bigger source of income than the first, but still.

My point here is: I've always started working with agencies because they were looking for someone in my areas and they contacted me. When I sent out CVs, even when the agency answered and I were added to their database, I've rarely received any work.

It's interesting you mention contacting them with a newsletter. Question is: whom you want to send it to? It's almost sure when you've been added to their DB you talked with a vendor/procurement manager or a similar position. Does sending them an update really make sense? As you said, they find resources/manage applications, but they don't choose translators - PMs do.


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Konstantin St  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:51
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
personalized mail should work with smaller agencies Mar 27, 2014

Thank you all for your fedback, especially Pablo for mentioning the personalized newsletters. This should work at least with smaller companies where there might be a real working relationship between the HR folks and the PMs, not a "those guys from the other department"-thing.

Like Michael said agencies have their "go to translators". I guess there is no real strategy for becoming one of those.

[Edited at 2014-03-27 12:11 GMT]


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RoisinDean
United Kingdom
Irish to English
+ ...
Same here Mar 27, 2014

I have experienced exactly the same problem. Agencies contact me, ask me to take a test, get back to me with glowing feedback and then I just sit on the database, very rarely being contacted. When I am contacted, it seems to be when none of their regular translators can do it and while I get positive feedback on my work, they rarely come back to me until the next time they need someone urgently. I never seem to make it onto the 'regular translators' list - I imagine because they already have a huge database of regular translators!

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Arianne Farah  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:51
Member (2008)
English to French
Try contacting them over holidays Mar 28, 2014

First, don't tell them when you're unavailable (OoO) - as long as your phone is Internet enabled and you can receive email, you're available.

When I first started, several years ago, I would contact agencies with whom I was registered, but for whom I hadn't worked, just before the summer holidays and a week before Christmas. I would tell them that I was available over the holidays. These are the times of year when an agency has no choice but to go beyond their established 'A' team and it's your chance to get your name known to PMs. If the editors are happy with your quality, you'll start getting more and more projects, and suddenly you're golden. Try to not have more than 15-20% of your income coming from a single agency though; you never know when they might have cash problems (happens ALL the time)/open an office in your target language country and drop freelancers (happened to me once)/drop you for no reason (some PM facebooked you & didn't like what you looked like and arbitrarily deleted you).

Once the floodgates open, the next lesson is to learn when to refuse projects.

Don't overextend - 1 bad translation and you'll be burned forever with that agency - you have no room for error when you start out; take your time and re-read yourself silently, aloud, and then to an imaginary person listening to you (or your pet).

On a side note - in your 'about me' - it's good -short & sweet - but remove the mentions of 'student'. No-one wants to hire a student.

I suggest:

"I'm a state-certified English-German translator and interpreter (with honors), working towards a second state certification in Spanish.

I have two years' experience as an in-house translator and project manager for a leading translation agency.

I also worked in the translation department of a large manufacturer of measuring and communications equipment.

I completed a semester of Engineering at the Hochschule Augsburg (school? university? college?). "

Not sure I'd keep the last sentence - makes you look like a dropout.


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Konstantin St  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:51
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Rewording my failed Engineering studies Mar 28, 2014

Arianne Farah wrote:

First, don't tell them when you're unavailable (OoO) - as long as your phone is Internet enabled and you can receive email, you're available.

When I first started, several years ago, I would contact agencies with whom I was registered, but for whom I hadn't worked, just before the summer holidays and a week before Christmas. I would tell them that I was available over the holidays. These are the times of year when an agency has no choice but to go beyond their established 'A' team and it's your chance to get your name known to PMs. If the editors are happy with your quality, you'll start getting more and more projects, and suddenly you're golden. Try to not have more than 15-20% of your income coming from a single agency though; you never know when they might have cash problems (happens ALL the time)/open an office in your target language country and drop freelancers (happened to me once)/drop you for no reason (some PM facebooked you & didn't like what you looked like and arbitrarily deleted you).

Once the floodgates open, the next lesson is to learn when to refuse projects.

Don't overextend - 1 bad translation and you'll be burned forever with that agency - you have no room for error when you start out; take your time and re-read yourself silently, aloud, and then to an imaginary person listening to you (or your pet).

On a side note - in your 'about me' - it's good -short & sweet - but remove the mentions of 'student'. No-one wants to hire a student.

I suggest:

"I'm a state-certified English-German translator and interpreter (with honors), working towards a second state certification in Spanish.

I have two years' experience as an in-house translator and project manager for a leading translation agency.

I also worked in the translation department of a large manufacturer of measuring and communications equipment.

I completed a semester of Engineering at the Hochschule Augsburg (school? university? college?). "

Not sure I'd keep the last sentence - makes you look like a dropout.


Hi Arianne,

thanks for the great feedback.

I changed the last sentence to "I have firsthand experience in CAD as well as in traditional drafting." because that's the important experience I gained during my one semester in Engineering.


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Annie Sapucaia  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:51
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
I understand the frustration! Mar 30, 2014

This is a common problem for me, too. I get a lot of replies from agencies (well, maybe a lot is an exaggeration). They add me to their database and then I never hear from them again. Often you even go through the trouble of a test translation, NDA signing, etc...only to not actually have a job waiting for you. Some agencies are upfront about it, some are not.

Although...I shouldn't say I never hear from them again . Just recently one agency I applied to last year contacted me and gave me a whole bunch of work for about three weeks.

I understand how frustrating it is, but I'd say keep contacting agencies (while pursuing direct clients) and hopefully they will contact you at some point.


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Kenneth Woo
China
Local time: 05:51
English to Chinese
We are in the same boat. Mar 31, 2014

But I think the problem is likely to be that we have no area of specialisation that makes us stand out. I believe that if we can translate patents, legal texts, or academic papers, things would be easier.

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