Chickens, eggs, direct clients and location
Thread poster: Dan Lucas

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:40
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Jun 8, 2014

Hello everybody, I have begun the process of dipping my toe in the water of freelance translation. I am self-employed in a job that gives me considerable freedom to organise my own time but I have a few concerns about the longer term viability of that work, hence my interest in freelancing. My intention is to begin translation part-time and to ramp up if and when the (potential) demand is there. ProZ has been an eye-opener for me and a great crash course in the requirements of the trade. As an example, I was not even aware of the existence of CAT tools until a couple of weeks ago. [EDIT: Just to hastily add that I am not saying that CAT tools are a requirement.]

I have two main concerns.

The first is making the transition from "language user" to "translator", both in terms of mastering the craft and in the mind of others. While I would not call myself a linguist, my ability in the source language is proven and has always been at the high end of my peer group. My command of my native language is good and I wrote for a living - in effect - in English for nearly two decades. On the other hand, while I have done many short, ad hoc translations over the years, I have no formal translation experience or body of work that I can show to prospective employers. In other words I face the "chicken and egg" problem that I suppose is common to most beginners. So what do I do?

The second is that I am based a long way from the place that I perceive to be the locus of demand, namely Japan. I have read many helpful posts in the forums on the subject of drumming up work and finding direct clients. I particularly the idea of visiting trade shows in relevant fields, but that may be difficult given my location. Nor can I cold-call prospective clients (leaving aside for now the issue of whether this is wise) and leave my business card with them. Given the importance of direct clients, this is a worry for me. So what do I do?

I've come to the conclusion that I should hurl myself from the top of the cliff and hope that by the time I have fallen halfway I will have sprouted wings. Or, to be less dramatic and more specific, I plan to find a dozen or so agencies, email a personalised cover letter that emphasises my ability to help them with my specialist industry knowledge while brazening out my lack of professional translation experience, and attach a CV. Either somebody will trust me with the opportunity to do a real translation or they will not. If I get that chance then either they will consider my work and workflow acceptable or they will not.

I will return to the issue of acquiring direct clients once I have built a body of work that I can show to potential leads.

Is that pretty much it? What do my more experienced peers think?

[Edited at 2014-06-08 21:16 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-06-08 21:17 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

TB CommuniCAT  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 20:40
Member (2014)
English to French
Starting out... Jun 8, 2014

The beauty of freelance translation is that location is not a concern. You can be at your home or on a beach and still be in touch with your clients. Nowadays, you would need to make use of technologies to your advantage.

I do not suggest you making any cold calls to agencies. Most of them would hang up on you after 2 seconds The best is to research the agency and see what is their prefered method of contact. Some prefer you emailing them your CV; some have a template in place. Make sure you follow their preference. This may seem very little, but it is crucial for agencies that translators are able follow instructions.

As for experience, that will come with time. You mentioned that you have done some translations. You can indicate that on your CV. Any experience whether little or a lot is still experience. You never know what clients are looking for. Maybe that experience seems little to you, but that is is what the client is looking for- that specific experience of yours. So, do not hesitate to mention it.

You may also wish to read this book called "How to succeed as a freelance translator" by Corinne Mackay. It is written for US translators, but there are a lot of concepts that are applicable to translators globally.

There's also an online course offered through Proz called Marketing techniques for translators by J_Angulo that you may wish to sign up for.

Good luck!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:40
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Re: Chickens, eggs, direct clients and location Jun 9, 2014

TB Communicate wrote:
The best is to research the agency and see what is their prefered method of contact. Some prefer you emailing them your CV; some have a template in place. Make sure you follow their preference. This may seem very little, but it is crucial for agencies that translators are able follow instructions.

A sensible point. Thank you for this and your other advice, which I shall keep in mind.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:40
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
ITI Jun 9, 2014

Hi Dan,

As you are in the UK I would recommend that you consider joining the Institute of Translation and Interpreting and attend some of their events, where you will be able to meet other translators and sometimes also agency owners (the local networks sometimes hold Meet the Client events where agency owners give a presentation about what they are looking for in freelancers, etc.).

The fact that you have written for a living and also have experience in a field other than translation gives you a major USP over translators who have been in translation for the whole of their careers so you should emphasize this when writing to agencies. Lateral entrants tend to be highly regarded in the translation world as they come with real-world experience and specialisms that are hard to acquire for translators coming straight from a language degree and MA in translation.

Also, you should be aware that translation agencies tend to get spammed with translator CVs so don't be disheartened if you don't many responses to your letters.

Good luck!

Rachel

[Edited at 2014-06-09 08:12 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:40
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Re: Chickens, eggs, direct clients and location Jun 9, 2014

As you are in the UK I would recommend that you consider joining the Institute of Translation and Interpreting and attend some of their events, where you will be able to meet other translators and sometimes also agency owners (the local networks sometimes hold Meet the Client events where agency owners give a presentation about what they are looking for in freelancers, etc.).

Thank you Rachel, I had not considered the ITI. Having checked their website I note that there is a Japanese Network Summer Workshop coming up at the end of this month. Interesting. Also nice to hear that there may be some advantages for lateral entrants even if they lack experience!

Dan


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:40
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You've got a lot to offer, I'm sure Jun 9, 2014

Your main challenge (apart from learning to use CATs etc) will be marketing. You'll need to craft your CV carefully (and not remotely resembling a job-seeker's CV) and your letters will need a lot of thought too.

Whether or not you want to make ProZ.com your professional showcase, you'll find plenty of information here to help you get started. Apart from this and other forums, there's the Site Guidance Centre, the Scam Alert Centre, Wiki articles... There are even free webinars on meeting clients and growing your business.

Avoid the common mistakes that are discussed ad nauseam here and you'll do fine. Research skills are a major requirement of a translator's job but feel free to come back with specific queries.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:40
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Re: Chickens, eggs, direct clients and location Jun 9, 2014

You'll need to craft your CV carefully (and not remotely resembling a job-seeker's CV) and your letters will need a lot of thought too.

Thank you Sheila. I have read your posts elsewhere on the importance of emphasising your ability to work as a partner. Certainly if somebody were contacting me to offer services of some kind I would want them to be explaining how they can help solve my problems rather than implicitly asking me for a job. My current profile is something of a placemarker; no doubt it will evolve in time.

Dan


Direct link Reply with quote
 

xxxS P Willcock  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:40
German to English
+ ...
Maybe obvious, but... Jun 9, 2014

Have you been in touch with the Japanese Embassy? I'm quite sure that the trade attaché could point you toward some interested clients who would value your living in the UK as a "localisation expert". Perhaps there's even a British-Japanese Chamber of Commerce.

This is probably one of the first things you thought of, but I mention it because I know that sometimes we overlook the obvious!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:40
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Re: Chickens, eggs, direct clients and location Jun 9, 2014

S P Willcocks wrote:
Perhaps there's even a British-Japanese Chamber of Commerce. This is probably one of the first things you thought of, but I mention it because I know that sometimes we overlook the obvious!

SP - actually I had not considered it at all. I see there is a Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which looks to have a similar function. Another one for the list and thank you for the suggestion.

Dan


Direct link Reply with quote
 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Another suggestion Jun 9, 2014

You say you have nothing to show prospective employers. Why not choose a couple of texts in areas that interest you, translate them, get them vetted by another translator to make sure they're OK, and send them out to people?

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:40
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Re: Chickens, eggs, direct clients and location Jun 9, 2014

philgoddard wrote:
You say you have nothing to show prospective employers. Why not choose a couple of texts in areas that interest you, translate them, get them vetted by another translator to make sure they're OK, and send them out to people?

Great idea, thank you.

Dan


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Chickens, eggs, direct clients and location

Advanced search







Anycount & Translation Office 3000
Translation Office 3000

Translation Office 3000 is an advanced accounting tool for freelance translators and small agencies. TO3000 easily and seamlessly integrates with the business life of professional freelance translators.

More info »
SDL Trados Studio 2017 Freelance
The leading translation software used by over 250,000 translators.

SDL Trados Studio 2017 helps translators increase translation productivity whilst ensuring quality. Combining translation memory, terminology management and machine translation in one simple and easy-to-use environment.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search