Portfolio/samples
Thread poster: Ally Stack

Ally Stack  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:30
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jun 19, 2014

Hi everyone,

I'm a certified Spanish/English translator and my native language is American English. I'm curious about if it's necessary to have a portfolio/samples before contacting direct clients and/or translation agencies for work? Since I am new to the translation industry, I don't have a lot of samples and I'm confused about where I could get samples. I have some prior experience in law firms mainly - a little in insurance. I read somewhere that it's good to have 200-300 words of each sample and about 10 samples. But since I am thinking of starting with legal translations and I haven't done a lot of that and I would need to mainly translate from Spanish into English - I don't know where I could get legal documents/forms in Spanish without having actually worked on that many.

Also, how do you know what to specialize in? As of right now, I could specialize in legal translation. If I wanted to specialize in other fields, how do I know which one to pick if I haven't done a lot yet? Do I need to work on those particular translations before saying that I am specialized? Is it going to matter to the client to be specialized or not? Can you be specialized in more than one field? When you're starting out - how do you know which projects to take or which particular companies to contact? Should you work with different fields before you decide?


Thanks! I appreciate anyone's advice.


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:30
English to German
+ ...
Start somewhere and put your best effort forward Jun 19, 2014

Ally Stack wrote:

Hi everyone,
... I don't have a lot of samples and I'm confused about where I could get samples.


You do have a few, use those, review them and make sure they are perfect.

Ally Stack wrote:
I have some prior experience in law firms mainly - a little in insurance. I read somewhere that it's good to have 200-300 words of each sample and about 10 samples.


I never had 10 samples available for clients - a few very short samples, your language background, your confidence and commitment which you demonstrate on your profile page are evidence enough to entrust you with a task. Remember, you will look at any task that is offered to you and decide whether or not you can handle it and how much you charge for it. Whenever you are comfortable with the project, meaning you know you can do a great job, you can charge an adequate fee, deliver the job and get good feedback and more business.
I'd be a bit more aggressive in my profile about what I can do versus what I want to learn.
You mention your experience and educational background, and I think you are certainly qualified in cultural areas, history, voice-over and subtitling projects, business website translations and whatever else you have some past experience in; and since you worked with insurance material, it's definitely something you can offer.

Ally Stack wrote:
But since I am thinking of starting with legal translations and I haven't done a lot of that and I would need to mainly translate from Spanish into English - I don't know where I could get legal documents/forms in Spanish without having actually worked on that many.


I am sure you can find American websites that deal with legal topics (immigration comes to mind) and have English and Spanish versions. Your local library might also be a good source for Spanish or bilingual texts.
But it is certainly easier to try to get translations in fields that you already know and get your first projects in those.

Ally Stack wrote:
Also, how do you know what to specialize in? As of right now, I could specialize in legal translation. If I wanted to specialize in other fields, how do I know which one to pick if I haven't done a lot yet? Do I need to work on those particular translations before saying that I am specialized? Is it going to matter to the client to be specialized or not? Can you be specialized in more than one field? When you're starting out - how do you know which projects to take or which particular companies to contact? Should you work with different fields before you decide?


You have to start somewhere and you should start with translations that aren't too difficult - every field (for example law) has less complex (immigration papers, marriage and other certificates) and more complex texts (court papers, contracts). When you contact prospective clients, focus on a few fields (law -general legal texts, official documents, certificates) and the fields you already mention in your profile. Just remember, no matter how "easy" or complex a text is, the client wants it perfect (professional clients - the only ones I deal with), so you should still charge an adequate rate/price.

There are other fields such as marketing/market research that you might be interested in which are easier to break into than complicated legal texts if you are good at crafting snappy phrases.

Start somewhere and put your best effort forward.
Good luck!

Here's a list of related topics with links:
http://www.proz.com/forum/getting_established-15.html

[Edited at 2014-06-19 07:07 GMT]


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danya
Local time: 02:30
English to Russian
+ ...
Tests over samples Jun 19, 2014

I have been on the buy side (picking translators and ordering translations), and I am more inclined to trust the test translations/assignments I give rather than the [presumably 1000-times-polished] samples the candidates present.

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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:30
English to German
+ ...
Paid tests versus unpaid tests Jun 19, 2014

danya wrote:

I have been on the buy side (picking translators and ordering translations), and I am more inclined to trust the test translations/assignments I give rather than the [presumably 1000-times-polished] samples the candidates present.


As a translator, I don't recommend doing unpaid tests. For a newcomer, tests are an option but if they're unpaid ones, it's not really a good measure of self-assessment for the translator because if he/she doesn't get picked it's not necessarily because they did a bad test but because the rate they quoted to the agency is a professional one, not a rock bottom one (apologies to all agencies that do "paid" testing) and the agency will not work with them anyway = waste of time.

I don't do free tests and can't recommend them. Especially if you have a degree in translation or a degree in a certain field from a country of your second or third language or have lived and worked in the country of your second language, you can proudly present these facts on your profile page/website. You can open your business and don't depend on visitors to your "store" who want to eat a couple of "apples" for free before they buy some others in the future or not return at all.

There's nothing wrong with polished samples . All your work should be polished (and no, we don't have to polish them again and again) and samples on the profile page are only one factor when it comes to evaluating a translator - you need to consider their language background, education, fields of expertise, motivation, sincerity, etc. The profile alone will tell you a lot and more about the translator's professionalism than an "unpaid" test. An "unpaid" test says a lot about the agency that requested it.

A translator who accepts "unpaid tests" opens himself/herself up to exploitation by unprofessional people: there are people out there who will simply use you as a free translator or people who don't care that you put your best effort forward - so did a few other translators who are hoping to get picked for just doing wonderful tests, but instead, it's the guy/girl who accepts the "agencies low rates" who "wins", although I don't see this as a win at all.
Always be aware that it is you, the translator, who should decide how much you want to get paid, for tests as well as real projects.

Unpaid tests are no guarantee to become a professional translator. If you stick to realistic rates in your quotes, unpaid test can lead to more unpaid test, that's the only sure thing. It can be very frustrating to do them over and over again, do a great job every time and then you don't get paid or picked for a project. You will feel frustrated and disillusioned. Don't do it.

So, if a client/agency doesn't trust the information you put in your profile or is not convinced that you can actually do the job, suggest to do a test, a "paid" test. And don't do a long test, a few hundred words tops. And be sure you're dealing with a reputable company or you might not see that money either.

B

[Edited at 2014-06-19 18:08 GMT]


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