Subject Line of a Cover Letter to Translation Agencies
Thread poster: Vladislav.
Vladislav.

Local time: 00:49
English to Russian
+ ...
Sep 4, 2014

Hello,

One website with advice for translators says that the following sample subject lines are incorrect when applying to translation agencies for work:

Freelance translator resume
John Smith's CV
freelance translator application
Language pair EnglishGreek
application and resume
Employment
Freelance Translator
english-german freelance translator NAME SURNAME COUNTRY
New Translator!
TRANSLATION WORK
Experienced Freelance Translator
Polish Translations

The web page says that a translator risks having his email deleted immediately if he writes such subject lines when applying to agencies. I thought that some of such subject lines are appropriate.

How should a translator's cover letter subject line look like to be perfect and ensure that the cover letter will be read through?

[Edited at 2014-09-05 14:22 GMT]


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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 05:49
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Write to a posting Sep 4, 2014

Most if not all unsolicited applications are discarded. Start by responding to postings, and with time agencies may start to contact you on their own, at which point you will understand why most if not all unsolicited applications are discarded.

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Amel Abdullah  Identity Verified
Jordan
Arabic to English
+ ...
Be More Specific Sep 4, 2014

The following are too generic as they do not specify the language pair:

1. Freelance translator resume
2. John Smith's CV
3. freelance translator application
4. application and resume
5. Employment
6. Freelance Translator
7. New Translator!
8. TRANSLATION WORK
9. Experienced Freelance Translator

The next two either contain grammatical problems or do not specify whether the translations are (for example) English>Greek, Greek>English, or English Greek.

1. Language pair EnglishGreek
2. english-german freelance translator NAME SURNAME COUNTRY

The final one again does not specify the language pair. Is it Polish to all languages? Polish to English? English to Polish? We don't know.

1. Polish Translations

OTHER ISSUES:

No need to state that one is a newbie:

New Translator!

One should also use proper capitalization:

"application and resume" looks very bad.

We're not employees:

Employment

In my opinion, the ideal subject line would specify the language pair (for easy reference), provide information about one's specialties, and also warn the recipient that an attachment is included. For example:

Experienced Arabic>English Legal Translator (Resume Attached)

Skilled Writer Available for Arabic>English Literary Translations (Writing Samples Attached)

Experienced Journalist Available for Daily Arabic>English Journalism Translations

If answering a job ad, try to match the language used in the ad as well. Show that you are fulfilling a specific need or solving a specific problem for the agency.


[Edited at 2014-09-04 19:47 GMT]


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Domenico Trimboli  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:49
Member (2013)
English to Italian
HMMM Sep 4, 2014

Ok, maybe I am a bit cynical, but... don't you have the strong feeling that this guy is actually saying nothing on how to create a good subject line, and that the whole thing is a well-thought way to market his book to the readers?

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Eric Zink  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:49
Member (2012)
German to English
not really Sep 5, 2014

He gave specific advice and never mentioned his book. What did you think he should have said?

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Vladislav.

Local time: 00:49
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Subject Line Sep 5, 2014

Thank you very much for the fine explanations. The above-mentioned web page (which I was asked to delete from the post in compliance with the rules of proz.com) definitely advertises a book. So the purpose of the author was to sell it.

Since the term "employee" is not suitable when speaking about a freelance translator hired by an agency, what terms are usually used? In what cases is the term "subcontractor" used?

[Edited at 2014-09-05 15:10 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:49
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Say as much as possible in as few words as possible Sep 5, 2014

Vlad Kotenko wrote:
How should a translator's cover letter subject line look like to be perfect and ensure that the cover letter will be read through?

it can be quite an art form, but nothing on earth can ensure the cover letter will be read through. The only way you can ensure that is to make every word of the cover letter an art form, too.

I totally agree with the author's view of the bad examples given. They are either downright misleading or they're just a waste of space as they're far too general. The best I can do, not knowing your CV, is to give you some examples of some of my own subject headings when quoting for jobs.

British editor abroad specialising in non-native texts
FR>EN translator with over 15 years' experience in marketing and tourism
Experienced English proofreader and QC consultant for several translation agencies
Specialist in polishing non-native English copy and refining marketing material
Qualified British translator who spent 15 years in the south of France

I think you can get a pretty accurate outline of the jobs from those subjects, as well as my CV. That's what you need to aim for. Of course, if you're sending out unsolicited CVs to agencies then you can't be quite as specific about their needs. But you can still be specific about your business offer, and you should only be targeting those agencies interested in that offer.


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Rita Pang  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:49
Member (2011)
Chinese to English
+ ...

Moderator of this forum
As mentioned Sep 5, 2014

Sheila beat me to it - said my exact words! Other postings likewise have given you some invaluable advice I'd say. In general, remember that we are NOT employees (unless we are specifically employed to be an in-house translator, for example). In this case, we are service providers. Honestly I don't even think the word "contractors" apply- if we are not "hired" for "employment" in the first place, why are we contractors? It's a collaborative relationship, not a top-down one (in theory, at least). I personally don't even respond to agencies who ask me for a cover letter. My portfolio of service? Sure thing, I can send you a copy. My cover letter? Sorry, moving on.

Another thing to note is there is no need to mention that you're green to the industry. We all started out fresh at one point in time- if you feel that you have the credentials to do the work, be confident, just don't over-exaggerate, and offer your services.


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Vladislav.

Local time: 00:49
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Work for Agencies/ Direct Clients Sep 6, 2014

You have given good advice. Other terms are used with reference to freelance translators. If freelance translators are not "hired" or "employed" in translation agencies, what terms are used instead?

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Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:49
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
What's your USP? Sep 6, 2014

I would recommend using the subject line to highlight whatever it is that makes you stand out from the crowd and that might pique the reader's interest enough to make them want to read further.

Do you have an unusual specialism? A rare language combination? An impressive qualification? Experience from work in a field other than translation? This will be different for everyone and, of course, is more difficult for those in the early stages of their careers.

It should preferably be something quantifiable and specific. Anyone can claim to write smooth, flowing text but not everyone is a member of the ITI (or equivalent). Anyone can call themselves an "experienced translator", but not everyone can claim to have 10 years' translation experience.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:49
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Terms Sep 7, 2014

Vlad Kotenko wrote:
You have given good advice. Other terms are used with reference to freelance translators. If freelance translators are not "hired" or "employed" in translation agencies, what terms are used instead?

You're looking at it from the wrong end. They don't "xxxx us" (as in hire, employ etc). We:

- offer/supply our services
- accept assignments from agencies and direct clients
- are their suppliers/vendors/service providers
- work with agencies or direct clients (not for)
- collaborate (with agencies - I wouldn't use that with direct clients)
- work in partnership with agencies on clients' texts


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Vladislav.

Local time: 00:49
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Terminology Sep 7, 2014

There are also some terms which one translation agency uses on its registration form for translators:

DTP
QA
Alignment
Glossary Creation and Management
Help Compilation / Testing
Multi-Media Localization
Back translation

A translator has the option to choose "Yes," "No," or "If Required" next to those terms, as well as to specify his/ her rate. What kind of services do those terms refer to? Are the fees charged per hour of work?

The form also has a "Domain Area" field. Should a translator enter his/ her areas of expertise in the "Domain Area" field?

There are two other fields: "Rates for Proofreading" and "Rates for Review." What is the difference between reviewing and proofreading?

The field "Optional Language" is placed next to "Source Language" and "Target Language Fields." What is to be typed in the "Optional Language" field? Since the form has only those three language-related fields, how can a translator indicate that he/ she also translates from the native into the non-native language?


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:49
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
While we're talking skills Sep 7, 2014

Vlad Kotenko wrote:
What kind of services do those terms refer to? Are the fees charged per hour of work?

I'm sure anyone here will confirm that I'm more than ready to help new translators on these forums. However, I think the time has come to point out that an essential skill of any translator, beaten only by source language comprehension and target language writing skills, is research.

You DO need to know the answers to all these questions, Vlad, but I think most of the answers are already to be found on this site. Of course, feel free to ask if there's some specific application of a term, and/or the way it relates to your own business, that you don't understand.


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Vladislav.

Local time: 00:49
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Translation Business Sep 10, 2014

You have given the much-needed valuable help to new translators. Of course, research is an integral part of a translator's business. And this website provides needed guidelines.

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