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Off topic: Lost newby! :-D
Thread poster: Animal_Soul

Animal_Soul
Spain
Spanish to English
+ ...
Oct 19, 2014

Hi everyone!

First of all, apologies if my (first) post is in the wrong place, but although I've searched for an appropriate section, I haven't found one where people introduce themselves when they’re new, like on other forums, so here I am, hoping someone will move it to the right place if necessary!

Anyway, I’m (kind of) a newby in the translation universe, and not knowing how to start was doing my head in (where to find proper work, or how to know what to charge, how to tell whether a client – be it independent or an agency – is genuine (and will pay!, I've heard horror stories), what software to use, and all the basic and most important ins and outs), so I spoke to an acquaintance who’s a translator and she recommended I started by having a browse at Proz. So I registered over a month ago, and started to explore it, but quickly realised that it’s soooooo ample!!, I found it really overwhelming. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel it’s quite difficult to know where to start and in which direction to continue on this page, where to find good advice on starting up, whether there are any pinned key posts or stickers that guide you through this maze, etc etc etc...

So, a bit about me: what I mean with “kind of newby” is that although my jobs have been on other fields, I've done (mostly unpaid) translations throughout many years, from one-page long to quite lengthy reports, an e-book, plenty of student reports, CVs, proofread and edited (extensively!) translations made by others of annual reports for a very important Spanish company, and many others done voluntarily for NGOs. When I say “unpaid”, I mean that they were either done for charities or as part of other paid jobs.

But, although I’m not a ‘certified’ translator, I’m completely bilingual in Spanish and English (I’m Spanish but lived in London for over twenty years, where I obtained the Cambridge CELTA certificate for teaching English to speakers of other languages), and have always been praised for my translations; like many of you, I've seen plenty of mediocre and bad translations, and considering I really like doing it and I’m good at it, I thought this should be the way I make a living – isn’t that what everyone dreams of after all? The ‘problem’ is, I’m not specialised in anything in particular, although I know a hell of a lot about health and nutrition, having read plenty of books and articles on the subject for many years and having a diploma in anatomy and physiology and another in reflexology, I’m a music nut, so also know a good deal about it. One of my jobs in England involved almost daily contact with editors from very important publishing houses, working on the editing and proofreading with them, so I’m quite clued up on other subjects I dealt with on a regular basis.

I know there are people who are not certified translators but make a good living out of it because they’re good, so I’d like to have a go. So, has anyone here, being in a similar position to mine, been able to get regular work as a translator? Can anybody give me a bit of advice about how I can use this page to be able to get started? There are sooo many things to bear in mind!

Sorry for the long post, and thanks to everyone who bothers to read it and reply!


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
Welcome to proz! Oct 20, 2014

I thought I had posted a response earlier, but it seems not to have uploaded.
Basically all I was saying is that you seem to be based in Spain, like me, and that my basic rate nowadays is 8 cents/word. It has stayed the same since the economic crisis began in 2008. Some colleagues tell me they charge more, but I don't offer discounts for repetitions or "fuzzy matches", etc, which I think evens things out a bit.

As you have a CELTA certificate, it should be quite easy for you to find TEFL work to keep you ticking over until you build up a client base for translation. This is how I - and other translator colleagues I know - eventually ended up freelance translating full-time.

I can't really think of anything else useful to add right now, but I'm sure somebody else will be along soon with some words of wisdom.

Welcome to proz and... the best of luck!


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:02
Member (2008)
Italian to English
A few suggestions Oct 20, 2014

A few suggestions for Newbies:

1. One of the best ways of marketing your talents is to work really hard on your profile on this website, and occasionally add to it or polish it. I think the "portfolio" section is particularly important because it shows what you can do when translating different styles of text and different types of document. Your profile is the first thing that prospective clients will see and will use as a basis for contacting you. Just remember that this website is the most important website in the world when it comes to looking for a translator, and that many agencies use Proz as their first port of call. So your best marketing tool is Proz itself!

2. Don't claim to be able to translate bi-directionally in a language pair, into/out of your native language. Most people can't. Not even people who have decades of experience using a language that isn't their mother tongue.

3. Specialise. Don't claim to be able to translate everything and anything; nobody can. Focus very narrowly on one or two specialised fields. When prospective clients come looking for a translator who has full command of the terminology used in a particular field, this will make you stand out. Don't be "a Jack of all trades and a master of none" !

4. Don't fire off hundreds of e-mails to all the agencies you can think of. From your point of view, this is a very tiring and time-consuming task, and from their point of view it's just a nuisance and your e-mail will go straight in the trash. Some agencies have actually said that in these forums.

5. If an agency asks for references, in my opinion the best thing to do is to politely tell them that just as you would not reveal their name to any of their competitors, you're not prepared to tell them who your other clients are. Remind them that there's a relationship of trust and confidentiality between you and your clients and that you would not be willing to breach it.

6. We often get people here who ask us to look at their website and make comments on it. In most cases, these websites look really amateurish, particularly when they use stock photographs of supposedly dynamic business people doing stuff in offices. Creating a really good website, and keeping it up to date with constantly renewed material, is a major operation for which most translators just wouldn't have time.

7. Last but not least: don't try to get work by being cheaper than everyone else. Get work by being *better* than everyone else !

[Edited at 2014-10-20 09:30 GMT]


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Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:02
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Two things Oct 20, 2014

Like neilmac I posted before, but the response seems to have got lost.

First of all, fill in your profile. Reworking what you wrote in your opening post would be a good start for the descriptive section. Your experience in other sectors is a valuable asset, so boast about it. Lots of translators come to translation straight from university with little other experience so this can set you apart. I'd think about using your real name too, rather than a pseudonym, if you want to be found.

Second, join a translators' association or network and get out and meet other translators. Look out for workshops for newcomers on subjects like business skills and marketing and talk to people. Go to as many events as you can!

Good luck,

Rachel


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 01:02
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Excellent + one comment Oct 20, 2014

Tom in London wrote:

A few suggestions for Newbies:


Tom, this is one of the best and most concise lists of tips for translators starting out that I've seen so far. I hope it goes viral.


One enhancement to this item, viz. "Do unto others..."

Tom in London wrote:
2. If they ask for references, in my opinion the best thing to do is to politely tell them that just as you would not reveal their name to any of their competitors, you're not prepared to tell them who your other clients are. Remind them that there's a relationship of trust and confidentiality between you and your clients and that you would not be willing to breach it.


Some agencies send very detailed questionnaires to applicants' references. If any of them gets too nosy or intrusive, you can ask them:

a) How would they feel if they received, say, a hundred questionnaires exactly like theirs from other agencies to answer about their current translators/

b) How would they feel if their current translators actually disclosed the information about their business that they are requesting from applying translators, in spite of any existing NDAs?


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:02
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Thanks José Oct 20, 2014

Thanks José - but I've changed the order of my 7 points (see revised post above). Your other comments repeat what I already said, but with the addition of some vituperation. I understand your ire, but I wouldn't advise anyone to be openly angry with an agency - no matter how they might feel. I'd simply be polite.

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jlrsnyder  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:02
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Persistence Oct 20, 2014

Like you, I have a background in teaching each of the languages I work in, but no official translation certificate other than my ProZ certification.
My advice would be to keep applying for jobs as they are posted on ProZ and help other translators out on KudoZ between jobs. Eventually someone will take a chance on you and, when they see and appreciate the quality of your work, they'll send you more assignments.
If one of your new clients happens to work for a big agency, that project manager may recommend you to colleagues and you'll see your work flow grow.
Do your best, keep learning, and apply the feedback you get from clients and colleagues. There's lots of work out there to be done.


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Animal_Soul
Spain
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
To Neilmac Oct 20, 2014

neilmac wrote:

I thought I had posted a response earlier, but it seems not to have uploaded.
Basically all I was saying is that you seem to be based in Spain, like me, and that my basic rate nowadays is 8 cents/word. It has stayed the same since the economic crisis began in 2008. Some colleagues tell me they charge more, but I don't offer discounts for repetitions or "fuzzy matches", etc, which I think evens things out a bit.

As you have a CELTA certificate, it should be quite easy for you to find TEFL work to keep you ticking over until you build up a client base for translation. This is how I - and other translator colleagues I know - eventually ended up freelance translating full-time.

I can't really think of anything else useful to add right now, but I'm sure somebody else will be along soon with some words of wisdom.

Welcome to proz and... the best of luck!


Hello Neilmac, and thanks for your reply!

Indeed, I am based in Spain, but I would have thought the country you're based in does not influence what you charge... or am I wrong? Being as we all now live in a virtual world, connected 'ethereally', why does that matter, if it does? In any case, your strategy seems to be a good one, not to charge so much but not to discount for anything either, that way, everyone knows where they stand at all times. Something to think about. I wonder what kind of rates the colleagues who tell you to charge more apply...

Thanks again, and for the welcome! ¡Bien hallado, señor Neilmac!


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Anne Schulz
Germany
Local time: 05:02
English to German
Welcome, Animal_Soul Oct 20, 2014

From my own experience as a newby (more than 10 years ago now), all I can do is second the advice proposed in previous posts.

i) Create a full profile (even a thing as simple as stating your name will increase colleagues' willingness to help and clients' willingness to consider your translation services).
ii) Enjoy the playground of KudoZ and present your helpful suggestions to the colleagues – that is what I did when I considered to make a living from translations, and some of my best and long-standing collaborations still result from colleagues' recommendations during that time.

Best luck for your new career!


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Jakoub.Anvar
United States
welcome Oct 20, 2014

Tom in London wrote:

A few suggestions for Newbies:

1. One of the best ways of marketing your talents is to work really hard on your profile on this website, and occasionally add to it or polish it. I think the "portfolio" section is particularly important because it shows what you can do when translating different styles of text and different types of document. Your profile is the first thing that prospective clients will see and will use as a basis for contacting you. Just remember that this website is the most important website in the world when it comes to looking for a translator, and that many agencies use Proz as their first port of call. So your best marketing tool is Proz itself!

2. Don't claim to be able to translate bi-directionally in a language pair, into/out of your native language. Most people can't. Not even people who have decades of experience using a language that isn't their mother tongue.

3. Specialise. Don't claim to be able to translate everything and anything; nobody can. Focus very narrowly on one or two specialised fields. When prospective clients come looking for a translator who has full command of the terminology used in a particular field, this will make you stand out. Don't be "a Jack of all trades and a master of none" !

4. Don't fire off hundreds of e-mails to all the agencies you can think of. From your point of view, this is a very tiring and time-consuming task, and from their point of view it's just a nuisance and your e-mail will go straight in the trash. Some agencies have actually said that in these forums.

5. If an agency asks for references, in my opinion the best thing to do is to politely tell them that just as you would not reveal their name to any of their competitors, you're not prepared to tell them who your other clients are. Remind them that there's a relationship of trust and confidentiality between you and your clients and that you would not be willing to breach it.

6. We often get people here who ask us to look at their website and make comments on it. In most cases, these websites look really amateurish, particularly when they use stock photographs of supposedly dynamic business people doing stuff in offices. Creating a really good website, and keeping it up to date with constantly renewed material, is a major operation for which most translators just wouldn't have time.

7. Last but not least: don't try to get work by being cheaper than everyone else. Get work by being *better* than everyone else !

[Edited at 2014-10-20 09:30 GMT]


pretty much this. As a recruiter for a translation/interpreting company I can say this is pretty much spot on. Your profile says a lot about you. If I see that it probably only took you 5 minutes to complete your profile, I am going to assume that you are not dedicated and passionate about translating text and my interest in your services will fade. Also in your profile when it asks you for your specialization, please only list the fields that you are indeed specialized in. You can put every other field in the also works in section. Also it would be helpful to us if you could put in a general range of your rates per word so we would know if you are in our price range before contacting you. For translators, references aren't as necessary as they are for interpreting work, so if you don't want to give them any references you don't really have to. You don't have to send 100's of emails. trust me, we will find you if we feel like you are a good candidate for the position. Most of the time, we are only looking for specific languages for assignments and if your language is not one of the languages we are looking for at the moment, your email will get lost in the piles of emails we receive on a daily bases. I would suggest creating a profile on multiple websites like proz, translators base, translators cafe etc....


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Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
Profile help Oct 20, 2014

Please forgive the shameless plug, but I have been playing with our profiles for a while now and I have been able to do some neat things with them. Please feel free to check out my profile to see what I mean, and if you're interested in doing the same, I just uploaded a guide on Youtube that explains the entire process. You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5a4bHGE54A

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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 23:02
Member (2008)
French to English
Due diligence Oct 21, 2014

One more suggestion for any newcomers to this business: Please, please due your due diligence on a prospective client before starting to work for them. Being a business that is conducted almost entirely online it has its share of frauds and non-payers. Of course, there are many more good clients than bad clients but it takes many hours of working for good clients to make up for the revenue lost by one bad non-payer. A least look at their Blue Board rating before accepting a job.

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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:02
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Thanks Oct 21, 2014

Jakoub.Anvar wrote:

pretty much this. As a recruiter for a translation/interpreting company I can say this is pretty much spot on.


Thanks !


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Animal_Soul
Spain
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Apologies! :-( Oct 21, 2014

Hello again,

I'd like to apologise for taking so long to reply! I'm very grateful for the time you've all taken to read my post and reply, and feel bad I was only able to reply to one of you, but I've been quite busy since then, and unable to come back to the forum.

Thanks again, I'm going to read all your replies now. :-]


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Animal_Soul
Spain
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
To Tom in London Oct 21, 2014

Tom in London wrote:

A few suggestions for Newbies:

1. One of the best ways of marketing your talents is to work really hard on your profile on this website, and occasionally add to it or polish it. I think the "portfolio" section is particularly important because it shows what you can do when translating different styles of text and different types of document. Your profile is the first thing that prospective clients will see and will use as a basis for contacting you. Just remember that this website is the most important website in the world when it comes to looking for a translator, and that many agencies use Proz as their first port of call. So your best marketing tool is Proz itself!


Thank you so much, Tom, what a detailed reply!

I'll have a look at the portfolio section of the profile, and do my best to complete it.


2. Don't claim to be able to translate bi-directionally in a language pair, into/out of your native language. Most people can't. Not even people who have decades of experience using a language that isn't their mother tongue.


Hmmm... I have to admit, I have a 'problem' here. I'll try to explain: I was only nineteen when I went to London by myself, and in all the time I lived there (over twenty years), I never, ever, spoke Spanish, except extremely rarely on the odd occasion (I can't even remember any of them!), or when I came to Spain to see the family, for a week or two once a year. I was still fairly immature when I came and you could say I did my growing up in London, I immersed myself into British culture and felt more English than Spanish! When I came back here to live, my Spanish, my native language, was not as good as it should have been, being my mother tongue! I mean, of course it was good, and I didn't have a foreign accent or anything, but I did make some mistakes, which was really embarrassing. I started working and gradually learnt business terminology I had no idea of before (I had never worked in Spain until then!); at the same time, I volunteered to do translations for a couple of charities, bi-directionally, and it was much easier to work S-E than viceversa, but I gradually improved and expressing myself in Spanish stopped being a problem, so I no longer lacked confidence when I was asked to translate into Spanish. But you see, the problem for me for some time was translating into my own language, and not the other way around! I'll have to think long and hard about this one, but will keep it as bi-directional for now until I come to a conclusion that convinces me.

3. Specialise. Don't claim to be able to translate everything and anything; nobody can. Focus very narrowly on one or two specialised fields. When prospective clients come looking for a translator who has full command of the terminology used in a particular field, this will make you stand out. Don't be "a Jack of all trades and a master of none" !


You're absolutely right. And in fact, I could never make such a claim, but so far, my translations have been on anything from student reports, to the impact of farming on global climate, to coupling and uncoupling of trailers onto trucks! (that one was my first one and nearly made me cry!, ha ha!). So I'll do what you say; but can a client or agency ask to see examples of my translations so they can verify my claim?


4. Don't fire off hundreds of e-mails to all the agencies you can think of. From your point of view, this is a very tiring and time-consuming task, and from their point of view it's just a nuisance and your e-mail will go straight in the trash. Some agencies have actually said that in these forums.


Thanks for that, I won't!


5. If an agency asks for references, in my opinion the best thing to do is to politely tell them that just as you would not reveal their name to any of their competitors, you're not prepared to tell them who your other clients are. Remind them that there's a relationship of trust and confidentiality between you and your clients and that you would not be willing to breach it.


I guess maybe this answers my question about agencies asking to see examples of my translations...?


6. We often get people here who ask us to look at their website and make comments on it. In most cases, these websites look really amateurish, particularly when they use stock photographs of supposedly dynamic business people doing stuff in offices. Creating a really good website, and keeping it up to date with constantly renewed material, is a major operation for which most translators just wouldn't have time.


Point taken too. In a way, it's a relief to read that!


7. Last but not least: don't try to get work by being cheaper than everyone else. Get work by being *better* than everyone else !


Although I'll continue investigating the rates side of translating, I think I'll use Neilmac's suggestion until I come to a conclusion.

Thank you so much for all your advice!


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