How to get started in freelance.
Thread poster: Charles Mullins
Charles Mullins
United States
Local time: 02:17
Chinese to English
+ ...
Dec 21, 2004

Hello everyone. I am a translator of Chinese, Spanish, English, Portuguese and some French. I also had working knowledge of other languages. I have been trying to break into the freelance business, being a former US military linguist. I find that I am having a hard time. Maybe someone can help me edit my resume or give me pointers on what translation samples to include. I have done some work with a few companies thanks to my resume being on proz.com. I almost gave up on my love of languages after sending my CV to over 10 agencies and never hearing anything. Please help...

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Gillian Searl  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:17
Member (2004)
German to English
Alex Eames book Dec 21, 2004

Hi Charles, you sound like the perfect candidate for Alex Eames book - and no I'm not on commission. I used it to get started and I am sure you could too. You can find it at translatortips.com

One thing it says is that you should send out your CV (it tells you what to include and what not) to as many agencies as possible and don't expect immediate responses. But one day when they need you they call or email. I found this to be 100% true - sometimes they call years after you sent it to them. In total it took me 3 years to build up a successful business where I am able to choose the customers and projects I take on - oh, and when I started I had neither qualifications nor experience - so I think you are ahead of me on that front already.
I wish you every success.
Gillian


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remyrosf
Local time: 08:17
English to French
10 agencies is not enough! Dec 21, 2004

Charles Mullins wrote:
I almost gave up on my love of languages after sending my CV to over 10 agencies and never hearing anything. Please help...


Send it to 1000 agencies, not 10!

Regards,

Remy


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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 07:17
Keep trying! Dec 21, 2004

Charles, you need to send your CV to hundreds of agencies, not just to a few. The very fact that you have some professional translation experience will stand out. Register in other translation sites [...edited...]. Take an ad in the phone book. Create a good website, make sure it gets picked up on search engines. Find other translators in your area (does not matter what language combination they have) and pick their brains.
It's going to take a couple of months before you develop a steady client base and workload, but hang in there, it will happen!

Orla


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Lucinda  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:17
Member (2002)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Don't give up! Dec 21, 2004

I agree with what Gillian said and wanted to add that perhaps you might want to streamline your areas of expertise and languages a bit. Concentrate on less language combinations. Hone your CV towards the areas of expertise you have. Accept some free work from a charity/charities of your choice or your church, sport association, etc. Ask them if you can reference those jobs on your CV.

Don't give up; it takes a while to get started - three years is about correct. You will have to send out a lot of letters with your CV to agencies and some do not answer back or some take a long time.

Keep checking the jobs at Proz, complete your profile as much as possible. It will take time but you'll see that it will work out.

Happy Holidays!
Lucinda


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xxxmayassin
Local time: 09:17
English to Arabic
+ ...
Get on the Web! Dec 21, 2004

Hello Charles,

What you have done so far is not enough. If I was in your place, I would have never bother to send my Resume to others!

Fire your Web browser, log in to www.monster.com or other well-known job sites, and post your full CV there. Let the whole world know about you, your skills, experience and qualifications.

Trust me, they will come to you. You don't have to bother yourself chasing employers and jobs.

You are TOTALLY QUALIFIED!

Good luck!


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ntext  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:17
Member
German to English
+ ...
More suggestions Dec 21, 2004

Charles,

First of all, I agree with my colleagues that, when you're starting from scratch, making 10 contacts isn't nearly enough. You may need to make 100 or even 1000. Also, the fact that you don't hear from a potential client right away doesn't mean you'll never hear from them.

In addition, I have a couple of additional observations / suggestions to offer:

You're presenting yourself as a translator for 13(!) language pairs who specializes "in all types of translation - medical, technical, general, miltary, government." That simply sounds too good to be true. Are you as proficient in translating medical reports from Portuguese into Chinese as you are in adapting French advertisements for Spain? You may be a linguistic genius, and I am impressed by anybody who knows five languages. But in the world of commercial translation, you are expected to deliver translations that not only mirror the meaning of the source document, but that are also written in a native style, using correct idioms and terminology. Nobody will believe that you can do this in 13 language pairs — not even in the highly unlikely case that you actually can. And if people don't believe you can do the job, they won't hire you. (There are exceptions, but you don't want to work for those.)

So my first suggestion would be that you narrow your scope of services. Pick one or two target languages, and two to four source languages. And then think about what types of translations you excel in. What's your specialty? What are the things you know more about than the next guy? (Military and medical maybe?) Your work experience, your hobbies and interests, your training and education will give you clues.

I'm also noticing that you seem to be conflating (written) translation and (oral) interpretation in your profile. If you offer both, be specific about it. I'm sure you know that people in the biz refer to "oral translation" as "interpretation."

I also took a look at your resume. If this is what you use to market yourself as a freelance translator, I would suggest that you write a new one. You need to really highlight what you can do as a translator / interpreter. Organize the document in a way that makes your language and writing skills as well as your subject matter expertise stand out. (It's in there now, but buried in between lots of other information.) Focus on what you know and what you can do, not on your job history. Make it clear what services you offer. It doesn't matter if your resume ends up looking different from a "normal" resume — after all, you're not hunting for employment, you're marketing a service.

Don't feel you have to tell potential translation clients about every little thing you've ever done. It's okay to leave stuff out, especially when it doesn't pertain to the services you offer.

Less clutter, more focus!

Good luck,

N


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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 01:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
Persistence and the personal touch Dec 21, 2004

Even in this electronic age, when most of our contacts are by e-mail, it is still a good idea not to underestimate the value of personal contacts. Do all your friends, acquaintances and relatives know that you are looking for translation work? Do they all have a copy of your business card? One day they will be talking to someone who says "I have to figure out what this manual/letter/article in Chinese/Portuguese/Spanish says, and I don't know where to turn." Your friend or relative will be able to say "I know just the person who can help you. Here's his number/e-mail. Why don't you get in touch with him?."

Have you called every translation agency in your local yellow pages (or those of the nearest big city, if you live in a smaller center)? The advantage of sending your CV to an agency that you have actually talked to is that you can ask first how they prefer to receive your information (attachment or e-mail body). You can also ask to which specific person you should direct your e-mail. In your cover letter, addressed personally to that particular person, you can mention the phone call, which gives your contact e-mail a more personal touch and distinguishes you from an anonymous unknown.

In addition, I would also emphasize what others have said; that your attempts should be in the 100's, for this is an activity in which a response rate that exceeds 2% is exceptionally good. But don't let this discourage you, because once you do get a hit, if you can establish yourself as the agency's translator of choice in your language pair, you can expect a steady flow of work. I also second the advice to get Alex Eames's book. It helped me a lot when I was getting started. I have no relationship with his business except that of a satisfied buyer of the book.


[Edited at 2004-12-21 21:53]


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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 01:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
Freelance Resumé Dec 21, 2004

One more CV tip in addition to Norbert's pertinent advice: when you redo your resumé, keep in mind that you're not applying for a position at a company, so some of the traditional formats and catch phrases for resumés do not apply to you. See this site for more information about this aspect. See also an example of a translator's resumé makeover here.

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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:17
German to English
Join ATA, local translators association Dec 22, 2004

I agree with all the above advice, apart from taking an ad in the yellow pages (more on that below).

Although I have some doubts about the efficacy of the Amercian Translators Association, my listing in their directory has led to numerous lucrative jobs over the years. Depending upon where you live, there may also be a translators association in your area. If there is, join it, and get your name in their directory. You'll also make useful contacts who may refer work to you.

Put up a web page. I get lots of inquiries through my page, many of which lead to jobs.

Plan to invest in specialized dictionaries.

My own experience with yellow pages (and I may be unique in this regard) was that it was a waste of money. I had a small ad for 2 years and didn't get a single job, although I did get a lot of annoyance calls. I specifically stated that I only translated from German to English, but nonetheless I received inquiries regarding Hmong, Chinese and Arabic. The German-related inquiries were generally for personal documents, etc. and the potential clients assumed that translations, like keys, could be done on a "while you wait" basis. I can only assume that the jobs in other languages were similar.

Don't be discouraged. It takes a while to build up a regular clientele, whether agencies or direct clients. It will be years before you can rely on your translating income as a steady means of support.

In the meantime, keep track of your expenses and income.

Good luck!
Kevin


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:17
French to English
Striking the balance Jan 4, 2005

If you are hoping to get going via agencies, then contacting 10 is nowhere near enough. That is certain. Even then, you still need to target. When targetting direct clients but this holds good for agencies also. Many agencies also specialise.

Draw up a list of sectors of interest and ability (per language) and then one or two subjects within each domain which would really make you get out of bed in the morning and want to set to work.

You can only build a reputation on work you can do well and on time. It will take you time to build up a client base whatever you do. Do what you can to make sure that base is one you can and want to work for.



[Edited at 2005-01-04 13:26]


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Amy Williams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:17
Italian to English
+ ...
Native language? Jan 4, 2005

It's looking good. You come across as a serious and hardworking individual.

However - (and I've only had a quick glance at your CV, so I may have missed it, but) - which is your native language? Are you Spanish or English mother tongue? (Or are you bilingual?) I would hesitate to hire you for a Portuguese>Chinese project, for example.
As others have rightly said, a huge list of language combinations is a bit of a turn-off - making it hard to work out which pair(s) you excel at.

Sorry it's so brief - in a rush!
All the best for the future,
Amy


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Charles Mullins
United States
Local time: 02:17
Chinese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks Jan 4, 2005

thank you. I get confused when people say I have too many languages combinations. I have interpreted and translated between non native languages. I am bilingual, actually multilingual, family from Puerto Rico, Brasil, and China. It is not uncommon for me to be in a conversation with a group of people and switch off languages within the group without loosing syntax. Thank you for your comment.

I do realize that some of the pairs, I would not do. Portuguese to Chinese no but Chinese to Portuguese yes.

Amy Williams wrote:

It's looking good. You come across as a serious and hardworking individual.

However - (and I've only had a quick glance at your CV, so I may have missed it, but) - which is your native language? Are you Spanish or English mother tongue? (Or are you bilingual?) I would hesitate to hire you for a Portuguese>Chinese project, for example.
As others have rightly said, a huge list of language combinations is a bit of a turn-off - making it hard to work out which pair(s) you excel at.

Sorry it's so brief - in a rush!
All the best for the future,
Amy


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Charles Mullins
United States
Local time: 02:17
Chinese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Just having something to translate makes me want to get out of bed in the morning. Jan 4, 2005

Thank you.

Just being able to to translate makes me want to get out out of bed in the morning. Granted, there are some subjects that would bore me but seeing the whole thing come together is what I love.

and I have taken the advice of many people in the group and now I have my resume (CV) sent to over 100 agencies. I even did a search using the other languages that I speak to find agencies that I could contact via email or website and that was great.


Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:

If you are hoping to get going via agencies, then contacting 10 is nowhere near enough. That is certain. Even then, you still need to target. When targetting direct clients but this holds good for agencies also. Many agencies also specialise.

Draw up a list of sectors of interest and ability (per language) and then one or two subjects within each domain which would really make you get out of bed in the morning and want to set to work.

You can only build a reputation on work you can do well and on time. It will take you time to build up a client base whatever you do. Do what you can to make sure that base is one you can and want to work for.



[Edited at 2005-01-04 13:26]


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