Getting a first job as a translator.
Thread poster: Jolanta Grigg

Jolanta Grigg  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:59
English to Polish
+ ...
Jan 3, 2015

Hi everyone!

Please excuse yet another question about starting a translation career.
I am currently in second semester of a MA course in Translation in the UK, where I have lived for nearly 10 years.
My languages are English to Polish. I have a BA in Polish Language and literature. In the UK I worked in customer service jobs and catering but my passion is language. I am now in my mid-thirties and so tired of dead-end jobs. I would love to have a career as a translator. Hence I decided to do a master and I am loving it despite it costing me all my savings.

I have done some voluntary work but recently haven't had much time for anything but my studies. I translated some subtitles for TED and some articles about ecology for a website.
I have had good grades for uni work so far, so I guess there is potential for me to become a good translator.


I would love to start doing some paid projects. Or find a part time job.
My question is how do I go about finding jobs.
I applied for some jobs on this website but had no reply. I also applied for one local agency, that advertise for EN-Pl transactors.
I don't know how much to charge per word and I don't know what deadline is realistic for me to meet.
I can of course do some research and find out. It is just so daunting.


Is approaching translation agencies my best option?
If so do I just send a CV or do I quote prices?
What else can I do to get into the job market?

I don't ask for solution, just some friendly advise and support, please.



[Edited at 2015-01-03 23:22 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-01-04 20:14 GMT]


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 02:59
Chinese to English
Jobs will come Jan 4, 2015

Hi, Jolanta.
The first thing to know is: there's plenty of work out there. It's a numbers game at first: you have to apply for a lot of jobs, and you'll only get one or two, but gradually it will build up. If it takes a long time to get those first few jobs, that doesn't mean there's anything wrong. Everyone else started out slow as well.

Applying to agencies is always a good idea, and apply for every job that you can handle on Proz and other reputable marketplace websites. But you should also look for jobs in other ways. You can approach local businesses; you can advertise yourself either by placing adverts or writing a blog; most importantly, you should build contacts with other translators in your pair and the Polish business community.

Rates and speed: while you're still doing your MA, you can't expect to go very fast. Set yourself a rate of 1000 words per day, and you can increase it later. And rates - you need to be aiming for a professional UK income. As you said, you're trying to lift yourself out of dead end jobs. If you set rates that only make you 50 pounds per day, then you haven't raised yourself to a decent level. One thing to remember about rates is that your rates tell a story about you. Low rates mark you as a low quality translator. Higher rates mark you was a valuable professional.

Good luck!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:59
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Are you perhaps your own worst enemy? Jan 4, 2015

Your clients need to be confident that you can do a good job for them. They need you to give them that confidence. And yet you are showing us anything but confidence in these extracts:
Jolanta Grigg wrote:
I don't know if they any good.
I lack confidence and worry I am not good enough.
I don't know anything and I am terrified.

I know you're here to ask for advice rather than a job, but bear in mind that this is an open forum, one that's read by outsourcers as well as fellow translators. Anyway, it isn't wise to give in to such enormous self-doubts, even to yourself. They're something that teenagers are naturally prone to, but you're well past that stage now. And they simply don't have any validity when you can say:
MA course in Translation
in the UK, where I have lived for nearly 10 years.
My languages are English to Polish.
I have a BA in Polish Language and literature.
In the UK I worked in customer service jobs and catering
I decided to do a master and I am loving it despite it costing me all my savings.
I have done some voluntary work
I have had good grades for uni work so far

How much is it going to take for you to admit that you DO have a thing or two going for you, and a whole lot of motivation? Maybe you're just starting to get there:
I guess there is potential for me to become a good translator.
if I don't take a risk nothing will ever change in my life!

but think of it more as a challenge or an opportunity. It's a risk to give up an extremely well-paid job; it isn't a big risk to leave college after doing a translation course and start out as a translator - it's just...normal.

I can of course do some research and find out. It is just so daunting.

That's what you SHOULD be doing, and lots of it. Research skills are just about the most important part of a translator's skill-set. Nobody can know everything in one language, let alone in two, so we constantly spend time finding things out. Several translators' associations publish guidelines for rates, and there are community rate statistics compiled here on this site (see under the "tools" tab) - I don't know how realistic they are in your pair. As a beginner you'll doubtless produce fewer words per hour and that's where your lower income comes from - not from lower rates. 1,000-1,500 words per day is a good maximum to aim for - that way you won't be too stressed out. Remember you need to make time to deal with checking out your client (avoiding scams and bad payers), negotiating and invoicing as well as doing the "meat" side of the job. So don't let a new client tell you that you should be able to deliver 3,000 words for them by EOB.

My advice to you would be to spend the next few months seriously preparing for your professional life, not putting too much emphasis on finding work. If you feel it necessary, get some coaching to help you build your self-esteem. I think the CCI will probably be able to help with information about running a small business, although you can probably find most of it here. You need to be a bit more savvy than most self-employed people as you'll quite likely go straight into exporting your services, with the implications that has on taxes, banking, accounting, debt recovery... Hopefully, all that additional knowledge, along with your degree papers, will give you sufficient confidence when dealing with your first paid jobs.


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Jolanta Grigg  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:59
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you both. Jan 4, 2015

Thank you both. It it reassuring to read your replies.
You are of course correct Sheila, that is up to me do lots of research and prepare for professional career.

I am also considering an internship to build up that professional confidence.


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Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:59
Member (2012)
French to English
Hi Jolanta! Jan 6, 2015

Just a couple of ideas.

It might be worth getting paid membership of ProZ and answering questions in return for KudoZ points - this will improve your position on the translators' directory, which may lead to offers of work.

There is also the ProZ mentoring scheme, which can be a good way to get started. I see there is a mentor listed under one of your language combinations.

Above all, be persistent and patient, and keep practising, even if it's on a pro bono basis.

Good luck!


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 19:59
Member
Italian to English
Secrets of Self Employment Jan 6, 2015

Jolanta Grigg wrote:

Please excuse yet another question about starting a translation career.


Remember there is a LOT of information already in the forums; I am sure you will find answers to all your questions there and more!

More than paid membership - although I'm not denying this can be useful - I think participating in KudoZ and in the forums is just as important; it will give you added exposure and show others who you are and what you can do.

One book I cannot recommend highly enough is "Secrets of Self Employment" by Paul and Sarah Edwards. Incredibly encouraging with loads of useful information. The copy I have was printed in 1991, so pre- most of the Internet as we know it, social media and so on, but I think it has stood the test of time.

I know it is nerve-racking at the beginning, but perseverance is key - if you are determined you will get there in the end.

Best of luck!


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MatheusHolanda
Brazil
Local time: 16:59
English to Portuguese
Focus on your growth as a professional Jan 7, 2015

I would recommend you to develop yourself as a professional and keep looking for a job. Publish yourself as a translator, talk to friends, improve your networking and keep studying. I am new in this field too. I got into translation all of a sudden and I am getting into the second semester in my uni. I have the same doubts as you, but I think it's normal among beginners.

Well, I am trying to do what I told you. Still waiting for the results though.


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Jolanta Grigg  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:59
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Great advice! Jan 7, 2015

Thanks, Elizabeth. Actually, I am very keen to get a mentor. I just wasn't aware there was a list of mentors available on Proz. I will be contacting the lady in my language pair shortly. Her profile look so impressive!

I have since found a translation agency in Somerset that offers unpaid internships to graduates. Which gives me yet another option. So, things are looking much brighter now.

Some of you mentioned Kudos questions. Good idea. Some are very technical and specialized but I always keep an eye out for the ones I can answer.

Fiona, thank you for recommending the book. I will definitely read it.
I have so far read some guides for beginner translators and they mostly talked about how many skills and how broad knowledge of subjects one needs to translate. They scared me a bit. It would be good to read sth positive!

Matheus, good luck to you too!


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Tiffany Hardy  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:59
Spanish to English
Research and get moving Jan 23, 2015

I would suggest doing two things at once:

1) I would spend the bulk of my time contacting agencies (in addition to bidding on proz jobs - in this sense, it is well worth it to become a paid member as you will get access to the jobs first). When I first started contacting agencies, I started with the proz agency listing and contacted agencies that fared well on the blue board that offered my language pair. I wouldn't recommend a mass email; look at each agency's website and follow their instructions for prospective freelancers - sometimes they want you to submit an online form, sometimes an email, etc. Include anything they specifically ask you to include. If you are asked to send an email, try to find a person's name to address the email to and tailor each email to the specific agency. This is quite time-consuming! But the more you contact, the more likely you will contacted.

If you'd rather focus your efforts on direct clients, try your local chamber of commerce. In my case, since I live Spain and Spanish is my source language, I got a list of local companies that export from the chamber of commerce and began to contact them to see if they are in need of translation services, using the warm email approach: http://thoughtsontranslation.com/2015/01/21/warm-e-mail-marketing-a-success-story/


2) Research, research, research, as Sheila suggests. Read the forum archives on getting established with a notebook and pen handy. Read books on getting established as a freelancer (How to Succeed A Freelance Translator was invaluable for me). Sign up for free marketing webinars. Read books on getting the most out of social media. Just keep learning and putting what you learn into practice.

Best of luck.


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