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How to find work with agencies with limited portfolio?
Thread poster: stephanieesde
stephanieesde
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:56
German to English
+ ...
May 6, 2015

Hi there,

I've been working as a translator since autumn and am really struggling with finding work. I have managed to build up a small portfolio thanks to translating for acquaintances and working directly with a few clients. Nevertheless, I am unable to find more work. I have had (very) limited success with emailing companies and tourist attractions directly and have had no further joy after setting up a website outlining my previous work and experience.

I recently decided to try and work with some agencies to receive a more steady flow of work but have had no replies to my many applications. Can anyone advise on how best to approach translation agencies? I am able to provide examples of my translation work but without even an acknowledgement of my application it's rather difficult. I'm hoping that if I can get work from one or two agencies it will get the ball rolling.

Thank you so much,

Stephanie


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Jenae Spry  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:56
French to English
Patience is an expensive virtue May 6, 2015

Hi Stephanie

I understand your frustration. Every agency wants experience but how do you get any if none will hire you? It does take a very long time for many agencies to respond and taking the first steps into the industry requires patience, which is an expensive virtue since I'm sure, like everyone else, you have bills to pay now.

Without knowing your current materials or background, here are some tips that might help:

1) Get a website if you don't have one. You can use a template. Purchase a domain name and e-mail. This will create a level of professionalism for you.

2) Market daily. If you don't have work all day, you still have 8 hours in a day to spend following up on resumes sent, contacting new clients, and developing materials.

3) Join associations. If you want to translate for the tourism industry, join a local tourism association. You'll likely be the only translator in the room, and as a result, the expert.

4) Join the ATA. This will show you're serious about your investment in this industry.

I'm not sure what your resume, portfolio and initial contact e-mails look like, so I'm not sure if they need work, but hopefully these tips will at least give you some direction.

Welcome to the translation industry!


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Are you sending out samples? May 6, 2015

I started out many years ago by sending out samples of my work - a single page with a humorous magazine article I'd translated, and my contact details in a little box in the corner.

I also know from my own experience running an agency that most applications from translators don't tell you what you most need to know, which is whether they're any good. Age, qualifications and experience are largely irrelevant: you succeed or fail by the quality of your work.

Also, I see you don't have any samples on your ProZ profile. I do recommend that you remedy this, because it's one of the first things prospective clients will look at.

And I'd echo Jenae's advice about joining a professional association. My experience with the ATA wasn't very good, and I recently let my subscription lapse, but I do get work as a result of belonging to the ITI.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2015-05-06 23:52 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-05-06 23:52 GMT]


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Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:56
Spanish to English
+ ...
Website advice May 7, 2015

Just making and publishing a site probably won't get you anywhere if you're looking for direct clients or for people to find you. You'll need some good optimization to stand out among all the translators in the world. I would suggest that you start by marketing to a specific location. You can support that site by creating a Google Business account, which will help more people find it and those business listings typically appear on the first page. I have found my blog to be extremely valuable as well.

Check out what kind of groups and associations are available to people that work in your target industries (trade shows, chambers of commerce, associations, Facebook/LinkedIn groups, etc). Try and join those, too. I'm not a huge fan of translator associations, but I don't particularly like working through agencies, either.

I have a tutorial on how to make more attractive Proz profiles if you're interested. There's a link to the video on my profile ^_^


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 11:56
Chinese to English
Standard advice May 7, 2015

Fill out your Proz profile a little more as well. You say you've got a website, but I can't even see a link to it on your profile.

Other Phil's advice is really good. When I'm looking at potential partners to work with, the first thing I do is go and look at the samples on their Proz profiles.

And think harder - a lot harder - about your blurb. To be honest, hearing about the mark you got in your degree would put me off. And liking travel is just so much blah. Why does someone want to work with you? Are you just a generic, off-the-shelf language processor? If there's a real person trapped behind that bland profile, then please, let her out.

[Edited at 2015-05-07 03:18 GMT]


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Georgie Scott  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:56
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Practice too May 7, 2015

It does just take some time. Some of the best relationships I have are with agencies that didn't get back to me until 6 months after I first signed up. I want to say I find that strange, but I know how long it takes me to set up relationships with people I outsource to, so actually I understand.

I noticed the title of this thread mentions a limited portfolio. Confidence is an important thing when you work for yourself. When I go through quiet periods I always make sure I find at least one thing to translate every day (ie. just a text I've found, rather than paid work). I spend half the day translating that and the other half marketing. Almost every translator I know thinks this is a pointless practice, but it really helps with my confidence. It helps me work on translation issues and reminds me that I know what I'm doing and I can do the work that I'm applying for.


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M Pradeep Kumar  Identity Verified
India
English to Telugu
+ ...
Diversify and start low May 7, 2015

Four years ago, I too was in the same situation as you.

And in the translation field, limited portfolio would mean limited opportunities and openings.

I found diversifying to be very helpful.

When I started out, I decided I would take up only translation assignments. But, gradually, I had to face the fact and take to testing and tiring transcription assignments.

Also, if low-price translation assignments come your way, try not to reject them straightaway. They will help you get a feel of how things work and they will bring a lot of confidence.

Lastly, in life or in profession, the winter is never too long.

Cheers !


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You've got a lot going for you May 7, 2015

You've got some good qualifications, spent time in countries where your languages are spoken, are concentrating on what you reckon you do best... Now you have to communicate all that to potential clients. But even with everything else going for you, you have to learn to be patient. It will take time.

I think it's a good idea for you to find work through agencies, as the better ones will help you learn the trade by giving feedback etc. But be firm about only working with good agencies. There are a lot of poor (and worse!) ones out there who are looking to exploit you and/or the end client. So stick to your terms and conditions, only negotiating to the extent that you're happy with. You can find interesting agencies here on ProZ.com in the directory and on the Blue Board. Make sure you contact them as a freelancer, a business partner. Your German CV here is very much a job-seeker's CV and that gives a poor impression of the relationship you're looking for.

This site can also be very useful in establishing yourself, as long as you don't waste time with the jobs posted by bottom-feeding agencies on the public job board. Some jobs posted there are fine, but they're in the minority. However, you only get anything from this site (and similar ones) if you put a lot into it. Visit the Site Guidance Centre to find out what you should be doing to improve your visibility and meet clients here. The free webinar has got to be useful.

Just make sure you stay 100% confident of your abilities, and communicate that to clients. You don't have a limited portfolio; you've done some very good translations that have been very much appreciated by your clients. Try to see yourself through the clients' eyes and give them what they want to see.

Good luck!


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stephanieesde
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:56
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks May 7, 2015

Thanks for all the replies everyone, I'll definitely get in touch with tourism associations and other interested parties both here and abroad!

I'm sure the hard work will pay off in the end


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EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:56
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
It takes time May 7, 2015

I felt similar frustration a few years ago when "restarting" my business. Some agencies answered 2-3 years after receiving my candidature! Just go on and hope.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 05:56
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Keep trying May 7, 2015

stephanieesde wrote:
I recently decided to try and work with some agencies to receive a more steady flow of work but have had no replies to my many applications.


There are thousands of agencies, so if you just keep trying, you'll eventually get some, and once you've worked for a couple of them, you'll increase your portfolio. However, keep in mind that there are also tends of thousands of translators submitting applications, so don't expect person replies. The fact that they don't reply doesn't mean your mail isn't filed somewhere for future use.


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stephanieesde
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:56
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Emailing direct clients May 10, 2015

I definitely have a renewed confidence now and think i have a plan of action of sorts.

I've decided to email some companies who will be exhibiting at travel fairs but am unsure how to go about it... i've seen on some websites that their brochures are only in German or Spanish so i could email to enquire about whether they'd be interested in a translation. Alternatively, i could send a more general email detailing what i do in the hope they then consider having something translated.
So basically i'm not sure whether to be direct and offer to translate specific things or simply introduce myself and my services.
Any ideas which would be more suitable?


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Sounds a great idea May 11, 2015

stephanieesde wrote:
I've decided to email some companies who will be exhibiting at travel fairs but am unsure how to go about it... i've seen on some websites that their brochures are only in German or Spanish so i could email to enquire about whether they'd be interested in a translation. Alternatively, i could send a more general email detailing what i do in the hope they then consider having something translated.

I think it's a very strong approach to actually offer something concrete. Talk briefly about the added interest this would bring from a whole new market. (They only need to take someone along who has passable English - it doesn't matter that the face-to-face contact is not as polished as the brochure.) But I wouldn't talk prices at this time as that could well frighten them off. Sell them the idea first. Of course, you'll want to introduce yourself personally and briefly mention what qualifies you to offer such services (experience, qualifications...).


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stephanieesde
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:56
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Getting replies May 27, 2015

I've emailed a list of exhibitors at travel fairs along with translation agencies, particularly those which specialise in travel and tourism but haven't yet had a single reply.

It's hard to stay motivated when this happens, I have included links to previous translations but don't really know what else I can do. I've also emailed companies which are similar to those I have already done translation work for (such as adventure parks and mountain bike tours) so they can be sure I have experience in the subject but have had no luck yet.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Frustrating but normal May 27, 2015

stephanieesde wrote:
I've emailed a list of exhibitors at travel fairs along with translation agencies, particularly those which specialise in travel and tourism but haven't yet had a single reply.

I'm afraid you can't make them want you to translate for them. But it might well be worth one last try. Do you have their telephone numbers? If you do then it would be a good idea to call and remind them of your email. Or a second, short email.

Maybe you have a "June special offer" for direct clients? Or a special "pre-school holidays" package? Or you need to tell agency clients that you'll be available all summer. But don't spam them - if they don't take the bait this time then you'll have to leave it. Even then, it's surprising what sometimes comes of these contacts - you could find one contact you next spring with urgent needs. It certainly happens quite frequently with agencies. They tend to stick with their standard translator(s) until one day that doesn't work for some reason.


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