Advice for new translator
Thread poster: Cedric_Johnson_

Cedric_Johnson_  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:44
German to English
Aug 17, 2015

I want to begin by saying thank you to anyone who takes the time to read and offer assistance to a novice translator.
I am a 22 year old recently separated military veteran. Born to a German mother and raised in a bilingual household I was blessed to learn both languages and have lived and worked in Germany. I have always had a passion for the written word and am pursuing higher education in both German and English.
I am hoping am established translator could offer some general advice on some of the following.
1) Beefing up a resume, especially in the beginning when experience is limited.
2) Advice about certificate, are they needed, what organizations exist, cost, prerequisites, etc.
3) Making contact and establishing lasting work relationships.
4) Becoming more involved in the translation community, any specific forums, websites, workshops, etc.

Once again thank you in advance for the help.


sans22 (X)
Local time: 11:44
Translation forum for getting established - start there! Aug 17, 2015

Check out the translation forum for getting started, there are many threads about the topics you asked about.


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:44
Member (2007)
+ ...
Welcome to and the world of freelance translating Cedric Aug 17, 2015

You've come to a good place to find out everything about the industry and the profession - the distinction I personally like to make between the high volume /low unit-cost market, and the quality service market. I hope you manage to provide work for the latter as that's the only way I see of having any real future as a translator.

There's a huge amount of advice been given here in this forum to others starting out, so definitely browse it at length. However, perhaps the best place to look for structured guidelines at this stage is the Site Guidance Centre. It's designed to address exactly this type of query and you can find it under the About tab. Make sure you follow all the routes to information - click on everything and see where it leads you. Some of it is site-specific - how to appear on the first pages of the register when clients with suitable work search for a translator, for example. But even if you aren't intending to use the platform to meet clients, there are a lot of useful things there. The free and regular webinar will help you to flesh out your profile, and of course what's good for your profile is good for your CV. Just steer clear of job-seekers' CVs designed to appeal to employers and develop instead an entrepreneurial mindset, proposing your business services as a B2B partner.

I suggest you work on that and then come back with more specific questions when we can see a bit more about you. It's a little difficult to dish up a one-size-fits-all approach to setting up a freelancing businessicon_smile.gif.


Richard Foulkes (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:44
German to English
+ ...
Just do it... Aug 17, 2015

Don't spend too much time reading stuff on here. It's mostly commonse sense. The translation business isn't rocket science. You find work, you translate it, you send it back and send them the bill!

Don't regard Proz as being reflective of the entire translation industry. It isn't.

If you have the ability and the personal qualities and some business sense, you should make a living. There are probably transferable skills from you military career, such as discipline and thoroughness, that will serve you as a translator.

I know people making a living from translation with no academic background in languages so don't let that hold you back. But by all means gain qualifications if you want to to improve your CV.

In my experience, people who regard themselves as bilingual often have weaknesses in one language (and sometimes both!). Be honest with yourself about whether this applies and focus on your strongest direction.

Specialise! Your military background may be your USP as a translator. On of a Venn diagram, the box containing translators with a military career probably isn't over-crowded! Other boxes are, so play to your strengths. Obviously, you may have other areas of knowledge / experience you can target.

Start applying to agencies. Possibly be prepared to accept low rates from one or two agencies at first to bring work in and gain experience but keep applying to new agencies at better rates until you are happy with your rates/income.

As you progress and when you feel competent, keep an eye out for opportunities to win direct clients. Think about all the sectors / companies operating in your area of expertise and use social media / website / blog, etc. to put yourself in a position where they can find you if they need a translation provider.

Good luck.


MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:44
French to English
+ ...
Goethe Institut? Aug 17, 2015

Depending on where you live, there might be a Goethe Institut (German center for language and culture) in your area. They offer language certification at a wide variety of proficiency levels and might have internship, volunteering or even job opportunities as well (as might a German Consulate), not to mention opportunities for interacting with the local German and German-speaking community and making contacts. Donating your time and language skills to not-for-profits is also a good way to beef up a CV and gain experience.

Good luck!


Cedric_Johnson_  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:44
German to English
Thank you Aug 17, 2015

Thanks again for the reply some very helpful advice and guidance. I'm happy to know that this an active and helpful online community. I've been doing alot of research and understand, as was stated a few times, that no two translators will have the exact same business model or plan but there's a wealth of information regarding how to build your OWN plan which is something I greatly appreciate about forums like these. Once again thanks for the replies.


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
Start with the things you like Aug 20, 2015

A lot of translators are "generalists" - they translate about anything, or at least they start that way. The best-paid ones are specialists, so with a view to the long haul you may want to take a hard and honest look at your own strengths - they're always things you can leverage, concentrate on and build up. I took a look at your profile and guess what? We're both art majors (yes, there's a future in it). But one thing you have that will always be prized - for safety and security, if nothing else - is a hands-on aeronautical background. The business is not rocket science, but on the other hand rocket science is pickyicon_biggrin.gif

Good luck!


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