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Beginner here and needing advice
Thread poster: Cecile T.

Cecile T.  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:29
English to French
Feb 16, 2016

Hello all,

please be gentle I am new at this business and this website.

I have been teaching French for many years but only recently decided that, contrarily to what I had been reading for years online I could try and launch myself as an EN to FR translator and that the market isn't saturated like it is mentioned so many times in blogs and websites.

So I am taking the IoLET Diploma, I am reading the numerous French books on linguistics and translation difficulties (from a syntax/lexical/linguistic point of view), but when it comes to trying to find a job here on Proz I feel confused.

Each time I come here I am overwhelmed by the jungle of things to master: how to identify a good company, how to bet/quote for job, not to mention the Translation software that have given me sleepless nights just by reading about it, how to market yourself, training videos to download, etc.

So, how does one start here and get her/his first job?

I am not going anywhere I am persevering in this career choice but I also get a bit stressed every day when I encounter one of the hundreds jargons here that make me feel like I am entering a programming language forum where hackers and IT specialists share among each other their obscure knowledge.

I may enrol next year in a Master in Translation Studies to give me the confidence and professional knowledge that I need.

I love writing and one of my passions is literature. I love sculpting a thought into the gem-sentence and paragraph, hence why I chose to become a translator.

Any advice, any sharing of personal experience is welcome.

[Edited at 2016-02-16 13:11 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-02-16 13:11 GMT]


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xxxIlan Rubin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 01:29
Russian to English
CV Feb 16, 2016

Hi Cecile,

Good luck!

I don't work in your pair so I don't know that market but generally speaking I think you need to build up a CV with past translation experience.

Easier said than done, but...

(1) think about what you have done in the past, even some informal translation you may have done while a student, even if you weren't paid for it, and then put it down on the CV

(2) do some translation jobs even if they are (very) low paying (or maybe for free, eg for charity) just so that you can build up that experience. That may not be PROZ where you get that business from. Personally I can say that PROZ is responsible for less than 5% of my translation and editing business, though I suppose it varies for different people and language combinations. If you can then get those clients to write recommendations on your PROZ profile then even better. With the refugee crisis maybe there is scope to help as an Eng>Fr translator?

Ilan


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 23:29
English to Croatian
+ ...
CAT software not difficult to master. Feb 16, 2016

If you are generally technically savvy and have been using computers for a while, it won't take you long to get a grasp of CAT tools which are mostly required in the industry. You will mostly need them with large projects, often times required by the client.

See what your specializations are, what industries in France trade most with anglophone countries (then try to learn more about those industries and translate in those niches). If you choose a wrong niche (no demand) you may find yourself jobless most of the time.

You should also make a difference between commercial translation and labor of love. Not always will you receive creative or exciting content to translate.

I would advise against doing any work for free, even if it's just for training purposes.

Wishing you the best of luck!


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Cecile T.  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:29
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
I will research volunteering opportunities Feb 16, 2016

Thank you Ilan.

I looked at translating for free in the past but the serious translation charities are looking for +2 years of experience. However, I will look again.

I think I will contact directly groups and organizations in the fields that interest me personally, and offer free translation and see from there

I am also spending quite some time reading the different posts on this forum, but while I get more familiar with the website, I am none the wiser as to whether CAT software is a good investment or not (but I will definitely not buy any until I am further down in this business).

Thank for being the first person to take the time to advise me


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Cecile T.  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:29
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
researching the fertile industries/fields Feb 16, 2016

Lingua 5B wrote:

If you are generally technically savvy and have been using computers for a while, it won't take you long to get a grasp of CAT tools which are mostly required in the industry. You will mostly need them with large projects, often times required by the client.

See what your specializations are, what industries in France trade most with anglophone countries (then try to learn more about those industries and translate in those niches). If you choose a wrong niche (no demand) you may find yourself jobless most of the time.

You should also make a difference between commercial translation and labor of love. Not always will you receive creative or exciting content to translate.

I would advise against doing any work for free, even if it's just for training purposes.

Wishing you the best of luck!


Many thanks Lingua 5B!


I need to research the French industries which trade with anglophone ones, you are spot on.

Yes I am realistic, I know that I won't find (much) work in my personal interests areas.

[Edited at 2016-02-16 13:09 GMT]


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:29
Member
English to French
Welcome to the jungle Feb 16, 2016

(Courtesy of Guns 'n' Roses)
Cecile Tess wrote:
...but only recently decided that, contrarily to what I had been reading for years online I could try and launch myself as an EN to FR translator and that the market isn't saturated like it is mentioned so many times in blogs and websites.

What made you think it wouldn't apply to you?
You certainly expected that starting out would be challenging, but from your profile you already have many assets that can prove helpful to attract your first customer. Besides anticipated translation skills, the wrapping is also of importance to potential translation buyers.

There is also a lot of material about "getting started" all over this site.

Besides translation degrees and language fluency, don't ignore business management and computing skills.
Be active. Make lists. Set milestones and means to reach them. Talk "business plan". Apply the recipes used by businesses. Even though you may think it's a load of junk (and it may be), it helps focus.

Philippe


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:29
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
One step at a time Feb 16, 2016

Cecile Tess wrote:
Each time I come here I am overwhelmed by the jungle of things to master: how to identify a good company, how to bet/quote for job, not to mention the Translation software that have given me sleepless nights just by reading about it, how to market yourself, training videos to download, etc.

Tess/Cecile,

Using your real name is a good start, but your profile gives your name as Tess Cécile while your user name is Cecile Tess. Perhaps best to clear up that ambiguity.

Take one piece of the puzzle at a time and spend a few days thinking and playing with ideas and strategies.

Sell yourself
As a translator, ask what you have that makes you different. Consider what personal and professional experiences you can draw on that might give you an edge in some areas and attract the roving eye of an agency. You don't have to be a world expert in a subject area to make it a specialisation.

In your case you clearly know your gesso from your gouache, so I would suggest that art an obvious area on which to focus initially. Some areas just don't pay; literature is widely thought to be one of them. As Lingua 5B says, you can't always translate your passion, so look at the more commercially relevant areas as well.

Nothing to stop you from directly tackling end clients rather than agencies, but confidence is everything in such situations and I suspect you're not ready for that just yet.

Tool up
You don't have to use CAT software. I find that the way it chops texts up into paragraphs or sentences helps me focus on the translation, but not everybody likes it. There are free and open-source CAT packages out there that will be more than adequate for now. I advise you not to invest a huge amount initially unless you are very clear about what you want to do.

There's more to tools than CAT packages. For example, I use Intelliwebsearch hundreds of times a day, as well as certain dictionaries and web sites. Find out what is useful in your pair.

Think money
Rates - read ProZ forums. The subject of what to charge is a perennial source of dispute, dismay, joy, triumphalism and amusement. All human life is here and everybody has an opinion. There is quite a bit on the absolute rates on offer; you'll find it.

My only comment here is that translation is not a monolithic market; there are in effect dozens of sub-markets in every pair. There are Mercedes-Benz markets and Dacia markets and everything in between.

Keep it tight
Behave with professionalism. I'm sure you do already, but remember that everything you say on a forum like this can be googled and looked at by outsiders. I see many translators on ProZ saying things that would put me off ever doing business with them if I were looking for a service provider. Intemperate language, adolescent "us against them" attitude towards clients, anti-business rhetoric - it's all here. Don't be one of those.

Show your face
Get out and meet other translators. Ask them for advice. I have found translators, in person, to be mostly pleasant, helpful and generous with their time (like most people in life, in my experience). You live in a decent-sized city and ProZ Powwows are held there every now and again. Also look at Meetup.com.

Regards
Dan


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Fiona MacMillan  Identity Verified
France
French to English
What I wish I had known first Feb 16, 2016

Welcome to my world Cecile! I am also (quite) new to the business and yet in the last 18 months I have chosen a CAT tool, built a website, had a logo created and business cards printed and found a few great clients. I still have a long way to go but I’m not panicking anymore! Speaking as someone who also had sleepless nights after my first week of reading ProZ, here are a few ideas of how to take it step by step.

1) Congratulate yourself, you have found ProZ, that alone took me months! Keep reading the site for long enough and the jargon repeats itself over and over and starts sounding more familiar. It’s just like learning a new language. Don’t read it all (especially the in depth IT stuff which is very frightening indeed). Sign up to 3 forum topics that interest you to start with, and track useful posts in them (tick the box half way down the right-hand column). Choose subjects which concern what you think you need to know about now e.g. starting out, marketing, CAT tools…

2) Read 2/3 books on becoming a translator by authors such as e.g. Tess Whitty, Marta Stelmaszak, Chris Durban and Corinne McKay. One at a time, not all at once. Follow their blogs and find a blog by a literary translator too, if this is your future speciality. You seem to be doing the right things in terms of studying technique but at the beginning it is likely that 80% of your time will be taken up with marketing tasks in order to find work. You need to learn how to market yourself, or there will be no translating jobs to worry about. Do that before the MA. I have found the best experience to be real jobs, seeing your work in print really makes you understand what you still need to learn.

3) Take some inexpensive webinar training sessions on how to market yourself from ProZ, eCPD or Udemy.

4) Choose a speciality. The books and blogs will help you to narrow this down. What subject matter would you feel most comfortable and confident translating for your first jobs? That’s your speciality. If it’s literature, then what type? There is always competition out there, so choosing a niche market is crucial because it defines what you read, study and research, what you put on your website, business cards and job applications and the industry expert that you are going to become (no rush)! Mine is the camping industry – because I studied tourism, worked in that industry for years, my clients can have a two-way conversation with me about a text and I am interested in reading about it.

5) Choose a CAT tool. Not simple I know but you have to go there, else you will restrict your market and your speed and have to learn all about desk top publishing (in depth IT stuff) whereas the CAT tool will do practically all of it for you.
You are confused about which one to choose? I had to Google what they were when I started, you are way ahead of me! In the real world there are half a dozen to choose from. Learn a little about how to use one first. Download a free tool e.g. Wordfast Anywhere or a trial month e.g. MemoQ. Read the instructions and play around with any text for a day or two to get the feel of how a CAT tool works. After that your choice will be based on a) your budget – initial cost and ongoing costs for updates and support b) the tool which is most requested by your target market (agencies and direct clients offering work in your speciality area). C) the one which has an instruction manual which you can understand, check this out first.
Don’t forget, if you choose wrong, you can always change it later when you have saved up!
You don’t have to learn everything about your CAT tool in year 1. I can only upload a document, translate it into the boxes, spell check it and turn it back into a document. I keep my glossaries in an Excel spreadsheet because I haven’t read that chapter of the instruction manual yet. That is enough knowledge for me to complete a job. You can learn more in year 2.

I hope this is of some help in seeing the wood from the trees and my thanks to the authors, bloggers and training courses above, which have got me this far!


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Cecile T.  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:29
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Keep your guns! :) Feb 16, 2016

Philippe Etienne wrote:

(Courtesy of Guns 'n' Roses)
Cecile Tess wrote:
...but only recently decided that, contrarily to what I had been reading for years online I could try and launch myself as an EN to FR translator and that the market isn't saturated like it is mentioned so many times in blogs and websites.


What made you think it wouldn't apply to you?

Philippe


What do you mean? You mean that I wrongly and naively decided that actually, no, the market isn't 100% saturated and I could try being a translator?

Are you saying that I made a mistake and that there is no room for another EN to FR translator?

Thank you for your business advice. Yes there are many aspects to explore and become a near-expert at, it seems, in the business.

One thing - for sure, not the most urgent at the moment! - I wonder is if living in the UK which has a high cost of living will be a wise choice eventually given that when I get income it will be in euros....I see that you live in Spain, I had been considering moving to Spain one day, and not just for the cost of living


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Didem Doran  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 01:29
Member (2013)
English to Turkish
+ ...
You will do great Feb 16, 2016

Hello and welcome to ProZ, Cécile!

As far as I can see on your profile page, you have been preparing yourself to be a great translator all your life, and that's a wonderful thing.

I hope clients in your language pair also see that, and start offering you interesting projects you will enjoy working on with decent rates.

You have been taking all the right steps, and I believe that joining ProZ was one of them. I found most of my clients through this site, but what's even more valuable for me is forums. I have learnt so much from dear colleagues here, who share their valuable experience, vision, and piece of advice.
I will briefly try to answer your questions based on my experience:

how to identify a good company,


Blue Board entries have almost never been misleading for me. If an agency has a perfect score and more than 10 good reviews on BB, then it will probably not disappoint you.
Needless to say, it is always a good idea to avoid agencies from China, India, Turkey, etc.
Another indicator of a good agency is how much detail they provide on the job posting. The more it is, the better.

how to bet/quote for job


This may be surprising, but I have seen it again and again that being fast when you quote is extremely important. In most of the jobs I got through Proz, I was the first one to quote. For that, you need to have a brief, precise, and generic cover letter ready as a template.

...not to mention the Translation software that have given me sleepless nights just by reading about it..


I was always surprised to read that on forums a few years ago, when I was trying to master Trados, memoQ, etc. but this is true:
Most of my decent clients (higher-paying ones who offer steady jobs) do not require CAT tools. They just need you to deliver a good translation on MS Word. How you choose to work on that file is your responsibility. I still prefer using CAT tools in almost all the jobs, but that's only because they make it much easier for me to focus.
Also, they are really not that difficult to master. Once you grasp the basic idea, and learn the shortcuts and commands, you can enjoy all they have to offer. You can start by taking a look at Wordfast's online translation tool, FreeTM:
https://www.freetm.com/

how to market yourself, training videos to download, etc.


Well, when it comes to marketing for translators, sky is the limit. I strongly recommend that you dig into forums about that, and learn from those who have made it. For example, late Nicole Schnell has been one of my inspirations in this business. She has provided so much valuable info through the years, and I still cannot believe that she is gone. Here is what she left us:
http://www.proz.com/forumsearch?poster_type=user_id&poster=100325

So, how does one start here and get her/his first job?


Provide as much information as possible on your profile, and start quoting for every job. It may be a small job, but if the client likes your work, it can well turn into a steady job-flow. It has happened several times for me.

And most of all, believe that you CAN get a job, that you DESERVE all that translation can offer to you. The rest will follow


[Edited at 2016-02-16 13:29 GMT]


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Cecile T.  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:29
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
thank you so much Feb 16, 2016

Fiona and Didem, you have been amazing in your warm efforts to reassure and guide me, I am very grateful

I will actually print both your replies (and also the ones before by Dan, Ilan) and stick them onto my wall as my Bible and step-by-step list of things to do.

I am especially grateful that you, Fiona, have confided feeling similarly panicky when first finding this website and about CAT tools also
I am sure there are other people re-filling their coffee cups as I write, who are getting palpitations and wonder how they will be able to "make it" in this jungle, but not being 20 years old anymore - sigh...the happy illusions of youth! - I know that any career is a path with plenty hurdles on the way, nothing is easy, and in fact anything actually worth requires a bigger fight.

One thing that happened when I started translating for studies and personally, is that I re-discovered how much I love French, my native language, even more than I thought.
Translating makes me appreciate its very precise nature, and in turn it makes me read literature with different "glasses" now, even if literature will not be my specialisation.

[Edited at 2016-02-16 13:42 GMT]


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:29
Member
English to French
Misplaced curiosity and sunshine Feb 16, 2016

Cecile Tess wrote:
...What do you mean?...

(I could mention J. Bieber, but I won't)

When a sign advises me not to go further, I usually stop and do a half-turn, unless there's really something worth the trouble beyond that point.
I wondered what your driver was, but I think you replied in your previous post.
...I see that you live in Spain, I had been considering moving to Spain one day, and not just for the cost of living...

Sunshine, food and wine are other very valid excuses.

Philippe


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Mohd Hamzah  Identity Verified
Malaysia
Local time: 06:29
Member
English to Malay
+ ...
ProZ profile Feb 16, 2016

Welcome Cecile!

EN>FR is one of the competitive pair in translation field. So fortunate that you have such advantages that surely give you capability to survive in this freelancing world. Not only you, I am also new in this field.

What I can share with you is kindly complete your profile so that the agency or potential client will be able to find you. This video shall give you guidance on how to do it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4nwKkeDSKc.

All the best!


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Rita Pang  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:29
Member (2011)
Chinese to English
+ ...

Moderator of this forum
... Feb 16, 2016

Cecile Tess wrote:

What do you mean? You mean that I wrongly and naively decided that actually, no, the market isn't 100% saturated and I could try being a translator?

Are you saying that I made a mistake and that there is no room for another EN to FR translator?


Pretty sure Philippe's message was meant to be friendly. And no Philippe, I'm Canadian, I hear enough of J. Bieber already, so please don't quote him...really.

When you think about it, a lot of these "major" language pairs are saturated already; the point, however, is to find your niche. Look at my language pair - I mean, China has 1.3 BILLION people...there's certainly no stopping me from working with this language pair You have an interesting array of skills, in particular I am looking at the design and economics background- the former can get you eventually moving towards translating manuals (as an example), the latter perhaps academic journals? I am only throwing examples around, but it sure looks like you are going in the right direction. Best of luck with your research.


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Cecile T.  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:29
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Discouraging online advice (blogs and websites) Feb 16, 2016

I am sure years ago the discouraging accounts I read online about how not to become a translator unless you are a native Chinese or Arabic person were designed to turn people away, more than give useful advice. It is too easy to do a lot of research then give up when seeing the challenge and competition too.

[Edited at 2016-02-16 16:39 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-02-16 16:40 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-02-16 18:16 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-02-16 18:57 GMT]


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