How should I organize my CV?
Thread poster: Cassandra Brood

Cassandra Brood
United States
Local time: 19:41
French to English
Apr 18, 2016

I'm just getting started in the translation industry, and I'm having trouble finding clients. I think that part of the reason for this is that I'm not sure how I can highlight my background on my CV in such a way that I don't look entirely inexperienced. I have a B.A. in French, and I'm currently finishing the first year of an M.A. in French, specializing in translation. I have a background in linguistics (no degree) from my undergraduate institution, but aside from my degrees, the biggest part of my work experience has been in the pharmaceutical industry. In my M.A. program, I've done literary translations, and I've presented at a colloquium which is tied to the specialization, but I'm not sure if this is something I should include, as it was very academic in nature. Furthermore, I don't want to give the impression that since the bulk of my experience has been in literary translation that it's what I want to do in terms of a practical specialization.

I do plan to become ATA certified, but I don't currently have the experience required to be eligible for the exam. I am currently only a member of Proz and a few other sites, such as Upwork. Ideally, I would like to spend the final year of my M.A. program building up a stronger portfolio. When I complete my degree, I want to be ready to hit the ground running as a full-time freelancer. I'm hoping that some of you veteran translators may have some insight on first-time clients!

As an aside, in regards to my Proz profile, I know that it needs work. I'm waiting to get a professional headshot done, and I've been drafting an "about" section. I have some questions there, too. Should I elaborate on the experience I've gained through my degree in that section, rather than on the CV?

I guess my real question is, "How do I sell myself to prospective clients?" I appreciate any advice!


 

Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:41
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
you're not applying for a job - you're offering a service.. Apr 18, 2016

Eventhough you are hunting for "work", you are not applying for jobs, so just highlight your experience in the fields you want to work, even if that is just "you traveled there", '"this interests you"... showing you have a desire to do a certain job always counts much more than you have a degree/diploma for this.... (and it's usually a question of somebody else is working for a lower rate.... so find a specialism you are more experienced in, can charge more for, or are in some way unique in... )

remember there is always somebody who does it for less... so there is no point in chasing those jobs...

Ed


 

Dénis Wettmann  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 04:41
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
Put yourself into the clients position Apr 19, 2016

Cassandra Chaney wrote:

I'm just getting started in the translation industry, and I'm having trouble finding clients. I think that part of the reason for this is that I'm not sure how I can highlight my background on my CV in such a way that I don't look entirely inexperienced. I have a B.A. in French, and I'm currently finishing the first year of an M.A. in French, specializing in translation. I have a background in linguistics (no degree) from my undergraduate institution, but aside from my degrees, the biggest part of my work experience has been in the pharmaceutical industry. In my M.A. program, I've done literary translations, and I've presented at a colloquium which is tied to the specialization, but I'm not sure if this is something I should include, as it was very academic in nature. Furthermore, I don't want to give the impression that since the bulk of my experience has been in literary translation that it's what I want to do in terms of a practical specialization.

I do plan to become ATA certified, but I don't currently have the experience required to be eligible for the exam. I am currently only a member of Proz and a few other sites, such as Upwork. Ideally, I would like to spend the final year of my M.A. program building up a stronger portfolio. When I complete my degree, I want to be ready to hit the ground running as a full-time freelancer. I'm hoping that some of you veteran translators may have some insight on first-time clients!

As an aside, in regards to my Proz profile, I know that it needs work. I'm waiting to get a professional headshot done, and I've been drafting an "about" section. I have some questions there, too. Should I elaborate on the experience I've gained through my degree in that section, rather than on the CV?

I guess my real question is, "How do I sell myself to prospective clients?" I appreciate any advice!


Imagine you have 4000 word manual for an inflatable pink elephant that needs to be translated and you need to find an expert for inflatable pink elephants.

What is the very first thing you like to see on the curriculum vitae of an inflatable pink elephants expert when you have to go trough 20 in an hour?

How else would you evaluate if someone is capable to translate the inflatable pink elephant manual for you? Who is worth your time and money. Are there any other values you have, or like to see with a person you work with?

I can suggest to draw out a mind map and break it into sections, what technical aspects (hard-skills) can you bring to the job: your education, your past experiences, your memberships and interests.

What soft skills do you have, are you easygoing, do you prefer to communicate more or less, are you tidy and greatly organized, or not (this might affect if you are suitable for larger projects or should stick to smaller ones). There is no right or wrong.

What as a service provider is it you want from yourself and from an outsourcer? What do you want to earn, what is your time worth to you, what languages do you cover, how many words can you translate in what timeframe? Write that down, make the math and have the information ready for everyone who is asking, but mostly yourself.

Write them all down in a neatly to read and interesting cover letter. Think of why would someone pick you over another person, most important reasons always first, less important ones down the list.

Pay for ProZ (I see you already did) and possible other sites like TranslatorCafe (I am not affiliated with either of those) because many jobs are paid member only and outsourcers will likely to take you more serious if you are willing to invest resources into your cause. On top of that, both have great communities to engage with.

Know your limits, do not apply for projects you are completely alien to unless it is small and you are willing to take the risk. Be honest and communicate that risk clearly beforehand to the outsourcer, so both together can make the decision.

Get the websites, emails and contact details of all small, medium an large sized agencies and write every single one of them, make sure to have your curriculum vitae and cover letter ready beforehand. Preferably as .pdf so the formatting and layout is preserved and the potential customer sees only what you want them to see. You get as much out of it as you put in.

As Edward distilled it already, 'you're not applying for a job - you're offering a service'. You are self employed and all grown up now, you are hunting e.g. fishing for clients. And your identity that makes you, trough your past work-experience and education, that you condensed neatly in your curriculum vitae and cover letter ... is the bait.

Remember it is about trial and errors, every pot has a lid so try as many lids as possible, you are bound to make mistakes and hopefully you find out quickly what lid suits you. Or maybe you just like to cover your pot with a cutting board, a towel or manual for inflatable pink elephants, that is just fine too.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:41
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Won't happen Apr 19, 2016

Cassandra Chaney wrote:

....When I complete my degree, I want to be ready to hit the ground running as a full-time freelancer....


That isn't going to happen. First of all you will need to prove yourself, to clients, as a thoroughly competent, literate, professional translator.

Secondly, you will need to make your mark as a specialist translator in a specific area of expertise, e.e. pharmaceuticals and related areas.

Thirdly, you will need to slowly build up a portfolio of regular clients in that field, with whom you have established, over time, a proficuous working relationship.

So far as your CV is concerned: it should be no more than one page long. Ideally it should include a portrait of yourself. It should be simple. Most CVs end up in the trash. People haven't got time to look at them. They get CVs all the time but they usually prefer to give work to people they know or who have been recommended.

[Edited at 2016-04-19 07:18 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:41
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
First of all: forget about a job-seeker's CV Apr 19, 2016

I get the feeling you're thinking along the lines of the usual sections for a CV so that it will appeal to future employers. But you won't be having employers as a freelance translators - just yourself. Your clients will need to be given plenty of reasons to choose you rather than the thousands of other French to English translators. So think of it in their terms. Forget your life history. Think first about their needs and then how you can persuade them you're a good match. I gave some ideas in a Wiki on this site.

Cassandra Chaney wrote:
Ideally, I would like to spend the final year of my M.A. program building up a stronger portfolio. When I complete my degree, I want to be ready to hit the ground running as a full-time freelancer.

There is certainly a lot of groundwork you can do. You say you haven't been successful so far - well, I'm not surprised, with no information here (which is presumably your main showcase as you've paid for membership) and no CV yet. I should postpone active attempts to source clients for the moment, although that need not stop you applying for jobs that are posted. I'd advise you to spend some time and effort on getting together these texts first. Not just your "About Me" and your CV but maybe also a website (doesn't have to be enormous and costly, just informative and polished), business cards, profiles on places like LinkedIn, maybe a blog, certainly some sample quotes, and probably quite a few things I don't even know about. I'm nearing the end of my professional life and ticking over; you're starting yours in a new(ish) digital environment where networking is king.

Instead of spending too much time chasing prospects too early, take training courses on running a small business. I know the legal side is virtually non-existent in the US, but there are negotiation skills that you'll need, plus you need to know about invoicing, chasing payments, taxes, doing business in a world economy (currencies, international banking, avoiding money-laundering and other scams). Don't leave it until you have clients to find out that you don't know how to invoice them.

Also, if you're making ProZ.com your showcase, take the time to answer as many KudoZ questions as possible, paying particular attention to your specialisations. Points awarded for helpful answers will pay dividends later, and it's nice to be helpful anyway. More info in the Site Guidance Centre, including a free webinar you can attend.

Should I elaborate on the experience I've gained through my degree in that section, rather than on the CV?

It should be in your About Me text and in your CV, though expressed differently so as not to be repetitive. It's one of the most important things for your CV at the moment, as you say it's all the experience you have. You also need to fill in as many fields as you can in your profile as they're used for filtering when clients search the database. In your oversubscribed pair you absolutely have to have some sort of specialisation to help bring clients to you. Having a specialisation doesn't prevent you taking on other jobs, after all. But it's the clients who find you that are generally the most lucrative, rather than those who post jobs publicly.


 

Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:41
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It can happen Apr 19, 2016

Tom in London wrote:

Cassandra Chaney wrote:

....When I complete my degree, I want to be ready to hit the ground running as a full-time freelancer....


That isn't going to happen. First of all you will need to prove yourself, to clients...

Secondly, you will need to make your mark as a specialist translator in a specific area of expertise...

Thirdly, you will need to slowly build up a portfolio of regular clients in that field...

So far as your CV is concerned: it should be no more than one page long.

[Edited at 2016-04-19 07:18 GMT]


He can hit the ground running. If he hits hard with the marketing as he approaches graduation, asks relevant questions on Proz, and has that special motivation and ability, the sky's the limit in a short amount of time.

You can do it, bud!

Oh wait, was she a girl? You go girl!


 


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