Completely new and unsure where to start
Thread poster: slccss

slccss  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:52
Japanese to English
+ ...
Jul 25, 2016

I've been in the translating game for a year or two starting from college, but it was only for fun stuff that I did as fan-translations with stuff like magazine articles and video games. Stepping into the professional world, I feel kind of overwhelmed with all the things. I've never thought of pay rates before since I always just did it for free (and personal interest), and after seeing all the things I need to submit to actually get a translation job, I'm think I just kind of jumped in without actually considering everything that I should have considered. And since I'm new to the professional side of translating, I'm scared that nobody will accept even if I applied because I don't have enough things of substance to show that I have been, in fact, translating for a while.

I guess first things first: What kind of job is the best for an entry-level to try?


Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:52
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
First things first Jul 25, 2016

As you said, first things first. Sounds to me like you need a little business training before you jump into the translation side of things full-on. Contact your local chamber of commerce, look here on ProZ and at associations such as the ATA etc. for tutorials and courses on running your own business. Consider joining a mentoring scheme for new translators.

The translation work will come if you focus on getting the business part right. Learn how to run a business properly first -- even the best translator will not succeed if they can't operate the business side of things.

And for goodness sake -- stop working for free! No one is going to take you seriously and you will never be able to command a livable wage that way.


Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 22:52
German to Serbian
+ ...
Also your profile. Jul 25, 2016

Zero information on your profile, can you work on that one first?

Just write a short but persuasive intro, listing what you are particularly good at.

Even though you are a newbie you might have an ex college teacher or someone else to write a brief reference about you, then put it on your profile.

Best of luck to you!


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:52
Member (2007)
+ ...
Are you ready to run a business? Jul 25, 2016

There are very few salaried jobs available, so you'll be self-employed. Angela has already listed some of the things that entails. Are you ready to consider yourself as the boss of your own business, and persuade project managers at large, maybe multinational, translation agencies that you are a professional person with skills they need, rather than a piece-worker, a quasi-employee that they can hire, fire, discipline and keep hanging around for their benefit, while paying peanuts and delaying even that payment because it helps their cash-flow? Of course, there are a lot of agencies out there that are NOT like that, but I'm afraid that if you jump in too soon you may only find the nasty ones.

Do you have enough to offer clients? Have a look at the translators' directory here and discover your competition. First, look for your language pairs within the US. But translation is a global business so you'll be competing against translators the world over for your jobs. Then think about how you will ensure that at least a few clients will come to you, rather than them. What qualifications do you have that would interest them? What skills, abilities and experience? What is your niche market? You have poetry and literature as your only area in your profile but I would not encourage you to take on a massive project such as a full-length book at the moment. You need to have lots of experience for that (and it isn't generally very well paid). Poetry in particular really needs a specialist.

Have a look at the Site Guidance Centre here on It's there to help you and it's full of useful information on how to succeed as a translator, and how to use the site to generate that success. Find out how what you put in your profile will affect your chances of getting work here. And use the site to find out what to charge, what your payment terms should be, how to write a good CV, how to avoid being scammed, when to say 'no' to clients etc.

If you gain confidence from the hours and hours of reading available here and you feel up to the challenge of running your own business, go for it. I believe it's easy and cheap in the US. Otherwise, it really might pay you to find a salaried job for a while. Anything using your language skills would be a great benefit to you as a translator, but so would any job that gives you knowledge of a subject area that interests you. If nothing else, it would be an entry into the world of work to learn how it all functions.


Annette Christmas
Local time: 22:52
Member (2015)
Spanish to English
+ ...
don't be scared Jul 25, 2016

Don't be put off - starting out as a freelancer, you won't have many overheads to begin with. Maybe not much income, either ;-/
Make sure you know the rules and regulations for working as a freelancer in your country - or get a tax consultant, which is more or less mandatory in Spain, where red tape proliferates when you were least expecting it.
Enjoy your time now when you perhaps don't have much work coming in. Later on you won't have the luxury of building up your profile, as you'll be too busy translating.
Think hard about what you are really good at and try to target only those projects when you are bidding. In time, you will have a client base and won't have much time to bid on jobs boards, which tend to be oversubscribed and low-paying. In the meantime, you have to put in loads of bids, but you can nevertheless be very selective. The ProZ Blue Board is invaluable for vetting unknown (to you) sources of work.
It's tempting to spread your net too wide at first, but this can only harm you in the long run if you take on work you are not really qualified to do.
Be tolerant - while you are feeling your way as a businessman, unscrupulous people may try to take advantage of you, but consider this as free training and write off small losses with a smile. You won't make the same mistakes twice.
Above all, do not accept absurdly low rates, as this harms both you and the profession at large. If you have a product or service worth selling and dedicate all your working hours to it, then you have to charge a living wage.
Have fun. This may be the most exciting phase of your career.


Lucie Podhorná  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 22:52
Member (2016)
Swedish to Czech
+ ...
Wish you luck Jul 25, 2016

I'm in a siminar position. I started translating just out of curiosity and for fun while still studying and it paid me well. Now that I graduated I became freelance for real and suddenly as it is not just a well-paying-student-hobby anymore I started worrying if I'm really going to be able to support myself because suddenly almost every offer I get now offer incredibly low rates. But I figured that I really like this job and it's better to start now and just get employed if it doesn't work out than do it the other way around years later when I have family etc.


Wendel Chaves de Jesus  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:52
English to Portuguese
+ ...
How about volunteering? Jul 28, 2016

I am new to the business myself and I have been translating as a volunteer for the UN Volunteers website in order to polish my skills and improve my CV.


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