How to make translation a full time job
Thread poster: Virginia1986

Local time: 11:11
Spanish to English
+ ...
Oct 16, 2017

Hi everyone,
This is going to be a long and personal post, please bear with me.
I've been translating for over 11 years, also teaching both languages (Spanish and English) as a certified teacher. In the past 2-3 years I've been working a lot more in translation, particularly for subtitle and localization companies, but I find that they do not send regular work, especially lately, and when they do it's on a "first come, first serve" basis and due to my time zone I'm usually always late. I'm very experienced and get really high marks on my work (which is evaluated regularly), and I have also translated websites, articles and even novels with great praise and success. But even though I've worked really hard to establish myself, I still find myself without work most of the time.
I would like to quit my teaching job (I'm a private tutor) because of the culture in my country regarding private teachers, it feels like the clients do not value my work and are constantly complaining about fees and if I take sick days and so on, so I would like to work with a more normal crowd. This doesn't happen with my Spanish students who aren't from my country, since they are usually extremely grateful and kind and I'd like to continue to work only with them, but they're only a handful and it doesn't pay the bills.
So I'm looking for maybe getting hired at least part time in a translation agency where I can work through the internet so I can have a consistent income to replace my local English students. It's getting to the point where I'm seriously depressed from the treatment I receive on a daily basis, so I don't mind working more hours for less money, if it means not seeing them ever again. Some of them are men and are quite rude and demeaning towards me, but even though I am really offended and uncomfortable I cannot say anything because they'll drop the course and I really need the money right now.
Do you know of any agencies where I could apply that are likely to hire people right now? Or any other advice that you could give me?
Thank you so much.



Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Full time Oct 17, 2017

Hi Virginia

Full-time job is build up from a part-time effort. Now, if you have 100,000 USD on your bank account, you can drop everything and do just translation, It will take you anything from 6 months to 2 years to start getting regular flow of projects. Some agencies will become "steady" customers (from 5 to 10) and you will also have about 15 to 20 "occasional" clients (anything from end clients up to regular agencies). Conclusion: it wouldn't be wise to quit your teaching job abruptly. Do it "paulatinamente". At some point you will be able to make that step (do just translation and editing).

As for getting hired by an agency, I would be reluctant to consider this possibility. In our trade, it's not working this way. You don't have an office work and at some point, when you acquire enough experience, you quit your office job and set up your own business/become a freelancer. No. What happens is that you work as a full-time freelancer for several decades and then (only then) some agencies might consider hiring you as a full time in-house translator.

If you really are keen on an office job, consider project management, but then it's not related to translation (I presume you love what you've been doing for 11 years).

In other words:

- Invest some time in getting an appealing ProZ profile (samples, rates, services, bios, CV. etc.).

- Consider translating into your native language only. The fact that you teach English is not enough to claim that you are able to produce a translation in that language that rivals texts produced by native speakers. Try to find good English matches to expressions like "a grandes males, grandes remedios", "no voy a tirar la casa por la ventana", "creo que a este precio me voy a tirar a la piscina", "es una estafa como un piano", "el coche me salió rana", "llevaba un reloj más grande que una carretera", etc. Then, if we write in our non-native language, there is always something that's not right (an article here and there, word order, choice of words, syntactical issues; no matter how "subtle" they are, a native speaker can tell the difference). Let me assure you, there is a lot of work in EN > ES pair.

- Participate in forums, KudoZ, training programs, etc.

- Contact agencies and offer them to do test translations. 1 out of 100 will reply, but that's the "hit rate".

- The most important of all; specialize. Don't do everything well enough. Excel in one or two areas and it will lead to more work, not less. So much so that simply drop texts from other areas (if you do law, accept texts from law, finance, business and decline texts from fashion, tourism, technical manuals, etc.).

Good luck!

[Edited at 2017-10-17 11:17 GMT]


Kay Denney  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:11
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
yes you can! Oct 18, 2017

I don't know why you say, Merab, that agencies will only hire seasoned translators?
Here at any rate, people only want to hire fresh young things straight out of school. I signed up at a website that sends jobs ads and can honestly say that most want to hire students on work placement, and nobody ever asks for experience. Oh, maybe one or two have asked for up to two years' experience. My 20 is far too much!

I first started out as a free-lancer when pregnant. Trying to build up a business proved incompatible with my approach to parenting, so then I took a job at an agency once my daughter started at school. I worked there for several years and when it was bought out by another agency, I took the opportunity to take a course to validate my professional experience, in order to then start free-lancing again.

Second time around, I knew far more people in the business and was able to quickly build up my clientele.

So, all in all, I think you have a very sound plan there, Virginia! Good luck finding an in-house job.
It's far easier to get hired as a project manager than as a translator, but then you're obviously in contact with lots of people, clients and translators and other PMs, so that it's even easier to get going as a translator.


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