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Aspiring translator looking for first job in translation industry
Thread poster: ulysseshaq
ulysseshaq
Spain
Local time: 10:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
Dec 26, 2017

Having finally overcome the nightmare that is finding accommodation in Barcelona, I can finally start focusing on searching the job I trained and studied for... TRANSLATION!

But where to start? I've read so many horror stories about agencies exploiting translators which long hours, unreasonable deadlines, poor working environments and poorer pay. Surely, there's a decent living to made out there?

I would like a decent work-life balance and decent pay? But where do I begin, I've yet to receive a reply, so I'm wondering if I should begin with a translation agency? I would love to go freelance but I think the wiser choice would be to gain experience first.

Can someone guide/assist me and perhaps point me in the right direction, as a starting point. Anything would be greatly appreciated. I'm an English native and my working languages are Spanish and Catalan.

Many thanks in advance.


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Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 10:46
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Writing Dec 27, 2017

I've read so many horror stories about agencies exploiting translators which long hours, unreasonable deadlines, poor working environments and poorer pay.


I would like a decent work-life balance and decent pay?


Start by proofreading accurately everything that you write, including emails to potential clients - especially those. You can't translate if you don't write decently.

Also, I may be old-fashioned, but I believe that using your real name and surname instead of a nickname, and perhaps a picture, on your professional profile will reassure clients about the fact that they are dealing with a real human being.



[Edited at 2017-12-27 01:36 GMT]


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:46
English to Spanish
+ ...
Writing II Dec 27, 2017

Daniel Frisano wrote:

I've read so many horror stories about agencies exploiting translators which long hours, unreasonable deadlines, poor working environments and poorer pay.


I would like a decent work-life balance and decent pay?


Start by proofreading accurately everything that you write, including emails to potential clients - especially those. You can't translate if you don't write decently.



What Daniel said. A translation done by someone with poor writing skills is not worth a farthing or a cent.


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Texte Style
Local time: 10:46
French to English
name Dec 27, 2017

While I agree that good writing skills are necessary, it's not necessarily of the utmost importance on a forum frequented by colleagues rather than potential clients.

No need to use your real name and photo here unless you're planning to find work via this website. Given that OP's main language pair is just about the most common one ever round here, they will find it very hard to get jobs on this website.

If you want salaried work, then your best bet is to apply to agencies. If it's anything like in Paris, most will only be hiring project managers and sales staff, and only rarely translators and proofreaders. Still, working as a project manager gives you valuable insight into how the industry works, and you can later go freelance. If you leave on good terms, the agency can be your first client. Colleagues who have left to work at another agency, or start up their own, are also highly likely to appreciate the services of a person they already know well. And of course you will know plenty of translators, some of whom may agree to refer clients to you when they're fully booked.

There are also websites you can sign up to where they'll ping any ads for your line of work in your city.


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:46
French to English
Names Dec 27, 2017

Daniel Frisano wrote:

Also, I may be old-fashioned, but I believe that using your real name and surname instead of a nickname, and perhaps a picture, on your professional profile will reassure clients about the fact that they are dealing with a real human being.



[Edited at 2017-12-27 01:36 GMT]


I know two people called "Ulysses". It is a real first name.


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:46
French to English
Starting somewhere Dec 27, 2017

If you have a translation qualification, then you may be of interest to translation agencies, either as an employee or as a freelancer, perhaps even both (although probably not for the same one at the same time)!.

If you opt for freelancing, contact agencies, register with them and hassle them to give you that elusive first job and/or test. Once they are satisfied, you will start getting money coming in. Before setting up in business, do take time to consider what business set-up is the best for you. There may be courses via a chamber of commerce on the choices available. There is often more than one possibility and there are always advantages and disadvantages with each of them. Only you will know which best suits your situation. Make sure you are in a position to make an informed decision.

You may decide to freelance while working as an employee for one agency. You'll need to be extra careful about various agreements regarding comeptition and confidentiality if you do so. It must be possible.

You probably need some means of income until you get established. You may need to get a "day job" in the meantime. That can also be awkward, as some work will inevitably come in when you're at work. To be considered.

Finally, when selling yourself and your skills to direct clients and agencies, make sure you underline what you are particularly good at, where your strengths lie. Take on work you know you can do really well. Emphasize any specialist knowledge or experience you may have, from other study and/or work experience.

Good luck.

[Edited at 2017-12-27 22:46 GMT]


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ulysseshaq
Spain
Local time: 10:46
Spanish to English
+ ...


Posted via
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TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for you help! Dec 28, 2017

Thank you kindly! Advice and (constructive?) criticisms duly noted.

My first challenge is to just get my foot in the door, am willing to do anything to get out of the rut I'm in at the minute, as i arrived to Barcelona with no place to stay, no job and 200euros in my pocket, in the end i had to take a waiters job and the hours are brutal. But anyway, i degress.

Thanks soo much Nikki also for your guidance, it has given me much food for thought! I've worked as an English tutor for 4yrs and spent a large part of my working life in customer service / restaurants / bars, so hopefully I could utilise this to my benefit.

To answer question, sadly my real name isn't Ulysses, rather Imran Ul Haq, Ulysses was inspired by the 80s cartoon of the same name!


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:46
French to English
Comments Dec 29, 2017

ulysseshaq wrote:

Thank you kindly! Advice and (constructive?) criticisms duly noted.

My first challenge is to just get my foot in the door, am willing to do anything to get out of the rut I'm in at the minute, as i arrived to Barcelona with no place to stay, no job and 200euros in my pocket, in the end i had to take a waiters job and the hours are brutal. But anyway, i degress.

Thanks soo much Nikki also for your guidance, it has given me much food for thought! I've worked as an English tutor for 4yrs and spent a large part of my working life in customer service / restaurants / bars, so hopefully I could utilise this to my benefit.

To answer question, sadly my real name isn't Ulysses, rather Imran Ul Haq, Ulysses was inspired by the 80s cartoon of the same name!


Given that you will be able to make the most convincing start in working in fields you know about, you have a number of areas to get you started.

I have a comment to make that is intended as constructive criticism. Here goes! This may just be due to your using a phone, for example, and although the odd typo is not a problem in an informal forum context, bear in mind that these forums/fora are open to the public. Potential clients may notice the "i" instead of "I" used three times and conclude that it is not a one-off. Also, you write "I arrive to Barcelona", rather than "in". This is not the sort of error that native speakers of generally English make, although it can happen. Non-native speakers might not notice this type of mistake, but to a native speaker it is a classic indicator of non-native English. You need to be extremely careful on that sort of detail.

Time is of the essence. Whilst some money is better than no money, you can easily find yourself in a low-rates trap. Once you've accepted a low rate with a client, why should they then accept to pay you more? Pitch your prices at market rates from the word go.

As for your name, I also think you should use your real name when communicating in contexts where potential clients are likely to see your writing.

[Edited at 2017-12-29 11:54 GMT]


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MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:46
Member (2017)
French to English
+ ...
I agree with Nikki Dec 30, 2017

It's none of my business whether you're a native speaker or not, but you should know that your writing suggests that you probably aren't... There are several incorrect expressions and problems with tense.

Regarding a foot in the door: try translation agencies, of course, but also direct clients. Maybe you know a restaurant where the menu in English could use some improving. Or a website. Barcelona attracts tons of tourists. That means there are a lot of businesses there that need their website, social media accounts, and other promotional tools to be in several languages.

Look for jobs on here after you fill out your profile.

With regards to rates, I disagree with many others on this point: I say, take any job you can get when you're starting out. Take those jobs at 0.03 or 0.04 euros a word that nobody else in the first world wants. If you're good and fast, you'll still make decent money. But mostly, you'll acquire valuable experience, which you can then use to go after clients that pay more. Everybody has to start somewhere.


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ulysseshaq
Spain
Local time: 10:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
grateful for the continued support! Dec 31, 2017

I fully appreciate the advice you're giving and taking on board all your points. Thank you all!

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RachelSteer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:46
French to English
+ ...
Agree with mk2010 Dec 31, 2017

MK2010 wrote:

With regards to rates, I disagree with many others on this point: I say, take any job you can get when you're starting out. Take those jobs at 0.03 or 0.04 euros a word that nobody else in the first world wants. If you're good and fast, you'll still make decent money. But mostly, you'll acquire valuable experience, which you can then use to go after clients that pay more. Everybody has to start somewhere.



I totally agree on this. I'm just starting out, and I was initially asking for rates of 0.05-0.07 euros a word, and I barely heard back from anyone, let alone got hired for a job. I've since lowered my rates to 0.02-0.03 euros a word, and I've had four different clients in a week, with reviews and additions to my portfolio to boot. The way I see it, you don't start out in a company on the salary of someone who's been there 20 years. You have to work your way up to that point, and it's much easier to do so once you've made a name for yourself!


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:46
French to English
Starting rates Jan 1

Things that enter into the picture are:

- do I need to make a living from this immediately?
- how much must I deduct for compulsory deductions for health, retirement, insurance?
- does that leave me enough to meet my needs?
- what volume of work can a clear in a day?
- where will I get my clients?
- what volume of work do I need to at least meet my needs?
- can I realistically achieve that?
- if not, what options should I consider?
- if I can, by when must it happen?

These are basic questions, the answers to which will vary from one person to another. Each individual's situation is so different.

Rachel clearly states the advantages of accepting what you can while you can, when you are starting out. There are advantages. The disadvantages are that when starting out, one is generally slower and therefore less likely to generate the volume necessary to offset the low rate. By volume, I mean the number of words you can translate in a day and the amount of work you get coming in. Fairly quickly, if you hope to live independently from translating, you will need to increase both rates and volume (amount you can do in a day and amount of work ordered). Clients, agents or direct clients, will see no reason to increase your rates if you do provide work of a reasonable quality at a low price. You need to bear that in mind from the start and work on solutions to wean yourself off the low-paying clients as soon as you can.


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The Misha
Local time: 04:46
Russian to English
+ ...
Apples to oranges Jan 1

RachelSteer wrote:

The way I see it, you don't start out in a company on the salary of someone who's been there 20 years.


And the reason you don't is that you do not get to do the same kind of work or assume the same amount of responsibility as those who have been at it a while. If, on the other hand, both the rookies and the experienced old hands do what essentially amounts to the same kind of work, who on earth would want to pay for experience? That's why they have "seniority" in unionized industries where everyone is but a cog in the machine and where the unions wrestle pay concessions and other additional benefits for the older members with "vested" interests from management. That's pretty much an artificial attempt at rate differentiation where none is warranted economically.

What essentially happens in translation "industry" is that the young, inexperienced and poorly qualified undercut the pros on the price and doom themselves to the (much larger) lower segments of the market where the clients are not picky enough and quantity beats quality hands down. Those with actual linguistic and subject matter expertise to offer charge accordingly and operate in a much smaller (and shrinking, alas) niche where "quick and dirty" is not enough. These market segments rarely have anything to do with each other and basically exist in parallel universes. On those rare occasions when a client gets tempted and gives the job where quality does matter to a cheaper wannabe somewhere, they quickly realize that cheapskates always pay twice as a Russian saying has it and usually go back to their more expensive yet reliable original providers.

That said, even parallel universes are not altogether independent of each other, which in our particular case means that increasingly more borderline jobs get sucked into the low-end market orbit. The consequence for experienced pros is not so much lower rates but fewer jobs and, as a result, slowly progressing underemployment. The consequence for the underpaid daredevils is sheer misery because they increasingly find themselves saddled with more complicated matters they are poorly equipped to handle while still being paid at their regular measly rates. It's a lose-lose situation, really. I am seriously considering plumbing or truck driving for my next professional life:)


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ulysseshaq
Spain
Local time: 10:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Sound and reasonable advice! Jan 1

RachelSteer wrote:

MK2010 wrote:

With regards to rates, I disagree with many others on this point: I say, take any job you can get when you're starting out. Take those jobs at 0.03 or 0.04 euros a word that nobody else in the first world wants. If you're good and fast, you'll still make decent money. But mostly, you'll acquire valuable experience, which you can then use to go after clients that pay more. Everybody has to start somewhere.



I totally agree on this. I'm just starting out, and I was initially asking for rates of 0.05-0.07 euros a word, and I barely heard back from anyone, let alone got hired for a job. I've since lowered my rates to 0.02-0.03 euros a word, and I've had four different clients in a week, with reviews and additions to my portfolio to boot. The way I see it, you don't start out in a company on the salary of someone who's been there 20 years. You have to work your way up to that point, and it's much easier to do so once you've made a name for yourself!



I suppose it's about biting the bullet and starting from the very bottom. It's daunting and frustrating at the same time, as I want to be able to sell myself and demonstrate my passion for languages but it's difficult without experience to back it up!
Thank you all again, this is really helpful.


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MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:46
Member (2017)
French to English
+ ...
Not necessarily Jan 3

ulysseshaq wrote:

RachelSteer wrote:

MK2010 wrote:

With regards to rates, I disagree with many others on this point: I say, take any job you can get when you're starting out. Take those jobs at 0.03 or 0.04 euros a word that nobody else in the first world wants. If you're good and fast, you'll still make decent money. But mostly, you'll acquire valuable experience, which you can then use to go after clients that pay more. Everybody has to start somewhere.



I totally agree on this. I'm just starting out, and I was initially asking for rates of 0.05-0.07 euros a word, and I barely heard back from anyone, let alone got hired for a job. I've since lowered my rates to 0.02-0.03 euros a word, and I've had four different clients in a week, with reviews and additions to my portfolio to boot. The way I see it, you don't start out in a company on the salary of someone who's been there 20 years. You have to work your way up to that point, and it's much easier to do so once you've made a name for yourself!



I suppose it's about biting the bullet and starting from the very bottom. It's daunting and frustrating at the same time, as I want to be able to sell myself and demonstrate my passion for languages but it's difficult without experience to back it up!
Thank you all again, this is really helpful.


It's not NECESSARY to start at low prices, it's just ONE way to get your foot in the door. Try all sorts of avenues at first, as mentioned above. Get some experience. Get some clients. This counts more than translation degrees. Do what you have to do to get jobs. There are tens of thousands of translators working in your pair, most of whom have more experience, so it's going to be tough at first, until you've gained experience yourself, developed fields of expertise, or anything else that will motivate a client to pick you over other translators.


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