How to get started as a freelance translator
Thread poster: Sofia Carvalho

Sofia Carvalho
Portugal
Local time: 19:39
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Jul 27

Hi,

My name is Sofia, I am a native Portuguese speaker from Portugal! I have wanted to become a professional translator for a few years now, and went to university with that in mind. My bachelors degree is in Foreign Languages and Cultures, but I focused on English and Spanish (finished with a C2 level in English, and C1 in Spanish).

Even though my degree wasn't just focused on translation, I did have PT-EN/EN-PT and PT-ES/ES-PT translation classes. My degree's final project was a commented medical translation of an article I found, and it was also the first time I used any translation software (MemoQ). One of my teachers, who took part in grading my project, is a professional translator and reviewed my translation.

I would like to get started as a freelance translator, but I'm not sure where to begin and what to do, and thought maybe some of you could help me. I don't know how much not having a translation focused degree, or any specialization could stop me from succeeding, or if it could. Can I get into more specific and technical areas of translation (such as medical translation) without any background in such areas?

Since I don't have anything to prove my translation capabilities, or any professional experience as a translator, I don't know how I could build my resume, or come up to potential clientes and actually get the job.

All the information you could give me would be very helpful! Thank you for taking the time to read this.


 

Heike Holthaus  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:39
Member (2012)
German to English
+ ...
Welcome Jul 30

Hello Sofia,

The very first thing you should do is read all the other post on this very topic.icon_smile.gif

Best regards,

Heike


Sofia Carvalho
 

Roisin Ni Cheallaigh
Ireland
Member
English to Irish
+ ...
How to get started as a freelance translator Jul 30

What document would you be interested in translating?
What are your interests?
What word count would you be comfortable translating? i.e. translation limit.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:39
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Nothing is essential apart from the ability to give clients what they need Jul 30

Absolutely nothing is a must-have in this profession. I'm sure there are people on this site who have no qualifications at all and yet are doing far better than some highly qualified translators. In the absence of regulations, it's all about keeping the clients coming back. In school, you learn to do a wide range of things reasonably well. In business, it pays to restrict your activity to those that you can do superbly well, because being mediocre isn't enough when thousands of other can do better. You don't just need a good mark; you need to be able to convince clients that you're likely to do a good job - even before they've seen your work (which they may well not understand anyway!). This is why most professional translators only translate into their native language (unless it's a rare pair).

So, think about what you're best at, and then send out a very clear message to potential clients, with profiles, CV, bios, samples, etc all supporting that message. It may be that you can't really give a specialisation yet. Some people arrive in the job with specialisations from past lives and/or present passions; others start as generalists and find an area that they particularly like, or that they get a lot of exposure to, and that grows into a specialisation. I'm personally wary of anyone who doesn't have medical training yet feels capable of translating specialised medical texts. It doesn't seem wise to me when so much can depend on an exact understanding of the nuances and knowing the exact term to use. But maybe others disagree, and many "general medical" texts are certainly quite straightforward.

Even if you aren't intending to use this site as your shop window (and you could do worse), I advise you to check out the Site Guidance Centre and attend the free "Meeting Clients" webinar. You'll find tips on CVs, risk management, marketing, negotiating etc in the Wikis, also on the site. And, as said, the forums are full of answers.

Good reading icon_smile.gif .

Edited to remove unnecessary quote.

[Edited at 2018-07-30 11:46 GMT]


Michele Fauble
Sofia Carvalho
 

Sofia Carvalho
Portugal
Local time: 19:39
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Jul 30

Heike Holthaus wrote:

Hello Sofia,

The very first thing you should do is read all the other post on this very topic.icon_smile.gif

Best regards,

Heike


I definitely will! Surely there's already very good advice on other posts like mine.

Thank you.


 

Sofia Carvalho
Portugal
Local time: 19:39
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
This is so helpful! Jul 30

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Absolutely nothing is a must-have in this profession. I'm sure there are people on this site who have no qualifications at all and yet are doing far better than some highly qualified translators. In the absence of regulations, it's all about keeping the clients coming back. In school, you learn to do a wide range of things reasonably well. In business, it pays to restrict your activity to those that you can do superbly well, because being mediocre isn't enough when thousands of other can do better. You don't just need a good mark; you need to be able to convince clients that you're likely to do a good job - even before they've seen your work (which they may well not understand anyway!). This is why most professional translators only translate into their native language (unless it's a rare pair).

So, think about what you're best at, and then send out a very clear message to potential clients, with profiles, CV, bios, samples, etc all supporting that message. It may be that you can't really give a specialisation yet. Some people arrive in the job with specialisations from past lives and/or present passions; others start as generalists and find an area that they particularly like, or that they get a lot of exposure to, and that grows into a specialisation. I'm personally wary of anyone who doesn't have medical training yet feels capable of translating specialised medical texts. It doesn't seem wise to me when so much can depend on an exact understanding of the nuances and knowing the exact term to use. But maybe others disagree, and many "general medical" texts are certainly quite straightforward.

Even if you aren't intending to use this site as your shop window (and you could do worse), I advise you to check out the Site Guidance Centre and attend the free "Meeting Clients" webinar. You'll find tips on CVs, risk management, marketing, negotiating etc in the Wikis, also on the site. And, as said, the forums are full of answers.

Good reading icon_smile.gif .

Edited to remove unnecessary quote.

[Edited at 2018-07-30 11:46 GMT]


I certainly don't have a lot of experience translating such specialized texts or, to be fair, translating at all. From what I've done, I've realized medical translation was what interested me the most, mostly because of the specific terminology, so it was just something that I had been wondering about for a while. Reading medical texts, and researching topics on the area is something I do, and enjoy doing, so I am familiar with some terminology, but I do realize it doesn't mean it is wise to translate that kind of texto without any actual training. So thank you for your perspective on that.

I definitely think I am going to use Proz, and it seems I could find whatever I need to get started. The forum is such a great help. I am going to look up everything you mentioned. If I could ask you for some more advice about putting up sample work, since I don't have any work that I've done for a client to put on there, do you think it would be good to translate some texts that could show clients what I could do better (even if they weren't translated in a professional context)?

Thank you so much for your time and advice!


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:39
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
There are few rules regarding samples Jul 31

Sofia Carvalho wrote:
I definitely think I am going to use Proz

In that case, you should consider the Plus membership option when it comes to paying. You get loads of things thrown in for free that must be really useful to beginners: a CAT tool, free access to hundreds of training videos, and lots, lots more.

If I could ask you for some more advice about putting up sample work, since I don't have any work that I've done for a client to put on there, do you think it would be good to translate some texts that could show clients what I could do better (even if they weren't translated in a professional context)?

They should of course be our own work icon_smile.gif . We can't actually put samples up of most things we've done for clients - as they are covered by NDA agreements (explicitly or even implicitly). So we either need to get permission or use unpaid-for texts. I would advise you to make them useful to yourself. Wikipedia, TED and some other places do cloud translations for the common good. Or find the website of an association which interests you and you think might interest others who speak your target language and ask for permission to translate it. Or perhaps some publicity for upcoming events. Translations that would never be commercially viable - please don't undermine the profession by translating commercial texts for free. Any of the above might bring you feedback, could be related to future specialisations, and would perhaps help others.


 

William Bowley
United Kingdom
Spanish to English
+ ...
Starting out Aug 1

Hi Sofia,

It's great to see a fellow enthusiastic translator. I myself am, relatively-speaking, quite new to the profession as well so can hopefully give you a few pointers.

First, make sure you have a professional CV in English and prepare some cover letters to get you set up for applications.

As you have little experience, arguably one of the best options is to perform a simple search for smaller agencies and contact them, asking about entry tests or similar assessments. Some smaller agencies can be less strict on the amount of experience they require and are more willing to give newer translators an opportunity, especially if they can test you first. You will have to be persistent in your applications but who knows what might arise?

If you wish to start in Portugal, you can look for agencies through APET (http://www.apet.pt/index.php/membros). There are also similar associations in other countries, such as ATC in the UK. It is certainly worth applying to agencies in several countries.

The points that others have given you are also helpful. Completing work for free (voluntary translations, small projects for your own publicity, etc.) can be useful, just be careful not to over-work yourself on these, as ultimately you limit your time available for searching for paid work and put yourself at risk of exploitation.

Being active on networks like LinkedIn is essential when as new as you are. That way, you can connect with various employees and project managers of translation agencies, and gain useful contacts to seek further information on job opportunities.

If there's anything else, feel free to contact me. Boa sorte!


 


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