Getting started as a translator
Thread poster: Laura Campbell

Laura Campbell
Australia
Local time: 20:13
Spanish to English
+ ...
Oct 31

Hi All-

I'm establishing myself as a freelance spanish-english translator.
However, I do not have a bachelor degree in Spanish (my second language) or in translating.
I speak and write Spanish fluently and to a very high standard but I am mostly self-taught, having spent years living in spanish speaking countries.
I have done a couple of volunteer translation tasks through trommonds and have also volunteered as an interpreter.

I'm just unsure as to how to advertise myself- most job postings require a CV which I don't have. Also, does anyone know of some short courses in translation that I may be able to take so that I have some sort of certification/qualification?

Thanks.


Sheila Wilson
Adikary Rodson
 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 10:13
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Welcome, Laura! Oct 31

Several Proz members are Australians, so they should be in a better position to help you. Why don’t you contact them directly? In the meanwhile, I believe this could shed some light: https://www.naati.com.au/

Deborah do Carmo
 

Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:13
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
A couple of translation profession basics Oct 31

Hi Laura,

These types of posts, which are quite common at Proz, often get no replies at all for a number of reasons, the first being that freelancers rarely have the time to do so, and to be honest, it gets repetitive after the third or fifth time. What swayed me to answer is a) I have a bit of spare time, and b) you filled out your Proz profile in a meaningful way, which tells me you are taking this seriously. Many don't bother to do even that.

Secondly, research is a very important part of this profession, and your questions show that you haven't even scratched the surface of what translating is about. This site alone is a treasure trove of information for translators at every level, so a good start would be to read the forum posts on "Getting established". You'll find most of your questions answered there as well as answers to those you didn't know to ask.

Next, about CVs: a CV (curriculum vitae)/resumé is not something you acquire, it's a summary of your educational and professional - sometimes a bit of personal - background that you compose yourself to present to potential employers or clients. Here's one of countless links to help you write one:
https://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-CV-(Curriculum-Vitae). You can also look at the CVs of members here who have them attached to their profiles to get some ideas.

Translation or language degrees are not necessarily a requirement - plenty of translators don't have them, but degrees in other fields can provide a solid foundation for translation specializations. You appear to have a science background, which I would think is a very promising point of departure.

I hope these brief comments help you get started on the path to a successful and fascinating career.

Good luck.


Rachel Fell
Teresa Borges
Deborah do Carmo
Nicole König
 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:13
French to English
Suggestions for getting started Oct 31

You say you don't have a CV. Well, you certainly have stuff to put one together! You have a degree and say you have language ability, although the latter is not formal. That is not necessarily a barrier to being able to work as a translator. So it's time to get your CV together. Any relevant work experience (however short) or internships etc that you may have done will help too. When you are young and starting out, noone is going to expect you to have 30 years' experience. Make the most of what you have and you already have something to offer.

You can contact agencies who are likely to ask you to do a short test. Be careful, the less scrupulous ones sometimes ask for quite long "tests" that you feel may be part of an actual job they are asking you to do for free. Anything from 200 to 400 words is not unusual.
Some agencies require you to fill in endless forms online, provide tons of documents and you never hear from them again. It's a pain, it happens, but if you apply to the right place at the right time, you might just get a look-in. Your degree is in a field which is written about every day in many contexts and different situations. I suspect that may be of interest to certain agencies. Try to target agencies that specialise in your field.

Many translators have no formal language or translation qualifications at all. Some translators have no formal qualifications at all, but most do have a university education. Agencies will almost always require a university degree, although not necessarily in language or translation. If not, then evidence of relevant professional experience will be required. Many translators are qualified in other fields and have professional experience they can highlight in contacting potential clients. There will be common knowledge, common terminology and common knowledge of how the business works.
I'm not pointing this out to scare you, just to give you an idea of what you are likely to be competing against for jobs. Make sure you can point to how and where your language skills were acquired.

How much should you charge? Well, when you're starting out, do be wary of undercharging because you are starting out or to get a foot in the door. There are two reasons to be careful of this. One reason is that when you start out, you work more slowly; the job takes you longer. Most translators charge based on the volume (number of words, lines, whatever), speciality, complexity, etc. So don't penalise yourself in addition to being slower by undercharging. A second reason would be that if you get a couple of regular clients, be they agencies or direct clients, once you are charging "peanuts per word" and they are happy with your work, why should they suddenly start paying "decent rate per word"? However, it is not cut and dry. The middle line in the real, big, wide world probably involves some compromise. Once you're up and running, you can take on new clients are charge the going rate. (See Australian colleagues to find out what that mean for you).

It is possible to start without any of that and to get a foothold as a translator if you have something of interest to the client. That can be formal or informal qualifications or formal or informal experience and knowledge. A pastime or something you do for fun, a sport, for example, can be something that makes you stand out with relevant knowledge for a particular job too.

In the meantime, bear in mind that posts on forums can be good publicity for you. You gain visibility with fellow translators and with potential clients. This is good and bad. So, be careful to avoid typos and grammar mistakes. They can slip in now and again, but I know it's not good publicity for me when it does happen. And it does! Just as a hint, you may like to correct the capital letters missing on "spanish" and "english".icon_wink.gif

[Edited at 2018-10-31 11:39 GMT]


Teresa Borges
Deborah do Carmo
Mohamed Saadeldin
Adikary Rodson
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:13
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Your needs Oct 31

As translators we all need much the same skills: fluency in two languages (minimum), a very high level of comprehension in our source language(s), above average written expression in our target language(s), good general research skills, some IT nous, and finally but very importantly for all freelancers, good business and communication skills. But how we acquire them can vary. You need to be confident of your own skills, so seek training where necessary. For a basic course in translation techniques I can recommend the one I took (see my profile to avoid me advertising for them). If you're lacking the business and communications skills, the Chambers of Commerce can often help (if you have them in Australia?). You certainly need to set yourself up a legal self-employment structure, which in AUS may just mean paying taxes or may involve a lengthy registration process, and then you need to be able to attract clients, negotiate terms, invoice them, do the book-keeping, chase far too many of them for payment icon_frown.gif, and so on.

You definitely need some sort of marketing brochure, aka a CV, to send to potential clients. The link Woodstock provided gives some useful general info but it's addressing the CV that job-seekers present to employers. Our clients need it to be a bit different. Have a look on this very site - http://wiki.proz.com/wiki/index.php/Creating_an_effective_CV_/_resume (full disclosure - I wrote it icon_smile.gif). You also need a shop window, as you're one of millions. ProZ.com can serve nicely but your "stall" (aka your profile here) needs to be on the main thoroughfare in the ProZ.com marketplace rather than in one of the back rooms, as it were, and it needs to be well dressed. It's a bit like a souk, with many profiles never coming to the attention of clients. Don't overlook today's networking - LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. A website is useful, as are business cards. Our clients can come from anywhere so handing business cards to friends, family and casual acquaintances never hurts.

Start honing your research skills now on this site, but feel free to ask further questions.


Ilaria Gaggero
Jorge Payan
 

Laura Campbell
Australia
Local time: 20:13
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thankyou for your helpful words! Nov 10

Many thanks to everyone for going out of your way to give me some guidance. It's been quite daunting coming onto Proz with no knowledge of the industry, not even knowing whether I have the necessary background to be able to get translating work.

I will definitely follow this advice to set myself up. I actually posted a job of my own on the site so that was great to watch the process in my own mind of deciding which quote to accept.

Thanks again,
Laura


 


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