Getting translation work from local UK businesses translating into English, how will it work?
Thread poster: Neil Kendall

Neil Kendall
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:09
New user
Spanish to English
Sep 11

I live in the UK, I have recently been working as an interpreter (English to Spanish, and vice versa, though I speak a few languages) and I'm looking to break into the translation field.

I've been researching how to get established, and read some advice from people saying that a good way to start is to contact local businesses in your town or city asking whether they need any translation work.

However, I live in the UK, i.e. an English speaking country, and I will be t
... See more
I live in the UK, I have recently been working as an interpreter (English to Spanish, and vice versa, though I speak a few languages) and I'm looking to break into the translation field.

I've been researching how to get established, and read some advice from people saying that a good way to start is to contact local businesses in your town or city asking whether they need any translation work.

However, I live in the UK, i.e. an English speaking country, and I will be translating into English, as English is my native language (and, as translators know, it is ALWAYS best to translate from the target language into your native language).

How will this work? Won't local English speaking companies need the translator to translate into a foreign language? So how can I get work from local companies if I do translations into English? Was the advice I read misguided?
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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:09
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Not my idea of a good way to start out, TBH Sep 11

Neil Kendall wrote:
I've been researching how to get established, and read some advice from people saying that a good way to start is to contact local businesses in your town or city asking whether they need any translation work.

I believe you've been freelancing for a while, which gives you a distinct advantage over many who are new to this profession. Many who are just starting out have absolutely no idea how to negotiate with clients, know little about the practical aspects of translating (as opposed to just speaking languages), and need some amount of support. You'll already know about the negotiation side of things plus invoicing, book-keeping etc. But I expect you'd like to get as much work as possible to start with, and then later on become a bit choosier? The quickest and easiest way to be busy is to sign up with zillions of agencies. They're the ones that deal with massive volumes. Each direct client will have little or no work for weeks if not months on end, but they can be very satisfying and lucrative to work with.

I suggest you work on your profile and CV and maybe buy Plus membership here. Then you'll get all sorts of perks including training videos and a CAT tool licence plus some instant visibility. You'll also be well placed to quote on every suitable job and to make full use of the Blue Board so you know which agencies you don't want to sign up with. Check out the Site Guidance Centre.

On the subject of UK clients for into-English translation, take my word for it - you never know where the next client is going to come from! One of my French to English clients is in Bulgaria, the French-native CEO of a company there. People get around nowadays and so do translation needs.


Joe France
Jorge Payan
Neil Kendall
 

Christel Zipfel  Identity Verified
Member (2004)
Italian to German
+ ...
Don't worry! Sep 11

Neil Kendall wrote:


How will this work? Won't local English speaking companies need the translator to translate into a foreign language? So how can I get work from local companies if I do translations into English? Was the advice I read misguided?


I translate into German and have quite a few customers in Germany or German speaking countries. They get or have documents in other languages they need to have translated into German. Don't worry, that's very common and I think the same happens with English speaking customers!


Neil Kendall
 

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:09
Member
Italian to English
Enviable speaking skills, but... Sep 12

I had a look at your website. The fact that you speak so many languages is enviable, yet it's of limited value to customers who might want to hire you for translation work. Since translation involves writing instead of speaking, what translation-related skills can you actually offer in these languages? What level of expertise do you offer? Any specialist areas? You should update your CV to show potential clients what you can offer in translation terms - hobbies aren't relevant unless they're rel... See more
I had a look at your website. The fact that you speak so many languages is enviable, yet it's of limited value to customers who might want to hire you for translation work. Since translation involves writing instead of speaking, what translation-related skills can you actually offer in these languages? What level of expertise do you offer? Any specialist areas? You should update your CV to show potential clients what you can offer in translation terms - hobbies aren't relevant unless they're related to your professional work.

I would start by contacting as many agencies as you can. It's fine to contact businesses and direct clients, but first you need to need to identify a need that they have and that you can meet. Once you've been working for agencies for a while, you will have a better idea of your translation strengths and where you might like to specialise, if you don't know already.

[Edited at 2019-09-12 13:41 GMT]
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Neil Kendall
 

Neil Kendall
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:09
New user
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the replies Sep 13

Thanks for the replies, they have been useful. I will comment on the individual replies shortly.

 

Neil Kendall
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:09
New user
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Good answer, thank you Sep 13

Sheila Wilson wrote:
But I expect you'd like to get as much work as possible to start with, and then later on become a bit choosier? The quickest and easiest way to be busy is to sign up with zillions of agencies.


Of course, I'd like to be working as a translator as soon as possible. I've started following your advice by contacting and signing up with UK translation agencies, so we'll see how it goes.

I suggest you work on your profile and CV and maybe buy Plus membership here. Then you'll get all sorts of perks including training videos and a CAT tool licence plus some instant visibility. You'll also be well placed to quote on every suitable job and to make full use of the Blue Board so you know which agencies you don't want to sign up with. Check out the Site Guidance Centre.


Good idea, I will consider buying Plus membership etc.

On the subject of UK clients for into-English translation, take my word for it - you never know where the next client is going to come from! One of my French to English clients is in Bulgaria, the French-native CEO of a company there. People get around nowadays and so do translation needs.


That's great to know and gives me confidence to keep going.


 

Neil Kendall
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:09
New user
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
This is a good point also! Sep 13

Christel Zipfel wrote:

I translate into German and have quite a few customers in Germany or German speaking countries. They get or have documents in other languages they need to have translated into German. Don't worry, that's very common and I think the same happens with English speaking customers!


This is also a great point, thank you!


 

Neil Kendall
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:09
New user
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Good answer, need a bit more advice on choosing my specialist subject. Sep 13

Fiona Grace Peterson wrote:

I had a look at your website. The fact that you speak so many languages is enviable, yet it's of limited value to customers who might want to hire you for translation work. Since translation involves writing instead of speaking, what translation-related skills can you actually offer in these languages? What level of expertise do you offer? Any specialist areas? You should update your CV to show potential clients what you can offer in translation terms - hobbies aren't relevant unless they're related to your professional work.

I would start by contacting as many agencies as you can. It's fine to contact businesses and direct clients, but first you need to need to identify a need that they have and that you can meet. Once you've been working for agencies for a while, you will have a better idea of your translation strengths and where you might like to specialise, if you don't know already.

[Edited at 2019-09-12 13:41 GMT]


Ok, thanks for your reply. I should clarify: when I say I speak those languages, I also mean that I can read and write in them too, but as Spanish is my strongest foreign language then I will be focusing on Spanish - English translations for now. I feel that Arabic - English would be a good option for the future, but I am not ready with it yet as my reading skills need to be improved. I'm also planning on getting a Diploma in Translation qualification too, though from reading this forum I know this isn't essential to succeed in this field!

But I understand your other points - you are right that I need to define what I can offer to translation agencies/potential clients,etc. I know that most professional translators specialise in one or a two subjects that they can translate really well. So may I ask you, how does a translator decide which subject(s) to specialise in? It may seem like a silly question, but I don't know where to start with this one. Do I pick a subject I'm interested in, and then focus my translation work around that? Or do I find out which subjects are most lucrative/in demand for translation work, then work hard to become an 'expert' in one or 2 of these fields by reading up on them, building up my specialist vocabulary etc?

I'm interested in music, motor racing and travelling. I also enjoy reading stories and wide range of books and articles in different languages. I have recently done interpreting work for some local tour companies in my area, working with tour guides etc, which involved talking about the geography and history of my area, so I know the specialist vocabulary in this field both in English and Spanish. So perhaps I could offer translations to do with tourism and history? I have also been doing a training course to prepare for my DPSI exam for interpreting, which was on the subjects of law and health/medical. So maybe I could specialise in these subjects at some stage, however they are VERY technical as there is a LOT of specialist vocabulary, which I don't yet feel totally ready for.

So if you have any advice on choosing my specialist subject, please let me know. Do I start out being a 'general' interpreter, then specialise later on down the line?

[Edited at 2019-09-13 08:08 GMT]

[Edited at 2019-09-13 08:17 GMT]


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:09
Member (2018)
French to English
. Sep 13

I would say go for what interests you. This will prevent you from getting bored of your job, and I'm pretty sure your interets will shine right through. If the readers can feel your interest, it can spark theirs.
I translate into English, living in France, and the vast majority of my clients are in France or Belgium. I put on my profile that I'm specialised in art and music, and as a result people find me and ask me to do translations in those fields. In the beginning, of course I wasn't
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I would say go for what interests you. This will prevent you from getting bored of your job, and I'm pretty sure your interets will shine right through. If the readers can feel your interest, it can spark theirs.
I translate into English, living in France, and the vast majority of my clients are in France or Belgium. I put on my profile that I'm specialised in art and music, and as a result people find me and ask me to do translations in those fields. In the beginning, of course I wasn't any kind of expert at translating in those fields, indeed I wasn't an expert at translating in any field. But I felt that I knew enough about the subjects, having learned to play instruments, followed art history courses, visited art exhibitions, attended all sorts of concerts, and read voraciously on the subject in any language I could understand. I put in tons of research in the beginning to make sure I got the terminology right, I probably spent at least twice the time I need nowadays. It paid off and I have more and more clients in these fields. I was recently shortlisted for a job, the potential client said "despite your rate being well above our budget, I'm interested because of your obvious enthusiasm for the subject". In the end it didn't work out, because I wouldn't budge on my rate, but it still shows that enthusiasm is a definite selling point.
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Neil Kendall
 

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:09
Member
Italian to English
Not a silly question! Sep 13

Neil Kendall wrote:

So may I ask you, how does a translator decide which subject(s) to specialise in? It may seem like a silly question, but I don't know where to start with this one. Do I pick a subject I'm interested in, and then focus my translation work around that? Or do I find out which subjects are most lucrative/in demand for translation work, then work hard to become an 'expert' in one or 2 of these fields by reading up on them, building up my specialist vocabulary etc?



I agree with the many translators who say that your specialist subject tends to find you, rather than the other way around. That's the beauty of working for agencies - over time you'll find what kind of texts you're good at, those you enjoy working with, and those you absolutely hate. Remember too that often you gain experience by actually working in a certain field, and many translators have specialised this way. I believe you have to have a strong interest in a certain field to be successful at it, which is why I could never specialise in finance, despite it being a lucrative field with a lot of work.


Neil Kendall
Elizabeth Tamblin
Cherith Thompson
 

Neil Kendall
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:09
New user
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Finding it impossible to get any translation work Sep 16



I agree with the many translators who say that your specialist subject tends to find you, rather than the other way around. That's the beauty of working for agencies - over time you'll find what kind of texts you're good at, those you enjoy working with, and those you absolutely hate. Remember too that often you gain experience by actually working in a certain field, and many translators have specialised this way. I believe you have to have a strong interest in a certain field to be successful at it, which is why I could never specialise in finance, despite it being a lucrative field with a lot of work.


I contacted around 20 different UK translation agencies and have only had 2 replies, who said they'll add my details to their database and contact me if any work comes up. However so far there has been no work. I don't mean to sound negative, but I feel a bit disillusioned. Does contacting translation agencies really work, as it doesn't seem to work for me? I just feel like I'm spinning my wheels. Maybe I'd be better looking elsewhere for translation work.

I've also emailed a large number of local businesses asking if they have any multilingual work opportunities, e.g. translation, interpreting etc, and telling them a brief about myself and what I can offer them. So far only 2 replied, and they both said they don't require my services.

Maybe work for multilinguals is just a pipe dream and virtually impossible to come by. Unless I just stick to interpreting, or move to a bigger city and find a multilingual customer service job or something, that is.

Also, I need to know what to charge for translations - how do I decide how much to charge per word? (Or per translation?).

Thanks.

[Edited at 2019-09-16 08:58 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:09
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Two points Sep 16

Neil Kendall wrote:
I contacted around 20 different UK translation agencies and have only had 2 replies, who said they'll add my details to their database and contact me if any work comes up. However so far there has been no work. I don't mean to sound negative, but I feel a bit disillusioned.

When you can say you've contacted 20 per week for 3 months (i.e. around 250) without being offered a job, then you should start to suspect your approach. Before that, you'll have plenty saying "Yes, so what's new?".

Also, I need to know what to charge for translations - how do I decide how much to charge per word?

Check out the Community Rates on this site.


Neil Kendall
 

Neil Kendall
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:09
New user
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for the positive talk :-) Sep 18

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Neil Kendall wrote:
I contacted around 20 different UK translation agencies and have only had 2 replies, who said they'll add my details to their database and contact me if any work comes up. However so far there has been no work. I don't mean to sound negative, but I feel a bit disillusioned.

When you can say you've contacted 20 per week for 3 months (i.e. around 250) without being offered a job, then you should start to suspect your approach. Before that, you'll have plenty saying "Yes, so what's new?".

Also, I need to know what to charge for translations - how do I decide how much to charge per word?

Check out the Community Rates on this site.


Yes, I agree with you. I will keep trying!


 


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