Doubts on how to getting started - seeking advice
Thread poster: Isabella Marcosano

Isabella Marcosano
Italy
Local time: 16:23
English to Italian
+ ...
Nov 2

Hi!

I am Isabella, a native Italian and I am starting my career as a freelance translator, or at least trying to. I hold a BA in Translation and Liaison Interpreting and I am currently doing a Master in Marketing. I have also done a 3-month internship in a translation agency as a trainee and I became quite skilled at using SDL Trados. Even though my BA was focused on translation for tourism and business I am planning to apply for a Specialization in Conference Interpreting next year
... See more
Hi!

I am Isabella, a native Italian and I am starting my career as a freelance translator, or at least trying to. I hold a BA in Translation and Liaison Interpreting and I am currently doing a Master in Marketing. I have also done a 3-month internship in a translation agency as a trainee and I became quite skilled at using SDL Trados. Even though my BA was focused on translation for tourism and business I am planning to apply for a Specialization in Conference Interpreting next year so to become certified here in Italy. Meanwhile, I would like to start my business as a freelancer because this is my passion since I was a teenager and the career path I want to pursue without any doubt. I know that starting isn't easy but I am doing all the recommended steps for getting started in the field:
- I am reading a lot of books/blogs/forum posts here on translation;
- I am attending online course to know more about HTML, translation memories, DTP for translator ecc.
- I am applying as a volunteer translator for some NGOs and occasionally submitting translations there;
- I am sending my resume and cover letter to agencies day by day - always personalized cover letter searching information about the agency and the field they work in, also proposing a free test translation ecc.- and sometimes replying to job offers here on ProZ;
- I am creating a profile on websites like LinkedIn, ProZ, Fiverr ecc. and starting to be more active in order to be noticed by agencies and outsourcers.

But, to be honest, after two months I have not received many answers and any job offer so far. I came to the conclusion that probably something is wrong in the way I wrote my CV or cover letter, or probably my qualifications are not enough. I know I do not have a broad experience but, apart from translations done at university, I have done a lot of works as a trainee and one or two translations of official documents for some companies in my hometown and I know to be pretty good at it, besides I am learning many other skills by myself but it seems like everything I am doing is useless, since all agencies are looking for "experienced" translators, not giving me the chance to show what I am capable to do.

I also planned to open a website as many of you here recommended it but I am starting to feel really disheartened and I do not know what to do. I am already working part-time as Customer Support Agent (to get by) but translation is what I want to do and it is not going well at all. Do you have some additional advice/suggestions besides what I am already doing?


Another thing I have doubts on are rates (a very discussed topic on this forum, i know!). Since I don't have many experience I currently got my rates set at the minimum based on my country and my language pairs, but I realized that in many other websites like Fiverr there are people offering translation services at much lower rates, that is, according to me not acceptable. But since I am not receiving any answers nor offers probably I am wrong, so I am asking you: should lower my rates in order to have clients?

It's getting harder than I thought, so I just ask you some friendly advice. Many thanks in advance!

Isabella
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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:23
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Concentrate on your shop window Nov 2

You're clearly doing a lot of things right, Isabella. It's difficult to get started, but you'll get there in the end. Some tips:

- Use one translation portal as your main shop window. There are several candidates. I chose ProZ.com myself. Invest in that portal in terms of money and time/effort. Do all that's required to make the most of your investment. Here, that means paying for membership, getting Pro certified in time, collecting KudoZ points, uploading samples, paying attention
... See more
You're clearly doing a lot of things right, Isabella. It's difficult to get started, but you'll get there in the end. Some tips:

- Use one translation portal as your main shop window. There are several candidates. I chose ProZ.com myself. Invest in that portal in terms of money and time/effort. Do all that's required to make the most of your investment. Here, that means paying for membership, getting Pro certified in time, collecting KudoZ points, uploading samples, paying attention to your profile, etc.

I'm on my phone so I'll check out your CV and post again.
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Tatsiana Ihnatsyeva
Teresa Borges
Angie Garbarino
Pavel Soldatov
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:23
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
okay ... Nov 2

I think you just need to focus on the most important things and lose the rest. For example, You say in your profile here that you're an outsourcer, which I doubt is correct. And your CV is definitely too long for your experience. You really need to condense it to less than one page. What does the client really want/need to know about you? Basically, they only need to know if you can handle their text.

Get yourself the best possible CV, introductory email and profile(s), contact LOTS
... See more
I think you just need to focus on the most important things and lose the rest. For example, You say in your profile here that you're an outsourcer, which I doubt is correct. And your CV is definitely too long for your experience. You really need to condense it to less than one page. What does the client really want/need to know about you? Basically, they only need to know if you can handle their text.

Get yourself the best possible CV, introductory email and profile(s), contact LOTS of potential clients on a regular basis, get a good website and business cards, and I'm sure things will come together in the end.
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Kevin Fulton
Tatsiana Ihnatsyeva
Teresa Borges
Carolina Finley
 

Laura Gentili  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 16:23
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Marketing Nov 3

Since you are attending an MA in Marketing, may be you should emphasize that and make marketing one of your field of specialization.
A the moment the fields you mention are not so meaningful for the potential customers who use ProZ.
Laura

[Edited at 2019-11-03 16:21 GMT]


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:23
French to English
Isabella Nov 3

You already have a lot to offer. Clients will look for specific knowledge and experience that is relevant to their business sector. You have a language-related degree and are currently studying towards a post-graduate degree in a specific field. That combination of language plus a speciality should already give you added-value for businesses seeking translators in your language pair and in those fields. Beyond that, in terms of actual study, you may find it more helpful to add short professional... See more
You already have a lot to offer. Clients will look for specific knowledge and experience that is relevant to their business sector. You have a language-related degree and are currently studying towards a post-graduate degree in a specific field. That combination of language plus a speciality should already give you added-value for businesses seeking translators in your language pair and in those fields. Beyond that, in terms of actual study, you may find it more helpful to add short professional courses on aspects of CAT tools, for example, and occasionally attend conferences on language and marketing, fine-tuning specific skill-sets.

You are a few years away from retirement so no-one will expect you to have 50 years' experience. However, there is competition. There is always competition. The competition will offer lower rates, higher rate, better services, not such good services. If you are going to enjoy your work, you need to target clients with the potential to offer you work you can do well. Don't underprice yourself too much; it can sometimes make clients think that you are not good enough to charge good rates. It may be true, it may not be true; the point is that a client might not contact you for that reason. So aim for a rate that is close to the market rate for your set of skills. You will probably be slower at the outset and that is "penalty" enough, without adding the stress of crap rates. As you pick up speed, your quality should continue to improve too.

Starting out is hard. Keeping going is even harder. When it does work and you enjoy what you do, then it's win-win. The next step will be making sure people pay you on time. If you don't keep on top of the business aspects, then it's lose-lose and you won't enjoy it any more.

Your Proz page is not bad at all. However, I don't think that your list actually contributes anything of interest to potential clients. Clients are not necessarily looking for the same things as a potential employer. They want to know what professional service you can provide. They will stay with you if they see that you produce quality work and are a committed professional.
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mroed
Local time: 16:23
Italian to German
+ ...
marketing Nov 4

my personal advice: forget about translation and focus on marketing. marketing has quite a bright future, translation hasn't (in my opinion)

Kevin Fulton
 

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 16:23
Member
Italian to English
[double post] Nov 4

[double post]

[Edited at 2019-11-04 14:04 GMT]


 

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 16:23
Member
Italian to English
Persistence pays Nov 4

mroed wrote:

my personal advice: forget about translation and focus on marketing.


"Can you tell me what bus to take to get to the High Street?"
"Oh the bus service here is awful, you'd be better off walking."

"What should I do when I go to Berlin?"
"Oh I've heard that Berlin is the dullest city on Earth. Go to Lisbon instead!"

(sigh)

mroed wrote:

marketing has quite a bright future, translation hasn't (in my opinion)


I'd be curious to know what you base your opinion on.
In any case, your opinion is somewhat irrelevant given Isabella's question.

Personally I believe translation does have a future; it's difficult when you start out and have little experience or specialist knowledge to offer.
Unfortunately agencies can be notoriously slow at replying, really all you can do is carry on as you are and trust the process.
Apply to a few each day, and your persistence will pay off.
You may also want to look into getting a mentor.

Good luck!


Ryan Shevlane
Fatine777
 

Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:23
Dutch to English
+ ...
get some experience Nov 4

I suggest you offer to do test translations for as many agencies as possible on a range of subjects, up to 500 words max, or just do some free work to build up some sort of portfolio. You need to build trust and prove yourself in this industry where everybody deals with each other at a distance, so a list of educational achievements won't necessarily impress. Show agencies what you can do! If you've got the talent needed to write (and presumably you have if you studied marketing), you'll be fine... See more
I suggest you offer to do test translations for as many agencies as possible on a range of subjects, up to 500 words max, or just do some free work to build up some sort of portfolio. You need to build trust and prove yourself in this industry where everybody deals with each other at a distance, so a list of educational achievements won't necessarily impress. Show agencies what you can do! If you've got the talent needed to write (and presumably you have if you studied marketing), you'll be fine.Collapse


 

Isabella Marcosano
Italy
Local time: 16:23
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you!! Nov 4

Sheila Wilson wrote:

I think you just need to focus on the most important things and lose the rest.


Thank you for the good advice, reading again my CV I can see what you all are saying about emphasizing my field of specialization choosing what potential clients could be attracted by and avoiding mentioning all the previous experience that has nothing to do with translation. I definitely need to study more other translators' CVs and work again on my own.

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:

You already have a lot to offer. Clients will look for specific knowledge and experience that is relevant to their business sector. You have a language-related degree and are currently studying towards a post-graduate degree in a specific field. That combination of language plus a speciality should already give you added-value for businesses seeking translators in your language pair and in those fields. Beyond that, in terms of actual study, you may find it more helpful to add short professional courses on aspects of CAT tools, for example, and occasionally attend conferences on language and marketing, fine-tuning specific skill-sets.


Hi Nikki, your answer gave me hope, really, and that's what I needed right now. I think that for the moment I have to focus exactly on completing my Master degree and attending professional courses investing my money in just one channel, as Sheila said before doing anything else (and I think it will be ProZ since all the opportunities it offers with the membership for those who are starting out). What you say about starting out and keeping going is actually true, I did not realized it at first nor at university, but it is good to know and to have passion to move forward. I hope everything will wok out in the future and then, as you say it will be a win-win.

Fiona Grace Peterson wrote:

Personally I believe translation does have a future; it's difficult when you start out and have little experience or specialist knowledge to offer.
Unfortunately agencies can be notoriously slow at replying, really all you can do is carry on as you are and trust the process.
Apply to a few each day, and your persistence will pay off.
You may also want to look into getting a mentor.


Unfortunately, what mroed says is not an option for me, I believe this is the career path I chose for myself many years ago that I am passionate to pursue. Thank you for the support, I already contacted a mentor here on Proz a few days ago and I hope she will reply soon!

I am figuring out many things on the path and no, it's not easy, but I will follow every piece of advice and I hope it will get better and easier over time.


 

Isabella Marcosano
Italy
Local time: 16:23
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Creating a portfolio is a good idea Nov 4

Richard Purdom wrote:

I suggest you offer to do test translations for as many agencies as possible on a range of subjects, up to 500 words max, or just do some free work to build up some sort of portfolio. You need to build trust and prove yourself in this industry where everybody deals with each other at a distance, so a list of educational achievements won't necessarily impress. Show agencies what you can do! If you've got the talent needed to write (and presumably you have if you studied marketing), you'll be fine.


I already contacted a few agencies asking for a free test translation and even some smaller IT companies in my hometown and other but they never replied. So I think I will go for just doing some free work to build my portfolio. Does anyone know any websites where I can find texts/documents on a wide range of subject that I can translate on my portfolio without having copyright issue?


 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
1 + 2 + 3 Nov 4

Hello Isabella.

Perhaps, you've already seen my not popular thoughts, yet--
1) Are you a good specialist in some [non-translation] field?
2) Have you got at least the idea how to run and diversify your own* one-man company biz, advantageously communicating with prospects and clients?
3) Are you ready to champion your interests?

Indeed, low entry barriers coupled with fishy CAT/MT/PE hypes still make ... See more
Hello Isabella.

Perhaps, you've already seen my not popular thoughts, yet--
1) Are you a good specialist in some [non-translation] field?
2) Have you got at least the idea how to run and diversify your own* one-man company biz, advantageously communicating with prospects and clients?
3) Are you ready to champion your interests?

Indeed, low entry barriers coupled with fishy CAT/MT/PE hypes still make bottom-feeders "pure" translators believe in super-easy money. Furthermore, so many manipulative newsmakers intentionally distort the expectations, churning out the new naive and ill-informed.


If I were you, I would (a) check all local businesses which may have foreign contacts, prioritizing direct [mid/long-term] clients; (b) initially set $0.10+/word factoring my projected daily output in order to get at least average wage net; (c) consider diversifying into such areas as ad/marketing (rewriting, copywriting, transcreation), interpreting, consulting, mentoring, and other fields and activities; (d) translated Wiki and other for-people sources, never offering forced "freebies" and unsubstantiated "discounts".

If I'm really about biz, then opening my own agency could be the answer.
In all, if you don't know WHY it's allegedly ok for agencies to charge their clients some $0.30-$0.50+/word in advance while offering their translators no more than $0.03/word minus "discounts" after a couple of months, then it must be too early for you, alas
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Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:23
Dutch to English
+ ...
local businesses Nov 6

Isabella Marcosano wrote:

Richard Purdom wrote:

I suggest you offer to do test translations for as many agencies as possible on a range of subjects, up to 500 words max, or just do some free work to build up some sort of portfolio. You need to build trust and prove yourself in this industry where everybody deals with each other at a distance, so a list of educational achievements won't necessarily impress. Show agencies what you can do! If you've got the talent needed to write (and presumably you have if you studied marketing), you'll be fine.


I already contacted a few agencies asking for a free test translation and even some smaller IT companies in my hometown and other but they never replied. So I think I will go for just doing some free work to build my portfolio. Does anyone know any websites where I can find texts/documents on a wide range of subject that I can translate on my portfolio without having copyright issue?


I guess you could just find something badly translated online, then get in touch with whoever's responsible, tell them your situation, and offer to rewrite it for free. Then you'll also have something online you can refer to.


 


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