Question about approach after completing my Masters and a question about specialist fields
Thread poster: Adam-MSCR

Adam-MSCR  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:24
Spanish to English
+ ...
Nov 8

Hi everyone,

I've been using Proz for quite a while now and some of you have very Kindly helped me along the way as I try to start my career in translation. So firstly, thank you to everyone for your help.

I'm currently studying for a Masters in Translation at the Open University. I'm really enjoying it and learning a lot. My plan is to graduate and then join the IoL and ITI as a chartered member and full member, respectively. This brings me to my first question: would
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Hi everyone,

I've been using Proz for quite a while now and some of you have very Kindly helped me along the way as I try to start my career in translation. So firstly, thank you to everyone for your help.

I'm currently studying for a Masters in Translation at the Open University. I'm really enjoying it and learning a lot. My plan is to graduate and then join the IoL and ITI as a chartered member and full member, respectively. This brings me to my first question: would agencies and clients then be more likely to contact me with projects, rather than me sending out my CV to multiple agencies? I ask this because I've read that agencies and clients sometimes access these institutions to source new translators with whom they can collaborate.

I've noticed I translate subjects of which I have good knowledge (even if it's a complex field) much quicker than fields where I need to learn about new concepts and obtain new knowledge. Hypothetically speaking, someone specialising in medicine would probably translate a medical text much quicker than they would translate a dialogue between two people discussing golf, for example. They would likely also be paid more per word as it's a technical translation. Therefore, am I right in thinking it's actually better to pick and choose what you work with and perhaps even find a technical field in which to specialise? As you could increase your rates per word and actually work quicker as well.
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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:24
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Why we specialise Nov 8

Adam-MSCR wrote:
My plan is to graduate and then join the IoL and ITI as a chartered member and full member, respectively. This brings me to my first question: would agencies and clients then be more likely to contact me with projects, rather than me sending out my CV to multiple agencies?

As a beginner, I really advise you to do both. In fact, every way you can think of. You're extremely unlikely to get too much work in the beginning but you probably will suffer a lot of poorly paid work and late-paying clients that you'd be better off without once established.

am I right in thinking it's actually better to pick and choose what you work with and perhaps even find a technical field in which to specialise? As you could increase your rates per word and actually work quicker as well.

It depends on your pairs. Swahili to Spanish would be a niche in and of itself! OTOH, your pairs are the most common in the world. Never stop thinking of the opposition. You can never compete on price against the mass of "hobby" translators so you need to compete on knowledge and quality.

Of course, to start with you might well be happy to take on any job on offer, and we all tend to accept "odd" jobs from regular clients plus anything that appeals to us, but it's a good idea to market yourself as a 100% specialist in just 1-2 fields. Clients don't like muddled messages. Get known as the goto person in your best field(s).


Teresa Borges
Nikki Scott-Despaigne
 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:24
French to English
Just a quick note Nov 9

We all make mistakes in our native language, which is a pity but human! Just a quick note to say that there's a repeated grammar mistake in your English that kind of jumped out at me. You might like to get rid of it. You have used "quicker" where you should have used "quickly", confusing adjective and adverb:
"quick" is an adjective and the comparative is "quicker";
"quickly" is an adverb and the comparative is "more quickly".
It's often a regional thing in the UK....
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We all make mistakes in our native language, which is a pity but human! Just a quick note to say that there's a repeated grammar mistake in your English that kind of jumped out at me. You might like to get rid of it. You have used "quicker" where you should have used "quickly", confusing adjective and adverb:
"quick" is an adjective and the comparative is "quicker";
"quickly" is an adverb and the comparative is "more quickly".
It's often a regional thing in the UK.

[Edited at 2019-11-09 10:51 GMT]
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Jorge Payan
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 15:24
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Adam Nov 9

Adam-MSCR wrote:
Therefore, am I right in thinking it's actually better to pick and choose what you work with and perhaps even find a technical field in which to specialise?


If you are already an expert in some or other field, then choosing work in that field will certainly be beneficial. But if you do not have a specialism yet (i.e. you are not an expert in any field yet), then while it may be useful to *attempt* to specialise in a certain direction, you'll do better being just a generalist translator initially, and see which subject fields happen to come your way.

Many job experts say "specialise, specialise, specialise", but in order to specialise as a translator, you must either have a lot of experience in that field (catch-22) or already be an expert in that field. For a beginner translator, the mantra should be "generalise, generalise, generalise".

It makes sense to deliberately choose to do work that you can do faster.

[If I] join the IoL and ITI, ... would agencies and clients be more likely to contact me with projects, rather than me sending out my CV to multiple agencies? I ask this because I've read that agencies and clients sometimes access these institutions to source new translators with whom they can collaborate.


You should do all three: register yourself on lists of translators *and* visit job sites to apply for specific jobs *and* apply at or contact agencies (clients) directly either by sending your CV to them or registering at their web sites.

Both IoL and ITI have lists that clients can consult to find translators.
- https://www.ciol.org.uk/find-a-linguist
- https://www.iti.org.uk/component/itisearch/?view=translators

Odds are you'll get more jobs from being on those lists than you'll get from having contacted clients directly, but that should not dissuade you from contacting clients. In fact, contacting clients should be your main activity at the start of your career. Visit the Blue Board and contact every single agency that you think would likely have use of your services. About 10% of agencies that you contact, will reply, and about 10% of those that reply will give you work.


[Edited at 2019-11-09 13:44 GMT]


Jorge Payan
Kuochoe Nikoi-Kotei
 

Adam-MSCR  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:24
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your replies Nov 9

Hi everyone,

It was very interesting to read your replies, thank you.

Samuel, the statistics you supplied essentially mean if I contact 100 agencies, only 1 would result in collaboration. I never realised the percentage was so low. That really highlights a "numbers game" in translation.

I'm very interested in marine biology, which is why I asked about specialising. My current project for the Masters is subtitling a dialogue about golf courses, a sport of
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Hi everyone,

It was very interesting to read your replies, thank you.

Samuel, the statistics you supplied essentially mean if I contact 100 agencies, only 1 would result in collaboration. I never realised the percentage was so low. That really highlights a "numbers game" in translation.

I'm very interested in marine biology, which is why I asked about specialising. My current project for the Masters is subtitling a dialogue about golf courses, a sport of which I have zero knowledge. Throughout this project, I've remained convinced I could translate a text in the field of marine biology a lot more quickly than this golf dialogue. One thing's for sure, I would absolutely love to specialise in this field.

Nikki thank you for the grammar correction. I was deliberating at the time over the 2, but it "sounded" right in my head... after days and days of working on tiring myself on this subtitling project!

For now I'll keep working on my Masters and focusing on joining those institutions. Then, I will update my CV, profile and also upload a more professional photo to ensure my Proz profile works as a good "shopfront". I will also follow your advice and hope clients/agencies find me on those lists, while also being sure to contact agencies from the blue board.

Many thanks once again, and I will you all the best!
Adam
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Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:24
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Numbers game? Nov 9

Adam-MSCR wrote:

Samuel, the statistics you supplied essentially mean if I contact 100 agencies, only 1 would result in collaboration. I never realised the percentage was so low. That really highlights a "numbers game" in translation.

Adam


That just depends on what you have to offer. If you have a specialism that is in demand and write carefully crafted emails to agencies that work in that field your hit rate will be much higher. If you write a less carefully worded email to every agency on the list you may get no response at all.

A genuine specialism, backed up by qualifications or experience will definitely help you.

One word of advice would be to revisit your sample translations and see if you can improve on them at all. There are a number of places where the English is quite clumsy and won't help you sell yourself.


Nikki Scott-Despaigne
 

Adam-MSCR  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:24
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Hello and thank you Nov 13

Hi Rachel,

Thank you for the advice. My reference to the "numbers game" was just a reaction to the stats provided in this thread, but the way I wrote it almost sounds a bit cheap and degrading to a translator, so I apologise for that.

At the moment, I only specialise in a few areas, one of which is sport - due to my working background and hobbies. I alluded to more technical, complicated fields in my original post because I wanted to garner information about my hypothe
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Hi Rachel,

Thank you for the advice. My reference to the "numbers game" was just a reaction to the stats provided in this thread, but the way I wrote it almost sounds a bit cheap and degrading to a translator, so I apologise for that.

At the moment, I only specialise in a few areas, one of which is sport - due to my working background and hobbies. I alluded to more technical, complicated fields in my original post because I wanted to garner information about my hypothesis: somebody could theoretically earn more money in less time, if they excelled in a tricky subject. I would love to work in marine biology at some point, as it fascinates me... but of course, I wouldn't claim to be an expert unless I had qualifications/work experience.

Regarding my translation samples, may I ask that you please give me an example of the clumsy English, if it isn't too much trouble? Just one example would be very useful to me, as I can then analyse exactly what went wrong and my thought-process at the time. I believe I translated the texts about 3 years ago. I noticed there were a lot of calques, and that generally the English looked a bit wooden, like I'd used Google Translate. But if there's anything of note that I've missed it would be great to know, as we learn from our mistakes. In fact, that is exactly why I embarked on my Masters: to make mistakes, be corrected and become a better translator! Once I've graduated, I plan to overhaul my profile. This will include uploading fresh translation samples.

Finally, I'd like to wish everybody all the best with their careers and say thank you again for your advice and feedback.
Adam

[Edited at 2019-11-13 18:20 GMT]
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Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:24
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
... Nov 13

Hi Adam,

Sorry if my tone was a bit off in my response to you - there was nothing cheap or degrading about what you said. Getting responses from an agency IS a numbers game to a certain extent, but the numbers will vary from translator to translator and will depend on your approach.

Regarding specialisation I absolutely agree with you that you will do better work, and work quicker, in a field you know more about. Getting the experience and qualifications is a major und
... See more
Hi Adam,

Sorry if my tone was a bit off in my response to you - there was nothing cheap or degrading about what you said. Getting responses from an agency IS a numbers game to a certain extent, but the numbers will vary from translator to translator and will depend on your approach.

Regarding specialisation I absolutely agree with you that you will do better work, and work quicker, in a field you know more about. Getting the experience and qualifications is a major undertaking and probably something you will be working towards for the whole of your career.

Regarding your samples, one of the sentences that caught my eye was 'When choosing your hiking footwear, the main thing to consider is for what it will be used.' which to me sounds a bit unnatural (in particular the 'for what it will be used' bit). If it's something you translated a while back it would be well worth having a read through and seeing if you can make the translations more natural sounding. And, yes, learning from feedback is an essential skill for a translator!

Rachel
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Kay Denney
 


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