Need some help from YOU
Thread poster: Evelyne Morel

Evelyne Morel  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:25
English to French
May 16, 2006

I know this might sound like something you've already heard a thousand time but I need your advice concerning my getting established as a freelance translator.

Just to sum up my situation. I am just starting as a freelancer but I already did quite a lot of translations during my past job experiences since languages have always been my best asset.
But to become a real translator is another story.
1 - I have started creating my personal society
2 - I created my personal website
3 - I registered on proz (as a platinium member) and some other translation agencies
4 - I have downloaded wordfast (trados too expensive for me for the moment) and tried to understand how to use it efficiently (still tryingicon_smile.gif
5 - I have tried to reply to some job offers posted here and elswhere (with some replies but nothing confirmed yet) (for about 10 days now)
5 - I have sent many CVs to agencies that are rated on this site
6 - I have started applying to companies (external to the translation business) in which I have experience (cruises, travels, marketing, sports....)

I translate for the moment only from English to French. I realize that experienced translators starts at 0.08 euro/word. Does it mean that I should offer 0.05 euro/word as a start ? Will agencies find it too low and fear I am a bad translator ?

Well to be honest I just do not know everything about how this business is working yet. I seem to get a few answers from my application, even for job offers, but when starting to get serious, I get no answers. Is it first come, first I missing something ?
I do not have references and I certainly miss some big translation projects to put on my CV. I am still not really at ease with all CAT my question is who should I apply to (in order not to be in competition with more experienced translators???)

If you can help me on this matter, I would be really grateful.

Many thanks to all of you....this website is just Heaven and I am really so happy to have finally joined the joyfull community of worldwide translators. So much to do and so much interest.

Thanks again


Thor Truelson  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:25
Swedish to English
+ ...
Heaven?? May 17, 2006

Hi. If you think this site is heaven then you must be easily impressed. It just kind of takes a while to get started in this business. Joining Proz is not a fix-all. The jobs on here pay very little compared to what you can find from agancies, not to mention end clients. It is a good site though to ask for help on through the Kudoz section. Unless you bid first, have solid credentials and offer some ridiculously low rate you probably won't get much work out of this site. I don't know anyone personally who does, actually, but there are some who write on here who claim to be satisfied with what they get from here. So who knows. Get your name out to agencies. They'll give you a chance sooner or later. It may take a while though. Try some agencies in the US. I think there is quite a bt of work from French into English. Maybe even think of joining the ATA (you can be a member even if you aren't American). They offer certification. You should also look into certification in France. I think you would be rather handicapped without any certification. The pay would be much better with than without. Good luck.


Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:25
Dutch to English
+ ...
Do some charity work May 17, 2006

To ensure you can put some impressive projects on your CV, you could do some charity work. Contact some of the big ones and offer your services for free. This will give you experience.

It takes anything from 6 months to 2 years to get established and the best thing to do is to get your CV out there. You could consider phoning a few agencies/customers and asking about what they need/how you can improve your presentation.

Answer Kudoz questions. This will put you higher up the list when people are searching for translators on Proz.

I think I have only got 1 job by bidding through Proz. Customers have, however, contacted me through my profile. Make sure your profile is up to date and full of interesting details.

You could consider linking up with an experienced translator and sharing work or something similar.


Elena Pavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:25
Member (2005)
French to Italian
+ ...
Be patient May 17, 2006

Hi Evelyne,
I know it is hard, but... I guess you have to be patient.
When I started (11 years ago), I simply took the yellow pages and started writing to all the translation agencies in the region of Paris. Most of the time you simply get no answer, sometimes they answer you that they don't want to hire anybody for the moment (did they REALLY read my letter? I just want to cooperate as a freelancer!) and sometimes you get some jobs. Probably at the beginning small jobs, but the agencies will start knowing you and your job and the will contact you again if they are satisfied. Unfortunately, at least at the beginning, your letter should arrive at the right time on the right place and I think that the chance might play a major role.
Use the Blue Board to check if the agency can really be trusted and avoid to work for free.
As for the rates, never propose lower rates just because you are a beginner! 0,05 €/word in France is very very low, and once you give this price, it is very very hard to change (my rate is the same as when I started!). is a great site. You can learn a lot from the Kudoz and I like when I can help other collegues; you also get a lot of new friends in the Forums. But I never got a job in one year. I cannot really tell you why. Probably other people submit lower quotes, or my experience is not exactly what they need. On the other side, I was contacted through my personal profile by some people who were looking for a translator with specific experiences. So, keep on updating your profile every time you get new projects.
As for your site and your CV, they are good and funny, but they should be probably a little bit more "professionals". You can find many discussions on this site about the fact of using your own picture instead of that of the children, the pet or other funny characters. I personally think that it is better to leave all these things aside, at least as long as you don't know the person on the other side.. of the computer!
I personally use Incredimail for my e-mails, but I always use "neutral" background for a first contact or with clients that do not seem very "friendly" and open to some funny things; while I feel free to change my background with a lot of funny things with clients I have been knowing for a long time and with whom I have a good relationship.
One more think, I don't know what you mean by "I translate for the moment only from English to French". The important think is that you translate always into your mothertongue, event if you think you know the other language very well.
I am Italian mothertongue and I have been living in France for 12 years now. I think that I know French perfectly, I speak French all day long and I can write it without problems. But I accept translations into French only from very good clients I have been knowing for a very long time and they know they'd better check it before delivering to the final client.
Well, I think I was a little bit long, but I tried to give you as many answers as possible. Feel free to contact me by e-mail if you want to have more detailed information about my personal experience in the French market et... bon courage!


ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:25
English to French
+ ...
My advice May 17, 2006

I totally agree with Marijke, that will get you some initial experience. Make sure you also get some references from those people to be able to later prove the work.

I don't completely agree with Thor. While it is true that most of the outsourcers on ProZ are agencies (therefore, they pay less because they take their profit off your work), there are jobs/potential clients on here offering great rates. However, you have to learn to negotiate. Agencies are often the worst clients, and sadly, many of them are used to not pay/pay late, and often know how to not be forced to pay. The best agencies and the few and far between direct clients don't usually post here. They are rather well organized and therefore have their own base of translators. However, these same people, when their translators are unavailable or when they are looking for something specific their regular translators can't provide, they WILL eventually post here.

I started on ProZ, and the beginning was long. I kept my day job, although I was working less and less (well, I DID need SOME time to finish those translations on time). But it eventually ended up paying off. I started exactly like you, answering job posts and getting few replies. When I got my first job, I was so happy, I did all I could to make the client happy. That clients still gives me work. Today, I don't even look at the job postings - I get too many offers directly in my e-mail, half of which are from established clients. I spend more time refusing contracts than hunting them. So, my first advice is: don't give up! The beginning is really slow, as you will need to build yourself a reputation and get noticed. This always takes time. I would say that your ProZ membership will start paying off in about a year - but with some luck, it might happen much earlier. In my case, it took a couple of months.

Also, when you answer job postings, make sure you know what the job involves before replying. If you are convinced you can do a good job, tell the outsourcer what they need to know. Tell them about real-life experience - if you will translate a software user's manual and you have studied something software-related or have worked some place where you got experience in the subject, tell them. Also tell them about resources you have - these will most often be dictionaries. When you land a contract, impress the client.

About the money. DON'T work for less than others do! Many people will guess that you don't yet have much experience from looking at your lower rate. Some people will think your rates are lower becuase you are desperate for a job, which to them will mean that you are a bad translator (you have no return clients). Finally, lowering your rates will hurt our respective markets. Your lower rates will bring down the average rate for us all. Once an agnecy finds a translator who translated for 5 cents, why would they ever pay anyone 10 cents again? AND - this is important - if you charge 5 cents to someone that you will try to impress and will succeed in impressing with the quality of their work, and they keep coming back for more, how are you going to justifiy raising your rates a year later? They will not accept you new rate later on, and they will stop sending you work - in order to give the work to beginners like you once were. This would mean that the more experienced you will get, the more money and contracts you will lose - makes no sense! Use the average market rates. You will not thereby lower your chances of getting jobs at all, and actually will increase your chances of getting contracts and good rates in the long term. Also, Don't forget that as a service provider, YOU should offer YOUR rate, not the other way around. When you go to the dentists, you don't tell the dentist you're ready to pay a dollar for a filling - he will tell YOU how much his price is, take or leave.

Finally, research the contract and make up a contract template. NEVER accept a job without signing a contract. If there is no contract, nobody has to pay you, and nobody has to accept your work, whether it be excellent or poor.

Right now, French to English translation pays around USD 0.10 per source word, but that is the average on ProZ, where the pay is lower thanks to agencies. Respectable translators get up to twice that! So, try to keep over the lower limit.

Finally, read this forum. All ProZ forums! Read day and night! I did - and still do - and learned TONS about the work I do. You wouldn't believe how much smarter you will get! Also, participate, and you never know, you may make contact with people who will eventually help you in some way or another. Read all you can, about site functions, money matters (important!), technical issues, CAT tools (Wordfast in your case), payment practices, wordcount, etc.

And PLEASE, PLEASE don't give up! You need to know that there are tons of fish in the sea, but most of them are not very professional, or talented, or both. This actually means that there are not enough translators - well, professional, competent ones at least. Trust me, I proofread many translators' work and, while I was impressed by a few, most needed correction, and I mean more than a couple misspells. Try to become THE BEST - eventually, THEY will be looking for YOU.

Hang in there - in here.

Good luck!


Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:25
German to English
+ ...
Keep at it! May 17, 2006

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
...a lot.

And I agree with every word she says - those are my sentiments exactly, except that I rarely sign anything; it's all electronic (also see my article, Would you sign this?).

Good luck!icon_smile.gif


Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:25
timing May 17, 2006

There is not a lot that I can say to what has already been said many times before. (we get these kind of questions a loticon_wink.gif )

However, I would suggest you take down the cartoon, it is not professional IMO to post up such pics in your work profile.

It would be a mistake to assume Proz is automatically going to get you lots of work - you have to make it happen for yourself.

One thing to bear in mind, now that it is coming up to the summer, is you could catch a couple of clients while other translators are on the holidays... this happened to me when I started out and I still have these clients nearly three years later. So I'd advise postponing your main holidays until the autumnicon_wink.gif

[Edited at 2006-05-17 10:47]


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:25
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Personal society? May 17, 2006

Evelyne Morel wrote:
1 - I have started creating my personal society

What is a personal society?



Evelyne Morel  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:25
English to French
Thanks...... May 17, 2006

Dear all,

Many thanks for your first replies....if indeed from what you say it is somewhat not easy to find interesting job offers through this website I might find a lot of useful information......thanks to you guys.

Well I will surely start to do a more professional website (was my first I made it funicon_smile.gif)
Then I will keep on sending CVs to agencies and direct potential clients.
I will join associations, get in touch with other translators,
I will apply for charity work (I already did but will keep on)
As for the rates, I agree with you Elena and Viktoria. Actually, I first sent my CVs with the rates I though were worth working for, and I will keep doing that, because trying to your best and be as professional as you can for no money has absolutely no sense.

Thanks again. Hope I can help you in return some days.....I'll keep you informedicon_smile.gif



Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:25
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Regarding rates May 17, 2006

Hi Evelyne,

Regarding rates: I used to charge too little, which goes back a long way to when I started off part-time and accepted what customers decided they would pay me (the very least they could possibly get away with). I did eventually force my rates up to what is the normal level for a translator with experience, but it was not easy. In the process I did lose several clients, who went off to look for new translators who charge less, but thankfully not before new ones had already started to contact me via my profile page and cheerfully accepted the revised rates that I offered them.

Nevertheless, I soon realised that the lower you start off with your rates, the longer and more painful the process of converting to normal rates will be. If I were to start all over again now, I would ask for normal rates from the start!

You can ask for normal rates if your work is up to standard. This means that, when you start off, with little experience, you have to spend hours proofreading your translations and checking every fine point. Eventually you will gain more knowledge and experience, and proofreading your translations will become quicker. Therefore you will be earning more per hour. This is the proper way to increase your earnings.

Best wishes and every success for the future!



Veronica Coquard
Local time: 00:25
French to English
Do I get the Kudos? Aug 22, 2006

Samuel Murray wrote:

Evelyne Morel wrote:
1 - I have started creating my personal society

What is a personal society?


icon_smile.gif Our friend Eveylne means a small business. The word "society" is a false friend in our language pair.

As long as I'm here, I just wanted to thank Viktoria for her frequent, lengthy, uplifting and wise postings.

[Edited at 2006-08-22 14:59]


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