Getting started - frustrated
Thread poster: Lisa Roberts

Lisa Roberts  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:01
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 15, 2006

Hi there,

Difficulty getting started as a translator seems to be the norm - I'm certainly no exception. I have a degree in translation and a little experience - and due to begin my DipTrans in a month or so. I have been writing to agencies for almost a year with no success. I feel that I have exhausted all possibilities and have been wondering whether I have unrealistic expectations and should just wait until I am more qualified. The only recent work I have been given is translating on a voluntary basis for an online publication - which is no doubt a good way to gain experience but the work is very sporadic. Does any one have any suggestions as to how I could better market myself or information on alternative job sources? I translate from Spanish into English.

Many thanks,


Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:01
The KB Aug 15, 2006

There are a number of useful articles about this in the Proz Knowledge Base, have you checked them out?

I don't think it is a case of becoming more qualified. For example, there are plenty of good translators out there who don't have any "official" translation qualifications and they're doing just fine.


Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:01
German to English
+ ...
Improve resume + profile Aug 15, 2006

Lisa, I have 2 main suggestions when I look at your profile and resume:

1) Participate in kudoz. Demonstrate your skills to potential employers by answering questions. Definitely add contact information to your profile.

2) A 3+-page CV is fine for a PhD applying for a professorship, but I would cut down your resume to 1 page max. As a potential employer, I should not have to read until page 3 to find out you have a BA in translation! I would certainly cut down (or out) the employment history section on the front page (especially things like "diary management", "ordering office supplies") Customize it for potential translation agencies. Focus on your BA and advanced (MA) coursework. I don't think that the school-era coursework is so relevant. Make the most of your experience (Ministry of Defence for instance). Maybe you can summarize all past experience into "Worked in various positions for a range of companies, including..."

I'm positive if you recast your resume to appeal to agencies, you will have better luck.

[Edited at 2006-08-15 16:31]


Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:01
German to English
Consider your rates Aug 15, 2006

Michaele is right - some people may be put off by the rate of £50 an hour that you quote.


Marta Fernandez-Suarez  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:01
English to Spanish
some points Aug 15, 2006

Hi Lisa

You seem to have official qualifications to translate (from the info given in your profile and your CV).

I cannot give you much advice as far as freelancing is concerned, but I definitively see many more vacancies to work as an in-house translator in your language combination than in mine (the opposite).

Please, feel free to write me via my email in my profile if you want me to tell you where I've seen them?

Otherwise, have you try looking in Spain. I think there is a "big" demand in your pair (eg. literary translation in your pair is encouraged -financially- by Spanish and English institutions alike, but not so much literary translation from EN to ES...).


Three points regarding your profile and the CV:

- I agree with Armorel as far as the second rate mentioned in your profile is concerned (definitively more than average)
- Why don't you add things in your profile, so that those who do not have time or do not wish to open the CV can see, at a glance and quickly, what you've done

- Have you got the dates right in the education bit?
- You can make your CV far better with your background, in need of re-vamping. Come on! You can sell yourself better!

Kind regards and lots of luck!


[Edited at 2006-08-15 16:43]


GoodWords  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:01
Spanish to English
+ ...
Some ideas for personal contact and CV makeover Aug 15, 2006

Even in this electronic age, when most of our contacts are by e-mail, we should not underestimate the value of personal contacts. Do all your friends, acquaintances and relatives know that you are looking for translation work? Do they all have a copy of your business card? One day they will be talking to someone who says "I have to figure out what this manual/letter/article in Spanish says, and I don't know where to turn." (Having never had to deal with a professional translator, the potential client hardly has a notion that such a beast exists.) Your friend or relative will be able to say "I know just the person who can help you. Here's her number/e-mail address. Why don't you get in touch with her?"

Have you phoned every translation agency in the yellow pages of your local telephone directory to introduce yourself and ask if you may send them a copy of your CV? The advantage of sending your CV to an agency that you have personally talked to is that you can ask first how they prefer to receive your information (attachment or e-mail body). You can also ask to which specific person you should direct your e-mail. In your cover letter, addressed personally to that particular person, you can mention the phone call, which gives your contact e-mail a more personal touch to distinguish you from an anonymous unknown.

When you redo your CV, keep in mind that you're not applying for a position at a company, so some of the traditional guidelines for CVs do not apply to your case. See this page for more information about this aspect. See also an example of a translator's CV makeover here.


Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:01
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Improve your profile and your résumé Aug 15, 2006

Your profile is almost bare: you can improve it adding several items.

As regards your résumé:

Start it with your name and language combination:

Jane Doe EN to FR Translator

Do not include such personal data as your date of birth for a résumé that may be downloaded by people in many countries (if necessary, include more personal data in résumé that have been customized for a specific country/market).

You can also find some additional pointers in the following articles of mine:

Advice To Beginning Translators (1) - Résumés

Advice to Beginning Translators (2) - Sending Out Your Résumé


Advice to Beginning Translators (3) - Contacting Prospects

[Edited at 2006-08-15 23:38]


Marcus Malabad  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:01
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
suggestions Aug 16, 2006

Here are some things that worked for me:

1) Join the local T&I association or take their test and be accredited. That may be the Institute of Linguists in the UK or something else. When I became an associate member of the ATA (and hence was listed in their website directory) and passed the certification exams of the ATIO, this started the ball rolling: got (and still get) regular calls from US and Canadian clients in my language pairs. Being a member of T&I associations might also be considered another plus in your resume.

2) Specialize in 3 or 4 fields and target specific agencies that focus on your specialties.

Good luck

[Edited at 2006-08-16 05:57]


Lisa Roberts  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:01
Spanish to English
+ ...
Thanks to all for advice Aug 16, 2006

Thank you to those of you offering me advice. It has certainly opened my eyes to how important my CV is. I thought it wasn't too bad - but it obviously needs a little work!

With regards to my rates - I am aware that I am charging a ridiculous rate of £50/hr - but despite numerous attempts to change it - it's still there. Is it acceptable for your rates to appear on your CV?

I shall definitely apply for membership at the IoL - as either an associate or student - I wasn't aware that you were able to do that - so thank you Marcus for that suggestion.

Many thanks again!



Paul Lambert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:01
French to English
+ ...
Resume Aug 16, 2006


I'd have to agree with the comments above, and have a few more of my own.

I work as a Project Manager for an agency in Madrid and think that, especially for someone with little experience, your rates are pretty high for the Spanish market - as an indication, we generally never tend to pay more than 6 cents a word (7 tops) for translations from Spanish into English, based on the current state of the Spanish translation market.

As for your CV itself, I would probably take out the "not completed" LINT course at HW. I did that degree myself and know it's a good one, but I think that by putting down that you just did the first year you're selling yourself a bit short (I know the competition is still to get onto the LINT course, but most employers won't know that and will just see one completed year of a degree, which doesn't really stand for much - especially when you then went on to do a BA in Applied Translation which should really speak for itself).

As for the voluntary work, make sure that you put that onto your CV and make a big deal of it - and there's no reason for you to say it was unpaid!

Hope this helps and good luck! If you have any other questions you can contact me directly via my page (I've only been a PM for about 1 year now, but worked as a freelancer between the ages of 21 and 26, until I got this job, so know plenty!).




Veronica Coquard
Local time: 17:01
French to English
What else can you suggest in the way of customizing a resumé to US clients? Aug 16, 2006

Hello Riccardo,

Thank you for the tips for beginners.

I was particularly struck by the fact that a date of birth or a photo on a resumé for an American client would be deemed inappropriate. I was born and raised in the U.S. but all my serious work history has taken place in France. You made me realize that I took the French format for granted as a rule. Do you have any other insights about things to avoid when prospecting U.S. (and Canadian) clients?

For the moment I'm getting a few jobs by word of mouth and through a German translator friend who is well established. This is fine with me, since I already have a full-time job in tourism. I am trying my hand at all kinds of texts to see whether I can actually make a living at it. In just about all the 9-to-5 jobs that I've ever had, my employers have found something for me to translate, and I enjoy it, so it seems a logical step.

Any advice is welcome, and I thank you in advance.

[Edited at 2006-08-17 07:50]


Local time: 11:01
English to Spanish
+ ...
Hi Lisa Aug 17, 2006

This happens to all beginners in all chores of trade. Dont worry.

I suggest that you do some practice training.

Pick up a subject you like (I picked "Esoteric" 'cause I love it).

Download a few pdf or Word free files and translate them to your herat content. Use your terms, do it for yourself. When you're done give it to friends with similar interests and ask them to tell you how clear they got the written (translated) message. This will be a feedback on your accuracy and skills.

What's the point?

It'll boost your confidence. And lady, self confidence is crucial to sell yourself. As long ans you have a hidden, subconscious fear that you may screw up, your subconscious will do the "self betrayal" nasty move and you'll unaware spoil it.

Do lots of non-paid practice as this and when you feel stronger, more confident and self assured go for it!

No doubt you'll get fine assignments.


Konstantin Kisin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:01
Member (2004)
Russian to English
+ ...
A little investment goes a long way... Aug 20, 2006

One of the most important things is to not be afraid to invest a little at the beginning.

If you participate in Kudoz here on Proz you will not only gain important skills and knowledge but also increase your exposure. Couple that with paid membership and you'll soon have clients knocking on your door.

In my experience sending your CV to agencies is just about the least effective way of finding new clients imaginable. What you want is to be found by clients with a specific project and to do that you need exposure on sites like

You should also add A LOT more information to your profile. Of course, your experience in translation might be limited but tell us which fields you do translate it (you appear to have experience outside the world of translation which would surely enable you to translate in several fields). I would suggest that you reconsider marketing yourself as someone fresh out of university and concentrate on what you can do instead.

[Edited at 2006-08-20 09:05]


United Kingdom
Local time: 16:01
German to English
+ ...
RE: getting started Aug 23, 2006

Hi Lisa.

I was in your position around a year ago. I'd finished my MA in translation (DE-EN) and was looking for a job in the UK but didn't get anywhere.

I eventually took an internship in Germany which hasn't paid much but has given me valuable translating experience and I'm now starting to get much more interest from employers from the jobs (i nhouse and freelance) I've been applying for recently.

The problem with the UK is that the market into English is very competitive and those without commercial experience are more-or-less ignored. From what I have learned, to get good work in the UK translating into English, you really have to be a member of a professional body, and that is difficult to do without at least 2 year's solid commercial experience. I'd say 50 pounds an hour would only really be possible after 2 or three years at least.

Have you thought about doing an internship at a translation firm in a Spanish speaking country?

Good luck.



Lisa Roberts  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:01
Spanish to English
+ ...
Internship Aug 23, 2006

Hi Matt,

I fully agree that it is much more competitive here and that yes, internships are indeed a good way to gain experience. I have already undertaken one such internship - albeit, only for a month - but I learnt so much. Not to mention the added benefit of improving your source language whilst working in that country. I'd love to do another but as I'm sure you're aware - they are pretty few and far between and I'm not really in a position (financially) to do so. Frustrating : (


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