Finding Clients as a Beginner (French-English)
Thread poster: Andolin (X)

Andolin (X)
Local time: 00:09
French to English
Mar 25, 2016

Hi there,

I recently graduated from a Law and French degree at a well-respected university, having studied for a year in Paris as part of the course. Next year, I'll be returning to Paris to continue my studies at l'Ecole Normale. My undergraduate degree had a translation component, but the work opportunities that can stem from this were never really explained to us, although previous graduates have gone on to work as translators in court.

I'm currently on a year out and I'm hoping to find some translation work to help support myself (10-20 hours a week) – unfortunately, it's hard to know where to start. I have previous experience working in both law firms and the area of investment banking, so I am quite familiar with the terminology in these areas, both in French and in English. I was wondering if the forum members might have any advice on where to begin in looking for work?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:09
English to Polish
+ ...
... Mar 26, 2016

Would you like the fish or the fishing rod?icon_wink.gif

The fish is that you just spam translation agencies, and companies from the relevant sector.

The rod is that while advice is useful, you can also learn to think like a manager by taking the problem and 'just solving it', which is not outside the competence you already have. It just isn't going to be an easy or pleasant exercise at first — or at all, if you don't have the heart for it. Nonetheless, as any sort of freelance you'll need cunning ways of managing your stuff, and as any sort of translator you'll need cunning ways of researching your stuff, finding the answers you need, confirming them etc. So you might as well take your current question as a task, a challenge. It will be a worthwile lesson and serve you forever.

Next, consider all that Chris Durban has written or said because she's the no. 1 voice for translators going after direct clients — which comes down to 'when among the crows, caw as the crows do' plus all the footwork. But you probably have some idea of footwork if you've been a summer associate before.

Load up on all those books by Chris Durban, Corinne McKay, Judy and Dagmar Jenner, Marta Stelmaszak and perhaps one or two other folks. Reading them (and what's 200 pages to a law grad?) will answer a lot of your questions — and more — and possibly save you a couple of years' worth of trial and error. So give yourself a headstart.

You have a strong profile already, in terms of qualifications, but obviously little exposure and fame, since you're young and only just starting, so the 'bad' news is that you need solid passive advertising (not necessarily in the most literal sense of advertising), but the good news is that you probably already have enough gravitas to support a strong, confident professional profile, as for all your lack of experience you still have a powerful, highly developed and highly convincing specialization.

If you aren't cash-starved, I recommend the assistance of these ladies. It goes beyond just getting you a website, they can help you define your own brand for the kind of consistent, convincing presentation you'll need to a make a strong, confident, professional impression on whatever clients you can get hold of. In case you haven't already just realized this, such an impression will allow you to charge higher rates right off the bat, sparing you a lot of those problems freelance translators deal with all the time. It will probably pay back quickly.

Since you'll be doing the writing to your clients, might as well read a book or two about that. There's one that was written from behind the bars by a guy convicted of murder in the US, and that one is really, really good.icon_wink.gif You could try and find it online, I don't remember his name.

Oh, and for the record, don't downplay the fact you're young and new and all. There are people who like that sort of thing, and in any case it's not like people aren't going to notice. You don't want it to look like a dark secret. Which it is not, because it's only natural, and everybody was a beginner at some point. You aren't a complete beginner anyway.

One more thing: Get some books about translation theory and something about the practice for good measure. It will give you some ideas (plenty of, and sometimes contradictory) of what to look at when you translate; hence, an accelerated learning curve to make your translation aptitude match the (already more than just considerable) strength of your specialization faster. Without it, learning how to translate will be a much longer process. You just don't want to gimp yourself like that.

Remember you'll need that accelerated learning curve because you'll need to produce very high quality with the kind of professional image you want to pursue.

Get DipTrans ASAP. Think what else you can get (an LLM, a translation certificate or translation M.A./advanced master's, solicitor qualifications and title).


Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:09
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Have a 'can-do' attitude Mar 26, 2016

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:
Next, consider all that Chris Durban has written or said because she's the no. 1 voice for translators going after direct clients — which comes down to 'when among the crows, caw as the crows do' plus all the footwork.

I second what Łukasz says about Chris. She's smart, successful and one of her themes is that too many freelancers see marketing themselves as demeaning. I agree [EDIT] with Chris' view that it is not demeaning but an intrinsic part of any successful business...


[Edited at 2016-03-26 09:15 GMT]


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