Becoming a professional translator - help needed
Thread poster: Kelly Efird
Kelly Efird
Local time: 02:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
Oct 4, 2012

I want to become a career translator, that is my ultimate goal. However I have yet to do any translating for money. Do put that I'm a career translator on my profile anyway? Aspiring career translator? I realize that my profile is empty, which is precisely why I'm asking this question in the first place. I've been translating articles from online newspapers and excerpts from books on Google Books for about three years now, albeit for fun. Does that count as experience? How do I put THAT on my profile?

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:07
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Hello Kelly Oct 5, 2012

Kelly Efird wrote:
I want to become a career translator, that is my ultimate goal.

It sounds as though you've just about attained the goal, at least at an entry level. Welcome!

You know that your profile is important for your ProZ.com presence, but bear in mind that certain things like CAT tools and qualifications in translation, languages and specialist areas are important to all clients, particularly if you lack experience. If you don't have some/all of those, then you should look for some training really.
However I have yet to do any translating for money. Do put that I'm a career translator on my profile anyway? Aspiring career translator? I realize that my profile is empty, which is precisely why I'm asking this question in the first place. I've been translating articles from online newspapers and excerpts from books on Google Books for about three years now, albeit for fun. Does that count as experience? How do I put THAT on my profile?

Any and all experience goes into your profile, and into your CV. Of course, later on you'll be selective, but at first it all counts, not forgetting any experience linked to your specialisations (even if nothing to do with translating).

You don't have to say that the translations you have done were "just for fun". Just be careful not to actively represent them as "work" - don't use the words job, work, professional, client etc as those are not appropriate for what you've been doing. But you weren't doing them for fun - it was to hone your skills, gain experience...

It's all in the words, which should be accurate (don't exaggerate), but which should put you in the best light possible. Try to put a positive slant on everything: Not much experience = some experience; Only a little = a little. Then make sure you believe what you've written, and see yourself in a positive light. A lack of self-confidence is crippling to any freelancer.

HTH

Sheila


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:07
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
How about some training? Oct 5, 2012

In my opinion what you are in dire need of is proper training in translation. Translation is a very competitive market, and given the sheer amount of good, trained, certified English/Spanish translators in the market already, what you need is not to "look like a translator" (by making an attractive-looking profile), but become a translator (by training and certification).

Look for an University close to you offering translation programmes and try to enroll in any of them, as the first main measure to become a translator and to get any chance at paid work. Developing any kind of career requires not only an interest in the trade, but also effort, investment, and time.

I hope this does not sound too negative. I just want to make sure you set yourself reasonable expectations about what you can achieve in today's market without proper preparation.

Good luck!


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Kelly Efird
Local time: 02:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
How do I pay for training when I'm already in debt? Oct 5, 2012

I already owe money to a university and I can't take any more classes there until I pay off that balance.

I don't currently have the money to spend on training courses.

I have a lot of "experience" in that I know about a lot of stuff, but I have no idea how to make that look tangible or practical, like during job interviews. I'm talking about like minimum wage cashier positions. Apparently I don't have enough work experience even for that. People who interview me want to know what exactly I've been doing with all my time. I think if I make a portfolio, or book, kind of like artists have, and fill it with translations I've done, that could be a start. At least during job interviews for part-time jobs, when they ask me, "so, do you have any other work experience?" I can just hand them the portfolio. That seems easier than trying to explain it to, say, a store manager or something. And don't even get me started on family members. Ha!


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:07
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Me too Oct 6, 2012

Kelly Efird wrote:
People who interview me want to know what exactly I've been doing with all my time.

Now you made my want to know too!

Now, indeed knowing about a lot of things is a good asset for a translator, since you are bound to get requests to translate about thirty different things every year. So that is indeed positive.

However, it is true that you have to give these varied things some kind of backbone, and in my opinion that backbone would be education in translation. In our profession it is not enough to know two or more languages well or to know about many things to be a translator. You definitely need training since translation is an art in itself which you need to master too, and chances are that your knowledge of languages could need polishing in terms of proper grammar, spelling, and style.

Do your best to find the money to get training, even if only for a year at some school with a translation programme, or maybe via distance courses. If you have loved ones who can help, it would be the time to prove to them that you are serious about this career path.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:07
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Don't expect too much, too soon Oct 6, 2012

Kelly Efird wrote:
I don't currently have the money to spend on training courses.

I have a lot of "experience" in that I know about a lot of stuff, but I have no idea how to make that look tangible or practical, like during job interviews. I'm talking about like minimum wage cashier positions. Apparently I don't have enough work experience even for that.

I don't mean to be negative, either, but I see now that you are expecting a lot, very soon, from translating. The advice to new freelancers (not just freelance translators) is always "don't give up the day job yet". Very few people are lucky enough to be able to make a living out of freelancing in the first 3 months, most need the backup of salaried income for a good 6 months. You could land yourself an enormous job straight off, of course, but even then you'd have to wait to be paid: clients don't expect to be billed (normally) until the end of the job or the end of the month, anyway you would be invoicing them some time in the future. Then you normally need to give them time to pay and the average is 30 days in most places but it can be longer if you don't have the clout to insist (and new starters don't have much clout).

What I'm saying is that, even if you get off to a good start, you probably won't be earning enough to feed yourself, let alone pay off debts. At the end of each job there'll be a dry period when you're marketing, trying to get another job, another client - I doubt you'll find regular work to start with.

I strongly advise you to keep trying for a salaried job while building up your translation experience.


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Kelly Efird
Local time: 02:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Oct 6, 2012

I see what you're saying and this information will help me maybe explain myself better, both to potential employers and to family members. It has been frustrating, some family members give me a hard time because they think I have no goals! Saying I want to do freelance translating doesn't work either...I say that and it's like some people, they don't understand.

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LaraBarnett  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:07
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
Not for profit/charities/pro bono Oct 7, 2012

I strongly recommend translating for websites like Oxfam etc and looking out for the various jobs which come through for voluntary translators. These are often from either charities or artistic/performance companies who cannot afford to pay. If you do a good job you can ask for WWA entry and comments on your project history, which they will almost always be happy to do for you. When you have this on your CV it is a good start. I did work for Oxfam Italia when I first joined Proz, then I got work from a very low paying agency, but eventually I managed to build my CV up and I now get regular work. You can list this as pro bono work and it can only add to your credibility and also give you some good experience.//

Having said all that, I did come from a background of BA Modern languages and then a PG diploma in Translation, so it is probably easier for me now to get recognition from agencies and clients. A training was important to me as it gave me a good foundation, and things I learned which seemed trivial, are now proving to be important lessons. If a full time course is not an option, look out for part time or introductory courses.

[Edited at 2012-10-07 14:54 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-10-07 14:55 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-10-07 14:57 GMT]


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Meta Arkadia
Local time: 14:07
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Poor, poor Oxfam Oct 7, 2012

LaraBarnett wrote:
These are often from either charities or artistic/performance companies who cannot afford to pay [for translations].

However, it seems they can afford to pay their executives hundreds of thousands of euros a year. Plus expenses, tax-free of course. Oxfam, and the like.

Cheers,

hans


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Kelly Efird
Local time: 02:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Wikipedia Oct 8, 2012

I'm a (new) editor for Wikipedia. Would that help?

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