Help getting established as a freelancer
Thread poster: James Loughran

James Loughran  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:20
German to English
+ ...
Nov 24, 2015

Hi all,

I've been a member of ProZ for some years and now I'd like to spend a larger amount of my time actively freelancing, but I've got some difficulties I'd like help with.


It's not at I haven't been able to get translation jobs, I have, but I haven't been able to get very many of them. I can say that I make enough to cover my membership fees on the site, but that's about it.

The thing is that I've written emails in response to the jobs posted dozens of times, but rarely get a response. I have however signed up to various agencies on proz.com who are seeking to increase the size of their translator database. I do get emails from them with an offer of work, but if I don't respond within a matter of minutes, then it has already gone to someone else. Since I already have a full time job immediately replying to any and all emails is not an option, neither is doing a translation at very short notice.

I have a BA in modern languages, an MA in linguistics with several years of in-house translation and freelancing experience, so I can't imagine this would be a major obstacle to more work.

Maybe I price myself out of the market, maybe it's lack of what others see as necessary experience, or maybe I need to overhaul my profile. I just don't know, but I would appreciate any advice you could give me on becoming more established as a freelancer, without having to sit at my computer 24/7 just in case something comes in.

I'd appreciate any and all criticism or comments!

Thanks,

James


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:20
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Specialise Nov 24, 2015

Hi James

Perhaps your specialisms are not much in demand - at least not via Proz.

You name them as Anthropology - General / Conversation / Greetings / Letters
Government / Politics History - Linguistics - Other

I don't know what others may say but having had a similar initial experience to yours, over time I found that I was able to become fairly well established, with regular work, by focussing on a relatively narrow field but in which there is significant economic activity (construction/architecture and related areas). This work also includes a significant amount of academic texts/conference papers etc.

I suggest you consider narrowing down to a restricted field in which there is significant economic activity, focussing on it, and giving it time to develop.

[Edited at 2015-11-24 09:24 GMT]


 

Dolores Matheus
France
Local time: 17:20
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Jobs Nov 24, 2015

I have been a member for a couple of months. I haven't had any offers from jobs I applied for. I'm thinking it's perhaps due to the fact that I don't work with any CAT tools. Maybe, it's time to get some training.

[Edited at 2015-11-24 09:50 GMT]


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:20
Member (2008)
Italian to English
CAT Nov 24, 2015

LMatheus wrote:

I have been a member for a couple of months. I haven't had any offers from jobs I applied for. I'm thinking it's perhaps due to the fact that I don't work with any CAT tools. Maybe, it's time to get some training.

[Edited at 2015-11-24 09:50 GMT]


I don't use any CAT tools and I'm doing fine without them. The best customers are looking for quality and professionalism- they don't particularly care whether you use CAT tools or not. I fear it would be a false (and time-consuming, expensive) trail to think that CAT tools will bring you more work.

Thousands of translators use CAT tools, so using a CAT tool won't make you stand out.

To be successful in any business you need to be offering something that's *different* from what your competitors are offering, not the *same*. (All other translators in your language pair, and in your specialisms, are your competitors).

So rather than hoping a CAT tool will bring you work, you should be thinking "what can I offer that not many other translators offer?"

[Edited at 2015-11-24 09:59 GMT]


 

Blessing Uzuegbu  Identity Verified
Nigeria
Local time: 16:20
English to Igbo
+ ...
some contribution Nov 24, 2015

I am also new to proz and translation, I attended a webinar on meeting clients, I think I should share with you some of the things you can include in your profile to make you stand out. I am still working on my profile because I have the same problem as you have, "getting established" some of the wining strategies include completing your profile, which you have done, specializing, kudos pro points, becoming a member, and having a proz.com certified pro certificate. Aside from these I will also like to make some suggestion to you , please work on your tagline, change your native in your language, try having samples of your cv in the language you work, and write a good and elaborate "about me". This is my little contribution.

 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 17:20
German to Serbian
+ ...
Find a part-time job perhaps? Nov 24, 2015

Or try direct clients, instead of waiting "24/7" to get a job on here. You must try some other options.

[Edited at 2015-11-24 10:33 GMT]


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:20
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Yes, specialise Nov 24, 2015

Tom in London wrote:
I suggest you consider narrowing down to a restricted field in which there is significant economic activity, focussing on it, and giving it time to develop.

I agree with Tom. It's all a bit vague. Nothing from your profile pops out. You list five languages and no real areas of special competence. I would focus on your top two languages and remove the others, then root through your experience to find an area of specialisation for which there is meaningful and lucrative demand, and spruce up your profile.

Regards
Dan


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:20
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Hmmm Nov 24, 2015

James Loughran wrote:

......I do get emails from them with an offer of work, but if I don't respond within a matter of minutes, then it has already gone to someone else. Since I already have a full time job immediately replying to any and all emails is not an option, neither is doing a translation at very short notice.


That's a problem. It's very unusual for a customer to say "take plenty of time and do this translation as slowly as you like. There's no hurry. Do it whenever you can".

It's more usual to have to work into the wee small hours, at weekends, or in stolen moments on trains, to get a translation done - and done to a high standard - within the agreed deadline; boxing and coxing with another job you do. I should know this; for years I worked as a university lecturer, and also as a translator on the side. It wasn't easy.

And it's true: if you don't reply immediately to an email, to confirm your availability, somebody else will and you won't get the jobs.

I'd say that this sometimes hectic lifestyle is a given in the life of most translators.

[Edited at 2015-11-24 11:32 GMT]


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:20
Member (2008)
Italian to English
I agree and Nov 24, 2015

blessing Uzuegbu wrote:

I am also new to proz and translation, I attended a webinar on meeting clients, I think I should share with you some of the things you can include in your profile to make you stand out. I am still working on my profile because I have the same problem as you have, "getting established" some of the wining strategies include completing your profile, which you have done, specializing, kudos pro points, becoming a member, and having a proz.com certified pro certificate. Aside from these I will also like to make some suggestion to you , please work on your tagline, change your native in your language, try having samples of your cv in the language you work, and write a good and elaborate "about me". This is my little contribution.


I agree with these points and would add that the "Portfolio" section is very important.


 

Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:20
Member
French to English
+ ...
Translation isn't just about learning foreign languages Nov 24, 2015

It's good that you have CAT software, which an increasing number of clients want translators to have nowadays, but perhaps you could say a little more about your CAT skills on your profile page and CV? Such as any training courses or webinars that you've attended, which version(s) you use, etc. I think this deserves a little more explanation.

When it comes to your CV, to me personally, the list of skills on the first page (flexibility, character etc.) makes you look a bit like a job applicant rather than someone who is running an established business.

Your CV appears to market you primarily as someone who knows a lot of different languages (you say "several dozen"). Impressive though that is, I feel this may be too many for you to be taken seriously by some clients. Although I have done only a tiny amount of outsourcing myself over the years, if I still did any, your CV would put me off as experience has taught me that very, very few people are able to translate a large number of languages competently. Not necessarily all, but many clients would be looking to hire a translator who has taken more than an intensive language course as academic grounding in a language that (s)he translates professionally. So if I were you, I would consider narrowing down the range of languages you offer to increase your chances of being taken seriously. Your CV says that your degree is in German, Spanish and French; I think that would be enough to start with. Perhaps you could also think about obtaining a qualification in translation per se or membership of a professional body for one or more of those languages - something like the IOL Diploma in Translation or IOL/ITI membership should help.

Which brings me to my next point: knowledge of languages isn't the only thing a translator needs to have. Good writing skills are just as important, and your sample translations look as though they need some work, e.g. "The Prussians’ moral was extremely low", "their intention was to take Breslau should before the arrival". In the sentence "Many academic societies were created in the first half of the 19th century, during the time of the partitions,whose task was to preserve Polish culture", I assume that "whose task" refers back to "academic societies" rather than "partitions"? In which case, I think that sentence could do with being restructured to make it clearer. These are just three examples, I can see others.

On a related note: your CV includes the phrases "ten years experience", "familiarity of the working" and "has lead to a familiarity". Again, to persuade clients that your writing skills are strong, you need to eliminate errors such as these.

Another important part of translation, as others have already mentioned, is the ability to work in specific fields. The focus of your CV is very much on language knowledge, but I think you would benefit from having a greater balance between knowledge of languages and the fields you translate in. Knowledge of any specialist fields should be prominent in your marketing; at the moment, I feel that you skate over that a bit in your CV and although your profile page lists a wide range of working fields, it doesn't give details of the kinds of documents you have actually translated.

Readiness to start work quickly is also extremely important, but you don't have to sit at a computer 24 hours a day. I have a BlackBerry which alerts me to emails as soon as they come in, so I can reply to clients and accept new jobs even when I'm out.

So to summarise, my main point is: there is a lot more to translation than learning foreign languages. If you focus more on the other aspects I have mentioned above, I think that will help you to win more clients.


[Edited at 2015-11-24 13:46 GMT]


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:20
Member (2008)
Italian to English
I agree with Peter Nov 24, 2015

If you are offering your services as a translator into English, your English must be perfect. Not good; perfect. Down to the last apostrophe.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:20
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Do you want to be a translator, or earn a few quid? Nov 24, 2015

Others have already made loads of valid comments, so I won't repeat them. I just want to say that this
James Loughran wrote:
Since I already have a full time job immediately replying to any and all emails is not an option, neither is doing a translation at very short notice.

seems to be a show-stopper. Being a freelancer in any discipline is not something you can pick up and put down every few moments. You are either a freelancer or you aren't. It's either a full-time job or it's at least your most important job.

It's fine to try to fit in a salaried job alongside freelancing for a few months while you get established - "flipping burgers" being the example we tend to use as something that brings in a guaranteed income. It isn't fine to have a full-time salaried job and expect to get freelance work "on the side". It takes months of being available and providing good quality under challenging conditions if you're to establish even a small client base. It takes years to get a really solid set of regular clients and to be able to afford to say "No" quite often.

Why do you think that all the jobs that are posted on the public job board are needed yesterday? It's because only desperate outsourcers post their jobs publicly. Most good agencies contact their preferred translators for almost every job that comes in. Only occasionally will they post jobs, and then it's either because all their translators have turned them down (making a job with a relaxed deadline now super-urgent), or this is an unforeseen requirement. The latter case could be a new specialisation for them or a new language pair, and they don't currently have anyone who ticks all the boxes. Again the job will be urgent because for them you're an untried, untested translator and they'll have to be cautious and avoid risking too much. They'll want time to get your work proofread, maybe redone.

If you can only ever do a couple of hours in the evening or at the weekend, you're never going to become anyone's "preferred supplier".


 


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