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How long does it take, and how much marketing is needed, to get established as a translator?
Thread poster: kylefoley76
kylefoley76  Identity Verified
United States
German to English
Oct 25, 2010

This is for established translators. If you wanted to work 40 hours a week on nothing but translation could you do it? Second, how long does it take before you only need to worry about translating and not looking for work. I mean if you're experienced do you still have to spend a lot of time looking for work? This only applies to "good" translators of course.

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Daniel Grau  Identity Verified
Argentina
English to Spanish
I wish I worked 40 hours per week Oct 25, 2010

I regularly work over 250 hours per month.

There used to be a time when new clients came via project managers that switched translation agencies. Now, they come through my ATA page. In all these years at ProZ, only one client contacted me through my page here, and I was never awarded any project through ProZ job offers (not that I've participated in many, as prices here tend to be on the low side).

There's no telling how long you need to become fully booked, since this depends on the amount of work a new client will provide. If you freelance for a large agency, having just one client would be about enough (though risky). If your client is a one-person company, chances are you'll have lots of spare time to look for more work.

Regards,

Daniel

[Edited at 2010-10-25 21:04 GMT]


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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:45
Swedish to English
+ ...
If that's your objective Oct 25, 2010

kylefoley76 wrote:

work 40 hours a week on nothing but translation

Have you considered working in-house? Freelancers work anything between X and XX hours per week. And a great part of that time might be filled with marketing their skills/business.

how long does it take before you only need to worry about translating and not looking for work

Working as a freelancer you have your own business and as such you can never forget about marketing/selling your skills. Whether you worry or not about the level of business you currently have is, of course, dependent on how successful you have been at doing this as well as how much of a worrier you are.


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 02:45
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Declining working hours Oct 26, 2010

I worked on most monopoly basis before since demands were larger than supplies. My marketing time was limited. But progress of Internet gave me many competitors (easy entry of new translators, even with less qualification). Now I spend most time on marketing, and work in a few hours.

Soonthon Lupkitaro


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Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:45
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
eeh well... Oct 26, 2010

Your profile read 0,04 - 0,05 / word, you should have no problem receiving lots of offers for work...

(on the other hand, this is so cheap that people might wonder if you can actually deliver good quality, so you can try to increase that to say: 0,08 - 0,10, and see if that helps)

if you want to work 40 / week, you either work inhouse of spend another 20-40 on looking for jobs/clients etc..

There is just no way that you can just sit back and relax while the jobs arrive in your mailbox...

Oh, and it normally takes about a year (maybe 2 nowadays) before you have enough of a client base to actually have some of a repeat client base)...


Ed



[Edited at 2010-10-26 14:19 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:45
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Entirely agree with Edward Oct 26, 2010

Your low rate is probably selling you as a cheap translator, and I mean cheap in more than the economic sense.

Personally I think that the best marketing is word-of-mouth and migration of project managers. If you can prove that your service is superior (in terms of response, flexibility, technical capability, and quality of translation of course), you should clearly increase your rates and do your very best with every email and every job. Only then you will be soon in a position to choose how many hours you work.

However, I must say that most successful translators I have met are working for hours on end every day. It is just very hard to say no to a good customer who treats you right, both as a translator and as a person.


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:45
Member
English to French
No one-size-fits-all reply Oct 27, 2010

kylefoley76 wrote:
If you wanted to work 40 hours a week on nothing but translation could you do it?

As a freelancer, I don't know what a week is. I usually don't work weekends, but it's my decision. Let's suppose it is a slice of time worth a 47th of a year (5-week holiday)
Opportunity: Yes. Working 90%+ of my time with agencies, job offers from a small core of customers are fairly flowing.
Capacity: Yes, not sustained. 40 hours is about 15kwords at my average speed. I can translate 15kwords in one week. Over a whole year, that is 700kwords. I reached it once in 2005, and I don't wish it to anybody, even my best friends. I raised my rates by more than 25% since. And mechanically decreased my wordcount.
But this job is not only about translation: I work more than 40 hours/week on my "business". Translation (and associated "linguistic services") is only part of it (the main one).
Second, how long does it take before you only need to worry about translating and not looking for work.

A common figure is about one year to establish a customer base. I started working at nearly full capacity two months after I went freelance and sent cold applications to European agencies, but I had gained a lot of confidence translating a few thousand words a month for pocket money the year before.
You only have to worry about earning a living. A few agencies are enough to overflood you with work, but they also have to pay you decent rates so that you can save for your old days and any dry patches.
I mean if you're experienced do you still have to spend a lot of time looking for work?

No. But you have to keep practising your marketing skills, and also maintain the "customer mix", eg to lower the "time share" of one customer and/or establish new relationships in new/more specific fields.
I don't feel the need to "prospect" as such, but I seize opportunities when they arise (ie people contacting me through the Web, proz.com mostly) and try to convert them into recurring customers. I do invest time in introducing myself properly so that my application stands better chances to pay off (no second chance to make a good first impression).
Also (free advertising) my proz.com profile remains my main point of contact with agency prospects, and it proves very useful in this respect. I decided to display my rates to limit "noise" from agencies who look for the kind of rates you often see on the job board. To be fair, I must say that agencies posting there are not all bad: I got a recurring customer in 2010 through a bid, which requirements were specific enough to make me think that I had a fair chance of success. My last successful attempt through a bid was in 2002, and we're still happily doing business together.
This only applies to "good" translators of course.

Since freelance translation has obviously a business side, even a "good" translator can struggle to survive if s/he doesn't know how to sell his/her skills. In this case, two options: a marketing/business course to strengthen these abilities, or an in-house position, 40h/week and paid holiday.

I think (and hope) that successful bad translators are less common than the other way around.

Philippe


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Roy OConnor
Local time: 21:45
Member (2009)
German to English
Decide on your objectives and do the sums Oct 27, 2010

If just working 40 hours per week is your only objective, it should be pretty easy on the rates you quote. I notice that you live in Germany, have one year's experience at translating and are probably in your mid-thirties. We know nothing of your personal circumstances except that you have an ability to learn languages and have been around quite a bit (from your CV). Do you have a family to support and/or a house to pay off, etc.?

In Germany the costs of providing for your own health insurance and pension are very significant. Bear in mind too that holidays cost double (cost of hol. + unpaid time off). The unsustained average word speed which Philippe quotes sounds reasonable to me, but you can't extrapolate this up unless you are going to employ someone in a close supporting role to get you the business.

My own opinion is that unless you have little in the way of outgoings it is very difficult to live off earnings as a translator in Germany by working a 40 hour week and most definitely not on the rates you charge.

Why not try putting the same sort of question on the German forum?


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Susanna Garcia  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:45
Italian to English
+ ...
CV Oct 27, 2010

Hi Kyle,

You're really going to have to do some work on your CV if you're using it to market yourself. There are many examples of formats around, oh and check your spelling.

Your profile is not helpful either - no details of qualifications for example.

So, it may take a little longer than predicted to establish yourself unless you up your game here and improve your CV and profile.

Best wishes

Suzi


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kylefoley76  Identity Verified
United States
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Oct 27, 2010



[Edited at 2010-10-27 17:45 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:45
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
You are wrong... Oct 27, 2010

kylefoley76 wrote:
i could be wrong and i'm open to other ideas but i'm very skeptical about online profiles, resumes and that sort of thing.

Well, in my experience you are wrong.. Sorry! Translation buyers and agencies today use the Internet to find their translators, and making an effort to keep a nice-looking profile in the Internet will definitely help you thrive in this business.

[Edited at 2010-10-27 18:08 GMT]


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 20:45
Dutch to English
+ ...
CVs Oct 27, 2010

You may be sceptical of CVs Kyle -- and a healthy dose of scepticism in that department is not necessarily a bad thing -- but you've come to this forum asking for professional translators to give you advice and if they mention your CV, it's for a very good reason. Briefly put, in it's present form, you won't get a foot in the door. Take the advice or leave it, it's free and well meant.

Lastly, as potential clients browse these forums, you'd be well-advised to respect the basic rules of the English language and refrain from using 'webspeak'. This isn't your average chat forum.

Best of luck
Debs


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Susanna Garcia  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:45
Italian to English
+ ...
Open Forum Oct 27, 2010

Thanks, Debs and Tomás,

I was going to point these issues out to Kyle but thought that given the vast store of information that already exists on this topic, perhaps he would like to see for himself the general opinion of experienced, successful translators regarding profiles and CVs, and consider the advice given on who looks at these posts.

I actually don't know why so many of us continue to give advice when it's treated with such scepticism.

Incidentally, I think this thread should be moved to the Getting Established forum.

Suzi


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kylefoley76  Identity Verified
United States
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
cv Oct 27, 2010

Ok, I'll change my resume, after all I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Nevertheless, I'm just a little disgruntled by the fact that people actually put value into these things when in my experience I know that you can't judge whether or not someone can do a complex job based on a piece of paper. To be honest, the only way you can tell if someone can do a job is to let him try and if he succeeds, then he succeeds.

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:45
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Translation buyers have their preferences Oct 27, 2010

kylefoley76 wrote:
Ok, I'll change my resume, after all I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Nevertheless, I'm just a little disgruntled by the fact that people actually put value into these things when in my experience I know that you can't judge whether or not someone can do a complex job based on a piece of paper. To be honest, the only way you can tell if someone can do a job is to let him try and if he succeeds, then he succeeds.

I completely agree with this statement. However, I somehow suspect that the people who order the translations do give a high value to the aesthetics and correctness of every piece of work you show (including your own CV, website, and online profiles).

One thing is true though: in translation you don't "wear a tie" all the time. As soon as you have completed a couple of successful jobs for some company, things become rather casual in the communications and dealings with them.


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