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Advice for a new translator on job hunting December 6, 2011

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Translation.

I received an interesting comment from Martha, a new translator. I felt this was important enough that it shouldn’t be buried on a page no one will see. Martha has agreed to my posting it here for everyone to comment on. I particularly hope that some of my former students will share their insights (May, Justin, Emily, etc.) since they broke into the market more recently and are busy in their own rights.

I have to say that as a new translator, I’ve read these ideas to keep rates standard 100 times but find it very difficult to find any work at all if I can’t show I have much experience in any field yet. Does anyone have a good strategy of how to hunt for potential jobs (besides proZ.com)? I thought working for one agency and showing them that I could complete a quality translation would be an effective way to start and yet I finished a large project for my first employer and am now questioning whether I’ll be paid a dime for it or anything I’ve done since. Other translation agencies do not seem to be interested once they find out I have limited knowledge of a trial version of a CAT tool and have only offered small and sporadic work so I’m starting to feel overwhelmed. Do you seasoned translators have any suggestions?

Here are ten tips from me to get started. I hope others can share what worked for them.

1. Start marketing yourself to as many translation agencies and/or direct clients as you can. They won’t know you are available if they don’t know you exist. I wrote a guest blog post at Naked Translations explaining how I broke into the U.S. market when I moved back from Germany in 2001. Think about what makes you stand out from all the other translators out there looking for clients and highlight it to new clients.

2. Get active on the local, national and international levels. I was the president of the Northeast Ohio Translators Association for eight years. Not only was I the face of NOTA to local and regional businesses, I established good relations with my NOTA members (both agencies and freelancers) and kept urging my members to act professional at all times. I also highly recommend attending some of the smaller ATA regional conferences that are more specialized in the fields you work in or would like to work in. At the national and international level I attend (and present at) the ATA conference every year, am active on various translation listservs in the U.S. and Germany (word of mouth and referrals from colleagues who are too busy are VERY helpful – both when you are starting out and once you are established and you have a lull), maintain this blog, and use social media like Twitter, XING and LinkedIn. I have also written articles for our local newsletter (the NOTA BENE) and the ATA Chronicle. People actually do remember them years later.

3. Have you read Corinne McKay’s book, How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, or Judy and Dagmar Jenner’s The Entrepreneurial Linguist yet? Both offer valuable advice for new and experienced translators alike.

4. Use a full version of your CAT tool – not a trial version. There are some excellent tools out there like Fluency or OmegaT that do not cost an arm and a leg (in fact, OmegaT is free!). Once you start earning more money you can consider branching out and purchasing one of the more expensive translation environment tools (if you feel you need to). This is where I feel sites like Proz.com can come in handy, because they occasionally offer group buys that make a software like MemoQ more affordable.

5. Stay strong on price. I just announced to my favorite client that I was raising my word rate by $0.01, and they were okay with it. Quality agencies are willing to pay for quality work. Don’t let yourself be beaten down by the bottom feeders. Have you spent any time on No Peanuts! for Translators? They offer some convincing arguments you can use when you are pressured by a lower paying agency.

6. Be sure to check out the agencies on non-payment sites like Payment Practices, Translator-Client Review, the ProZ.com Blue Board and Translatorscafe’s Hall of Shame. Get on non-payment listservs like WPPF and Zahlungspraxis (in German). This ensures you won’t be taken in by unscrupulous non-payers who prey on (desperate/less-informed) translators.

7. Take some college courses to expand your knowledge and experience in the field you are interested in and let potential clients know you have taken them. You don’t need to get a degree, but it shows you are interested in becoming a better translator. For example, Kent State University offers classes that they consider their core requirements (Translation Theory, Documents in Multilingual Contexts, Terminology and Computer Applications, and hands-on translation courses in the practice of translation, sci-tech-med, legal-commercial and literary-cultural).

8. Consider working on holidays, weekends and during the professional conferences (and advertising that fact) until you establish yourself. Many agencies scramble to find translators when their established translators are not available, and if you do a good job and impress them they will come back.

9. Be prepared to work hard. It takes about a year to establish yourself. Consider taking on a part-time job until you start becoming busier.

10. Most importantly, keep your existing clients very happy with quality work (hire a proofreader if you have to) and deliver quickly (if not early).



1. Jenn Mercer - December 6, 2011

Thank you for boosting the signal on this question. I posted on ProZ, but here is one tip I could not share there – try non-translation portals as well. Some of my first jobs came from generic freelance portals like Elance and GetaFreelancer. Yes, there are some scary low rates on there. Yes, the rates top out at under the average translation rate, but… there is also less competition because “true professionals” usually avoid these sites. I grew out of them after my first year, but I earned some valuable experience in the process.

Jenn Mercer - December 6, 2011

Quick followup to my own comment: This question is so ubiquitous that I actually mistook it for a different question posted by someone on ProZ today. In any case, yes, it is a very common problem.

2. allinportuguese - December 6, 2011


I appreciate you calling me on Facebook, so, here I am 🙂

When I was considering becoming a translator, I checked out one of the wonderful industry events, the ATA’s language specific mid-year conference in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, FL.

The atmosphere was great, the colleagues-to-be really knowledgeable and it was a small manageable event for a newbie. A total of six, perhaps seven months later, someone I had met there had kept my cheap Vistaprint business card and said: “I don’t know if you remember me, but we met, I live in Colorado and my company (J.D.Edwards, later acquired by Oracle) is looking for an in-house linguist with your language combination, Are you interested?”

What does this show you?

1) Network, network, network.

2) A lot of the money that you’re putting out there in the beginning is investment, and I understand that starting out is difficult. I remember going to a mentor through the YWCA and the best piece of advice she gave me was: “do something everyday that contributes to your business. You have no money but you have tons of time, energy AND creativity. For the next 6 months, I challenge you to do something, everyday that contributes to your business.” Perhaps it’s reading, perhaps it’s reading about business, perhaps it’s enhancing your LinkedIn profile.

3) I think that while many translators do well with word-of-mouth, I find it essential to have a web presence. Perhaps you start small on LinkedIn and Twitter, until you’re ready to (write good content and maintain) your own web site.

4) I’d also approach my local translators associations (and hopefully, some of them will have either an end-of-year event or an event early next year) that you can go and meet not only translators but also a few agency owners who maybe interested in your talents, skills and services.

5) Consider researching your local area for a grant or a modest-interest loan, which would help you get a solid starting computer and tools and translation tools. Start at the Small Biz Administration and then go local.

Keep your spirits up and be realistic (I totally agree with Jill that it may take about one year to get established).

Best of luck,

3. Svetlin Simeonov - December 6, 2011

Great tips I think this is what every person should do in order in order to be successful ,no matter what is his or her sphere of professional activity.

4. Emily Tietze - December 6, 2011

Great tips Jill! Here are a few others that came to mind:

1) Be willing to take brief translation tests for new clients. While experienced translators often balk at translation tests (“why do I have to take this test, can’t the agency see from my résumé that I’m an expert”…etc.), I’ve won over my biggest clients by successfully passing their translation tests.
2) Consider marketing to agencies in your source language country(ies). For example, in the case of French>English translators, French agencies tend to have a much steadier stream of FR>EN work than US-based agencies.
3) Consider seeking a full-time position within a translation agency for a year or two. Although most full-time jobs within translation agencies will be related to project management or sales and not translation per se, such positions are a good opportunity to see what agencies are looking for in translators, how the industry works, and how to be be a really professional translator. These kinds of jobs can also be a good way to gain hands-on experience working with (and troubleshooting) CAT tools (I think being proficient in a CAT tool is indispensable for any translator trying to break into the market).

Don’t get too discouraged by the marketing aspect of translation. Sometimes all it takes is one faithful client to be able to make a living. I work for a couple of agencies that have so much work in my language pairs I could work for them exclusively if I wanted to.

Jill (@bonnjill) - December 6, 2011

But of course you don’t work for one client exclusively because if that company gets sold or has liquidity problems you are screwed… Good suggestions, Emily! Thanks!

5. Carolyn Y. - December 6, 2011

Thanks for the link to your guest post, too! If you could work a rent-paying job and still market yourself so effectively, I guess I can too. @Jenn– Another great tip. I really appreciate the advice on how to move further into my translation career! It helps the work-less days go by with a little less stress 🙂

6. Joe Lemien - December 6, 2011

As somebody who hoping to move further into the field of translation in the next several years, I’ve found this post really helpful. Thank you!

7. Martha - December 6, 2011

I appreciate all of the discussion entries on this topic! Hmm, how interesting that a similar question was posted on proZ today because it may have also been mine… let’s just say there are some grad school essays that have yet to be written. Now I have the added benefit of hearing all of your helpful comments! I will try to make more of an effort to advertise my flexibility with hours and am not sure what translation events are available in my area but that’s also something worth knowing. Thanks also for pointing out that other websites not specifically meant for translation could have potential assignments for lower rates.
As for the book list, no I haven’t read any of them but apparently I have some reading to do! Thank you for mentioning all of those. Free CAT tools? Since when? It looks like this response page has amounted to a handful of good ideas so thank you for all of the contributions. 🙂

8. Justin Bearden - December 6, 2011

It is important to not get to discouraged and remember that in the beginning 70% of your time is marketing. Additionally, you need a CAT tool, and don’t be cheap about it. It is a necessary evil, and you need to know how to use it and use it well. PMs do not want to hear about problems that you should be able to handle. In fact, most of them don’t even know how to work in the CAT environments.

Additionally, remember that each contact is a client, and that it is well up to you how to negotiate the relationship. Remember, that good clients are the ones we want to keep, and that if we only take bad clients working at McDonald’s would be more lucrative.

Small translation tests are okay, but you have to realize nothing more than 200-250 words. If you get a test of 4 pages, most often the agency is using you to get a free translation.

Sometimes you will get a gold mine- a client with work for you, money, and no knowledge of translation, but they just want you to do it. Be the expert, don’t sound indecisive, and seem like an expert. When a client feels that you don’t know what you are talking about, they will go away to someone else, when, in fact, you might have been the best choice. It is important to maintain confidence and know after a little bit if your client is savvy or not.

Know that saying ‘no’ is okay. If you can’t do something don’t tell the client you can as they will not come back again unless desperate and they will try to negotiate down your rate.

Don’t be too cheap in your initial set up costs. It is an investment, and the client doesn’t care that you are starting out, in fact, they should not know that and it is a detriment to your chances of getting work. Get a CAT tool, know how it is compatible with other CAT tools, know how to use it and take some courses or some other training classes (you can sometimes write these off as business expenses).

9. Susanne Aldridge III - December 6, 2011

My main comment for this is that it is normal that an apprentice or someone without much working knowledge charges lower prices. If you have a painter who is in the business since 1983 or a kid that just bought his first set of brushes (or even worse – doesn’t even own his own brushes) — would you really pay them both the same? I sure wouldn’t and would be willing to honor the experience of painter #1 with a higher price. If the chief surgeon operates on you, he will charge much more than a second year resident.

I don’t think a young translator should get pressured into trying to charge the same price as an experienced translator. Don’t sell yourself too cheap, but yeah I do believe that inexperience warrants a price break — in the translation business just like in any other profession.

Jill (@bonnjill) - December 6, 2011

This is a very good point, Susanne! I charged a lower rate when I was starting out and gradually raised.it.

10. mfdanis - December 6, 2011

Starting your own business is always challenging, regardless of the business you’re in. There might be a few translators who will tell you otherwise, but I don’t believe its easy to start out in this business, especially if you are not moving from a job within the industry (such as from being project manager for a translation agency, or an in-house translator for a non-translation industry firm) or if you cannot capitalize on previously working in a specialized field (such as specializing in legal translations after being a lawyer, or financial translations after being a banker). Like they say in my old neighborhood: You gotta hustle!

All the best tips have already been written about, but here is a comment about tools, since Martha mentioned it specifically:

There are plenty of translation jobs where Translation Environment Tools (TEnT) aren’t required. And depending on the type of translation, they may even be wholly unnecessary. But your familiarity with those tools and your ownership of those tools may be taken as an indication of how serious you are about translating. Are you a History major/Spanish minor fresh out of college looking for any kind of paying job? Are you a Chinese-English bilingual stay-at-home mom with time to spare? If you are serious about translating, these people are not your competition. But how to tell the difference if you do not have a translation background to set you apart? Tools might be one way.

Its unfortunate, of course, because simply knowing how to use these tools or simply owning the tool has absolutely no bearing on your capacity as a translator (I am sure there are even some translators who might argue that these tools are detrimental to quality, but I digress) I am certainly not advocating any such purchase on your part, but you limit the source of work without those skills. You must either acquire the skills, or learn to find the jobs that do not require them.

Hope that helps!

11. Karen Leube - December 6, 2011

Hi there,
Just wondering what your language combination is? At least for German-English, a great way to network (if you can scrape together the money for a flight and find people to stay with) is to attend a continuing education course held by the professional association in Germany (BDÜ, ADÜ Nord, etc.). There are not enough native speakers of English on the market here, so you will stick out from the crowd–and learn a new skill or expand your knowledge as well.

Good luck!


12. Martha - December 7, 2011

Thank you for all of the insight! Many things have been mentioned that I’d never thought of and I do agree with Susanne and Jill that charging the same price as an experienced translator is probably not so realistic. I didn’t know about the continuing education courses in Germany and might not have the money to go there now but that’s very helpful to know for future reference, so thank you, Karen. Mfdanis and Justin both had good feedback re: CAT tools so now it’s a matter of deciding what to do about it. Thank you to everyone who responded!

13. Eline Van De Wiele - December 7, 2011

A similar question was posed on another forum I participate in only last week, so you are not alone in this at all, Martha!
Lots of great advice has already been given, but I wanted to elaborate on the suggestion that you ought to consider getting a part-time job for the time being. As other people have mentioned, it really does take time to get established as a freelance translator. By doing something that gives you even a little bit of a fixed income, you take some pressure off yourself. It’d be nice if the job had something to do with translation, but it doesn’t have to.

I can’t emphasize the importance of corporate experience, in any field, enough. At the end of the day, by setting up as a freelancer you are setting up a business, for which you need many skills. Look for a part-time job where you learn something practical, like accounting skills, marketing skills people skills, etc. These companies may one day become your clients, so it’s important to know how they work.

I’m convinced that becoming a successful freelance translator is a long-term project that requires a lot of dedication and careful planning. Although I’ve only been freelancing for a year, I’ve been taking baby-steps towards where I am now for the last 10 years!

14. Amelia - December 9, 2011

Thank you for your very insightful blog. I would very much like to leave my job as a bilingual educator to work from home translating. I have a 9 month old that I would like to be home with while I translate. I have been trying to research income, among other things, and the info seems to vary widely. My question is, if I may be so bold, how much do you make, on average, per year? Gross or net? If you are able to give me an idea of this feel free to email me, if you like. I’m just trying to figure out if I would be able to replace or get near my current income ($45000 gross) before I jump in. I hope you’ll forgive my boldness; it’s just that I have already been burned financially by a work-at-home stint. (However, that was direct sales with a cosmetics company, so I am hoping this would be different.) I understand also that I would have to build a client base.

Thank you for your time. I love this blog!

Jenn Mercer - December 9, 2011

@Amelia I think that 45K is quite possible – but not immediately. It really does take several years to build up to a decent income with translation work alone.

Amelia - December 9, 2011

Thank you for your input!

15. Carolina Smith de la Fuente - December 10, 2011

I cannot agree more with all the suggestions in the post and the comments.

I started as a freelance translator two years ago and all I can say is that it is a slow process. I have very good months and very bad months, so my piece of advice is: be patient and don’t despair.
If you know that this is what you want to do, keep trying and keep trying because you’ll get there eventually.
And in the meantime find things you don’t mind doing to keep you going, for example I teach a couple language courses.
Another advice I have is to do some volunteer work as a translator. It will give you that experience the clients want. I have been a volunteer translator for the Spanish MS association for almost 4 years now, it gives me experience and I’m helping others. Who can ask for more?

Hope it helps!


16. Kevin Lossner - December 17, 2011

Excellent post, Jill – good advice & commentary. Not much to add, really.

Martha, take Jill’s advice to join a professional association very seriously. Local business associations are also worthwhile. Even if you don’t scare up clients there, you may get to know people who can mentor you on important business skills.

And look for ways to stand out from the crowd. There are a number of services you could provide which the vast majority of translators currently do not understand how to do profitably or do not want to do. Little things which can score big points or perhaps even help build alliances with experienced colleagues from whom you can learn.

While I agree with Susanne that inexperience might not be able to command premium rates and perhaps should not, if you are able to arrange routine review services with an experienced colleague/mentor and pay appropriately for these, you will learn a lot and be able to get better rates for the quality that results from having a good backup. Then with time you can get these rates more easily for solo work or raise the rates for the team effort.

17. Angela - December 18, 2011

I would say from an agency point of view that for German to English, having a CAT tool is almost essential if you want any serious amounts of work headed your way. We are often required to have clean and unclean files. There are plenty of jobs and language combinations that don’t require CAT tools, but for my agency, at least, the German to English work is almost 100% done in Trados (or Tardos as I like to call it).

18. claireslanguageblog - December 29, 2011

I really enjoyed this post – there’s so much useful information for new translators.

Having said that, I would tend to agree with other commentators that it’s difficult for new translators to stay strong on price. With all the translators out there, why would an agency pay high rates to a novice translator when they could get an experienced one for the same price? Sometimes it’s hard to find the middle ground between asking for too much and being exploited.

19. Amenel - January 2, 2012

Hi all,

I’ve actually read this post right when it was published as I follow this blog and, yes, I’m a new translator. I’m adding my comment only today because I wanted to share something that struck me in my current search for translation jobs.

Like Martha, I’m just starting this career (more details on my website) – I’m still looking for my first translation/localization job. But I have 9 years of professional experience as a computer scientist and as a software engineer.

I have done what I thought was logical before deciding to embrace this career. I’ve assessed my abilities and motivation and I have taken a few actions to build (hopefully) solid foundations for my freelance business: taking company management and translation courses, studying the appropriate books, building my website, doing volunteer and free work – around 30,000 words when I’m done with my current task – and contacting clients, software companies or translation agencies alike. I’ve even considered going back to school to get a degree (the requirements – either Spanish or German as a third language – prevented me from registering).

What struck me is that some agencies or companies have requirements so drastic that I end up wondering whether these requirements are actually enforced. For instance, at http://www.languagescientific.com/translator-accreditation.html , they require 7 years (!) of experience in technical translation in addition to the degree and work experience! All this in an insanely complex selection (sorry, “accreditation”) process. I’ll be 40 when I’m able to work for them and by then I will have accumulated a combined 16 years of work experience. Wow.

Others require in-country study of the language. Translating doesn’t seem to me like interpreting slang or vernacular speak but why not.

Others require a university degree in translation. Makes sense. But the studies by the French and European association of translators show that 40% (up to 50% in some other studies) of professionals translators do not hold a degree in translation. The national study even tries to find a reason why those with the diploma are less successful!

I’ve followed Corinne McKay’s advice to keep track of our marketing campaigns, who, when, how, etc. So I have a spreadsheet with all of that information. I even have a special sheet (named “lofty ones”) for those sky-high–criteria companies.

I totally understand the “look, we’re not like the others, we have requirements!” logic but I do not adhere to it.

Being a beginner is even harder because of these requirements. I guess the only way to deal with them is to look the other way. But strange requirements are not specific to agencies: here in France, I won’t be able to join the translators association until two years after I’ve started.

Oops, very long post.

Jill (@bonnjill) - January 2, 2012

I think you’ll find that the situation is a lot like the Code in Pirates of the Caribbean – a lot of the lofty requirements “are more like guidelines.” I would take the 7 years experience translating and push it as 7 years experience in the field itself. I think that is just as valuable – if not more. Just keep applying anyway. You’ll find most of the agencies with lofty requirements will still be willing to work with you if you have the knowledge to back up your claims.

20. Corinne McKay - January 11, 2012

Jill, thanks for the nice shoutout! What an awesome post, fabulous tips for beginners, and really even for those of us who are established in the industry!

21. Simone L. - January 11, 2012

It has already been mentioned in the comments, but I just want to stress again that a good web presence is essential. Any wannabe can have a proz profile, and thus, to be honest, I always find it a bit suspicious when (supposedly) professional translators have no other pages to show online.
Prices may vary from country to country but for me (Germany), the domain costs 1.49€/month and the hosting/webspace costs some 4€/month. That’s nothing. And in contrast to proz and similar sites, your webspace is all yours. Present yourself any way you want. Use a “corporate identy”, upload translation samples (very important if you don’t have other experience as proof of your skills!), and show potential clients that you’re serious about what you’re doing. Plus, you have your own domain name and email address. That always leaves a good impression.
It’s not so much about SEO and getting jobs via your website, but for me, it’s more about showing clients that I won’t run away, that I’m serious about what I’m doing. Several clients have already told me that it was my website that eventually convinced them to give me a chance (I’ve been a full-time freelancer for about 1 1/2 years, and a part-time freelancer for a little while before that).

Also, as the first comment suggested, Elance and sites like that can be a starting point (I’ve used that site too and got a long-term client via a private job offer), but don’t play the price-dumping game they’re playing there. There are people on Elance who claim to be professional lawyers now working as translators etc. – but they’re charging in the ranges of 0.04 USD/word! That is obviously very misleading for newcomers, so don’t let these prices dictate your own rates.

And last but not least, someone in the comments asked about whether or not some agencies with high requirements are serious about that. I can assure you that you won’t have to wait until you’re 40 before being able to work with agencies like the one mentioned. 😉 Just try to stand out from the rest.

Good luck!

vertaalbureau - January 18, 2012

Thanks for this insightful article!

22. Chris Durban - January 11, 2012

Hi guys, Corinne (and her blog) sent me. 🙂
Lots of good advice here already to which I’d add:
– Do what you can to make sure you *are* a good translator, e.g., commission a critique of your work from an experienced translator (pay in cash or proofreading or whatever arrangement you can come up with).
– As already mentioned, join a real professional association as soon as you can. That’s where a lot of the serious networking takes place. [I’m surprised that Amenel writes “But strange requirements are not specific to agencies: here in France, I won’t be able to join the translators association until two years after I’ve started.” What association are you talking about? Surely not the SFT; check the current website! Moreover, even without being a member you can attend many regional meetings and network, e.g., the monthly Café des Traducteurs/Matinale in Paris].
– I particularly like Cris S.’s tip on doing *something* every day to promote your practice. That’s where lots of would-be translators fall short. Got to line up the intentions and practice.
Good luck!

23. Valerie Le Deroff - April 20, 2012

Here is my piece of advice. I am fairly new on the market – 1 year full-time experience, and here is what I did to find work with agencies:
– invest in education. In my case, NYU Certificate in Translation (online continuing education – you can study from wherever you live). There is so much to learn as a beginner, education brings you methodology and invaluable basic knowledge.
– want to be a professional translator, join professional associations: I joined Proz at the very beginning (important to get access to names of agencies that are rated on its Blueboard) and ATA (I just joined after 8 months of freelancing). Local associations are important too.
– contact as many agencies as you can. You will get a positive answer at some point
– your C.V. and accompanying letter should be professional looking and error-free (again, start with Proz if you are not sure how it should look like, they are tons of examples on its website – and btw, it doesn’t have to be Proz, other websites are good too (read blogs to know how to find them).
– volunteer: before setting shop, I did a 3-month translation internship (yes, unpaid) at a NGO, 2 days a week. It gives a signal to agencies you will contact afterwards that you are dedicated and serious about becoming a professional translator.
– specialize in your field of study. If you didn’t study translation, translate in your field of expertise. And keep reading about those fields in both source and target languages to make sure you know the terminology
– as someone mentioned it, be willing to translate in the evening and during the weekend. It’s not easy with a family, but it is important to be flexible.
– take agency tests (yes, not longer than half a page or so).
– ask agencies for feedback. As a beginner, you need to know what your weaknesses are.
– charge a decent rate. Maybe not the rate of an experienced translator, but close to it.
– I did invest in a CAT tool and took a basic training to learn how to use it. Put this info in your C.V. A CAT tool may be a sine qua non condition for some agencies. It also depends on the industry you are targeting as a translator.
– read as much as you can about the industry. Start with the blogs of experienced translators, and see what other blogs they recommend. On so on. You’ll learn a lot.

It takes time to get started and get a steady stream of work, but it’s feasible. Be persistent!

24. kalam - May 13, 2012

I am a beginner too and find your replies very interesting and helpful !Thanks a lot i will try to follow your paths and hope i will succeed !

25. Chris - December 3, 2012

The actual situation without clichés:
– Translators are paid peanuts
– They are forced to work with buggy, very expensive CAT tools making their translations sound like robot speak
– They are paid now less than 30 years ago
– They are sort of slaves supposing to be working any time, very quickly but with a high quality level
– Their employers (agencies) know nearly nothing about translation and linguistics
– Agencies commonly buy a word 0.06 and sell it 0.2 or more

The only way out of this nightmare is to create an international/national body defending freelancers with a minimum rate (should be at least $0.12 nowadays), suitable working conditions and reasonable deadlines. In exchange for that translators should have a diploma in translation/linguistics minimum.

Kevin Lossner (@GermanENTrans) - December 3, 2012

>> The only way out of this nightmare is to create
>> an international/national body defending freelancers
>> with a minimum rate …

Yes, yes… “workers of the world, unite!” We’ve been there before and it’s unlikely to work in another round. Tell me, Chris, when international bodies for everything else can barely get their shit together over more important matters like genocide and forms of human trafficking besides translation, how are they going to mount an effective defense of rates even to the peanut level you cite? Dream on.

Nobody is “forcing” anything. CAT tools, to the extent they are needed at all, are not that costly; decent Open Source ones are available, and there are interoperable methods for working with those and the high-end tools. What is often lacking is a willingness of the translators to acquire the real skills needed to do more than flip the power switch to turn their computers on and off. Cut the “poverty cult” crap as Chris Durban calls it, and many things soon work themselves out nicely. Whether there is a God, I really can’t say, but something does indeed seem to help those who help themselves….

Jill (@bonnjill) - December 3, 2012

I couldn’t have said it better myself, Kevin. I was trying to come up with a reply, but you did it better than I did. I prefer to keep positive instead of lead newbies into the dark side.

Amenel - December 3, 2012

Chris, you are right regarding individual points of the “situation without clichés” but not regarding the whole picture.

To me, the real reason prices are low is that some accept (not that I didn’t write “offer”) them.

No monkeys who eat peanuts and peanuts can only become bananas.

Just two points.

First, Fluency does a very decent job as an alternative CAT tool. Although it’s not free, the price is miles away from “very expensive”. And it’s far from “buggy”, with some of its “correctness” stemming directly from feedback I gave. And for that, I am very proud.

Second, with respect to the degree thing, I just want to remind you that countless translators (including me) don’t have a degree in translation/linguistics. According to surveys by the SFT (France) and FIT Europe, the ratio is somewhere between 20% and 40%. Although a degree would have probably made us better translators, enforcing it as a prerequisite would effectively bar some from entering the profession. I understand the “cut the competition” motivation but it seems kind of radical to solve the low-pay problem.

If translators like me were out of the picture, would the situation be better for all the qualified translators? I doubt it. And I think the angle at which you look at the picture (rates, quality, etc…) doesn’t matter.

26. Coco - April 11, 2013

Hi Jill, I recently came across your blog and have been browsing a few of the posts. I am a relatively new translator (also German-English!) and I am pleased there’s a blog out there like yours from which I can get hints and tips about the industry. I’ll be visiting regularly. Thanks!

27. akismet-cb2c3809fd607bdab535719cc5124567 - May 1, 2013

I find the most effective approach is to email a CV to many translation agencies, such as through this service:
Most agencies like to work out of their own, internal database rather than depend on online translation job posts sites like proz.

Jill (@bonnjill) - May 1, 2013

I don’t encourage using services like this because a lot of services haven’t taken the time to actually vet the agencies and make sure they are agencies and not freelance translators. My colleagues who have accidentally ended up listed in these kinds of things are flooded with resumes, and that is not cool. It’s a better idea to actually look into the translation agency by checking out the website to make sure they work in your language and/or specialization.

28. Suzan Abdelgafar - May 28, 2013

I found your post very helpfull

29. Whitney - August 23, 2013

What is the best way to get feedback from the translation community about website and CV content? What if mine has a major flaw that I am overlooking?

Jill (@bonnjill) - August 23, 2013

Hi Whitney,
You can ask one or two people you know to review it. I think Corinne McKay also offers this as a service.

Kevin Lossner (@GermanENTrans) - August 23, 2013

I think eCPD has a presentation related to CVs, and a young Polish colleague recently released an e-book on the subject, which I looked at and found to be rather sensible on the whole. She taught a course on that through eCPD, so you can probably find all of Marta’s contact info there.

As for your website, Whitney, there is a major SEO flaw on every page, one which is quite common and which tends to be one of the biggest factors in lousy rankings for key searches of interest. You are giving up a lot by not making good use of your title tag content.

30. Annie Sapucaia - November 11, 2013

This a terrific post, thanks for writing it! Lots of useful ideas. I was wondering if you targeted to direct clients in the same ways as agencies? I find that applying to agencies is pretty straight-forward, but applying to direct clients confuses me a bit. When it comes to applying to companies you want to translate for as a freelancer, do you also just send them your resume/CL, or do you think there’s a more efficient way to do this?
Congrats on the great website!

31. Greta - October 20, 2014

Hello, thanks so much for all the details, just brilliant. I’m very new in the industry and was wondering if anyone can help me with the following: Is there a real demand for professional translations in the specific field of humanities/culture? That’s where my real strength is (background etc) but found a lot of info/demand/courses/agencies that focus on “technical – medical – scientific” translations…would scientific here include social science?..Thanks so much.

Jill (@bonnjill) - October 20, 2014

You might have to work a little harder to identify the clients who work in those fields, but there is definitely a niche for the humanities. I know translators who specialize in religion, music, wine, etc. It can be done. Good luck.

32. Alexander - November 30, 2015

Thanks a lot for this article, those are some really helpful tipps. I’m also going to have a closer look at the 2 books u recommended, never heard of them to be honest.
When I started, the thing i underestaminated most was, how important a good network is. Not only contacts to clients are important but as you said, also other translators can be a good source for new clients.

33. Khalid - January 2, 2016

Hi, all. Happy New Year. I really found all your comments interesting. I have master’s degree in translation and I am currently doing freelance translation work, but I an fully willing to do more. Therefore, how can I do that, please, that is, how to get more translation jobs/projects, noting that I am dealing with translation agencies.

Thanks & Regards,

Jill (@bonnjill) - January 3, 2016

Keep marketing yourself. That’s the best way. Just keep at it.

34. Linda - February 16, 2016

Hello Jill,

A very useful blog. Especially the the tip of the non-payment sites
I also get translation assignments from Fairlingo and gengo on a regular basis, and I always get paid via PayPal. I like that a lot, because it means I get paid quickly.



35. Oran - April 17, 2016

Trados 2015 costs in the thousands of dollars, when you can figure out what all the final costs are. How can you say that’s inexpensive? I agree with Chris.

Jill (@bonnjill) - April 24, 2016

SDL Trados 2015 Freelance costs $825.00. The more expensive versions being pushed are generally for agencies. The Professional version, which is several thousand dollars, includes features most freelancers don’t need like a project management tool, review capabilities, etc.

36. Julia_LazyLiterature - June 26, 2016

Thanks for these great tips! I have translated several novels from EN>GER and am now working on getting more work from authors themselves. The self-publishing business keeps growing. Now I just need to figure several things out:
– How to draw up a contract for American/British authors
– Answering questions about 1099 from one author who would be interested in working with me, but since she’s my first that I would be working with on my own, I need to solve many challenges first. 😉
– Fees
– Maybe gathering a proofreader, cover artist, etc. to offer those services to the authors.
Seems to be quite a bunch at the moment, but I am optimistic. 🙂
So, thanks again for this great advice!

37. Arum Rini - October 18, 2016

Thank you for posting about this. This is really helpful.

38. WOWed - October 31, 2017

Your target audience are newbies who are struggling to get their first clients, yet you go on to say that you should get a part-time job, get active on a local level, take some college courses, write a blog AND produce quality translation services for existing clients. Just wow…
Now we know nothing except for your showboating personality and achievements. Thanks for the help.

Jill (@bonnjill) - October 31, 2017

Showboating? That’s rich. Google me. I’ve been in the industry since 1995. I do not monetize my blog, nor do I offer any fee-based services here. I am merely trying to help folks break into the T&I industry based on my own experience. My “target audience” is whoever is reading this blog – it could be newbies and it could be people who switched from another industry when they retired. I’m not saying do all of it. I’m offering suggestions that people are welcome to consider and try. Also, I encouraged some of my former Kent State students to offer their suggestions in the comments, which also contain a wealth of good suggestions. But I’m showboating.

And people wonder why I don’t blog anymore. Attitudes like this are a big reason.

Kevin Lossner - October 31, 2017

Sorry, WOWed, your sort is beyond help.

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