By Jill Sommer
Reblogged from Musings from an overworked translator with permission from the author
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).