From J.T.: I feel stuck with sending my resumes to agencies. No end in sight. And no jobs from those agencies, either. Your rate on return is proving true. I have an industry/business in mind that I would like to reach, but I feel as a beginning translator, my chances of convincing them to give me the job are slim. Do I need a website to look more official?
The Translator’s Aunt: Dear J.T., I know it feels like a tough slog, applying for jobs is never the fun part, and when it comes to agencies, the rate on return as I mentioned before is about 1%. So if you send out 100 CVs, you’re likely to get positive(ish) replies from about 10 agencies, but only one will actually end up sending you a job in the coming months. Therefore, if you want to focus on agency work, that means applying to thousands, and it can seem like a very daunting task.
My advice would be: 1) Polish your CV so that you send them something eye-catching and a bit more unique than the other thousands of applications they’re getting. Try Canva for a simple, user-friendly and free online design tool, and check out the webinar I gave on that topic.
2) Write a clear presentation letter which you get someone to proofread and which you can quickly and easily adapt to different agencies. When you send it, try to find the name of the person you are writing to, this will make it feel a little more personal and there’s more chance they’ll take a minute to consider your application.
3) Be systematic about contacting agencies each day, but don’t spend all your time on that either, you’ll get bored and feel demotivated. Get that out of the way in the morning, then spend the afternoon doing something more fun like volunteer translations for TedX or your favourite charity, organising networking events with the industry you’re interested in or creating your online profile.
4) To answer your main question, in theory you don’t need a website, plenty of great translators don’t have one, but then they maybe rely on other sources of work like personal networking and existing contacts. If creating a website seems daunting, just start with an online profile on ProZ or Smartcat, get a LinkedIn profile set up or a simple landing page like carrd.co or about.me. It’s good to be able to simply send people a link to your information online, it doesn’t have to be a complex website for you to look official.
So don’t give up hope! Keep sending out those CVs and building up your profile, and of course getting experience where you can. It can take a few frustrating months to get the ball rolling, but once it does, you’ll be able to afford to start getting picky about who you work with and how much you charge.