From J.V.: Recently, I was added as an EN>ES contributor in two agencies, however, I rarely receive invitations from them. The thing is that agencies actually seem to be interested in my profile but I’m afraid that my language pair is overwhelmed nowadays. Not to mention that I am a psychologist and such a field is not highly demanded. Fortunately, I have worked in marketing agencies so I’ve got an additional “field experience” that is more known and demanded. What do you think it is the best step? To be patient and wait? Do some free top-notch translation work?
The Translator’s Aunt: Dear J.V., being patient and waiting is certainly a virtue in some circumstances but it’s not going to get you far in the world of freelancing! On the contrary, you must be pro-active. You cannot count on just a couple of agencies to fill up your work-load. I’ve been accepted into the databases of over 100 agencies (after sending CVs to over 1,000) but only a handful actually send me work on any kind of regular basis. As I always say, expect a 1% return, so to get another agency to start sending you work, start applying to at least 100 new ones – today!
Having a specialisation or two is great, focus on that rather than trying to be a generalist since your language combination is not a rare one. Display your experience in these fields on your online profiles. If you haven’t done so already, create a simple website or landing page to showcase your business, then tell everyone you know what you do, and start targeting direct clients. Who do you want to be translating for? Marketing agencies? Academic researchers in the field of psychology? Define them, list them, find their contact details, reach out to them on LinkedIn, go out and meet them at conferences and business events, set yourself a schedule each and every day to do this, even if it’s just 30 mins of your time.
And as for doing free work, I’m all for it as long as: 1. It’s something you’re passionate about, you believe in, an area you want to work in; 2. You can get a reference for this work, showcase it, use it to promote your skills. If you’re feeling stuck, I personally believe that volunteer work is more rewarding and less demeaning than doing boring translations for peanuts. But don’t do more than a couple of free projects, and don’t advertise this as ‘volunteering work’ on your profile or CV. It’s a legitimate experience that shows your skills to potential clients.
Keep at it, don’t give up hope, work on growing your business and you’ll be reaping the rewards in a few months’ time.