How much experience is enough?

From L.C.I’m currently creating a database with translation agencies and most of them only work with translators with +5 years of experience. I know I could acquire experience by working for non-profit organizations, but still my enquiry is: is it a total waste of time contacting those agencies if I know I don’t meet their requirements? Is it wise to totally cross them out of my database, or does your experience tell you it’s still worth trying? Are they really that strict as they make it out to be? I’m asking this because I feel I’m wasting my time researching said type of agencies.


The Translator’s Aunt: Dear L.C., That’s a good question, and you’re right, many of the better translation agencies will indeed ask for a number of years’ of experience in the hope of getting more serious translators to work with them. I think it’s therefore a way of picking out the more serious agencies which work with more experienced translators, and thereby hopefully don’t offer the lowest rates or have high turnovers. How strict they are will depend on the agency, all I can tell you is that I started working with all my agencies having had less than 5 years’ full-time experience.

Whether they’ll consider your application will largely depend on their current needs: do you have a language combination and/or area of expertise which they’re short of? This is often not something you can find out unless you call them and have a chat with a PM, but if you’re applying to hundreds of agencies you probably don’t have time to do this! So my advice would be to add them to your mailing list – you’ve got nothing to lose. Then, if you don’t get an answer, just keep contacting them and applying at least once a year with an updated CV to show the progress you’ve made, and that you’re serious about your craft and wanting to collaborate with them.

You never know where the first or next job will come from, but you shouldn’t expect a positive reply the first time you contact anyone.  It will often take a good few contact attempts to set up a collaboration, so it may take a bit longer than you anticipate but you shouldn’t give up!



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