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!



Subtitling Swing

From V.R.: I am quite active in the swing scene (lindy hop, a jazz dance from de 1920-40s) and I love reading blogs about the culture, the music, and so on. I would like to start translating and subtitling Swing-based blogs and podcasts and offer my services to those websites/blogs/youtube channels. But I didn’t study anything related to language professionally speaking, I am in fact an engineer. I would like to know which courses or what type of education do you find important to have in order to be able to translate and actually charge people for doing so. I’ve already translated some interviews and subtitled a couple videos for a friend, but I can’t see how to charge people for doing so. What’s your advice?

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What’s next…?

From A.S.: I’m struggling with finding new companies to send my CV to. I’ve sent out several hundred e-mails to different companies, and the result was… well, uncertain. A major number of recipients just hadn’t responded at all, some responded with rejection, some – with “we’ll call you back” and only very few are sending me 2-3 tiny assignments a month. As I plan to make translation my main job and source of income, such ratio is undoubtedly unacceptable. I’m literally running out of companies to write to in my area of specialisation. A Google search can only yield a certain amount of contacts. Once I work through them… what’s next?

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Next step forward

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?

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The traditional way

From T.T.: Would you recommend contacting clients in a traditional way, e.g. handing out a leaflet, phone call, etc.?

The Translator’s Aunt: Dear T.T., there’s no globally right or wrong way to contact potential clients, the right approach for one client might be the completely wrong one for another! And crucially, you also need to find an approach that’s right for you. Just because some translators love being active online and spend their time on social media interacting with potential clients doesn’t mean that you have to join Twitter and do the same.

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No replies…

From A.R.Some direct clients and agencies ask me to do a trial translation, but rarely get back to me. Should I ask them for the result?

The Translator’s Aunt: Dear A.R., a lot of agencies will indeed ask for a test translation, this is part of their standard hiring procedure, and personally, I have always done them in the past but set a limit of about 300 words. If you don’t jump through this hoop, the agency is unlikely to consider your application. They should however always get back to you, even if it’s just to let you know whether or not you’ve passed.

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Facing fears

From S.R.: How can I handle the fear I feel when looking for the direct clients, for example, fear that I cannot satisfy their needs? 

The Translator’s Aunt:   Dear S.R., beginning a new career, a new activity, working with new people, those are almost always nerve-racking experiences. So first of all, tell yourself it’s normal, and that it’s good to feel a bit of adrenaline.

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Feeling stuck

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?

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Fighting fatigue

From M.P.: I have problems with fatigue when I am translating something (as is almost always the case) that is boring or that is written in an ambiguous way that requires a lot of mental work to analyse. I find I cannot go more than 15 minutes without a break, and then the problem is ending the break and getting back to the miserable translation task. I find that I can get back to the translation task easier, and continue with it a few minutes longer, if I have spent my break time doing something stimulating, such as deciphering ancient manuscripts or papyri. What would be your advice? 

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