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!



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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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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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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