Over the years, freelance translating has experienced outstanding growth. Whereas a large number of people have adopted it as a part-time business, there is also no dearth of those who have made it their fulltime job. This mounting interest has evidently given rise to a fierce competition among translators to get hold of jobs in the translation market – a situation in which, as I guess, the competition is won 99% times by the veterans. This may become quite disappointing to, as well as a source of frustration for, many young aspirants, especially those whose hopeful eyes look towards the translation profession as a nice source for them to earn livelihood for themselves and their families. Constant job refusals may eventually force them to quit. This article is a sincere attempt to address this issue by putting forward such viable strategies that a novice translator should make use of to establish a reliable freelance business for themselves. But, prior to that, I would like to present to my newbie colleagues some general suggestions.
- Keep reminding yourself that there is no shortcut to success; constant and sincere struggle is a must for a translator, especially one who is about to start, or just have started, their freelance translation career.
- Never lose heart, come what may. Remember, every dark cloud has a silver lining, and every dark night is followed by a bright day.
- Learn from your mistakes. Remember, mistakes of today can turn into a set of useful experiences, provided you are willing to learn from them and use them to carve effective future strategies for your freelance business.
- In the early days of your translation career, be mentally prepared for the times when there might be ‘absolute’ absence of work opportunities for you. You need to stand firm in such depressing situations, recalling that, by a natural law, grief is to be followed by happiness.
- Be patient, and wait for your time.
I now turn to the strategies in the following.
- Be Active at Translation Job Portals:
You should first register with online job portals. This might have brought up in your mind the image of such general freelancing websites as Odesk and Elance. Yes??? OK, you may upload your profile on these websites and look for some small jobs, but, I would not suggest you to waste much of your time on these websites. On these job portals, you would come across a good number of professionals (or, so called professionals?) who are ready to sell themselves very cheap. The job posters also seem to be largely interested in hiring the services of the cheapest (in terms of moneyJ) freelance workers, and, for that matter, they seem ready to sacrifice quality.
The websites that I would stress you to register with, at least at the early stage of your career (and I say this because I know that, for those who are in the freelance profession for many years, and who have earned a very respectable name in translation industry, may not need to look towards these websites for professional growth), are http://www.translatorscafe.com and http://www.proz.com. On these websites, you would be looking not only to grab some jobs, but also to increase your know-how about the norms in practice, standards and variations in rates, useful tools and strategies, and how to deal with the various types of agencies. This would come in quite handy in applying for jobs and negotiating with potential clients. You should also take active part in forum discussions. This would not only help others to learn from your experiences and observations, but would also make your presence felt by your translation colleagues and agencies. Moreover, make sure that you create a comprehensive profile on these websites, and keep updating it regularly.
You may also register with the following useful website: http://www.translationdirectory.com. Though, in terms of job opportunities, this website is not as effective as the two mentioned above, but it contains a great source of articles on translation theory and practice. These would orient you to various theoretical perspectives – such as linguistic, functional, socio-cultural, etc. – and would also make you understand how these theories have been practiced by professionals and academicians alike.
- Increase your Professional Circle:
It is very important that you remain in contact with your colleagues and potential job providers. One of the ways to do so is to become a member of local chamber of commerce and be present and participate in its meetings, and attend translation seminars, workshops, and conferences. Obviously, this is possible if you are resident in a country where translation is a well-established academic discipline (or an interdisciplinary study, as some academicians call it) and profession. This is especially true of such developed countries where a plenty of immigrants reside. There are, however, countries where there is not much influx of immigrants, and hence translation needs are not felt robustly. In such countries, becoming a member of a chamber of commerce may not serve your purpose, and opportunities to attend seminars and conferences may not be available. There is, nonetheless, no need to lose heart. The World Wide Web has successfully connected people all around the world, and you can easily build a sizeable professional circle for yourself on the Internet. The website that I have found to be the most effective in this regard is http://www.linkedin.com. My personal experience is that, if you have made a complete profile on LinkedIn, and a good number of professional connections, including a few satisfied clients, you would get some direct (i.e. you do not have to apply for them) job offers through referrals, or from the visitors of your profile.
Here I would like to quote Patricia Hawkins de Medina, a veteran translator having 27 years experience in the field, who has some additional – and very effective – suggestions for the translators living in the developed countries where translation has become an established profession and industry.
“Specialise, specialise, specialise.
Become a member of a professional association. Since you have to meet certain requirements in order to gain membership, and you are then included in the association's database, serious clients will look you up there.
CPD. Continual Professional Development. Professional associations have information on or run such courses.
Take a day job (even if part-time) and start to build up your clientele, doing your translation work later in the day. Preferably, and if you can find such a job, obtain employment in a company whose business is in some way related to the area of translation in which you itnend to specialise.
An example: if you intend to specialise in the engineering, construction, fashion, food and beverage, etc. then find a job in for example in an engineering or construction company, or in the fashion or textile trade, where you will gain hands on experience of vocabulary, the "way it is said", how text needs to skewed towards a certain readership. Also, a side benefit, is that you may well gain your first clients through the company contacts.” (Taken, with the kind permission of Patricia, from a post on a LinkedIn group)
- Prepare a Comprehensive CV and keep updating it:
As you know, much depends upon your CV when it comes to be considered for a job. So, make sure that you put every relevant piece of information – skills, degrees and certificates, professional trainings and references, etc. –on your CV. Also, always remember to add every new achievement, reference, etc. The more solid looking is you CV, the more your chances are to get hold of a job.
I hope that, having adopted these strategies, you would be able to get some jobs at initial stages. But you should keep it in mind that your reputation as a translator ultimately rests upon how regular and honest you are, and what level of quality you maintain, in your work. As such, you should constantly produce a work of high quality, no matter how much more time it may consume than expected. Remember, the more pleased clients you have, the more your chances are to get better-paid and long-lasting jobs. In this capacity, they would be acting like the ambassadors of your work, recommending your services to their colleagues, and thus sending more clients to you through the word of mouth.
Finally, I wish you all the best with your freelance translation career.