to wonder how to get the experience I need to become a freelance translator?

(29 Posts)
mrshudson221b Wed 24-Feb-16 20:39:40

Hi
I am planning to sit the Institute of Linguists' Diploma in Translation - Italian into English - next January and if I pass the first time (as apparently loads of people don't shock), French into English in January 2018.

I know it takes a while to get going as a freelance translator, but I am wondering how I am even going to break into it. Have been hunting high and low for voluntary translations on the internet but have only managed to leave my details with a few websites that organise free translations (mainly for charities). I don't think it will come to much, also because the languages they seem to need tend to be less "run of the mill".

So if you make money from translating I am wondering how you started and what tips you might have. I know that translating internships are one way in, but at 47 I don't think I am the kind of person agencies are looking for as an intern.

Perfectlypurple Wed 24-Feb-16 20:45:44

I don't translate but the police use home office approved translators. May be worth enquiringly with the home office what you have to do. I think you get given texts to translate. Also we use language line and ring a translator through them if needed.

allegretto Wed 24-Feb-16 20:50:44

I used to translate Italian to English but gave up as I no longer had the time with kids. Accept all the work you can at first from agencies but you need to network and find your own clients as soon as you can. It helps if you can specialise eg law or engineering rather than just general language.

allegretto Wed 24-Feb-16 20:52:48

Also don't do work for free! It is hard enough for professional translators without people undercutting them!

TheAussieProject Wed 24-Feb-16 20:53:35

Have a look into the MOOCs (Coursera, EdX, POK), Ted, ....
The difficulty sits that you are translating Italian into English and not vice-versa.
Otherwise just select an Italian tourist destination, browse the hotels and offer to translate their website for free as part of your studying diploma. Or select a cause you like, look for an Italian equivalent and contact them directly.

FetchezLaVache Wed 24-Feb-16 20:57:33

I'm a freelance translator <waves>

Not going to dress it up, it's hard to break into. Agencies are reluctant to entrust anything important to people with no track record. You're doing the right thing trying to find voluntary translations. Also, as Allegretto says, networking is very important- I've got a lot of work that way.

Feel free to message me if you would like to pick my brain!

mrshudson221b Wed 24-Feb-16 21:05:10

Thanks for your suggestions - will look up the Home Office and Language Line.

The free translations are for the aid sector and restricted mainly to that I think (these sites would use only volunteers) - and some of them ask for qualifications and experience as well.

The problem is not undercutting professionals as I would love nothing more than to be able to charge, but how to get any work from agencies etc in the 1st place as they all ask for 2 to 5 years of experience. I am wondering what people do before they even get to the stage of being able to charge for work.

Mistigri Wed 24-Feb-16 21:07:37

Translation agency work as a proof reader/ quality manager. DH has built up a very successful specialist translation business, and he got into it this way. Brush up your MS Word and proof reading skills, buy and learn the main translation software packages if you haven't used them already, and be prepared for a year or two of low paid graft.

You should not need to work for nothing. DH has never done an unpaid translation job in his life ... And he routinely bids up / refuses work if it's not paid well enough.

The big agencies get a lot of bad press but as long as you are competent and businesslike (never over-promise; always deliver on time; meticulously follow client document standards, which can differ significantly between organisations), and you always check the source and the rate carefully before you take the job, then they are actually pretty OK to work for.

mrshudson221b Wed 24-Feb-16 21:08:34

Missed your messages Aussie and Fetchez Thanks for your ideas. Yes I do get the impression it's a difficult career to get off the ground. Thanks for your messaging offer Fetchez smile.

Mistigri Wed 24-Feb-16 21:10:54

And yes, a specialisation helps. DH does medico-legal, there is a lot of work for specialist medical translators especially if you can tackle very technical material.

mrshudson221b Wed 24-Feb-16 21:13:14

Thanks Mistigri. Can I ask what areas your husband's business specialises in?

mrshudson221b Wed 24-Feb-16 21:13:58

Oops x post.

mrshudson221b Wed 24-Feb-16 21:19:19

(I was thinking of doing social sciences and literature as my 2 exam specialisations but they might not be as marketable as the other possibilities - which are technology, business, science and law. What do you think?)

Mistigri Wed 24-Feb-16 21:25:50

mrsh he's a one-man band (sole trader type arrangement; we're in France) and does mainly medical and pharma, plus associated legal stuff.

He does mostly agency work simply because it's so much easier from the marketing and admin point of view (no cold calling or chasing unpaid invoices - the agencies may not pay top dollar, but he has found them to be very reliable payers).

Mistigri Wed 24-Feb-16 21:33:56

And re specialisations, I'd say that law and possibly technology would be the most marketable of those. I'm thinking back to DH's early days, before he built up a regular specialised clientele, and a lot of the work offered was legal and/ or commercial, plus some technology-type work - patents, operating manuals for industrial machinery, that sort of thing. It is a less well paid than medical though because there is a lot of competition from translators who claim (sometimes wrongly - have seen some clangers!!!) to be capable in these areas. However, if you are a really good legal and specialised technical translator, there is money to be earned - a good reputation means you can push up your rates, and if you are skilled and knowledgeable in a particular area then you will work quicker ( this is very important if paid per word).

mrshudson221b Wed 24-Feb-16 21:46:48

Thank you for your long post misti. Am going to mull over all of it. I had chosen literature and social sciences because I think they are closest to what I "know". The fear I have about the others is that you have to have degree type knowledge in them. I just don't feel that I am proficient in any of those areas. However literature all well and good but apparently the possibilities for translation work in that sphere are pretty limited.

Thanks again.

Mistigri Wed 24-Feb-16 21:50:18

Unfortunately the most interesting translation work is also the thinnest on the ground sad

If writing is strong point then how about law plus one of your two favoured areas?

figureofspeech Wed 24-Feb-16 22:53:34

I used to work for a law department that regularly used translators to translate legal documents. Find out if there is a separate qualification you need to translate legal documents. That would be another string to your now so to speak.

a1992 Thu 25-Feb-16 05:45:57

What about for authors, I know quite a few translate their books into other languages. So you could try approaching publishers or indie authors

RicStar Thu 25-Feb-16 06:39:45

www.translatemedia.com/careers/how-to-become-a-translator/

This might be a helpful read its a very practical guide.

DragonRojo Thu 25-Feb-16 07:48:10

I am in charge of external resources at a London based agency, by that I mean translators and interpreters. Agencies do take interns, regardless of age, and the fact that you translate into English is good. There aren't enough specialised English translators around. The important thing for us is the specialisation. There's no money in literature. The best paid ones are Finance, Banking, Pharma and Legal. Learn to use a CAT tool and register with Proz. The CAT tool market is still dominated by SDL so if I were you, I would get a starter licence of Studio 2015 and get practising. It is hard to get into this profession, but if you are well specialised, you can do it. Offer a variety of services: proofreading, review, editing and register with lots of agencies. If a PM contacts you, answer really quickly. If you don't, they will contact the next person within a few minutes. Their productivity is measured that way. Good luck! It is a beautiful profession. Feel free to PM me if you wish

DragonRojo Thu 25-Feb-16 07:54:15

Also, keep an eye on the free networking opportunities: SDL seminars, ITI events, GALA... Anywhere where you can meet potential clients and pass on your card. Your card should mention you specialisations. The Vendor Manager needs to see that quickly when browsing through cards

mrshudson221b Fri 26-Feb-16 15:02:58

Thank you very much for the most recent posts. Thanks for all the great advice.

With regards to the specialisation, I am bit scared of trying to specialise in something like law or medicine as my knowledge of those things in English is pretty scant.... Wouldn't agencies be looking more for lawyers who have become translators - or people with legal experience of some kind?

Mistigri Fri 26-Feb-16 15:21:54

You need to have a reasonable grasp of legal language, plus some knowledge of the structure of the legal system in the country concerned. It's mostly just terminology, though it depends a lot on the type of translation work - translating court judgments is much harder than translating a simple contract (the latter should be within the grasp of any good translator with some commercial experience and access to google).

OTOH I don't know what level of expertise would be required by your course, so I would talk to your tutors about it. What was your first degree, and what did you do before you retrained as a translator? You may find that as an older entrant with (presumably) quite extensive work experience, you have a big advantage in the job market over younger translators who have little business or commercial experience outside translation. DH worked in the NHS and then as an accountant in France before becoming a translator and this has been very advantageous for him.

mrshudson221b Fri 26-Feb-16 17:13:19

I will talk to the course tutor about it. My work experience is not that extensive (sadly! and partly why I want to do something which is more "professional" now) and includes many years as a SAHM as well as admin, teaching English as a foreign language and primary school teaching assistant work. I am also interested in counselling but doubt that there is much scope for that kind of translation. I do love language in general and find translation itself a kind of meditative process (I am sure this is not so much the case with the pressure of deadlines!).

My degree (which was kind of a catastrophe but that's the subject of another thread) was in history and politics...

I take your point that a specialisation could be developed through reading etc...

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