Although there are many, many advantages of working as a freelance translator, it is not always a bed of roses. Common constraints imposed on freelancer translators include the necessity of communicating with agencies and securing regular work from them.
So, what are agencies looking for in a freelance translator? This article gives you tips on what agencies expect from freelance translators and on how to survive as a freelance translator when relying on agency work.
A candidate for translation work will impress an agency with a good general standard of education. A degree is generally thought of as evidence of a good standard of education, but you should never get complacent because agencies will literally have thousands of candidates to choose from. You need to think, ‘what distinguishes me from all the other candidates?’ and convey this clearly, logically and precisely in any communications with agencies. Spend time developing your CV professionally as when dealing with an agency, you will almost certainly need a CV to summarize your skills and get your message across in the right way.
2. Practice makes perfect: updating language skills
One important thing is being able to demonstrate your skills as current, and updated. Language skills in particular can quickly get outdated. Moreover if you have not practiced your French properly in three years, you may not be as fluent as you thought you were. Language skills require regular practice, preferably in a native setting and if you can demonstrate that you understand this, you will impress.
3. The value of the native speaker
For agencies, fluency to a native speaker standard is frequently sought after, so if you are fluent in a language, why not aspire to achieve the same level of fluency of a native speaker through regular practice with native speakers.
4. Speculative application versus targeted applications
Targeted applications to an agency are so much better than speculative ones. Instead of picking 20 agencies at random, why not search resources like jobs databases to identify those agencies that are recruiting?
5. Contact details
Include a mobile number and an email address as standard. Ensure your mobile is set so that it can receive voicemail and that international roaming functions are working.
Flexibility is something that always impresses an agency. If you can accommodate smaller jobs, this will generally build trust and pave the way to bigger and more well paid tasks. An agency will be reluctant to engage you for those bigger tasks if they have absolutely no experience of working with you.
Be reliable. Always. You know why. If you can’t meet a deadline, explain this promptly and suggest an alternative course of action.
8. Contact names
When speaking to an agency for the first time, it is a good idea to get the name of the person you first dealt with, as then you won’t have to explain everything from the beginning if you have to follow up any past communications.
Planning is a skill that agencies offering translation work will be looking for. Translation work involves tight deadlines and juggling different projects at once. If you can show you are a good planner, and are organized, then you will impress an agency.
10. Coping with different time zones
If you are dealing with an agency for the first time, make sure you are aware of the pitfalls of working to deadlines within different time zones. This can be an organizational challenge, so make sure you are prepared for this and don’t make time zone mistakes. Why not get a watch which shows different time zones?
Neil Payne, formerly of Kwintessential, started off working life as a Turkish to English translator. It made his head hurt so he set up the company Commisceo Global instead. The company specialises in helping businesses “going global” through a number of localisation and translation services.