Many budding translators usually struggle to get into the professional world. They always admit that the transition from school to the field is far from being easy, although they believe they may have mastered the art of translation. Maybe it is “simply” a matter of approach. Indeed, one may be as good as St Jerome and still not be able to find their way into the professional circles. The 6-step approach outlined below can help several beginning translators break into the fantastic world of extraordinary linguists.
1. Get online
In today’s world viewed as a global village (or marketplace), people from different places can meet through this magical space called the Internet. Although “getting” online is now part of many people’s daily routine, we need to emphasise on certain key points: how do people know you are a translator? How do they get in touch with you and request your services? Why should they trust you? How do they pay you? Complex questions, simpler answers… First, launch a website or blog, displaying relevant information (diplomas, certifications, internships, strengths, values, contact information, value proposition). Then, make this virtual vitrine easy to find. Create a profile on translation platforms (Proz, TranslatorsCafe, TranslationDirectory, etc.) and update it frequently, adding the most valuable information that will make you more “trustworthy” as a translator.
Create a profile on the major social media platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) and link them to your website/blog (this will help your site ranking). Be proactive on these social media (post, share, comment, reply), leveraging the best features that characterise each of them:
- LinkedIn: professional connections, large-scope networking, industry news
- Facebook: large number of contacts, viral pattern
- Twitter: fast connection, easy interactivity, real-time updates
It is good to have updated online profiles displaying your most advantageous points, but it is more effective to drag people to these profiles and let them spread the word about your skills. Draw a list of leading bloggers in the industry (Catherine Christaki, Paul Sulzberger, Corinne McKay, Marta Stelmaszak, Tess Whitty, Paul Filkin, the Jenner Sisters, just to name a few) and follow them. Suggest topics, comment on articles, and/or ask for clarification. Most of the time, article authors reply to their readers’ comments and share a bit of their expertise. Remember to include a link to your website in the comment form (but not affiliate links) or sign in to the said blog with any of your social media account. But make sure your comments are interesting and to the point, otherwise they will be deleted by the website administrator (especially when they look more like spams).
4. Get Experience
This sounds like a Gospel truth: experience matters. Translation is no exception to the rule. Because translation and related sciences are powerful business catalysts, business owners like their projects to be handled by experienced linguists. Most of them are reluctant to entrusting their multilingual print ad campaigns or web documentation to newly-graduated translators. So, newbies are always frustrated and wonder how they could become experienced if they are never given a chance to show what they are capable of. If this is your case, consider the various possibilities below:
- Volunteer as a translator to NGOs and similar organisations (the UNV programme is perfect for this).
- Apply to translation companies (especially because most of them get your translations reviewed by in-house revisers).
- Request testimonials for any successful tasks completed and include them into your portfolio (both Proz and LinkedIn offer such a feature).
- Handle any project as a new challenge and work hard to complete it successfully.
- Keep on applying for new opportunities even if you have several permanent clients.
- Manage your “famine” period as an occasion to refine your marketing strategy (check out Nicole Y. Adams’ The Little Book of Social Media Marketing for Translators) and carry out continuous professional development (CPD) activities.
5. Build Reputation
Have a look at the industry. Since you started out in the profession, what problems seem to have remained unsolved? Whenever you discover pitfalls of specific software, practices that still prove ineffective, or ways and means to boost productivity among your profession, write them down as personal notes. Use these as the basis for guest posts, podcasts, or practical guides. Share tips through a variety of media/platforms (including Slideshare, Scribd or Prezi) and link your files back to your website/blog. Make all your productions interconnected and easily accessible. Share them among your email and social media contacts and let them spread the word.
6. Assess Yourself
Always self-assess your progress and, by so doing, be as sincere as possible. From the starting point, have you gone that far? (Don’t stop building capacity) What have you learned along the way? (Keep sharing your knowledge) What mistakes have you made and how can you avoid them in the future? (Refine your procedures and strategies) Give back to the community (Be humanist). Support a cause and let others benefit from your expertise, wealth or both.
Sure, there may be other ways of boosting a translator’s visibility. Feel free to share your own experience through comments.
Carlos Djomo: French technical translator and language consultant with a diversified experience, Carlos has been providing translation, editing, DTP and copywriting services to numerous clients around the globe. He also took part in the collaborative book project The World in Words, by TradOnline Books. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.