Newcomers – Avoid the common pitfalls

Newcomers – Avoid the common pitfalls

When you are new to the profession you hear so much contradictory advice that you have no idea how to go about starting out. At least this was the case when I entered the marketplace. Here are 5 pitfalls to avoid at the beginning of your career as a freelance translator.

  1. You land your first project and you are over-the-moon with it as you have all your bright future ahead. The topic however is unfamiliar and seems challenging. It is a chemical document and you struggled with chemistry at school. However, you decide to take it as you don’t know when the next job will knock at your door.

    DO NOT! It may sound weird to you. How can you say no to your first big project? Well, the truth is that you should say ‘no’ – you have to! Think what is going to happen when you deliver a very sub-standard translation to the client? Will they hire you again or will you end up on the black list never to be contacted again? Ok, you would get the money for the work, however, when you think about having a career in this profession, you need to work on your reputation, which goes a long way. Therefore, you should only accept projects you are comfortable with and decline the other ones. You can always say you are booked up or play the honesty card saying you don’t feel comfortable with this topic but you will be happy to accept a document from the medical/legal/etc. sector for instance.

  2. You are trying your best, you have figured out what rates you’re happy with and despite endless effort, you don’t get any projects at your rates. You’re considering lowering your rates.

    Unless you rates are ridiculously high, you stick to what you think you’re worth! You really don’t want to work for long hours for peanuts .

           A) you need to value your work and time
           B) You would prefer to work less for more.

    Yes, It will be more difficult to find clients at the beginning, this is true, however you will get there as you develop your marketing strategies. You will be glad you stuck to your guns.

    Unfortunately, if you start very low, you are categorised as the bottom-feeder and from what I see, people who are charging peanuts stay there as it is near impossible to increase the perception of your works worth!

  3. You got a project that you feel comfortable with but the deadline is really tight? Perhaps unrealistic for you at the beginning of your career?

    Again, it is the same story as in point number 1. If you are not 100% sure you can deliver a fantastic translation, don’t take it. As they say, your reputation is only as good as your last translation. I am afraid it is true in the real world, so only take the project you can deliver 100% quality. The agency will appreciate it in the long run.

  4. Expecting work after having sent your CV to 20 agencies/companies. You may have a carefully targeted letter and strike it lucky, but there are thousands of agencies out there of varying quality, but chances are that sending your CV to 20-40 agencies won’t bring you work. If it brings you something, it will be far from enough. Be prepared, if sending CVs to agencies, to send hundreds (400-500?) of them. It does need patience and a bit of research, ‘Does this agency deal with my language combination? In the specialism I want to work in? Do I mind whether they are based locally, nationally or abroad? Is it a small agency or a multinational company?’ You need to do research to find the agencies you want to work with. Don’t forget to always negotiate your rates!

  5. You delivered a translation and you received it back from the proofreader with a lot of comments. Well, I guess it concerns not only newcomers but everybody. Do not take these comments personally. Remember you run a business and as such, need to treat all feedback as opportunity for development. When you complain to a business for not doing the job exactly how you expected, or you have a constructive feedback, did you mean it personally or were you strictly talking about the service/product? Of course you didn’t mean it personally and neither do they! We can only learn from such comments/feedback so you need swallow your pride, and if the feedback is correct – implement it!

What should you be doing then?

You should always work on your linguistic/specialisation skills, have excellent customer service, deliver only the best quality exceeding all expectations!

Good luck!