How to get in with translation agencies

Are you looking to expand your potential agency client base? Don’t make the mistake of firing off CVs to hundreds of general email addresses – in my experience it has quite a low success rate. If your CV does reach the project management team, you have to hope that it’s memorable, or they are looking for a translator in your exact combination and specialism the moment they receive it. Lots of translation agencies have boxes on their websites, where you can fill in your details and attach a CV to be added to their database. This again isn’t always very fruitful, as they will get hundreds of these requests. One of the best things you can do is market yourself to be visible for when a project manager is actively looking for someone.

LinkedIn is a brilliant networking tool, and as a project manager I get requests to connect from translators every day. This isn’t a bad idea – many professionals put their specialisms and language combinations in their bio, which makes it easy for me to scan through my contacts when I’m looking for a linguist. I would advise against calling yourself a student or an aspiring translator, because to me that just translates as inexperienced. I will say though, of the hundreds of translators that have requested to connect with me, I have been much more likely to connect with those that write a personalised message with their request to explain who they are, and the ones that I remember are the ones that are regularly posting on LinkedIn, marketing themselves. LinkedIn is also a great way to get recommended by translation colleagues, who might put your name forward if they are contacted for work that they are unable to take on.

Project managers also look for people on sites like Get your online profile out there as much as possible, so that you can be reached on various platforms. Fill out as much information as possible. Outsourcers won’t always have time to ask you questions back and forth for time-sensitive jobs, so if they can tell from your profile that you would be a good candidate, it would be a good start. Professional bodies such as the ITI and the CIOL also have member profiles – very useful to show that you are a committed professional, as some other sites are not regulated. Again, fill out your profile as completely as possible, so that your client can find you if they’re looking for you.

Many agencies will ask you to do a test translation before officially signing you up. Some will pay for this, others will ask it to be done for free. If you’re comfortable to do it for free, take care to make sure that it’s not too long – under 300 words should be about right. Always ask for feedback, it shows that you are committed to collaborating with them. Get the conversations about prices over with beforehand. If they won’t pay your rates, it’s better to know this before wasting any more time.

Hurrah! You’ve got over all of the hurdles, and been given some work by a reputable agency. It goes without saying that you should take extra care to research and proofread your work, and don’t let these standards slip if you become a regular. Make sure that your end work is polished, and you deliver work in the same format it was given to you. Follow all of the client’s procedures for delivering files, and most importantly, deliver by the agreed time. If you prove yourself to be good quality and reliable, they will come back.

Good luck!

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