This article is a summary of a webinar I held on the Hon-yak’s discord on 5th July, 2020. The webinar was for freelance Japanese to English (and FIGS+) translators in the entertainment industry, but could apply to editors, letterers, etc., as well as to other language pairs.

It was a 40-minute long talk followed by a 20-minute Q&A. You can watch a video of the webinar here on the Hon-yaks website.

 

Let’s Get Down to Business:
Finding clients, writing cover e-mails,
and readying resumes

Finding Clients

Before you can start sending out resumes, you need to find clients.

Most of you time the first year of freelance work will probably be spent doing un-paid labor; like looking for clients, applying to companies, and completing translation tests.

Finding prospective clients can take a lot of work and time, especially when you’re starting out. It helps to be realistic that it might take 6 months to a year before you find regular clients and you’re in the black*.

(*Note: This is generally the case for people starting from scratch, especially if they’re straight from university. But of course, this varies drastically from person to person.)

So, how can you find perspective clients?!

 

Have an Open Mind and Patience

For one thing, you don’t know what will pay off, which is why it helps to tackle job hunting from multiple angles; cold-emails; applying to job ads; networking; etc.

Don’t just look for one type of translation work either, explore a variety of options. Most creative translators also do commercial translation because it pays better.

List 3-5 fields you would like to work in (and have confidence in!) Create a resume and cover letter template for each of these!

Have patience because it might take a long time before you get work from a single client.

 

Keep a Client Tracker

Before you start looking make a tracker in excel!

This should list any information you will find useful, but I recommend including at least:

  • Company name
  • Contact information (e-mail, phone, etc.)
  • Person/people of contact (and their positions)
  • Website
  • Dates sent initial email / translation test / contract etc. (reference email subject name too so you can find them later if need be)
  • Rate per moji / hour
  • Comment section (to track your own impressions/experiences etc.)

Click here to download a template Excel for the tracker!

 

Look Everywhere

Don’t just google “translation company” otherwise you will mostly get generic bottom-feeding translation agencies that will throw you into their database and you’ll never hear from them again.

That’s probably a little harsh, but I found that in general companies that offer translation services for every language around the globe, for every subject under the sun, tends to be the worst in terms of work assignment. The best agencies have specialized in language pairs and/or specialized fields, But that could have just been my personal experience.

You want to find a mixture of translation agencies and direct clients. (Remember, look everywhere!)

Here are some places you can look for possible clients:

  • Search engines – search in Japanese as well as English!
  • LinkedIn – you can find company names through other translators.
  • Credits – games
  • Social Media
  • ProZ.com
  • Network – social media, translation groups (such as Hon-yaks) etc., great place for possible opportunities!

Note: Network to make friend and learn from others, NEVER to beg for work. I recommend you DON’T ask people for company introductions.

 

Research Companies

Don’t start firing off your emails and resumes yet! You need to find out more about the company, first!

Starting with a Google search of “[company name] Blue Board”. The Blue Board is ProZ.com’s collection of reviews from translators based on companies. These tend to be very good as a translator must provide proof of a paid project with that client and evidence to back their review. However, if you’re not a paid ProZ member, you can’t see the review details, only the base score.

You also want to research the company so you know exactly what they specialize in (languages and types of translation; a person/people of contact who are in charge of new applicants (or at least can point you in the right direction.)

Looks up articles, videos, talks, etc. held by those people/companies. Besides them being great recourse for learning more, it also provides an “in” when writing cover letters. (More on this later.)

I have had random emails in the past that were clearly copy-and-paste asking me for work or offering me random language translation services from my personal website that says in the header I am a translator. They clearly hadn’t read my website so their emails were instantly thrown into spam.

 

Gather All Your Information

Gather all the research you’ve done in your client tracker. The more information you have the better equipped you’ll be for when you write your cover letter and edit your resume.

Yes, you need to change your cover letter and resume for every application you make. It could be the difference between getting a job and being thrown into spam…

 

Webinar for Freelance Entertainment Translators: Finding Clients, Writing Cover e-mails, Resumes

 

Writing Cover Letters (e-mails)

You’ve found a list of companies you want to apply to. Now, you need to prepare two things: your cover letter and resume!

Vendors, managers, and HR for agencies and companies often juggle a million things at the same time. As such, they will probably give your email a five-second scan to see if it’s worth pursuing. If the think it is, they will probably give your resume a ten-second look over.

How can you convince someone in 15 seconds that you’re worth their time?

You need to keep your email clear and concise. What do you want from them? What can you offer them?

 

Maeva Everywhere has a great article on cold e-mailing clients. (Although she suggests you include a sample rather than resume, but that’s also for legal translators.)

 

E-mail Subject

The subject of the e-mail should be clear and short. (You don’t want it to look like spam!)

Ideally list your language pairs, role, name, reason for contact. Here are a few examples:

Freelance JP-EN Translator – Bill Banks
JP>EN Manga/LN Editor – Bill Banks
【JP-EN Translator】Bill Banks – Freelance Inquiry
【JP-EN Manga Translator】Bill Banks – Translation Test Request

 

Introduction

It’s better to address the e-mail to a specific person wherever possible. A generic “Dear Sir/Madam” is a real buzz-kill.

Then briefly and politely say who you are, what you do, and why you’re emailing them.

E.g “My name is Bill Banks. I am a Japanese to English translator specializing in manga. I am looking to expand my clientele and was hoping to have the opportunity to take your manga and light novel translation tests.”

 

Main Body

First you want to say why you’re contacting them!

Have you bought their works before? Have you read essays by them or seen talks by them?

E.g “I love [Company]’s works and have been an avid reader for many years. I recently saw your talk on manga publishing at [Event] and as a manga translator found it very insightful.

I would love an opportunity to work with you.”

 

You can then expand on what you can offer them.

E.g “I currently translate roughly 2500 moji a day, or 1 volume of manga every 2 weeks, mostly working with romance and comedy, sci-fi, and fantasy. I am looking to expand into light novels.

Please see my attached resume for more information.”

In the above example I have line broken each section to make it easier for someone to skim through and pick out the key information: “2500 moji” “1 volume 2 weeks” “romance, comedy, sci-fi, fantasy” “light novel translation” “see resume”.

 

Dos & Don’t

Keep it brief! (You don’t want to write a whole essay!)

Use numbers, statistics, and clear facts that show off your abilities.

Don’t need to name drop.

Avoid long-winded sentences with useless “buzz” words.

Be honest about your capabilities but avoid using words that play down your abilities such as “although”, “just” and “only”. If you’re not confident that you can pass their test, they why did you apply?

Also, avoid sending any translation samples unless they ask you for one! Samples can make e-mails unnecessarily large (don’t send anything over 3MB). They’re also additional reading that someone might not have time for.

Don’t forget to write a brand new cover e-mail for every application!

 

End of E-mail

Finish off the e-mail with your name, contact information (e-mail), LinkedIn/website etc. This should include the e-mail address you’re sending from!

Only include professional links, and avoid social media unless you only use for professional purposes.

Webinar for Freelance Entertainment Translators: Finding Clients, Writing Cover e-mails, Resumes

 

Readying Resumes

Similar to your cover letter you will not have much time to convince someone should give you a chance. Which is why you need your resume to be tight.

Let’s say you received a resume that looks like this:

Would you spare 10 minutes of your 7-hour workday to read it all?

Traditional resumes often have the company, role, and length worked there highlighted. But why should I care what companies you worked for or what schools you went to? That doesn’t tell me anything about your experience or skill.

Traditional resumes also often have long sentences with flowering language, but again, that doesn’t mean anything to me, and doesn’t show me what you can do.

 

Freelance Translator Resumes

Resumes for freelance translators are not quite the same as resumes for in-house positions. You are trying to sell someone your skills more than show off your career experience.

Depending on your experience and the type of job you are applying to you can use either a functional or hybrid resume.

The functional resume only includes a little information so people can understand what services you provide. While a hybrid resume is a mix between functional and regular resume and is great for people moving into translation from a related field.

 

Functional Resume

Functional resumes tend to only be a page long, only listing experience relevant to the job you’re applying to.

It’s a way to sell your skills rather than show off your knowledge.

At the top you want your name in large font, as well as your language pairs, specializations (if any), and years’ experience (if applicable).

You then have sections for the following:

  • Translation & Editing (or interpreting) – you don’t need years!
  • Tools & Equipment / Software, hardware, references (dictionaries etc.)
  • Education & Certificates – keep this brief!
  • Professional Development – shows you’re always working on craft
  • Interests – a client may search keywords in a database, including interests means your resume is more likely to pop up.

Make sure to include your contact information clearly in the footer.

Similar to the cover letter you want to include clear numbers and statistics that show off your abilities. As well as mentioning specialized subjects.

Put the most important information where it will be read first.

E.g When applying to a manga company you want to put manga experience first. Followed by related fields such as anime and video games.

Here’s an example based on my experience: J.ODonnell JP-EN Game Manga Anime Translator (Functional)

 

Hybrid Resume

How let’s look at hybrid resumes. As I mentioned, these are great for people who have moved or are moving from an industry into translation.

I personally like having these sections in a hybrid:

  • Key Achievements – change these depending on the job
  • Translation & Editing (or interpreting) – don’t need years!
  • Tools & Equipment / Software, hardware, references (dictionaries etc.)
  • Soft Skills
  • Professional Experience – include years if relevant field
  • Education & Certificates – keep this brief!
  • Professional Development – shows you’re always working on craft
  • Interests – a client may search keywords in a database, including interests means your resume is more likely to pop up.

Here’s an example of a hybrid resume, using the same information as the above functional resume: J.ODonnell JP-EN Game Manga Anime Translator (Hybrid)

You can download a template for a hybrid resume here (which you can adjust into a functional resume if need be): Translator Resume Template (Hybrid)

 

Further tips

Formatting comes down to a matter of personal style. I looked on Google for example resumes and picked layout, fonts, and colors that I liked to craft my own. I recommend you do that same.

As I’ve mentioned a few time, you want to prepare slightly different resumes based on type job applying for. So make sure your prepare a variety of base-resumes which you then want to edit for each job.

Don’t just call your resume, “Resume”! Again, clients have a million files they’re juggling so proper naming is important for your resume to not get lost. E.g Japanese – English Manga Translator Bill Banks

Proofread your resume and cover letter! Check the information matches between them.

Send pdf files, not word as formatting can get messed up.

If you apply to Japanese companies then it’s worth translating your resume into Japanese. If you’re not confident with your Japanese ability then hire an English to Japanese translator to do it for you. There are plenty in the translation community!

Whether you linked your LinkedIn or not, it’s the go-to checker to make sure someone is a real human. So make sure the information in your resume reflects the information on LinkedIn.

This is also why it’s good to write articles about your fields of interest and post them on LinkedIn or on a website.

 

This turned into a wall of text, but feel free to comment below if you have any follow up questions and I’ll try and get back to you asap!

 

Webinar for Freelance Entertainment Translators: Finding Clients, Writing Cover e-mails, Resumes