Towards the end of my MA in Theory and Practice of Translation I attended a Q&A session held by a translation agency in London. Their Q&A sessions was a way to improve the quality of the relationship between translators and agencies by talking to people new to the industry. This is a summary of working with translation agencies as advised by a translation agency.
You would think much of this is common sense and yet as an agency they had a lot of problems daily with their translators, and as a translator I have experience similar problems with poor quality communication from agencies.
Translation from the Agency’s Point of View
Translation agencies can get hundreds of e-mails from freelance translators looking for work. As most agencies are quite small it takes a lot of time to sort through all the e-mails to find good translators.
They also have issues with scammers who will copy real translators CVs off the internet, and when they get work, send the translation to China or India for a cheap, quick and low quality translation. Meaning they do not work but reap the profits.
Due to these reasons it is difficult for an agency to find the time to work through all the e-mails and vet out fraudsters compared to real translators. As a resultmany emailed applications will get ignored. The best thing to do when sending an application to an agency is to meet them at a networking event, hand in your CV by hand, or phone them; show them you’re a real person and make a personal connection.
Some Advice for Getting Hired by Agencies
Having accreditation (certified proof) of your ability to translate is also highly desired (due to low quality beginners, and fraudsters). This means getting a degree or working with an association to earn a translation certificate.
Try and have a few specialist subjects. These can be in areas you work well in, enjoy and/or are interested in. It’s hard to know what your speciality is as a beginner if you haven’t worked with translation much. But it helps to focus on what you’re interested in and inform agencies, when you talk to them, the areas you wish to work in.
Flexibility is important. Some translators don’t like working out of hours (after 5/6pm and at the weekends), but if you have flexibility and are willing to work during the times others aren’t then you’ll have an edge.
Formatting skills are valuable. This means doing translations that can’t just be put through a machine translation, but ones that will need formatting in word, such as charts, graphs and hand written documents. Translators will avoid these due to the extra time spent formatting, but offering formatting skills will give you another advantage.
Advice for Working with Agencies
Agency’s expect a certain standard. Sloppy does not get repeat business. It’s common sense really, but a pitfall many fall into. Agencies will proofread work, but they don’t want to have to proofread something that hasn’t been proofread already.
Once you’ve finished a translation don’t be in a rush to send it off right away.Take the time to read it, maybe give it to someone else to read through.
An agency will expect at least 2000 words from a translator in an 8 hour day. The best translators in their specific fields can get up to 8,000 words done. Some people with higher experience and more speed will sometimes charge less per hour for this reason, as they can make up the pay by getting jobs done faster.
You must be punctual and meet deadlines. This is another one that’s common sense but can be undermined by beginners. This feeds in a lot with the next point but being able to respond to messages quickly, and meeting deadlines is important. Just because you can get a job done in a day don’t leave it to the last minute!
When you tell an agency you can do a job they assume you’re working on it from the moment they give it to you. If you cannot start it until the next day or the day after but are sure you can get it done by the deadline then tell the agency. They’re not going to stop giving you work just because you can’t start working on it right away. But it does allow them to come up with a backup if something happens and you can’t get it done.
Communication is key. Being easily reachable is very useful to an agency. If you know you’re not going to be near your email then set up an out-of-office automated response. If you can’t get a job done after you’ve accepted it let the agency know right away!!!
Make sure you eat well, get exercise, and human interaction. Freelance translation means a lot of time spent indoors on your computer. As a result translators can easily get depression and health problems from sitting down all day.
- Apply to agencies by phone or in person rather than e-mail.
- Get accredited in translation, or at least your speciality.
- Have a few specialities you’re good at/enjoy working with.
- Have flexible working hours.
- Formatting skills & typing speed/word per hour speed
- Sloppy work means no repeat work. If you’re unsure of a translation double check it! Proofread your work and get others to proofread it.
- Be punctual and meet deadlines.
- Communicate with the agency (especially if you can’t get a job started right away, or finished in time)
- Eat well, exercise and socialise.
Do you have your own advice for people new to the translation industry who want to work with agencies?
What has been your experience working with translators/agencies/clients?