The translation industry is a notoriously tough industry to get into when you first start out. If you plump for working with agencies, many ask that translators have at least 5 years’ experience before they can be added to the agency’s books. If you decide to target direct clients then you have to stand out from everybody else in the industry, including those with decades of experience. Here are some tips to consider just before launching your career and when you’re first starting out:
1) Get a degree… and use it Whether in the languages that you want to translate from, or in a subject that could ultimately become your specialism, a degree is a major advantage to translators. Having a degree in a field other than languages and translation can also work in your favour as that field could become your specialism in translation.
2) Get translator training Be it a master’s degree in translation from a university or another qualification such as the IoL’s DipTrans, some form of training in the principles and practices of translation is absolutely vital in this industry.
3) Get as much experience as you can There are several ways to gain experience in the translation industry. You could take on a translation internship (many translation agencies are on the lookout for interns for 3-12 month placements) or you could volunteer as a translator with a not-for-profit website or company requiring translation (I volunteered with Watching America a few years ago. There are a number of options out there, and the more experience you have, the better.)
4) Exposure There are many sites out there aimed at online networking, and there are a few that are specific to the translation industry. Sites like LinkedIn are more general, whereas ProZ.com and TranslatorsCafe.com are specific to the translation and interpreting industry. It’s good to have profiles and be active on these sites (e.g. posting in the forums, asking terminology questions), as potential clients often use these sites to find new freelancers.
5) Specialise While you may accept whatever job lands in your inbox when starting out as a translator, it’s best to quickly suss out what you like and what you’re good at, then focus on gaining work in that field. That way you can focus your efforts on knowing your potential source material inside out, rather than being just relatively good in many subject areas.
6) Further training Once you’ve got a foot on the ladder, make sure you keep up-to-date with professional training. There are always ways in which you can improve as a professional – after all, we all have weaknesses. Webinars are an excellent tool for improving skills. My two favourite sites for this are ProZ.com and The Alexandria Project. They both offer insightful webinars on a wide range of translation-based topics.
Are you a translator? Feel free to add your tips for getting into the translation profession in the comments section below!