This is a guest post by Tom Robinson, digital marketing and communications executive at translate plus, a Global Top 50 language services provider by revenue, offering a full range of services, including translation, website localisation, multilingual SEO, interpreting, desktop publishing, transcription and voiceover, in over 200 languages. All this is complemented by cutting-edge language technology, such as i plus®, translate plus’ secure cloud-based TMS (translation management system).
Working as a freelancer in any industry can be tough. Lots of competition, hours upon hours spent conversing over e-mail and that work life/personal life balance thwarted. But once you get there and stay there it’s an extremely rewarding career. Trust us, we know. And we know because we work with hundreds of freelance translators every day. We’ve seen them come and we’ve seen them go. The ones that stay, prosper because they know what it takes to become an agency’s favourite freelancer.
We’ll discuss how they do this and what an agency like us look for in its freelancers.
First and foremost we only work with translators that meet the minimum criteria set up by bodies like the Institute Of Translation and Interpreting (ITI), ProZ.com and relevant translation degrees from respected universities. So tip #1 would be, get the accreditations and qualifications, as most, if not all agencies will require its freelancers to meet them – it’s just good practice, don’t you think?
What an agency will look for
-Deadlines are never too far from the mind of a freelancer. So know your deadlines and stick to them. If you can’t, then let the agency know well in advance. Being responsive will make the process easier – be available for follow up phone calls and Skype chats for example.
-Keep in contact with the agency you’re working with. Good communication skills are essential for any job, in pretty much any industry. So keep the agency updated with you progress or notify them of any possible delays. This’ll help to keep things moving and make you appear reliable and open.
-The turnaround of most translation jobs is fast, agencies are always juggling high-volume projects so being a responsive freelancer will benefit not only you but also the end-client. A job well done for the punter in need of translation, will be a job well done for the freelance translator – it could even lead to more work and notoriety.
-Honesty is the best policy. Another tip is to be honest with what you can offer an agency. We value someone who knows their limits. Play to your strengths, but acknowledge your weaknesses and be open about them. If you specialise in something in particular be sure to let the agency or client you’re working with know. Most of all, do not be afraid to recognise your mistakes – its better in the long run to flag them up early.
-A willingness to improve is a great trait and one that will get you seen, heard and considered for more jobs, more often. Agencies value someone who is willing to learn from their errors and who can understand different requirements while adapting to them.
-Keeping up-to-date with your field’s developments will benefit both your reliability and aptitude to do the job. Dedication to the field we’ll call tip #13. You can do this by participating in relevant courses and attending conferences etc.
The importance of networking
Although they are your competition in a way, it’s always worth speaking to other freelancers in similar industries as you. This in turn could lead to more work should a translator you’ve befriended become too busy and recommend you to an agency.
Networking is a great way to get your name and portfolio out there. Often than not agencies hold networking events for freelancers to attend and these are great ways to meet new people. Agencies also encourage freelance translators to join bodies where you can tutor other translators in order to grow.
So the next time an agency you’ve worked for in the past invites you to a BBQ or a small get-together to celebrate the launch of a new product or service, go and make the most of it – might just be worth your time.
Stand out from the rest
You can stand out from the others if you possess good technical knowledge. For example, know the basics of Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools. They’re used by well over 250,000 translation professionals so a good grasp of what they are and how to use them could certainly come in handy. If you didn’t already know CAT tools provide a range of sophisticated features to help you complete projects more quickly and easily.
Moreover, in this digital age we live in it’s astute to have an online presence.
Be active on social media, write a personal blog and share your body of work. Agencies look out for this and you have more chance of being noticed and considered for upcoming jobs if you appear proactive.
Follow agencies on social media and interact with them online. We network with our freelancers via social media on a regular basis. It’s a great way to keep in touch and apprise each other of any forthcoming events which might convert a good opportunity for all involved.
Being respectful and helpful – applies to life in general really – is a sure-fire way to get yourself in an agency’s good books. Clients-alike will value someone who is respectful and professional towards its employees and who uses positive language and is always willing to help.
Have fun. Freelancing can be stressful at times, like all jobs and the uncertainty of work as a freelancer can sometimes be the hardest challenge. So have fun, enjoy what you do and revel in the company of the people you work with.
Finally, being passionate about translation is essential and our tip #59. We highly value someone who is as passionate as we are about languages and translation. Get all these things right and you could be on your way to becoming an agency’s favourite freelancer.