Some personal heartfelt tips for newbies


It’s probably due to the upcoming (Brazilian) holidays and the World Cup, but it’s been raining projects here! Totally crazy! Because of that, I started looking for some trusted partners to help me. That’s where the entire saga begins!

First of all, I don’t trust unknown people. So, no, I will not trust translations my precious clients send me to people I’ve never seen before in my life. My first move is to ask for referrals from translators I trust and translation professors. This should work perfectly, right? Well, unfortunately, no! I’ve already received referrals of people who were the best students in class, but who, in the end, ended up being a total disappointment (well, and I wasn’t the best student in class myself, so I guess that doesn’t say much really). Others so-called translators were so busy teaching that did not have time to accept projects. Go figure! I even started losing faith and giving up on trying to find good professionals to help me – well, I still have trouble doing so, but at least I’ve found one or two worth the try.

So here goes some heartfelt tips for those who are trying to establish themselves in the translation market:

  • You are either a translator or a teacher. If you really want to become a professional translator, you should risk refusing classes to free up some available time for possible translation offers. Yes, I know you have to pay your bills. However, if you fill up your time with classes, when you are offered a translation project, chances are you won’t have time to accept it. And in the beginning, it’s crucial that you accept as many projects as possible to make yourself available and visible. Try working as a teacher for some time, save some money and use these savings to gradually stop teaching. Otherwise, it’s going to be a vicious circle and you will never have the time to start as a translator.
  • Invest on it. If you’ve graduated on engineering, but later find out that translation is your call, yes, the best thing to do is take an under-graduate course in translation. If you already have a degree in translation, consider taking a post-graduate course. If you already have both, why not take some short courses, CPDs (Continuing Professional Development), attend conferences and other events on the field? Do whatever suits you, but keep learning!
  • You should always do your best when translating, but your first projects are even more important. First impressions are crucial. If you mess up on your very first project, your chances of losing that client are huge. So fully dedicate yourself to your first projects.
  • As already pointed out on my last weekly post, always be sincere with your client, even if – and especially if – it’s your first project. If after accepting the project you find out the text is more technical than you thought it would be and you’re having trouble with it, tell the client. Are you facing some personal problems that are affecting the quality of your work? Spill the beans to the client and try to find a solution together. It’s better coming clean than delivering a low-quality translation and getting a bad reputation.
  • Accept feedback and learn from them. Discuss it with the proofreader if you don’t agree with something. If you’re right, great! If you’re not, she/he will explain why not and you’ll learn more. Don’t ever consider yourself an expert. You may work for 2, 5, 10, 30 years as a translator, but you’ll always have something to learn.
  • Unless you already get a direct client – and even so -, be realistic about your rates. Do some research, ask your colleagues and friends who are already established professionals, check professional associations in your country to see if they have a suggested price list, analyze the client’s offer – if any. If you still don’t have a good portfolio of clients, you won’t get anywhere by insisting on unrealistic rates. Start low (as in any profession) and steadily and reasonably increase your rates. The same holds true the other way around: don’t charge an extremely row rate. Read more about rates here.

If none of these tips work for you, chances are you are in the wrong profession. After all, the only reason for working hard and not getting good results is that maybe you were not born for it.

Would you add any other tips to the list? Are you a newbie and would like to give your opinion?

7 thoughts on “Some personal heartfelt tips for newbies

  1. Lovely to hear about being busy, Caroline! I am happy for you and totally understand your need to write this post because I have been through the same process. I agree with all the tips given and especially “Accept feedback and ***learn*** from them”. I would definitely add: 1. Know thyself, 2. Be honest with the person that gives you the job and let them know if there’s something you don’t understand about the translation they have outsourced or assigned to you, 3. If the translator or client that gave you the job doesn’t give give you feedback, kindly ask for it especially in the beginning of your career.


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