Dear beginner


Yesterday, I received an email from a young translator who has come across the blog and asked me if I could give her some advice. The questions she asked me were:

  1. Whom or what organization should I contact to start getting work?
  2. All European agencies I have applied for require a minimum of 5 years of professional industry experience. How do I compete with that? How will they hire the graduate over the experienced translator/interpreter?
  3. Where do I need to go to network and whom should I contact to expand my professional network, especially in the freelancing world? Are there reputable forums or advertising platforms?
  4. Do you know anyone who is involved in the specialized translation of libretti or how I can possibly get work?
  5. How much is it reasonable to ask for as a recent graduate: hourly rate, half-day, full-day and travelling expenses (particular to the interpreting world) and per word or other for translation? Especially Luxembourg, Germany and Italy.

Since I know many beginners feel quite lost indeed, just like her, I decided to reply to her email with a blog post, so everyone can have access to.

Well, dear beginner, the first problem is we live not only in different countries but also in different continents, so my reality will be quite different from yours. In spite of that, I’ll (try to) answer your questions in a general way that applies to any translator in the world:

  1. I sincerely don’t know. And the only one who is able to find that out is you. First of all, you need to define what you are looking for: freelance or in-house positions, direct clients or translation agencies (or maybe both), translation or interpreting, national or international clients, field of specialization (I, for example, work with IT, and something in the engineering field would definitely not work for me) etc. After knowing what you are looking for, research, google it, read a lot of blogs, network with people on social media, join translation groups and read what they post. If you find a potential client, send your CV presenting yourself and offering your services.
  2. I have never come across such a requirement in our industry. The ones I have had contact with analyze CVs and send tests. I haven’t even heard of such a thing, but maybe, as I said, the Brazilian reality is different from the European one. The only thing I can think of, in this case, is maybe offer to take a test or make any other offer you may judge suitable for you so they can assess your quality and decide if they want to work with you.
  3. If you read Sara Colombo’s blog, you’re already on the right track. Sara is one of the most influential translators I know. I also suggest that you follow Marta Stelmaszak and Valeria Aliperta, who were both my role models in the beginning (and still are). Emeline Jamoul, Olga Arakelyan and Catherine Christaki are also great professionals who contribute a lot to our field. I could list dozens of great translator influencers, but it will also depend on who you identify yourself with. With time, you’ll find the right people. Don’t forget to follow translators from your home country and from the country where you’re living at as well, so you can have more information about your market. Please keep in mind that these people will only help you with information, not job opportunities.
    Be active on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn etc.), join groups, read a lot of what is shared on those places, talk with peers, join, join professional associations (ATA, IAPTI, ITI etc.).
  4. Unfortunately, I have no idea on how to help you with that. Again, research and talk to people.
  5. First of all, as I said, rates change from one country to another, and also from one translator to another. Rates vary a lot in our industry, and it’s quite complicated to tell you what to charge. When I started, I was offered a price and accepted it because I thought it was enough for me at the time. And it was. In the beginning, a low rate is better than nothing, at least in my opinion. With time, after doing a lot of research and talking to colleagues, I learned to set my own rate. Find translators who live in the same country as you do and ask them, if you feel it’s appropriate, that is. We usually charge per word in translation. I don’t work with interpreting, but I guess it’s per hour. As to travelling expenses, as far as I know, you charge exactly what you have spent on them.

In a nutshell, as you can see, you won’t find the exact answers you’re looking for on one person only. And you won’t find a job if you don’t keep looking. I only found my first client after two months of sending dozens of CVs every day.

Be persistent and never give up.

Some resources that may help you:
Getting started as a freelancer: how long does it take?
How to write a killer resume
Free rate calculator for translators
Searching for jobs on Twitter
Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle
15 tips on how to increase your chances when contacting translation companies
Why do translation rates vary so widely?
Should I have a profile?
Eight unusual tips for newcomers

If anyone has any other tips to give her or knows the answer to any question I didn’t know how to tackle, please feel free to comment below.

6 thoughts on “Dear beginner

  1. Only a few more hints. If you don’t have any experience nor portfolio, you can start translating as a volunteer for ONG or no-profit organizations. Just search on internet and you’ll find many organizations looking for volunteers.
    Join and/or Translators cafè and be active on them in order to build up your network.
    On these sites you can find the name of many agencies, you can partecipate to forums and meet experienced translators in your language pair(s).
    On you can find a tool telling you the medium fee (per word and per hour) for your language pair(s), it’s approximate but it’s a start. Furthermore on and Translators cafè you can search and apply for jobs.
    Many experienced translators have written books about their own experience where you can find many advices. Read them.
    Last but not the least run your own blog, promote yourself and your services.



    • Great advice, Debora!
      Thanks a lot for your contribution! 🙂
      Promoting yourself online (building your own website, creating social media profiles, writing a blog) is mandatory if you want to make youself visible.
      This subject is so extensive we could go on and on here, right?


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