How I became a Translator – Part 3
In Part 2 of this blog post series, I explained how I nailed my first freelance translation project and how one thing led to another and I found myself with enough work to survive.
In this third and last post from this series (conveniently entitled “How I became a Translator”. In case you missed Part 1, read it here), I want to shed the light on the fact that even if it only took me seven months to establish my client base, it was still a challenge for me (just like it is for every other freelance translator), to make sure my clients keep sending me work, or at least to always have work.
Seven months after graduation and I was already gaining a lot of experience, working on several projects in several translation fields. Things were going great for me and I enjoyed working from home a lot. I also enjoyed being my own boss and not having to drive to my office or to have my coffee on the go.
One year after my graduation, I was planning for my wedding and I informed all my clients that I will be taking a short break to enjoy married life. Once I settled as a newlywed and was ready to resume working, it was definitely not easy getting translation projects. Part of the reason behind this is that I still did not have enough experience to realize that I should be contacting my old clients just to check up on them (and remind them that I’m still here!), so I guess you could say I learned the hard way.
Around 3 months passed and I was barely getting any work, although I did not stop sending out numerous emails and countless CVs to any translation agency/potential client I encountered.
One day, I woke up, prepared my morning coffee and turned on my laptop, and there it was: the email that brought me back to business!
One of the translation agencies that I contacted earlier had sent me an email stating that there was a book translation project and they were on the lookout for a good translator. They asked me to translate a test page, which I gladly did. The result: I nailed the project, which was a 250-page book (Pierre Dukan’s “Je ne sais pas maigrir”) to be translated into English.
I found myself with a project to keep me busy for at least 2 months, during which I also managed to handle a few other small projects, and I was also contacted by my first 2 clients again for translation and interpretation jobs.
So there I was back on track with ongoing translation jobs as well as some small projects that I handled from time to time; but I kept trying to gain more clients by sending emails and handing out business cards on all occasions possible.
Then, one cold winter day, I received an email from a potential new client that warmed my heart. It was an online news company that had several clients of its own and it handled press releases and all sorts of online content, which meant they needed an impeccable express translation service and the workload was not a small one at all. The agency sent me a few pages as a paid test, which led to their decision to use my services. Given the huge workload, I started contacting some fellow freelancers who were able to help me out; and this is how my business grew and it wasn’t just about me anymore: we were a group of freelance translators handling huge projects.
Things remained like this for exactly one year, as I was pregnant and it was my due date, and of course I had to take another break from work to embrace motherhood and get used to my new life. It is noteworthy that the online news agency was starting to give me a headache when it came to payments, and I decided it was better if I just declined all their future projects, especially that I had to pay the other translators for their work without getting paid myself.
History was repeating itself, with me having to take a break from work, but I was not sad at all. I enjoyed my new life and when I settled as a new mom, I was ready to get back to work. I wasn’t intimidated: I’ve done it before, so I thought I could definitely do it again; but this time, I had learned from my past mistakes. So I sent my clients emails and called some of them with whom I had become good friends, just to say hi and check on them. It was a great strategy to accompany all the marketing I was doing online via social media.
It worked and I started getting translation projects again. Being a freelancer was ideal since I had a newborn and I wanted to be able to give him all the attention, care and time he needed. At times when I was unable to work, I resorted to outsourcing and I would always proofread the translations to make sure they were of the best quality.
Exactly one year later, on my son’s first birthday, I took the oath and became a sworn translator (certified public translator). That introduced me to a new horizon and opened up new doors for me. I was then able to provide sworn translation services; and I made business deals with many offices, libraries and copy centers, providing them and their clients with my legal translation services. In addition to sworn translation, I had the chance of working on a different field: copy-writing. I was contacted by a couple of companies to handle all their copy-writing and I became an extremely busy freelance language service provider before I even knew it!
On a different note, online marketing and social media in particular has done the job for me, as I was able to make good business deals with quite a few companies that I contacted online. I am now handling my own online marketing and I’m no longer relying on web developers to take care of my website. I’ve set it up myself, with the help of my husband who took care of the technical side of it.
So now you ask where I am at, and the answer is this:
I am a proud mom and a caring wife who has established her own translation business and who’s in love with her job. I’m always trying to widen my client base and I have recently been able to strike deals with a few city mayors and immigration offices to provide them with certified translation services.
I know I won’t just stop here because I love learning and I’m passionate about languages, so I am willing to learn a couple of new languages (Spanish and Italian).
I still have a few days going by without any translation jobs, but I have come to accept that it goes with the territory, and I look at the glass half full: I take advantage of such days to spend quality time with my family. So, newbie translators, don’t freak out. Work hard and translation projects will come your way!
Thanks for sharing your story! I used to work as a translator in Ukraine. From what I read in your blog, the situation in translation markets are quite similar in our countries))
I have a few questions:
Do you work mostly with local clients (i. e. Lebanese ones) or you try to search for them abroad? Is it more common to charge per source word or per target word in your country? Do you ask for an advance payment or you ask your clients to sign an agreement?
I never worked as a freelance translator, only in-house, and as I’m thinking about trying translation again I have a lot of questions about freelance way of doing things;)
To answer your questions: My client base is diversified; many clients are Lebanese operating in Lebanon, some are Lebanese operating abroad, and some are foreigners with Lebanon based operations. I even have a few foreign clients and the latter’s base is growing.
While it is more common to charge per source word, we do charge per target word when the source text’s words cannot be counted (PDF file, image, etc.)
I ask for a down payment and I do not make my clients sign anything.
Good luck in all your endeavors!