BlogGeneral ArticlesFreelance Translators – how to get your application read

Freelance Translators – how to get your application read

Freelance Translators – how to get your application read

The team at MTT handle over 100 applications from prospective freelance translators every day. The sad truth is the vast majority of these are scams or so poorly written that they are simply deleted.

So, how can you make your application stand out and avoid it being ignored?

First of all, make sure your subject line is clear – preferably put your language combination in and mark the email as an application.  Overly flowery applications which don’t get to the point just waste time and don’t attract our interest.

In the body of the email, make sure you address one of our team members. We’d like to think you have taken the time to look at our website and find out if we’re a good match for your skills, so why not send your application to one of our team directly. Never cc in a long list of other agencies you are applying to – a personalised application will always make a better impression.

So, you’ve taken the time to find out about our company, you can see we specialise in certain areas, so make your application match that requirement, or tell us why we should otherwise be interested in your skills. We occasionally do handle jobs in other areas, but applying as a literary translator is not going to get your form to the top of our list.

We will check applications against a number of databases to weed out fraudulent emails and we always report anything suspicious. If your online presence is consistent, you have good feedback and your information is accurate, you should have nothing to worry about.

Our website has our application form available as a download and information on the basic standards we expect from our freelancers. It makes sense to look at these and decide if you meet them, then complete the application form (preferably typed so we can read the details) and send it in with your email. We’ll only ask you to do the same thing if you apply without it. The form collects all the basic information we need, in the format we need it so we don’t have to spend hours searching through various forms of CV and dense texts looking for what we require.

Your CV should demonstrate your fields of expertise and preferably how you have managed to gain this expertise. Too many specialism ring alarm bells, someone who can “do anything” will definitely not be believed. A professional translator is a person who has invested time (and money) in gaining their experience and can clearly demonstrate it is up to date and of a good standard. Membership of a translators’ association such as the ITI or CIOL is appreciated as we know we are dealing with someone who is investing in their future career and will usually abide by the association’s high standards.

If you have a diverse range of specialist areas, a little information about how this was gained goes a long way towards making your application more credible. Nuclear power plants and dentistry may seem worlds apart but for someone, there may be a logical connection and we’d need to know why.

Similarly, when looking at language combinations, if you have an unusual combination of language pairs, make sure you justify it or your application will again be disregarded. We look closely at linguists claiming to translate into and out of their mother tongue – we’ll need your background explained and evidence why this is possible. Normally we only use linguists into their mother tongue as this usually provides the best level of translation accuracy and style. There are exceptions to this, so let us know why.

It goes without saying that your application documents should be proofread – a translator translating into English should not have spelling and grammar mistakes in their work. A professional translator out of English would be advised to have their application proofread if possible.

We always ask for referees so make sure they know in advance to expect contact from us. The number of referees given that have never heard of the person in question or are unable to give feedback far exceeds the number who are prepared to help. The extra time taken to go back and ask for additional referees just extends the time your application will take and makes our job harder.  Conversely, we will always provide information to other agencies on our linguists if required – especially if we are asked politely beforehand!

Make sure you have up to date PC equipment and CAT software and know how to use it. Gone are the days when every translation arrived in a nice Word document, so we expect our linguists to be able to cope with the occasional formatting issue or tricky conversion. We’ll offer as much support as we can– but you can make our lives simpler by knowing how to make the best use of your software and having an up to date version which won’t instantly reformat every document we send you into an unintelligible mess.

The way you lay out your CV should be clear, concise and easy to follow – make it easy for the reader to find the information they are going to need: full contact details, clear work history, education and qualifications, example projects, details of skills and specialisms relevant to our business, referees details.

Even if you are new to the world of freelance translating, you should have some information on why you think this would be a good career for you, what makes you special so we should take a closer look or why the limited experience you have makes you stand out from your peers.

If you don’t know what to charge, we’ll also be suspicious. We know the going rates for most language combinations in most countries and this information isn’t that hard to find. If you really don’t know, make the effort to find out via a survey, a professional body or even a social media group. Putting “Negotiable” is not going to help, and no information at all makes you as unprofessional as charging way too little or too much.

Once you make it on to our list of approved suppliers, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from us for a while – existing customers like their preferred translators and it is sometimes quite a while before a suitable job will come in where we can make use of your skills.  The more you chase us asking for work, the longer the wait will be. An occasional call or email with more information or an update to your CV or skills is fine, but if you’re constantly demanding work we will simply remove you.

Similarly, if we ask you to do anything, such as supply more documentation or a new referee, please do what you promise to – it’s OK if you can’t deal with it until a few days’ time, but make sure you do or you will appear less than professional.

The best translators who we love to work with made an excellent first impression, they made sure they stood out and had excellent experience related to the main areas our company specialises in. They did what was asked promptly and in full and have proved themselves prepared to take the tricky jobs alongside the easy ones.

Not every client will have a Word document with plenty of time to have it translated (if only!), so we need to work with professionals who can try their best to help our clients rather than do the bare minimum. In return we support our freelancers, stand up for them where necessary and pay them promptly and reliably. We’re a great team and we’d love to have you on board.


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