How to Write an Effective Cover Email for a Translation Agency

Translator writing a CV cover letter for his resume.

Written by Gwenydd Jones

Spanish-to-English translator and translator trainer

Tired of not getting a response when you send your CV or resume to a potential client? If you’re a freelancer, it’s essential to sell yourself in the cover email. Writing a cover letter for your CV is easy when you know how. This article offers cover letter tips and examples to show you how to get responses. It also contains a cover letter template.

The Translator’s Studio receives lots of CVs from translators. I’m sometimes amazed to get emails with no cover letter at all, just the resume as an attachment. When this happens, I delete the email because I don’t trust the attachment. To get work, it’s essential for freelancers to sell themselves in the cover email.

When I need to work with a colleague, I want to make a connection with them. If all the translator writes in the cover letter is “see my CV attached” then I feel like writing back “why would I bother?”

Cover email template for translation agencies

If you prepare some standard cover letter templates for when you want to send out your CV, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and avoid forgetting things. The templates should be adaptable to different agencies and jobs. Below, you’ll find lots of cover letter tips. At the end of the article, there are cover letter templates.

Remember these points about translation project managers

– A translation agency gets a lot of emails with CVs and the project manager won’t have much time or desire to wade through them.

– Project managers need to tick boxes. If the cover letter ticks them, then they’re more likely to look at the CV.

– Be as brief as possible in your cover email and focus on what problems you can solve for the translation agency. What key information does the project manager need?

– First impressions count. The project manager may reject you as a possible candidate based on your cover letter. In fact, just the subject line of your email can put them off.

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How long should your CV cover letter be?

If you’re sending a “cold” email to a translation agency with your CV, keep the body of the email under 180 words.

If you’re quoting for a job published on an online forum, stay under 120 words.

A resume cover email that’s too short will be ineffective. It gives the impression you’re unconscientious, which is negative in a translator. As I hinted at above, if you don’t sell yourself in the cover letter, your reader won’t be enticed to open your CV. They’ll move on to the next email instead.

Remember that the project manager doesn’t know you and so you have to give them a reason to become interested in you in the cover letter.

What essential information does the project manager want to see in the cover email?

– Your language combination(s). Include this in the email subject line, e.g. ES>EN.

– Your most relevant qualifications. I normally include reference to at least one of my MAs in the subject line.

– Your specialisations (and relevant experience if you’re quoting for a specific job).

– Your rates and whether or not they include VAT.

– How to contact you. Best put after your name in the email signature.

“Writing a cover letter for your CV is easy when you know how.”

What information ticks boxes for a project manager when they read a CV cover letter?

– Translation-related qualifications and language-related qualifications.

– Clear specialisation(s) supported by experience and qualifications.

– Summarised information on experience that is relevant to the agency or to a specific job.

– Information on the computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools you use.

– Information on any advanced software knowledge.

– Confirming that you’re registered self-employed, i.e. that you can issue legal invoices. Your location may also make a difference.

What details can you write in the cover letter to make the project manager like you?

– Write to them by name (spelled correctly), as opposed to using an old-fashioned formula like “Dear Sir/Madam”.

– Show membership of professional associations.

– Be honest about the service you can offer.

– Thank the project manager for their time.

– Include a link to your strongest online presence and reviews.

– Respond quickly if they write back to you.

As a further tip, engage with the translation agency on social networks before or after sending them your cover letter and resume.

What elements of the cover email will make the project manager feel negatively towards you?

– Making spelling and grammar mistakes. Get your cover letter template and CV checked by a native speaker.

– Being excessively formal or rudely brief in the cover email.

– Saying you have skills and specialisations without anything to back up your claims.

– Requesting rates that aren’t market rates. This suggests you don’t know the market, so probably don’t have much experience.

– Claiming you’re competent to translate bilingually without professional qualifications, references or samples to back that claim up for both of your languages. This is because most bilingual translators have a dominant language.

Dos for a CV cover email to a translation agency

– Do refer to the rates you give as your “standard” rates. This implies that flexibility exists depending on difficulty and project size. There are also times when you may need to add surcharges, such as when pricing PDFs for translation.

– Do say your translation rates are “job dependent”. Ideally, each job should be quoted independently. This gives you room to go up and down in price.

– Do include bullet points to make the cover email more succinct. This is especially useful if you’re quoting for a specific job advertised online. See a cover letter example at the end of this section.

– Do say you have references, work samples and copies of your certificates available.

– Do tell the project manager if you’re prepared to work on weekends. But consider a surcharge. Read this detailed article about translation surcharges.

– Do end your cover letter with a question (known as a call to action), to encourage a response.

If all the translator writes in the cover letter is “see my CV attached” then I feel like writing back “why would I bother?”

Don’ts for a cover email to a translation agency

– Don’t say your rates are “negotiable” without qualifying when you’ll negotiate (e.g. easy texts, high volume). Otherwise you may as well say you’ll reduce your price if they ask you.

– Don’t write too much. They’ll take one look at the cover letter and won’t want to read it.

– Don’t gush about how much you’d like to work with them. It can come across as desperate.

– Don’t offer to do a free test. Let the agency ask if they want this. Then negotiate a fair rate for your time.

– Don’t write about irrelevant work experience as the project manager won’t be interested in that.

Example cover email templates for freelancers sending out their CVs or resumes

Below are some email cover letter templates. You’ll need to adapt them to your experience and background. Remember to focus on the positive and add and delete sections of the cover emails as required.

Sample cover letter template for sending your CV or resume to an agency

Dear [contact’s first name spelled correctly],

Please accept my CV in application to collaborate with your company as a freelance XXX to XXX translator.

I am a native XX speaker, registered self-employed in XXX and have been working as a professional translator full-time since XXX. My qualifications include: XXX.

I specialise in XXX. I see from your website that your company specialises in XXX. I have translated XXX words for this industry including: XXX. For references, please see [link to online references].

My standard rate is XX + VAT per source word for translation and XX + VAT per hour for review. I have flexible working/contact hours and am available for weekend work. I have [CAT tool + version].

Is there any further information I can offer you?

Many thanks for your time.

Kind regards,

[Name] / [Letters (MA, BA, etc.)] / [Occupation] / [email / phone / website or online profile]

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Sample email cover letter to respond to an online job advert

Hello [Contact’s name spelled correctly],

Please accept my quote for the XXX project advertised on XXX. I’m sure you’ll have lots of CVs to wade through, so here’s a quick summary of my credentials.

Experienced [Languages] translator, registered self-employed.

List of most-relevant qualifications.

Specific experience in XXX.

[CAT tool + version].

Price XX per source word + VAT, payment on XX days. Delivery by [delivery date]. I would ask to see the text for translation before I confirm this quote.

Please see my CV (attached) and my references here: [URL]

I hope to have the opportunity to work with you. Is there any further information you need?

Best,

[Name] / [Letters (MA, BA, etc.)] / [Occupation] / [email / phone / website or online profile]

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