Your target customer (the translation agency) has a problem: they want to work with the best translators, but they don’t have much time or desire to read lengthy cover emails, CVs or translation portfolios. One way to differentiate yourself as a translator is by making it quick and easy for the project manager to see key data about you. This will make it more likely you’ll get a response.

Here are some methods freelance translators have used to showcase their talent when sending me their CVs, and some thoughts (good and bad) on these techniques.

1. One-line cover email saying “Please see CV attached”.

Brevity is good, but failing to include your language combination in the subject line and key credentials and prices in the cover email creates work for the project manager. Downloading a translator’s CV requires an extra click, and you’ve given them nothing in the cover letter to make them think it’s worth the effort.

2. Lengthy cover email giving lots of specifics about translation projects and work experience.

If you’re doing the opposite of the person in point 1, then you’re going too far the other way. If you’re quoting for a specific job, then it’s good to mention related experience, but think key facts and consider your reader’s attention span. Lists and bullet points can be helpful in a cover email because they let the project manager to scan through quickly. A project manager wants to scan.

See my post on writing a cover letter for a translation agency for some helpful hints and templates.

3. 6-page CV.

I wouldn’t read it. Would you? Two pages maximum, with the most important data on page one.

4. CV packed with graphs and tables, showing the translator’s experience in numbers and percentages, with lots of different colours.

There’s a lot to be said for being creative and different. But, when time is of the essence, a CV that doesn’t look like a CV can obstruct the reader on their mission to locate a translator’s key data. They may not have the patience to figure it out, I don’t.

5. A second attachment containing a portfolio of samples of previous translations the translator has done.

In theory, a portfolio sounds very professional, but, does it solve a problem for your target customer or does it create one? Remember that it’s very unlikely that the project manager is looking for translators that match your profile at the exact time your CV drops into their inbox. They are either going to type your details into a database or file them away somewhere for some future time, when a translator that matches your profile is needed. So, given the lack of time and immediate need, it’s very unlikely that they’ll have sufficient motivation to read random portfolios (and that even if they can speak your languages). Also, you can’t store a portfolio in a database, so it represents extra filing for them. If I wanted something like that, I would ask for it. If translators send them to me, I don’t tend to look at them. See point 6 for my preferred solution.

6. Links to online translator profiles.

When translators give links to a strong online profile, it’s useful because I can check it out quickly. But, too many links in an email creates an information overload and the project manager can’t decide where they’re supposed to go, so they give up. It’s a good idea to include important links in your CV, too, in case it gets separated from the cover email. If you have translation samples that you want to share with the agency, put them online somewhere and include links to them inside the CV. If you’ve done work for someone and your work has been published online, once again, put the link inside the CV. That way, the day the agency becomes interested in you, they’ll have the info at their fingertips (it also makes it easy for them to copy and paste the data onto a translators spreadsheet, if they want to).

7. Certificates sent as attachments.

When the agency wants or needs them, it’ll ask for them. Some big agencies may require proof of your qualifications as standard; smaller agencies probably see them as a filing problem. Consider getting your credentials verified from your profile.

8. Giving references.

As per point 7, but, don’t underestimate the usefulness of tools like recommendations on LinkedIn and WWA on, which can be there ready and waiting and mentioned quickly in a cover letter or CV. The translation industry is quite a small world, and if you collect enough online recommendations, you may find the translators you’re working for, or want to work for, know each other and, as we all know, there’s nothing like a recommendation from a friend or colleague.

9. Copy and paste the CV into the email (right at the end).

I’ve seen a few translators do this after their signatures, as a sort of PS. They attach the CV to the email as well. I think it’s a great idea. Whenever a translator has done this, I’ve scrolled down and glanced over the CV, and perhaps seen something that has caught my interest. If it had been an attachment, I wouldn’t have looked at it.

Any other hints on ways for translators to introduce themselves to a translation agency?

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