How Translators Showcase Their Talent to Translation Agencies

The most successful translators know how to showcase their credentials quickly, while enticing the project manager to look at their CV.

Written by Gwenydd Jones

Spanish-to-English translator and translator trainer

Your target customer (the translation agency) has a problem: they want to work with the best translators, but they have limited time to wade through CVs and emails. 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 when you send out your CV.

Below are nine methods freelance translators have used when sending CVs to The Translator’s Studio. There are pros and cons with these techniques. Knowing them will help you have more success in showcasing your talent to agencies.

1. One-line cover email with the subject “CV”

The subject line of your email will be your first contact with the project manager. Include your language combination and key credentials to get their attention.

With the cover email, brevity is good, but if all you write to the project manager is “please see CV attached”, it begs the sarcastic response: “Why would I?” If you don’t include your key credentials in the cover email, you create work for the project manager. Downloading a translator’s CV requires an extra click. In this example, there’s nothing in the cover email to make the receiver 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 in terms of 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 scan through quickly.

See the article “How to Write an Effective Email for a Translation Agency” by Gwenydd Jones for some helpful hints and templates.

3. 6-page CV

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

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4. Colourful CV packed with graphs and tables, showing the translator’s experience in numbers and percentages

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 make it harder for the reader to find the information they’re looking for. The project manager may not have the patience to figure it out.

5. A second attachment containing a portfolio of samples of the translator’s work

A portfolio can be a useful marketing tool when used at the right time and in the right place. But, in this case, does it solve a problem for your target customer or does it create one? Remember that it’s unlikely that the project manager is looking for translators that match your profile at the exact time your CV drops into their inbox. They’re either going to store your details in a database or file your CV away for some future time when they may need a translator like you.

So, given the lack of time and immediate need, it’s unlikely that they’ll be interested in reading your portfolio (assuming they can even speak your languages). Also, you can’t store a portfolio in a database, so it represents extra filing for them. See point six for a suggested solution.

6. Links to online translator profiles

When translators give links to a strong online profile, they allow the project manager to quickly see what they have to offer. Ideally, have one main go-to profile. This is because too many links in an email creates an information overload. With too much choice, it won’t be obvious to the project manager where they’re supposed to go, so they might not bother going anywhere.

“There’s nothing like a recommendation from a friend or colleague.”

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 a translation portfolio that you want to share with the agency, put it online somewhere and include a link to it 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’s worth keeping your own database of translations you’ve done, with links to them if they’ve been published. Use categories to locate them quickly, so you can provide the information if asked for it. At the end of each year, pick out a few projects that you think will be interesting to potential clients and record them in an Excel. This list will come in handy when you have to quote for specific jobs.

7. Certificates sent as attachments

When the agency wants to see your certificates, it’ll ask for them. Some agencies may require proof of your qualifications as standard. Other agencies probably see them as a filing problem. Consider getting your credentials verified by ProZ.com or joining a translators’ association. For more information about this, see the article “How to Become an Accredited Translator to Get More Work” by Gwenydd Jones.

8. Giving references

Much like certificates, it’s easiest to wait for the agency to ask for references rather than trying to pack everything in to that first email. Also, don’t underestimate the usefulness of tools like recommendations on LinkedIn and WWA on ProZ.com. If you collect testimonials as you go along, they’ll be ready and waiting when you need them. You can mention in your cover letter or CV that you have references available and provide a link to them.

The translation industry is quite a small world. If you collect enough online recommendations, you may find the translators you’re working for, or want to work for, know each other. There’s nothing like a recommendation from a friend or colleague.

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

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

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