A couple of newbie questions regarding agencies
Thread poster: Katherine McMonagle

Katherine McMonagle
미국
Local time: 16:56
Member (Aug 2020)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jun 29

Hello everyone!
I'm a super newbie Spanish English translator who's interested in working for an agency. I keep hearing mixed things regarding agency work, so I have a few questions I'm hoping you all can help me with:

-Can I work for more than one translation agency? Or only one at a time?
-Do agencies prefer translators working in a niche? (I've heard mixed things about this one)

Thanks in advance!


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
네델란드
Local time: 22:56
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Kati Jun 29

Kati Mc wrote:
-Can I work for more than one translation agency? Or only one at a time?


You can work for more than one agency at a time. And you are not required to accept all assignments from the agencies that you have contracts with.

-Do agencies prefer translators working in a niche? (I've heard mixed things about this one)


Agencies prefer translators who are reliable and affordable. Agencies need translators who have experience in or is able to work well in certain fields, but generalist translators are also welcomed by agencies.


Kevin Fulton
Katherine McMonagle
Sheila Wilson
Marina Steinbach
Philip Lees
Alison Jenner
Teresa Borges
 

DZiW (X)
우크라이나
English to Russian
+ ...
Welcome Kati) Jun 29

And why you prefer agencies. who take 50%-80%, imposing freebies and other ‘discounts’ ploys, I wonder?

Unlike greedy middlemen and spongers, the real/end client just wants to have the job done (1) appropriately, (2) timely, (3) as agreed—no problems. Could you?

Although your Bio doesn’t specify the major and minor, having worked with direct clients for 10+ years, I strongly believe that real businesses (read: real end clients) prefer mid/long-term cooperation
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And why you prefer agencies. who take 50%-80%, imposing freebies and other ‘discounts’ ploys, I wonder?

Unlike greedy middlemen and spongers, the real/end client just wants to have the job done (1) appropriately, (2) timely, (3) as agreed—no problems. Could you?

Although your Bio doesn’t specify the major and minor, having worked with direct clients for 10+ years, I strongly believe that real businesses (read: real end clients) prefer mid/long-term cooperation with (1) dedicated specialists in certain fields [engineers, designers, lawyers, doctors, journalists, programmers, and so on] who are (2) business-aware and (3) can use foreign languages [as a minor].
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Katherine McMonagle
미국
Local time: 16:56
Member (Aug 2020)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Samuel Jun 29

Thanks!

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
스페인
Local time: 21:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
One perfectly good reason Jun 29

DZiW wrote:
And why you prefer agencies. who take 50%-80%, imposing freebies and other ‘discounts’ ploys, I wonder?

Of course there's a mark-up or they'd go bust within weeks.

From the PoV of the translator, agencies find the clients, check your work and take responsibility. Those are major advantages for a newbie and worth "paying" for. Some of the direct clients I work for have little idea of what they want, let alone how to get it or how much they need to pay for it. If a newbie managed to land a job with them, it would probably be a case of the blind leading the blind.


Kevin Fulton
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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
스페인
Local time: 21:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Spend some time on the site Jun 29

Welcome to ProZ.com and translation, Kati.

First, in answer to your question, you really must try to get work with several agencies. Not until you have a good handful of regular clients and twice that number of less regular ones can you begin to guard against the "feast or famine" factor that plagues all freelancers. Once you know the ropes, replacing some of the poorer agencies with some better direct clients is a good idea. But don't dump good agencies in favour of poor direct cli
... See more
Welcome to ProZ.com and translation, Kati.

First, in answer to your question, you really must try to get work with several agencies. Not until you have a good handful of regular clients and twice that number of less regular ones can you begin to guard against the "feast or famine" factor that plagues all freelancers. Once you know the ropes, replacing some of the poorer agencies with some better direct clients is a good idea. But don't dump good agencies in favour of poor direct clients .

You've come to a good place to learn about the profession. I suggest the following:
- complete your profile so we -- and potential clients -- know more about you
- check out the Site Guidance Centre and attend the free "Meeting Clients" webinar
- make sure you sign up for notifications from the Scam Centre as newbies are highly vulnerable to scammers
- digest all the info under the Education tab, plus in this forum. Find out what the best actions are and what to avoid.

Good luck!
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Teresa Borges
Philippe Etienne
Vera Schoen
Katherine McMonagle
Becca Resnik
Niina Lahokoski
 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
미국
Local time: 17:56
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
What is a newbie? Jun 29

My own thoughts are mainly directed at Kati.

Sheila Wilson wrote:

DZiW wrote:
And why you prefer agencies. who take 50%-80%, imposing freebies and other ‘discounts’ ploys, I wonder?

Of course there's a mark-up or they'd go bust within weeks.


Caution: 50-100% mark-ups are a sign of unprofessional agencies that you shouldn't work for. Since you don't really know what the mark-up is, you should stick to fair translation rates, even as a "newbie" (see also below). Rates are suggested here, a good start for you: https://search.proz.com/?sp=pfe/rates
Caveat: because these rates suggested by Proz.com are a mash-up of what translators OR agencies pay, be careful and don't sell yourself short. It'll depend on volume, complexity etc. to arrive at the actual fair rate. Taking on jobs from the job board is in itself something that most often flies in the face of any fair business relationship. From me (22 years in the business) to you.


Sheila Wilson wrote:
From the PoV of the translator, agencies find the clients, check your work and take responsibility. Those are major advantages for a newbie and worth "paying" for.


Many agencies simply pick up jobs from job boards and sell them to either another cheap agency or a cheap translator. You're better off working on a good profile, your own website and additional web presence to attract people who get in touch with you. You can do some research to find good agencies and contact them.

Sheila Wilson wrote:
Some of the direct clients I work for have little idea of what they want, let alone how to get it or how much they need to pay for it. If a newbie managed to land a job with them, it would probably be a case of the blind leading the blind.


What is a newbie? A newbie should be someone who is very good in at least two languages, in comprehending, speaking and writing them, has plenty of experience or education in their second language and is able to translate the text she/he takes on. Newcomers must be able to communicate with direct clients professionally and inquire, if necessary, about important concerns the client has. If catchy marketing speak isn't your thing, don't work in that field (at least at first). It's your choice what you take on and you can certainly improve your skills and knowledge over time.

A newbie isn't someone who has no idea of what the client wants. That's a wanna-be-newbie.
Don't trust any agency to make up for shortcomings found in your translation. You better check your work and take responsibility for it.

Translator is a serious intellectual profession like many others (lawyer, physician, scientist, etc.) and most of us don't do it for the fun of it or because we don't depend on the money. On the contrary, we make our living from it, have family, need to pay bills and get through pandemics. We provide intellectual work and it needs to be paid adequately.

So if you decide to become a translator, be serious about it. Otherwise, you might be disappointed and discouraged soon after you start.

Newcomers should read up on the basics of our business practices before they start:

http://wiki.proz.com/wiki/index.php/Translator_career_path
https://wiki.proz.com/wiki/index.php/Professional_translator_resources
https://wiki.proz.com/wiki/index.php/Performing_free_test_translations

HTH

B

[Edited at 2020-06-30 13:16 GMT]


DZiW (X)
Katherine McMonagle
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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
스페인
Local time: 21:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Certainly avoid the "translation brokers" Jun 30

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:
Many agencies simply pick up jobs from job boards and sell them to either another cheap agency or a cheap translator. You're better off working on a good profile, your own website and additional web presence to attract people who get in touch with you. You can do some research to find good agencies and contact them.

Absolutely. It's so long ago that I had anything other than very superficial contact with the "peanut brokers" side of the industry, I tend to forget about them. Unfortunately, they never forget that they can take advantage of some freelancers.

Newcomers must be able to communicate with direct clients professionally and inquire, if necessary, about important concerns the client has.

A newbie isn't someone who has no idea of what the client wants. That's a wanna-be-newbie.

How is a new translator going to know to ask the client the right questions, before they've even done their first job? If it's the client's first translation order, they won't know what concerns they should have -- they're relying on the "expert" to tell them. Would a new freelancer even have the proficiency to communicate in the best way regarding negotiations on price, deadlines and payment terms? Should they be expected to know what's reasonable for a client to provide in the way of files or what the client should accept in the way of deliverables?

Of course, some may come to the job with experience of some of that, but others won't have any prior experience. As long as their language abilities are fine, they're legitimate newbies, IMO. We all had to start somewhere. A good agency will remove most of those headaches. The downside is that even a good agency may also remove the right of the freelancer to state their own T&C . But if the agency's own T&C are reasonable, that may be a fair trade in exchange for getting a toe in the door.


Teresa Borges
Katherine McMonagle
Becca Resnik
 

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
이탈리아
Local time: 22:56
Member
Italian to English
A few thoughts Jul 2

Hi and welcome to Proz and the wonderful world of translation!


Kati Mc wrote:

I'm a super newbie Spanish English translator


Firstly, I'd recommend working ONLY into your native language.

Kati Mc wrote:

-Can I work for more than one translation agency? Or only one at a time?



You absolutely NEED to work with more than one. Apply to as many as you can, always checking that they work in your language combination and that you contact them the way they prefer - is it email, or via the contact form on their site?

Kati Mc wrote:

-Do agencies prefer translators working in a niche? (I've heard mixed things about this one)


You will come across generalist and specialist translators. I'm not sure why a translation agency WOULDN'T want a specialist translator - it's true they cost more, but they work faster and generally turn in higher quality in their preferred niche. From a translator's point of view, specialisation makes all kinds of sense: it's impossible to translate well in all sectors, and as you gain a good command of terminology and subject matter in your chosen field, you can command higher rates, and it's also more satisfying professionally.


Katherine McMonagle
Sheila Wilson
Becca Resnik
Beatriz Ramírez de Haro
 

Katherine McMonagle
미국
Local time: 16:56
Member (Aug 2020)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you everyone Jul 2

Thanks everyone for your insight! This newbie is very appreciative

 

Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
브라질
Local time: 18:56
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Meeting Clients webinar Jul 7

I would like to attend a 'meeting clients' webinar. How can I find out the date?

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
스페인
Local time: 21:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Search for it? Jul 7

Paul Dixon wrote:
I would like to attend a 'meeting clients' webinar. How can I find out the date?

It really shouldn't be difficult for a translator, seeing that one of our most necessary skills is the ability to find information.

Try the Education tab, then Webinars. I'm sure you can get to it from the Site Guidance Centre too. And probably from other places on the site.


Alvaro Cominotti
 

Jocelin Meunier  Identity Verified
프랑스
Local time: 22:56
English to French
Agencies Jul 7

Like others said very well, you'll absolutely need to be booked with many agencies, if you prefer working with them. Direct clients are hard to find so agencies is not much of a choice when you begin, at least in my opinion.
Keep in mind that you can refuse work if you are overbooked or *whispers* when you just don't want to work that day. Having many agencies is a way to have a stable amount of work each month, but also to cope with agencies that don't send work anymore (happens a lot, so
... See more
Like others said very well, you'll absolutely need to be booked with many agencies, if you prefer working with them. Direct clients are hard to find so agencies is not much of a choice when you begin, at least in my opinion.
Keep in mind that you can refuse work if you are overbooked or *whispers* when you just don't want to work that day. Having many agencies is a way to have a stable amount of work each month, but also to cope with agencies that don't send work anymore (happens a lot, sometimes agencies want to lower rates, but still want to boast that they have 5 000+ translators in their database, so they simply hire new translators for lower rates and ghost the others).
It is also useful in order to analyse the "agency market". You can compare agencies over what type of work you get, how good or bad it is paid, how often you receive work, ect... this helps you better grasp what you look for in an agency. When you get more experience, best situation would be 2 or 3 agencies that pay well and send work regularly, so that you don't get too many projects at once.

As for "niche", specifically, I would say no. Not a definitive no, just a soft no. What I mean is that agencies (and clients in general) like when a translator has a speciality, a general area. For example, law, or road construction or medical. Niche, however, would be more like "I specialize in translating thesis papers on the reproduction of snails in sub-equatorial rainforests". Sure, for that one guy making his thesis on snail reproduction, you will be the first pick. But for the ten thousand others looking for someone with experience in medical translation the rest of the time, you'll be of no interest.
My advice would be: if there is something "niche" that you like to translate, don't hesitate to propose it. But having at least one speciality is mandatory. General translators are still appreciated, but specialists definitely get picked more often.

Good hunt.
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A couple of newbie questions regarding agencies

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