Videogame Translation in China

China: the Largest Videogame Market in the World

The Asian giant has now become the largest video game market in the world. According to the latest HIS report, the video game market in China represents a $38 billion in revenue in 2018. In addition, the income of the sector of Video games in China accounts for 25% of the world total: one in every four dollars of the video game industry is being billed in China.

In 2017, most of the revenue came from PC titles. However, video games for mobile phones or tablets outperformed the rest of the platforms in 2018. Spending on mobile games grew 55% in 2018, and increases of 24% are announced for 2019.

Meanwhile, consoles still cannot find their place in the Chinese market. The sales figures of the PS4 and Xbox, barely exceeded 500,000 units since they launch.

An Overpopulated Country

All this avalanche of figures is driven by the huge population of China. The Asian giant has a population of about 1400 million people. In addition, taking a closer look at the demographics of China, we see that about 21% of its population is between 15 and 40 years old.

We could discuss what is the average age of a gamer, but surely many of us agree that it is probably in this range. This means almost 300 million potential gamers, with stable jobs and growing purchasing power. Recall that the unemployment rate in China is around 4% according to official figures, and that the country has an increasingly large and stable middle class.

A Generation Without Computers

Unlike what happens in the West, where many of us have our personal computer, in China the situation is very different. It is estimated that around 95% of Internet users in China access the network through their mobile phones.

In France, cybercafes were a revolution for the year 2001, when high-speed connections still did not exist and we couldn’t play StarCraft games every time we would receive a call at home (damn 56 kbps connection!).

Cybercafes in France were a hit in all cities. Neighbourhoods were filled with gamers’ nests. Tournaments, night marathons and birthdays were organised as well as all kinds of events. Cybercafes happened to become social centres for many young people.

However, with the advancement of technology and the arrival of high-speed connections to French homes, cybercafes moved into the background and many of them had to close in 2003 or 2004.

Today, China continues to have thousands of cybercafes throughout the country. In addition, Chinese cybercafes have gone one step further: they offer 35-inch screens, hundreds of games, sofas, home delivery and very low prices, even for Chinese stores. In fact, many Chinese decide to use cybercafes as hotels in some areas of the country: it is much cheaper to spend the night in the cyber than to sleep in a simple room in a hostel.

Mobile Phones as the Dominant Platform

The situation of cybercafes in China is a very important fact to understand the impact of mobile platforms in China. For the vast majority of Chinese people, their mobile phone is their personal computer.

It’s the device they use every day, the one they take to work, to school and the one they still use when they go home. It is with what they use to read the news, follow their social networks, watch movies or series online. In addition, of course, it is becoming the favourite platform for Chinese to play video games.

Honor of Kings, the mobile version of the League of Legends, is currently the most profitable game. According to official announcements, Honor of Kings is expected to report to Tencent, the developer of the videogame, a profit of more than 3 billion dollars. Such is the addiction and reception that the videogame received in China, that Tencent has decided to limit the number of hours of play per day to those under 18 years of age.

Tencent, the Largest Videogame Company in the World

The Chinese company Tencent is the largest technology company in the country and one of the most important in the world (Tencent owns 40% of Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, that says it all). For the last few years, they have been investing very strongly in the videogame industry. As you may know, Tencent today owns large Western companies such as Supercell, Riot Games and is a large shareholder of other major companies in the sector, such as Epic Games or Activision Blizzard.

Image for the Epic Games Fortnite

According to specialists, Tencent’s greatest competitive advantage lies in the enormous social network infrastructure available to it. The two largest instant messaging platforms in China are owned by Tencent: Wechat and QQ. These Chinese social networks have nearly 1,000 million active users per month, of which more than 700 million daily use their services daily.

In addition, Tencent is one of the pioneers in the implementation of applications called hub. This type of application integrate different services or programs within the same application. In this way, you do not have to change application to use maps, view images, read the news or play mobile games. This is a total revolution in China, and Tencent is one of the leaders.

To make matters worse, Tencent announced the re-launch of Wegame in 2018. Wegame is a video game download platform that will compete with Steam in China. Tencent’s game publishing platform now has more than 200 million registered players.

Tencent’s monopoly in China is slightly threatened by its biggest competitor, NetEase, another giant technology group in charge of operating games such as StarCraft II, Overwatch and Diablo III in China, among other titles.

Videogame Translation in China

According to the latest Chinajoy convention, the most important videogame fair in China, the Asian giant develops and publishes more than 30,000 mobile games every year, almost 2500 new games every month.

However, not all of these games go through localisation processes. Some are not even translated into other languages. The Chinese game developer and entrepreneur still does not understand the importance of localisation and translation of video games.

In my opinion, this is mainly due to two reasons. First, that the domestic demand of the country continues to grow year after year. There is still room for growth by exploiting the internal market and many developers prefer to invest their money in national promotion.

Second, the lack of national competence to locate games in other languages. The Chinese developer has today two basic alternatives for the translation of video games: foreign companies or Chinese companies. The first one, the big international translation companies based in China, are very expensive. They suppose an investment too big for a service that for many videogames companies, today, is complementary and optional.

Secondly, specialised translation companies in China are very young and have little resources. Most of these companies are pretty recent, founded 4 or 5 years ago. The services they offer are economically affordable, but their results are far from satisfactory.

The number of foreigners living in China is very low today. If you’re looking for experienced video game translators, you are looking at a tiny professional population.

Videogame translation in China is being carried out mostly by people without training or experience in the sector. The mere fact of being native and proficient in English is usually enough to enter into a selection processes for any Chinese video game translation company.

As China’s domestic demand is satisfied and profit margins within China are shrinking, Chinese videogame companies will begin to attach much more importance to international markets and to the localisation and translation of content. Given the low competition that exists in the sector, today China is a world full of possibilities for video game translators.

Videogame Translation: What Language?

Due to proximity and ease of work, the majority of localisation work from Chinese are done in Asian languages, such as Korean, Japanese or Thai. The adaptation of contents tends to be much more discreet when it comes to marketing products regionally.

However, French is rising as one of the most important languages ​​for the gaming sector in China. The growth of emerging economies such as the French-speaking African countries is raising the demand for French translators in China.

FAQ About the Videogame Translation Market in China

If you have come this far, surely you have many doubts about the videogame sector in China. I will try to answer some of the most frequent questions. If you have any other questions, leave your question in the comments!

Is it necessary to know how to speak Chinese to work in China?

No. It is advisable, though. As a general rule, knowing how to communicate in English is enough to survive in China. The new generations of Chinese learn English from a young age and are always eager to practise it with foreigners.

What are the trends of mobile games this year in China?

In recent months many games about the Second World War are coming out. PVP games with very good graphics. Games where you control ships or warplanes. A good example of this type of game is War Wings, by Tencent Games.

How much does a freelance translator charge in China?

It depends. It is estimated that the average should be around 200 RMB per 1000 words for English to French (about 26 euros per 1000 words) and a little more from Chinese to French.

Nowadays, it seems to be difficult to live on freelance translations in China. Sometimes huge projects arrive, of 100,000 words. Other times, only small projects of 2,000 or 3000 words.

How much does an in-house translator charge in China?

In-house video game translator positions are very much required in China. Conditions are usually quite interesting, although salaries depend on the city and the experience of the translator. To give an indicative figure, a professional hired as “Specialist in localisation of video games” can make between 12,000 and 15,000 RMB per month (about 1600–2000 euros).

What About Delivery Time?

As you can imagine, in China there are hardly any labour regulations, agreements or standardisation in this sense. Much less if we talk about sectors as recent as the translation of video games. The goal of Chinese translation companies is to get the job out as soon as possible and in the best possible way.

When working as a freelancer, you can almost always negotiate your availability with translation companies. However, the faster you complete the work, the more likely you are to collaborate with them again.

Once again, each project is different and many times delivery depends solely on the deadline set out by the end client. Either way, translation companies expect an output of 2,500 words a day for part-time translators and about 5,000 words a day for in-house or full-time translators.

As a general rule, Chinese companies do not differentiate repetitions from the rest of the text, so you will normally charge 100% of the work done. However, some companies might pay 50% for repetitions or that do not even count them or pay them. In the end, it is up to you to choose whom we want to work with.

The time you devote to each translation is up to you. There will be people who are able to translate more than 1000 words per hour, while other people might need more time.

There are many factors that determine the speed at which you do translation: your level of commitment, concentration, typing speed, how well you master your translation software, the familiarity you have with the type of game you are translating, et cetera.

Personally, and as a reference, I think I can translate about 1000 words per hour from English to French. Of course, it is impossible for me to maintain this level of concentration for a long time. I need to unplug from time to time to avoid mistakes.

What is the worst thing when working with Chinese translation companies?

Working with Chinese companies can sometimes be a very exasperating experience. Rigour, consistency and precision are not usually attributes that are highly valued by Chinese translation companies. As I said before, times are fundamental in an economy that grows to more than 7% each year.

Many times you can find yourself lacking in resources to do a good job. Sometimes, communication with the project manager or with the final client is not very good.

For those who translate video games, software or applications, it is essential to know the context of a word. It is very important to have good communication with the client to know what this loose word refers to, without context. For example, attack or raid are widely used words in RTS games. However, seeing them loose in an Excel box, is it a verb? A noun? Who performs the action?

Another problem that we can find is often confidentiality. When working as a freelancer for a translation company, it is unlikely that you will have any contact whatsoever with the videogame developer.

Many Chinese translation companies have confidentiality agreements. How can you translate a video game if you have not had the opportunity to play it? How can you adjust your writing style if you don’t know what the game looks like? Unfortunately, consistency is sometimes secondary when translating for Chinese companies.

However, there are other companies that much more sensible and determined to deliver a good job. Lately, I received some projects for which I was given some days to familiarise myself with the game before being given the document to translate.

What is the best thing about working with Chinese translation companies?

The lack of rigour and consistency can be unbearable for more experienced translators. In addition, translation rates in China are much lower than those offered in Western countries. However, China offers enormous possibilities for development and growth for any translator.

To give you an idea, in just over two years working for Chinese translation companies, I must have translated more than 50 video games and as many mobile applications. Some of these projects are small card or casino games, but other projects had more than 250,000 words.

Nowadays, China allows you to work whatever you want. There is a huge and growing demand in all sectors and very few professionals to cover it. It is an ideal country to train and get experience. Also, if you are willing to sacrifice part of your free time and become a multi-employer, you can start saving money and start making plans for the future, something that today does not seem so easy in European countries.

How can I find a videogame translator job in China?

Chinese translation companies are always looking for translators. Many translation offers are published on portals such as 51job (Chinese and English). Another way would be to directly contact some Chinese translation companies, such as Gametrans, among others.

Translation Project Manager – a Busy Bee

translation project manager is a busy bee

What a Translation Project Manager does

Much is said of the Translation Project Manager (the so-called PM) as the person who has control over everything that is happening inside a translation agency. It is believed that he or she is responsible for every aspect of the translation project, ranging from selecting the right translator to the translator’s payment date. The fact of the matter is that – more often than not – the person behind the PM position is not directly involved in all processes until delivery to the end client. As a matter of fact, many other people participate and have an even more determining role than the individual in charge of managing the project. Still, you’ll find out that your PM is a busy bee.

So Many Bits and Bobs Before a Translation Starts

As translators, when we receive a translation request from a PM, we usually do not think of everything that happened back then until our name is chosen for that particular project. We do not think about the negotiations that had to take place between the customer and the agency, all the bits and pieces that were put in place before the actual project went through.

In an ideal world, the PM Would Have His Say Over the Value of a Translation

For that client to have reached the agency, he had to be contacted by the agency’s sales man or had to contact the translation agency. Then, a negotiation of value ​​(with the customer not always thinking that the translation is worth the price mentioned) and terms too (the customer sometimes thinking it can be done in a shorter time) had to take place.

It is only after that that the project reaches the PM. You might think that, at the stage, it is the PM who determines the value of a translation. This is hardly the case. Usually, this is​​ determined by the owner of the agency and, in some cases, with margins negotiated by the sales representative. There are rare cases where the PM has control over the amount to be paid for a translation.

In an ideal agency, the PM would work with the sales department to determine the value of each text according to its linguistic complexity and layout, timing, and other relevant factors. However, most agencies work with closed – non-negotiable – values, with some difference in value for shorter deadlines (the so-called “emergency rate”).

Translation Agency Owner Has the Final Word

In addition, you might think that it is the PM who determines a price per word for the translator. Again, the owner of the agency intervenes. The PM may be able to negotiate an increase in tariffs, but the final word is never his.

Regarding the choice of the translator for a project, it is true that the decision is almost entirely the PM’s. It is the PM who decides which translator to allocate for a given job. However, other factors may influence their decision, such as negotiated discounts with the client (which will consequently change the value of the translator), customer choice, among others.

Translator Reputation – Yet critical – Is Just the Beginning

The translator’s reputation in terms of quality, timely delivery and specialty in the subject are fundamental aspects when making the decision. Even so, a PM may decide to choose another translator for different reasons. Many agencies prefer to work with the same translator for a particular client (using that old maxim that “do not mess with a winning team”). Many translators are experts in the subject, but won’t accept the fee paid by the agency and the PM may not always interfere in this process.

An Organised PM Will Keep All the Good Resumes Handy

Another misconception is about selecting new translators. The difficulty of getting an answer (be it positive or negative) from an agency is not always related to the PM’s lack of interest in hiring new talent for his agency. Often, the PM might receive a CV from another translator that fits the agency’s needs perfectly at that time; or that project did not go through; or the PM is involved in another project with a higher priority. An organised PM will keep the resumes sent so that they can contact the translators when the time comes. When I used to apply to translation agencies, I submitted resumes and sometimes would receive an immediate response, but more often than not, I would receive an answer months after I sent my resume to agencies.

“Hi, Honey, I’m home!”

Are you kidding me? There is still Review, DTP, Comments, possible Crisis to manage

Anyway, let’s get back to that translation project of ours. You think it ends here? Not at all! After delivery by the translator comes the review phase, layout (if applicable) and delivery to the customer. And after all that is done, you still have to wait to see if the customer has any comments, suggestions or criticism about the work delivered. It is up to the PM to receive the client’s feedback and pass it on to the translator and/or reviewer, as the case may be, for future adjustments. Then, it might be necessary for the PM to manage a possible crisis (when the translator does not deliver the translation in time or deliver later than what was agreed, when the client does not approve the translation or when the client does not pay, just to name a few).

PMs Need to Be Flexible

What freelance translators need to understand is that the PM function requires much more than simple language knowledge. The PM needs, first of all, to be flexible, to know how to solve problems quickly and to deal with the various human elements involved in a translation project. Just as we translators might sometimes complain when a client is insistently asking if the contracted project is ready, the PM also finds it inconvenient for translators to ask about their submitted CVs, deadlines for payment, ask for an advance, etc.

The PM is a Busy bee – Take Care of Your PM

So next time you do not receive a response straight away to a resume you’ve submitted, instead of thinking that it has ended up in the bin, think about all the other tasks that the Translation Project Manager has to perform during the day. Write, but use your good judgement to know when and how to write. After all, the PM is a busy bee. If you remember that, you’ll go a long way with your Translation project Manager.

Work Translation with Agencies, Companies, LSPs – neither fish nor fowl

Work Translation between Agencies, LSPs and translators

Prioritising Clients You Are Best Suited With

One of the main questions professional translators ask is: Should I work translation for direct clients or translation agencies? Undoubtedly, working for direct clients is more profitable, but it can often mean having to perform more tasks outside the scope of the translation itself: budget, file preparation, DTP (layout and formatting), final review, and more. Agencies pay less, but they take care of all of the collateral tasks of the project, and the translator can focus on his greatest talent: translating. In both situations, there are pros and cons, and it is up to each professional to prioritise the type of client they are best suited to work with. To do so, we must understand who our customers are, their role in the supply chain within the translation market and where we, as linguistic providers, position ourselves in that chain.

Translation Agencies – What are They?

There are two main types of clients: direct customers and translation agencies. Direct clients are individuals or companies that hire independent professionals or translation agencies for translation projects. Translation agencies can be global companies that operate in multiple languages ​​and have offices in several countries OR small translation agencies that work translation with a limited number of languages ​​and provide services to both direct clients and global agencies.

What on earth? Translation agencies working for other translation agencies?

But how so? Translation agencies working with translation agencies? Sounds complicated? Well, not so much. As a matter-of-fact, small agencies, besides being clients of independent translators, are also linguistic providers for direct clients and global agencies, placing them in two market positions: as agencies and LSPs.

Translation Agencies Supply Bigger Fish

Small translation agencies are structured to suit both direct customers and global translation agencies. Direct clients are supplied with all the items pertaining to the translation project (from a detailed budget to the finished product, be it a website, a subtitled video or a simple document), since they have a diverse portfolio of collaborators taking care of translation, revision, editing, subtitling, among others. For global translation agencies, these companies provide what we call TEP (translation, editing, proofreading), which is nothing more than a revised and verified translation in its final format: three process steps guaranteed by a single supplier, in addition to a customised project management infrastructure.

Big Translation Agencies Rely on Smaller Fish for Local Translators

What is the advantage for global agencies in working with small translation service providers? While global agencies have many independent translation and proofreading professionals in their workflows, hiring them as translators, proofreaders, quality control specialists, project leaders and many other functions, they also rely on the small translation agencies based in the countries where the contracted target language is spoken.

Small Agencies Assist in the Translation Process

The role of these small businesses as LSPs is not only to provide TEP, but also to provide infrastructure and workflow support, especially in large accounts projects, for which it is difficult to get as many resources with the specific account profile and manage quality control efficiency at the same time. Small translation agencies then act as partners for global agencies, assisting the translation process, supplying revision teams, controlling quality to apply LQAs (language quality assurance), manage glossaries, and act as an intermediary between client and translators, etc., and relying on a team of project managers specifically dedicated to these accounts.

Working With Freelancers – Easier on the Wallet

But for small agencies, is it advantageous to have these customers? If the global agency pays a fair price for such an important and complex partnership, that’s fine. As we know, in France, legal entities are submitted to a large tax and health insurance burden. That makes it very complex for companies to hire employees to perform some of the functions that require a greater commitment to work translation. Working with independent professionals (or freelancers) is a way out, but as these professionals have numerous clients, it becomes complicated to require a quasi-exclusive commitment from them if they have other fish to fry.

Working With the Biggest Translation Agencies to Be Better Trained

Still, it is advantageous to work translation with global agencies, not only for turnover, but also for the opportunity to learn more about the latest tools and trends in the marketplace. Depending on the partnership that translation agencies have with global agencies, their employees are trained, deal with their direct clients on some tasks, and even travel to other countries to test products and perform specific projects. On the other hand, it may be difficult for the small business to handle the volumes of this type of customer, since maintaining a portfolio of available employees can be challenging. And, in general, global agencies specify minimum weekly contract volumes, so you have to prepare well to combine time and quality.

Smaller translation agencies – a Better Understanding of Freelance Translators

For the independent translator, having a small translation agency as a client is a way for them to work translation with professionals who could potentially understand the role of translators and the difficulties they encounter with specific projects. It is the chance to work with those who already went through these difficulties and probably already have solutions for some of them. The ultimate goal being: keep the customer happy.

We Are All in the Same Boat

The truth of the matter is: we are all in the same boat. So we all need – translators, proofreaders, agencies – to leave prejudices aside and try to maintain a healthy relationship, always, communicating as much as we can about the role of each party in this relationship and tariffs, the real taboo between us. Keep in mind that our goals are the same, so if we have a good relationship, we all profit, both in revenue and in knowledge. To reach this point, it is necessary to think about which role each party play in the translation industry and, rather than competing, trying to improve our partnerships.

ProZ – A Dirty Word?

ProZ for translators profile-a cattle market or not

ProZ profile – Worth registering (or NOT)

Registering a profile – Should You?

One of the most frequent questions that translators, especially beginners, ask me is whether to register a profile with ProZ is worth it or is a bit like being in a cattle market. This is a very controversial subject.

On the one hand, there are translators who have managed to win over a clientele that pays higher fares find the tariffs offered by some advertisers demeaning on ProZ and think it is like a cattle market. On the other hand, beginner translators or those who work in those countries with the lowest Purchasing Power Parity, for example, benefit from the exchange rate and find these fees to be advantageous.

Advantages in Being a Subscriber – Somewhat Personal

The fact is that we cannot just think of the average value per word offered in ProZ. We have to consider all the benefits and understand how it works. Knowing how to take advantage of what ProZ offers can make a difference in order to achieve this, say, superior customer base. Although most of my bulk customers are direct customers, I work with some agencies, all international, and 90% of them came from ProZ. Therefore, I see advantages in being a subscriber. But that’s my Experience. For other people, it may not be advantageous and I am not going to say otherwise, my proposal here is to explain why I think it is advantageous to be a subscriber.

ProZ – Whatizit??

ProZ is a site where companies, translators, agencies register and offer jobs or services. There are some who call it an auction site, because some agencies offer jobs on the “who charges the least” basis, but that’s not all that happens there. The site has a job offers section, sort of classified. Part of the jobs offered might already have the price that the customer is willing to pay. Some other jobs, on the other hand, have no price mentioned and the customer asks translators to communicate their rate. Some of the offers come with the famous “please provide us with your best rate”, where the lowest bidder likely wins.

How much is the subscription?

You can create your profile for free in ProZ, but if you subscribe, you will have access to more features. As in 2019, the annual subscription costs new members $120. They also offer a semiannual subscription, which ends up being more expensive. They also offer a third subscription mode, which includes a training package consisting of videos and training. If you choose this type of subscription, it will be valid for one year and you can choose one of three training packages: marketing and personal promotion; project management or starter package. These packages can also be purchased separately. On top of that, you can select the various Plus package multi-year options for three years ($450), for five years ($600) or a Standard package multi-year options – 3 years ($330) or five years ($500).

Advantages of Being a Subscriber

The first advantage of being a subscriber is that you will have immediate access to restricted job offers. Non-subscribers can only see most of these offers after a minimum of 12 hours. Many advertisers open the offer to non-subscribers after 48/72 hours. Another great advantage is having access to the Blue Board, a directory that shows how fellow translators rated agencies (from 0 to 5). This directory is very useful when you do not know the agency and you want to know they pay on time, for example. Other advantages of being a subscriber are: subscribers appear listed before non-subscribers to customers; subscriber quotes are viewed first by advertisers; positioning on Google searches (customers are directed to your ProZ profile); discounts on some training offered on site; tracking of visitors to your profile; participation in translation competitions; discounts on some tools, etc.

How to get the most out of ProZ

Don’t make the same mistake everybody does – complete your profile

A big mistake made by translators who claim that they’re not getting anything from ProZ is not investing in their profile. I see many translators who create their profile and leave as it is. If a customer has an English to French job in marketing, he will find hundreds of ProZ profiles and will find it hard to choose. Of course, the more complete, more organised and more detailed profile will stand out, which works in the translator’s favour if the customer is looking for quality. If he is looking for a cheap price, he will go to the cheapest translator straight away. But here, you want to reach that “superior” clientele, right? That’s why it’s crucial to complete your profile, put as much information as possible, present your product in a compelling and attention-grabbing way.

Be specific about your offering

Another important and not much explored resource is the WWA (Willingness to Work Again). With it, you can ask your clients to leave testimonials about your work. So you can show your future clients that you are a serious and respected professional. Equally important is to respond quickly to an interesting job offer. Often than not, the customer is in a hurry, and if you leave your answer at a later date, you may end up losing opportunities. Remember that offers are based on specific criteria (language, area of expertise, CAT tool etc.), so be very specific when creating your profile, to make sure that the ideal offers come to your email.

Receiving Direct Offers

After I improved my profile years ago, I started receiving countless direct job offers, which are not even on the list. Of course, this was not the case at the beginning. I’ve been a ProZ member since 2001 and it took me a few years to get to the current level of rarely responding to an offer on the list unless it’s something very interesting. Customers started sending me messages with direct offers and I grabbed some good translation agencies like that. In other words, it’s not because you’re in ProZ that you need to participate in the “auction.”

Of course, for those who are starting out have the issue of lack of experience to put on their profile. But that is where their personal marketing skills come in, their ability to show that despite having little experience, they are good in their offering. They can demonstrate their zeal in their profile, their willingness to become a professional translator. This is the starting point for success.

15 tips to get a translation job with an agency

How to be a successful freelance translator

My freelance translation business hardly ever advertise for a translation job, since I do most of my work in house or with the help of a tiny team of trusted other translators.

However, nearly every day, I receive an average of a dozen emails from translators offering their translation services with different language combinations and areas of expertise. Unfortunately, these types of emails are written in such a way that it ensures they very often end up in my spam folder or in my trash folder.
Here are some of the tips you could find helpful to increase your chances of getting a translation job from translation agencies.

Research your translation agencies

Find out who they really are and to whom your email should be addressed to. If you are sending your message without specifying whom you are sending it to, it is very likely to be sent to the spam folder. Most of your prospects are translation agencies? Try and find out their email address: many translation organisations prefer candidates to fill out a questionnaire on their web site for new translators to contact them. If this is the way they like it and this is how they want to gather data from freelance translators, if you contact them by email, you’re wasting your time.

Find out the types of translation jobs the agency offers

You need to know what areas of expertise they are looking for in their translators. This will help you create an even more targeted email with a better chance of success. A translation agency will be more interested in receiving an email that says ‘I’m an English into French freelance translator with a degree in civil engineering and more than 15 years’ experience in translating user guides for the automobile industry’ than a standard ‘I translate from English, French, German and Portuguese into Greek’.

Keep the Subject of the email as brief as possible

A great subject, for example, might be ‘English > French translator with many years (15) of experience, specialised in civil engineering’ which is absolutely better than, let’s say ‘French Freelance Translator/Proofreader’ and far better than ‘Seeking opportunity at your esteem company’, often a subject line I receive from misguided translators

Write your message very carefully

If it happens that you are not a native speaker of the language that you are writing into, I suggest that you have a native speaker proof read your copy. Keep in mind: the goal of your email is to persuade your translation agency to open your CV.

Don’t say that you translate from your language – French – into a second language

Doing such a thing will guarantee that the translation company thinks that you are not a professional. Unless you are one of those extremely rare people who are native speakers of several languages, that is to say you are a true bilingual, you should say so but you must be prepared to explain how you became a true bilingual. For example, ‘My mother is French, my father is British, each of my parents decided to speak to me in their native language from my very early age and while I was living in Switzerland, I studied from grade 1 until high school in an international school where most subjects were taught in English.

Mention your language pair and your name within the heading of your CV

For example, “Olivier Den Hartigh, English into French translator”.

Keep your CV as brief as possible

No further than 1 page if you don’t have a considerable experience and no more than 2 pages in other circumstances.

Don’t include your translation rates in your email or your CV

If you want to speak about rates, that should come later.

Do not include any references

Provide them at a later stage if the translation agency requires them.

Ensure your CV is written without errors

Once again, if it’s written in a language that is not your native language, envisage having it proofread.

Localize your CV according to your target

For example, a CV for a prospect who is French should really contain your photo, but not for an American company.

Make sure your CV contains all the information that is important

Forget the irrelevant information. If you have a very small experience, it is all right for your CV to include information concerning other types of translation job that you have done. As soon as you start having experience in translation, delete the unnecessary information.

Make certain that all the given information you provide in your email and in your CV can be verified

Information you should include in your CV

Your working language pairs, how to contact you, your translation experience, other translation job that is relevant, education, expertise with certain applications (as an example, CAT tools or DTP programs – don’t mention in the various applications that you know how to use Word or Excel – translation agencies will assume that you know how to work those.

Information you should not include in your CV

Private information such as your age or marital status. If you find out that the translation agency you are targeting usually includes this type of information, I suggest you use your best judgement and decide by yourself whether you wish to include this information or not. Moreover, you should not include information such as your interests and your hobbies unless your hobbies contribute to your area of expertise. For example, “I play golf, that is something I am passionate about and this experience helps me when I translate notices about golf equipment”.

Finally, something utterly crucial:
You must remember that you are the person who decides about your rates, not the translation agencies. In the same way, translation agencies are free to simply accept your rates, or refuse them or try to make you lower those rates. This is simply business.