Translation agencies in or near Hampshire can be found by clicking on the place names on the list.
Translators don't work in a vacuum. Work has to come from somewhere, ultimately from some individual or organization that has material in one language and needs to be able to read it in another language. As discussed in the first two articles, most of this material is business-related, often it is software guides, hardware manuals, engineering specifications, financial reports, legal transcripts, in other words, material that someone needs for some business purpose. Often the material is too large and complex for one translator to handle in a reasonable amount of time, and typically the organization that wants the translation done wants to give the entire translation project to one organization. So we have translation vendors, typically referred to as translation agencies.
What is an Agency?
Translators have all had to deal with agencies at one point or another. Although some of us work exclusively with agencies, others of us have our own clients, and a still others work in-house for a company or organization. Nonetheless, no translator can afford, literally or figuratively, to ignore agencies, and it behooves every translator to know as much about them as possible.
An agency is a service house that provides clients with translations. There are translation agencies in every major city around the world. There are large chains of translation agencies, like Berlitz and Bowne. Other agencies have a headquarters in a major city and then numerous branches in other cities, not necessarily in the same country. And some translation agencies are smaller operations, with only one office sometimes staffed by only one or two people.
Agencies often specialize, providing translation services for only one or a few related languages. Some agencies work exclusively with Japanese, or Spanish, both high volume languages in the United States at present. Others work only with Asian languages, or only with Middle-eastern languages. Also, many agencies specialize in subject areas, providing services for medical translation, software localization, or legal translation.
Always remember that translation agencies are first and foremost businesses. Like all other forms of business, they live and die by their ability to turn a profit. And their ability to turn a profit rests firmly in their capacity to find good translators and work successfully with them.
In other words, translators are the lifeblood of an agency. A translation agency without translators will go out of business immediately. An agency must have translators and prefers to have good, reliable translators. The opposite, however, is not necessarily true. Many translators work with end-clients directly, providing most of the services that agencies do. Most translators, however, myself included, get at least some of their work from agencies. If you are wondering why translators all just don't strike out on their own, read on.
Why Do We Need Them?
So if a translation agency does nothing more than provide translation services, why do translators need them? Why can not translators simply work for the end-client directly, cut out the middle, and make lots more money? There are three reasons.
First, the size of translation projects. Many translation jobs consist of hundreds or thousands of pages of material, perhaps one or more manuals, technical documentation, or legal materials. The end-client, the one that contracts with the agency to do the translation work, wants the job completed too quickly for a single translator to ever do, such as two weeks for 250,000 words of material, and prepared professionally, perhaps printed in full color with graphics and photos. In other words, no single translator has the capacity to provide this scale of service for projects of this size.
Second, the nature of translation projects. Often a translation job will involve translating material into five languages at once, such as with the preparation of an annual report or the manuals for a new software package. Again, the end-client wants it all returned quickly, so no single translator, even assuming that one translator has the ability to translate into five different languages, a virtual impossibility, can hope to finish the job.
Third, the nature of end-clients. End-clients usually prefer to deal with the same organization on a regular basis. This simplifies their own business operations considerably. What this means is that an individual translator cannot reasonably hope to provide all the different services, including various languages, subject areas, desktop publishing, offset printing, and so forth, that an end-client might need during a given business year. Once again, the demands of many end-clients are far beyond what a single translator can provide.
So there are the translation agencies. They provide two categories of service. One: they put together the number of translators needed to handle the material in question (and many agencies maintain an in-house translation staff for this purpose, particularly for languages with high, steady demand). Two: they manage the project from start to completion, including project estimates and bids, desktop publishing, layout, and typesetting, localization of content (both text and visual material), graphics, and printing. Translators therefore are a small but essential part of this the overall translation process.
Agencies, at least good ones, also simplify a translators life. The agency calls, tells you there is work to be done, you briefly discuss the job with someone you know and trust, then you do the work, submit it along with an invoice, and you get paid. You don't have to deal with submitting invoices to a huge corporation, a task which can be something of a nuisance, explaining to people with no knowledge of language and translation why your translation does not look exactly like the original, telling people with no experience living in other cultures why a particular friendly hand gesture in the United States is lewd in Brazil or meaningless in Taiwan. Most important, you don't have to deal with as much marketing, something the agencies do as a matter of course.
Agencies benefit from having good translators available because they can then provide their clients with quality products in a timely fashion. Agencies definitely want to have good translators, are willing to pay good translators more, and will often be very flexible with you when they want you in particular to do a job. Note the reciprocal relationship here. Not only do translators need agencies to get work, but agencies need translators to get their work done. Agencies need translators as much as translators need agencies because each group provides skills and services the other requires to survive.
Translators do from time to time band together to provide the services that an agency provides in an attempt to circumvent what some translators see as a source of lost income. However, they typically find that this requires a considerable investment in computer hardware, software, and training, not to mention finding reliable printing service bureaus and such. All of this is specialized work, outside the skill set most translators have developed. Color separations, image manipulation, layout, typesetting, and so forth require knowledge and experience. Some groups of translators do cultivate these skills or hire people who have them, but by the time they do all of this and create a successful, functional group, they have in essence become a translation agency.
Now what about those projects that don't require fancy printing, DTP, or color separations? In practice, agencies tend to handle those because they come from the same people who have the big projects. End-clients like simplicity, so they work consistently with the same agency.
However, many translators do develop their own clients and translate such "simpler material" for them. About half my work comes from agencies and half comes from direct clients. It is a good situation because the agencies I work with are responsible and competent and pay me fairly, and my direct clients are the same. Reaching this position requires time and effort, however, as well as no small amount of luck.
Nevertheless, most translators work for agencies at some point in their careers. Some agencies are easier to work for than others. The point of this article is to increase understanding about the relationship which exists between translators and agencies and to provide insight into what translators can do to make that relationship better. If I seem to be putting the onus on translators, I do so only because change comes more readily for individuals than organizations, and translators stand to benefit considerably as individuals from knowing how to work with agencies. I also hope that agencies will reciprocate and treat translators with the respect that their professionalism deserves.
If the above ideas have convinced you that working with translation agencies is worthwhile, then you still have a lot to do. Even if you want to work exclusively with direct clients, the marketing procedure remains very similar. In other words, there is a lot of business to take care of before you will be inundated with translation work.
The Resume or Brochure
The first thing you have to do is tell the agencies that you exist. You should do this in as many different ways as possible, including sending out mailings of your resume or a brief business brochure, registering via agencies' web sites as an independent contractor translator, attending various conferences for translators where you might hand out business cards or other material, and so forth. The result is that the agencies will send you work, eventually.
Your resume or brochure is important. Very important. You will rarely meet the people you work for face to face and you are unlikely to tour the major cities of the U.S. or elsewhere to visit in person every translation agency you can find. Instead, your resume will do all this for you. Therefore, your resume (or brochure; hereafter I'll just say resume and ask you to understand that I mean both) had better be perfect.
Not only must your resume be perfect, it must be distinctive. One project manager I know told me that her translation agency, a smaller organization by current standards, receives about 50 resumes per week, and given all her other responsibilities, she can look at each resume for about five seconds. So your resume has to stand out, to cry out that you are the translator for this agency, that you are the one worth contacting and working with. How exactly you do this is more than a little difficult to say, but I suggest you consult many different books on resume writing to look at samples, then find a format and style which appeals to you, next spend a lot of time working your information into that format, and finally put in the effort to check the results, preferably by having a friend (or ideally, a friend who is a project manager) critique your efforts. All that said, there are certain things you have to do with your resume, and those we will discuss here.
Your resume must include the following information:
Your full name (the one you want to appear on paychecks)
Your business address (which is probably your home address as well)
Your telephone and fax number(s)
Your email address
All of this information must appear at the very top of the resume, where it can be seen immediately.
Next, and so important that if you omit it some agencies will stop reading your resume, comes your native and working languages. Don't claim to have more than one native language. I know some agencies which throw away resumes of translators who claim to have two or three native languages. Also, be very careful about claiming to translate into your non-native languages. Some agencies will instantly recycle your resume if they read something to that effect.
Of course there are individuals who by birth or training have achieved native fluency in more than one language, as there are people who can translate into their second languages. Such people are quite rare, however, and so claiming to be one of them is risky if only because agencies have been fooled enough times to be wary. You are better off claiming less at first and then doing more later for a client than the other way around.
Now, the nitty-gritty; the meat of the resume.
First, detail your experience as a translator, including work you've done in any country, for any organization, under any circumstances. If your background is so extensive that it would fill volumes, then pick the choicest bits and leave out the rest. Also, make sure to list currently active clients, as well as those you've worked for in the past. Specify the work you did for them. Don't just say: I translated for Berlitz. Say: Translated users manual for Blah- blah software for Berlitz in 1999.
Describe your educational background, highlighting all aspects related to translation, language, or the area you translate in. If you have a Bachelor's in languages or literature, put it in. If you plan to translate engineering material and hold a B.S. in engineering, put it in. If you have unrelated degrees, put them in, but don't emphasize them. If you have absolutely no educational background in language or translation, you might want to get some before you start out as a translator.
If you are just starting out as a translator and have no translation experience, put your education first on your resume, consider emphasizing those aspects of your academic training which demonstrate your language and translation ability. One way or another you need to convince the agency, or direct client, for that matter, that you can actually translate. Nothing speaks more clearly than experience, but strong education will be viewed as a form of experience.
At this point your resume may already be looking full, so feel free to extend it to two pages. My resume covers two pages. The first contains my contact information, my experience, and my educational background. The second describes my office equipment, related experience, and finally awards and accreditations, each of which is discussed below.
Office equipment must be described precisely. Don't merely mention that you have a computer. Every translator has one, some have two or three. Tell them exactly what you have, including the CPU type, the amount of RAM and hard drive space, peripherals and any other gizmos (you can probably omit the description of your Thrustmaster gear or your screen savers). The two required peripherals these days are a printer and fax/modem. Some agencies won't work with translators who don't have laser printers, but most seem to accept printing from high-quality inkjet printers. Don't use a dot-matrix printer or any other arcane devices such as plotters. Be equally precise with your software. Give full names and version numbers for your word processing software. If you have (and know how to use) DTP software, give that. You can even mention databases, spreadsheets, and graphics packages you own. Don't bother mentioning games or educational software. Agencies don't care about your flight simulator collection or your compendium of educational CD- ROM titles.
Next describe any other related experience which will help demonstrate that you can translate and that you know your languages. Specify how long you've spent abroad, how much language training you've had for your non-native languages, and how much education and experience you've had in the fields you translate in. Don't mention menial jobs in college, part-time summer work etc.