Many freelance translators aspire to build their own business, establishing long-term relationships with direct companies and other organisations that will hopefully provide them with a steady stream of profitable work.
This is not always possible early on in a translator’s career, when, as well as earning a living, it is important to develop a good knowledge base and to gain experience in the various types of work that are available.
It is true that whilst some translators will start to specialise early on in their career, becoming particularly proficient in one or other of the fields, many others, perhaps the majority, will want to build a wider general knowledge base first and may indeed continue to seek work across all fields.
The work provided by translation agencies, or LSPs (Language Service Providers), can therefore be of paramount importance to the freelance translator. In some case, work from an agency may be the primary source of income, in others it may also be the source by which a translator gains experience and develops his knowledge base.
Even established translators, who have strong relationships with direct clients, may use agencies as a backstop in seasonal troughs or, indeed, work routinely for them as a means of keeping the line open to more easily counter difficult economic times.
As to whether an agency is “suitable” for you, depends very much upon the language services it provides, the rate at which it can offer you work, how long it will take to pay you and whether it is likely to offer you regular work.
Likewise, the translator will need to meet the agency’s criteria, in terms of language pairing, experience and the capability of turning round translations within the time stipulated. After all the agency’s reputation is dependent upon the translator’s ability to deliver work to a high professional standard.
There are a number of ways to target suitable LSPs, avoiding those that do not offer work in your particular language specialties, or who only occasionally have work in those languages.
Three such methods are considered here:
Method 1: Researching agencies from their Google Adwords focus.
For this example, let us assume that your mother tongue is English and you translate texts from Portuguese into English.
Begin by entering a relevant search term into Google, such as:
Portuguese to English Translators
We can of course look at the organic search engine results page and see if there are any suitable translation agencies in the first 3 SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), but what we are really interested in with this method is to see which language service providers are using Google Adwords to target potential clients. (NB. The Google Adwords are the three adverts above the SERPs and also the smaller sized adverts down the right-hand side of the SERPs).
If a translation agency is actively targeting customers and paying Google each time a visitor clicks on their advert, then it is logical to think that they are specialising in your language pair.
Once you have taken a note of the various ads by agencies using Google Adwords, you can try different variants of your keyword phrase, such as:
Portuguese to English
Portuguese to English Translator
Portuguese to English Translation
Portuguese to English Translations
Once you have exhausted all the variants of the keyword phrases, then you can update your client database with the different language service providers that you have found, together with all their contact details.
Method 2: Researching other translators
Another very targeted method of selecting potentially suitable translation agencies is to research the language service providers that other translators in your language pair(s) are working for. The primary resource here is provided by ProZ, which is the world’s largest community of translators.
Although membership to ProZ is highly recommended as a worthwhile investment for all freelance translators, you do not actually need to be a paying member to take advantage of the following tip to research suitable agencies.
Every ProZ member, whether they pay for a subscription or not, has the opportunity to seek feedback from translation agencies that they have worked for in the past and include it in their translator profile. This benefits the translator, as positive feedback from previous clients makes their profile more attractive to future clients.
However, it also means that they are making public those agencies that they have worked for, which means that you now have access to the details of companies, who in the past have offered jobs in YOUR particular language pair, and you can update your client database accordingly.
Method 3: Let the agencies target YOU!
By far the most effective way of not only finding a suitable agency, but actually getting a strong targeted lead, is to let the translation agencies find you. And this is where a paid membership to ProZ really comes into its own.
ProZ is the go to place for translation agencies who are looking for a suitable translator to work on a particular project. They will usually do a search, corresponding to the parameters of the job, and then write to a shortlist of translators that they consider suitable.
In order to get onto that shortlist, it is essential that you make your ProZ profile as attractive as you possibly can to potential suitors. This can be partly achieved through writing in detail your translation experience (including the number of words translated for projects) and qualifications, as well as including those agency testimonials we spoke about earlier.
Making the shortlist of translators does not necessarily mean that you will be selected for the job (that is where CVs, covering letters and of course your rates will all play their part), but nonetheless it is probably one of the most effective methods for getting work through suitable translation agencies.
I hope you found 3 Tips For Finding Suitable Translation Agencies to be of interest to you and if so please take the time to share on your favourite social media channels. If you have any additional comments or advice, then I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.