How To Create A CV For The Freelance Translator That Actually Works

Translator Tips

A freelance translator’s CV or resume should look quite a bit different to a regular CV, but more than anything else, it needs to stand out from the competition.

Shortly, we shall look at the different components that will make up your professional freelance translator’s CV, but before we do that please take the time to sign up to our Premium Tips and Tools email list so that you can get your hands on our effective CV template.

Once you have signed up for FREE, you will get a download link, where you will be able to download a template that has been especially designed for your Freelancer CV.

This way you can populate the necessary information given in this article, directly into the template as we go.

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Okay, once you have downloaded the translator template CV, open it up in Word (or an equivalent Word Processing software) and we can get started.

1THE CONTACT BOX. Remember this is the first thing that the Language Service Provider will see when they open your CV. You need to grab their attention with the following important details.

Name: It may seem obvious, but this is where you need to proudly put your name in a large clear font.

Language Pair: Opposite your name, again in a large clear font, put your primary language pair (or the language pair that you are specifically applying for).

Contact Details: Make sure all of your up-to-date contact details are here, including your mobile phone number, your primary email and your physical address.

Translator Website: If you have a website about you and your translation services, then put it here. If you don’t have a website, WHY NOT ???

Other Online Profiles: It is a good idea to also put other online profiles that present your translation skills and experience in the Contact Box, such as your ProZ and LinkedIn profiles.

2INTRODUCTION. The next component in your freelance translator CV is an introductory paragraph or two about yourself.

Key Benefits: Try and write your key benefits as a professional freelance translator, including your specialist fields and the number of years that you have been translating.

This is your opportunity, in just a few sentences, to convince the translation agency or the company that you have written to, that you are the best fit for the job.

Succinctly summarise your experience, qualifications and qualities, using facts and figures (e.g. “1 million words translated in the last 2 years alone”), but tell the truth, try not to exaggerate and also try to include something a little bit original that will help make you stand out from the crowd.

Strap line: Write a strap line about your core strengths and qualities as a translator. Again try and be original and avoid using clichés.

3SKILLS BACKGROUND. Next up is the area where you describe your skill set. Obviously, for a professional translator’s resume, the LSP are going to be mostly interested in your Language and Computer Skills.

Language Skills: Name each of your language pairs (in order of your proficiency), together with a short description, which will help explain your level, especially in the target text of the language pair.

NB. Any translation agency worth their salt will only consider translators, who are a native in the target language. Therefore, if you are not a native speaker, you better have a convincing argument as to how and why your proficiency is at a native level).

Computer Skills: Here you need to state your competency in various different software applications, such as Word Processor packages, Spreadsheets, Presentation packages, DTP (Desk Top Publishing) packages and, of course, Cat Tools (Computer Aided Translation Tools), such as SDL Trados and Wordfast.

You should as a minimum be proficient in at least one Office Suite of applications, such as Microsoft Office (Word, Excel and PowerPoint), Open Office or Apple’s iWork suite (Pages, Numbers and Keynote).

Preferably, you should also have experience with a DTP application, a website creation software (e.g. Dreamweaver) and know at least one CAT tool to a high level.

Other Skills: Try and only include other skill sets in your CV if they are relevant to your role as a freelance translator. You should certainly include skills connected with a particular discipline that you specialise in, but it is probably not worth listing generic skills that have no relevance to your translation business.

4SPECIALITIES. This is of course the section where you list your translation specialities.

Translation Specialities: There is a fine balance here between trying to hook as many potential job opportunities as possible and being seen as a Jack Of All Trades. As a general rule, just be truthful. There will be subjects that you are more comfortable translating and areas where you have had more experience.

If you are just starting off as a freelance translator, then it is probably best to list all those fields, which you have had experience translating in until now. However, as your career develops and you begin to specialise in one or more specialist fields, then you may want to change your CV accordingly.

N.B. For a generic translator CV, it should be sufficient to list the top level categories here (e.g. Medical Translations). For a specialist translator CV (see more information at the end of this article), you would need to drill down these specialities (e.g. Medical Reports, Handwritten Medical Reports, Instructions For Use, etc.).

5HOBBIES, INTERESTS AND PROJECTS. We are approaching the end of the first page of your CV and this section fits quite nicely at the bottom of the page.

Hobbies: Try and list your hobbies that naturally compliment your career as a translator, for example, hobbies such as reading and writing.

Interests: Likewise list complimentary interests, such as travelling, learning languages and learning about new cultures, etc.

Projects: This is by far the most important part of this section and should be an opportunity for you to link to recent projects that you feel are relevant to your job application.

NB. Perhaps you can show your knowledge of the subject matter through a recent project, or perhaps you can link to an article, or even a book, which you have written and has been published.

6EDUCATION BACKGROUND. Here is a chance to list your professional and academic qualifications, in the following order.

Professional Qualifications: Professional qualifications and post-graduate degrees in your specialist field are considered to be the most important by translation agencies and so should come first.

University Qualifications: If your university degree is related to your specialist field, then this should be listed next. If your university degree is unrelated to your speciality then you may consider placing it beneath the translation qualifications that you have.

Translation and Language Qualifications: List your translation and language qualifications next, but remember that if all your qualifications are just translation or language related, it will be far harder for you to specialise in a particular field.

Additional Qualifications: Complimentary additional qualifications, such as TEFL for example (if you are translating into English), should come next.

School Qualifications: You should not need to list your school qualifications, unless they are an early indication of your specialist field.

7EMPLOYMENT HISTORY. This section is where you should put all your employment history, both translation and non-translation related.

Freelance Translator: At the top of the Employment History, it should clearly show your role as a professional freelance translator, from the year you started to date. Do not list any actual translation projects that you have worked on, as that will be included in the next section of your CV.

Employment: You should then list each of the positions you have had, starting with the most recent. You should include dates of employment, the name of the employer, your position in the company and a brief description of your duties.

NB. Remember to tell the truth, but try and emphasise all roles and duties that compliment your translation specialties, while highlighting your most important achievements.

8TRANSLATION PROJECTS. In this part of the CV you should list recent translation projects that you have worked on.

Recent Translation Projects: Ideally, you should list the company you worked for, the actual translation project, the software you used during the project and, of course, the language pair itself.

Always use specifics wherever possible, especially the number of words that you have translated (e.g. Medical report – Patient with cardiovascular problems – French to English – 4,500 words). This is very important, as it is one of the things that the LSP will be particularly interested in.

NB. It is vitally important that you get permission from the company that you worked for, before you put their translation project on your CV. Quite apart from being good practise, it might be that the company considers the project to be confidential.

This is even more important when you wish to put a project on your CV, where you have worked for a translation agency. You will almost certainly have signed a Non Disclosure Agreement with the LSP, which will have a clause stating that you need to explicitly ask and be given permission, before you can put any translation project on your CV. If in doubt, leave it out!

9PROFESSIONAL REFERENCES. We should now be approaching the end of the second page of your CV and this section will neatly conclude your professional translator CV.

References: You should include two professional references, with details of the person’s name, role, organisation, as well as details of the project that you worked on for them. It is probably best to try and use references from companies that you have directly worked for, as opposed to agencies.

NB. A word of caution when providing references. The majority of LSPs are professional and trustworthy, but there are always exceptions. It is always best to include professional references, where you either have a very strong relationship with the person in question or where you worked for a one-off big project that has finished and there is no chance of further work in the future.

You should never risk losing an important client, from whom you currently get a lot of work, by putting them as a reference, only for a disreputable translation agency to approach your client and try to win their business from you by offering far lower rates. It is better to be safe than sorry!

Some final thoughts…

It is good practice for a freelance translator to actually have a number of different CVs, according to the number of different fields that the translator specialises in.

For example, a translator who specialises in business translations, marketing translations and human resources translations, may choose to have four different CVs; one for each of his specialist fields, as well as a generic CV.

You can customise each of the CVs as appropriate, highlighting the relevant qualifications, experience, projects and even interests accordingly. That way each job application is far more focused and, therefore, you should have a better chance of success.

I hope that How To Create A CV For The Freelance Translator That Actually Works has been of help to you and if so please take the time to share on your favourite social media channels. Also, if you have any additional ideas and advice, then I would love to hear from you in the comments below.


About the author: David James Ault is a Freelance Translator, Travel Writer, Publisher and Internet Marketer and has created Euro Translations as a resource to help freelance translators make a living from translating – If you have enjoyed this article, then why not sign up to Premium Tips and Tools for the Freelance Translator (and get a great FREE gift while you are at it).

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