This article originally appeared on the blog Catherine Translates.
I have recently been approached by translators who are starting their careers or who are making a shift to freelance work. Their first question usually goes like this, “If I want to work from home, where and how do I find clients?”
There are, of course, many possible answers. In this post, I’d like to discuss how ProZ.com can be a useful tool as part of a translator’s marketing mix. For the record, this information is based on my personal experience as a paying member. I do not represent ProZ.com in any way.
How I used ProZ.com in the beginning
In 2005, I had just completed my translation degree and did not have any professional experience. I had a few local clients who provided me with occasional work. I really wanted to gain experience and work full-time. I was actively looking for a point of entry into the translation industry.
After using a few different online translator databases with little success, I stumbled upon ProZ.com. What initially attracted me was its many features and ease of use. I built a profile and tried to make it as complete as possible by following the guidelines. In a nutshell, this is what I did:
- I submitted an initial profile that was at least 80% complete and revised it regularly.
- I initially chose to participate in site activities such as answering translation questions.
- I submitted a portfolio to receive the Certified PRO status and I adhered to their professional guidelines.
- I made it easy for clients to reach me and I described my services clearly.
I soon started to ask clients to submit a review of my services (a feature called WWA).
In the first six months after becoming a paying member, I sent one application a day to an agency or other contact I wanted to work with. I found many of those contacts on ProZ.com. I did this every day, one week per month. Many people did not respond, but some did and became regular clients.
I soon realized that I no longer needed to look for clients because they were now finding me through ProZ.com. This made it possible for me to focus on translating. I was selective from the start, choosing to work with clients who met my criteria. It took me about two years to achieve my objective of working full-time. During that time, I sometimes looked for clients, I improved my online presence and I sharpened my translation skills. Ever since then, I have been improving my client base, letting go of some clients and taking on new clients that better fit my career objectives.
It is important to understand that ProZ.com, as valuable as it can be, becomes a more powerful tool when it is linked to other online platforms such as LinkedIn and a professional website. While it is possible to use ProZ.com exclusively, that would limit the types of clients you attract. I would caution you against putting your all your eggs in one basket.
How I use ProZ.com today
At the moment, I have a full slate of reputable international (mostly) and local clients, some of which are agencies. I now use ProZ.com in the following way:
- I update my profile a few times a year as needed.
- I check a potential client’s rating on the Blue Board, read the comments, and only work for clients who consistently get a perfect or almost perfect score.
I regularly mark my availability on the calendar; some clients refer to it to see how busy I am.
- I ask regular clients for WWA.
- I refer to various forum topics for help (technical mostly) or contribute to them.
ProZ.com still plays a significant role in my marketing efforts. In fact, most of my clients first find me on ProZ.com, before going to my website. I see ProZ.com as a tool among others. Tools are designed for a specific purpose and cannot meet every need.
ProZ.com may be for you if…
- You want to enter the global marketplace.
- You like the idea of networking online with peers, creating or using content (through forums and answering questions) or connecting for social purposes.
- You are looking for a way to gain experience as a translator and to learn about the translation industry.
- You would like to work for agencies in particular.
- You want to be visible online and do not yet have your own website.
ProZ.com may not be for you if…
- You are looking for direct and local clients exclusively.
- You have no interest in investing some time in building an online profile.
What I learned from ProZ.com
Over the years, I have seen the “ProZ” and cons of the translation workplace. I sometimes cringe at the way translators present themselves or at how they answer translation questions, but overall, I can say that ProZ.com has been very useful.
By answering translation questions, I’ve learned how to justify my point of view and discovered reputable sources used by experienced translators. This skill has proven to be invaluable in my work because some of the projects I am involved in require in-depth language analysis. When potential clients view my profile and the answers I have provided, I am confident that this is a positive factor in their choice of a translator.
I have also gained an appreciation for what not to do as professional translator. It shows when someone answers a translation question poorly, asks several easy questions or when a profile is incomplete. Every online interaction can add to, or diminish, the quality of your online presence.
I have been able to solve technical issues and to learn about the translation industry by consulting the forums. For someone who works with a CAT tool, the technical forums are very helpful. They have helped me save time and money on several occasions.
I have not used and still do not use ProZ.com to bid on projects. These jobs typically offer very low rates and this is not the type of client I am looking for.
Is ProZ.com for you?
It is important to maximize your time and networking efforts. In this respect, ProZ.com can be a good investment. Like other profiles or sites you may have online, it will tirelessly represent you around the clock.
You get to choose which tools work best for you. After all, like me, I am sure you’d rather be translating.
Johanne Benoit-Gallagher is a Quebec-based freelance translator. In addition to translating, she provides cultural adaptation services to clients who wish to communicate effectively with Canadian francophones. Through Prima Translation, she is able to combine her English-French language skills with her sound knowledge in life sciences, education and corporate communications.