I get a lot of questions about translation work over here, so, as part of a new occasional series of info and tips on living, working and traveling in Spain, here are my top 10 tips on translation work in Spain:
One. Your CV. Exaggerate a bit, all the Spanish do, and here there seems to be no chasing up of references. Remember that one translation you did for your uncle’s website? If it went well then your CV might as well say that you did regular translation work for his company for a year. I had no translation courses on my initial CV when I started free-lancing 3 years ago, just pretty fluent Spanish and some ‘expanded’ translation experience like this.
Two. E-mail a covering letter with a brief outline of your experience to a long list of translation agencies, offering to send them a full CV. Lists of agencies can be found via obvious google searches, and the Spanish yellow pages
Three. Aim to do around 3,000 words a day to start with, this is what the agencies will expect as a minimum, though with time, practice, and useful translation tools (see below), this may well increase to up to 6,000 a day. Say yes to all offered work and never miss a deadline!
Four. Use translation tools/programs such as Wordfast, and, if you can afford it, SDLX (try trial version first). These can save hours of your time and increase efficiency dramatically.
Five. Money. Expect to get 4 to 5 centimos per word from agencies, and 6 to 8 from direct clients. Direct clients come over time and are obviously preferable, as no agency cut is taken from the original price. You will need to be self-employed, or ‘Autonomo’, to work seriously as a translator in Spain.
Six. Get a decent broadband connection, you will need to be on-line all the time, using invaluable dictionary and definition websites. I swear by Proz.com, whose incredible web search engine searches all my favorite sites at once. Make sure you include Eurodicautom and Wordreference in the selected dictionaries. Proz.com also has other excellent resources for translators. And google is great for checking whether the word you just guessed at really exists or not.
Seven. Check check ckeck. When you finish a translation start with a spell check, then carefully re-read and revise your work, and finally spell check again. Imagine that another native speaker is going to quality check it after you (this does happen in some agencies), so make sure it sounds like good English (or the language in question) before you send it back.
Eight. Learn to type fast, or use voice recognition software like Dragon Naturally Speaking, which really does work.
Nine. Be patient. It can take up to a year to build up a regular flow of work, but with hard marketing at the beginning, this may be quicker. You may need up to 3 or 4 agencies sending you work to make a good, secure living. It works well combined with other jobs – in my case a bit of web design and 2 hours a week teaching (to get me out of the house!)
Ten. Advantages – the freedom of self-employment and working from home, and good money if you get enough words per month (much better than teaching English). Disadvantages – working from home (do you like your own company? Find a way to get out and see people a couple of times a week!), the downsides of self-employment (you will have to work the odd weekend and late night), plus it can be stressful when the client/agency wants that huge translation a.s.a.p. It’s working out fine for me though.
If you have any more ideas, questions, or top ten tips requests, please use the comments link below. Hope this helps!