How To Get More Work From Translation Agencies

By Antonio Catanese
In Getting Started
Feb 24th, 2014

Why You Are Not Getting Work – How To Approach Agencies

Guest Post by Antonio Catanese


So you’ve decided you would like to work for agencies. Good idea, it could turn into a regular income stream, without the stress of having to constantly find new customers.Get More Work From Translation Agencies

Let me confirm straight away a painful truth, which I’m sure you are aware of by now: we get hundreds of CVs every day.

The good news of course is that with a large enough agency, there is enough work to go around for good translators. On the other hand, it’s not just the competition that’s high – it’s also the level of noise in our inboxes.

“Ok, we get it, you are busy, but how do we get you to notice us?” – I hear you ask.

Fear not, my fellow language-loving professionals, because I am going to show you the laziest AND best way.

Ready? The secret is: don’t make it easy for us to overlook you.

It’s that simple. Before even thinking about how to optimize your pitch, the thing that will give you the best results with the least amount of effort is to not get it wrong. I am ready to bet there are a good number of incredibly talented linguists who miss out on good jobs because they do something that makes it harder for us to say “yes”.

So, we asked some of our Talent Managers, the very same people who will be reading your applications, for tips on how to get hired and how to keep getting more work (beside being a good translator, of course).

We’ve split your application in two stages:

  1. 1. Preparing your CV and
  2. 2. Reaching out to agencies


  1. 1.    YOUR CV


  • Have a clear section with your specialisations. Listing every single project you have ever worked on is fine, but it sometimes puts Talent Managers off when they have to go through 4 pages of projects and sometimes they can miss an important piece of information.
  • List your native language.
  • List the level of the other languages you translate from.
  • Send your CV in English – Yes we are a translation agency and yes we have multilingual staff. However, they are not always available. It’s about making it as easy as possible to get your CV picked up.



  • Don’t have a general CV. If you don’t state the areas you specialise in, your CV is not useful.
  • Don’t lie about being bilingual. This is going to be checked.
  • Don’t lie about being a freelancer when in truth you are representing an agency.




  • Fill in the application form and drop a quick e-mail letting the Talent Management team know about it.
  • Provide professional translation references. Talent Managers need to check how much work you have done, in which fields and if other agencies have been happy with your work
  • Be polite and helpful. The Talent Management is there to assist you but if you are being unpleasant chances are they are not going to promote you to the Project Managers as much as they would if you were nice.



  • Do not mass e-mail agencies. This is Sales 101. Do your research and make your e-mail more personal. If you don’t, chances are the reply is not going to be personal either and you are not going to be remembered.
  • Don’t ‘harass’ the Talent Management Team every other week as to why you haven’t been receiving any work. Be realistic and professional about it. Get in touch to let them know about your availability but keep in mind that big translation agencies have a database of thousands of translators. Be smart and remind us about your specialisations rather than just say “I am available” or “why I haven’t been receiving work”.
  • Don’t give friends, colleagues or family members as your referees. Also if you have been translating for years it doesn’t look good to indicate your university professor as your referee.
  • Don’t reply vaguely when you are asked specific questions about your experience or native language. You are wasting the Talent Managers time, who might prefer to find somebody else and you are also limiting your chances for work.
  • Don’t mass e-mail every single person you know from the company. It just doesn’t look professional.

Follow the tips listed above and you are well on your way – if you don’t get selected straight away, at least you would have picked up professional habits that will help you building your career in the long term.

Good luck in your search for work – if you want to give it a go you can apply to work with us by filling in this form


Antonio Catanese on

Antonio is a Digital Marketing Executive at TranslateMedia. He has spent 9 years in the translation industry, in different roles: Translator, Salesman and currently Marketing Geek.  He is passionate about languages and digital marketing.
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Antonio is a Digital Marketing Executive at TranslateMedia. He has spent 9 years in the translation industry, in different roles: Translator, Salesman and currently Marketing Geek. He is passionate about languages and digital marketing.

11 Responses to “How To Get More Work From Translation Agencies”

  1. Steven says:

    Could I add one? Don’t mass-email other translators.

  2. I have just started working with Translatelemedia. I must have done something good!

  3. Kersti Skovgaard says:

    A good concise summary, surely very helpful for those who are starting their career as a translator.

    A remark re. translation references: over the past couple of years, I’ve experienced that a growing number of agencies are not willing to give references for other agencies – they seem to view them as competitors not only in terms of clients but also for translators. I wonder how many tender documents from different agencies contain the names of the same translators ;-). However, so far I’ve had no problem getting references for end-clients, if required at all.

    Also, over the years I’ve come to doubt the usefulness of references or even test pieces (newbie translators can order them from the experienced ones, I have been approached several times). It’s not 100% sure that references reflect reality – agencies (and end-clients) will find out about the skills and reliability of new translators in the course of work anyway. I think it’s much more important to have good, time-proven revisers to assess new translators’ work (an assessment shouldn’t be regarded as a complimentary piece of work!).

    From translator’s POW, getting references can be time-consuming (time is money!): it would be polite to ask the referees’ consent before handing out their contact details to competitors, sometimes such requests are overlooked by the PMs.

    Another thing that amazes me is that some agencies want the translator to indicate the volume of work done in different subject fields. Pardon me, but freelancers who are busy translating don’t keep records by subject fields, volumes, etc. It’s not uncommon that in all haste translators tend to give any number they think is fit – it cannot be checked anyway.

    Filling in long application forms with lots of drop-down menus that sometimes don’t contain relevant data, printing out and scanning contracts, etc. is time consuming. Sometimes agencies require sensitive information like scans of ID-documents. Freelance translators don’t have a HR person to do that for them. At the end of the day, it all boils down to whether or not a translator is able to do the work and whether or not (s)he is reliable.

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  5. Mary says:

    I was just wondering how far from the reality is this article!

  6. Antonio says:


    Thank you for taking he time to write such an in-depth comment – I see your comment and raise you a 450 words response! I am the author of the article and I wanted to reply to some of your comments.

    Regarding references: they might be time consuming, however they are an important way for us to check -when we get into a business relationship together, we need to know who we are working with.

    It’s no different than applying to a full-time position, the employer will run checks on the candidate – obviously it is not uncommon for freelancers to apply to more than one agency, so I understand the frustration of having to do it every time, however it is a necessary “evil” – I wouldn’t look at it as a waste of time that keeps you away from doing “real work”, rather as a big part of the job. As self-employed professionals, getting new business is part of the job.

    With regards to previous agencies giving references, pick wisely. As you rightly point out, it is not only polite to ask, it’s what should be done. So, make sure you ask when you’ve done exceptionally good job, as most people will only give good references, or no references (this applies to most businesses, especially in the UK). Again, it’s about building relationships: a heads-up email from a known, trusted translator will be difficoult to miss. I don’t think we have a problem about providing references to the competition, after all it is well known that translators don’t (shouldn’t?) rely only on one agency, however I understand it must be annoying when that happens and I can’t really suggest much besides cursing them and moving on.

    Agreed on test translations. Also, CVs can be someone else’s work, hence the need to cross check and have references.

    In terms of the number of words translated, here we don’t ask for that for example, but do make sure you keep a record of all work done and at least have an idea of how much experience you have in specific fields. As you rightly point out, it’s impossible to check exactly the number of words – sometimes it comes down to trust I guess.

    Finally, about the forms, again it’s a time-investment – I am not sure what you mean by non-relevant information, however if you take the time to fill them in properly, you will be better “labelled” in the database and your name will come up for projects for which you are a good match (beside showing you are serious about applying).

    I guess I should mention that everything you are reading comes from me personally and my experience, the views expressed are my own etc etc

    That’s all from me, have a good Friday people!

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  8. David says:

    The professional translator makes the best to get direct contracts, that is, without mediators, translation colleagues, translation offices, translation agencies, which take a percentage of the final pay. The best option is to find a balance between direct and indirect clients from different parts of the world, so that recession will hit you not so hard.