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There is a debate among the freelance translators whether Translation agency databases – a good investment or waste of money? To me it seems the more relevant question is - Database of agencies-does it help?
1. In the beginning of a freelance translators career he does not have money or have limited money and he is willing to spend time to get into the field. There are translators who do not have much time but they can afford to buy a database. You need to invest your time or money or both. Nothing comes free.
2. Database helps. It’s a simple but amazing fact. Many people have different opinions. Some say it helps, some other say it does not help. My experience of 30 years shows that it helps if you use it cautiously and do your own research.
3. If you have money but no time, go and buy some database, may be smaller one of 1000 or 2000 agencies.
4. If you don’t have money, compile your own database. Visit sites. And collect email ids. Some sites provide its members with an 8k list free. PROZ has a blue board and you can visit websites of thousands of agencies from PROZ.
5. Do not spam. Send your CV to agencies once a year. Be polite. Explain that you are a freelance translator. Make a very good CV. Have look at CV’s of the PROZ platinum members and get an idea how a good CV can be written
6. Do not send any attachments. No body reads them. Your mail will be deleted.
7. Look for agencies, which handle the language pairs you specialize. It is always better to search for agencies, which will need you. My experience is that some agencies evolve over a period of time. It means if a particular agency today is handling only East Asian languages, tomorrow it may like to cover other languages also. So if you send you CV and they keep the CV in their database, chances are that you will get a call.
8. Why it works? Agencies are always searching for new translators. There are new agencies coming up. Even if the particular agency does not need you now, they will keep your profile in their database. I often get enquiries from agencies that I have sent my CV 2-3 years back.
9. It’s amazing that when you have compiled a list and sent your CV, something will start happening very fast. Here are my tentative figures based on my experience. 60% of the agencies will not respond. 20% will respond saying they don’t need your language pair, 10% will instruct you to visit their site and enter the data. 5% will have jobs ready for you. Even if you purchased a database or invested your time your money and time will be recovered by only one/two jobs. I am not suggesting you buy a database; you can always create one yourself. I did not purchase any. I created my own.
One last point: Database is not static. It is always evolving. This is a continuous job.