The Alchemist's Lair
Thoughts on writing, language, life as a freelancer,
and what comes to mind.
and what comes to mind.
Need to showcase your translation skills & expertise, but don't know how?
For translators, building a strong portfolio can result in increased credibility when marketing their services to translation agencies and direct clients alike.
In fact, translation agencies often require samples to assess a translator's skills and abilities before accepting them as a partner. Direct clients, on the other hand, might not be used to hiring freelancers and could value some "physical evidence" of the level of service you can provide them with.
Still, many translators underestimate the impact of a good portfolio, or struggle to find a solution that wraps up their experience effectively and compellingly.
If you're still trying to get there, this step-by-step guide might come in handy.
#1 Consider your audience and goals
A portfolio is a collection of samples of your work, which is aimed at showcasing your professional skills at their best.
To maximise the relevance of your portfolio as a marketing tool, the contents of your document shall be leveraged to meet your own goals whilst resonating with your prospects' expectations and requirements.
Many translators opt for a general portfolio, i.e. a collection of samples from projects in different language combinations and domain fields. However, this solution works best for junior professionals who need to "get in the loop" rather than for seasoned translators who want to be perceived as experts in their relevant niches and markets.
Also, people working in multiple language combinations might end up with a never-ending document nobody will bother reading. That's why creating multiple versions of your portfolio is usually a great idea.
Depending on your level of experience and specific offering, you can sort your translation samples by one or more of the following:
With this approach, you can create manageable documents that will also be more relevant for your intended audience.
#2 Create a smart layout
In marketing, the appearance of a document is as important as its contents. Also, content-heavy documents are more likely to be marked as "read later" ... and forgotten.
When working on your portfolio's layout, consider that:
What I recommend here is to use a two column layout, which maximises readability of the samples and also caters for a neat presentation of your work.
To make your portfolio a bit more personal, you can customise column frames visibility and parameters, background colours and other style elements. However, indulging in customisation and colour contrast might have a negative impact on readability, and distract your readers.
Also, I recommend limiting the sample length to 250-300 words, to make sure each sample (including contextual information) stays on one page.
To round up your layout nicely, include a letterhead with your logo, business name, and slogan.
#3 Select meaningful samples
As already mentioned, the ultimate goal of your translation portfolio is to give some tangible proof of your professional skills and expertise. That's why it is important not only to focus on the quantity of samples to include, but also on their quality and relevance.
As for quality, you can draft a checklist of inclusion criteria that will help you assess and sort the works that serve your case best. Amongst the inclusion criteria you can have e.g.
If your translation portfolio includes web links to websites/articles/pages you have translated in the past, check them regularly to see if they are still relevant. If your translation is not there any more (or has been changed by others) remove the link, and select another sample to fill the blanks.
#4 Contextualise your samples
For translation professionals, assessing the specific features of a text comes naturally. For our prospects, this can be a bit harder - especially when dealing with a small excerpt.
To increase the effectiveness of your portfolio, it is important to provide readers with a good understanding of the context and scope of your translations.
To do so, consider including some of the following information:
You can also add a finishing touch to your translation portfolio by including a brief introduction mentioning the inclusion criteria of the samples, or a snappy comments section to highlight the peculiarities of the abstract you selected.
#5 Think copyright and confidentiality
As service providers, protecting our customers' privacy and complying with confidentiality and non disclosure agreements is a must. That's why your translation samples should include no sensitive data or confidential information.
Many translators find it tempting to include customer names in their portfolios, especially when a "big brand" or market leader is involved. However, this can be done only if your customers have explicitly agreed to the use of their names in a document you will later distribute to third parties.
Also, remember that if the project was assigned to you by a translation agency, then it is the agency you should refer to as your client - not the final customer, which in fact is the translation agency's.
Some newly established translators create their initial portfolio by translating samples of books, articles or documentation they find around the web.
In said cases, it is important to avoid any copyright infringements and only select samples from works in the public domain or distributed under a suitable Creative Commons licence.
The bottom line
An effective portfolio of your translation work is more than a nice marketing collateral: it provides solid evidence of your skills and talents, and helps customers understand why you are "the one" for their projects.
How about you? Do you have a portfolio, and how was it useful to you so far? Got any relevant tips & tricks to share? Join the conversation in the comments!