The Alchemist's Lair
Thoughts on writing, language, life as a freelancer,
and what comes to mind.
and what comes to mind.
For translators, a strong portfolio can result in increased credibility when marketing their services to translation agencies and direct clients alike.
#1 Consider your audience and goals
A portfolio is more than a collection of samples of your work. It is a powerful marketing tool, and should be a cornerstone of your marketing kit.
Many translators opt for a general portfolio, including e.g. different language combinations and subject areas. While this solution works well for junior professionals, it’s not ideal for more experienced translators who want to be perceived as experts in specific niches.
Other drawbacks of all-purpose documents are the excessive length, and lack of focus.
And we all know that content-heavy documents are more likely to be pushed aside.
That’s why I recommend crafting multiple smaller portfolios instead.
Depending on your expertise and unique profiles, you can sort translation samples by
This makes it easier to provide prospects with translation samples that resonate with their needs – and support your unique selling points.
#2 Create a smart layout
To be effective, your portfolio should be easy to scan and read.
Also, a professional look is a must.
What I suggest here is a two-column layout, which caters for a neat presentation of source and target. I also recommend limiting samples length to approx. 200 words, to make sure each piece and relevant info stay on one page.
To wrap up your portfolio nicely, include a letterhead with your logo, your business name, and your professional headline or slogan.
Personalisation options (e.g. colours, fonts) should be used sparingly.
A good rule of thumb? Select up to 2 on-brand colours, and up to 2 fonts.
#3 Select meaningful samples
As mentioned above, the ultimate goal of your translation portfolio is to provide tangible proof of your professional skills and expertise. That’s why the quality and relevance of samples is even more important than their quantity.
While there are no specific recommendations on the ideal length of a portfolio for translators, including up to 10 samples should be more than enough – even for the most sophisticated prospects.
As for the quality of samples, I recommend creating a checklist of inclusion criteria. This will help you assess the relevance of your works based on the narrower focus of the portfolio.
Here are some inclusion criteria to consider:
If your translation portfolio includes web links, check them regularly to see if they still apply.
#4 Contextualise your translation samples
For language professionals, identifying the peculiarities of a text is second nature.
Prospects might find it harder – especially when dealing with small excerpts.
Providing information about the context and scope of your samples can help your prospects understand the added value of your work. To contextualise your samples, consider including some of the following:
Want to add a finishing touch?
Add a brief introduction to summarise the inclusion criteria used for sampling or a snappy comments section to highlight the peculiarities of the selected excerpts.
As service providers, protecting our customer’s privacy is a must.
That’s why your translation samples should include no sensitive data.
Including client names in your portfolio can be tempting – especially when a “big brand” or market leader is involved. Nevertheless, this can be done only if the client explicitly agrees to the use of their names, brands or data.
Moreover: if you completed the project via a translation agency, then it is the agency you should refer to as your client – not the end customer.
Portfolios aren’t just for established translators. If you’re just starting out, you can translate samples of books, articles and documents from around the web.
In all cases, you should avoid any copyright infringements. An easy way to do so is sourcing samples from 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.
What do you think about portfolios? Love ‘em, hate ‘em? Got any tips & tricks to share?
Join the conversation in the comments below!