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Do Freelancers Need CVs? A Freelance Translation Case Study: Advice For Translators: CVs VS. Resumes

Freelancing has been changing the way we work in many ways, from where we can work (at home in our PJs) to the companies we can work for (any company, anywhere in the world). One major aspect of the working world that freelancing has changed is the traditional resume. It used to be that the all-important resume detailed all of our skills and work history in one easy-to-scan document. But what happens when we turn to freelancing, where our work history is scattered across a multitude of contracts and our skills are best displayed in the individual projects we create? As a freelancer, evidencing skills has never been more complicated. And nowhere is this more evident than working in freelance translation.

The way contract translation work gets completed is fairly standard to the freelance world. It’s usually project-based, and there’s a strong need to display past skills and experience via a portfolio. However, translators tend to work as independent contractors for multiple clients; for instance, they can register as a freelance translator, where translators upload a resume. Many do the same thing for various clients in various countries. As such, below we’ll take a look at to what extent freelancers need a traditional CV (short for the Latin phrase curriculum vitae, which means “course of life”), using freelance translation as a case study.

Why Translation CVs are Falling Out of Favor in the Freelance World?

Resumes are less effective in the freelance world that in traditional employment for one major reason: they’re usually formatted to show a steady work history at different companies. When a translator moves from translation contract to contract, that format becomes less effective. They then have to move to what’s called a “functional resume,” which becomes little more than a list of relevant skills. But what if they could show those skills live?

To be clear, CVs (Curriculum Vitae) is still used in the translation industry, but they’re not the all-important document that they are when looking for a full-time job. That’s because of the nature of freelance work. When someone works per project, prospects are more interested in how those projects look by the end of the process.

And that’s where the translation website or online clips portfolio comes into play. It’s a quick and easy way to display what the translator has worked on, how it turned out at the end of the project and the level of experience and skill that they brought to the job.

In practice, a portfolio is an accessible, dynamic display, showcasing the translator as a professional and detailing all of their professional translation services. It can show anything – a long novel translation, a localized advert or a translated instruction manual. And because websites and portfolios are easy to customize, the translator can organize their projects by type to easily display what type of translation they do.

How a Traditional Freelance Translator CV Can Help Land Gigs

Despite the value on dynamic, online portfolios, resumes do still have a few uses in the freelance translation world. For instance, if a translation company or localization agency is looking to hire independent contractors, they will typically want to see a resume. Sometimes, individual prospects are more comfortable looking at resumes too, because they more quickly outline past work experience. There are two types of resumes that tend to work best for a freelance translator:

Functional resumes: As mentioned above, this type of resume lists skills and abilities. It’s a good organizational method for translators who jump from translation contract to translation contract and can’t easily list where they’ve worked by date.

Chronological resumes: If a translator works for one agency for a lengthy period of time, the traditional chronological resume may still make sense. The chronological resume can also work if a freelance translator does business under a business name, like Quick Time Translation, LLC, as a hypothetical example. They can then list their own business name, the years they’ve worked there and the type of work they’ve done as part of their own company.

But a resume isn’t always just about applying for translation jobs.

Using a Translation CV to Map Career Goals and Opportunities

Creating a resume also has another more personal purpose in the translation world: making a resume can help a translator get a better handle on how their career is progressing and where they still need to go. For instance, let’s say agency job ads keep listing typesetting skills on their ads. If a translator feels they can’t sufficiently demonstrate that skill on their resume, it’s an easy indicator that they should focus on upskilling in that area.

A CV can also help show a functional or chronological outline of an entire translation career. It’s an easy road-map of where someone has been. The translator can use this to more easily visualize what they’d like to add to their resume in the future to make it more impressive. For instance, a freelance translator might have many small projects, but want to work with a large, well-known translation agency. So that then becomes a career goal to strive towards.

Author Bio

Ofer Tirosh, CEO of Tomedes , Interpretation and translation services.



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