Lesson 60: When a CV doesn’t work for a translator and what to use instead?

Lesson 60: When a CV doesn’t work for a translator and what to use instead?

I’ve been concentrating quite a lot on CV-writing recently, discussing whether to take a skill-based or chronological approach, and whether we need CVs at all. There’s a reason to that. I strongly believe that our CVs are the first marketing tools we use with a number of clients. I, for that matter, send my CV to translation agency clients, marketing and creative agencies and some law firms because I know they’re expecting to see it somewhere within the assessment process. Knowing that a CV may very well be my only marketing material they’ll ever look at, I want to make it as strong and convincing as possible.

But there are some situations, if not the majority of cases, where a CV doesn’t work for a translator. It may not be fit for purpose for a number of reasons, for example because it’s not customary to make decisions regarding suppliers based on their CVs in this sector, or where competition is extremely high.

Let’s look at the first situation. Direct clients, in particular, aren’t really expecting to see CVs of their suppliers. Regardless of the size of a direct client you’re offering your services to, you’d better position yourself as a business partner and concentrate on explaining what your client can gain from getting texts translated or interpreted by you. And I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it’s difficult to talk about benefits for clients on your own CV.

In the second situation, where competition is very high, we may be facing dozens or hundreds of other suppliers essentially providing the same service and they all will be submitting their CVs. In this scenario, using other documents than a CV can prove to be a significant competitive advantage.

What are the alternatives (or supplements) to CVs, then?


I may be preaching to the converted or stating the obvious, but LinkedIn is *the* network for professional networking. I constantly rely on my LinkedIn profile and I refer my prospects to my profile, instead of sending my CV. To me, it feels that I’m being equal with my client if I can tell him or her to visit my profile to learn more, rather than sending my CV and feeling that I’m being examined.

Who does it work with? Using LinkedIn instead of a CV certainly works with other sole traders, for example lawyers or trainers.


More and more freelance translators and interpreters invest in websites and it’s certainly a decision that brings good return on investment. Almost two years ago, I wrote a blog post outlining the reasons to have a website and these reasons still remain valid. You should have a strong profile page on your website and refer your clients to visit it, rather than sending your CV. You could also consider having targeted landing pages for your client segments.

Who does it work with? Just about anybody.


In high competition, something off the beaten track, for example a short video where you present your profile, may be the thing to win you a project. I’ve seen quite good videos where freelancers sit at their desks and present their background, or alternatively, short clips advertising their services. As a word of caution, these videos should be professionally shoot. When I looked at professional studios in London, it was a cost of about 60 pounds per hour plus an artist to produce the video. Research shows that people will only watch between 20 and 40 seconds if they’re coming across the piece randomly, or up to 5 minutes if they’re actually expecting to watch a video (that’s why I keep my WantWords TV clips under 5 minutes). If your video isn’t professional, it can only harm your reputation.

Who does it work with? Videos will work in all things creative. If you’re pitching for a specific marketing translation project, recording a short video explaining why you’re the best person to do the job may be the right thing.

Slideshare or Google presentation

I’ve seen some of our colleagues preparing slides about their businesses and uploading them to Slideshare, Google or other hosting service. You can then embed a presentation on your website, LinkedIn profile or just include a link in an email. A presentation gives you more scope to play with words and images, for example photos from your past assignments. However, you should be aware that it’s difficult to keep your potential client’s concentration if they’re supposed to flip through slides by themselves.

Who does it work with? It certainly works with clients in business, media and IT, in other words with people who’re accustomed with seeing presentations.

Presentation with voice over

As an alternative to a standard presentation, you may want to record a screen cast where you talk about your business with a presentation in the background. I played around with Camtasia studio in the past (it has a 30 days’ free trial), using a good USB microphone. This format may be more effective than a standard presentation, because you’re actually guiding your client and he or she feels talked to. The degree of interaction and relationship building is higher.

Who does it work with? People who have enough time to look at it. As watching such a presentation is already an investment of time, you may be scaring some of the most pressed-for-time clients off.


When I participated in a workshop on writing effective leaflets, I was told that a leaflet should contain as little information as possible to convince a prospect. In other words, a good and catchy slogan, outline of the problem or client’s need, benefits for the client and your services as a solution. It was explained to me that a leaflet is not the right medium to go into details or present your background. It’s only purpose is to make the client think they can’t possibly continue running their business without you, and I quite like this purpose, I must admit! Don’t forget that a leaflet should contain a clear call to action. Take a look at these two resources for writing leaflets as a starting point: article, presentation. In the majority of cases, you’ll be sending your leaflet as a PDF, so the only investment is actually related to the design.

Who does it work with? Small and medium business owners like leaflets. Their suppliers usually communicate with them on leaflets first, so that’s something they’ll appreciate.


What’s the difference between a leaflet and a brochure? A leaflet is a short (usually one page) document which attracts interest, while a brochure is a longer document containing detailed descriptions of the company and products (or services) offered. Some useful resources for brochure-writing: article, article.

Who does it work with? If your prospect, usually a direct client, expressed interest in your services, it’s a good moment to send them a comprehensive brochure. It will also work with bigger companies who may not immediately need your services, but would like to have a piece of literature to refer to in the future.

Business profile

This is a new tool for me and I’ve spent some time researching it. SMEs use business profiles to offer services to each other and these profiles are primarily intended for slightly bigger companies. Can freelancers make use of business profiles, too? I’m definitely designing one for myself this autumn and I’ll feed back to you. A business profile should contain:

  • Basic contact details
  • Capability information – what you do and what you are good at
  • Track record
  • Risk management (Quality Assurance!)
  • Customer service and market response
  • Working with industry and others

As you can see, it’s a more elaborate document outlining your profile and your relations with other stakeholders on the market. More resources here: PDF document, article.

Who does it work with? I’ll be sending my business profile to bigger companies who are used to seeing them.

My question to you: what do you think of business profiles? Do you think they could be useful?

And next week, we’ll be discussing the benefits and threats of uploading your CV online!


  1. Lukasz Gos , on Oct 11, 2013 at 13:17 Reply

    You can just use a bio if you want to capture people’s interest without sounding too plaintive.

  2. Nicole Rodrigues (@tradutoraBR) , on Nov 22, 2013 at 15:54 Reply

    Your reference documents are great! Thank you for sharing them with us, Marta!

  3. Betania , on Mar 18, 2016 at 06:11 Reply

    Hello, Marta. Thanks for this article! I wrote down mine and was told that instead of describing my tasks, I have to talk about what my previous employers got from me, but I only worked as an audiovisual translator for a year, and taught as foreign language instructor during 3 years in an extension course. I don’t have much experience. I’m fresh from university, I am about to graduate within a few months. What I’m suppose to say? Furthermore, I was asked not to use words such as “skill, ability, hard-worker,” etc.

    • Marta Stelmaszak , on Aug 30, 2016 at 15:11 Reply

      Check out my free materials, there are some presentations about this. Let me know how you get on 🙂

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