I have decided to add another part to the first article, after being questioned by a potential translator who was scared of competition. In fact, the competition may be tough in the beginning and it can be scary. Without forgetting that many clients demand several years of experience and as usual it is a vicious circle (how can one gain experience if ALL clients ask you to have experience before you are given a translation job? A mystery that no one will ever solve…)
Some additional pieces of advice:
1) Make a difference: find a little “extra” to offer. For example: are you particularly fast (without losing quality!), are you an expert in a domain? (if yes, explain why, for example: if you have studied Law, you can offer legal translation by relying on your training course and knowledge of the field), do you speak a foreign language, does someone else proofread your translations,... Try to find something that will make someone to hire you rather than someone else, despite your limited experience.
2) Be willing to compromise: if the beginning is tough, contact a not-for-profit association or other associations in order to offer voluntarily your translation services. You will be doing a good thing, and at the same time you will have projects to add to your CV. Personally, I translated for some time, reports of a Belgian Association. You can also contact freelance translators and help them by translating at low rates, provided that they agree to give you recommendations or send corrections of your translations. In short, find a way to gain experience in a constructive manner, without selling your soul to the devil.
3) Advertise yourself, over and over. Use LinkedIn, Facebook, your friends, family, etc. Marketing is the most important factor at the beginning; in fact, there are many other translators on the market, so you have to be visible and get noticed. Make sure that the client has a direct access to all useful information on your professional page (how to contact you, your prices, your experience, your training course) in a clear and a precise manner.
4) Identify your target clients well. This is really important. Needless to displace yourself and contact people whom you do not want to work with (ex.: I hate financial translation, so I will never apply for job offers related to this sector nor to agencies specialized in this area). If you are scared of competition on web sites such as Proz and TranslatorsCafe, try to contact direct clients related to your chosen field. Make sure to reach as many as possible your target clients rather than targeting randomly. (For example, if you want to do legal translation, contact lawyers. In medical translation, contact medical magazines etc.) To find your target client, consider the areas that attract you most in translation, those in which you are most talented, remember to brush aside what does not interest you at all, etc.
5) Do not accept everything. It is needless to accept a difficult project that you would probably rush over. It is the best way to lose a client. It is better to be honest and admit your weaknesses. With time, the client will know that if you apply it is because you are sure of yourself for this project, and they will be more tempted to trust you.
6) Suggest to take a short unpaid test to prove your capability. Be honest, say that you are beginning but prove that you are motivated. You can also send a sample of your translations (paying attention to copyright, do not send a translation of confidential documents).
7) Resist. Perhaps you will be lucky, perhaps you will have many clients. But there is a 80% chance (obviously, this is NOT an official statistic, huh!) for beginnings to be difficult, so do not be discouraged if this is really what you want to do and, as I have said before in one of my articles, take a job aside in order to earn some money until your business flushes well.