Thursday, 27 March 2014

How about De-Emphasising the CV, Using a Bio Instead?

CV's are somewhat controversial among freelance translators. I stand by my old opinion that it's not demeaning to have one and call it one. Lawyers, politicians, professors, CEO's and all sorts of people have CV's, so a freelance translator also can. If you're interested in the subject, Marta Stelmaszak's Lesson 57 has a compendium in the form of a massive free e-book with very helpful tips from people who have actually sifted through many of them.

On the other hand, in a job line in many ways similar to ours, lawyers are generally using bios, which is short for biograms (tiny biographies). At least 60% law firm website traffic goes to bios, possibly because few other things are either interesting or understandable to clients. Besides, getting 'conversions', selling etc. is largely about selling a story. And a bio is by definition a story.

If you go to the popular lawyerly blog at — which contains a massive resource of very accessible and very transferable marketing advice (again, because of the similarities between our job lines) — and if you enter 'bio' in the search query, you will get about 90 results. Curiously, visual CV's mentioned in Randall Ryder's advice/opinion post there are not unheard of among translators, but I don't see many bios out there. And they are really good replacements for a classical CV on a translator's website — and possibly only there for lawyers, though not really for us translators. We could probably use them more extensively than lawyers, notably in all of those directories we're listed in where a free-form profile is allowed (e.g.'s About me section), perhaps in brochures.

Using a bio allows you to be narrative and engaging, even though you lose the the benefit of a more structured presentation with key facts arranged chronologically or functionally or enumerated in a bullet list. However, you also get a chance to leave the CV contest behind. CVs fit rather closely in the paradigm of competitive variables (price, deadline, and credentials), bios break out of that scheme. Also, where there is no CV — and some of us have already pulled theirs due to the threat of scammers stealing them and replacing contact data with their own — there is less vulnerability to identity theft risks.

What else? If you'd like to give it a go or at least 'a think', I'd suggest you take a look at field experts from your areas of expertises. Lawyers, doctors, actors, writers, other people, how are their bios written? What do they have on their biographical or at least profile pages? What can you adapt from there? Can you use the knowledge to enable them to relate more easily to you? Bios are certainly not the only thing you can adapt once you get there and take a good look.

You will probably benefit the most from having a freeform bio, as opposed to the restrictions of a classic CV, if you're a native speaker writing in your own language (non-natives will find it much harded to keep up with you in creative pursuits than in CV writing) or somewhat of a copywriter/transcreationist, or both.


  1. Or how about both? I mean, if it's really 'mini', the bio could be used as a teaser, and then only those who seriously nibble at that 'bait' get to see your CV (if they want the details) :P

  2. Well, such a mini bio would probably effective be an enhanced profile statement, though I wouldn't necessarily put it at the top of a CV that's supposed to do its job, for fear of repetition. Otherwise it might be something akin to 'elevator speech'. Some 20-30 seconds at a very early stage to make the right impression and set the ground for more.

    If you look at the Team page of a certain Australian firm called Marquee (, you'll see that they've kept the CV as a visible but understated download. It's visible because it's the only download apart from the v-card, but it's understated because of the austere CV | PDF icon, just five black letters in a white rectangle. A word of comment, though, their CVs are profiles arranged with bullets, not proper CV's.

    A translator could link a proper CV just in the same fashion, though, as a large icon (possibly a thumbnail to reflect the characteristic typograhic arrangement of a CV) sitting on the side of a more creative narrative. Everything necessary would still be there, but the person would outweigh the parameters.

    Thus, someone right in the middle of an ASAP recruitment process wouldn't be forced to read through a witty or teary story to get to the bottom of the facts, so the translator wouldn't be missing on potential jobs and collaborations where a CV were necessary, but slower-paced clients would typically have ended up reading the narrative and barely even looking at the chronological and bulleted CV if at all.

    I'm suspecting that where you see a person it's less easy to start the whole best rates or better rates routine. Where you work with CV's, it gives the appearance of a competitive atmosphere, where the owners of those CV's are essentially bidding for the job, and we know where that leads. The same is true even if the competition is more remote, e.g. even in a one-on-one head-to-head about a potential collaboration but always with a broader competition in the distant (or not so distant) background.

  3. Some other useful information may be found here: (Sally J. Schmidt, Online Profiles: Presenting the Best Version of Yourself)


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