7 Practical Tips For a Successful Career as a Freelance Translator

freelance translator

Written by Kristina Temelkova

I'm from Stara Zagora, Bulgaria and I'm currently pursuing an English degree at the University of Vienna. My lifelong passions are languages and writing. I speak English, Bulgarian, German and Russian.

May 14, 2020

In the world of freelance translators, there is fierce competition for jobs. There are linguists out there who are much better qualified than you. There is alway someone out there willing to do a job for a cent lower than you. Nevertheless, you should keep your head up. We have your back!

Here is  a list of 7 practical tips a freelance translator can use to navigate the localization industry and get their first few projects:

  1. Pick your niche

A great way to start your career is by finding a field in which you would like to work. In fact, most well-paid translators usually have a degree in another subject such as law, medicine, marketing, engineering, etc. However, if your expertise is in linguistic and translation, it is best to consider your interests and hobbies. Since we tend to know more about things, we are interested in, picking a favourite subject of yours indicates you already have sufficient knowledge on the subject.

Specialising in one or two subjects will make you a stand out candidate for projects in your field. As you gain experience, you can leverage this to develop long term relationships with companies and command higher rates.

  1. Choose your rates

When deciding how much you want to charge your clients, it is very important to be honest with yourself. How much do you expect to earn? How many hours are you willing to devote to work? What is the rate range for your language pair? Furthermore, it is a common misconception that unexperienced translators should undersell themselves to land a job. In reality, most companies will be more than happy to pay a higher price even to an unexperienced translator for a high-quality work.

  1. Have a detailed CV

Having more experience will definitely attract clients. Therefore, make sure to prepare a detailed CV. Include all jobs you have undertaken as well as some recommendations.

Tip: Don’t leave out the bad reviews! Contrary to your expectations, bad reviews could land you a job offer since they indicate you are honest and trustworthy.

  1. Offer a range of services

    To get more projects, you can offer a range of services other than translation. This can include review, proofreading, machine translation post editing, interpretation, transcription and subtitling. Big projects often have to be translated, reviewed and proofread- so you can bid for all three rounds instead of just one!

  1. Put yourself out there

    It is vital for your success to find clients and the Internet makes it easier than ever before. The easiest thing would be to register on sites such as UpWork, ProZ, Translatorscafe. After setting up your profile you can’t simply wait with bated breath for new clients- you have to actively respond to job posts and bid on projects.

    LSPs allow you to submit you application to be a part of their network. If approved, this can be a great way to get work. It also looks good on your CV. You can register to be a part our translator network here

    Most importantly, don’t get discouraged if clients don’t respond right away. As you gain more experience, your reputation will grow which in turn would inevitably attract more clients.

  1. Learn, learn, learn

Once you have chosen your niche, start looking for courses, workshops and other opportunities to improve your skills. Certificates and diplomas are a great addition to your CV. Additionally, taking courses would show your clients you take your job seriously. You can learn new skills such as subtitling or do courses on proofreading.

Most LSPs require a freelance translator to work on a CAT tool – learning all the major ones (Trados, Memesource, memoQ and SmartCAT) can help you land more jobs. Some of them are quite pricey but there are plenty of free ones (eg. Omega T) where you can learn the basics.

  1. Be patient!

On average it takes over a year to become a full-time freelance translator. In the meantime, you could always opt for a job at a translation agency. Don’t forget that building a portfolio and establishing yourself among all the competitors does not happen overnight. Nevertheless, if you’re willing to work hard, you will reap the benefits in due time!

Good Luck!

To be a part of our translator network, register here


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