Tips For Starting A Career In Freelance Translation
Updated: May 25, 2020
Starting out as a freelance translator can be scary. Don't let the stress get to you!
Here is a list of my top 10 tips to keep you moving forward in your freelance translation career.
1. Go at your own pace
You don't have to quit your day job in order to get started as a freelance translator. I have heard so many success stories of people who pursued freelance translation careers part-time and slowly built their empire. The great thing about freelancing is that you can go as fast or as slow as you like. It takes time to build up an online presence, a client base and credibility. You can decide to go all in... or you can take it slow. Don't feel pressured to fast track your freelance translation career. Keep in mind the beloved fable "The Tortoise and the Hare" and take things at a pace that works for you. The last thing you want is to make critical mistakes because you were rushing to see results!
2. Do research
Just like any big decision in your life, the decision to become a freelance translator should only be settled on after doing your research. The world of freelance translation is vast. It is definitely a lot bigger than I expected when I first started out. Learning about online terminology databases, online translation communities, CAT tools, translators' associations, translation rates, invoicing, taxes, marketing your services... the list could go on forever. There are so many new things for freelance translators to learn. Make sure you are familiar with at least some of the aspects mentioned above in order to make your career transition a lot easier.
3. Make a plan
If you are serious about pursuing a career in freelance translation, you should plan for success. Pick goals that you want to achieve and then plan out how you will achieve them. Staying organized and having daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly goals is crucial. As an example, you might want to plan out how many agencies or clients you want to market to every week and think about how you want to reach out to them. Maybe plan out how many social media posts or interactions you want to aim for every month in order to build an online presence. No goal or objective is too small or too big. Plan every tiny detail if you have to, but it is important that you have some kind of outline of where you want to see yourself.
4. Choose a specialty
This is one can be tough, however, it is crucial. Most translation agencies want translators who are specialists in their field and if you want to market to direct clients, you will have to choose a speciality in order to market effectively. The best place to start is to think about any skills, interests or hobbies that you have. What did you study in university? What activities or hobbies are you passionate about? What jobs have you had in the past? What are you good at? These are all questions you can ask yourself when trying to decide on a specialty. If you studied science in university, choosing scientific translation as your speciality would probably be a good idea. If you worked in agriculture for 25 years, specializing in agricultural translation would probably be your best bet. Sit down and think about where you excel, what life experiences you have and where you think your talents could shine. There is no rule saying that you have to stick to that field of speciality forever. If you find out later on in your career that you are interested in literary translation or marketing translation, go out and hone the necessary skills to make that switch!
5. Attend free webinars
I can't stress this one enough! When I was first starting out as a freelance translator, the best advice I received was through free webinars. There are so many to choose from right at your fingertips! I suggest visiting websites like https://www.proz.com/translator-training/format/webinar-presentations and https://www.sdl.com/event/webinars.html as a starting point to choose some free webinars that suit your needs. I would also recommend looking into your country or city's World Trade Centre or Chamber of Commerce to find out if they offer any free training or seminars. Investing in professional development is never wasted!
6. Be confident
Don't sell yourself short. Be confident and it will come across to potential clients. It can be hard to sing your own praises, but in freelance translation, it is a must! When marketing yourself, creating a website, or making online posts, it is always a good reminder to boast your best qualities. It may feel as though you are over-selling your abilities or bragging about your accomplishments, but that is simply not the case. You need to stand out to potential clients; make them stop and look at you!
7. Know your worth
In a world where the lower the price and the faster the service seem to be the only way to get by, don't fall victim to the pressure. You will have to face it that some clients will always want things done faster and at a lower price. Don't let demanding clients push you around. Your time and expertise are worth something, otherwise they wouldn't be coming to you! Make sure that you always give yourself enough time to do the best work that you can, and at a price that matches that. At the start of your career (and even later down the road), this may mean turning down work. Don't feel bad about turning down certain jobs because of ridiculously low rates or impossible turn-around times. Your reputation, expertise and self-worth are on the line.
8. Social media is your friend
Social media is a freelance translator's best friend! Simply setting up a business page on various social media websites will set your freelance translation career off to a great start! In my experience, freelance translators should create a presence on three main social media websites. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Firstly, if you don't have the time or money to create a business website, creating a Facebook page is great way to put all of the important information about your business in one place. Secondly, Twitter is a great place to interact with other freelance translators, translation agencies and potential clients. Get out there and make posts, comment, retweet and follow! Lastly, LinkedIn is a great place to showcase your professionalism. Creating a network is crucial for freelance translators. Make sure your profile is attractive, concise and error-free. Just like Twitter, it is a great place to follow agencies and clients and a place where you can make new business connections. When I think about it, creating an online presence can actually be a lot of fun.
9. Work hard
This one might seem self-explanatory, but it needs to be said. Working for yourself isn't as easy as it seems. Building your own business takes time and dedication. Many freelance translators fail because they simply don't put in enough work. There are so many peaks and valleys and feasts and famines in your first year as a freelance translator that you need to have the gumption to stick it out. Keeping your head down and continuing to work hard is what will keep you moving forward.
10. Don't give up
Freelance translation is a really rewarding and exciting career choice. Don't give up if you don't see immediate results. Like most things in life, it takes time. It may sound cliché, but it's true. I know when I first started out, I expected to have clients chasing after me to do translations for them... that was not the case. The key is to keep busy. When you are first starting out as a freelance translator, you will likely NOT be up to your ears in work. Don't get discouraged. If you aren't busy translating, there are so many other areas of your business that you could be growing (see above). Working for yourself isn't always easy, but it IS always worth it!
I hope these tips were helpful and that you now have the confidence to go out and get the career that you want!