Getting Started as a Translator: Ten Tips

Getting Started as a Translator: Ten Tips

If you, like many other ambitious entrepreneurs, have tried to launch a successful translation business, only to find it’s a bit more complicated than you expected, then these tips are for you. There are many things to consider when starting a business, and beginning a career as a freelance translator is no exception. Translators Judy and Dagmar Jenner share ten important suggestions for starting-out freelancers on their translation blog. Keep these in mind as you prepare to enter one of the fastest-growing industries in the world today:

  1. Read some books about translation. Two great options include How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator by Corinne McKay, and The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation by Judy and Dagmar Jenner. Both books cover many of the issues that freelancers face when starting out in the industry and provide insight into the solutions to those challenges.
  2. Invest in education. A training program or even a degree from a university specifically in translation will provide valuable experience that can set you apart from many other translators who have no specific translation training.
  3. Join a professional organization. The American Translators Association is a great organization in the United States, and other countries or areas have similar organizations. Joining professional groups provides opportunities for continued learning and networking, as well as adding credibility to your resume.
  4. Read blogs by other translators. Many of them will cover the same challenges you might face, as well as provide valuable insight into the profession.
  5. Build a professional website and create a professional email address. Both will increase your credibility to potential clients.
  6. Attend industry conferences—both to stay on top of current events in the industry and to network with others in the same field.
  7. Invest in your “set-up.” While freelance translation has a relatively low overhead compared to some professions, you will need a reliable computer and internet connection, as well as some CAT tools, dictionaries, and other translation “equipment.”
  8. Go where the clients are. Work won’t fall in your lap. You’ll need to get out and network with people in your field or specialization (i.e. if you’re a legal translator, attend a legal conference, or if you’re a medical translator, reach out to the medical professionals in your area.)
  9. Create a good pricing structure. Many freelancers make the mistake of severely under pricing their work because they’re just getting started. However, they often find that they are unable to maintain their business at their current rates, and when they raise their rates they lose their clients and have to start all over. Calculate how much you need for your business to survive and create your rate schedule accordingly.

Dedicate time to administrative work. Don’t forget to schedule time for marketing, promotional work, and client acquisition. Be patient as you get started—no freelance business is built in a day, and translation is no exception.

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