Translator's Guide

15 Rules For Translation New Translators Must Follow

Are rules for translation even a thing? Translator’s work is more than sitting in a comfortable office or home with a cup of coffee and typing texts using a modern laptop. Of course, it has nothing to do with simply utilizing automatic translation tools for further slight post-editing. Just like any other profession, the translation sphere has its own set of rules that are often neglected by newcomers. Surely, there is no better teacher than one’s own mistakes but everything has limits of acceptance. There is nothing bad about the possibility to avoid some monumentally inappropriate decisions that can even affect one’s career as a translator. Let’s start with the most important thing.

15 Basic Translate Rules Translators Should Know

Before writing the article we did thorough research, reached out to as many translators as we could, and complete a list of 15 translations rules that experienced translator recommend to newbies of this industry. Take some notes and good luck on your way to a successful career.

Rule #1 Understand the business and how to find clients

Being a freelance translator is an entirely different experience from developing a career as a certain company’s full-time employee. Professional and language skills are extremely important but in such a situation the ability to find clients and convince them to pay you is more relevant since nobody will do it for you. Thus, while honing your linguistic skills, don’t forget about marketing tools and establishing the network of contacts. It also requires time and those new translators who neglect it, just sit at home without work. Not a pleasant perspective, is it?

Rule #2 Translator’s work is not easy

And the sooner one realizes it, the better. There is no easy way, any career requires sacrifices, time, a lot of work, frustration, mistakes, more time, more mistakes, and even more work. Only this way one may become a professional who can be proud of all achievements and progress. Many people give up after the first unsuccessful attempts, living a month without any orders, or even experiencing fraud when a client does not pay for completed translation. All these unpleasant situations should be perceived as useful lessons only: finding knowledge drawbacks that can be eliminated, paying more attention to marketing, and choosing clients wisely.

Rule #3 Obtain specification

A person who attempts many trades and fields of study cannot achieve true proficiency since one’s time is limited and it is impossible to know everything. It would be a sensible decision to think about what specific field of knowledge you are interested in and deepen your specific knowledge. For example, translators whose field of expertise is engineering or microbiology will always receive a steady flow of orders from clients working in those spheres. Moreover, it is easier to develop a reputation this way and get more clients who are interested in specific texts’ translations.

Rule #4 Do not focus on certification

While this aspect is indeed very important and contributes to your image as a professional translator, people who spend time trying to obtain all possible certifications and approval instead of starting working lose time and possibility to gain real-life experience. Do not waste time, in fact, ATA’s permission is not needed for you to start working and earning money. All that matters are your skills and ability to sell them. Besides, having real work experience obtaining certification becomes easier.

Rule #5 Develop a proper network

While social networks are an extremely powerful marketing tool, a professional translator should possess a communication channel that will not depend on others. A personal website that allows prospective clients to find you and get acquainted with your portfolio is a sensible solution. Do not forget about developing a relationship with people offline as this is another powerful tool of getting clients when you may not even expect this.

Rule #6 Do not forget to relax

Young translators often make the same mistake when they start receiving orders and cannot stop taking them. Eventually, it will result in the quality drawbacks and loss of clients. Considering a long-term perspective, one should develop an appropriate and balanced workload and have proper rest for effective work.

Rule #7 Hardware and software

While there is absolutely no need to buy the latest laptop model or spend from 500 to 800 euros to buy SDL Trados at the beginning of one’s career, a good balance should be maintained. One cannot work effectively using outdated devices and software. A computer is the translator’s primary working tool, that is why it must be fast, optimized, and comfortable to work with but it should not be the device where one can play the latest AAA-class games. There are also many free of charge software solutions that can help a translator at the beginning of a freelance career. Expensive professional tools and devices can be bought later once the good start is given and you may be sure that you can earn money being a translator.

Rule #8 Communication is essential

Those who decided to become a freelance translator because they hate communicating with people and prefer texts instead will be disappointed. The ability to communicate with clients in person, even via Zoom, is crucial for the career’s development since this way you build confidence and mutual trust, contributing to the development of returning clients’ networks.

Rule #9 Do not focus on translation only

The modern world appreciates diversity. If you can provide a variety of services within the chosen field of expertise, you will get more opportunities to earn. Any sphere, for example, medical one, may need the application of your linguistic abilities to translation, transcription, or even original writing jobs. Do not limit yourself.

Rule #10 Financial questions require attention

Professional freelance translators should think about the ways of receiving payments for completed work before even trying to get clients. Getting acquainted with all legal regulations of the freelance translator’s work is a must as well. This may be not the funniest thing to do but receiving proper payments is definitely worth spending time on all organizational paperwork.

Rule #11 Do not waste time

Spending time on social media or translators’ forums will not help one to find clients and start making money. It is more beneficial to spend time developing one’s own communication media such as a blog or website and working on marketing one’s own services to find more reliable clients.

Rule #12 Do not listen to others

Especially if all they say is criticism, statements that freelance translator’s work is useless and you need to find a decent regular job. You know what is better for life and a career, don’t you? If the criticism is valid, reasonable, and supported with proper explanations and examples, you should definitely take it into consideration. Otherwise, do not waste precious time listening to other people’s opinions. There are so many of them that it is impossible to fit all. If you have found your own way, stick to it.

Rule #13 Test new tools

One should not be afraid of changes since they offer more opportunities. This sounds banal but freelance translator’s job was not so widespread 20 years ago and who knows where the industry would go during the next few decades. Global pandemic and solutions that many companies adopted, including remote work and utilization of various software, demonstrated that the situation on market can change rapidly and only those who can respond quickly will benefit from the situation.

Rule #14 Don’t work for irresponsible people

Clients expect freelance translators to do their job on time and with the best possible quality. Consequently, translators are also expecting on-time payments and transparent working conditions. If a client decides to delay a payment, you should think about whether it is worth continuing cooperation with people you cannot rely on. Working on long complex projects in installments is always a good idea since it secures your time and effort.

Rule #15 Enjoy your way

And accept the fact that no one can utilize all-wise pieces of advice and make no mistakes. This is an inevitable part of one’s professional development and the last rule is to lead your own way wherever it goes instead of allowing other people to decide what you should do. Whether it is freelance work and continuous traveling or developing a career in a huge corporation, only you can find out what is better specifically for you. Keep suggestions in mind, listen to people you admire and love, consider reasonable criticism, and do what you want to do.

Ready To Start?

While some translate rules for new translators may appear to be obvious, it is always a good idea to repeat basic suggestions that many people still fail to follow. Usually, only a synthesis of wise suggestions and one’s own experience results in the growth of a true professional who can solve issues, get the job done in the best possible manner, and become an example for newcomers. Translators who only start their careers should realize that they are unique as well as the skills they offer, and with the pace of years and completion of more and more orders, this uniqueness will only be honed and supported.

Whether one decides to achieve that by obtaining very specific knowledge in a narrowed sphere of study or impress everyone with marketing skills, the main rule of translation that unites all fifteen ones above is simple: do something. Experts in procrastination do not achieve anything except for sorrow over lost time and possibilities.