Translator's Guide

How to Become a Freelance Translator

The internet provides vast possibilities for employment. It is especially convenient for translators because, for the most part, their work can be one remotely. Many professionals in the industry now consider switching to freelance due to the vast opportunities offered by self-employment. The main question for them is how to become a freelance translator? In fact, it is not that challenging as one may think. However, there are certain aspects that should be taken into consideration when deciding to become a freelance translator.

Importance of Good Background and Specialization

Freelance translation is an extremely competitive environment. So in order to be successful in it, one needs to have the relevant education and decent experience in the field. The major issue of working with the clients remotely is that they cannot see the translator in person and so their level of trust to an individual translator on freelance is lower than it would be for one working in a translation agency. And to some extent it is absolutely logical – no one can be sure that on the internet that their task will be done by a professional because all the positive reviews and feedback can be faked. So clients tend to choose those who have considerable proof of their professionalism. It can be previous job experience in some renowned companies or a certificate issued by a recognized organization like the American Translators Association (ATA). Reputation on freelance platforms also plays a major role. If one’s average rating is low, it is not likely that clients will choose that professional among dozens of others who have more positive reviews. So to make a living as a freelance translator one not only needs to translate well but also be able to communicate with the clients effectively, strictly meet all the deadlines and be able to advertise oneself.  

Another decisive factor would be one’s specialty. For those who deal with general translations only, the situation is not very beneficial as those are done at the lowest price across the industry and the demand for them is not very high in comparison to the number of translators who do it. It means that in order to be successful as a freelance translator one needs to fill a specific market niche. It can be a language pair in which the demand is higher than competition or specialization in which there are not many professionals. Of course, working in a narrow field such as business, healthcare, science, law, or technologies requires knowledge of the subject matter, terms, and specific vocabulary in the field. However, the reward is significant. Translators in some specializations can charge twice as many as for general text translation and have more clients and orders. Consequently, they not only charge more but also have more work to do which then multiplies the earnings. If you are an established translator and want to switch to freelance, it may not be necessary to choose some specialization, but it will definitely increase one’s chances of finding clients and making some decent money.

So good background, the language pair in high demand, and specialization are extremely important for translators on freelance. Without having one of these one may struggle a lot and it can take several months to start earning. Thus, if you consider working as a freelance translator, these are the very first things to pay attention to.

Location-Independent Work

One of the good things about working on freelance is the ability to manage one’s time, workload, and earnings. But one of the best things about freelance translation is the total freedom when it comes to the workplace. You can work practically anywhere where you can find Wi-Fi and are able to charge your laptop. It can be any place where you feel comfortable – home, a library, a café, a coworking space, or any other location one can imagine. It is also possible to change the place at any time or even have a specific place for each day of the week. In addition, one does not need to spend money and time traveling to the office, being stuck in traffic jams, or worrying about being late at work. Your working day starts when you want it to and anywhere where you decide.

Of course, this is nice and convenient but the true advantage comes with the ability to choose any city, town, or country to live in. If there is no specific physical space where you need to travel to work, then you can be anywhere. And it can be not only a matter of personal preference, one can manage their expenditures by choosing locations with cheaper rent and lower prices for food. So earning as much as a freelance translator in New York City, one living in a small lovely town can actually spend two times less and save this money for some other pleasurable things like traveling. Oh, and by the way, one can travel while working as a freelance translator and change the place where one works every week or month, or with any other frequency desired.

So basically, the majority of freelance translators can enjoy location-independent work. However, it may cause some inconveniences too. Since you work with different people it often requires flexibility. One of such cases is the mismatch between time zones. For example, if you work in the US and your clients are based in Europe, most likely you will have to answer their Skype calls in the middle of the night or early in the morning.  And vice versa, if you currently reside in France but your client is from California, you might have a hard time managing time for calls that will be acceptable for both of you. Also, working on freelance does not mean you work round the clock every day. On some days when you spend time on leisure, you would still need to maintain communication with your clients and accept new orders or clarify the details on the already taken ones. Hopefully, this issue is easily solvable – with a smartphone and mobile internet a freelance translator can answer any working emails or receive calls in any place without the need for carrying a laptop. 

Upsides and Downsides of Being a Freelance Translator

No profession is ideal. Every job has its advantages and disadvantages. The key is to find the field and the mode of work suitable for you. So in order to decide whether you would like to pursue a career as a freelance translator or not you need to weigh the upsides and downsides of this profession. So here they are.

Advantages

  • Flexibility of work

You can be an early bird, or wake up in the afternoon and finish after midnight. If you like it, you can even take a nap during lunchtime. Being a freelance translator one can manage their time in any way that is convenient for them.

  • Freedom to choose projects

You hate big translation projects and prefer working only on the small ones? Unlike in translation agency, you can decline whatever you want and accept only the orders that are interesting to you. 

  • Control over income

Depending on how long your working hours are, how fast you translate, and much you charge, you can manage your income. If one is about to buy some new car, he/she might wish to work more, while at any other time, they prefer working only four days a week for 8 hours or work intensively for two-three months and then make a very long vacation. 

  • Infinite workplace

As already mentioned, you can work anywhere in the world where you can find Wi-Fi and electricity. Your clients, for the most part, do not care where you reside. 

Disadvantages

  • Pay for the actual work done

If an office worker can spend some time chatting with colleagues and having coffee breaks, his/her salary most likely will not be affected. But for a freelance translator, who gets paid for the actual work done, rather than for the time spent at work, it really matters how much time is spent on the working process. 

  • Way too much freedom

One may think it is not possible but absolute freedom can be a disadvantage. The total lack of control may turn one into an irresponsible and often it may be hard to get out of this state.

  • Lack of time

If one’s earnings depend on how much one spends on work, the entire life may turn into a transcendent working process. For a freelance translator, it is extremely important to keep an adequate work-life balance.

In any profession, people may or may not be successful. To make good money and be satisfied with one’s occupation, a freelance translator needs professionalism, dedication, self-discipline, communicative skills, the ability to advertise oneself, and a little luck. If you think this kind of work is suitable for you and you have the necessary skills, then it is definitely worth trying.