Translator's Guide

10 Steps on How to Become a Translator

Becoming a translator may seem pretty easy and straightforward – once you get your degree you declare yourself one and that’s it. But in reality everything is not that simple. What to do next? It often happens to graduates and those who want to change their career to the translation that they are unsure what exactly to do and most importantly, how to start earning money with translation.

Here are the 10 steps to follow in order to become a translator

  1. Decide on a language pair to work with

You might have already done this, but for those who have not, there is a small piece of advice – if you know more than two foreign languages at a decent level, focus on only one at first. Choose the two languages you are the most confident in. Typically, this would be a mother tongue and a second language. If you never learned to translate before, at this point you need to do this. It is essential not only to speak, but also to read, and understand two languages. One should really be able to translate correctly and appropriately.

2. Choose one or more field of specialization

If you decide to go with general texts – it’s okay. But if you have some field knowledge in any of the domains such as medical, technical, or legal, it may be more beneficial to choose one of these niches. Again, for now it is better to choose only one option and as you would grow professionally you can add another specialty later.

3. Research the market

Before deciding on your rate and any other details, you need to research the field you are interested in. You may discover that your choice of language or specialization might not have been the best one, or maybe even very disadvantageous, so this step is the last one to make some corrections. Changing the language is no good at this point, so you can think of switching to some specialty where the demand is higher.

4. Make sure your language command and professional skills are enough to provide quality work.

It is better not to start accepting orders without the confidence that they will be completed perfectly and by the agreed deadline. If you feel that you have already mastered all the theory, now it is time to move on to practice. If you have any friends who work as translators, you can ask them to help you double-check the final result and give their feedback. On this step you also need to ensure the decent speed of your translation because it will considerably affect your earnings in the future.

5. Learn how to conduct business

Working as an individual contractor (this is the prevailing mode of work of translators) means being self-employed. It requires one to understand how to conduct business, how to negotiate details of the project with the clients, how to choose the pricing strategy etc. A successful translator is always a business person. So learning the basics is obligatory.

6. Create your website/social media page

In the modern digitalized world, if you do not exist on the Internet, you do not exist at all. Your future clients might wish to get familiar with you and your services before they can trust you with any work. You can also use your web/social media page to create a portfolio and collect feedback from the clients that would build your reputation. Later on it will allow you to attract new clients easier as they will have more confidence in your professionalism.

7. Apply for a job/register on freelance platforms

You might also wish to work not as a freelancer but as a full-time employee in a company. Depending on the specific business and the complexity of work, one’s earnings may be either much lower than those of a typical freelancer, relatively the same, or higher. It is also important to take into account some personal characteristics like the ability to manage one’s time effectively and stay motivated. If you enjoy the company a lot and feel lonely when living and working alone, then employment at some organization for you may be more beneficial than freelance.

If you seek employment as an individual contractor, you need to register on some freelance platforms such as Fiverr or Upwork and create an appealing profile. Set an acceptable rate for your services and, on some platforms, you can also try to take part in the bidding process. Read some information online about those freelance marketplaces and make sure you understand how they work.

8. Accept the first order

Accept your first translation project and negotiate all the details with your client. Make a plan and a schedule for the completion of the order in advance and stick to it. Double-check the completed job and make the necessary corrections if needed. Send it to your client and ask them to leave feedback on your web/social media page. If you and the client are both satisfied with the result proceed to the next step. Otherwise, you might need to go back and revise the steps 4 and 5.

9. Increase clientele

Now it’s the time to put more effort into the advertisement of your translation services. There are multiple options here and mostly they depend on your financial abilities (do not spend too much on advertisement if you do not have much money available). You can advertise yourself via your pages on social media or let all possible acquaintances of yours that you are open to some new projects.

10. Learn and develop

After you have managed to build clientele and reputation, it is time to analyze your results and think of further ways of development. You can add one more specialty, one more language, and do all the further steps once again. At some point you might want to start your own translation company, apply for a job in government or some international organization, or simply remain a freelancer and enjoy your work.

The most important step in becoming a translator is, in fact, the recognition that you want to become one. Once it is made, the wonderful and sometimes challenging journey starts. The main thing is to enjoy one’s way.