Welcome to the Changing Careers Series! Each week, I’m going to handle a different freelance career: A profession typically performed by people who have their own business, and work from home – or anywhere else. This week is all about freelance translators. Let’s get started!

Freelance Translator

What does a freelance translator do?

A freelance translator rewrites a text written in a specific language (“source language”) into another language (“target language”). It’s very important that the translation adapts the source text style to the culture and market where the target language is spoken. You have to be careful, for example, with cultural references, like famous people who may not be popular at all in the target country, for instance. The same happens with word puns or jokes, which may not be understood by all countries.

What kind of text does a freelance translator work with?

It’s almost quicker to say what they don’t work with 😉 And that’s the fun of translating: You can look for a field you love, and make it your specialization!

Some examples of freelance translators’ work:

Print: Books, press releases, magazine articles, business publications and communication, all kinds of marketing material like leaflets, banner stands, exhibition stands, pop-up displays

Media: Film scripts, dubbing, subtitling, voice-over, websites, e-commerce sites, multimedia marketing tools, such as online ads, banners or pop-ups

Technique & industry: Instructions and installation manuals, service manuals, documentation for production sites, vehicle displays and voice commands for navigation systems or on-board computers

Medicine: Clinical trials and essays, medical reports, user interface and online help for laboratory diagnostics software,

Software: Used in almost every market sector, software-based systems are not only PC programs or office apps. Think of gaming apps, mobile apps, video games, online games, user interfaces or online-help files. Even social media platforms – like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or LinkedIn – have been translated – their interface, all messages, pop-ups, emails, instructions, legal notices, etc

Legal documents for contracts, agreements, trials, resolutions, reports, licenses, patents, certificates, settlements, last wills or testaments

Think of any product or service a country imports or exports… It will need a translation.

How to become a freelance translator

 You have to speak at least 2 languages – your mother tongue and a second one.

 You’ll generally translate into your mother tongue, not the other way round.

 I’d  suggest you take up a translation course to understand how the job and the industry work. Besides, if you get certified, you’ll be able to join a professional translation association, where you’ll find lots of help, info and work opportunities!

 The more you specialize, the better – There may be fewer customers looking for someone like you, but you’ll also have less competition.

 As a freelance translator, you’ll typically have 3 types of customers:

 Private people who need translations – This can be a good way to start getting some experience, but if you want to become a professional translator (that is, earn a living on it), you’d better bet on companies. They’ll pay better and are more likely to send you projects regularly than someone who needs a letter in another language.

 Direct clients – Firms who need to have their products, services or communication translated into another language. Generally speaking, they pay the highest fares.

 Translation agencies – They act as a middle-man between the company and the translator. Therefore, their rates are a bit lower. Nevertheless, they’re a good deal for a beginner:

  • Agencies will probably provide you with reference materials for all translations
  • You’re going to be translating texts from several branches, so it’ll help you choose your field
  • They usually have a proofreader in-house, who will review your translation and give you feedback before delivering the translation to the end customer.

Some additional notes about freelance translators’ work

 If you specialize in a high-demanded field – like website or software localization -, or if you have an uncommon language pair – like Asian languages, for instance -, you’re going to have a lot of work.

You don’t have to limit yourself to companies from your country. You’re probably never going to see your customers anyway, so why not look for the best-paying countries in the world?

 Please note that translators are almost at the end of the production chain – it’s one of the last steps right before a product launch. This means that the deadlines can be very tight.

The key factors to be considered a good translator are high quality and punctuality in delivering the translations.

How can I work as a freelance translator if I have no experience?

Try to combine your current know-how and experience with languages: You have healthcare knowledge? Go for medicine or pharmaceutical translations. Do you understand machines? Go for technical translations! Do you spend hours playing games? Well… You could put that many fun hours to good use thanks to game localization 😉

Translators with another background are highly demanded. Just remember that you have to have a very strong second language knowledge.

Equipment I need as a freelance translator

Good PC – a laptop is even better
 High-speed Internet connection – You’ll very likely have to translate online from time to time
 A translation software – Your customers may provide it to you, but if you have your own beforehand, you’ll have many more chances to land a client as soon as possible
 Check out this post about practical tools & equipment for freelancers you could be getting for special dates, like Christmas or Black Friday 😉

Interested? Questions?

Let me know your thoughts about freelancing as a translator. Do you have any questions you’d like me to address? Go for it 😉

Are you born to freelance?

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Other posts in this series:
Freelance Virtual Assistant
Freelance Visual Designer
Freelance Photographer
Freelance Social Media Manager
Freelance Online Teacher
Freelance Writer
Freelance Ghostwriter

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