Welcome to the Reinvent Yourself series! In each of these posts, we will handle a different freelance career: An activity typically performed by professionals who want to work on their own terms, who don’t want a boss but high-quality customers, and who want to choose when and where they work. This post is all about freelance translators. Let’s get started!

What does a freelance translator do?

A freelance translator interprets a text written in a specific language (“source language”) and rewrites it into another language (“target language”). The translation must adapt the source text style to the culture and market where the target language is spoken. You have to be careful, for example, with word puns or jokes that might not be understood in the same way in all countries. The same happens with cultural references, like past events or celebrities that might not be popular in the target country.

What kind of text does a freelance translator work with?

It’s almost quicker to say what they don’t work with! think of any product or service a country imports or exports… I bet that it will need a translation. And that’s the fun of translating: You can look for a field you love, and make it your specialization!

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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 and web applications: 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
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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, you might end up having a lot of work.
  • You don’t have to limit yourself to companies from your country. You won’t probably ever see your customers anyway, so why not look for the best-paying countries in the world?
  • The key factors to be considered a good translator are high quality and punctuality in delivering the translations.
  • Please note that translators are almost at the end of the supply chain – it’s one of the last steps right before a product launches into the market. This means that the deadlines can be very tight. For some weird reason, everyone seems to forget that translation activities need some time!

Equipment I need as a freelance translator

  • A good PC – a laptop is even better, especially if you want to profit from your newly gained location independence as a freelancer and work away from your desk!
  • High-speed Internet connection. You’ll very likely have to translate online from time to time.
  • Translation software. Some customers may give you access to a specific tool. However, if you have your own beforehand, you’ll have many more chances to land a client as soon as possible.

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 πŸ˜‰

Alicia RG
xoxo - Born to Freelance
Born to Freelance
Become a Freelance Translator