How to Become a Freelance Translator

· Freelance Translation

If you are thinking about starting your career as a freelance translator and don’t know how to start, this article will serve you as a guide.

To work as a freelance translator you will need language and business skills. It is essential to have both.


In business there are always people who have got something to offer and those who wish to get something. If you become more familiar with knowing and finding out what people want and, at the same time, being more aware what you can offer, you will be enormously successful as a businessman.

If you’ve got a diploma in translation think how much it is worth without understanding the sentence above. Skills and qualification are important only when you can make use of them.

If you want to be successful as a freelance translator you can’t be a rigid marketing thinker. Translation job adverts which you can find aren’t the only available offers to you. Think outside the box. When I started to work as a freelance translator (English to Polish) I found out that Polish nationals can vote in local elections in the UK. That was an opportunity to convince the local council candidates that they can get extra voters thank to my translation. My idea paid off and I got a few new clients.

Each time when you get a translation job ask yourself why you get paid. This knowledge is priceless. Is it because:

– they know you and they know the quality of your work,
– you’ve made an impression of someone very professional, polite and trustworthy,
– you’ve been recommended by very important people,
– they have someone who can translate but you are impartial,
– attractive currency exchange rate,
– prices of translation in a particular country (if you live in India and have the same language combination as me you are probably more attractive),
– or other reasons.

Finding your niche

Every good business has something what is called a Unique Selling Point. It is a gimmick which distinguishes a company from their competition. Each of us is different and being diverse is an advantage not a flaw. As a translator you could take into consideration your background e.g. if you were a trained engineer, you may use your specific knowledge to do technical translations.

Specialization is important as well because it makes your own marketing much easier. Then you know who your potential clients are and what their expectations are.

Self development

If you want to succeed in any area, it is essential to make a plan of your journey. First – learn where you are. Make an assessment of your own skills and capabilities. Be realistic and very optimistic at the same time.

Entry requirements to the profession in each country may vary that is why you will have to find out what qualifications will enable you to get to the following stages of your career and how to work towards them. It is always good to do some research, but remember not entirely believe what people will say. Translations just as any other industry exist in economical environment so if there’s urgent need to find a translator, agents usually will accept less experienced one in order to complete assignment.

In your self development you will have to focus on two things: experience and qualifications.

Almost every translator/interpreter sometimes is offered a job to which he or she hasn’t got enough experience. It is always a dilemma. You have to know when you should refuse. Sometimes it is rather better to say no, than take a job and not complete it on time and subsequently lose a client. But very often gamble pays off. You have to decide.

Remember that the internet gives you an opportunity to work for people and companies based all around the world.
In your self development take into account CAT tools skills as well as any IT skills because they will be important to some customers and make your work more efficient.


Everyone who starts in a field of translation should know that working with the local community is essential. It gives you plenty of networking opportunities as well as chances to get some experience. A great deal of charity organisations will appreciate you service when they wouldn’t have to pay a hefty fee to more established linguist.

Always be aware what you can offer or what the community might want from you. It doesn’t have to be translations. Everything is an asset: people you know, your talents, interpersonal skills, particular experience in organising events etc. If you’ve been a volunteer you know that although you are not paid, you get plenty of benefits e.g. fee or partially sponsored training.

As a volunteer you will have an opportunity to work with often influential and important people. Tell them what your aspirations are and support them in their work and policies. Their references will give you advantage over your competitors, especially when you’ve got little experience in translations.


Nobody is a lonely island. Even if you work from home your business growth will depend on connections with others. Find your local freelance translator who does the same job you want to start. He or she might have a different language combination. It doesn’t matter. What really matters is that this person knows you and you know this person so when a job comes up, it will find you. Sometimes agencies will call you asking if you know a Kurdish translator. Be prepared. Set up profiles on social networking website. Connect to people with the same interest.
And don’t forget the main rule.

Good Luck!


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