Career Planning for Freelance Translators

If you are fluent in more than one language, a career as a freelance translator is a real possibility. Working as a freelancer offers a lot of freedom but also involves a lot of work. This article will look at just what goes into a freelance translation career.

Basic information

Naturally, to work as a translator, you must be proficient in a language other than English. And by proficient, we mean just that. To be a professional translator, you just can't be "pretty good" in a foreign language or even conversationally fluent, but you have to be somebody that knows as much as a native speaker, including advanced terminology. Many freelance clients are looking for translators who can translate technical or difficult language. So be sure you really are completely fluent in your chosen tongue.

As for what languages are best, you can find work in just about any of the major world languages. Spanish, French and German are always in demand, but there's an explosion of interest in Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese), Hindi, Vietnamese and any language of Asia or Middle East. If you are fluent in an Asian or Middle Eastern tongue, your services are definitely in demand.

Getting started

As a freelancer, you will need to constantly be on the lookout for clients. A full-time translator employed by a company has assignments given to him...you will need to seek yours out. Competition between freelance translators is extremely fierce so market yourself aggressively. Prepare a portfolio for potential clients that includes examples of your translation work. In today's "wired" age, an internet presence is a must. Create a professional website that presents you in the best possible light. Again, include examples of your work. These days, many people take advantage of social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn to advertise their services.

It is a good idea to have a part-time job or considerable savings during your first year or two in business. Many freelancers slowly build a reliable clientele until they reach the point where they can freelance full-time. Expect the first year to be difficult as you establish your name in the field. Make sure that you complete your early assignments on time and under budget. That way, early clients can recommend your work and your network will start to grow.

As for finding those clients, send out as many "feelers" as you can to places like large corporations with an international presence, major schools and universities, law firms with overseas connections and any business that you think may need your services. This will require time and money, but the rewards are substantial. Freelance translators average over $50,000 a year and the most successful can pick and choose their assignments.

Other tips

It's a good idea to link up with the American Translators Association. They can provide not only job leads but also certification as a translator, which can lead to extra money and more work.

Never take on more assignments than you can handle. Falling behind schedule can have disastrous consequences, especially when starting out. Don't be afraid to turn a job down if it's more than you can handle.