A Freelance Translator’s Start-up Guide

Knowledge of a foreign language continues to be a huge selling point when it comes to finding a job in an increasingly global market.

As it becomes more and more common for businesses to deal internationally, the need for someone to translate continues to increase.

Despite technological advances in automated translation, the outlook remains very positive for those wishing to pursue a career as a translator or interpreter. According to some news reports, translation is one of the best careers of recent years and demand is expected to increase.

In this post, I’ll share some tips for getting started in this lucrative freelancing field.

Getting Started

To become established in the industry it is necessary to have a suitable qualification and, perhaps more importantly, relevant experience. Many translators start off with voluntary work, translating for charities or institutions. This can be a great way to build up your CV and gain experience in different subject areas.

Alongside the qualification and experience, noted French translator Phillipe Galinier gives the following advice:

  1. Keep your CV up to date
  2. Become a CAT (computer assisted translation) tool expert
  3. Be flexible
  4. Choose your rates carefully

Along with translation, interpreting and project management are both important roles within the industry. Interpreting offers the chance to travel for work and can be very well paid. Project management positions involve acting as a liaison between clients and suppliers to ensure jobs are carried out without a hitch.

Choosing a Sector to Work In

According to CILT (The National Centre for Languages) finance, IT and legal services are the three business sectors from which providers currently have the most work.

It is predicted that future demand will remain the same in these three sectors, whereas demand is likely to increase in both the tourism sector and the public service sector.

Translation Agencies

Most freelance translators and interpreters are registered with one or more agencies. This provides a platform for employment and over time can develop into a solid and recurrent business relationship. Contemporary technology allows translation agencies operating via online portals that connect project managers to a large number of registered translators, interpreters, voice over artists, DTP specialists and various other professionals. IT and networked technologies are playing a core role in the translation sphere.

Learning to use CAT tools such as Trados and Memoq will help you expand your collaboration with most of translation agencies. These systems not only save time, but also can keep projects consistent, and help you save your clients time and money.

Translation 2.0

Online global communication is creating a range of opportunities and specializations for translators.

Multilingual search engine optimization (SEO) is a set of tools and techniques for getting websites to the top of the search engine rankings on a global scale.

Multilingual SEO experts help expand your existing client base and bring awareness of your brand, products and services to a new audience. The professionalism entails a deep understanding of search optimization techniques and cultural (including some HTML), social and linguistic issues of searches in different languages and on local search engines.

Social Media creates another creative and digital language opportunity. Social media monitoring tools allow you to flag and track mentions of your organization online. Once a mention has been flagged by the system, you or your social media monitoring agency can understand how your brand’s online conversation is proceeding. Reports can then be sent back to the customers at given times, and agencies will advise their clients on the best practices on when and how they should engage in the online debate.

Multilingual Community Management involves managing multilingual Facebook communities, tweeting on behalf of brands, and translating online articles and blogs, which are increasingly used to promote brand messages.

Creative translation…or “Transcreation” is the bonus value of a professional translator who combines the knowledge of copywriting, styles and linguistic codes with the knowledge of the local context. Many companies today are targeting at adapting their campaign messages to suit all their target markets, cultures and audiences around the world.

Being a translator or an interpreter is a great opportunity. The combination of technology and communication promotes freelancing, remote work and, of course, travel while still providing on-going creative challenges and opportunities makes this a very rewarding field.

Your Turn

Are you a freelance translator?

Share your story about how you got started in the comments. (Don’t forget to add your own tips for new translators.)

Image by cogdogblog


  1. says

    Nice written piece! At Founding Translate we are always on the lookout for new tools and translators that use them. Will definitely be keeping an eye on these developments.

  2. says

    I wouldn’t necessarily rank CAT that high: for one think, many clients specifically don’t want CAT, for another, it requires learning an new software, and finally, it doesn’t necessarily increase your revenue…

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