When you work for yourself as a freelancer, you have the opportunity to set up…
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Interested in becoming a freelance translator? Now is the right time.
Translation is an ever-expanding market. Verified Market Research states that the translation industry’s market value will grow to around $46.22 billion by 2028. This means the demand for translators will continue to grow for many years.
The biggest issue for beginning freelance translators is how to increase your chances of finding the best work so you can earn as much as possible from the comfort of your home.
Keep reading and you’ll learn 10 tips for finding the very best freelance translation jobs that you can do from home.
How much translators make
The first thing you might have wondered might be how much do freelance translators usually earn? In the US, the average freelance translator earns around $62,129 per year. The lowest earner managed to make $11,000 per year while the highest earner made around $401,500 per year.
Statista reports that translators from Switzerland are the highest average earners with a yearly salary of more than 80,000 Euros compared to Italy’s average translator salary of around 17,000 Euros per year.
How much you earn as a freelance translator will depend on several factors, like where you’re located, the rarity of your language pair, certifications, specialty, etc.
How to become a freelance translator
It is not necessary to earn a degree or get a certification to become a freelance translator and find the best freelance translation jobs from home.
If you’re fluent in more than one language, it is possible for you to become a translator. You automatically have a marketable skill that other people don’t have because most people are not fluent in more than one language. Fluency in multiple languages is not all you need, though.
Once you enter the translation industry, you’ll quickly realize that if you’re mediocre you’ll get mediocre results. If you want to make a sustainable income from being a freelance translator, you will have to do things right.
Here are ten tips for how to have a great and successful career as a freelance translator and get the very freelance translation jobs.
1. Develop the right translation skills
Let’s be honest. There is no set of rules for creating accurate translations. So there’s a lot of confusion in determining what makes one translated version of text better than another. However, that shouldn’t be an excuse to not develop your own standards for translation and continuously improve on it.
From my experience working with professional translation agencies over the years, I’ve observed that newbie translators go into translation unprepared. Most agencies will require translators to have at least five years of experience in translating documents. Because of this, I advise that you get a mentor or take up translation apprenticeships to enhance your language skills and gain experience.
2. Be disciplined in time management
Discipline is the backbone of any successful freelancer or entrepreneur. Discipline includes how you wisely manage your time.
I had experienced projects wherein we had to deliver translated documents in 24 hours. Now, not every project will be like that. You’re usually given adequate time to translate content.
No matter how much time you’re given, don’t procrastinate and do everything at the last minute. If you do, it will affect the quality of your translations. Poor quality in translations leads to poor reviews from clients that lead to lower recommendations.
If you’re planning to be a part of the industry in the long term, you will have to develop a workflow that best fits your lifestyle. The more productive you are with your performance, you’ll also gain more regular clients.
3. Establish a name for yourself
Speaking of regular clients, the best thing about being a freelancer with a stellar work ethic is that your clients will refer you to their associates, friends, and family members. Freelance translators say they’re surprised by how much communication is involved in freelance work.
As a translator, every piece of information you gain about the document you’re translating will be crucial to the final output. Because of this, you will have to develop communication skills to help you connect and promote yourself with clients, like asking them to rate your skill on your social media page or leave comments about your performance.
4. Prepare your rates
When you’re starting as a freelancer, you can determine your rates based on per word, hour, or project.
it can be difficult, however, to determine your freelance rates.
The factors involved in deciding on your rates are:
- Educational background (Example: law or medicine)
- Translation Programs You Have Attended
My advice is that you can negotiate with employers on your rates, but don’t allow them to go below any more than what you need to make a living. The whole reason you become a freelancer is the freedom to earn more while being able to go anywhere.
So don’t allow others to cheapen your rates, as you know your worth.
5. Further your education and skills
The longer you stay in the language industry, the more costly it is not to be up to date with the latest trends and language courses. If you’re only planning to be a translator for the short term, then specializing in your skills wouldn’t benefit you.
But suppose you’re planning to have a lifelong career in the language industry. Then being an official translator and getting certifications will be advantageous. As mentioned, professional translation agencies primarily cater to translators with several years of experience and credentials compared to translators with no degree.
6. Invest in translation tools
Machines will never replace human translators. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use them. There are CAT tools and other technologies you can use to increase productivity when you translate a document.
Some free tools can help you get started if you can’t afford them. For example, Omega T is a free translation memory tool you can use to make your work run more smoothly.
7. Trust your instincts
When you’re searching for freelance translation jobs from home, it’s important to trust your instincts. I have heard of professional translation agencies experiencing scams wherein a group of people use their agency’s name and reach out to translators to do a project for them. Later on, they stop communicating with the translator and don’t pay them.
If you think you’re being scammed, trust your instincts. Most of the time, your instincts are correct, and “employers” trying to recruit for a project aren’t who they claim to be.
Also, going back to what I said about negotiating your rates, when you negotiate, have a baseline where you tell them that’s your final offer, and you won’t go any more below that.
Don’t accept their project if you think your employer is rude or unreasonable. You have the right to refuse.
8. Don’t skip quality assurance
All professional translation agencies have their unique way of doing quality assurance. If you’re working with one, you will have to coordinate with them on the best approach to ensuring that your content is high quality.
If you’re doing a project alone, after you’re done, wait a short while, then check it. Doing this allows your brain to see the content from a new perspective. It will be easier to catch any errors you might have missed while translating.
You can also seek proofreaders of your target language. They can help you ensure that the document is grammatically and contextually correct. But this will depend on your contract with your employer, as some would require you to sign an NDA.
9. Be careful about deadlines
Deadlines are essential, as they keep you on track. So as I told you, I managed a project wherein we had to translate several documents within 24 hours. Since I managed a remote-first translation agency, we asked our client if it was okay to divide the project among three remote translators so we could deliver the translated documents in time. They agreed, and we accomplished this task with our translation tools and our translators’ expertise.
But if you’re working solo and an employer wants you to translate many documents in a time frame which you think is impossible, tell them that you can’t do it. You’ll be surprised, as some employers will appreciate your honesty and are willing to negotiate to extend the deadline.
However, not all employers will have the same reaction. There will be some who will try to force you to accomplish an impossible task. As a freelancer, you should know your boundaries.
10. Improve your craft
When you’ve gotten used to a routine as a freelance translator, it’s easy to become complacent. Many freelancers end up becoming mediocre, which detrimentally affects their careers.
I don’t think anyone stays long in the language industry if they’re not passionate about language and culture. It’s a prerequisite, as every day there’s new research, trends, and development in the language industry. If you’re not into any of this, you fall behind.
Don’t settle for less, don’t only apply to the employers you will be working with but also how you develop your craft as a translator. You should strive to get better at translating and not slack off.
Being part of the translation field isn’t for everyone. Starting in any career, whether as a remote in-house translator for a translation agency or taking up a freelance translation project, can be overwhelming. No one starts out knowing everything. I hope my tips and advice about where to find the best freelance translation jobs from home will come in handy and inspire you to take the first steps.
Want to learn more tips about freelancing? Take my free 7-lesson mini-course here.
Ofer Tirosh is the CEO and founder of Tomedes, a remote-first translation agency that has worked with freelance translators since its inception in 2007. With his remote team of native translators, they provide language and technological solutions to thousands of businesses and Fortune 500 companies worldwide.