Making the translation industry the primary source of income may be the dream of some bilingual wordsmiths. Whether being a full-time translator or a freelancer, there are still opportunities to earn a decent and even better income stream if pursued earnestly. In recent years, more and more people are considering becoming freelance translators as the global marketplace grows and internet access becomes more equitable. If you really want to start a freelance translator career, consider a few things that we are happy to share with you in this article.
Why is it important to take a freelance translator career seriously?
With the unstoppable flow of globalization, the need for professional translators who are not only proficient in two or more languages is increasing. In the age of artificial intelligence, the skill set required to become a proficient translator is increasingly complex. Today, you need to deepen your knowledge and expertise in languages and specific areas of subject matter, as well as intercultural, research, and technological competence.
The aforementioned skills are the core skill sets required to compete with the power of efficient AI and hence they become the learning objectives in many translation academies around the world. The goal is to become more specialized and targeted at more specific markets so that one can keep up with the intense competition.
It’s important to note that today’s translation market consists of several segments that must be viewed differently. The entry-level, for example, is the earliest market referred to as the bulk market where each new translator has to compete with other beginner translators for the significant value of projects offered at a base price. This segment should be the first battleground for beginner or soon-to-be translators. Most of them are freelancers looking for opportunities in a way that they find more flexible and doable while doing other businesses.
At a later stage, the dynamic corporate environment requires more skilled and capable translators to handle sensitive and valuable material that requires precision. They are often priced at the maximum rate, but with stricter rules to achieve an error-free end result. Being proficient in two languages is not enough to handle such specialized tasks. Therefore, improving translation skills is essential to help translators move to the next, more rewarding level. Moreover, the process is also essential for freelance translators to survive in an industry that is slowly being replaced by artificial intelligence.
The entry-level market is the earliest market where new translators have to compete with other beginner translators for the significant value of projects offered at a base price.
What skill sets one needs to be a good translator?
To be successful in every freelance translator career, it takes more than the skill set required to survive in the bulk translation market. The skill sets are expanded including skills in cross-cultural understanding, copywriting, research, decision-making, and using technology.
Since language is often associated with cultures, developing the ability to understand cross-cultural differences is the next step to becoming a successful translator in the high-tech era. Cultural insights will help someone to create an equal understanding of the source and target texts. It is also important to be able to deliver quality translations that will work in the new target culture as expected by the clients.
Additionally, mastering any specific writing skill like copywriting skill is important to be able to convey meaning in another language. The unique nature of tasks like localization and transcreation needs advanced writing skills as well as a wider array of skill sets rather than only linguistic knowledge.
Considering the more complex requirement needed by clients in the translation market, there are research skills that one should always consider, especially when dealing with specialized translated material. Words and meanings are two things that are never constant. Learning their development through research is a must for any translator. In today’s work environment, internet research has become the most powerful tool for any translator in carrying out difficult tasks in a shorter time period.
In some specialized projects, translation cannot be a one-way process and requires a back-and-forth process to ensure the accuracy and efficiency of previously used sentences or terms. Multiple stops and refinements are required to achieve the most refined results.
Therefore, the ability to use best practices and judgment in translation is another additional skill that plays an important role in the process. Only extensive experience over the years will shape this ability as there is currently no proven method to improve intuition in this regard. This ability is also crucial to being an editor who is expected to spot and remedy unsatisfactory translations.
The last important skill is the ability to use translation technology. In the last decades, CAT tools have been the main actors that change the way translators carry out their job. Today, translation technology is evolving even better. For example, cloud-based translation tools with numerous translation assets have been built to improve the efficiency of translating.
Moreover, AI evolution lately is used in state-of-art machine translation and language models have created a significant impact to help translators to get the work done better and faster. The skill of using technology often becomes the top requirement in many translator recruitments. Therefore, mastering translation technology to its fullest can assure one a special place in the future of translation.
In addition to pursuing skill sets, personal qualities can prove to help one to stay afloat in this fast-growing industry. Attention to detail, reliability, integrity, and adaptability are some of the personal qualities that are important for translators in their career journey and to build their future personal image.
What are the steps to follow to be successful in a freelance translator career?
Being a freelance translator means you have to work to your own schedule and targets. While a lot of your time is dependent on project completion, being a freelancer provides greater flexibility in building a career framework.
- Build your Portfolio
After understanding the skill sets required in the translation industry, the next step is to test your overall ability by looking for freelance work. You should focus on building your portfolio in the early days as a freelance translator. There are several methods you can use to find freelance translation jobs, such as using your network, applying to translation agencies, joining professional groups, and bidding on translation markets.
- Explore education or certification
With either formal or non-formal education, translators must be well-trained. There are many things to understand including how to overcome challenges. Although education does not necessarily guarantee a qualified translator, with education at least we can distinguish which one is just a person who has the bilingual ability and which one really dedicates his time to becoming a good and professional translator.
- Build your professional freelance structure
Being a freelance translator means you have to work to your own schedule and targets. While a lot of your time is dependent on project completion, being a freelancer provides greater flexibility in building a career framework. It is essential for every freelancer to have such a structure.
This structure should consist of all the things that can support or control your current and future career. Project management, schedules, work priorities, leave, and finances are some of the important things that every freelancer should outline otherwise, they will easily burn out from overwork, have no goals, lose motivation, or experience regret in old age. Being a successful freelancer requires everything to be carefully planned.
Finally, among the many factors to consider in choosing a professional career as a freelance translator is the readiness to face all possibilities, both external and internal. There are many possibilities that can occur when one pursues this path, but the outcome can be influenced by the things that one prepares and directs.