How to set up as a freelance translator?

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How to set up as a freelance translator: Where do I start? What is the market like? Who should I get in touch with, and how?

Making the decision:

When deciding to become a freelance translator, there are a few first steps you ought to take. The first is to find out if the freelance status applies best to your situation: these links will help you find more information about the particularities of this status in the USA, the UK and France. After making this decision, evaluate how compatible you are with a freelancer’s lifestyle — working independently requires certain important skills such as autonomy, flexibility, and organization; because you will be solely responsible for every aspect of your work, it’s important that you are comfortable with finding clients, setting your business hours and your rates, keeping track of your invoices, and more. Beyond this specific freelancer skill-set, your motivation and appetite for translation, languages and words is also important to assess before deciding to start your activity.

In 2017, the translation market represented a global revenue of around 43 million dollars. With a yearly increase of about 6%, the business shows a strong demand. However, with about 160 000 freelance translators on the market, setting up as a freelance translator will expose you to strong competition, and you’ll need to stand out. *

Introducing yourself and getting in touch:

Communication essentials for a freelance translator begin with the CV. Information that should be made clear to the reader includes: your native language, your language combination, your education, your professional experience, and your rates (examples of market average rates can be found here ). Information that reflects your potential in the market should also be included. If you include a picture on your CV, make sure it is as professional as possible. If you use a website to give visibility to your work, its address should be on your CV.

When preparing to get in touch with market actors, adapting to your audience is necessary. Beyond the core information you provide, you should provide elements demonstrating that you can match a client’s needs in a relevant manner. Whether using style or lexical range to do so, catch your audience’s attention and be informative.

The main points of entry to the translation market for a freelance translator are translation agencies, freelance websites, and his/her own network.

Many translation agencies use the services of freelance translators. You can reach them by email, although most of them use online registration forms for translators, where you will be asked your language pairs and rates as well as your background information. Sharing a clear overview of your past experiences in translation and your work methodology is important, as well as your specialization area if you have one. When starting your activity, you may not have a translation specialization yet; remember that agencies can be dedicated to a specific translation area, such as medical translation or website localization, and that carefully targeting the agencies you would like to work with is important. It is also essential for translator to be noticed for the right reasons. Most translation agencies, if not all, will ask you to take a test before joining their pool of translators.

To find translation work, there are plenty of websites dedicated to freelancers. Some of the most familiar names in the translation business are UpWork, Guru, Translator’s Café, Fiverr, CoWorkees and ProZ. The latest are internationally well-known and used by many agencies and recruiters. These websites are platforms used by agencies, companies, or individuals to post translation job offers. You will need to create a profile to browse job offers, contact posters, or send a quote. Freelance websites are similar to social networks and can help you maximise your chances with comments, scores as well as recommendations or feedbacks from clients. They also offer loads of useful translation-related content such as trainings, certifications and webinars.

Setting up as a freelance translator can be challenging, and an important ally in transitional periods can be your own network. Whether professional or personal, a network is a source of support and connection. Working as a freelancer can be solitary, and connecting with others is necessary on different levels. You will find help in other people’s experience, feedback, and advice, and it will better your own perception of your activity. Let people know what you are doing professionally, and share your difficulties and success — networking will allow your work to echo in various spheres and can bring you unexpected new clients. Extending your network in joining a translator’s association is also key to ensuring your alignment with market practices, and it will also enable you to connect with your industry and its stakeholders (List of translators and interpreters associations).

Milestone after milestone

Keep in mind that setting up as a freelance translator can take time and that you will sometimes face rejection and disappointment. Each failure is an opportunity to learn. Analyzing the reasons why you didn’t get a job is key to improving your work and your relationship with the market. Once you start receiving work requests and delivering translations, ask your client for feedback and recommendations on your social networks or freelance websites. Being sure to meet a client’s expectations will increase your chances of success. Your achievements are the reflection of your work and help recruiters making their decision, so don’t hesitate to go the extra mile and make it known.

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* Professional translation market statistics in 2017

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