I am a freelance translator, now what?

So you have a gift for languages, some professional experience and you have decided to become a freelance translator. Where to start?


As you probably know, there are many benefits to becoming a freelance translator. From a flexible work schedule to a happier work environment and more time to pursue other activities, freelancers have the opportunity to grow their careers to the next level. The 2012 Freelance Industry Report showed fascinating statistics about freelancers, but most noticeably:


  • 90% of freelancers were happier than before they went solo.
  • 77% of freelancers were excited about their future business prospects.

The amount of freelancers has increased by more than 12% between 2008 and 2013, and the amount of job posts in the first quarter of 2013 was nearly 100, 000 more than for the same period in 2012. That creates a great opportunity for talented individuals.


Let’s talk about how you can get started as a freelance translator.


Step 1:  Get Into the Mindset


One great benefit of being a freelance translator, is that you can work when there is work available, and devote the quieter times to business management and marketing tasks. Discipline is key to being self-employed, as you won’t have a boss breathing down your neck. You have to manage and motivate yourself.


Step 2:  Set Up Your Office


Most freelancers value independence and love working in silence. Therefore, you need to set up your office space in a quiet area of the home. While you can sometimes move your laptop to a different area in the home for short stints of work, it is important that your usual office area offers access to all the tools of your trade with no distractions. Your office needs to be a place in which you can work comfortably for long periods of time. If you miss having colleagues, you can easily rent a desk in the numerous co-working spaces available in any city.


Step 3:  Create a Good CV


Your CV or resume provides a great opportunity to showcase your expertise and experience. Additionally, it will provide a good framework upon which you can build your personal brand and online profiles, which we will discuss below.


Be sure to keep your CV as professional and targeted as possible. If you don’t know how to create a power-packed CV, you may want to hire someone to do it for you on Fiverr/Odesk/PeopleperHour.


Step 4:  Create Your Personal Brand


A personal brand sets you apart from your competitors, so your company name should stand out. You could use your name and add “Translation Services” or something descriptive at the end, or you could go for something more artistic. Be sure that you choose a name that can be proudly displayed on your logo, business cards, and website. Also, make sure that your name is unique so people can easily find you on Search Engines.


Your business materials should look professional and polished.  It will be a valuable investment to hire a professional designer to create your logo, website and marketing materials.


Step 5:  Create an Online Presence


As a freelance translator, the world is your marketplace and that’s why you must have a professional quality website. Here’s what you need to remember when it comes to designing your freelance translator website:


Choose a short and snappy domain name that is easy to spell and easy to remember, while at the same time self-explanatory.


Include an introductory paragraph that tells visitors what your business is all about.


You must have a testimonials page and a portfolio of past work experience.


Most prospective clients will be less concerned about your qualifications, and more about past work experience and that’s why a portfolio is so valuable.


Step 6:  Find Work


Your main objective as a freelance translator, is finding work. You can do this by registering on various online platforms for freelancers. You may have to start out at a low rate and build up as you gain more freelance experience and a strong portfolio.


However, don’t only apply to the least lucrative jobs. Many freelance translators who do that end up in a vicious cycle of low-paying jobs that don’t allow them to make ends meet. You could offer to do pro bono work for the right clients, as that will communicate your worth to the right clients.


LinkedIn is another great place to find work through networking. You can use this platform to work your contacts, and to let everyone know that you are available for hire as a freelance translator.


You should also send your CV to translation agencies. Most of them have an online application form on their website.

Last but not least, do not forget to register on the websites of the different translators’ associations, such as the ATA, the BDU, the ITI.


In summary, you should view your early days as a freelance translator as an investment. During this time, you will set up your business operations and a foundation for your future success.