Getting Started as a Freelance Translator

A Brief Guide to Translation Careers

If you are thinking of becoming a freelance translator yourself, you may find the following pages helpful. I have put together a number of ideas and suggestions born out of my own experience. Select the topics that interest you from the menu on the right or read through this whole section by clicking 'Next' at the bottom of each page.

Questions You Ought to Ask Yourself before Embarking on a Career as Freelance Translator

Do you have

  • any language qualifications apart from being a native speaker?
  • experience in providing translation services?
  • practical translation experience in one or more specialist areas?
  • a thorough knowledge and/or practical experience in any specialist area?
  • a natural talent for writing?

If the answer to any of the above is 'no', your chances of earning a living by being a freelance translator are limited.

Before you make any further inquiries, try to remedy the situation. Obtain a formal translation qualification. Become an Associate member of a Translating Association such as the Chartered Institute of Linguists. Alternatively, there are numerous jobs out there that need language skills without restricting yourself to "translation only".

Once you are qualified, if at all possible gain employment as a translator with an agency or with a company where you can put your language skills into practice. This will also help you later with your areas of specialisation. Agencies and customers expect a high level of knowledge in your chosen subject. Earning a living as freelance translator is not a soft option!

Once you have obtained some practical experience as a translator (see also the page on how to find a work placement), you have to decide which career path you wish to take. Do you want to work as a staff translator employed by an agency or do you want to go solo as a freelance translator? Would it suit your personality better to work for a company that has dealings with countries in which the language/s you know is/are spoken (import/export, market research, tourism - to name but a few)? Have you got what it takes to work freelance or do you have no other option?