If you’re considering starting a career as a freelance translator, make sure you read our guide first.
Are you a Brit living abroad? Do you need to make money to support your lifestyle?
If you’re bilingual, working as a translator can be a reliable — and often lucrative — mode of employment.
With more and more people travelling around the world and the expansion of international companies, the need for translation services is greater than ever.
Want to find out how to make a job as a translator work for you?
We’ve put together this extensive guide to help you find your way to a new career in your new found homeland – -wherever that may be…
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Could I Be a Translator?
Knowing another language is a valuable skill, but it’s vital to be realistic about your level of reading, writing, and speaking in another tongue before you consider working as a translator.
No matter how well versed you are in another language, you will always make mistakes, and it can be difficult to capture the various nuances of what you are required to translate.
Translating is a highly specialised and professional vocation, and the better your command of another language, the more likely you are to find employment.
You will need to be able to read and write to an excellent standard in your mother tongue, and to translate at least to a degree level, as well as continually be practising and improving your skills.
Whenever you can — get qualified.
Enrol in a masters program or take interpreting classes. A diploma in translation from a formally recognised institution such as the Chartered Institute of Linguists can boost your chances of finding work, especially with international organisations.
Get as much real world experience as possible. Start small and find your feet before progressing to bigger things.
Being fluent in another language means being a near native speaker, which can take years of hard work and experience to achieve.
The best way to to this is by living and working in the relevant country where the language is spoken that you want to translate in order to immerse yourself in the culture and way of life.
The ability to understand and translate different terms in specialised areas such as medical or technical fields is a huge plus.
What Do I Need to be a Translator?
Being fluent in a second language is one thing, but there are other criteria you will need to meet in order to be successful as a translator — particularly if you are working from home or whilst travelling.
A reliable, fast internet connection is essential, as your work will undoubtedly require a certain level of online research, as well as the need to stay in regular contact with your employers or potential employers, plus searching for further job opportunities.
Access to a decent library with good reference books can be an additional bonus.
A good knowledge of word processing is also a must, as it will save you valuable time and enable you to produce professional documents.
Whatever text you are required to translate, it is imperative to stick to the script — i.e. remain impartial and not let your own thoughts, opinions or feelings influence the final translation.
This is particularly important when dealing with sensitive or confidential content, as is an open minded and friendly disposition.
Access to automatic translation tools may sometimes speed up the translation process, but can also be a impediment, so only use them if you are confident that you can master them.
Last but not least, be sure that you have a quiet, dedicated workspace where you can work unhindered — translation can be demanding and you must be able to concentrate, and you must have the willingness to work overtime and beyond reasonable work schedules.
How To Find Work as a Translator
If you want a career as a translator, you have to be prepared to build your profile and find the work.
Networking — both online and in person — is key to success.
Attending translation conferences can also be a good way to make new contacts and get work as a translator. The more clients and businesses that are familiar with you and your work, the more success you will have. There are 2 main methods of finding translation work — online, and in person…
Online Translating Jobs
There are a huge number of online websites and agencies created for the purpose of connecting translators with prospective clients.
This is both a blessing and a curse, as while it opens up an enormous amount of job opportunities, it also creates a tremendous amount of stiff opposition from other candidates.
Most of these websites require you to create an account and online profile showcasing your skills and experience, and will take a percentage of your pay should you successfully find work through them.
The better sites will also allow you to rate the agencies or companies you work with, and in turn receive feedback which is displayed on your profile to attract more attention from future clients. Some online job boards will allow you to browse through jobs and apply for them free of charge.
Not all online translation work portals are reliable, so it’s best to stick to those with the best reputations.
Some of the top sites include TranslatorsCafe, Gengo, A. Proz, Protranslating, Translators Town, Transperfect Translations, and SmartCats.
General freelancing sites such as People Per Hour and Upwork also frequently have translation work available.
Take a look at this useful video if you’re interested in making some serious money with your translating skills:
One of the major advantages to applying for translation jobs with clients directly rather than via the internet, is that you won’t have to give up a percentage of your income for the privilege of having a job.
It is also often the case that applying in person — particularly with companies based in your local area — that you stand a much stronger chance of getting the position you want, as well as a higher rate of pay, greater job security, and the likelihood of a more long term contract.
You will also most likely be provided with a space in which to work, and follow the hours of a regular 9 to 5 working week from Monday to Friday with your weekends free.
If you’re going to look for work locally, you’ll need to make sure that you are already well placed or be prepared to relocate.
Create a solid CV along with a business card (creating a professional website to market your services is also a useful additional marketing tool) and sign up with local job agencies, as well as making the rounds of companies in your area that may be looking for translators.
If there’s an online community of translators based in your area, make sure you’re an active member as this could also give you some leads.
If you’ve got the skills and you’re willing to put in the time and effort to market yourself either online or in person, translation can be an extremely rewarding career option if you’re a Brit living abroad.
Be persistent, keep learning and build up your profile and client network. And be safe in the knowledge that each new contract will bring you more knowledge, experience, and enrich your life in your new country.
Have you considered starting work as a translator?