Many people with knowledge of languages ask how they can get started in freelance translation. These steps can help guide you through the process of becoming a freelance translator.

First things first – Why translation?

Before becoming a translator it is a good idea to consider the pros and cons of the job. On the plus side freelance translation can be varied, interesting, challenging and allows you to be your own boss. On the down side you work on your own, you rely on agencies for your income, it can be difficult to get recognised and you have to be responsible for your own taxes and accounts.

If you are truly motivated to become a freelance translator then you need to get prepared. The following are things you must have in order to start your career as a freelance translator:

1) You need to have a good level of education. Most agencies would at least require a degree. However, this is not always compulsory. A degree shows a certain level of linguistic and writing skills in your native language which is what every decent translator needs. A degree in your language combination is also a great help.

2) A professional translation qualification is important. In the UK potential translators should contact the ITI or IOL for information on how to become accredited.

3) You must have excellent skills in your foreign language. Knowing a language is not enough. You must also have an appreciation of modern usage, its variations, slang, cultural influences, etc.

4) Having a specialised knowledge of a field such as business, engineering or science is useful as this carves out a niche for you.

5) Good keyboard and computing skills are crucial. Typing is an integral part of the job.

6) Some investment will be needed in things such as dictionaries, word-processing software, internet access, a fax line and if necessary some translation software.

Next steps – Getting translation work

There are basically two ways of getting translation work. The first and most common is from translation agencies; the second and more difficult is directly from clients. The second option only ever really becomes a reality once you have an established reputation in the translation field. Assuming you are going to apply to translation agencies, get prepared by following these steps:

1) Get a good CV together. This should outline your translation qualifications and experience as well as background information such as recent employment and of course at least two references. If you know someone who works in the translation industry, ask them to cast an eye over it for you. Always remember to add your contact details.

2) Prepare a covering letter. This should outline your language combination, your rate, your areas of specialization and the number of words you can get through a day.

3) Go to the internet and search for translation agencies in your locale and the country generally. Examine their website as some have specific recruitment guidelines. If they don’t, then send a short email asking to be added to their database. Follow up on your application a week later.

4) Once you are added to a database, be sure not to say no to jobs from agencies. The chances of them coming to you again will be damaged.

Further Reading

The translator’s handbook, ed Owens,

Rachel, 3rd edition, London:Aslib, 1996,

ISBN 0 85142 352 3.

A practical guide for translators,

Samuelsson-Brown, G, 3rd ed,

Clevedon:Multilingual Matters, 1998, (hb),

ISBN 1-85359-304-4; (Pb), ISBN 1-85359- 303-6.

Careers using languages, Ostarhild,

Edda, 7th ed, London:Kogan Page, 1997,

ISBN 0-7494-1821-4.

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