Editor’s note: This post was written by Louise Taylor, a freelance writer for Tomedes Translation Service, as well as a range of online and print media.
Working as a freelance translator may seem like a fantastically flexible and interesting career, but it’s also hard work and can be frustrating at times. If you are passionate about languages and are considering a career as a freelance translator then be sure to read on before you take the plunge!
Freelance translating career or not?
Working as a translator
Working as a translator can be very rewarding. If you enjoy languages and have a flair for them, then translating might be the career for you. You’ll need to speak both languages almost fluently (if not fluently), including a good understanding of their grammar, local quirks, idioms and so forth.
Translators can command healthy incomes when they work fast. Accuracy is essential if you want to earn a good reputation – your work needs to be completed on time and to a high standard each and every time if you want to achieve success as a translator.
Even if you’ve decided that translation is the perfect career for you, that doesn’t mean you have to do it freelance. There are large translation companies and other international firms out there that employ translators on a full time and part time basis. They offer a kind of job security and security of income that freelancing can’t match.
However, if the idea of being your own boss appeals to you and you have the energy and determination to make it happen, then freelancing could be the way forward. There’s certainly a growing trend towards freelancing in many countries. In late 2015, Forbes reported that some 34% of Americans are now freelancing, with the number expected to increase rapidly, to as much as 50% in the next five years. Clearly, freelancing must offer something exciting if fully half of the US’s workforce is going to be doing it by 2020!
The pros of freelance translation
The most successful freelance translators are the people who’ve got it right and found that sweet spot that other freelancers dream of. They are able to enjoy all of the pros of working as a freelance translator, and there are certainly many of those.
Firstly, freelance translators get to choose their own hours. You can work for an hour a day or twelve hours a day – it’s entirely up to you. You can fit your working routine around your lifestyle, which is ideal for those with dependents or health conditions who would struggle to commit to a 9-5 routine. You just build your client base up to fit in with the time you have available.
Freelance translators can also choose the location from which they work. Provided you have an internet connection, it’s possible to work from anywhere in the world –your clients needn’t know where you are based. You can start a job in one country and finish it half a world away. As long as you meet the client’s deadline, your location is irrelevant. Of course, you do need to be mindful and respectful of other countries’ restrictions in terms of work visas, but even so freelance translating provides a huge degree of flexibility for those who want to see the world but also need to work while they do so.
Even if you don’t want to travel the world, working from home can be a joy. Sipping hot chocolate in your slippers at your desk in your home office, rather than battling through rain and traffic in uncomfortable work clothes is certainly one way to get the working day off to a great start. You’re also helping the planet by taking fewer journeys and can spend the time you would otherwise lose to commuting doing something far more pleasurable.
Another benefit of being a freelance translator is that you can work as many hours as you want in order to earn the salary that you want. Time is money in the translation industry and the faster you can translate, and the more hours you put in, the more money you will have in your pocket at the end of each month.
The cons of freelance translating – and how to overcome them
Of course, freelancing translating isn’t always amazing. There are days when it can feel tedious and lonely. But there are some great resources out there to keep you inspired. From online translation communities to global translation conferences, there is a wealth of resources out there to help you keep loneliness at bay.
Lack of job security is probably top of many people’s lists when they think about freelance translation as a career choice. But in the modern world, where redundancy has become such a routine part of life, is freelancing really so much more risky than being employed? At least if you lose one client as a freelance translator you have others to turn to. When you are made redundant you lose your entire income in one hit.
Another worry can be the lack of paid holiday, sickness pay and benefits like maternity leave. You need to work out whether you can earn enough as a freelance translator to cover taking unpaid time off for holidays. You can also use things like key man insurance to buy peace of mind in case of serious illness or an injury that stops you working for a time.
Finally, you need to be sure that you can manage your time sufficiently to succeed as a freelance translator. If you procrastinate, your earnings will suffer. Remember: you have only yourself to answer to as a freelancer!
So is freelance translating the career for you?
If you love languages and are determined to work hard then freelance translating could be the perfect career for you. You’ll never know until you try.