A passion for the written word and a love of language are two oft-cited drives behind those who have built careers as freelance writers. Whether they’re penning press releases, magazine articles, blog posts or company reports, the act of writing itself is part of the joy that keeps them doing what they’re doing.
In the professional translation sector, these same reasons are often given to explain what inspired individuals to become translators. The main difference in the case of translators is that it is a passion for multiple languages that underpins their careers, rather than just one.
For freelance writers who speak a second language, providing translation services is a potentially lucrative additional job that they can do. Excellent grammar, spelling, and punctuation are necessary for both jobs, as is good attention to detail. While writing can (arguably) be viewed as more creative than translating, the sense of linguistic satisfaction derived from both pursuits is very appealing. In that spirit, let’s look at the benefits of working as a translator and how to go about it.
The benefits of working as a freelance translator
Many of the benefits of freelance writing – flexible hours, choosing your own clients, setting your own rates, wearing whatever you like to work, mid-afternoon naps if you want them – also apply to freelance translating. Working as a translator also has its own advantages.
If you want to see the world, providing translation services can be a great way to pick up work in other countries. Translating a language that is used in several countries (such as Spanish or Portuguese) can allow you to travel far and wide and if you enjoy written translation immensely you could even try your hand at interpreting (though it’s a pretty different skillset, so test the water before you plunge in headfirst and commit to a huge job!).
How to establish yourself as a freelance translator
Again, there are similarities between working as a freelance writer and as a freelance translator. Having a website and marketing plan and working out your rates, working hours and so forth are all essential steps that feed into success in both roles. Then it’s time to build up your client base.
Finding work as a freelance translator isn’t too difficult, even without experience. Many agencies will be happy to try you out and online freelancing sites like Upwork regularly list translation jobs. Rates for newbies will certainly reflect your lack of experience, but completing a few jobs at low rates should give you the confidence (and the CV) that you need to go after more substantial jobs at higher rates.
Take the opportunity to practice your language skills in other ways too, even when not working. Correct poor translations that you come across on Facebook and other crowdsourced translation sites to hone your skills ate every opportunity.
Social media sites can also provide rich pickings when it comes to translation jobs. Join discussion groups and networks and familiarise yourself with the right hashtags (use #translation and #xl8 for starters) and be the first to offer your services whenever someone asks for a translation in your language pairing. Just be sure you don’t spend all day on social media getting distracted by videos of cats and not finding any actual work (again, something that freelance writers may well have experience of!).
In the early days of your career as a freelance translator, you can also approach voluntary organisations who work across borders to see if you can donate your time and translation skills in order to help with their efforts. Organisations that provide emergency relief at short notice are often grateful to have a list of translators that they can call upon for help and even once you’ve established a glittering translation career you still have the option to give your time to them in order to make the world a better place.
From writer to translator?
The synergies between writers and translators can make it a natural move for some to move from a freelance writing career into the world of freelance translation. However, there are obviously distinct differences between the two and some writers will inevitably feel that freelance translation is not the right move for them. Writers of factual reports, research articles, patents and so forth may well find translation more appealing that those who pen short stories and produce more creative writing. Perhaps something of a sweeping generalisation, but suffice it to say that loving writing does not mean you will necessarily love translating (and vice versa). What it does mean is that you are likely to have the right skillset to establish a successful working life as a freelance translator should doing so appeal – and it never hurts to have options when it comes to the future of your career!
This post was written by Louise Taylor, a freelance writer who writes for the Tomedes Blog as well as a range of online and print media.