5 Tips To Build A Freelance Translation Business


Freelance translation as a career attracts an ever-increasing number of people. However, the competition is fierce and you will need a methodical approach to establish yourself and attract quality clients. Here are a few tips from Anthony Teixeira, a freelance translator from English to French, to help you get started.

1. Learn The Theory
A common misconception from industry outsiders is that you only need to speak two languages to become a translator. Nothing is less true. Professional translation implies certain methods and best practices, no matter what the material at hand is.

While no diploma is necessary to start a translation business, you won’t be able to offer quality services if the theory escapes you. Learn the skills first.

You may go back to school for that – plenty of universities offer translation courses nowadays-, but proceeding online is perfectly fine. There are lots of relevant courses, some certified, some not. Although a certification can boost your CV, it is not mandatory. What matters is that you understand what goes into a good translation before selling your services.

2. Choose A Specialization
The translation service industry is a crowded market. To be visible, you will need to be an expert in a few specialization field or a comparatively rare language pair.

There are two main advantages to specializing:

– It helps you stand out from the hundreds of translators who work in your language pair. Prospects are more likely to trust translators who really understand their products and services
– Clients who seek a particular expertise are generally willing to pay a little more for it. Aim at partners who favor quality over price

Even if you are narrowing your market in appearance, you will convert more leads and manage to charge better rates for your services.

So what specialization should you choose? It could be anything. Previous work experience is one possibility. For example, many medical translators are subject matter experts who started their career in the health industry.

Personal interests are also a rich source of ideas. Do you play video games? Your experience as a gamer can help you become a successful game localizer.

3. Build A Professional Profile

Before you try to sell your services, have a compelling profile to present your potential clients with.

To both find and impress your leads:

– Create a professional-looking LinkedIn profile where you highlight your experience
– Get your own domain and have your own website and email address. That will be a strong sign you are committed to your business, and not a fly-by-night operation
– Design an appealing brochure where you describe your services and explain what sets you apart

4. Gain Initial Experience
It is common for buyers to require a minimal experience, but how to gain it? Try to explore the following approaches:

– Build your own portfolio by choosing materials to translate on your own. Look for articles related to your specialization. Translate them and offer them as samples
– Volunteer to translate texts for relevant non-profit organizations
– Work on small projects with translation agencies. You can find job offers and agency directories on sites such as ProZ and TranslatorsCafé. Some will ask you to translate test documents for free and work at relatively low rates (compared to direct clients), but it’s an efficient way to accumulate mileage and receive feedback from professionals

5. Network With Peers
Besides agencies, fellow translators are an excellent source of advice, feedback and jobs. You should always try to expand your network.

Experienced freelance translators get busy with time. They may have more work than they can handle, or take part in projects that require a team of linguists. Even if they never send job opportunities your way, they may share invaluable tips to help you break into your target market.

To summarize:

– Join a translator association near you and be active within it
– Attend offline events (seminars, conferences, informal meet-ups, etc.) and network with colleagues
– Be active on the Internet as well. Join online forums and professional groups on LinkedIn/Facebook.

Ask questions, make meaningful comments and you will become a familiar face for other language service providers.