Many students can’t wait to become a freelance translator after completing college or university-level translation training. However, gaining a foothold in the highly competitive translation market as a freelancer can become a very complicated business. Translation agencies are generally not keen on hiring inexperienced translators, it is difficult to find commercial clients without commercial tools and the tax authorities do not accept anyone as an individual operator. So what do you need as a successful freelance translator to open a shop?
Most translation agencies are hesitant to admit new freelancers to their network. After all, it will take some time to really understand whether a freelancer can live up to his/her expectations: whether he/she will meet the agreed deadline, provide a constant level of quality, consult relevant reference sources and effectively handle different registration and fields of expertise (business , technology, healthcare, finance, IT, etc.)? Many translation agencies start with a “trial period”, during which they closely monitor the submitted work of new freelance translators. To reduce the risk of failure and avoid related costs, translation agencies usually only accept applications from freelance translators who have at least two or three years of full-time experience in the translation industry.
When trying to introduce themselves directly to the company, freelancers often find it hard to reach key people, and once they get there, it’s hard to get orders. Companies often outsource translation services to partners who can provide comprehensive solutions. They look for institutions that can meet their translation needs in many different languages, are readily available, can handle professional texts, and have procedures in place to ensure all deadlines are met. Given their need for continuity, competence and diversity, it is not surprising that many companies opt for a full-service translation agency instead of individual freelancers. Agencies may be more expensive than freelancers, but the additional services and quality assurance justify the extra investment.
The secret to success as a freelance translator
What steps should be taken after graduation to become a successful freelance translator?
1. After completing your studies, it is best not to immediately appear in the market as a freelance translator, but to find a job at an extensive translation agency and stay there for a number of years to gain the necessary practical experience. As a wage earner, your income will be less than what you could earn as a freelancer, but remember that if you have no experience, you will never succeed. In many cases you will be assigned to a senior translator who will adjust your translation, monitor your progress and let you know your strengths and weaknesses. This will give you the skills and baggage needed to become a professional translator, and give you the opportunity to try out different types of texts and topics.
2. If you can’t find a paid job, try to find an (unpaid) intern job. A translation agency may not have the capacity or resources to recruit new employees, but they can still provide you with excellent training places to help you gain practical experience in a business environment. An internship can be an effective springboard for a career in the translation industry, or even within the same institution that offers the internship.
3. After years of sharpening your skills at a translation agency, you may decide it’s time to find your own clients. Ideally, you’ll sign a part-time contract so you have enough time to recruit and work, and enough money to make ends meet. It is important to make clear agreements with your boss at this stage to avoid a conflict of interest. The best strategy is to send your personal information and CV to a selected group of professional translation companies and translation departments within companies and government agencies, and clearly state your work experience. Don’t forget to emphasize that you are willing to test the translation for free.
4. Make sure to register as a self-employed person with the relevant tax authorities and ask for their opinion if necessary.
5. Once you’ve found enough freelance jobs to keep you busy for about 20 hours a week, consider ending the contract and dedicating extra time to attracting new clients. Within 20 hours, the most experienced freelance translators earn about the same as full-time translators with paid work.
These are of course very general guidelines, and
Depending on your preferences, skills and personal circumstances, our personal careers can develop along very different routes. Regardless of your situation, you will find that experience and a certain degree of business acumen are the most important things in a successful freelance career.