Novice Translators FAQMost freelancers start off due to their linguistic ability, knowledge of a certain subject, actual practice, career, or education in translation. In my interactions with newcomers to the field and those who want to enter the freelancing business, I have complied a list of frequently asked questions and answers that they have:

Q: Do I need to specialize and if so how?

A: Translators need to specialize in one or more areas to begin with. The first thing to do is to read materials in different subjects and identify any areas of interest. Then read relevant literature in the field. You will then need to practice translating documents in your chosen field. Some translators identify their areas of specialization from their education since they will have had the opportunity to explore different areas. Others choose their fields from their career upon being exposed to different documents.


Q: What skills do I need to qualify as a translator?

A: Besides the obvious language skills such as reading, writing, editing, and proofreading, you will need other skills to get you started. You will need good management skills. These include managing business, contacts, content, reference materials, documents, projects, workflow, time, quality, terminology, etc. You also require other skills such as thorough search and research, attention to details, checking, understanding and following instructions, meeting deadlines, delivering quality service work, responsiveness, following-up, marketing, computer technology and accounting.

Q: What kind of qualifications, credentials, or trainings do I need to become a professional translator?

A: While there are no specific requirements, it is good to gain certain credentials and qualifications to maintain credibility and reliability. Look for and attend different continuous education and professional developments sessions, workshops, seminars, conferences, or training. Join a professional association or obtain an accredited certification. Participate and contribute to different events. Write articles about key trends and developments in the industry to known blogs or other publications.

Q: How do I gain experience and expertise when I currently have none?

A: This is a very common question asked by newcomers to the field. How do you gain practical experience in translation if everyone you approach requires that you already have a few years of experience for them to hire you? The answer is perhaps to volunteer to work on some projects. Contact non-for-profit professional associations that may be need to have their website or publications translated into your working languages. Approach government organizations that can use your help on certain projects. Pick up a book or publication and seek permission to translate it. For those who studied translation as an educational pursuit, the coursework or projects you have completed may constitute as experience. Ask your friends and colleagues to give you some materials to translate. Seek internship or training at a known institution for a couple of months.

Q: How do I set my rates?

A: Determining how to charge for their services is the biggest concern newcomers have. The most common norm in the translation industry is to charge per source word. To know what is common in the industry and your region, view the websites and profiles of other professional translators. Attend networking sessions such as seminars, conferences, and websites. Talk to professionals in the field. Read blog posts, books, and articles written by professional translators.

Q: How do I market my services?

A: Marketing is how you promote, produce, communicate, provide, and deliver your services effectively to your clients. Before you market your services, you will first need to identify who your target clients and competitors are, what niche or industry you want to focus on, what services you want to provide, and what makes your services different from others. You will also need to build a personal brand to for a distinct image as well as allow your target market to contact, remember, and work with you. Your brand must specify what makes you unique and preferred for those in search of translation services. Personal branding is not necessarily just a name or logo. It may also be any credentials or qualifications you have obtained. Once you accomplish these, it is now time to market! Reveal the added value you bring to clients in providing your services through your brand. Put an effective marketing plan in place and follow it. Are you planning to market online or offline? Are you going to use social media and professional networks? If so, which ones and how? What types of print and electronic marketing materials are you going to use? Determine how you want to profile or feature yourself. Approach the media for an interview or to submit a promotional article. Meet and network with potential clients to allow the opportunity for casual discussions and interactions.