How to launch a freelance translation career

May 31, 2017
How to launch a freelance translation career

There’s a growing body of evidence showing that freelancers have higher satisfaction levels than their fulltime employee counterparts. If you’re considering joining the rapidly expanding ranks of freelancer workers around the world, here are some helpful hints and tips on how to launch your freelance career. 

Know what you need

A good starting point is by working out what you need to earn in a year. Knowing that will give you a minimum annual income level for your new freelance venture. You can break that down into monthly targets to keep yourself motivated and to ensure that you’re not on the brink of financial ruin without realising it. 

When working out what you need to earn, remember to include annual and incidental expenses as well as recurring bills. It’s also a good idea to add on a certain amount for contingencies, so that you have a realistic picture of the amount you’ll need to earn over the course of your first year as a freelancer. 

Get the right tools

It’s astonishing how many freelancers launch a career without the right tools to hand. Spending money before you’ve earned it might seem scary, but if you want to earn decent money then you need to provide a professional service. For those looking to work freelance in the professional translation sector, the essential tools will include a decent computer, dictionary, medical/legal dictionary and a smartphone for staying in touch with messages 24/7 (or thereabouts!). 

Start before you start 

Some people will prefer to bite the bullet and jump straight from their previous career into freelancing. Others would rather opt for a more cautious/less risky approach to try and ‘test the water.’ 

Leaping fulltime into freelancing means that you will be free from distractions and able to focus 100% on your new business. Taking on a few freelance assignments while you’re still employed, on the other hand, will give you a taste for freelance working while still allowing you to maintain a regular income. The right approach for you personally will be a matter of individual preference, as there are advantages to both methods.

Do your homework

One of the most essential tasks to undertake before you decide to offer a freelance translation service is to research the level of demand for your skills. The languages that you plan to offer, along with any specialist areas of translation, will have a major impact on how much you can earn. It’s important to do your homework and find out how in demand your services are likely to be and what you can charge for your time. Don’t leave factors like this to chance, as this knowledge could make or break your freelance enterprise! 

Build your networks

When it comes to freelancing, the more people you know, the more potential clients you know, so start building your networks the moment that you decide to give freelancing a go. If you’re not familiar with LinkedIn, get to know if fast! Make professional connections and don’t be shy of asking contacts to introduce you to their contacts. 

Offering a referral bonus of some kind can work well here. You could offer each client that uses your services the opportunity to earn a 5% discount (for example) for every person who they refer who goes on to send more than $100 of work your way. This is a great way of getting your clients to do some of your marketing for you – just be sure to cost any discounts and offers into your financial projections. 

Financial matters

Speaking of financial projections, be sure to have some decent accounting software for producing your invoices. Good accounting software not only ensures that your bills look professional, but can flag up clients whose invoices are overdue. 

Hiring an accountant at an early stage of your freelance career is also an extremely good idea. A reliable accountant can ensure that you don’t pay more tax than you have to and that your paperwork is always submitted to the tax authorities on time. Accountancy does cost money, but it’s a sound investment that can help to free up your time to focus on your career. 

Tackle marketing head on

Finally, remember that when you work freelance it’s up to you to shout about your own brilliance. This comes more naturally to some than to others, but if you don’t market yourself well, you’ll lose out to those who do. Marketing includes everything from cold calling, to joining a local monthly business breakfast event (or starting your own one), to setting up an online campaign. Opt for a mix of approaches and monitor the results to find out what works best for you. 

Final thoughts

What else did you do before launching your freelance translation career? What would you do differently if you had to do it all over again? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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