How to get work as a translator

June 16, 2016
How to get work as a translator

If language is your passion and you have the right qualifications and approach, you can reasonably expect to look forward to a long and enjoyable career as a freelance translator. But where do you start? How do you find those first clients? Read on for hints and tips from the experts at Tomedes!

Gaining translation experience

If you don’t have any experience at all then volunteering can be a great way to build up your confidence and your CV. Many international charities require translation and will be delighted to accept your services for free. You can also contribute to crowd-sourced translation online. In both cases, be clear from the outset that you are seeking to gain experience and would like a recommendation as part of the process. 

Working for a translation agency

Working for a translation agency can be a quick and easy route into your career as a translator. Agencies’ requirements will differ and many will set you a sample translation to gauge your ability. Agencies are often happy to accept new translators onto their books, so this can be a great way to bump-start your career without having to go to the trouble of finding your own clients. 

Establishing yourself as a freelance translator

You also have the option to establish yourself as a freelance translator. This can be harder work than joining an agency, as you have to find all your clients yourself, but it can also be more rewarding, as you don’t have to share your earnings with the agency. 

If you plan to go down the freelance route then online marketplace sites like eLance and Upwork can be an excellent way to build up a client base. On these sites you can bid for work at rates that you are comfortable with. Lowering your rates for larger jobs is at your discretion. You may find that initially you have to take on a couple of relatively low paid jobs in order to build up your feedback, but once you have started to build up a decent profile profile, packed with glowing recommendations, then you can put your prices up to an amount you are happy with. 

As a freelancer you can also approach companies directly. Think about businesses in your local area that are likely to need translation services and go out and pitch to them. Show that you are professional, good value for money and can provide benefits to their business and you should be able to pique their interest. 

The other thing to think about if you are working freelance is having your own website. A simple, professional brochure site can be set up quickly and cost effectively and will ensure that whenever you pitch to a potential client they can check you out online and find your site. Fill it with testimonials from happy clients, a page showing how businesses can benefit from translation and details of your rates, including for any special services you offer like urgent translation, desktop publishing or localization. That way, potential clients can quickly and easily find out what they need to know and hear what others think of your fabulous services. 

Attending translation conferences

Attending translation conferences can also be a good way to make new contacts and get work as a translator. Review the content of a conference, its speakers and likely attendees and choose an event that suits your particular skills. Arm yourself with business cards beforehand and then spend the day getting to know other attendees, charming them and exchanging cards. 

Final thoughts

How did you get your first translation job? Did you use an agency or start off as a freelancer? And which do you do now? We look forward to hearing about your experiences.