How to make more money as a freelance translator

August 21, 2018
How to make more money as a freelance translator

Whatever you do for a living, it’s always nice to be paid well for it. If you work freelance, the amount you earn can be particularly important, as you need to cover the cost of sick days, holidays and anything and everything that you need in order to undertake your work. As such, this article will outline a few ways in which you can make more money while freelancing. Our focus is particularly on freelance translations, but much of the advice below can equally be applied to other freelance professions. 

The rise of freelancing 

Freelancing has absolutely exploded in recent years. This style of working is particularly prevalent among younger workers. According to Upwork, 47% of workers aged 18 to 21 now work freelance. The percentage diminishes with age, from 43% of 22 to 34 year olds working freelance, to 34% of 35 to 44 year olds and 28% of both 45 to 54 year olds and those aged 55 and over. 

Much of this is no doubt to do with the changing face of freelancing. What was once seen as a rather insecure way of working, reserved for specialist roles and sectors only, is now far more common. Indeed, many professions offer little more job security than freelancers enjoy these days – and freelancers at least get to work for multiple clients, meaning that if one avenue of income closes down, it’s not a complete disaster, unlike being made redundant from a traditional fulltime role. 

Interestingly, a study by Xero has shown that most modern freelancers are those who undertake their freelance work to complement a fulltime or part-time role. 

For those who want to turn their freelancing venture into a fulltime role, these tips should help. 

1. Become a sector expert 

Given this rise in freelancing, individuals who want to stand out from the crowd and set their income expectations higher than those of other freelancers in their sector need to establish their credentials. High quality work and superb customer service still go a long way, but becoming an expert in specific niches can lead to a step change in income levels. 

Translators who offer specialist experience in financial translation, for example, will have the edge over those who don’t. The same goes for translators offering legal translation services, medical translation services and so forth. 

2. Offer a less common language

Specialisms can also be linked to languages, rather than sectors and topics. Languages that aren’t in much demand, while not generating a steady stream of income, can command an excellent translation price per word. Translators who offer a less commonly requested language – in addition to another more common language – can thus generate an excellent income. 

3. Diversify your client base

As well as diversifying the skills you offer, it’s important to keep a broad spectrum of clients on the go as well. Working with a range of clients can help to provide greater income security, particularly if your clients come from multiple industries and locations. 

Working with a mix of private and business clients can also work well, depending on the kind of freelancing that you undertake. For professional translators, there is also the option to work for a range of agencies. Registering with several and keeping your contact details up to date means that you will be ready to hit the ground running as soon as one or more of them has work for you. And being available to start work immediately might just make the difference between the job going to you versus it going to one of your competitors. 

4. Keep up with customer trends

Responding to current trends is also a good way to ensure that you can make as much money as possible while freelancing. Again using the translation sector as an example, this could mean specialising in video translation or post-machine translation, both of which are currently much in demand. 

The rise in video content on the web – it will account for 80% of all consumer internet traffic by September 2019, according to SmallBizTrends – means that the demand for video translation services has rocketed in recent years. Translators who know how to transcribe, subtitle and timestamp quickly and accurately therefore have the skills required to meet current demand. 

The same applies to translators who are confident at supporting post editing of machine translation projects. With companies keen to cut costs, many try machine translation, only to realise its multiple imperfections. With deadlines fast approaching, they then turn to professional translators in order to help them obtain the accurate translation that they needed all along, often supplying the machine translation either alongside or instead of the original document. As such, translators looking to keep abreast of current trends and thus maximise their income will do well to provide such services. 

5. Monitor the latest tech

Keeping up to date also means using the right tools. Computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools help translators to edit, manage and store their translations. When used with a degree of proficiency, they can speed up the translation process – and the faster a translator can work, the more they can earn. Their application of translation memory tools, which essentially store snippets of text, from headings and sentences to entire paragraphs, can also speed up the translation process significantly. 

Translators who stay up to speed with the latest product innovations, be they new tools or enhancements to existing tools, will once again have an edge over those who don’t. 

The future of freelancing 

Freelancing is the future. At least, it is according to the annual Freelancing in America study, which projects that freelancers will become the workforce majority within the next ten years. Even if the prediction doesn’t quite come true that fast, it’s clear that a fundamental shift has taken place in the working world. 35% of US workers already work freelance, either part-time or fulltime, while 16% of workers in Europe do. 

Given the future will have such a freelance focus, isn’t it time to be the best you can be in order to make more money as a freelance translator – or whatever your chosen freelance profession is?

We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so please feel free to leave a comment 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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