The Big List of 103 Freelance Translators' Tips

December 30, 2014
The Big List of 103 Freelance Translators' Tips

** This article is updated regularly. It was last updated in November 2019 **

If you follow Tomedes on Twitter (and if you don’t, you should!), then you’ll be aware of our “Quick Translator Tip”, which we’ve been faithfully posting at various times ever since May 2014. We received so much positive feedback about these tips that we decided to collect all 103 tips into one huge Translators’ Hub mega-post to welcome in the New Year! 

We originally began sharing tips with our community of translators as a means of exploring the subject of translation more fully. It was about moving beyond the langauge and the craft itself in order to look at how translators can master the freelance lifestyle, or boost their rates, or network effectively in order to drum up new business. Or anything else that related to working as a professional translator! 

The more translation tips we shared, the more we came across. As such, we set up a page on the Tomedes website that was dedicated just to tips. You can now visit our translation tips page to scroll through the hundreds of tips there for inspiration (they might even number into the thousands - we lost count some time ago!). Why not visit it daily and see how many of the tips you can implement over the course of a month? And what a difference doing so makes?

You can also use the page to add tips of your own. Is there something that you do that makes you a better translator or a more effective freelancer? Something that means you have particularly happy clients or unusually high rates? If so, you can add it as a tip to help out your fellow translation professionals. 

There’s a wealth of important advice and valuable information both on the transltion tips page and below for freelance translators, so be sure to check out each tip. Here’s to a successful 2020 for all our wonderful translators!

1. Make your skills known to family and acquaintances. A friend of a friend of a cousin can become your best client.
B.J. Epstein’s favorite! Scandinavian/English Translator, Author & Blogger

2. A great place to begin networking is online. Build a website that can serve as a centralized profile of your skills. Check posts on how to develop a freelance translator strategy, set up a translator website, promote it online and find direct customers. For example, take a look on the blog created Hanna Sles: English Russian translator and blogger. 

3. There will always be some jobs – and some employers – that give you a bad feeling. Trust your instincts and say NO!

4. When an employer turns out to be difficult, manage their expectations and be positive in your communications.

5. Looking for extra income? Try writing / language tuition / typing / desktop publishing / editing

6. Consider translating on a Tablet as it is quicker to switch on and more versatile than a laptop

7. Avoid cases of non-paying clients by asking new clients for an upfront payment on your translation work.
Ruben Gamez’s favorite! Founder of BidSketch

8. Many countries offer legal advice to freelancers that are having trouble with non-paying clients.

9. If you can’t fit in regular trips to the gym, try completing 10 squats each time you finish a paragraph.

10. Avoid the "everlasting job" trick by stating that any additions to the agreed upon job will be at additional cost.
Sarah Colombo’s favorite! Italian/English Translator & Blogger

11. A common way to try and fool translators is to promise a huge job in return for lowered rates. Stay alert!

12. If you need a bit of encouragement to stay in shape, make things competitive with other freelancers.

13. Check out this clip to understand how to turn your service offering into something people want.

14. Trust your instincts! Unusual payment arrangements of any kind should be avoided unless you know the client well.

15. Try a Skype meeting with your customers to save time and travelling expenses.

16. Screen sharing is one of Skype’s best features when video conferencing with a client.

17. Dress for success even when you work at home, your client can surprise you with a video call at any moment.
Neil Patel’s Favorite! Co-Founder of Kissmetrics and Crazy Egg

18. Always allow yourself a realistic amount of time to get your work done.

19. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver. That leads to unhappy clients who will be looking for another translator.
Marek Makoseij’s favorite! Managing Director of Contrad and ATL

20. Be aware of your body language when video conferencing with clients.

21. Try to notice if you sit with your arms folded, your client may perceive you as being defensive.

22. Avoid filling your office with ‘executive toys’ and other distractions that will hurt your professionalism.

23. Delays in issuing invoices may cause clients to think of your service as inefficient.

24. Nodding or shaking your head are gestures that may be lost in translation between countries.

25. When experiencing a poor Skype connection, don’t allow your frustration to come across to your client.

26. Don't commit to a translation project with an impossible deadline.

27. Don’t rely on a silent read-through of your work; take the time to read it out loud.
Scheherezade Suria’s favorite! English/Spanish Translator & Blogger

28. QA your translation work! You don't want your client calling you querying a mistake on the first page.

29. Working freelance provides you with a range of freedoms! Make sure you take advantage of that.

30. Being a freelance allows you to relocate to a country with a lower cost of living.

31. An ear-test is a great way to check the flow of the translated document.

32. Don't proofread your own work. The brain has an impressive ability to gloss over your own mistakes.

33. Consider relocating for a better work/life balance.
Kevin Lossner’s favorite! German/English Translator & Blogger 

34. Relocating in search of warmer weather can have extremely positive benefits on freelancers’ frame of mind.
Iveta Kopankina’s favorite! English/Latvian/Russian Translator 

35. Bad-mouthing the competition is invariably a poor way to get ahead.

36. You are the master of your own time. Plan it wisely!

37. You possess the ability to increase your income by working smarter and harder.

38. Keep your freelance job but relocate to another country to see more of the world.

39. Been on a vacation lately? Remember there's no boss to tell you 'No' :)

40. Provide samples of your work via your website or social media to eliminating client's request for 'test' translation.

41. Create a distinct difference between work time and free time and set clear boundaries with your spouse and children.

42. Reading a text out loud can help choose the accurate synonym that will best fit the document's style and tone.

43. When translating ambiguous phrases, be clear on the purpose of the text and its intended audience.

44. The best sitting position is when your computer screen is directly in front of you and at eye level.

45. Clarify to Clients who delay a job that you must confirm the project's start date in order to ensure availability.

46. Explain to Friends asking for free translations that you are a professional who has to charge for his/her time.

47. Sitting in a perfectly adjusted chair, your feet should be flat on the floor with your legs and hips level.

48. Be clear on how much you're prepared to 'test' translate in order to prove your worth and stick to your limits.

49. Charge the client more for urgent translation jobs that he has left to the last minute.

50. Be clear with friends that even though you work from home, you are not available whenever they happen to pop round.

51. Reading your translation aloud is a good technique to overcome brain trickery.

52. Check your desk to ensure that your keyboard and mouse can be reached while you are still sitting comfortably.

53. Help to alleviate the pressure during busy times by getting as far ahead as you can during quiet times.

54. Keep something aside for a rainy day, so that if your income dips you don’t need to panic immediately.

55. Consider taking on additional work in a related field to better deal with translation work down times.

56. Adjust your chair to support your lower back.

57. Being a successful freelance translator requires a great deal of efficiency, stay away from productivity killers. 

58. Beating the delivery deadline you have set will always impress your client.

59. Work smarter, not harder. Outsource certain tasks to free more time for translation work.  

60. Honing your specialist skills to ensure that you stand out is a good way to attract additional clients.

61. Take advantage of your flexible freelance schedule in order to ensure that family commitments are met.

62. In a crowded marketplace, having the perfect translation CV can make all the difference.

63. Remember that maintaining an existing client takes less effort and money than acquiring a new one. 

64. Outsourcing can provide you with access to increased expertise in areas that are not your strongest points. 

65. When it comes to money, every little helps. Win over clients by offering a small discount on their invoice.

66. Social media can help expose you to new clients, but it's also a huge productivity killer so try to limit your use.

67. Don't forget to take regular screen breaks to keep your mind fresh for work.

68. Everyone likes free stuff, so why not provide your clients with a free add-on service once in a while?

69. Specializing in a certain field will place you in a select group of translators and enable you to increase rates. 

70. Make the best of your flexible freelance schedule by planning your work around your preferred holiday style.

71. Wondering what tasks to outsource? Your marketing, finance or administrative work can be a good start. 

72. Show commitment to your client’s professional image by correcting spelling or grammar errors in the original document.

73. Combat productivity killers by being strict with how you manage your time. Easier said than done, we know. 

74. To see if you're ready to outsource, think through your working week and consider what you could outsource and why.  

75. Try freelancing sites such as oDesk and Elance to find the right person to outsource to.  

76. Allow your personality to shine through on your marketing materials. You are one of a kind. 
Catherine Christaki’s favorite! Founder of Lingua Greca Greek Translations

77. Weigh the value of your time up against the potential reward when asked to undertake a sample translation.

78. The importance of online reputation in today's working world can't be overstated, think twice about content you share.

79. A good translator knows his/her worth and will not deign to slash prices just to undercut the competitors.

80. It's OK to offer promotions from time to time! It will increase work levels and thus revenue.

81. A company that gives you a hard time with test translations is likely to be just as difficult going forward.

82. Brush up your marketing skills by becoming familiar with social media marketing techniques.

83. Semantic satiation can make it tough on translators who try out different synonyms by sounding out words aloud.

84. Compromising on your work quality means you'll end up spending more time chasing customers and less translating.

85. Glowing testimonials from satisfied customers can set you apart from the competition. 

86. Open communication throughout the translation process will keep customers feeling informed and in control. 
Else Gellinek’s favorite! German/English Translator

87. Research your competitors’ websites and marketing materials to decide on your own rates. 

88. Letting clients know that your availability is limited reinforces the need for clients to book you as quickly as possible.

89. "The right to be forgotten" can help you clean a stained online reputation and start fresh. 

90. Use customer's testimonials to highlight your strongest point. Is it quality? Integrity? Value for money? 

91. Be sure to have a website, even if it’s just a basic brochure site.

92. Look agencies up on the internet before undertaking any test translations. @ProZcom Blue Board can be a good start.

93. Quick response to clients' messages reassures them that their translation is in the hands of an organized individual. 

94. Ensure that your special skills are highlighted on your website and in other marketing materials.
Marta Stelmaszak’s favorite! Polish/English Translator & Blogger

95. Our brain tends to read whole words at a time, so pay special attention to missing letters when proofreading. 

96. Researching your competition online? Take a closer look at those you find first, as they're clearly doing something right.

97. Let your reputation precede you. Focusing on quality means working less hard to find new work.  

98. Be wary of companies that demand long samples of text to be translated for free.

99. Consider writing a blog on your website, it can boost up your search engine rankings. 

100. Market yourself on relevant online forums. Look into language based forums rather than just translation ones.

101. Adding something personalized to each translation enriches your translation work with a unique fingerprint.

102. Letting clients know that your availability is limited builds up the quality of your services.  

103. Handle sample translations best by setting limits as to how much text you are willing to translate for free.

104. Consider offering a general price range instead of a fixed rate for potential clients (via @TDonoval )


Final Thoughts

If you’ve made it this far, then you must be feeling incredibly inspired by now! How soon do you plan to start implementing these tips and how will you judge their success?

Please feel welcome to share any other useful tips you might have in the comments section below or over on our translation tips page. Thanks for getting involved! 

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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