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One of the main obstacles most novice translators encounter after graduation or post graduate studies is finding a practical way by which to prove their competence and proficiency as a freelance translator. Whether they are approaching a translation agency or a direct client, the whole process could be really more intricate than it seems to be due to the fact that both end-users of their services are only after certified/sworn translators or experienced translators with proven records and references.

So how can a novice translator escape this vicious circle!

Specialization & CAT Tools

No matter how difficult it is to start a career in translation and localization, the first thing novice translators should do is to take the right path in order to gain fluency in a second language other than their native language. A novice translator should then choose a major that gives him/her expertise in a specific niche and take relevant courses in translation and CAT tools. After acquiring these credentials and buying the CAT tool of your choices such as Trados, MemoQ, WordFast, or Memsource, novice translators should start volunteer work.

Translation Platforms

There are also many translation platforms where novice translators can create their own profile and thereby have access to all job notifications of interest on these platforms. The most important of these platforms are Proz, TranslatorsCafe, TranslatorsBase, and TranslationDirectory. However, to have instant access to translation jobs you should be a paying member, but believe me, it is an investment that you will never regret!

Draft Your CV and Cover Letter

To be able to find translation jobs and submit quotes online, you must prepare a good online profile, in addition to a well-organized CV and a cover letter. This is mainly done by registering in some of the most important translation platforms such as Translation Directory, Proz, Translators Café and the Open Mic, as well as registering in other freelance platforms such as Fiver.com, Freelance.com and Upwork.

Payment Options

Once you’ve created your profile on any of the above-mentioned platforms, you should open a bank account to be able to get your payments from your clients. This is a very important step and must be well-researched. Working as a freelance translator, you will usually get various small payments here and there from your clients. Of course, you would like to get your payments with minimal deducted bank fees and charges. It is, therefore, advisable to check as many working banks in your country and chose the one with the minimal fees and commissions.

Get Certified

When you feel you are fully competent, you can at that point get certified in your language pairs at any local, regional, or international translation association. Upon obtaining the necessary certifications and experience, you will find more online freelance translation jobs. At that stage, you should concentrate on developing a good reputation among your clientele and reflect all your achievements in your online profile and CV to start marketing yourself.

Approaching Translation Agencies

If you are approaching translation agencies you will have to abide by certain guidelines. You’ll have to go down with your rate to encourage these agencies to hire you. You’ll have to deliver an error-free professional translation that is a true rendering of the content of the source text, conveys the style and message of the author, and is faithful to the conventions of the target language. Your target file should also be consistent in terms of terminology and coherent in terms of its smooth and logical transitions from one paragraph and idea to the other.

You’ll have to continuously work on improving the quality of your work by resorting to relevant authentic reference resources, dictionaries, and glossaries. You should enrich your knowledge and experience by extensive reading in your fields of speciality and domains to be prepared to deal effectively with such spheres in translation (commercial, technical, medical, financial, IT, etc.).

You should observe the due dates predefined by the translation agency and respect the confidentiality of all handled projects whether or not you were asked to sign their non-disclosure agreement. Most translation agencies set a trial period for newly hired freelance translators wherein they could closely examine and monitor their work. Nevertheless, if you respected all the above-mentioned guidelines, be sure that you will be the target of many translation agencies.

Approaching Corporate Clients

On the other hand, if you are approaching direct clients, whether corporate clients or individuals, you’ll face a lot of trouble trying to gain access to these clients. In the first-place, corporate clients and companies prefer to outsource their translation needs to partners that are able to offer comprehensive solutions.

They search for agencies that can satisfy their translation needs in a range of different languages, can offer a wide range of translation-related services such as copywriting, website and app. localization, transcription, content marketing, online marketing, SEO, voice-over, video and much more, have a quick turnaround, can professionally handle the translation of huge projects in tight timelines, are available 24/7 hours a day, can accept handling translation of specialised domains, offer DTP and typesetting services, maintain procedures to guarantee that all deadlines are met and observe the confidential nature of all handled jobs.

Taking into consideration their need for diversity, capacity, continuity, and confidentiality, it is scarcely surprising that many such companies direct their choice to an all-inclusive services translation agency rather than individual freelancers. Although a translation agency may be more expensive than a freelancer, the additional comprehensive service and the ability to handle huge projects with tight deadlines justify the extra investment and guarantee that they will be in safe hands.

Approaching Individual Clients

As to individual clients, novice translators will hardly get access to this type of clients except if they have a wide scope of social acquaintances and relations or if they have a website optimized to be SEO friendly to showcase and market their services. The available option would be to launch a small business and make use of all free means available on the net to gain traffic to their website by registering at free directories, creating free ads, or building links and page authority to your website.

However, this can take a lot of time and soon you’ll find that you’ll have to start your marketing campaign. Contacting a specialized online digital marketing company to handle your marketing campaign at a low budget for small businesses is one of the easy and direct solutions to get access to your potential clients. Social marketing has also come to be an important tool which accounts now for a great share in the market with a view to the fact that about 96% use social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

For novice translators who are eager for more information and have a passion for translation, Wiki How tackled the subject in more detail with infographics as well here.

Freelance Translators at work

Best Roadmap For Novice Translators

Work As An Unpaid Trainee

To step with confidence as a freelance translator in the translation and localization industry, novice translators will have to undergo certain processes before engaging in all the above-mentioned procedures. To keep the long story short, after your graduation, try to work as an unpaid trainee in any translation agency for a couple of months till you can find another translation company that is able to pay you for your services. You can work at such a company for 4 or 5 years to add practical experience to your knowledge, acquire the necessary skill, gain speed in translation and get the know-how techniques of the job.

Work On A Part-Time Contract

Once you have polished your skills & experience and feel you can start your own career, you should transfer to a part-time contract so that you can have the time to build your own clientele database. This will give you time to work on gaining the required on-hand translation experience while working to improve your competency in both source and target languages, the industry’s latest trends, and the market.

Work As A Translation Entrepreneur

When your freelance work provides you with a workflow that engages you 20 hours a week, you can then terminate your part-time contract and start your own career. This means starting to grasp totally new experiences that might not have to do with translation, but with other resources to provide you with flowing translation requests.

While undertaking to go through all the above procedures, you have to be systematic, logic and patient. Never to embark on a step except if you feel you’re standing on solid grounds. You should also keep in mind that, as a freelance translator, you must always update your knowledge by extensive reading in your language pairs to be aware of the latest coinages, cliché and styles, as well as follow up closely the newest technologies in the translation industry and CAT tools as a whole to be in the know of all state-of-the-art innovations and nuances.

To guarantee success in the industry, you should keep your rates as competitive as possible, translate mainly to your native language, stick to your own niche and while doing all this, you should keep an eye on your online profile, your website SEO and never stop marketing for yourself.

This was only a quick guide on how to become a translator, but to gain more knowledge and a comprehensive view of the matter, novice translators must read more about translation, translation theory and practice translation as much as possible. One of the most important books is “Becoming a translator: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Translation” by Douglas Robinson, How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator by Corinne Mckay and Translation as a Profession by Roger Chriss.

Novice translators may also follow translation articles and blogs such as Translation Journal, which is an online journal for translators, interpreters and translation industry professionals. The journal is full of resources and articles that help translators and interpreters in finding a solution for many issues and challenges which they encounter in their daily routine. You may also follow translation blogs such as About Translation, Speaking of Translation and Naked Translations.

With these guidelines in mind, together with your will and dedication, novice translators will soon become one of the most successful translators in the market. We hope that the above overview was helpful and was a good guide in defining your road map to success. Now that you got a wide overview of the translation industry and its challenges, do you believe you are still up to it or do you think it is a too demanding career!

To help novice translators in their new path, we suggest checking another two important articles, namely, “For a Comprehensive Understanding of Your Translation Needs” and “5 Things Translation Buyers Should Do Before Ordering the Translation of Documents”.

Either way, we would love to know your thoughts and hear your views.

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Images with courtesy to FreeIllustrations.

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