July 20, 2024

HOW TO BECOME A FREELANCE TRANSLATOR



Published May 14, 2023, 9:20 p.m. by Bethany


If you're looking to get into the translation business, there are a few things you need to know. First and foremost, you need to be bilingual. That's the most important qualification for a translator. Secondly, you need to have a good understanding of both cultures. You need to be able to understand the nuances and subtleties of both languages.

Third, you need to be a good writer. A translator needs to be able to translate not only the words, but also the meaning and the tone. A good translator is able to convey the original author's intent in the target language.

Fourth, you need to have a good understanding of technology. A lot of translation is done electronically, so you need to be comfortable with computers and various software programs.

Finally, you need to be organized and have good time management skills. A translator needs to be able to juggle multiple projects at once and meet deadlines.

If you have all of these qualifications, then you're well on your way to becoming a freelance translator. The first step is to find a reputable translation agency to work with. There are many agencies out there, so do your research and find one that suits your needs.

Once you've found an agency, the next step is to start marketing yourself. Create a website and social media accounts to showcase your work. Make sure to include your contact information so potential clients can reach you.

Then, start bidding on projects. There are many online platforms that allow you to do this, such as Upwork and freelancer.com. When bidding on projects, be sure to include your rates and turnaround time.

Once you've landed a few clients, it's time to start building your portfolio. Make sure to keep your clients happy by delivering quality work on time. As your portfolio grows, so will your client base.

If you follow these steps, you'll be well on your way to becoming a successful freelance translator.

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In this video, I'm going to talk about my story on how I became a freelance

translator. Coming up!

Hello and welcome to the very first video on this brand

new youtube channel. My name is Adrian, I'm a professional freelance translator.

I translate from English and French into German and this is the Freelanceverse.

This is a channel I wanted to create with freelancers in mind. I assume

if you clicked on this video you're either an aspiring freelance translator

or already established, either way, or even just a freelancer in general, if you

found your way to this channel: welcome. I want to build kind of a

community with freelancers that can support each other, ask questions in the

comments, help each other and this is the first step to it. I'm gonna do weekly

videos focused on freelancing in general, but specialized

on translation of course, because that's my core business, but there will be other

people on the channel. I will be uploading every Monday at 6 p.m. CET.

If you are from somewhere else in the word, here a couple of times what that means.

For my first video on this channel, I was thinking what would make sense, what

would you want to see, what's a benefit for everyone. It only makes

sense that you get to know me a little bit. I'm gonna talk about how I

became a freelance translator and I think it could be interesting for

aspiring freelance translators, because I remember when I first started I was

searching YouTube for stories how I became a translator.

Obviously, there are many many different ways to get there, so this is just one

way of doing it. I'm going to go back to my school days, because it's

quite important, because I grew up in Switzerland. There are many

different national languages, there's German, French, Italian

and Rumantsch. I grew up in in the German part, I'm saying German, but a lot of

Germans will know that my German is nothing like their German. It's a dialect,

it's a variant of German. So I grew up with speaking Swiss German and

learning High German in school and on the TV. From a very early age on we started

learning French I'm not sure when we started maybe in the fourth grade or

something and maybe in sixth grade we started with English I think. Then in

secondary school you could even choose Italian if you wanted to, which I never

did. So I grew up learning French and English. I never had the best grades,

but also not the worst in school I was just kind of an average kid. But one

thing was clear that languages was always easier to. My grades were way

better than in sciences or math for example. So I put all my energy into

learning languages, because it came quite naturally, it was quite easy for me.

At the end of school, I was a very young kid and I wasn't ready yet to

do, like in Switzerland it's customary to do an apprenticeship where you go to a

company you learn a job and also go to school. So I started looking into options

what I could do and there was a commercial school in the

french-speaking part of Switzerland that I went to which is great because

not only was everything in French, but I learned even the basics of business,

accountancy, economics etc. and all in French. So I've done this for a year and my

French became much better. Then after that my grades weren't good enough to go to

university for example so I did an apprenticeship which was great.

I really like the system actually because you really get very highly

skilled professionals. I did a commercial apprenticeship, it's called.

You work for three years in different departments. I've looked into

purchasing, sales, accountancy, IT always for short stints,

while also going to school for two days a week, which actually helped me very

much in the future. That's when I realized I was good in studying.

At this point the subject didn't even matter, I just studied a lot and it came

easy to me to get good grades. So I ended up doing kind of a in between

college school that you can do if you didn't make it to university

beforehand. After that you can do a one or two year college school depends

whether you work next to it. So I did this in two years while also working

which then allowed me to go to university, but of course I had no idea

what I was gonna study. I just knew that I'm good with languages, I'm

interested in media kind of, but I didn't really know what way to go with that.

I went on a website. I can't remember what it's called. I literally went on

there clicked bachelor degree and just went step by step I started with

agriculture and I went to zoology or whatever.

Then I saw translation. I'd never even heard or thought of the

concept of a translator, I just thought people do this in a company and this is

how it works. I didn't know that that's an education right. This was at the

Zurich University of Applied Sciences. That's a three years bachelor's program to

become a professional translator. I signed up, had the entry exam in English

and French. I'm not sure if I had a German one, I'm actually not

sure. What you had to do, you had to say which is your first source language,

which was English for me, your second source language, French,

and your target language, which was German. Of course that's the most

common combination in Switzerland, so there was a lot of competition as well.

But I managed to pass all the entry exams. This was in in the spring of 2011.

Then in September 2011 I started. Actually before I started I went again to France

for I think two months just to improve my French. It is not as good as my English like

it's okay especially the written part is now very good, but the speaking, the

production part is quite tough, but it's getting there. I'm

always learning, it's a lifelong journey. So I decided to

move out and go to Zurich. For three years I was studying translation.

The first year was kind of a basic year where you learn a lot about

research stuff, because let's be honest researching is the most

important part of translation. First of all you can't and you don't need to know

everything, you just need to know where to get the information from. So it was

actually really useful and then of course we also did translations every

week, because you just have to practice, practice, practice. Try different topics,

try different domains etc. and we also learned about the country

specific things of the languages you signed up for. So if you sign up for

Spanish, you learn about Spanish history, if you sign up for French, you learn

about French Revolution, French culture. Then in the second and third

year you have to specialize. Since we finished they changed the

specializations, but for me there was technical documentation, there was

multimodal communication and multilingual communication, I think.

Anyway what it meant was one was really technical, if you wanted to go into

technical documentation, technical writing, it was very clear which one you

should choose. The multimodal was more... how they explained it to us:

if your plan is to become a translator, choose the multimodal, if your

plan is to become an interpreter and study more to become an interpreter, take

the multilingual. In the multimodal, which I chose, there were also courses for

subtitling. It was a lot about technology as well so my bachelor thesis surrounded

around technology in translation. After three years, in 2014 I had

the title of Bachelor of Arts in Translation specialized in Multimodal

Communication. A very fancy title, but I had zero experience. So I knew that

no one's gonna hire me whatever I do. One thing I would say I would do

differently now is, during the translation studies I never did any kind

of work, I just I was a full-time student. No relevant work, I have to say.

I was working during the whole studies for my dad's company. which was very

lucky because I managed to earn money. But what I should have done looking back,

and I can't believe I didn't do it, just sign up for these platforms as a

translator because I was studying to become a translator and I didn't make any

effort to establish myself in the secort. I thought that's for

after it's done right. But now looking back the best

thing is to start as early as possible, because 2014 came around I had finished

my translation studies and I was now a translator with zero experience.

Where to go from here? It was actually tough because I didn't

really know what to do, but I knew that no one's gonna hire me as a translator

without any experience. I did have commercial experience from my

apprenticeship and also from the job that I've done during my education, so it

wasn't hard for me to find a job, but what I wanted to do is take this

commercial side and combine it with languages. So I looked into jobs in

translation agencies not as a translator but just to be in there for once. I was

actually really lucky, the first application I sent, I got accepted.

I was now a project manager in a translation agency in Zurich and this was

a great experience. I was working there for roughly two years as a PM,

which was great because now I know the PM side as well as the translator side.

I hear a lot of my colleagues complaining about

project managers how they don't understand you, but you have no idea

about the stress when a new job comes and you need to deliver a text

in like 25 languages that you get on Monday and delivery is on Wednesday.

It's not easy. So, it's good to have this kind of understanding for the other side as well.

At this point I was actually not sure where translation was the right

path for me anymore because I've seen what kind of text they'd have to translate

and it just it was just not interesting at all, but that's the thing right: once

you go freelance, you can decide what's your specialization. You just have

to find something that you love translating, for me it turned out to be

two specializations one is technology related texts and

one is sports, outdoors, sports clothing retail.

These are two things that are passions of mine. If I had to say two of my interests,

these would be up there, so it's amazing how I can learn new things

everyday about the things I love while doing the job I love. Around this time

I also met my now girlfriend and she's from Hungary. So we kind of had to

decide how we're gonna do this. If this is serious then we want to move somewhere

together. And at that point she got accepted for a master's in

the Netherlands. So I made the decision to also go there with her and I applied for

masters as well. I made the decision to not go for a translations

master. This is a bit controversial whether you need a translations masters.

For me personally, I don't think a translations masters is necessary

because if you have a Bachelor and then experience in

translation and then a master in another topic in which you can specialise in,

that makes the most sense for me. I applied for different IT masters kind of,

but without a bachelor in computer science you can't just get into IT.

So I had to merge communication with IT. Then I found these studies in Tilburg in the

Netherlands called Communications and Information Sciences, which was perfect

for me. It actually went really quick like we had the premaster of half

a year and then a full year master program and it was done. What it meant

to do a masters abroad was that I didn't have a job anymore. I became kind of

desperate because the money was just going down and down and I thought,

I don't even know why I thought about it, I just started signing up for all of these

translation platforms that are out there. There's proz.com, pro Z

whatever you want to call it. It's the biggest one. It's a bit under scrutiny

because of the price dumbing in recent years, but still it's a good way to start.

If you're a translator, you need a proz account for sure. I didn't have a

paid one then and now I have a paid one, if you want a video on that let me know.

It didn't take long and people started contacting me. So I thought

okay this is cool, I can use this as a way to finance my master or at least

you know buy groceries, that's already amazing. The first company that

contacted me was a diving agency from the Ukraine I think and they needed to

German translations because they started to get a lot of German

customers. They didn't care whether I had experienced or not. I don't know why,

but some people don't care. If you have the education and you can prove it and

you sign up for these platforms, people will contact you. This was my first

client and I got very excited so after my classes at uni I went into the

library and worked there. Of course I didn't register or

anything, it was just peanuts that I made, but it was a start. That's how it all

started. Then I realized okay I can take this further, so I filled in

properly my my profiles. I turned my LinkedIn into a translators

LinkedIn. Then a Dutch translation agency wrote me and they said that they

need a Swiss German translated for a shoe company. They want to translate

their website for the Swiss market. This was the first time that I ever had to

explain to the client what's the difference and since then I've done this

multiple times. This is my unique selling point right: I'm a German

translator in a huge pool that's specializing on the Swiss market living

abroad, so not bound to the to the high prices from Switzerland. That was amazing

to start off, that's the perfect unique selling point. This was quite a big

project actually, it was like 800 Euros or something. I was over the

moon of course. I worked on it for a month. I was grossly

underpaid. This should have paid me at least 2,000 Euros, but I didn't care,

it was my first job. After that I had experience. Of course I wrote it down.

I exaggerated a bit and then jobs started rolling in. Of course, I also had to look

for jobs specifically, but there's so many websites out there where you can

look for jobs. At that point I made around 1,000 Euros a month,

I would say, maybe 1500 Euros a month by the end of my masters.

I had a big decision to make because I was now ready to find another job, but I

also was around 50% busy with translation and I thought okay,

I just had this gut feeling that I can scale this up 100% if I really put

all my eggs into one basket. It was the best thing to start this while doing

something else, so if you have any option to do this, if you're

studying start next to it, if have a part-time job start next to it, even if you have a

full-time job, if you still have energy to sit down in the evening and work on

it or before work in the morning, start before you go full-time into something.

I guess then it gave me the confidence that even if I just make

1,500 euros a month, which of course in some parts of the world is more than

enough, but where I lived at the time it wasn't enough, but it was okay like I

could live from it, I could buy groceries, pay rent etc. So I decided to

go for it and it worked out. Four years later I'm here, I have a good

business, I'm happy, it's going well, every year I make more you know, it's still

growing which I love. But you know, it's not all rosy and positive of course.

It's hard, you need to really work for it. A lot of people ask me so

you don't have a stable income that's really stressful, but luckily how I

established now my client base and my projects, I have kind of a stable income.

Of course if I don't work, I don't have an income, that's clear. But I managed to

build this system in a way that I can always ask for more jobs. There's always

more jobs with the clients that I have. Of course I'm lucky, but I also kind of

made it that way. You need to be smart in how you establish connections, how you

get into different companies, who you talk to. Of course, I was lucky I had

the connections from my studies because a lot of my colleagues went on to work

in agencies and they helped me get in there. Well, that's my story,

that's how I came here, now I'm living in Brussels by the way, I haven't said that.

Because my girlfriend found a job here after her university so we moved to

Brussels, Belgium. That's where I live and work now. So my last point is one that I will

make in every video: if you really want to become a translator

the number one thing is practice, practice, practice. So, this is the

first time I'm doing this, but I know that YouTube has a

function where I can allow people to translate the closed captions. So I'm

gonna figure out how to do this in this first video, but if you are an aspiring

translator and you want to translate this video into your native language,

let me know in the comments or get in touch with me. I'm going to do the

German one, you can do French, Arabic Italian, wherever you're watching from.

Like this, you can get practice, you can get experience from translating, I get a

translated video and can reach more people and the people watching this have a

translated version so it's a win-win-win. Feel free to subscribe, come with me on

this journey. My challenge is to upload one video a week for a year. If I

manage to learn how to do this in post editing, I'm gonna show you a couple of

ideas for videos that I want to do in the future onthis channel. If you have

other suggestions to let me know. I looking forward to having you here. Thanks for

watching, see you next time.

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