Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Sean Hopwood, founder of Day Translations, Inc.
Freelancing is getting more popular today, as many people realize that there are many options available and they can do more while maintaining life and work balance. The flexibility of work hours is one of the most desirable aspects of being a freelancer. It also enables them to work from anywhere.
A career as a freelance translator is an excellent option if you are bilingual and a native speaker of at least one language. But you should also know that being a freelance translator is as exacting as being a translator with fixed employment. You still have to follow strict guidelines and conform to translation industry standards. If you want to go on your own, you have to understand all the rules and regulations on your own. If you’re working for a language services provider as a freelance translator, the company provides you with the rules, standards and requirements you need to know.
Now that that’s out of the way, here are top ways for you to optimize your experience as a freelance translator.
1. Improve your writing skills in the native language
A translator should be an excellent writer. Aside from knowledge of various writing styles, you should have excellent grammar in your mother tongue. This means you have to continue honing your writing skills because native speakers will use your translations. If you are living in another country, see to it that you spend time in the country where your native language is spoken to keep up to date with the evolution of your native language. Build a collection of style guides and dictionaries and make sure that you update them periodically. A freelance translator should take continuing education courses in writing and languages.
You can also improve your writing and language skills by collaborating with editors and proofreaders. You can ask them about the changes they made in your work and generally exchange knowledge and ideas. Sharpen your skills by reading and listening to materials in your native language.\
2. Develop strong comprehension and reading skills in the source language
Translation is a two-way street. You handle both the source language and the target language. Translation work is highly competitive and you’ll find that most freelance professional translators build up their credentials to get the most lucrative translation projects. To ensure your success as a freelance translator, you should have excellent reading skills and comprehension in the source language, as it is the basis for the translation.
You can improve your skills in the source language by spending time in the country where it is spoken. Just like what you do to hone your skills in your native tongue, it is advisable that you listen, watch and read materials in the source language aside from taking a language course. It is also essential for your work as a freelance translator to have language books, dictionaries and style guides in the source language.
3. Keep in mind that cultural knowledge in the language pair is essential
It’s a sign that you are a good freelance translator if you have a more in-depth understanding of the cultural differences between the countries that speak the source and the target languages. Translators must also be knowledgeable about cultures because they are also cultural consultants. It is one way to gain the trust of clients. You can tell clients if some of their content will not be appropriate for the target market.
Knowing the culture of the target audience of the translation helps freelance translators avoid cultural mistakes. As a translator, you cannot expect all your clients to know about the culture of their target countries and they are likely to rely on your experience and expertise to help them make their document fulfill its intended goals.
You can improve your cultural skills by spending time reading materials about the different cultures as well as taking intercultural communication classes.
4. Have a specialization
It is understandable that a freelance translator will try to accept as much translation projects as possible for economic reasons. However, it is better if you are specialized in a specific subject matter that you know very well from your academic or professional experience before becoming a translator.
It is easier to market your translation services if you are an expert in a subject matter, such as IT, healthcare, finance or legal. With your acquired knowledge about the subject, you can choose your clients and be in the market for better projects that pay more, since you will be dealing with materials that need specific technical expertise. As a subject matter expert, you should be up to date in the terminology and developments related to your particular subject.
5. Learn how to market yourself
There are several things you should learn when you want to become a freelance translator, including improving your computer skills and using translation tools, being organized and motivated and using available tools to get your name out there. Some of the things you have to learn are requirements, such as maintaining accurate translations, consistently delivering high-quality work and meeting deadlines.
You should be good at customer service because you have to seek clients, talk to them directly and set your business policies and rates. You likewise need to build a network of contacts. You should join translation-related events, get the necessary certification and become a member of professional translation organizations. Build a website, write blogs, use social media effectively to market your services and engage with fellow translators.
The tips above are some of the most vital for optimizing your experience as a freelance translator. To stay long in the industry, you should continue learning and polishing your skills through practice. You should exercise self-discipline and self-motivation. Translation work is very competitive so you should be a cut above the rest not only to stay in business but also to get good projects.
Sean Patrick Hopwood is the President and CEO of Day Translations, Inc. His love for languages and his early experiences in translating documents for the elderly led to him founding his company. His clear-cut direction and vision of where he wants Day Translations to be, continue to give him recognition from peers, clients and industry organizations.