Trying to succeed as a freelance translator can be tough. To some, it might appear to be as easy as just changing words from one language to another, but of course, it’s much more complex than that and it comes with its own set of challenges. That’s not to say that it isn’t a wonderful job with its operks, such as the freedom to work from home (staying in your pyjamas all day if you so choose!) and manage your time in a way that suits your lifestyle.
It’s also a job with a great deal of responsibility; whether they are translating medical records, business contracts, or marketing material, the pressure to convey the source text’s message accurately is significant. Balancing this pressure with the additional requirements of running your own business as a freelancer and keeping a healthy work-life balance can be challenging, so we’ve compiled a list of nine tips to help you thrive as a freelance translator.
How to succeed as a freelance translator (pyjamas optional)
Following these nine tips will help you to achieve success in the freelance translation business without letting your personal life suffer. Let’s take a look…
1. Be ready for the variety this business brings
They say that variety is the spice of life and if you are someone who can roll with the punches, a career in translation will suit you down to the ground. Even if you specialise in a very niche area, each translation project comes with its own set of challenges and puzzles for you to solve.
Translators often find themselves learning about all manner of topics through the research they do for their translations, add this to relationships with direct clients and there’s never a dull moment. In those moments when the stress is mounting up, remind yourself of the joys of this eternal learning process for curious minds like yourself.
2. Prepare yourself for working alone
As a freelancer working remotely, you usually work alone and this can get rather isolating. If you think this may be something you will struggle with, we recommend you put some systems in place to mitigate any feelings of loneliness. This could be as simple as changing where you work; instead of always working from home, you could spend some time working from a co-working space (which are great places to network) or even a café or library.
Why not reach out to your peers? Building relationships with other translators can give you a strong support system and could even lead to professional opportunities. Joining a professional association such as ITI (The Institute of Translation & Interpreting) is a great place to start making connections and they also run many events that can provide much-needed opportunities to socialise with fellow professionals. Read some more tips about how to deal with loneliness from a fellow freelancer before you embark on your career and you will find success as a freelance translator in no time.
3. Be aware of changing markets and upcoming business trends
Make sure you’re always informed of the latest changes in the marketplace. Using new technology to improve your productivity will not only benefit you but your clients too. With everything changing so regularly, make it your business to stay sharp and abreast advancements in the industry.
As well as reading relevant publications and following influential figures online, take part in conferences and industry events to make sure you’re not left behind. Don’t just focus on translation; keeping up-to-date on industry changes in your specialisation, whether that’s travel and tourism or aeronautical engineering, will give you a professional edge and ensure your translations maintain their quality.
4. Remember that “freelancer” also means “professional juggler”
It may surprise those starting out in the industry, but translation is only one of many responsibilities of the freelance translator. The list of your job roles will include, but not be limited to, accountant, researcher, project manager, customer service representative, brand ambassador, web designer, and personal barista.
It’s very easy for these tasks to take too much time away from the thing that actually makes you money: translation. To avoid this it’s crucial that you organise your day well, dedicating specific times for specific tasks. Decide how often you’re going to do jobs such as replying to emails, sending out invoices, or updating your social media, and stick to this schedule. It’s also worth considering what tasks can (and should) be outsourced. If setting up your own website is going to take you two weeks, keeping you from doing any translation in that time, it’s a smart financial decision to hire a professional. As with so many things, balance is key.
5. Master the skill of self-discipline
As we’ve already mentioned, the freelancer life is hectic and full of varied responsibilities that can be difficult to juggle. Add to this the fact that you’re working from home surrounded by distractions everywhere you turn, from the TV in the living room to the pile of dishes in the kitchen, and it takes a whole lot of self-discipline to get any work done.
Luckily many people do this every day, and there are lots of resources out there to help you find the best system for you, whether it’s adopting The Pomodoro Technique or installing programmes that block distracting websites, find what works for you and stick to it.
6. Keep your clients happy
Never forget that without clients your business doesn’t exist. Mastering the art of keeping your customers happy is vital to professional success and sometimes that means being flexible and going that extra mile.
For translators this means having clear communication with the client to find out what their requirements are, coming up with a realistic deadline, and sticking to it. Happy customers lead to repeat business, so don’t be afraid to ask clients for testimonials that can be used to attract new business.
7. Improve your money management skills
Keeping on top of your finances, from maintaining steady cash flow and doing your taxes to chasing up payments and outsourcing work, is a large part of any freelancer’s life. When it comes to income, it can be tempting to focus solely on large projects that bring in the big bucks, but remember that small, regular projects can be just as valuable in the long run, filling in the quiet spells between those big jobs.
Consider using accounting software systems to help you stay on top of your finances. Wave or Freshbooks are both good options and once they are set up they will give you more time to focus on other important areas of your business.
8. Separate your work and personal lives
As a freelancer or small business owner, it’s all too easy for work to take over your life. There will be moments, especially at the beginning of your career when you will need to work extremely long hours to meet tight deadlines, but the earlier you establish boundaries between your professional and personal lives, the better.
Set aside specific times where you are off the clock and give yourself some distance from the computer. Turn off your email notifications and step away from the office. Giving yourself proper breaks will make you happier and more productive in the long run.
9. Prepare to explain what you do
To someone outside of the translation industry, your job may be a real mystery, which can make it hard to convince them of the importance of hiring a professional translation service provider over an unqualified bilingual colleague. Take some time to come up with a clear, concise explanation of what you offer – an elevator pitch of sorts – and get comfortable defending your worth.
Now with all our worldly advice behind you, it’s time to get motivated, get out there, and get cracking! You are ready to succeed as a freelance translator!
If you are looking for a reliable translation service for any language from German to Portuguese, BeTranslated is here for you. With a vast network of translators specialised in areas such as website translation and business translation, we have the right linguist for you. For information or a free, no-obligation quote, get in touch today.