How To Become A Translator – Step-By-Step Beginner’s Guide

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One of the really popular remote work jobs, besides being a content writer or virtual assistant, is translation work. This can so easily be done through the internet and you can be anywhere in the world. Also, not much investment is required.

The difficulty stands in the fact that you have to be fluent in both of the languages covered if you want a good, full-time income. If you feel this is you, here are all the things you have to know about how to become a translator.

Freelance Translator – Advantages And Disadvantages


Become a freelance translator guideThere are numerous advantages that can be mentioned about working as a freelancer. With translator jobs, we can mention even more. Instead of listing all, here are those that are generally considered to be the most important:

  • You will be your own boss.
  • You can work how much you want and when you want.
  • There is no need to go to office buildings since translation work can be done online.
  • You do not need upfront investment, with the exception of certification and education.
  • Entry barriers tend to be very low.
  • The demand for translators is high at the moment for all languages.


Similarly to all jobs, working as a freelance translator has drawbacks. Those that are significant are:

  • You make less money when you work less.
  • You have to deal with different clients so paychecks can be uncertain.
  • There are clients that have very tight deadlines, spontaneous workloads, and very high standards.
  • The huge competition can make it difficult to land jobs or you might have to accept lower rates.

The Industry

Before you take the necessary steps to become a freelance translator, it is a good idea to know some things about the industry you get into. Remember the following facts:

  • Most of the market is controlled by some top agencies. They handle most jobs.
  • There are LSPs (Language Service Providers) that are usually freelancers or small agencies.
  • Freelancers and agencies can be specialized or generalists. Most of the revenue comes from the special sectors, like pharmaceutical, IT, finance, and legal.
  • Tourism and governmental sectors trend and have huge growth potential.
  • Most industry revenue is made in Europe (49%) and North America (35%), according to Common Sense Advisory.

Industry Terms To Know

Those that are at the start of the road and want to be freelance translators need to be aware of some industry-specific terms. The very common ones are listed below, together with their definition:


A regular translation job means you simply translate the text. With localization, you adapt the text to a country or region. There are target languages and cultures that are taken into account when the job is done.

As an example, in US English we have Month/Date/Year. In French, you would change it to Jour/Mois/Annee because the order that is used in the country is different.


This is practically a combination of content creation and translation. It means that you take an emotive or persuasive message and you transfer it. This is very common in digital marketing. The best example of it is when brand slogans have to be adapted and translated.

Freelance Translator Tools

Most translators use CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools. These are programs that improve translation efficiencies through different things, like text alignment, translation memory creation and spellchecking. CAT tools use databases with texts that were already translated and based on them, suggestions are made.

If you consider the freelance translator career path, you should learn how CAT tools are used. They can drastically simplify the work you do and when you work with very experienced clients or agencies, they are usually mandatory.

Various software providers exist right now. The very popular ones are Wordfast, MemoQ, and Trados. They are pricey though so you might want to start with something cheaper, like OmegaT.

Translator Education

Most professional translators have a degree in linguistics, interpreting, or translation. There are many that even have a Master’s Degree. This does help a lot as you discuss jobs with agencies or clients. Degrees are proof of qualification and in many courses, you are actually taught how jobs can be found.

If you think you need extra education, look at the recommended worldwide programs list offered by the ATA (American Translator’s Association).

The exact same thing can be said in regards to certifications. These make it easier to show the fact that you are skilled. Tests at affordable prices are now offered by Meridian Linguistics Testing Service. You could consider that.

Extra related tip: Read as much as you can in both languages. This is especially the case if you specialize in a niche.

Earning Potential for Freelance Translators

Rates can vary a lot, just like with most freelance jobs. Factors like language pair, specialization, and country influence payment. However, if you want to become a freelance translator, you surely want some estimates. With this in mind, some numbers can be mentioned:

  • Translate Media states that the average in-house translator salary in the UK and the US starts at around $24,000 to $28,000 per year. Experienced translators earn over $40,000 per year.
  • Income is influenced by the number of clients and negotiation skills. After a good client base is established, together with experience, earning around $50,000 per year is highly likely.
  • You have to expect a rate of around $0.04 to $0.10 per word.

When clients ask you to do a small project (limited phrases or words), be sure that a minimum fee is set. For instance, you can always say that you will translate the paragraph, even if it is small, but it is going to cost $35. When asked why, say it is because work has to be mitigated, like admin or accounting.

If you want to learn how you can set your rate as a freelancer, check out the linked article.

Factors That Influence Earning Potential

Income is influenced by various factors so you need to be aware of these:

  • Language Pair – A very common language means competition is high. With a language that is not so common, like Vietnamese or Korean, rates are higher. However, demand is also lower.
  • Language Translation Direction – This is easy to explain with an example. Just some people are proficient in Korean. This means that those that can translate from Korean to English end up with better rates than when translating from English to Korean. Generally speaking, translating into your native language is better. The only situation in which this is not the case is when you are really fluent in the second language. Being as good as a native speaker is not possible so making mistakes is much more common.
  • Specialty – Always try to specialize in a field instead of being a generalist. You get higher rates when you do this. Also, if you are really experienced in a niche, your competition is a lot lower. Once again, the really lucrative fields are medical, engineering, finance and legal.
  • After-Hour Jobs – Companies will often ask translators to do work on really short notice. This means you can end up working during holidays, late at night or on weekends. A surcharge of around 20% can easily be added in this case. Just be sure that all terms are discussed with the client.

How to become a freelancing translator

How Do You Become A Freelance Translator?

Now that you know all the important basics about the job of the translator, it is time to learn how to actually become one. Fortunately, everything is a lot simpler than you might think. However, this does not mean things will be simple.

1. Be Or Become Fluent

It is vital that you are fluent in the second language or you cannot be a translator. Those that are bilingual are favored but you can always get educated. Do the work and improve your language skills so you know both languages as flawlessly as possible.

2. Choose A Niche

When you are a general freelance translator, the possibility of making good money is low. It is difficult to find a client that pays well so you have to specialize in the work you do.

Pick a niche and then keep improving your language skills. You want to be fluent with the entire terminology in the industry and you have to be up-to-date with the news. Becoming a niche expert means the entire job becomes easier and you have access to opportunities that are better-paid.

As an extra tip, be sure you are familiar with the CAT tools. You will, most likely, end up working with them every single day. Agencies and clients do expect this.

3. Become Certified

You have to be certified. This helps a lot more than what people think when it comes to finding jobs. Future clients want to see qualifications. This is even the case in the event that you will work with an agency. Make sure you plan in time and budget for training.

4. Get Adequate Experience

You will not land the really well-paid jobs first. Experience is needed first. Start with some small jobs and seriously consider internships. This helps you to understand how the industry works, together with assessing the skills you have. Always deliver the best possible quality, even if the job is small. Really good reviews pile up and help a lot.

5. Start Marketing Yourself

When you feel that you are ready to take the next step, it is time to market your work. You can use your skills, initial experiences, and certifications to get clients that are bigger and bigger. This will increase your income.

Extra Tip: Keep Improving Skills. It does not matter how skilled or experienced the translator is since improvements are always available. Try to soak up every single bit of information you get. You want to be updated about the niche and industry developments. Make sure you renew certifications whenever needed and keep improving.

Where Can You Find Freelance Translation Jobs?

There are different ways to find great translation jobs. The options that are often used are:

Google Search

Google can help you to find numerous available translation jobs. Just look for phrases like “translation jobs” or “hiring translators”. This offers you a list of interesting positions to consider.

Social Media and Professional Media

Do not underestimate social media. There are countless groups where future employers and clients might be present. Find groups with appropriate titles, like “Translation And Interpretation Jobs”. You can even consider Twitter. Send tweets so people are aware that you want to be a freelance translator and that you look for a job. You can even search for hashtags like “#translating”.

The other social network where you need to be present is LinkedIn. Your profile has to be thorough and always up-to-date. Numerous agencies and potential clients use LinkedIn to find translators.


Networking is a great way to find any job, including translations. You never know when someone you met in the past is looking for a good translator. Also, you can check out Meetup events with other freelance translators.

Become a translator

Translation Associations and Portals

There are many that you can become a member of. These allow you to connect with freelance translators and you also end up being among the first to hear industry news. Some really popular translation portals are:

Freelance Websites

We simply cannot neglect freelance websites since they often feature translation jobs. This is because of the high demand that exists at the moment. The problem is that competition is really high and the rates are significantly lower.

The good part of using freelance websites is that they are a get way to start a career. You can easily get reviews and extra necessary experience. Those that are great translators often end up getting paid more because of the quality of their work.

The really popular freelance websites with translation jobs are:

Learn here how you can get jobs on freelance websites even as a beginner.

Direct Contact

Directly approaching clients is also something that you can do. However, before you do this, build a portfolio site or a blog so you can easily present your work. List experience, certification, and education. This shows specialism and offers references so potential clients can check them.

As you connect with a potential client, send the CV and the link to the site in the event that more info is desired. If you do not want to build a site, you can always use portfolio service providers like Squarespace or Crevado.

Translation Agencies

A huge advantage of working with translation agencies is that they pitch clients and do all the marketing needed. The problem is that you have to be really easy to work with while also being able to deliver the high-quality work needed based on assigned deadlines. Translation agencies just work with reliable translators.

If flexibility is really important for you, it is possible to work for the agency on a part-time contract while the rest of your time is dedicated to freelance translator jobs.

Some of the popular translation agencies to consider are:

Still don’t know how to find your first clients as a freelancer? The linked article will give you 9 bulletproof ways.

Start Your Freelance Translation Career

Being fluent in 2 languages is not enough to become a successful translator. You need to show persistence and dedication. After you manage to get a few jobs, you can earn a really good income, all while being able to work from the comfort of your home.

The potential of translation jobs is very high at the moment. If you have no problems always improving your skills, eventually success knocks on your door.


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