There are many articles already posted about how to get started as a freelance translator and determining whether or not freelance translation and interpretation are a viable means to make a living. What is lacking, it seems, is a means to turn freelance translation and interpretation services into a viable career option.
Freelance translation and interpretation are among the easiest methods for earning money online, but different types of interpretation and translation will require very different skill sets. Working as a freelance interpreter or translator will allow you to specialize in any way you see fit, and to build a profitable career as a freelancer at the same time.
The United Nations, the World Health Organization, and similar international bodies use at least 14 interpreters for even the smallest of meetings, just to translate every meeting and every document into the six official languages. From here, an even larger body of translators and interpreters will translate everything into nearly 200 different languages for global distribution.
While it may be possible to gain a seat in Geneva, the Hague, New York City, or some other equally glorious location, there is also a good chance of ending up somewhere much less desirable at the same time. This is especially true for the interpreters and translators who are lacking in seniority and experience.
As a freelance translator or interpreter, it should be possible to travel the world, visiting only those locations you wish to travel to, and working only as much as you want or need based on your expenses. Thus, the first and most important part of freelance translation and interpretation as a career is to begin building up verifiable experience.
1. Getting Started as a Freelance Translator or Interpreter
Building a freelance career as an interpreter or translator is no different than building any other career. You are going to have to work for it to make it happen. Take all the work you can get in order to build up a verifiable list of testimonials and recommendations from satisfied clients, though there is a caveat.
Always look for long-term clients and always note on your website, on your ads, and even on your bids, that you are looking for long-term clients. Even short-term translation and interpretation clients will be more likely to hire you when they know you want more work, so you will be more concerned about the quality of translation work that you produce.
2. Build up a List of Long-Term Translation Clients
If you decide to make a career as a freelance interpreter or translator, you will need long-term clients. Long-term clients should be the proverbial bread and butter for a freelance translator, though the same may be true for interpreters as well, with the right clients.
Interpretation jobs are frequently intermittent, though working as a medical interpreter or a court interpreter may provide some limited flexibility in schedule. However, these jobs will not be very likely to leave much room for the certified interpreter to travel freely. Long-term clients for translation services should provide a steady stream of income and as much or as little work as desired by the freelancer.
3. Build Up Freelance Translation Rates
How much does a freelance translator earn? As much as the markets will bear. The question is not how much average freelance translators earn, but how you can steadily increase your income to make freelance translation a feasible career choice.
Remember, building up any career is work, and being a freelance interpreter or translator is not going to be any different. Sometimes, you are just going to have to put in some overtime in order to successfully build a career out of a job. Once you have a sufficient amount of translation work from your long-term clients, keep looking for more such opportunities.
You may or may not want to take on any short-term jobs in the meantime, but if they are willing to pay your increased rates, it may be worthwhile. Increase rates for translation services? Of course. You have a string of long-term clients sufficient to meet your current needs, but you will eventually need more.
Continue seeking new clients for your translation services, but at a higher rate based on your increased experience as well as a string of testimonials from satisfied customers. If they say no, you already have a regular base income. If they say yes, you have a new, higher-paying client.
Explain nicely to your lowest paying client that you have a new client paying more, but you would like to keep working with the existing client as well. If they say yes, you now have two higher-paying clients. If they say no, you at least have a higher paying client to replace them with and have suffered no loss.
4. Rinse and Repeat to Translate Interpretation into a Career
Rinse and repeat this process in order to continue increasing your rates as a freelance translator for as long as you work. You can work from home and increase your savings and ability to purchase nice things, or you can work your way around the world, mastering even more languages, meeting new and better-paying clients.
Can you make a career as a freelance translator or interpreter? Absolutely, and what a way to travel – I mean, to work!
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