The Truth About Working as a Freelance Translator

Updated: Aug 21, 2019

Before committing to building a career as a freelance translator, you need to understand what you can realistically expect.

If you’ve never tried it, the idea of working as a freelance translator can seem glamorous and carefree. However, achieving real success is not so easy. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons you can expect to encounter on this career path.

The Pros

The best thing about working as a freelancer is the freedom.

  • Schedule: You can decide when you work.

  • Jobs: You are the one who decides which jobs you’ll apply for or accept.

  • Income: How much you can earn will depend on how much you are prepared to work. It also depends on how well you serve your clients, as repeat business may come from clients who had a good experience with you.

  • Location: You are free to live anywhere in the world. However, locations with a lower cost of living will put you at an advantage.

  • Specialization: The more skill and expertise required, the higher the rates you can command.

The Cons

Achieving success as a full-time freelance translator is not easy.

  • Lack of Structure: Nobody is going to tell you what to do or when to do it. You need to be self-motivated and well-organized because you are only paid for delivering results that the client is happy with.

  • Criticism: Not every client is going to be easy to work with. Some will give value instructions or have unrealistic expectations. You need to be tough and not let it affect you.

  • Competition: Since there are no location constraints, you are literally competing with translators from around the world. Your clients are evaluating you in terms of cost-performance. Unless you are working in a field where you have rare expertise, you are easily replaceable.

  • Time vs. Money: You are trading your time for money. It is not scalable. You only get paid for the results you deliver.

  • Machines: Thanks to advances in AI, translation of literal content such as instruction manuals, user support documents, and legal contracts is increasingly done by machine translation. Humans are transitioning into the role of checkers and editors. You’ll need to focus on content genres that require a human touch in order to remain relevant in the coming years.

Getting Started

If you don’t already have a pipeline of translation jobs coming to you, one way to get started is by joining a crowdsourcing site. This is where companies with translation needs sign up and post jobs. Freelance translators can register, create a profile, and apply to take jobs that match their interests, level, and appetite for work.

We operate two such sites, which you might like to consider:

  • Conyac has a range of jobs that can be completed remotely, online, including translation and other tasks that require language skills.

  • QuickTranslate is popular among Japanese-speaking translators with expertise in one or more fields.

Both sites welcome people who are completely new to freelance translation work. You can start off with smaller, easier jobs and work your way up over time.

Wishing you success on your journey as a translator! If you’d like to connect with other like-minded people, check out our freelancer community forum.

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About This Blog is a resource for freelancers including tips and advice on how to earn more, improve your skills, get better gigs, and live a balanced lifestyle.

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