get started as a translator

7 Sure-Fire Ways to Get Started as a Freelance Translator

You’ve just graduated from translation school and are feeling pretty good about your skills.

You are SO ready to start translating for a living. So much so that nightly visions of grammar fairies dance in your head.

But then the fear and frustration sink in.

Clients just aren’t beating down your door.

What’s a hungry translator to do?

Well, you can’t make clients fall from the sky, but you can take action to get them to notice you and try you out.

Here are seven basic steps to get you started.

Make a business plan–any business plan!

Instead of sitting around hoping for translation assignments to come your way, make a simple plan to get your translation mojo working.

For example, which clients will you target and how will you market to them?

Your plan can be one sentence: “I’m going to approach clients in the X industry and provide translations of X, Y, and Z content, which I will start specializing in by this date.”

This sentence is all you need to drive your action in a client-attracting way.

Get to know your peeps

So what do you really know about the translation industry in your neck of the woods?

Do you know which companies are hot?

Think about the sectors that gaining ground and may need translation help. Maybe technology start-ups? Or lifestyle entrepreneurs?

Because while going after any local or online business may seem like a good idea, you can waste a lot of time chasing clients who don’t want your services.

Figuring out who actually needs translation services–and needs them now–can get you going faster.

Start spreading the word

A lot of translation work, especially the lucrative translation work, is not posted on Upwork or Craigslist.

After getting burned once too often, many people avoid the Internet like a plague-infested rat and turn to their networks for their translation referrals.

Ergo, if your network doesn’t know about you, you won’t get picked.

Without looking desperate, take a few minutes to send emails to key people in your network. This can be a great trigger for work when you least expect it.

Develop your passion

Nothing gets clients more excited about working with you than your passion for their field.

Do you love the minutia of legalese? Are you fascinated by the inner workings of the pancreas?

If so, make it known!

List your interests on your resume or LinkedIn profile, maybe by listing courses you’ve taken or associations you’re a member of.

Clients will feel a kinship with you and could get very willing to build a relationship.

Get reliable

As the saying goes, people like to do business with people they know and like.

But, most importantly in translation, people like to do business with people who are reliable.

(Honestly, I hear about translators flaking out all the time and have had them flake out on me, so the mistrust comes from an honest place!)

And unless you have a tremendous track record, a lot of translation clients won’t touch you if you contact them out of the blue.

Because how do they know you’ll do what you say you’re going to do?

Be the translator who is on time and provides quality work. Do this for just a few clients and then get testimonials to make it easier for future clients to take you on.

Say “yes”

A lot of translators say “no” to texts in subjects they aren’t comfortable with, even if the text isn’t all that complicated.

However, the braver thing to do is to say “yes”… and then just figure out how to do it.

Because you’ll severely limit yourself if you don’t spread your wings a bit in areas out of your comfort zone.

You may think finance just isn’t your bag. But what if a big article on insurance for a magazine comes your way? Why not try it?

Of course, make sure you have the basic ability to do the job. But if a fear of failure–and not lack of skill–is keeping you from the work, then maybe all you need is to calculate some extra research time or consult with subject experts.

If you use a smart strategy, there’s no reason you can’t give a resounding, “Yep, I can handle that.”

For the love of Pete, keep translating!

While you wait for contracts to roll in, are you checking Facebook and watching YouTube?

I thought so. But we both know that these activities really don’t fall under “business building.”

Instead, use your down-time to keep working on your translation skills. Don’t let them languish!

  • Translate at least a few hundred words every day in the sectors you want to work in.
  • Go on company websites and retranslate their content if it’s bad. Or, if it’s good, study why it’s good. (Something they often don’t get you to do in translation school!)
  • If you work in a specific industry, read any literature you can get your hands on to get a feel for the lingo.

Because translation shouldn’t be something you only do if you have clients.

It’s a way of life!

Get the fire going!

Remember: these tips aren’t a magic formula for materalizing clients out of thin air.

Instead, they are a starting point to improve your skills and increase the chance that clients will find you.

Every day, take as much time as you can to go over these steps. Make to-do lists. Take action.

Above all, have an attitude that you can succeed, even if you get offered topics that are a bit complex. And even if you’re new to an industry.

Just get reliable and spread the word about your availability.

Before you know it, you’ll be attracting the perfect clients that will keep your freelance business going.

That’s a great reason to get fired up about your translation business.