5 facts about becoming a freelance translator


facts about becoming a freelance translator

Hey there, this is my first post of the year…and ever! I’ve been thinking a lot about starting a blog and here it is. I don’t expect to reinvent the wheel, but to share my points of view about this industry. So I decided my first article to focus on the comings and goings of becoming a freelance translator. These are not meant to be taken as “business tips” or much less, but as accounts (facts indeed!) which I expect everyone can relate. They are not ordered in any specific order, just what came to my mind at this moment. Let’s start!

1. You are going to feel a lot of anxiety and learn to be very patient

Whether it’s waiting for a collaboration response or a payment to be made, anxiety is part of our everyday life. Get used to it!Eventually, you’ll learn to deal with it. Meanwhile take a deep breath and relax, don’t let it consume you.

And what’s the best way to beat anxiety? Well, first of all, learn to be patient. This is something that really took me a while to understand. Specially when I was just starting, I wanted things to fall into place right away, but things don’t work that way. I learned that the bad way. So please make yourself a favor and calm down a little. Good things always take time! But they do come.

And of course, find different activities to get distracted, like practicing a sports or reading a book. I like swimming for example. Do something you enjoy! 

2. You need to develop business skills (you like it or not)

This is where I’m still stuck, I haven’t fully developed my business skills. Believe me, it is not easy. I’ve read as many blog posts as you can imagine. I’ve taken part in a few webinars (I’ll write about this in the future). And I think they’re just starting to leave a mark on me, I hope. A freelance translator does need business skills, that’s a fact. 

Believe me! You won’t get too far if you are not willing to invest in yourself. And the only way to make the right investments is by developing business skills. 

Some people are born with business instincts, I know I wasn’t. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn. At least I know I’ve learned a couple of things so far. However that’s not enough. There’s still a long way to go and so much to learn.

3. You will run into some very awful agencies

OK, so this is a very delicate issue. But when you are just starting out, the first ones to approach you will probably be these types of agencies. They know you are a inexperienced freelance translator, and they want to take advantage of that. Whether by making you take false translation tests or offering the lowest rates.

So when addressed by an agency, check these first:

  • They refer to you by your name, not by “Dear Linguist or Vendor”.
  • Spell mistakes or bad writing in general: A language provider (agency) cannot have them. Ever.
  • Some only want to add a new name to their database. What is the purpose of this? I really don’t know.
  • Others want to make you sign an NDA. And you never hear from them again. I came up with a conclusion about why they do this. I think it has to do with getting rid of the competition.

Nonetheless, there are good agencies, which can be hard to find. But they do exist. And if you happen to stumble upon one of these, make sure not to let them go away. Here’s a nice post that will give you some good advice.

4. You will spend quite some time by yourself

Most freelancers tend to be loners. I am one of them. So it should not be hard to get used to this. However, after a while it starts to unsettle you. Long hours researching, sending mails, checking your social media, taking courses, TRANSLATING! Well you know what I mean. And above all, you spend all this time sitting, which is bad for your posture (and it puts on some weight on you).

I live with other people, so it doesn’t always feel that lonely. Even so, something that always helped me out is reading other freelancers’ posts. There is something I can relate in most of these articles, which in return help me not feeling so alone.

5. People are just not going to understand what is it that you do

So, here’s the last one. And this is the one that causes me more pain. Even if I explained 1000 times how freelancing works, people just don’t understand. They get I am a translator. But they don’t get I am actually a freelance translator. Freelancing is so uncommon and unheard-of in my country that most people think I’m just wasting my time or trying to make some easy money on the Internet.

Well this is as far as I can go. I hope you have enjoyed these experiences from my own life. As I said before, these are not to be taken as tips for your business. These are things that happened to me and many other translators. And probably will keep on happening in the future . (Take them as tests; tests that will let you know if freelancing is for you or not)

My intention when writing this was not to discourage anyone, just to show that becoming a freelancer is a lot of hard work that eventually will pay off.

I want to know about your experiences too, please do comment! And I’d appreciate some feedback for this being my first blog post.

To finish, I want to share a video I found in youtube. It’s hilarious and, although it is in Spanish, I think any freelance translator will understand easily. Enjoy!



Alvaro Flores Renjel
New blogger...
Alvaro is an English and French to Spanish professional translator, proofreader and editor. He writes about his endeavours hoping his readers can get valuable information that helps in their worklife. Wordpress newborn fan, friend-zoned by Twitter, love mystery tales, opportunities are everywhere!
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