The Epic Early Stages of a Beginner Freelance Translator

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A beginner freelance translator has to overcome many different barriers.

And as with any other freelance job, translation has its peculiarities.

Thousands of would-be translators start their professional career hoping to make a living out of it.

But this journey is full of hardships and worries.

No matter how skilled and trained a person is, it will always put you on stressing and demanding situations.

These difficulties impair the quality of translation and impact the overall performance of a beginner freelance translator in all respects.

My personal experience

I wanted to share some insights I learned from my personal experience that could help many in their quest. 

We are all in the same boat and what was useful to me maybe so for others.

After finishing my engineering studies I soon started working for a firm where I could apply many of the knowledge learned throughout years of hard study and exams.

I always had a natural inclination to languages, not only for Spanish, my native language but also for English and Latin.

However, given I am not only a curious person but also a pragmatic one, the balance originally tilted in favor of technology and applied sciences.

I was happy and enjoyed solving problems, winning contracts and giving all my best for the success of my company in an English-speaking environment.

As the years passed by, I was feeling fulfilled until I realized I had achieved all my goals and expectations in that job.

It was time for a shift in my career, and my English level was a key factor.

I did my research and found one can make a living translating documents from English to Spanish.

In less than a year, I enrolled in an English Philology degree while working as an engineer.

It was tough, but also rewarding and fulfilling.

During my last courses I started to apply for jobs from translation agencies and before completing my language studies I found myself as a part-time translator, with some regular clients that provided a decent amount of work every week.

The year after finishing my degree I almost became a full-time translator and my career as a freelancer just started.

Challenges faced by a beginner freelance translator

But not everything in the garden is rosy. 

You come across many new situations, facing challenging decisions and struggling to get your job done the best you can.

When you are an employee, you have a regular income stream; you don’t have to deal with payment issues, and your job allows you to enjoy a reasonable work-life balance.

As a freelancer, these benefits vanish, and you find yourself looking for clients, dealing with accounting, taxes, invoicing, payments, and the list goes on.

I wish I had the chance to take advantage of all the management tools available today.

The beginnings are the hardest part until you get the hang of it, gather momentum and get used to.

After receiving dozens of requests per week from would-be and even experienced translators, I realized that many of them make some important errors. 

So, let’s move on to outline some basic recommendations I believe every single would-be translator should follow at the early stages of his/her career.

My recommendations for a beginner freelance translator

The translation industry is and has been always on the rise.

According to Statista, only in the US translation industry will amount to nearly 5 billion USD in 2023.

Translation industry is on the rise, paving the way for a beginner freelance translator to enter the market.
The rising trend in the translation industry opens the doors to beginner freelance translators.

It’s no wonder many beginner translators are entering this market following the trend.

So I would like to share some recommendations I believe beginner freelance translator should follow to success.

Content of Emails

When writing an email to apply for a job from a translation agency, be clear, concise and get to the point.

Every week I receive dozens of emails from beginner translators asking for jobs and proposing a collaboration.

Many of them struggle to describe their educational background, skills, and suitability for some language pairs and translation domains. 

I understand their point. They are trying to be as much detailed as possible to convince the reader that he or she is a good fit for some specific linguistic tasks.

But most forget that the reader is mostly a busy person who probably will leave several important tasks uncompleted at the end of the day. 

Most of these emails will end up in the trash folder. But don’t worry, this is common so keep going.

The question is how do you have to organize your email’s content to increase the likelihood of drawing the attention of your recipient?

You want to make things easy for your reader and your message should be brief, clear, concise and appealing.

Then, try to offer something of interest to your reader, such as hands-on experience in your domain plus a master or degree in languages.

Do your research and try to send your message to a person whose name you know.

I’ve received tons of emails where you can conclude the sender is delivering the message to unknown recipients!

This makes the conversation impersonal and your recipient will be less interested in reading your message.

Structure Of Emails

Write an email with over 2-3 paragraphs of less than 30-40 words each.

Your reader will glance through your email’s content at the speed of light (if so) and she/he will probably get overwhelmed facing a lot of large text blocks.

A brief and concise message will entice your reader to look at it.

Use the first paragraph to introduce yourself (including language pairs, years of experience and specialization) and to express your desire to collaborate.

Your second paragraph should include your rates (per source word, hourly, minimum fee) and should mention your availability to complete a short (300 words at most) sample translation.

Use your last paragraph to thank your addressee for reading your note and express your willingness to respond to any queries.

Finally, attach your CV to your email. There are a lot of resources available online with plenty of tips to write a great CV.

That’s it.

Final thoughts

A beginner freelance translator should avoid offering translation services from a source language to a non-native target language.

If you want to succeed as a professional translator you have to provide high-quality translations and an outstanding translation service overall.

It’s not workable nor recommended translating to a target language other than your native one.

You will never achieve the mastery level of a native speaker, so if you go this way you are at a competitive disadvantage as compared with all native speakers in the target language.

Furthermore, this is not professionally accepted in most countries. I agree with this.

Remember, if you are addressing your email to a translation agency your point of contact is the Vendor Manager, not the Project Manager ;).

I hope this brief post will help you get way more clients and consolidate your client’s portfolio.

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