More Tips on How to be a Professional Translator

September 16th, 2009
If you're a newly graduated translator-to-be, then you have a lot to look forward to—namely, working in a professional translation agency complete with fully experienced human translation experts and machine translation assistants or setting up your own freelance translation service at the comfort of your own home via the magic of the worldwide web. Of course, nothing is that simple in life, and you'll have to exert a lot of effort in order to break into this line of work. Once you do though, it's well worth the wait, struggles, and difficulties. As such, here are several more tips you can use in order to enter the brave new world of the human translation industry.
  • Enter a professional translation firm first: To a certain extent, you can enter the freelance translation service industry from the get go—that is, right after you graduate—but you'll be risking quite a lot by doing so, especially if you're a novice translator with zero experience.
Therefore, after completing your studies, it's recommended for you to first find employment in a versatile and multifaceted translation agency and spend a couple of years worth of "on-the-job training" in order to hone your skills in the fine art of professional translation. Your superiors should also guide your progress and make you aware of your translation strengths and weaknesses. Although the pay from a company job may be less than what you could get from a freelance translation job, the experience you'll be attaining is priceless. It's far better to make mistakes and be corrected during your entry-level years than to look amateurish during a solo translation project.
  • Become a trainee first if you can't find translation agency employment: Again, even though being a trainee probably won't pay your bills, you'll just have to bear with it in order to get that precious work experience you so desperately need. An excellent training post will get you prepared to land that agency job or freelance work you're dying to get.
In order for you to become a decent translator, it's not enough to simply know how to read and write in two or more languages; factors like nuances, socio-political circumstances, country-specific figures of speech, and so on are important translation lessons that only work experience or real-life experience can teach you. Ergo, don't think of a training post as a step back in your career; it's instead a step forward. Besides, if you do good enough translation work while under training, the company that gave you the trainee post in the first place will probably offer you an actual job in the end.
  • Once you've gained enough experience, it's time for you to go freelance: Unless you've gotten used to the kind of compensation an employee gets out of a fairly large translation company, then a couple of years of agency work should be enough experience for you to break out into your own.
Preferably, you should first transition from a full-time contract to a part-time one so that you can still earn at least some money from the company you've slaved for throughout the years before diving head-first into freelancing. It should also give you enough time to gather the contacts and clients you'll need before establishing your own business. From there, create your own resume, submit it to the translation departments of your clients, and give freelance translation work the old college try. Even if it ultimately doesn't work out, you can always bail out and revert to doing full-time agency work once more, so there's less risk on your part. ---

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