People just starting out in the translation industry often struggle with the issue of specialization: what should they specialize in, how important is it to specialize, how does one decide what area to specialize in and, probably most importantly, what are the most requested specializations.
In this post, we’ll go over some general guidelines when it comes to translation specializations, although, of course, there are no hard and fast rules.
- Choose a Topic You’ll Enjoy Researching
If you’re going to specialize then it might as well be something you enjoy researching, and perhaps a way to work out what you might enjoy is to ask yourself the following question: ‘When you pick up a news magazine, what section do you go to first – the health section, finance, business, technology? If it’s a subject you enjoy learning about, then that’s a potential specialization for you.
- The Larger the Language, the More You’ll Need a Specialization
The larger the language you’re working with, the more you’ll need to specialize. If you live in the United States, translators working with smaller diffusion languages like Thai or Finnish have no need to specialize: it would be impractical because there are so few of them working in these languages. However, if you’re a translator working with Spanish, German or French languages, then you’ll need to specialize so you can find your niche in what is a large market.
- Do You Already Have a Strong Background in a Certain Area?
It’s simply a fact that many translators are self-taught when it comes to their specializations. Specialization can indeed be a daunting thought, and many people believe that in order to specialize they’ll need to go back to school or take university courses. The fact is that many translators already have a strong background in their area of specialization, so obviously if you enter the translation arena as a former attorney, physician, or financial analyst, it’s highly likely that you’ll earn a higher income than someone who learned their technology on the job. But don’t let this intimidate you: you can still specialize in any area that interests you.
- Specializing Can Lead to a Lot More Work
You may be surprised to learn that specialization often leads to more work, not less. Clients who are familiar with your specialization will consider you their go-to person for translating documents in your area of expertise. One of the best ways of making more money when working as a freelance translator is to work quicker, and it makes sense that the more familiar you become with the terminology of the documents you’re working on, the faster you’ll be translating.
- Choose an Area of Specialization That’s In-Demand
Of course, the idea is to earn more money through your area of specialization, so when making your choice, choose an area that you know is in-demand. Some of these areas include finance, law, computer software and hardware, medicine, automotive, medical instrumentation, patents, environmental science, technology, advertising, general business documents, pharmaceuticals, engineering, and hard science.
- Take Extra Courses in Your Area of Expertise
Once you’ve discovered a specialization that you really enjoy, then you might want to consider going deeper into that area. The perfect way of positioning yourself ahead of your competition is to take a course in your specialization’s terminology, or even spend a day at an industrial facility or place of business that works in your specialization. Now you can let your clients know about your advanced knowledge in your specialization!