A guide for a career in translation

So you really want to become a translator?

If you wish to become a freelance translator, these pages will guide you through essential points for succeeding in a career in translation. The career guide was devised by Mecki Testroet, a long-term freelance translator. First of all, it gives comprehensive guidance to students who are considering setting up in business. However, even established translators may improve their chances of getting work by adopting some of the sound business practices presented here.

You need to consider many factors before deciding on a career in translation. Therefore, our guide tries to cover as many of these as possible. Initially, the translators’ career guide discusses the issue “employed or self-employed, what difference does it make?”
Next, it analyses prerequisites for a career in translation, whether as an employed or a freelance translator:

Finally, the career guide introduces you to essential skills for freelance translators:

Last but not least, we suggest you visit the national careers service’s pages for more information on what you need to do to become a freelance or staff translator. However, before you read on, you may want to consider the following:

What does a freelance translator’s working day look like?

  • Check emails throughout the day to see if any requests for quotations have come in.
  • Provide quotations for translation jobs after evaluating documents.
  • Work on current translation(s), recreating important details such as layout, facts, feel and meaning of source text in the target language – grammatically correct, fluently and complete – using software as specified by the client.
  • Use translation memory software if appropriate. It ensures consistency of language use and can improve productivity in a commercial environment.
  • Proofread and edit translated text at least twice (first for content, then for errors), ideally with a break in between.
  • Ask fellow translators’, experts’ or client’s advice if necessary.
  • Use all available resources to find the closest target language equivalent for terminology, starting with general dictionaries, progressing to specialist ones, finally searching online dictionaries and target language sources.
  • Prepare invoice. Send off translation and invoice to appropriate recipients (not always the same address)

What else is part of a translator’s working day?

  • Develop specialist and general knowledge, improve Internet research skills.
  • Prioritise work to ensure meeting deadlines.
  • Network on forums/translators’ chat areas and make contacts.
  • Marketing their translation business (develop and maintain their website, register with agencies, register with online directories, Yellow Pages if you live in a conurbation)
  • Keep records for preparation of annual tax return or accounts; carry out credit control.
  • Keep practising your first and second language, seek contact in both languages, written and orally. Keep up to date with changes.

Is that all?

Does a freelance translator’s working day really look like this?

The above list is the sanitized version. As freelance translators mostly work from home, there will be various interruptions during the working day:

  • Taking children to school and picking them up.
  • Answering various phone calls.
  • Getting sidetracked by interesting websites.
  • Not answering the door to Jehovah’s witnesses.
  • Eating and drinking.
  • Taking the dog for a walk.
  • Exercising and stretching.

You get the picture. Working from home is a constant juggling act between private and business commitments. Therefore, good translators need to have first-rate prioritising skills. Find more information on how to be a successful translator on the following pages.

Accurate, confidential, efficient and reliable English-German translations

Professionally qualified German translator into English and English into German, offering first class translation services for commercial, industrial, governmental and private clients.

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