What makes a good freelance translator?

by | Sep 12, 2014 | Translators' Column

You may have obtained a degree in modern languages, specialising in translation or a BA in Translating and Interpreting or a BSc in Translation Studies. Or you may have few language qualifications but simply have lived in a different country from your native one and become very good at the new language.The question is: does that necessarily make you a good freelance translator or interpreter? No. A translator must be a Jack-of-all-trades. Your skill set needs to be vast.

Learn to say no

Most importantly: when quoting for a translation job, the golden rule is: a good freelance translator never quotes for a job they are not comfortable doing.

  • If you don’t understand the source text the client has sent you, don’t offer to translate it, because it is impossible to translate well what you don’t understand.
  • If you don’t believe in the product your text is selling, then don’t accept the translation. You are not likely to do a good job.
  • The subject at hand is totally alien to you? Do not take on the translation job.
  • If the required deadline is impossible for you to keep. Say no.

To be a good freelance translator you must keep your promises

  • Don’t take on a translation, if you know you’re already pushed for time.
  • Always, always, always adhere to deadlines.
  • If, on starting with the translation of a text you find the terminology used really awkward to understand and/or research, consider talking to the client about this. The less comfortable you are with a text, the less likely your work is to result in a first-class translation. Make clients aware of your problem. Should they want you to go ahead anyway, make a note of the person you spoke with. If, in the end, the client isn’t satisfied with the finished translation, you warned them!
  • If you realise you can’t make a deadline due to unforeseen circumstances, contact your client and make alternative arrangements. Unforeseen circumstances happen, sometimes a text just takes longer than anticipated. However, don’t leave it to the last minute to tell your client. Timely discussions give your client enough time to find someone else, if need be. alternatively, they may inform you, that, actually, another day or two is not a major problem. But don’t let a deadline pass, hoping the client has forgotten what it was. That’s not very likely and a sure way to lose a customer.

Find more information on becoming a good freelance translator here.

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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