Translator Online: Successful Stories & Best Tips

The path to success in freelance translation business isn’t always straight. There are often BUMPS and TURNS and FORKS in the road before finally nailing the right strategy or idea.

Well, it turns out, you can dramatically avoid them by learning through other freelance translators’ experience. Reading about the toughest times can be getting a little bit of guidance from freelance translators who have done it before.

To make a successful start as a freelance translator, you have to develop some additional skills.

For example:

You have probably heard about my post how to become a freelance translator, where I discuss essential skills to survive and thrive in the competitive world of freelance translation and localization.

But now:

Many of the most successful translators are where they are today because they took advice from people they trusted.

Here’s the deal:

I asked 5 successful translators to share the best advice they ever got and compiled some of the best tips that successful translators have shared throughout the years.

Simon Akhrameev – Russian Translator Pro

I started my career as a freelance translator in 2007 when I was a second-year student. It is not easy to find the first translation job for a student, but there is nothing impossible. I thought that I had enough skills to start with simple translation tasks and I sent my CV to local translation agencies.

A week after I was invited to a job interview and another week after the interview I got my first translation job. It is much easier to start working as a translator with industry specific companies and a translation agency is a good starting point.
As for the CV, it can be a powerful tool for translators working primarily with translation agencies. Translation recruiters process hundreds of CVs daily and it can be hard to stand out of the pack. Besides, there are certain principles that can help recruiters choose your CV out of the pile:

  • keep your CV short and informative,

  • include primary language pairs,

  • include areas of specialization and contact details.

It will be much easier to find you by language pair and specialization in a database. Also provide a short introduction, CAT software you use, your work experience and education. All these data can be placed on a single page.

Also, I have to note that today a personal website can serve as a CV and a commercial proposal all in one.

On the other hand, if you want to work more with direct clients, you should better use a format of a commercial proposal. I have launched my business website a year ago. Now I can send a single link to prospect and he/she can find enough data to make an informed decision about ordering my translation services. I use WordPress CMS for my personal website. It is simple and actually, you can start a website in just five minutes.

I have prepared a comprehensive guide that will help you start your first website without any programming skills. However, having a good CV, a commercial proposal or a website is not enough to attract clients. Today we have to use different communication channels to be able to meet competition. Thus, in addition to blogging on my personal website, I use three social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to spread information about my services and connect with other translators and potential customers.

My main activity falls within a Facebook page and a group. I also regularly post on Twitter (at least 2 tweets per day) and try to be more active on LinkedIn.

Currently, I’m exploring the opportunities of LinkedIn for freelancers. It is the largest network of professionals where we can definitely find new clients.

As a conclusion, I would like to say that all the above marketing things will not work without a high-quality product. You can have the best CV ever, the most attractive commercial proposal and a wonderful client-oriented website. But if you cannot ensure top quality transition — you are just spending your time in vain. I think that translators should constantly improve translation skills, learn new technologies and strive to perfection. Deliver quality translation and apply a professional approach to all your business activities to achieve success as a freelance translator.

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Hanna Gembus

I graduated from the Warsaw University where I studied Translation and Interpreting for Specific Purposes. After my studies, I worked as an in-house translator in a translation agency. I learned a lot during that time. After that, I moved to the UK where I found a job as an in-house translator in a luxury online store.

This work tought me responsibility. I was also responsible for hiring other translators so I know exactly how translator’s CV should look like. First of all, education and experience are not enough. When you are a translator you have to have certain skills that are visible in your translations. But of course, when I look at a CV I want to see that a potential candidate knows what translation is all about so education and experience are very important in my final decisions. The only advice I can give to potential translators on how to write a CV is that the first thing they should put on the first page is their specialization and the experience should reflect what their expertise is.

On the other hand, if you want to work more with direct clients, you should better use a format of a commercial proposal. I have launched my business website a year ago. Now I can send a single link to prospect and he/she can find enough data to make an informed decision about ordering my translation services. I use WordPress CMS for my personal website. It is simple and actually, you can start a website in just five minutes.

I was really on my own and I knew that my decisions are final so I could not afford any mistakes.

I started my translation business a few years later after I left my job as an in-house translator. Of course, my first projects were from translation agencies and after 2 years or so I started to collaborate with my own clients. After that time I decided to launch my website. I hired a company and we used WordPress templates. I just told them what and how I wanted it to look like, they took care for the technical side so I did not have to acquire additional skills to do that but I had to know what kind of information I should put on my website and how it should be presented to the potential visitors. I wanted my website to look professional but be simple to navigate. I also wanted my homepage to give my potential clients a glimpse of who I am and what kind of services I provide.

I focused on my education and experience because that’s what makes me reliable. I also decided to write a few words about each service to make sure my clients know what they can expect and how translation process looks like.

Now the real work begins because you want it to be seen by as many potential clients as possible. This is where the social media come in. Of course, it’s good to be present everywhere but you have to choose only these media which will work well for your business. For example, fashion bloggers may choose Pinterest and Instagram to present their beautiful images. I use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ for my translation business but I am also active on Instagram lately. I also use Pinterest, however, it’s mainly for fashion and food bloggers. You can also try Flipboard or Paper.li to promote your business. However, it’s better to try one or two social media when you start to see how they work and to make sure you spend enough time for each of them regularly.

Once you launch your translation business you will see that you are also an entrepreneur and you have to act like one. So apart from translation activities you will have to prepare invoices, know how to run your business, prepare a strategy – identify what your potential clients are, what kind of projects you want to have, what kind of services you provide and what differentiates you from your competition? These questions will help you find new clients and improve your offer.

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Suyash Suprabh

There is only one golden rule, that there are no golden rules. A lot depends on your circumstances. What worked for me is my passion to interact with people. I am a moderator of a very active Google group. It is always helpful to have a good online presence. Twitter is a great source of information.

Blog is a good platform to share your thoughts and expertise with fellow translators and potential clients. It is always better to work on a few good-paying projects than to exhaust yourself by working for peanut-paying agencies. You should always remember this: “If you work for a living, why do you kill yourself working?”

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KPM Translation & Language Services

I started working with agencies because I was starting my business straight out of school, without any professional translation experience. I would highly recommend this route to new freelancers, because, although you likely will not make as much money per word as you would with direct clients, the agency takes care of the administrative side of things.

Another perk of working with agencies is that you will quickly get exposure to a wide variety of texts, increasing your experience in many different areas. I would caution, however, to be sure to be selective with the agencies that you apply to (do a quick google search and check out their website) and to have a set lowest rate that you will not go lower than.

As a freelancer, it’s important to think of your CV more like a brochure than a traditional CV. It’s a good idea to give an overview of the fields and types of documents you have experience working with, any CAT tools you have worked with, your language pairs and your time zone. I also recommend including your average daily output (for example, 3,000 words/day) so that potential agencies/clients can gauge how that compares to their needs. As always, remember to be concise; oftentimes, less is more!

I created my own website through Wix. I’m not very good with design, so I had some friends help out and provide feedback. It was a very tedious process for me because I didn’t have any experience doing this kind of thing, but it worked out okay in the end.

I’m currently using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but I focus more on Twitter than the others. If you’re not very active on social media to begin with, I would suggest starting with Twitter or LinkedIn to get a feel for it.

Self-motivation, desire to continue learning and resourcefulness are all keys to successfully starting up.

Create a regular work routine for yourself, so you are not tempted to sleep in. Check to see if there are business workshops or seminars in your area that are relevant to your business. Keep on top of what other translators are doing to market their services and take advantage of the internet to connect with other freelancers.

Don’t underestimate the power of networking! In my experience, people are very gracious and are often willing to help out a newbie. Try reaching out to other translators for advice or to exchange revision of small projects. Establishing a solid professional network will make your work day feel much less solitary.

Lastly, there are some great resources out there from established freelance translators (podcasts, blogs, courses, etc.) that are worth checking out. I suggest starting out with Corinne McKay’s Thoughts on Translation and Tess Whitty’s Marketing Tips for Translators.

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Lewis Dale

I started with one direct client (in gaming). As I developed my career, I then acquired agencies as well as more direct clients. CV’s really have to be clear and legible at a glance! No one has time to read through full sentences, so list the important stuff as bullet points. This is true for both UK and Swiss / German CVs.

I created my own website with some basic WordPress skills and HTML. It’s something you can easily teach yourself, although professionals can do much more of course.
I also use private Facebook groups, Twitter, LinkedIn, Xing and The Open Mic.
It’s essential to keep learning and avoid skill stagnation! Keep abreast of industry developments. Also, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have your website available in both of your working languages!

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