The flexibility offered by working as a freelance translator certainly has its perks, but being your own boss presents its own set of challenges (and the occasional headache). Here are some tips for those of you considering the move to freelance translation or interpreting.
»Master the Business Side
When you’re a freelance translator, your responsibilities extend beyond those of crafting a high quality translation. In addition to doing the actual work of translation, you have to run your own business. As a self-employed freelancer you will be responsible for marketing yourself, making proposals for projects, collecting payments, tracking your finances, purchasing equipment, etc. The keys to running a successful business – as with most worthwhile endeavors – are having a long-range plan and staying organized.
Since translation is primarily a solitary activity, networking is of utmost importance. Actively seeking out relationships with other translators can reap rewards in terms of feedback, generating leads, sharing knowledge, and yes, even socializing. Consider joining one of the many professional societies for translators and interpreters such as the American Translators Association (ATA) or the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters (IAPTI), and attend as many professional development events and seminars as your schedule and finances allow.
»Check and Double Check
Many times as a freelancer you won’t have the fallback assurance of an editor or QA team to proof and/or revise your translation. Always proofread your work multiple times, and for really key projects, consider having a trusted colleague review your translation for errors (you know, one of those people you met through networking!). Consistently providing top notch, error-free deliverables will get you noticed by providers.
»Have Confidence in the Value of Your Work
Once you have settled upon a fair yet competitive rate for your work, stick to it; don’t sell yourself short. Most clients recognize the relationship of quality to price, and those that don’t generally learn the hard way. Also, consider charging a rush rate or weekend surcharge for projects assigned at the last minute or with a Monday morning deadline. Remember: if you don’t value your time and talents, no one else will.
For additional tips for freelance translators, see this post.