When an individual completes their university translation training program, there is often a lot of excitement at the prospect of becoming a freelance translator. However, translation is just as competitive a marketplace as the world of finance; getting started is not as easy as you might think.
Although it is a good idea to gain working experience with a translation agency, many of them are reluctant on extending contracts to inexperienced translators, soliciting business clients directly is difficult without commercial tools, in addition to the fact that there are governmental and tax regulations to consider in order to become a self-employed person. All in all it can be an extremely complicated and frustrating situation. The question is: how can you maneuver through this maze so you can become a successful freelance translator?
As you near the completion date of your studies, it’s a good idea to seek out internship or trainee positions with a reputable “full service” type translation firms. Many times a translation agency may not have the immediate capacity or resources to hire you, but will be receptive to this type of arrangement, which will provide you with excellent practical training post which will help you gain practical experience in a commercial environment. In many cases, internships evolve into salaried positions or serve as an effective reference for a career in the translation business.
The income potential as a freelance translator will be much greater after 1 to 2 years as a salaried agency employee, plus it will afford you the benefit of real world experience with the circumstances that surround the business of translation. During this period of time, you will be able set aside funds to purchase the equipment and supplies you will need as a freelance translator.
The majority of your time with an agency will be under the auspices of a seasoned translator who will serve as mentor and oversee your work, they will guide you around the common pitfalls, help you minimize your shortcomings and maximize the areas where you excel by working with a variety of documentation, as well as the tools of the trade that are vital to every translator.
With practical experience as a translator in an agency environment, you are in a position to begin soliciting your own clients on part-time basis. Soliciting business clients directly, contracts and fees will be discussed in another section, but it is most important to discuss your activity with the agency to avoid conflict of interests.
To begin your freelance work quest, you should discuss the realities of freelance work with a few seasoned translators. As a freelancer, you will no longer be able to avail yourself of the agency equipment, you will need to invest in the tools you need to work on your own, in addition to creating a supportive environment to perform your work.
Prepare an introduction package that includes your personal details, curriculum vitae (resume) and a cover letter to a select number of professional translation firms, corporate and governmental translation departments, highlighting your work experience. Be prepared and willing to complete a free test translation.
In addition, you will need to enquire of the tax and governmental requirements to register as a self-employed person within your jurisdiction.
The goal is to acquire at least 20 hours of freelance work which will enable you to resign your agency position, which will afford you the time you need to solicit new business clients and support yourself. A freelance translator can earn as much in 20 hours as a full-time translator in salaried employment.
If you use these guidelines, you will find your entry into the business of translation much less frustrating and be able to establish yourself within a reasonable amount of time successfully.
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