Start a Freelance Translation Business: A Guide for New Translators

freelance translation business
Image from Pixabay

Do you speak more than one language?

Do you know someone who does?

Are you an experienced translator looking for a new challenge?

Do you want to become self-employed and work from home?

Translating documents can be a very lucrative business to get into. With the global market becoming increasingly connected with each passing year, businesses are looking for people that have the linguistic skills to translate their content into different languages. This makes it possible for people without fluency in other languages to break into an industry they might not otherwise be able to enter.

This article is the perfect guide for beginner translators who are interested in starting their own freelance translation business. We’ll walk through all of the steps, including how to set up your online presence, find clients, manage finances, and more.

But before we start discussing how this process works, let’s talk about what being a translator means and how much it pays off financially.

Freelance translator meaning

A freelance translator is an individual who has fluency in a language and can translate documents from one form to another. Translators can convert written text into different languages while maintaining its original meaning, tone of voice, or style so that it is still understandable by the new audience.

Translating freelance business models

Translation agencies: Many freelance translators find clients through freelance translation agencies that work as mediators between the translators and businesses. Agencies find clients looking for translations done, but don’t have enough staff to complete them all themselves or can’t afford a full-time employee. They post their projects on these websites so freelancers from around the world have access to it and choose how much they want to charge for the project.

Freelance websites: Other freelance translators work directly with clients that are looking to translate documents themselves, through freelance websites like UpWork or Freelancer. These freelancers can also find their own projects on these sites and bid for them by offering their services at a lower price than other individuals might be willing to.

Translation freelance work process

Once you’ve found a client that needs your translation services, it’s time to begin the actual translation. You can contact them via email, Zoom, or Skype so they can give you more information about what exactly they need to be translated and how quickly they need their final product back.

Make sure you only take on projects you are capable of doing on time. This way you don’t have to turn down future jobs that may pay more.

Once the client has given their final approval on your translation, they will ask when it is due back by and how much they owe for this project. You can choose which payment method works best for both parties (bank transfer, PayPal, etc.) and then send them their final version.

This process can continue as long as you have clients that need more translations done, so it’s important to keep up with your workload if you want to be successful at this freelance business model.

Translation rates for freelance work

There is no “standard rate” of pay when translating documents. The only way to come up with the price you want to charge for your freelance work is by finding out how much other translators are charging.

While many people believe that freelance jobs should be priced according to an hourly rate, this usually doesn’t make sense when it comes to translating documents because of all the time and effort put into research before starting the project, the usage of software to convert one language into another and other factors that may affect your translation speed.

A better way freelance translators charge for their work is by taking a look at all these different factors involved in translating documents and coming up with an even price based on how much they think it’s worth. Here are some common freelance rates to help you get started:

  • 100 words for $20.00
  • 1000 words for $100.00 (this price is usually charged by freelance websites and translation agencies that work with multiple translators)
  • 2000 words for $180.00 ($90 per thousand)

Freelance rates can vary depending on the client, type of document, and other factors, but this is a good way to come up with your freelance rates for documents.

How to start a freelance translation business?

Thinking of starting a freelancer translator business? Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started.

Identify your niche and target market

The first thing you’ll need to do is identify the niche and target market that will be most beneficial for your freelance translation business.

At this point, it doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie translator or an experienced professional. We’ll go through all of the steps involved in setting up shop, including how to choose your language combination and market.

How to choose a language combination and market

choose a language combination
Image from Pixabay

The first step to starting a freelance translation business is choosing the language combination and target market that will be most beneficial for you. You want to choose something you would enjoy working on; however, it’s also important not to make your choices too narrow, or else you’ll struggle with competition in your niche.

As you make your choices remember to consider your skills and expertise. It will be unwise to market yourself as knowledgeable in translating medical lingo when you have zero experience in the field.

As a beginner translator, we would advise going for general translation jobs. Before taking on any translation work, consider the source country and the destination country. Are the terminologies used in the two countries similar? Any distinct differences you need to be aware of?

Create your personal brand

By creating your personal brand you will be able to stand out from the crowd. You don’t want freelance translators who are at a similar experience level as yourself taking on all of the work, otherwise, it’s difficult for freelance translators to grow their client base.

How do I create my personal brand?

Personal branding is an important part of freelance translation. By creating your brand you will be able to stand out from the crowd and attract more clients who are interested in working with freelance translators.

Logo: Your first step is to create a logo for yourself, this could either be an image or other mark that represents you and/or what you do as a freelance translator. Here’s a list of freelance logo designers if you don’t know where to start.

Website: Once your brand is established, it’s time to set up a website for yourself as a freelance translator. Your website should be able to communicate who you are and what you do as well as provide the information prospective clients need to hire freelance translators like yourself.

Your credentials: Having freelance translating experience is great, but it’s equally important to have credentials that show you’re knowledgeable about the industry. You can do this by having professional certificates or relevant degrees in translation on your website.

Writing style: Your freelance translation business should have an online writing voice that will help it stand out from the crowd and attract more clients looking to hire freelance translators like yourself. You can look at competitors’ websites for inspiration on your website, but you’ll also want to consider how your brand is portrayed through written content so keep in mind consistency.

Blog: Having a freelance translation blog is an excellent way to attract more freelance work and stay connected with other freelance translators. You can use your freelance website as the hosting platform for your blog. If you need help getting started feel free to check out our list of freelance blogging platforms.

Marketing your freelance translation business: Once you have a website up and running, it’s time to market yourself as a freelance translator. You can use social media or guest post on websites that are relevant for freelance translators to get the word out about your brand new freelance translation business!

Network: The last step of creating a credible online presence as a freelance translator is networking with other freelance translators and language professionals through networks like LinkedIn. This will help freelance translators grow their client base and generally become more successful in the industry.

Develop a freelance translation business plan

Now that you’ve chosen your target language combination, it’s time to develop an actual freelance translation business plan with milestones for the first year of operation. This is where we’ll determine how much money you need to start up in addition to what potential clients are looking for when hiring freelance translators.

Setting up your freelance translation business online

There are many ways to go about setting up your freelance translation business. Today, we’ll be discussing how you can do this for free. We’re going to walk through the steps involved in establishing an account on Upwork (formerly oDesk). This is a website that connects freelance translators with clients who need freelance services.

Creating a freelance account on Upwork

The first step in setting up your freelance translation business online is to create a freelancer account. This will work as the basis of your profile page when applying for jobs or posting projects. You’ll want to make sure you have at least two recommendations, good English skills, and examples of previous freelance work.

Read our guide on how to create a freelancer profile that stands out.

Registering your freelance translation business name

This is an important step if you want to take on freelance clients and start making money as a freelance translator quickly. You’ll need to register the name of your freelance company so it’s not taken when applying for jobs or posting projects. This also shows that you’re serious about running a legitimate freelance translation business.

Setting up social media accounts

While you don’t need to use every single platform available, we recommend establishing a presence on at least Facebook and LinkedIn. These are the two most popular social websites out there for freelance translators like yourself. It’s also important not to mix personal profiles with those of your freelance company so keep this in mind.

Creating freelance translation website

Once you determine your target language combination, it’s time to set up a freelance translation website. We recommend using WordPress as it provides all the necessary plugins for running a successful freelance business online. You’ll want to register a domain name and choose hosting packages before getting started so follow our blog post on how to set up a freelance translation website in under an hour.

Setting prices for freelance translations

The final step of creating your online freelance business is establishing guidelines on how to charge clients. We recommend charging by the word because it’s straightforward, but you can also use other methods like a per project or hourly rates so do some research before getting started.

Check out our guide on how to negotiate for higher freelance rates.

Start freelance translation work

Now that your freelance business is up and running, you can start applying for freelance jobs online! The first thing to do as a new translator is to take on small projects like proofreading an article or website. You should also consider taking on transcription jobs as it provides necessary experience working with clients from all over the world.

Once you’ve created all these elements, everything should be in place to start attracting freelance clients!

As you can see, there are many different ways freelance translators go about finding work that doesn’t involve working directly under an employer or agency. Whether it be through starting their own freelance websites, on marketplaces like Upwork or Freelancer, or working with translation agencies, freelance translators can find clients without having to worry about being employed by someone else.

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