Six things every beginning translator needs to know

Last week’s ATA conference reminded me how very intimidating and scary one’s first few years as a freelancer can be. What’s stressful? Basically everything. Everything you write or say to a client or a potential client; every translation you proofread and re-proof and re-proof, worrying that there’s a horrific error hiding in there somewhere; every marketing effort you make, worrying that it will fail, or that it will succeed and you’ll have too much work. So, as a small step toward decreasing that anxiety, here are six tips (based on past blog posts) for those starting out in our profession!

You need to know, #1: How to find good agencies to apply to. That link leads to a post I wrote in 2015, and there are also some excellent comments on it. In a nutshell: use Payment Practices or a similar tool to vet the agencies before you apply to them, follow up on all responses you receive, and ask other translators for referrals.

You need to know, #2: Whether it might be viable for you to work with direct clients right away. That link leads to a post I wrote earlier this year, and the comments include lots of first-hand advice from translators who took the direct client route, or who decided not to.

You need to know, #3: How to decide how much to charge, other than by using fear, or vague speculation about what other people are charging. This post dates back to 2008 (not that I’m feeling old…), but the information in there is still the information I give students and consulting clients today, minus the part about the euro breaking the $1.50 barrier!

You need to know, #4: What not to include in your marketing materials. This post is from 2014, and again, make sure to read the comments. It’s really hard not to fall back on a) your life story, and b) the same marketing pitch every other translator uses, but this post includes some tips on where to start.

You need to know, #5: What might cause you to fail at this. This post is still one of the most-read on my blog, and its 112 (!!) comments are well worth browsing as well. Whether you’re just considering freelancing, or whether you’re in “failure is not an option” mode, it’s important to look at the pitfalls that swallow a lot of people.

You need to know, #6: How to break out of the low rate market if you’re stuck there. Lots of translators start out working for low rates; there are valid reasons for doing that in certain, time-limited situations. But you’ll definitely burn out if you stay in the low rate market for too long. This post and its comments offer some ideas on how to move on to better work.

I hope these are helpful to the newcomers who follow this blog!

5 Responses to “Six things every beginning translator needs to know”
  1. Theo Marube November 12, 2016
  2. Jack Green November 17, 2016
    • Corinne McKay November 17, 2016
  3. David December 6, 2016
    • Corinne McKay December 6, 2016

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