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6 Skills Every Successful (Freelance) Translator Must Have

Freelance translator graphics
6 Skills Every Successful (Freelance) Translator Must Have
on June, 25 2015
Freelance translator graphics

Image Copyright: By 7880s / 123RF Stock Photo

There are many benefits to being a freelance translator. As you own your working hours, your income depends on how busy you want to be and how steady your stream of clients is. While luck has something to do with your success as a freelancer, there are skills that you need to hone to make your freelancing venture a success. Here they are.

1. Language skills

You need to be very fluent in the source and target languages. Likewise it is very important that you are a native speaker of the target language. In addition, you must be a very excellent writer in your native language. While it takes a special person to be able to translate into a language that is not their native tongue, most translation firms do not consider freelancers for professional translation work if they are not native speakers. One of the things that can help you enhance your skills is to live or at least spend a majority of your time in the country where the language is your source language. Aside from this, you must have a deep understanding of the cultural differences between the source and the target language.

2. Reading and comprehension skills

Being fluent or nearly fluent in the source language, not only in speaking but also in reading and comprehension, is a mark of a successful translator. This will make you fully understand the source texts and comprehend what you are translating. Just like how you can achieve fluency in your source language, it is great if you can spend time in the country where the source language is spoken, and augment it by watching, listening to and reading materials in that language. Taking language courses in the source language of your choice is beneficial, too. Always make sure that you use the right language and style guide references.

3. Knowledge of your strengths

Part of being a successful freelancer is the ability to know your strengths. You do not need to take every translation job that comes your way. There is a greater benefit in specialization. If you are bilingual and have years of experience in a particular field or subject matter, then this could be your starting point. It will also be easier to market your services, as you have a deep knowledge of the subject matter.

4. Mastery of computer and keyboarding skills

Although you are not required to be a computer expert, you should demonstrate your knowledge and ability to navigate through several computer programs. Mastering this will show that you are efficient and therefore has a higher chance of getting employed. There are also CAT tools that you have to use and master. As a bonus, it would be great if you learn image manipulation and editing programs like Photoshop and desktop publishing, as there are clients that require such services as well. Knowledge of HTML is beneficial too.

5. Self-employment skills

Skills such as customer service, sales and marketing are needed when you want to be a freelancer. If you do not want to join an agency as a freelancer, you must learn to market your services. You need to develop your customer service skills, negotiation skills as well as be good at organization and time management and be tenacious and determined to be a success. There are short courses about marketing, business processes and customer service which you can take.

6. Education and certification

Education is very important. You do not need to have a degree in translation, but it is necessary to have a university degree and a certification or qualification in translation. There are courses available in your area of specialization to improve your skills.

As a freelance translator, your success is dependent on several skills, which you can continue to enhance through continuing education, research, self-discipline and keen business sense.

Do you agree that all of these skills are needed to become a successful translator? Are there any other skills that you think one must possess to be effective in this job? We would love to hear your take on this subject. Write your feedback on the comments section below.

Day Translations Team

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  • Jacqueline de Paula

    I definitely agree with you. Being a freelance translator demands a lot of study, persistence and language skills. I also believe that as a professional connected to languages, it's mandatory to have a general knowledge of politics, economy and culture. That helps a lot!

    • Sean Hopwood

      Thanks a lot for your input Jacqueline. Please feel free to connect with us to discuss translation. We are all about building relationships.

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