Day: October 23, 2020

How to Become a freelance Translator: A Guide to Turning Language Skills into extra Income

Being able to speak and write two or more languages fluently is a real skill and one that can be turned into a lucrative additional or primary source of income. Before calling around for translation jobs, however, there are a few things to consider which I learned while working for Jinding Translation (金鼎翻译). Here is a quick guide to the most important.

Time Management for freelance Translators

For anyone considering doing freelance translation work in addition to a paid job, it is important to think about the reasons for doing this and how much time can be invested in finding and completing assignments. Is the goal to make a little extra money every month to help with bills? Or is this the first step towards a new career? A freelance existence can be quite unpredictable – this is exactly what attracts some people to it – and clients often pop up with jobs that had not been discussed at all until that day.

Questions worth answering are:

  • How many hours a week can you spend on your freelance work?
  • Are you prepared to work weekends or take on last-minute jobs?
  • Are you actively going to market yourself?

What to Charge for Translation Work

Yes, money is a dirty word but unfortunately one that can’t be avoided. Even translators who are just setting out should make sure they are paid fairly. One of the first decisions to make is how to charge for work: per word, per hour or per job. Sometimes this is determined by the client who, for example, may have a certain budget and will offer a fixed price so that there is no risk of going over budget. Mostly, however, translators charge per word (based on the word count of the original text), and this is also what clients expect.

If charging an hourly rate, work out how many words you think you can translate in an hour, making sure not to underestimate. Of course, this depends to some extent on the kind of material being translated – a children’s book will take less time than a technical user’s manual – but it is a good idea to have an average figure in mind in advance. It is also worth considering whether to charge a higher rate for last-minute or weekend jobs.

Look around the local area and find out what the going rate is for translation and price yourself competitively. Charge too much and potential clients may go elsewhere, but charge too little and you send out the message that you don’t value your own work.

How to Build a freelance Translator Portfolio

As a starting translator, it is imperative to build a portfolio of work as soon as possible, as clients will often ask about prior experience. This also helps build confidence in your abilities. Translations that cover a wide range of industries and subject matter will also increase your chances of getting more jobs in the future. Remember that there are other translators out there with more experience, so don’t be too choosy about the jobs you do initially (if necessary, do a couple of jobs for free for charities or organizations with limited funds). You can start cherry-picking once you have established a track record and client list.

Anyone with a qualification in or specialist knowledge of a certain topic or industry should certainly pursue translation opportunities in this area. Once you have a few general jobs under your belt, you can also decide whether to focus on translations in your area of expertise. While it may be possible to charge higher rates in a niche area, this is also limiting and the amount of work could be less.

Training and Education for Translators

A feel for language and the ability to turn a good phrase is more important than a qualification in translation. However, if translation could become a new career, it is worth finding out about local possibilities to gain a recognized translation certificate. This can add to your credibility.


Successful freelancers are also good networkers, so start building a network immediately. And remember that it takes much more effort to find a new client than it does to keep a happy existing client. By consistently submitting top-quality translations on deadline, it is very likely clients will keep coming back and pass your name on to their contacts.