How to Become a Freelance Translator and Get Your First Client

Andrea Williams

Have you ever wondered what other freelance opportunities are out there? Do you speak a second or even third language fluently?

If so, then you may want to consider freelance translation. In the past, I found this to be a very good freelance opportunity and I have friends who pursued it as their main income stream.

If you want to learn how to start out as a freelance translator then read on! I will share my top tips on how to become a freelance translator.

Freelance Translation

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Although some companies require you to have a translation degree, I found that many are very flexible on this especially if a translation job requires specialist knowledge and this matches your previous working experience.

So if you are currently working in content marketing or writing your own blog and can speak another language fluently don’t be intimidated by this requirement. There are certainly plenty of opportunities out there where a translation degree is not needed.

A word of advice:

It will take some time to have enough clients for you to support yourself fully through freelance transition and work can be very sporadic or even the opposite.

However, it is also very flexible as you can determine your own hours and how many jobs you accept. From my personal experience, it takes about 6 month to 2 years, depending on how much client outreach you do to build up a client list which could replace your main income.

How to Win Your First Client

The best way to win new clients is through word of mouth and recommendations from past clients. This will happen over time. However, how do you attract your first client? This can be tricky but persistence is key here.

I found my first client on a normal job hunting site like Indeed. For me, that was a much better way to find my first client than struggling to cut through the volume of well-established translators on specialised platforms. There you are competing with people who have years of experience so a bit of leg work will pay off here!

However, if you would prefer to give one of the freelance platforms a go I recommend trying People Per Hour as it allows you to set a rate per hour.

My recommendation is to scan established translators for your language combination to see what kind of information they are sharing in their profiles and how much they charge.

In the beginning, when you don’t have any reviews, try and set your rate a bit lower than other translators. You can raise it once you have had a few positive reviews from clients. I do recommend to raise it once you completed 1-3 jobs. Don’t cut yourself short!

Don’t worry, once you have landed a few clients time spent on winning new clients will reduce but my advice is never to stop pitching for new work.

You never know when one client who has supplied you with steady work has to freeze the budget! Be prepared for this and never rely on just one client no matter how much work they promise you. Always lookout for new potential clients.

This is also a great way to raise your rate in case one client is hesitant to increase your rate when you would like to increase it.

How Much Can I Expect To Earn as a Freelance Translator?

This is a tricky question as it depends what your language combination is and how much experience you’ve got. If you have studied translation you may be able to charge more. And if you are specialised in a well-sought-after field you can set a higher rate.

You will find that there are different ways how people quote for translation work. Often it is per word or per 1,000 words so you will have to calculate how much you want to earn per hour. For this you first have to know how many words you can realistically translate in an hour. My recommendation here is to calculate this per 45 min to ensure you can take breaks and that you have some additional time for admin.

So set an hourly rate you are happy with and calculate what the rate per word is. I found that communication with the client, especially new clients who may not have worked with a translator before take some time in emailing back and forth. If you factor this into your translation cost you can ensure that you are not selling yourself short.

A good rule of thumb is that you should charge between US$0.10 to US$0.17 per word if you translate without using a CAT tool. If a CAT tool like Trados or Wordfast is used pay tends to be lower as the tool memorizes words and speeds up your work significantly.

I was averaging about £20 to £30 per hour doing English-German translation.

My Top Tips For New Freelance Translators

These are my top tips to keep in mind when starting out as a freelance translator:

  1. Figure out your rate

Before contacting your first client or accepting a job figure out what your rate should be. You want to come across and professional and being confident in the rate you charge is very important!

  • Ensure you are taking enough breaks.

When accepting a new project ensure the deadline is realistic. Consider other jobs you have accepted and see how this new project fits in. Don’t try to work night and day to hit a crazy deadline. Most clients I worked with were quite flexible on deadlines and I could usually work out a later deadline if necessary.

  • Don’t work for free

Yes, it is customary that a new client will ask for a short sample of your work. They may send you a short paragraph to translate as a test. Sometimes this is even paid! Often it is not but don’t accept any sample translation more than about 300 words. It is just a sample, don’t start translating and working for free!

  • Build up a network of other freelance translators

This is helpful to find new clients. Yes, really! I could build up my network of new clients in just a few months because I already knew other translators.

Often, if one translator is too busy they may ask another translator they know to take over a client. Or if you are a translator for English into German but out of a sudden the client also needs a Spanish translator they will usually ask the translators they already know first for recommendations. These are easy wins!

Hope these tips on how to become a freelance translator will help you on your freelance journey! It is a fun and flexible job that allows you to work from home at your own speed.

If you follow these tips you should be well on your way to finding your first client very soon. Good luck!

How to Become a Freelance Translator and Get Your First ClientHow to Become a Freelance Translator and Get Your First Client

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