How to be a Freelance Translator

Freelance TranslatorLanguage is what sets all of us apart. It is what defines us and defines the culture to which we belong. It is an important aspect of life. Many learn foreign languages for a variety of reasons; some simply wish to be able to speak more than one language, while some wish to travel to far off destinations, while others aim for good-paying jobs as translators for dignitaries and bureaucrats in high-ranking official posts, and huge conglomerates.

People explore Freelance translation as a career option for many reasons. It is a high paying, respected job and it enables you to enrich your learning of a language or a culture.

It is one of the top career options if you wish to make money and learn a new language. Consider a man who can speak English, Hindi and Chinese. Such a man can interact with more than 3 billion people on Earth. Can you think of the applications of such a skill?

Job Duties for Freelance Translator

Translators and interpreters are usually responsible for understanding and translating one language to another, for varying modes of communication. Of the many duties that you will end up performing as a translator, some of the important ones include:

  • Enabling effective communication between two parties that speak different languages, by converting one spoken or written language to another
  • Mediating discussions and acting as official translator
  • Relaying concepts and ideas between two languages
  • Translating written material from one language into another, such as books, publications, or web pages
  • Editing and proofreading text to reflect accurate language use.
  • Receiving and submitting assignments electronically.
  • Translating languages at meetings such as attorney-client meetings, preliminary hearings, arraignments, depositions, and trials
  • Interpreting both legal terminology and colloquial language
  • Providing language services to healthcare patients with limited English proficiency


Learning another language and translating it to one, you know; seems straightforward? It rarely is. Skills that you must have to become a good translator, would include many skills apart from the obvious learning another language.

Some desirable skills that a translator must have include:

  • Understanding the diverse genres of both source and target verbal/oral communications
  • Listening skills to be able to grasp the foreign language in use
  • An understanding of dialects of a language and being able to detect subtle changes in dialect
  • An ability to understand different figures of speech and literary devices in the source and target languages
  • An understanding of Socio-cultural frameworks
  • People skills, Interpersonal skills

You can develop these skills through many platforms. Some websites that offer courses online include SCPS, UToronto, Words to Deeds, Languages and Translationand Translator tips. These sites offer free and paid for courses on both translation skills and foreign languages, where you can learn from the comfort of your desk and begin earning good money as soon as you finish.

Being successful as a Freelance translator

Freelance translation is one of the top-paying freelance jobs in the market today. The reason is simple enough: globalisation of English and the need for foreign corporations and countries to stake their claim for organisations to set up and prosper in countries where languages differ.

There are many bumps and minor hiccups that most freelancers face, with no colleagues to moan too, or to share lunches with and the instability caused by the absence of a weekly cheque. However, one can become successful, or indeed set off down the path to success, by following certain tips, as;

  • Creating an eye-catching website, and promoting a daily blog
  • Getting out of your comfort zone as a translator, i.e. taking up advanced jobs which require a deeper understanding of languages and socio-cultural norms
  • Being adept at translation and quick to spot dialects
  • Being open to learning
  • Marketing yourself

Average Remunerations

Translators at the top of the food chain usually earn more money than mid-level experience holders and usually work at government agencies with high-ranking officials.

They are the ones who act as mediators during speeches and even address the public, if needed. Translators are important as a correct translation ensures that the right message was passed.

As with other freelance opportunities, there are essentially two types of engagements offered, the fixed-price model, and the hourly payment model. Therefore, what can you earn as a freelance translator?

Estimated budgets for fixed-price engagements usually fall in the ranges of $20-500, with budgets sometimes even exceeding the maximum of $500, while hourly models pay anywhere from $5- 35 an hour, with most top translators offering their services for an average of $23 an hour.

You may have to settle for lower salaries at the beginning, but rest assured that once you do become recognised, jobs would not be hard to come.

Finding work

It is not tough to find work as a freelance translator. It is easily one of the most in-demand freelance opportunities available today and many websites and online forums offer work for translators all around the globe.

As with other freelance initiatives, the first agenda you must have is to create a Facebook page and market the services you offer. Furthermore, invite your friends, family and acquaintances to like the page.

Apart from advertising your services online, the other options you can consider include websites like Elance,  Odesk, Peopleperhour, Freelancer and Guru which offer many jobs for translation services. Elance and Odesk offer the highest number of jobs for this particular skill, but that may well change in the future.


There is an abundance of learning resources for people like you, who wish to become translators. There are websites, which feature paid and free instructional courses on Translation. You can learn how to take amazing pictures online, by simply watching an instructional video.

Some of the website resources on offer, include popular websites like SCPS, UToronto, Words to Deeds, Languages and Translationand Translator tips, which offer free and paid for courses on both translation skills and foreign languages expertise.

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