21 Ways to be a Debt-Free Translator

Real truth here about being a debt-free translator.

As a freelance translator, it’s unlikely that you’ll be making a lose to a seven figure income. In fact, most freelance language professionals are hard pressed to even make in the six figures every year.

Of course, there are exceptions, and the great thing about working as a freelancer is that you are in complete control of how much (or how little) money you make.

But even if you don’t make a million dollars a year from translating, one of the best ways you can live comfortably on the income you do make is to live debt free.

And here’s how to do it as a freelance translator.

Be a Debt-Free Translator

1. Don’t buy the latest translation software right away.

The translation software that you have (or don’t have) does not make you a better or worse translator. It has the ability to make you a more efficient translator for sure, but it does not make you any more skilled.

Instead, what it does for a lot of new translators is turn them away from being a debt-free translator.


Because translation software companies have decided that with enough marketing and persuasion, the translation community (like every other demographic out there) will feel that it can’t do its job without the latest and greatest software, which can easily cost in the thousands of dollars.

Software makers are capitalizing on transaltors’ irrational fears that without this software, we won’t be successful.

And a lot of translators believe the hype.

They spend thousands of dollars on specialized software only to realize too late one very important fact:

Translation software does not find them clients.

One more time in bold:

Translation Software Does Not Find Them Clients

You can’t be a more effficient translator if you’re actually not translating for anyone.

So stay away from expensive translation software until you have a reason to justify it.

And remember that there are free translation software packages out there.

2. Use the tools you already have before investing in new ones.

While it’s easy to get sucked into the idea that you need new translation software in order to be a successful freelance translator, it’s even easier to think that you need to have the latest and greatest hardware to have your slice of the translation market.

Again, this is false.

And this type of thinking will lead you from the black side of the ledger as a debt-free translator to the red side pretty quickly.

What do I mean by hardware?

  • computer
  • phone
  • printer
  • headphones
  • keyboard
  • bluetooth speaker
  • desk
  • chair

Basically I’m talking about any physical item you think you need to be a successful translator.

Here’s how it works usually. A person decides that she wants to becomed a translator.

She decides to start working on her business and subconciously wants to be “doing stuff” that will show progress.

Because finding her first client is hard and takes time, she needs something tangible to show that she is “progressing” in her business.

Oh, and she tells herself that she could translate a lot faster if she only had the latest MacBook.

So she goes to the Apple store, buys a new laptop and feels like she is doing something to build her business.

But you and I know that she’s not. She’s manufacturing “wins” that aren’t wins at all. In fact, they are losses because they are keeping her from becoming a debt-free translator.

The truth is that you don’t need the latest iPhone or comfy office chair or perfect pen to become a successful translator.

The first translation job I ever did was done on a typewriter I borrowed from a friend.

One of the first paid translation I ever did was on a first-generation iPod.

Don’t think you need the latest and greatest to be a successful translator.

3. Don’t do your work at Starbucks.

Ah, the old go-to-a-coffee-shop-to-do-work routine that many translators and writers swear by.

It helps them focus, they say.

It helps inspire them, they say.

It keeps them from becoming debt-free translators, they don’t say.

If you go to a coffee shop to work, you will inevitably spend your money on overpriced coffee and food all in the name of becoming a successful translator.

That’s fine if you have the disposable income to support that.

But if you’re a new translator just starting out, don’t buy into the hype that you have to go to Starbucks, buy your venti mocha whatever, and sit down to translate.

If you do like to work outside, pack a lunch from home and head to the park to do your work. The benefits will the be same and you’ll save money in the process.

4. Invest in what will give you the most bang for your buck.

People love gimmicks.

And as much as we like to think otherwise, translators fall into the gimmick trap as easily as everyone else.

In order to be a debt-free translator, you need to know what makes your business run.

You need to understand what provides the best returnn on your investment so that you can focus on those areas without being distracted by other factors.

For example, let’s look at translation marketing, or finding clients, which is something that a lot of new translators struggle with.

Let’s say that after some trial and error marketing, you’ve realized (through tracking your own statistics) that the best way for you to find new clients is by marketing to translation agencies.

If that’s the case, then you’ll want to spend your money and time maximizing that client stream.

Maybe you buy my book on finding new clients with global translation agencies.

Instead, maybe you invest in a LinkedIn membership that gives you access to new translation agencies.

What you don’t do is invest tons of money and time into freelance tarnslation sites like Upwork or Fiverr.

Focus on what works for your business, not what everyone else is saying that you should do.

5. Network with fellow translators the old-fashioned way.

When I was a kid, my dad would always say, “It doesn’t cost anything to call someone.”

I don’t even remember why he would say this to me but the fact of the matter is that this is just as true today as it was back then.

There’s something to be had for talking with people on the phone or in person.

It’s a skill that is being lost today; however, it can be an effective tool to find clients, improve business relationships, and find like-minded people to work with.

Don’t be afraid to call up potential clients or go visit them where they work to advertise your business.

6.Choose one networking event every year or every two years to attend.

And speaking of networking, one of the ways to do that is through attendance at conferences.

As a translator, there are two different types of conferences that could be worth it to you to attend.

(I say could be worth it because it’s no always the case that you need to attend a conference. Don’t ever think that it’s necessary for success as a translator to attend a conference.)

Now, the first type of conference you could attend as a freelance translator is a translation conference.

Duh, right?

This type of conference is organized by translation organizations to attract translators and other language professions.

The content of this type of conference is usually geared towards giving translators the knowledge and skills to become better (or at least more informed) at their core job function, which is translating.

Most freelance translators, when thinking about a type of conference to attend, will only think of this type of conference.

The other type of conference to think about, especially for networking, is the industry-specific conference.

Let’s say that you work in the medical field, with a focus on medical imaging technology.

If you want to use conferences to find additional clients and network with people specific to your industry, going to a translation conference isn’t going to be the best option for you.

However, if you instead attend a medical-imagingtechnology conference, you will be able to meet lots of potential clients and see where the trends are going in the industry so that you can keep up.

As a debt-free translator, you want to spend your money where it’s going to make the most impact. That goes for deciding which type of conference to attend as well.

7. Exercise every day.

Don’t neglect your health.

This is critical and something that debt-free translators understand.

It doesn’t matter whether you have health insurance through another job or have to pay it as part of your freelance translator expenses, the following principle is the same and must be followed:

Health prevention is a lot better and cheaper than health correction.

In addition to being cheaper, taking care of your health daily will improve your brain function, making you a better translator and business owner.

You can’t afford not to be moving every day.

8. Plan your meals.

Along the same lines as exercising, make sure you eat healthy and avoid spending money on things that will only make you sick in the long run.

Plan out what you’re going to eat during the day so you don’t have to think about your meals, which takes brain function away when you need it for translating.

This is especially true if you work at home during the day and have a difficult time staying away from the snack drawer.

Write down the times you will eat each meal and snack as well as what each meal/snack will be.

9. Hire help for the things you need done.

This one might sound counterintuitive but it was really hammered home to me in a story I was told a few years ago.

A friend of mine got a new job that paid him pretty good. Something around $150 an hour.

Where he lived, it would rain constantly during the summer. He had always done his own yardwork prior to getting this job and wanted to keep doing it, partly in order to save money.

However, because of the constant rain, which would often continue non-stop on the weekends, he would have to wait for a dry spell to hit before he could mow his grass.

Sometimes that dry spell would happen during work hours so he would leave work in the middle of the day, taking time off to go and mow his yard.

He did that for a little bit and then finally realized that he was losing $150 an hour mowing the grass during work when he could just pay a gardner to do it for $20 an hour.

If you have the means to pay for something that you don’t like to do that is costing your more in the long run, don’t hesitate to hire out that task.

10. Use social media organically.

Don’t pay for social media followers or engagement.

If you’ve decided that social media is a necessary part of your marketing strategy (and for translators it’s usually NOT NECESSARY), then realize that the best way to build your social media profiles is through your own organic voice.

Even if social media is part your business plan, it should not constitute your main method of driving business your way.

It’s easily something you can do on your own without spending money on false followers and fake accounts.

11. Get rid of distractions.

In order to be a debt-free translator, you have to get rid of distractions.

Distractions can be killers, both finacially and with your time.

What are some distractions that take people’s time and money?

How about:

We each have our own distractions that can easily take us away from the things that we want to accomplish.

Last year I was addicted to Twitter.

I would find myself constantly scrolling and reading through my Twitter feed instead of building my translation business.

After a while I realized that reading through Twitter was not helping me in any way so I had to quit.

I stopped opening Twitter, got rid of the application on my phone, and started making better use of that time.

Now, whenever I engage in an activity, I always ask myself if the activity I’m doing is engaging me mentally or physically.

If not, I try to avoid it.

12. Don’t subscribe to anything that has a monthly payment plan.

This is a piece of financial advice that I learned a few years ago and that is to stay away from any type of service or product that requires you to make a recurring payment.

If you do have to have a recurring payment, really track how you are using that product or service so that you know whether or not it’s truly worth it.

A friend of mine and I were talking the other day about his new truck that he had purchased the following year.

I jokingly commented that now that he had a truck, he needed to buy a boat to tow.

He then commented that at one point he had considered it but ultimately decided against it based on a simple formula:

Cost of item/number of uses = price per use

He realized that if he bought a $20,000 boat, he might use it 3-4 times a year.

$20,000/4 = $5,000

That meant that if he used it 4 times the first year, the cost per use would be $5,000 per use. Now granted, if he kept using it the following year and subsequent years after that, the cost per use would decrease.

However, the point was that he realized it just wasn’t worth it to him in the end.

The same thing applies for an subscription product or service you have.

You should fully understand how much you’re paying per use and decide if it’s really worth it if you want to keep it.

13. Keep track of your income and expenses.

This is fundamental, especially if you’re running your own business.

Being a debt-free translator means that you understand where your money is coming from and where it’s going.

Remember, applying rule #1 here is important.

You don’t need to buy any software to keep track of your expenses and earnings.

There are free apps that allow. you to do it on your phone.

If you want to keep track on your computer, I would recommend using a Google Sheets template.

It’s what I use to keep track of my monthly expenses and earnings.

I put each new year in a new tab and can easily see what’s makig me money and where my money is going at the end of each month.

This allows me to know what to focus on and what financial pitfalls I should watch out for.

14. Set up multiple bank accounts.

In addition to keeping detailed records of your expenses and income, another way to help you be a debt-free translator is to divide up where your money goes.

Set up a business account that is strictly for your business income and expenses.

By partitioning your money, you’re better able to visually see where you’re at financially.

You can know at a glance whether you are makign money or not. Thisi is much more difficult to do when your money is all mixed and jumbled together.

15. Understand your spending habits and adjust accordingly.

You spend your money on different things than I do.

We have different things that are important to us and we priortize financially based on those preferences.

That’s OK. There’s not a problem with that.

The important thing, however, is to undersand for yourself what those preferences are and how they affect your spending habits.

For example, my wife and I love to read.

We used to buy books all the time until I realized that we could actually save money by subscribing to Amazon’s Kindle Unlmiited service where we pay $9.99 a month and have access to millions of books that we don’t have to buy indvidually.

Yes, I know that in subscribing to this service, I have violated rule #12.

Again, though, that’s why it’s important to. understand your interests and how they could affect your spending habits.

We were spending more than $9.99 a month on the books we were buying so now we’re saving substantially more than we’re spending.

And reading is imporant to us so we’re willing to spend the money.

It might not be important to you. Maybe music is important to you and you have to have it to work effectively.

So maybe it makes more sense then for you to purchase a subscription service than buy new albums as they come out.

Only you know what will truly be worth it for you.

16. Don’t buy “premium access” to any websites or services.

I should revise this to say don’t buy premium access to any site or service until you know that the service is worth it.

There are a lot of great resources and tips out there.

Some of them are free and some of them cost money.

Before you spend money on the premium services, though, make sure you know that it will get you where you’re going.

17. Offer additional services.

Another way to become a debt-free translator is to not only think of the ways to save money but to also focus on the things that will make you more of it.

Many new translators have a one-track mind in terms of what kind of services that they can offer.

They consider themselves translators and so will only focus on providing translation services to clients.

However, if you think of yourself as a freelance language professional, you will start thinking of yourself as more than just a translator.

Instead, you’ll think of yourself as someone who helps clients solve language problems.

Those problems aren’t just limited to translating into a foreign language. They can include services such as:

  • editing
  • proofreading
  • writing emails
  • designing websites
  • writing newsletters
  • ghost writing
  • blogging

Think outside the box and don’t limit yourself.

18. Understand what triggers your impulses.

In studying how leaders are successful and have achieved their success, one of the things I’ve realized is that they all have pretty good self-actualization skills.

What I mean by that is that they are able to look at themselves objectively and be honest about what they see.

if you want to be a debt-free translator, you need to have this ability.

You need to understand what makes you spend money.

What is it that makes you want to get down to work?

What causes you to lose momentum?

For example, a couple of years I looked at my eating habits objectively and realized that I tended to eat poorly when I was tired.

When I was tired, I would look for something to try and keep me awake and that usually meant grabbing a soda and a candy bar.

Once I realized that the underlying cause of my poor eating habits was my level of tiredness, I made it a point to get to bed earlier and sleep longer.

That directly affected my eating habits and now I can stay away from what triggers my poor eating.

Take a look at what triggers the behaviors you want to change and then attack the problem on that level.

19. Volunteer once a week.

Volunteering is a great way to be reminded about all the blessings you have.

Whatever situation you’re in, if you’re reading this article then you’re better off than 90% of the world’s population.

Be cognizant of that fact and work to give back and provide a light to those around you that are in a darker place than you.

You’ll soon be able to put things in their proper perspective.

20. Develop a mindset of resourcefulness.

These last two rules for becoming a debt-free translator have to do with changing your mindset.

Your mind is incredibly powerful and has the ability to control everything you think, say, and do.

Training yoru mind for success will truly lead you to have success.

They are inseparablly linked.

One of the first mindset principles to develop is a mindset of resourcesfulness.

This means understanding that everything you need for success is most likely all ready in front of you.

Again, if you’re reading this, you have everything you need to become a freelance translator.

I’ve written this compelete article on my phone.

Sure, it’s taken longer than it would have than on my computer but the point is that if I only had my phone, I wouldn’t have to go out and buy a new computer to do what I could already do.

Don’t look for excuses. Look for ways to be resourceful.

21. Develop a mindset of abundance.

Finally, the last rule. It’s probably the most important.

So it’s a good thing that you’ve read this far!

Having an abundance mindset means that you don’t see life as a pie chart but instead like a bar chart.

Let me explain.

With a pie chart, whenever someone gets more, that means that you get less.

There is only a finite amount of “success” and when that is used up, you can only get more if you take it from someone else.

However, that’s not necessarily how it works for a debt-free translator.

Instead, the successful freelance translator sees himself as a bar graph where he has unlimited potential for success.

And he doesn’t have to take that success from someone else. There is an abundance of it.

You have an unlimited potential for success. You just have to change your mindset so that you believe that for yourself.

P.S. Want more tranlation rules to follow that will lead you to success? Read my book.

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