Do You Want to Become a Professional Translator? Then Do This One Thing

I'm a professional translator. Not a professional guitarist.
I’m a professional translator. Not a professional guitarist.

When I first started out in my translation career, I’ll admit I was worried.

I didn’t know if or why anyone would hire me.

I didn’t think I was good enough to translate anything.

I questioned my language skills, my translation experience and training, and my sanity.

In short, I doubted my ability to become a professional translator.

I had done translations in school and as volunteer jobs for non-paying customers, but I still felt inadequate and phony.

That all changed when I got my first client.

A lady contacted me through email and requested that I translate a high school report card into English that could be submitted to a university in the United States.

I did the job.

I got paid.

And I realized right then that there was no more reason to doubt my status as a professional translator.

Are You a Professional Translator?

Can you spot the one thing that changed my outlook?

If you guessed the money, you’re right.

Once I got paid for doing a translation, I was validated. In my mind, I was now a professional translator.

My skills hadn’t drastically improved. I hadn’t gotten inundated with a portfolio of clients.

Instead, I had a mind shift.

And that mind shift went from having a self-doubting outlook to one of confidence. If I could get one client to pay me, then I could easily replicate that and get two, then three, then at least a handful more to pay me.

And that’s what I did.

I set my translation rates. I didn’t make excuses. And I went to work finding that first paying client.

So, the question. Are you a professional translator?

Or, in other words, do you get paid for translating?

If you answered yes, then congratulations. You’re a professional.

Answered no? Then you’re not.

And you won’t become a professional translator until someone pays you.

Every time I explain this to someone, or a group of someones, I always get questions about exceptions. Here are the common ones:

  • What if it’s my hobby? Am I a professional then?
  • What if I’m a volunteer translator? Am a professional?
  • What if I’m doing jobs for free to gain experience before I charge?
  • What if I got a translation degree but haven’t started translating yet?

Here’s your answer:


Nobody asking any of the questions above is a professional translator.


Because they aren’t getting paid.

If nobody is willing to pay you money for your services, you’re not a professional.

You’re an amateur.

A hobbyist.

A part-time hack.

Whatever the hell you are, you’re not a professional.

If you want to become a professional translator, start acting like one.

Here’s how:

  1. First, find a real client (A real client is one that will pay you. If a person wants you to do a translation but not pay you, he is not a client. Say no and then repeat step number 1.)
  2. Do a job for a client.
  3. Get paid from the client.
  4. Rinse and repeat.

Do that a few times and you’ve suddenly got yourself moving in the right direction. Remember, you don’t need 1,000 clients. You just need a few good ones to get started.

Guess what? Now your a professional because you’re getting paid.

2 thoughts on “Do You Want to Become a Professional Translator? Then Do This One Thing”

  1. Pingback: How to Maintain Your Second Language Plus 17 Ways to Improve Your Language Skills | Translation Rules

  2. Pingback: Want to Be a Professional Translator? Details Matter. – Translation Rules

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