Four Warning Signs That You’re Not Ready to Be a Freelance Translator

Becoming a successful, professional freelancer is hard work. It is not something that will come quickly and easily without any work on your end.

However, myths abound about the skills you need to tackle the craft and business of translation.

For some reason these myths and translator lies never die as new generations of would-be translators look to join the ranks of the awesome.

For example, the number one myth of would-be translators?

A translator is merely someone that speaks two different languages.

This bares repeating:

Just because you speak two languages doesn’t mean that you will be a proficient or successful translator.

I know how to drive, but I would never consider myself a Formula One racer.

Merely speaking more than one language does not make you a translator or an interpreter.

If that’s the only reason you want to be a translator, then do everyone a favor and find another career because there is more to translation than being able to say “Where’s the bathroom?” in three different languages.

But that’s not the only warning sign that a career in translation might not be right for you.

In fact, before you decide to make millions translating the next Harry Potter series, here are four warning signs to be aware of when deciding if translation is right for you.

You can’t budget under a feast or famine pay schedule

As a freelance translator, you’re not going to have a steady paycheck. Instead of getting paid every two weeks, you’ll be paid for the work that you do.

And work is not going to come on a steady schedule. You might go through a stretch where you have work every day, and then you might go a week or more where you’re not working on any projects, let alone getting paid.

Even when you are working on a steady stream of projects, you won’t necessarily be paid on a strict schedule after completing your translation work. You might turn in a project one week, but then might have to wait for another month (or more) before you get paid for your work.

You’re terrible at business and marketing

You might be the greatest translator in all the world, but if you’re not willing or able to find work, or can’t keep track of your income and expenses, then you’re not going to be successful in your freelance translation business.

So what do you have to know besides translation? Well, for starters, you’d better have some knowledge of the following:

  • Marketing
  • Accounting
  • Customer service
  • Desktop publishing

And these are just the basics. Either figure out how to do these yourself or look around until you can find someone you trust to do them for you.

You can’t work alone

Most people I talk to that are interested in becoming freelance translators are enamored by the idea of working at home but few have actually done it.

Let me be the first to warn you that working at home is not the same as the idea of working at home.

One thing you might not realize about working at home is that it can be a lonely endeavor. You have no coworkers (usually). You won’t have a water cooler you can hang out at and chat with your colleagues.

Sure you might have colleagues you can converse with online, but that is not the same as face-to-face interaction. If that’s something you crave, working for 8 hours or more by yourself might be tortuous.

You’re not disciplined

Speaking of working 8 hours in isolation, if you’re not able to stay focused on a task for very long, or need someone hovering over you to get a job done, it’s time to rethink your freelance translation career.

Translators have to be disciplined in order to stay on task and keep the mental edge it takes to translate effectively.

Sure, this is something that can be taught and learned, but don’t think that this will be easy, especially if you’re naturally inclined to flitter from one thing to the next.

Freelance translation is not a walk in the park. If any of these warning signs shows itself, a freelance translator career might not be for you. But if you can handle these things, you just might have what it takes.

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