Readers’ Requests: How Can I Start My Own Translation Company?

I encourage my readers to email me.

To send me questions about anything they want to know, even better if it relates to language and translation.

But even if it doesn’t, I’ll try to answer.

I realized, though, that for every person willing to send me a question, there are probably dozens of other translators that have that same question or at least would like to know the answer.

So I decided to start a series called Readers’ Requests.

I’ll post the question and answer here publicly for everyone to see so that we can all comment and get feedback and hopefully give back to each other as we teach one another what we know.

That being said, if you want to ask me a question and don’t want me to post it here, just let me know that and I’ll be sure to keep it just between you and I.

Now, on to the first question.


Cristian Asked: I was born in Central America and have been translating since I arrived in the U.S. about 28 years ago. I believe that my translation skills are good and have been utilizing them in my current job position as an international sales representative traveling mostly to Latin American countries. I have the skills and the drive and can provide a great deal to my potential clients.

But how do I get started without a certification? I currently translate for my company and do well.

Clint’s Answer: Great question, Cristian. It seems that new freelance translators can be divided into two categories: those that have been translating as part of their job duties for a number of years for their present company, and then those that have just graduated with a language degree and have no experience actually translating.

It’s no surprise that those who have had years of experience translating as part of their regular job duties are better equipped to make the translation to freelance translator, even if they decide to keep their day jobs and only do freelance work on the side.

Not only do translators that fall into the second category have more experience actually translating, but the big plus is that they have usually made contacts in the industry in which they are working, and can leverage those contacts to find translation clients.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. The hardest part about being a freelance translator is not the translating but in fact is finding great clients. This is what differentiates professional translators from wannabees.

With that being said, Cristian, you are in a great position to leverage your prior experience and contacts and make the transition to a part-time (or even full-time) freelance translation career.

Because you’ve been translating to Latin America and using your language skills, your translation ability is not something to worry about.

Here’s the main thing to remember, though. You don’t need to worry about translation certification.

Many new freelance translators make the common mistake of thinking that they need some sort of certification in order to start translating.

This is completely false.

I’ve stated before that while some factions of the translation world advocate certification, it’s not always necessary. The most important thing is having clients that can vouch for your translation skills.

If I’m a client looking for a translator, I’d be more comfortable with a translator that came to me with good prior recommendations than someone who has no recommendations but is “certified.”

Here’s a question. Why are so worried about becoming certified in the first place? I’m guessing someone told you that you have to be certified in order to translate professionally.

Maybe it was even a fellow translator jealous of your skills and experience, afraid that you had the potential of siphoning off translation clients.

Maybe you read a book or blog post extolling the virtues of making every translator become certified.

Look inward and ask yourself, “Why am I even asking myself this question?”

Let’s look at it a different way.

Everyone knows who Kobe Bryant is.

Arguably one of the greatest NBA basketball players to ever play. Went straight from high school directly to the NBA without going to college.

Imagine if someone would have said, “Sorry, Kobe, you don’t have a college degree so you can’t play professional basketball.”

Ridiculous, right?

Now, why should you listen to someone that says, “You can’t translate professionally because you never received a certification.”?

You shouldn’t.

There are no regulations required (at least in the U.S.) that say you have to be certified to translate.

All you need to become a professional translator is paying clients.

Find that and you’re good to go.

Want to find more clients? Try contacting translation agencies. I have a list of over 500 of them in my new book, Translator’s Market.


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