Translation as a Career

10 Things That Suck About Choosing Translation as a Career

So you want to pursue freelance translation as a career.


So you can be your own boss?

Because can work whenever and wherever you want?

And you don’t have to deal with office politics?

Any other reasons?

Those are all good reasons. In fact, any reason you have for wanting to become a professional freelance translator is a good reason in my book, especially if you want to pursue translation as a career.

However (and you knew there was going to be a however), a lot of translators never talk about the other side of a translation career.

The things that (could potentially) suck.

Because some things do. And you need to at least be aware of them if you’re going to be a translator.

And here they are.

Translation as a Career
(Are you sure this is what you want?)

1. Your family really doesn’t know what you do.

Forget your family. Nobody will really understand what you do. Translators are not as common as we might think they are. We are around the industry every day. Translation is in our blood. Translation is what we are and who we are.

But that’s not the case with our family. When you say you want to work in translation as a career, your parents (and friends, cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles, dentist) think that you’re going to waste your days away in the school library and not earn any money. Ever. In your whole life.

2. You’re not as cool as your brother-in-law who is a doctor.

My translation professor in college shared a story with us about a mother who complained when she found out that one of her sons wanted to be a translator.

She couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and become a doctor. That was infinitely more awesome than being a mere translator.

Since Number 1 above is generally true, Number 2 tends to be true as well, and not just with your mother. Because people don’t really know what translators do, they can’t relate to you like they can with someone who has a job that they have heard of before.

If you’re a translator, you might hate that. But you’ll have to get used to it. Last time I checked, there were no translator rap battles on YouTube.

3. Even your cat will start to ignore you.

Freelance translation can be a solitary profession. Especially if you work by yourself at home. Sometimes you’ll get so bored you’ll want to play with your cat even. But even your cat will find you boring.

Your cat will start to ignore you.

Translation as a Career - Even your cat finds you boring.
Even your cat finds you boring.

It can be hard to overcome the feeling that you’re in solitary confinement with nobody to talk to or interact with on a daily basis. To get over that feeling, you’ll have to make a real effort to actually get out of the house. Exercise out of the house. Go for walks. Go to the store. Do some work at a local coffee shop. Anything that will keep you from trying to hold philosophical conversations with your feline friend.

4. Everyone wants some (or most) of your work time.

Working at home has its perks.

But when your friends and family hear that you work at home, they interpret that to mean that you sit around all day doing nothing except waiting for them to bother you.

Your friends and family will bug you at all hours of the day wanting to:

  • talk to you
  • complain about their jobs
  • tell you how lucky you are
  • ask you to run errands for them
  • watch their kids
  • ask you to bake cookies for school
  • see if you’re really working

You will have to have more than one uncomfortable conversation with these people. You will offend them when you tell them to stop bothering you because you really do have work to do.

They won’t understand what you’re talking about even though they would never want you to call them at their workplace fifty times a day asking lame questions.

5. You’re gaining weight and losing money by frequenting Starbucks.

OK, so you realize, after talking to your cat, that you’re becoming a social recluse. You haven’t been out of the house in days. You haven’t even gotten dressed in a week.

So you’re going to make some changes.

You’re going to head to the Starbucks every day and work from there. That way you’ll have an excuse to at least brush your teeth.

Be careful, though.

What you improve on with regards to your sociality might come at a cost

A cost of increased weight gain on “healthy” muffins and lost money on overpriced fancy coffee.

6. Your focus and organization must be on point.

If you’re not organized, you won’t make it very far in your translation career. You’re the one that has to keep on top of everything:

  • doing marketing
  • mastering social media
  • hunting down payments
  • finding (and keeping) clients
  • actually translating
  • updating you website
  • turning off YouTube

You don’t have a boss to keep you on task.


You’re the boss. You have to keep yourself focused. A lot of people think that’s easy to do. That is until they actually try to do it themselves. Then they realize that they better change quick or else they’re not going to succeed.

7. You’ll realize that you need to get rid of your TV.

Speaking of focus, if you’re working from home, it can easy to become distracted. That’s why TV was invented. It’s why we have video games.

This is why Facebook games are so addictive.

And if you want to be successful, you’re going to have to give up some of those things.

I’ve written two books this past year on translation as a career choice.

Translation Rules in February and Translator’s Market in July.

Two books in a year is nothing. But even to do that, I had to give up watching TV. No more Amazon Prime TV series for me.

Do I miss that stuff?

Not too much anymore because I have found joy in writing this resource for translators as well as coming up with book ideas and new ways to spread the translation love.

Take an honest assessment of where you’re at and what you’re doing. Did you accomplish today (this week, this month) what you wanted to? If not, you’re going to have to give up something else.

8. Your privacy will take a hit.

This was a big one for me.

I am not an overly extroverted person. Plus I grew up in the pre-Internet era, before people just gave up their privacy for nothing.

These days, privacy is disappearing, at least how we have traditionally viewed it.

If you want to related to your fans, your clients, your audience, you’re going to have to show them who you are.

You’ll have to put a face and a name to the person behind the words.

I finally did that here and while I was nervous (unreasonably so) when I did, afterwards I realized that I felt more free to be myself. I think that has led visitors to the site to have more trust and more confidence in what I’m saying.

And maybe they can see themselves a little bit in what I went through. That hopefully gives them confidence as they go through their journey as well.

You can try to stay completely private but it will be difficult to relate to your clients fully. That’s a decision you’ll have to make.

9.You’ll get bored.

I don’t do well when I have to do the same thing over and over again.

If I’m being honest, one of the reasons I started TranslationRules is because I was interested in learning how to do more than translate.

So I bought a domain name, some hosting, and learned how to build a website.

Same thing for writing books. I wanted to learn how to publish a book through Amazon.

If you’re in love with translation as a career and can’t imagine doing anything else in the world except translating, then maybe you won’t have to worry about getting bored.

But if you’re like me and need new things to pursue, you could face boredom issues if you don’t do things to keep your skills (and your interest) fresh.

10. You will have to learn to deal with instability.

I’ve mentioned this in other posts, but it’s worth repeating here:

Being a freelance translator means dealing with instability.

You will have moments of famine followed by moments of feasting.

Some days everything will feel like it’s going completely right and that there’s nothing that could go wrong.

Other days you’ll wonder what you were thinking when you decided to become a freelancer and work from home since nothing is going according to plan.

Know that everyone goes through this when choosing translation as a career.

It sounds cliche, but the important thing to remember is that those that are successful are the ones that keep going when difficult times come. Learn to embrace the struggle and work hard, knowing that your hard work will pay off and get you where you want to be.

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