Many students of philology and related careers, as well as people fluent in foreign languages, dream of becoming a freelance translator in the future.
Such a person makes translations for translation agencies, companies or private clients. A freelance translator usually works in the comfort of their own home, with a cup of coffee in their hand and their head full of ideas. Stereotypes usually like to add a cat or other pet cuddling by their feet to this “idyllic” picture. But how does the picture match reality? Let’s find out.
Freelance translator – how to begin?
Polish law doesn’t require specific education or experience for working as a regular translator – contrary to sworn translator. However, real-world experience shows that the richer your portfolio and the better your knowledge of the sector you are providing translations for, the easier it is for you to stand out in the professional market. Obviously, the most basic prerequisite for starting a translating career is perfect command of both the source and the target language of the text. Language certificates, university diplomas and credentials from former employers should serve your future clients as a confirmation of your skills. In the 21st century, the era of computers and databases, a proper software is of great importance – so, to organise and speed up their work, many translators buy licenses for translation software (computer-assisted translation, or the so-called CAT tools) or automated translation.
Freelance translator – the work itself
Once you are sure you’re well prepared for your job, it’s time to start looking for clients. Freelance translators usually gather in social media, share their profiles on LinkedIn or Golden Line, or send their CVs to translation agencies with an offer of cooperation. Employers are usually interested in language combinations in which you can translate and the three primary fields you feel most at ease with. Another thing to do is settle a payment type – payment is usually done via VAT invoice, if you run a registered business, and contract of mandate/specific-task contract in other cases. The last important step, both for the translator and for the client, is to settle the price for the service – it might be calculated per page (1800 characters with spaces), per word or per line. The price may depend on many factors, such as: the difficulty level of the text, the urgency of the translation or the popularity of the language combination. Once you fulfil all the conditions and formalities, you can try your hand as a freelance translator. And if you prove yourself, there are chances that more and more offers will arrive in your mailbox.
Freelance translator – pros and cons
Undoubtedly, working as a freelance translator has many advantages. You can work wherever and however you like, and only you decide on the organisation of your time. Thanks to the Internet, you can work with clients from all over the world from the comfort of your own home. You are not dependant on one client, but usually work with many of them, depending on whose conditions suit you the most.
Unfortunately, such a system is not flawless. The major disadvantage is high market saturation with translators in popular language combinations, which settles the translation prices quite low. Besides, freelance translators don’t have granted employment benefits, such as paid leave or social insurance. Finally, freelancers are in no way secured from a crisis in the business, which may result in low number of offers. To sum up – when a young philologist thinks “freelance translator”, what follows immediately is “how to begin?”. We hope this crash course removes many doubts.