Freelance Translation Business: 9 Survival Skills to Thrive

freelance translation business

Like most things in life, freelance translation is about more than the joy of being able to wear your pajamas all day. It’s an opportunity to thrive in your career and life. As a translator, you are providing a foundational part of how business is conducted, ideas are conveyed, and how society is able to connect seamlessly. In short, your job is important, and so are you.

If you want to build a business that is able to sustain the ups and downs of the market and the curveballs that life will inevitably throw at you, you are going to need more than a passion for language; you are going to need survival skills! Here are our 9 tips to help you succeed (pajamas optional).

1. Make the most of variation

A love of variety is a beautiful thing, especially when your work requires you to go from one topic to another, day after day. Nurture your curious mind and embrace each new job as an opportunity to switch gears. You might even learn something new for yourself in the process – such as how to disassemble the entire boiler system of a high-rise in case of emergency. (It’s a great conversation starter!)

2. Embrace the independence

As a professional translator, your work environment looks different from many others. Embrace it and appreciate it for what it is. When you are working, work. But when work is done, get out there and build relationships and connect. Read some tips from a fellow freelance translator to deal with loneliness. If it all gets too much, remember you can connect with like-minded people at networking events, or even at coworking spaces.

3. Self-learners rule the world of productivity

It’s a changing world out there, kid. Discover it, engage with it and most of all, use it to your advantage. Make it part of your regular routine to keep yourself updated on technology and learning how to use it to your advantage; there’s a whole host of programs that can help improve your business, including but not limited to CAT tools. This serves two purposes: it keeps you sharp and it will help you to continue to be more efficient and informed. Stay up-to-date with changes in your field; if you are a legal translator focused on mergers and acquisitions, stay abreast of new requirements. And don’t forget that you never stop learning and improving your second languages.

4. Remember that the title of “Freelancer” is another term for “Professional Juggler”

Maybe you’re not wearing neon lycra pants while you are balancing daily life, but make no mistake: you are a professional juggler. On any given day or hour, you are an accountant, professional researcher, project manager, customer service representative, and executive in charge of coffee distribution. It’s messy and awesome all at the same time. Sometimes all that juggling can be rather overwhelming but strike the right balance and you can have a thriving business and a healthy lifestyle to boot.

5. Know the power of self-discipline

The buck stops here. Being disciplined means different things to different personalities. It comes easier to some of us than others. But the bottom line is that the only way the work gets done is if, well, you actually do it. Many of us struggle with procrastination, but when your business depends on your productivity, you get pretty motivated.

6. Blessed are the flexible freelancers, for they shall surely flex

Your business success depends largely on customers being happy with what you provide. However, how they define that depends on different factors each time, and freelance translators must be good communicators to keep their clients satisfied. The time has to be accounted for and the product has to be delivered. Weekends happen, but so do deadlines. Sometimes late nights or working when the world is sleeping is the only way you can get it done. However, remember that a big dose of Point #3 will help keep you focused and to work with time instead of against it.

7. Money management skills

Huge projects are great. So are smaller ones when they are all that you have at that moment. Life requires fixed costs, but the nature of any business is that incomes will vary. This is just as much a matter of money management as it is of headspace management. Prepare yourself for the future by doing your due diligence in the present. A great accounting program such as Wave or Freshbooks helps you create peace of mind while you continue to build your business (you will find a comprehensive list of accounting tools on this page and a nice online invoicing software).

8. Find ways to be you, outside of what you do

Tight deadlines, long working hours, and a healthy dose of the caffeine shakes can catch up with you after a while. Do yourself a favor: invest time in the things that make this lifestyle worth pursuing and building. Time is your traveling companion, but you have the choice of how you want to spend that time. Take time away from that desk, and come back refreshed and ready to work.

9. Communicate your role clearly

The world may not understand the value of what you are providing, so get clear on what you offer, why it’s important, and how they can make use of those services. You may find yourself having to explain why hiring a professional website translator is important, and why just getting a bilingual friend to do the job is not the same. Know your worth and get comfortable communicating it with others. Now, get out there and get back to work!

Are you looking for a professional translation service you can trust to translate your French to English projects? Or maybe you need a legal document translated from Spanish; whatever language combination you’re in need of, BeTranslated can help. Get in touch for more information or a free quote today.