Behind the scenes: Challenges of being a freelance translator 2/2

March 2, 2016 by Alison Tunley

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Following our first instalment, today we continue our look at the challenges faced by freelance translators.


The competition: Perhaps ten or twenty years ago translators were highly regarded linguistic specialists. Nowadays, anyone it seems can set themselves up as a translator and prospect work. With the focus of projects often on price and speed of delivery those who offer the lowest rates rates and shortest turnaround times can beat those who offer the most experience and best quality. With the widespread use of English many people appear to be more useful, especially if they are ‘multi-use’, translating into and out of English despite it not being their mother tongue. Anyone with even the weakest language skills can claim to be a translator, giving a bad name to the industry and to real translation experts. It’s difficult to strike the right balance and not under value yourself by setting low rates in order to appear more attractive. If you set the bar too low it could become increasingly difficult to raise it and get the rates you deserve as a qualified and experienced translator. Choosing the right company to work for, who value quality over below average rates and rushed projects will do wonders for your career and reputation.


Loneliness: Unless you happen to have teamed up with a translator friend, working out of each other’s front rooms, you are well and truly alone. Working from home can initially be quite appealing, but it can quickly get old. Stuck on a particularly difficult turn of phrase? Mr Whiskerson the cat probably won’t be the best creature to help. If you’re used to working in a team or office surrounded by colleagues who you can banter with and bounce ideas off, working as a freelancer can be quite a lonely existence. Making sure you have a network of freelance colleagues you can contact as well as getting out into the real world to talk with real people (sorry Mr Whiskerson) will make a world of difference to your work and your sanity!


Fighting the ‘war’ against technology: Today’s fast paced world of technological evolution affects all aspects of life. Translation is no different. Ensuring you stay abreast of all technological developments in the industry can be challenging, especially if you want to continue accepting jobs in the next few years. Translation memory software (of which there are several), translation tools, DTP programs, websites and industry platforms can be challenging for even the most technologically minded. For the older generation of translators (and I don’t mean to be condescending here) they can be downright unfathomable. However, in the world we live in having an email address and word processing program will no longer suffice. Showing you are prepared to invest (some TM software can be prohibitively expensive for a freelancer just starting out) money and time into advancements may keep you in the running.


Though this and the previous article may appear to be discouraging or negative, I would say that these should serve more as an inside look into the industry. Anyone considering a career in freelance translation should go into it with his or her eyes wide open. Translation can be a fulfilling and exciting profession but it does come with its challenges. But, as with any challenges in life if you can overcome them you’ll be all the more strong, successful and motivated to continue.


At Rosetta Translation we try to make your job as a freelance translator or interpreter as easy as possible. If you’re interested in joining our trusted team then check out our current requirements here:

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