Work for Yourself as a Freelance Interpreter
By Gloria Martinez
Whether acquired through your upbringing or education, fluency in more than one language provides you with career choices that aren’t open to those who are monolingual. Your translation abilities are deployable in jobs as varied as diplomatic document transcription, film subtitling, and travel industry interpretation. Here’s how to launch a successful freelance business using your bi- or multilingual skills.
Prepare Your Credentials
Begin by researching what’s required for translators in the field you plan to pursue. In some cases, particularly if you’ll work in government, educational, or legal settings, you’ll need to present certifications or diplomas as evidence of your qualifications. Preparing written or recorded examples of your abilities may suffice if you intend to translate for tourists or in the private sector.
Don’t Underestimate a Strong CV!
Regardless of how you’ll look for work, you’ll be in the position of being evaluated by a potential employer. A clear, professional, and polished CV that highlights your skills, experience, and accomplishments serves as your means of introduction and gives you the chance to make a positive first impression.
Take care to format your CV cleanly, so it doesn’t become garbled when viewed on varying devices. Whether you use Google Docs or another word processor, downloading and sharing your file as a PDF is the easiest way to ensure its formatting remains intact.
Define Your Employment Path
Once you prepare your credentials, determine if you’ll seek traditional contract work or join the gig economy. In general, working for the government, in the legal realm, or in a corporate setting means you’ll operate under short- or long-term contracts with clearly defined expectations and guidelines. Gig employment, although still sometimes commemorated via contract, is typically more flexible.
If you favor more latitude, translation gigs such as leading tours, transcribing documents, or captioning videos allow you to set your own hours and take on as little or as much work as you choose. Many jobs in this field can be done remotely, allowing you to work from home or anywhere in the world. Remember that regardless of whether you work under traditional contracts or hop from gig to gig, you’ll need to register as self-employed and be responsible for the requisite taxes.
When you’re just starting out, contracting with a translation agency or joining an online freelancing platform may be the easiest way to find clients. Also, since those hiring interpreters often turn to directories provided by recognized translation organizations, gaining membership in such a group helps establish your credibility and gets your name in front of employers.
Participating in industry events such as travel shows or gatherings of conference planners allows you to meet face-to-face with people likely to require interpretation services, while networking online via social media opens opportunities to build rapport and connect with potential clients. Even old-fashioned cold-calling, and its modern counterpart cold-emailing, may net you the first few jobs that provide you with references for future customers.
Putting your multilingual fluency to use by starting a translation business allows you to follow an employment path that isn’t open to everyone. From readying your credentials and CV to determining what type of work you’ll seek and then finding it, you’ll be on your way to building a successful career in a unique field.