how to get started as a freelance translator

1. How to Get Started as a Freelance Translator

In this first episode of the all new podcast, your host Paul Urwin talks about getting started as a freelance translator.

In particular, he discusses pitfalls to avoid, client types, business plans, websites, and your profile.

Tune in and find out how to get your career as a freelance translator off to a great star

Here is the full transcript:

How to Get Started as a freelance translator. Hi there. I'm Paul Urwin, and welcome to that Podcast, where we discuss all of the relevant issues to help you succeed as a freelance translator, or interpreter. We cover sales and marketing, networking capsules, and much, much more. Find out more at

Hi there, Paul Urwin here, welcome to the very first episode of The all new podcast, we're going to be talking about a whole range of different issues on this show, but really, with one common theme, and that theme is to help you succeed to help you succeed as a freelance translator, or as an interpreter.

So we'll be talking about how to get more clients, we'll be talking about how to network effectively, we'll be having some great interviews with some really, really experienced and knowledgeable guests who will be sharing lots and lots of value on the show. So that's pretty much what we've got planned for the future. Today, I'm going to be talking about how to get started as a freelance translator. So that's coming up in just a second. First of all, a couple of announcements, there been a lot of changes going on over at And I'm not sure if you are aware of them all.

So I just thought I would highlight a couple of them. First of all, don't forget the very active translation mastermind group, there's, there's a lot of positive energy in that group, and great advice for translators, and interpreters. membership to the translation mastermind is, of course, included, completely free for all Plus members, there's also a brand new Instagram account. So if you're on Instagram, then be sure to follow that. And finally, don't forget that we have international translation day, coming up on the first and second of October. That's two days of incredible content completely free, of course. So get out, get on over to and register for that event. Right will now let's get into today's main topic, which is all about how to get started as a freelance translator.

Okay, well, I just wanted to run through a couple of ideas, really a couple of sharing a few thoughts with you, for those of you who are getting started in this profession, because I think there's a lot of things that that one generally does wrong at the beginning, and you kind of learn a lot of things along the way. So I'm just hoping to, to help you out a little bit and see if I can guide you in the right direction and help you to avoid some of the mistakes that that I certainly made over the years.

So the first one is, is the first thing is to really recognize that you are a business and that your freelance operation is a business. And I think if you start out by by thinking in those terms, from day one, you will be much more successful. Now some people have the idea that in order to be a business or to operate as a business, you have to have some kind of complicated legal structure, you have to have at least however many employees and you have to have an office and you have to have everything else. Well, while you might have that at some point during your career, it's not necessary in order for you to be a business.

So if you are a freelance translator, and you work from home, and you're just getting started, then I think it's really important that you do consider yourself as a business and you start to act as a business, you start to offer your services in a professional way you start to interact with colleagues and clients in a professional way. And that's what I mean by acting as a business part of that as well, is for me at least recording metrics. I think if you start to measure your business from day one, and if you've already started then, let's say from now if you haven't started to measure some of the key numbers in your business and then get started and measure some of those key numbers. I like to measure those numbers in my business every Friday.

I certainly look at the sales figures, I look at the number of proposals that I've sent out and so on. So why not just take a minute to consider what the key metrics are in your business? What things do you think you should be measuring? It might only be three things at the beginning might only be three very simple numbers, but those numbers are going to help You guide you in the development of your business. And also what's quite interesting is over the course of a period, like six months, Things can really change. And you might get into or go through a period of frustration, we all have ups and downs in business and in life. And you might sort of say, well, this is not really working. And this is not really going in the right direction. If you have a list of those metrics, if you have a table or an Excel, with those metrics on you can really look back over over some previous months. And that will give you a bit of encouragement, because often you'll find that you are moving in the right direction. And all you need to do is stick at it and keep going.

The second thing that I think you should look at when you are starting out as a freelance translator is your business model. What type of clients do you want to work with? Are you going to work with agency clients or direct clients? Or perhaps a mixture of both? Are you going to specialize? Or are you going to diversify? Well, there's not necessarily any right answers. But I think it really makes sense to analyze your own situation and to put together a plan because if you don't have a plan, you're just likely to accumulate clients from all different sectors, all different types of clients. And while you might think that's, that's good, and it's not necessarily terrible, at the beginning, it's really going to pull you in different directions.

So I think it's a good idea to, to have,have it clear what type of clients you would like to work with. Also, are you going to be going for high volume, high, high volume and perhaps lower rates? Or are you going to be aiming for really specialized texts? Where you can charge higher rates? And which market or which markets? Are you going to operate in? Are you going to target clients from one particular city or country? Or you are you going to offer your services worldwide, if you're going to do that, of course, you need to adjust your your website, you need to adjust your marketing, and everything else.

And these are the kinds of things that I would like you to think about when you're starting your freelance translation career, because I think, I think if you do have that plan, it's just going to become so much easier. And you'll also know when to say no, if someone approaches you, and you don't have a clear idea, you might be inclined to say yes, I'll take that client on. Or yes, I'll issue a quote or, or whatever it might be. And actually, what you're doing is you're you're stretching yourself thinner and thinner without having that clear plan. So this is really going to help you have a business model, think about what kind of clients you would like to work with. And then you can take it from there.

When you do go on to the next step, I think one of the things that you really need to do is incorporate activity into your daily routine. What do I mean by that? Well, it's all very well, having a plan and having a target market and so on. But you need to back that up with activity, you need to really get your message out there to those markets in which you want to work, you might have a great service, you might be a fantastic translator, you might be an amazing interpreter. But if you don't get your message out there, no one's going to know that you exist, and you're not going to get very much business, I'm afraid. So you really do need to back this up with activity.

What kind of activity am I talking about? Well, you might choose to send out direct emails, you might say, well, I'm going to send out five direct emails every day, offering my services in some way. Or you might decide to connect with 10 people on Linked In every day, you might send out a certain number of proposals per week, you might attend a certain number of meetings per week. Some of these things you can control, of course, such as how many LinkedIn connection invitations you send per day, and some of them you can't such as how many meetings you have per week, that is more difficult to control exactly.

But you can certainly have something to aim for. I think the other thing to look at as well as the type of activity that you are carrying out and are you really adding value to your network and are you adding value in terms of sharing useful information and so on, it's no good. It's no good just sending out 10 emails a day if you're not actually going to add value in some way you can't just jump in and and offer your services. You need to build relationships you need to create long lasting relationships and really solid connection so

There is a certain way of doing that as well. But activity is really important in order to back up your business plan. So make sure that you back up your business plan with that activity. The next thing I'd like to talk about is your website, because it's really, really important that you can sit it you're on line homes as a translator. For me, the two most important homes online are your website and your profile, those could be referred to as the money sites, because that is likely it's likely that your your income is going to come to a significant degree from those two homes online, your website and your profile. And everything else is really going to be traffic or going to be feeding in to those two homes.

So in terms of our website, well, if you don't have a website already, I really recommend that you go ahead and set one up. This is something that is a lot easier than it used to be. You can use Wix or WordPress, WordPress is my particular favourite. There's a little bit of a learning curve there. But something that I'm sure that you can get the hang of you don't need to have expensive designers to design your website, you can do a lot of this on your own.

Of course, it's great if you can have a designer to help you out with some of the trickier parts. But it's not like it used to be in the sense that it was much much more difficult to create a website in the past. Now you can do a lot with templates and really adjusting those templates to your specific needs. Once you have a website, you have something online that is very easy to share with potential clients and you can add content and add testimonials.

Very important add those testimonials to your website over time, but I really think you should consider getting that website set up early on in your career. The next thing I'd like to talk about is your profile, are you getting the most out of your profile. As I've said before, I really think this is the the other important home for freelance translators online. And there's a few interesting things about a profile.

One is that longtail keywords compete very well on the website. So let's say you're a French to English translator, and you up your update your profile to reflect that, well, that's not necessarily the best way to go. And you're not necessarily going to get lots of lots of recognition, because that is too general of a profile.

However, if you update your profile carefully, including the correct keywords and optimize it in terms of SEO, for example, your tagline might be something more detailed French to English translator specializing in finance, and you might then go on to detail the areas, the financial areas in which you work, such as asset management, or RFPs, or whatever it might be. So really, to add a significant amount of detail to that profile. And because ranks very well on Google, you in turn, will then rank very well on Google via the website. the about me section is HTML compatible, which means that you can add links, and you can add images to your profile.

And I would just suggest that you have a look at it because I know many freelance translators haven't updated their profile on And therefore they're not really getting the most out of it. This applies to free members, it applies to standard members, and it applies to plus members as well. So whatever your situation, in terms of membership, you really want to go over and update that profile.

You can also check out your ranking. If you have a look on the website, you will be able to find a little, a little ranking tool on there. And that will show you where your profile ranks for a specific language pair and area of specialization. Not only does it show you that, but it also shows you how to improve rank the two main ways to improve your rank on the site art via membership and via answering Kunos questions. So a couple of things there to consider.

Another area that I would like to mention today is the idea of building a portfolio. It takes time to build up clients, translation clients, especially when you're getting started. I can understand that. And one of the questions that often come that often comes up is should you work for free? Well, great question. I think probably there are some circumstances in which you might choose to carry out a free test translation in order to, to get yourself in front of some potential clients.

But in those cases, I would really limit those test translations to a certain number of words, perhaps 300 words or 400 words, as an absolute maximum. Also, when you're getting started, it's important to not get involved or to make sure that you don't get involved with the wrong clients.

Not all clients are good, not all clients pay on time, not all clients pay at all, unfortunately. So you really want to avoid that kind of expensive mistake. And one of the one of the ways to avoid that is to check out the BlueBoard. A lot of feedback on there from translators like yourself, detailing their experience of working with a particular company.

So you can check out how good a company is before you go ahead and work with them. Something else that you should keep in mind is networking. Networking is so so so important networking with colleagues, networking with potential clients, I think at the start of your freelance translation career, this can be one of the absolute most important things that you can, you can do.

The translation community in general is very, very helpful. So if you reach out to someone, then nine times out of 10 or 99 times out of 100, they are going to get back to you in a helpful manner. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to go into some of these communities such as the translation mastermind community, or the translators and interpreters group on Facebook as well. You can ask questions in those groups, you can interact with other translators, and interpreters in those groups.

Networking really is key in terms of getting ahead as a freelance translator. There's also in person meetups, I really recommend that you consider those don't forget the powers at his local meetups around the world where you can interact with other translators and interpreters. You might also consider going to conferences or any kind of local meetup meetup. Really, it could just be at the local chamber of commerce.

But I think as a freelance translator, face to face meetups are an important part of your overall networking activity online is really important, and so is face to face. But as online becomes more and more important, don't lose those face to face networking opportunities. Another topic that comes up right at the beginning of most people's freelance translation career is do you need to buy a CAT Tool? Or do you need a CAT Tool? Should you work with CAT tools? Great questions, of course, let me tell you something about my experience of talking to freelance translators over the years, and it is this there is no right answer.

I know many freelance translators who are hugely successful and don't use capitals at all. And I also know many freelance translators who couldn't possibly imagine doing anything without, without a CAT tool. So there's, there's a range of opinions there really, it really does depend what type of clients you work with, what kind of agencies you work with, whether you work with agencies or direct clients, a lot of agencies have a preferred counsel.

And therefore, in order to get work with that agency, you probably do need to familiarize yourself with a specific tool. If you're working more with direct clients and with a certain type of text, well, then maybe it might not be quite so necessary, you can go on to the website and check out a software Comparison Tool, I'm going to put all of these links in the show notes. So don't forget to head over to

And check out all of these links, the link to the CAT tool comparison, the link to the ranking tool, and so on. Finally, just a couple of couple of really general tips in terms of finding clients because I think one of the most difficult things for a freelance translator at the beginning is finding new clients. So here are my recommendation is first of all, don't forget your local advantage. Translation really is a global business nowadays, but you do have a local advantage. So use it based on where you live and the people with whom you interact with.

You can be the go to person in a particular location you have the advantage of being able to meet people face to face, so don't lose that opportunity. Social media offers say huge A huge opportunity nowadays to share your content to interact with other translators and to interact with potential clients. So take advantage of social media, but do it in the right way. build lasting relationships, offer value first, serve first. And then you will find that you will pick up business on the back of being that helpful, knowledgeable person, content creation is really interesting as well, I would encourage you to create some kind of content, whether it's a blog, post a video, or an audio on a regular basis, could be as little as once per month.

But get out there and create some content that will help you to grow your brand as well. These are all topics that I plan on going into much more detail on in future session. So look out for those in the future. That brings us to the end of today's session. Finally, a couple of quick conclusions, I do understand that getting started as a freelance translator can be hard. But if you have that right approach, if you have the right approach, it can really help you massively and one final piece of advice, focus on those activities that actually produce income, those activities that are actually going to get you in front of those potential clients.

So that brings us to the end of this very first session in the brand new podcast. Thank you so much for tuning in. There's a lot a lot of things going on over at the moment. So please go ahead and check the website And of course, if you would like to check out the podcast, check out the show notes, check out all of the links that I mentioned during the show, then go to Thanks so much for tuning in. I'm Paul Urwin. Until next time, bye bye.

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