10 Essential Translation Skills and Abilities a Freelancer Must Have

10 Essential Translation Skills and Abilities a Freelancer Must Have
translation skills and abilities

If you are looking to become a freelance translator and start a great career in translation there are some translation skills and abilities you must have or develop in order to become a professional. There are plenty of people that consider freelancing an easy job which allows one to work whenever he wants while, in fact, becoming a freelancer is not easy, and the stress of not getting enough assignments in order to make ends meet is tough to deal with.

Must have translation skills and abilities for a freelancer

Many people believe that being fluent in two languages is all you need in order to become a translator. This is far from the truth. In order to provide high quality translation services you need to have (and further develop) the following translation skills and abilities.

native language knowledge

1. Excellent command of your native language

In order to become a freelance translator, you have to be an excellent writer with extensive knowledge of grammar and different writing styles. Keep in mind that your translated text will be read by native speakers with a lot of experience so if you can’t reach that level of knowledge you might cause troubles to your clients. Usually translators only translate to their native language, and we follow this rule all the time.

second language knowledge

2. Excellent command of your second language

Translating a text is not replacing a work in a language with its correspondent on another language. That is what machine translation does, and the results are pretty bad. In order to be able to translate from a language you have to fluent in that language and be able to understand the text you are translating. If you are only “almost” fluent in your second language you will only be able to translate from your second language to your native language.

cultural knowledge

3. Extensive cultural knowledge in both languages

A freelance translator must be very familiar with the cultural differences between countries. If you are only translating words and preserve the meaning of the text you might not do a good service for your client. What if some of the text is inappropriate in the target culture? Here are some translation blunders that had disastrous outcome for some companies due to not adapting the translation to the local culture.

avid learner

4. Avid learner and researcher

If you are just starting up you will have to do a lot of research in order to provide quality. Terminology, words, local concepts are only a few things you will need to be able to dig for and develop the ability to use those in your translations.

computer skills

5. Great computer skills

This is one of the must have translation skills and abilities for a freelancer. You will have to know the ins and outs of your computer and how to use it in an efficient manner. Fast typing skills and the ability to understand how different tools work will give you a great advantage.

subject area specialization

6. Specialize in one or more subject areas

Knowing a lot about a certain subject will allow you to provide a faster and better translation. Specializing in a few subject areas is a huge advantage for a freelance translator as he won’t have to spend a lot of time researching for specific terms.

self motivation

7. Self motivation and organization

You have to be self motivated and perfectly organized in order to market and sell your services. Promoting yourself is not easy and motivation along with computer and internet skills play an important role in marketing your translation skills and abilities in order to get more clients.

management skills

8. Management skills

You have to have great time management skills in order to be able to deliver your translations in time. Delays are never an option when it comes to translation as each and every client wants his work delivered in due time, no matter how busy you can be at that moment with other jobs.

customer oriented

9. Customer service skills

A freelance translator should be customer oriented, always communicating with its customers about their needs. It is not enough to communicate until you get the job, you need to be ready to answer all your client’s questions during and after the project.

accessible and affordable

10. Accessible and affordable

A translator must be affordable and easily accessible all the time. While there are customers that allow you some time to respond, there are also clients that want your full attention asap and they do not come back if they do not find you the first time.

In regards to the rates you can charge, while no one could impose you lower prices, if you charge too much there won’t be many customers to use your services no matter how good you are. You need to research on this and charge affordable rates at all times. A great way to get repetitive assignments from the same client is to offer discounts for large volumes or to give incentives to make them come back to you whenever they need more translation services.

Deliver your translation on time and keep to your promises

timely delivery

Timely delivery is important

When it comes to freelancing, the most convenient part of the business is doing things according to your own schedule. But as soon as you are given a deadline, a time frame to deliver things, then there is no backing out. For a freelance translator, delivering translation on time is not only a professional obligation but also a matter of sustaining and building an impeccable reputation.

Although the following are not translation skills and abilities, it is important to mention them. Freelance translators may have the upper hand as they are not bounded by any contract with a given company, but to stay in business and to get more work, timely delivery plays a crucial role. The world today is the world of reviews, people search for reviews before buying products, services, and just about everything. And if you are a freelance translator, chances are your work will be under consideration only after your potential clients have seen your reviews. If a translation is not delivered on time, particularly when the client was having an emergency, they are most likely to leave a bad review.

Keep to your promises

Some agencies that claim to provide translations on discounted prices often don’t pay the freelance translators well. Reason, they don’t deliver on time. This is why it is even more important to ensure the provision of a timely delivery, which is a must-mention when it comes to translation skills and abilities. If you are a freelancer and you’ve already worked with a client in the past, a great way to get that client back for more is to offer a discount on their next order. Whatever promises you make in terms of discounts or quality, keep to them no matter what.

The translation industry constitutes a rather tricky business as it has no room for inaccuracy, low quality and most importantly delays in delivery. Most of the times, clients require urgent translations in situations that are inevitable and in those cases, a minor delay in translation could cost them big time. It is therefore important to acct professionally and always deliver according to expectations.

keep to your promises
helpful tips translator

Be Friendly

Did you know that the client is always right? Even when they are not? Well, that’s not just a saying. Working with clients from different countries may seem challenging but the real dilemma is dealing with their mindsets. It is true that you cannot satisfy everyone but you must satisfy your customer at any cost.

This is why, if a client is difficult and want changes in the document, you must never lose your calm. Be friendly with them as this goes out as an indication of your commitment to delivering the best. They’ll only work with you when they recognize that you have their best interest at heart. So if such an issue arises, the first thing you’ll have to do is stay polite, ask what kind of changes they need and how soon do they require it. If there’s a misunderstanding, you must point out it in a very friendly manner.

As a new freelance translator in the market, you need to have all the above translation skills and abilities to be able to “make it”. While there are other skills a professional translator must have, these are the basic requirements. Do you know any other skills? Share your opinion in the comments! If you’d like to work with us please see our how to become a professional translator page or get in touch by live-chat.

If we can help you with any questions, please feel free to contact us
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