Anyone can be a professional translator.
That means that you can be a professional translator.
Now, that doesn’t mean you will be one.
It doesn’t mean that becoming a translator will be easy for you.
It just means what it says. Anyone can become a translator if they are willing to work for it, they get a bit lucky, and take advantage of the opportunities that come their way.
Now, if you want to become a translator, there are some things you need to start with.
Ignore these and your chances of success will not be very high.
Improve yourself in these qualifications and your ability to success as a freelance translator will grow.
Not all of these are language-related.
For good reason.
Becoming successful at any endeavor takes more than just the natural skills associated with that activity.
An Attitude of Success
This is the very first qualification need to be a translator.
It doesn’t matter what kind of “attitude” it is, as long as it will keep you striving towards success.
Some people believe in having a positive attitude.
Others think that having an abundance attitude is the key.
Yet others say you should have an obsessive attitude about what you want to pursue.
Any one of those will work. A combination of them will also work.
Other attitudes that lead to success are also acceptable.
Figure out what drives you. Understand the type of attitude you need to have to drive you in the direction you want to go. And then use that attitude to fuel your desire to become a translator.
A Decent Command of Two Languages
You definitely need to know two languages in order to be a translator. I get emails every once in a while from people who want to become translators but they only speak one language.
They proceed to ask how they can become translators.
It’s kinda obvious, right?
What I’ve found in my own translating, and in speaking with other colleagues, is that most people who want to become translators overestimate the language level they need to be at in order to become professionals.
You don’t need to be perfect in two languages in order to be a successful translator.
You need to be competent in your two languages.
In fact, I would say that you need to be slightly more competent in your target language than you do your source language.
So, for example, say you know Spanish and English and that you want to translate mostly into English. Then your English skills need to be better than your Spanish skills.
The reason is because outputting language in the form of a translation is harder than understanding the original language, usually.
And the output is what your client will see.
Your output (or finished translation) is what your client will judge you on. If it’s good, you’ll be hired again. If your output reads like trash, you won’t be asked back.
You need a way to showcase who you are.
Your clients (and potential clients) need to know how to find you.
Long gone are the days when people that needed a translator opened up the yellow pages to find one.
Most people these days probably don’t even know what the yellow pages were.
If you don’t, let me explain. They were basically directories of business listings divided up alphabetically by industry or job title.
So if you were a translator, you could submit your business listing to the Yellow Pages for inclusion in the “translators” section. The idea was that when a potential client was in need of a translator, he would grab the Yellow Pages, flip over to the “translator” section, and then search through the translator listings until he found one to contact.
Luckily, technology has allowed us to nearly completely abandon this practice.
Now, instead of relying on a phone directory to put you in touch with clients, you can reach out to them directly through your own platform.
And here, when I talk about having your own platform, I mean one of two things: either your own social media account(s) tied directly to your translation business or your own website.
However, if you’re going to choose one, I’d choose a website.
A website is yours. You own the domain name. When you buy the name and hosting (like from a place like Bluehost), you have control on what you want to write, what you want to share, and how you want to come across.
With social media, you can do those things as well; however, you don’t have complete control over your account. If the social media company doesn’t like what you post or if people complain, they can get rid of you and delete your account without even talking to you.
Plus, not all social media platforms are not made equally.
Same thing with free hosting options.
So, there you go. If you want to be a professional translator, work towards having these three qualifications. If you do, you’ll be well on your way.
For more tips on becoming a professional translator, be sure to read my Translation Rules book.