For the past couple of years, almost every day I come across people who ask me the exact same question, which also motivated me to write this article – ‘What’s it like being a freelance translator?’ I can assume that they expect a short and straightforward answer such as ‘Amazing!’ or ‘Terrible’, but the honest truth is, the answer isn’t, and simply cannot be just that easy. Frankly, there are just too many variables involved in working as a legal translator; too many benefits as well as challenges I encounter on daily basis to be able to answer this question simply.
I have started working as a professional legal translator back in 2009 when I needed, and wanted, to spend more time at home, looking after my new born daughter. What I thought would only be a temporarily solution, turned out to be something that I in fact found extremely exciting and motivating, and now, more than 6 years later, I can say that becoming a freelance translator was perhaps the best decision I have made in my professional life.
The very first thing you should know about becoming a freelance translator is that speaking two languages, even fluently, does not guarantee a success in this field. Over the last years I have graduated with a degree in languages and completed a number of official courses, I spend hours every day translating, interpreting and exploring languages, I am registered with official bodies for translators such as ITI or Chartered Institute of Linguists, and still manage to find myself learning something new with each project that I complete.
One of the most important benefits that come with being a freelance translator, not only for me but as you can find here also for most of freelance professionals, is working from home and the fact that you are your own boss. Now, I get to choose how and when I want to work or which projects I work on. Consequently, I have more time for my family, which is definitely on the very top of my priority list.
Flexible hours are truly a great benefit, especially for me as I never really was an early bird and can now work during the hours I know I am most efficient.
Being in control over jobs and clients allows you to choose to whom you work with. I personally haven’t work with a rude or unprofessional client for quite a while now, simply because I decide not to take them on. In fact, the only companies I currently work with are Language Reach and Translation Services UK, which specialise in legal translations and are some of the leading professional translation agencies in United Kingdom. They always guarantee a professional approach not only to every project that we work on together, but also to me personally, as a professional translator.
I believe that working as a translator also helped me to become more open minded. Although I wouldn’t like to think of myself as an ignorant person, learning and exploring languages in-depth for my professional life now allows me to take advantage and transfer it to my personal and family life. I am now able to understand and see things which a monolingual speaker could easily miss. When travelling with my family, I can explore and appreciate local culture, history and even people much better!
Although freelancing as a translator has many benefits, alike any other job, there are also disadvantages. One of the biggest difficulties, especially in the early stages of a freelancer’s career, is keeping a steady workload. I remember when I first started working as a translator, there were times when I received too many projects for me to handle, yet there were also times when I sat in front of my computer praying for a project to arrive to my email inbox. This has now slightly changed as both of the translation companies that I work with fortunately keep me rather busy.
A very important part of working as a professional translator is keeping the deadlines. In this business, being late even a few hours can cost the company money and you – reputation. Therefore, it is simply essential that you develop great time management skills before starting your career, as this will help you enormously.
As you can now hopefully tell, working as a freelance translator has some truly great benefits, but at the same time, the job itself isn’t as easy as many might think. Although there are days when I drink unhealthy amounts of coffee and stay up all night to finish a project to an immaculate quality before a tight deadline, becoming a translator was definitely the right choice for me and I now never look back. Who knows, perhaps this article will inspire and encourage you to give it a go and become a freelancer yourself? I’d hope so, and maybe in few years from now you will write an article about how the change was the best decision in your life, just like I am now.