How I fell into freelance translation

On this grey overcast morning in Sri Lanka I have been thinking about what to post as my first translation-related blog. Being fairly new to full-time freelance translation I still have a lot to learn and I have learnt some of this through reading other translators’ blogs so  I hope that what I will post in the coming months and years will be of benefit to new linguists joining the freelance translation  and/or localisation profession and other freelancers (work-from-homers) in general.

Freelance translation

Freelance translation

So, whilst thinking about what to write…the pro’s and con’s of Google translation or something about establishing yourself on social media, how to find new clients maybe, it suddenly dawned on me that most translators I know were educated in or trained to do something else and I always find it really interesting to read how they became translators.

Here is my story:

After leaving London (and a very well-paid job) in 2004 to travel, my first stop was Sri Lanka. I had a job in a hotel bar and all was going great until Boxing day, 2004 – the Indian Ocean tsunami. Luckily I wasn’t hurt and I didn’t lose any friends. The tourists all left though so there was no more job. I stayed on and did some voluntary work but soon discovered that my resources weren’t endless and I needed to find some paying work. I went to Holland in 2005 and worked in a restaurant for 3 months but decided I wanted to go back to Sri Lanka and this is when my foray into freelancing started.

Google was my freelancing friend in those early days. I searched endless websites for freelancing work (initially many were scams or pyramid schemes but I soon learned to avoid those). In 2006 many new freelancing websites were beginning to surface or get media attention; elance.com, freelancer.com, oDesk.com to name a few. So I joined them ALL and started building my profile and looking for writing work. Now anybody can call themselves a writer and join these sites so I struggled at first. After dropping my rates to ridiculously low levels I was becoming discouraged and I realised I needed a more marketable skill than just “writing”.

So, armed with my Economics and Philosophy degree I started searching for more specific writing jobs; financial writing, banking articles etc. I joined some essay writing sites such as Essay writers. These paid a lot better but god was the work boring and tedious. Basically students are outsourcing their essays, theses etc. to professional writers because either they can’t be bothered to do their own work or their English is dreadful.

During quiet times I went back to my other freelancing sites and I stumbled across some Dutch to English translation work quite by accident. I really enjoyed the work and started searching for jobs using my Dutch! I am Dutch and speak the language fluently but only then did I realise that because I am truly bilingual – this is an enormous marketable skill!! I was 33 years old and had only just realised this. This was six years ago and I haven’t looked back.

Tips:

  • Start by joining as many agencies as you can initially (online) and you can then stick with those that have the most work or offer the best rates per word etc.
  • Google your specific language combinations – agencies which specialise in your languages will be more likely to hire you.
  • Familiarise yourself with translation associations and societies.  Even if you don’t join them straight away – they have great resources such as free downloads and useful links on their sites. Here is a comprehensive list of ALL organisations & associations.
  • ProZ.com is a great place to start learning everything about translation and looking for jobs too. I will post more good links soon.

I have been a full-time Dutch => English => Dutch freelance translator and localisation professional for 2 years now and I love it!

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6 Comments

Filed under The life of a freelancer, Translation titbits

6 responses to “How I fell into freelance translation

  1. Would you be interested in doing a column on the SRi Lankan economy? Believe some of the newspapers are looking for someone to write one. There is also a dearth of people who can write on business copy – for example for quoted company annual reports. Believe Vanguard was loking for feature writers on business as well. If you are interested, I can put you in touch with a few people.

  2. Thanks Jack – sure I’m always on the look out for new challenges. Feel free to tell people about me – you or they can contact me on ankierenique@hotmail.com. Cheers.

  3. We are still looking for translators. If you are interested, contact us recruitment@isotranslations.com

  4. These links are very helpful. Glad you’ve shared it.

  5. Shanna Peeters

    I’m looking for a job in translation as well, but since I don’t have a translation degree I didn’t have much hope finding one. Your story motivates me to keep on pursuing this dream! Thanks for the useful links!

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