5 Things You Need to Know Before Starting a Career in Translation
Episode 193: Combining Parenting and Freelance Careers – Interview with Catherine Christaki and Kristin Kamm
December 17, 2018
tips and skills to become a translator
How to Become a Successful Translator
January 5, 2019

5 Things You Need to Know Before Starting a Career in Translation

career in translation

This is a guest post by Anna Ashmore.

Every educator or mentor you had was right – being bilingual creates career opportunities, and the mastery of at least two languages can lead you directly to job opportunities. If you’re contemplating using your linguistic talents to embark on a new career path in translation, there are a few things you’ll want to know first. Translation is a career that has many entryways, welcomes many skill levels, and comes with many paygrades.

1. You Can Fly Solo or Work Together

There are companies that hire translators, either as a company with a need for a dedicated translator or a company that hires only translators and works on projects for other businesses. If you want a traditional work experience, working with coworkers is likely the best option for you. Some people prefer to be freelance or solo translators. These people pick up work that companies post on job boards and make their money on a job-by-job basis. This is a perfect option for people who would prefer to translate as a side job or second job.

2. Pay Can Vary Significantly

A recent report shows that translators make vastly different amounts – translation is not an industry where the median salary reflects how much someone will truly make. A BLS report suggests that translators in the US make anywhere between $25,370 and $83,010 a year. How much money a translator makes depends on whether they charge by the hour or by the job. The rate that they can command depends on their skills and the quality of their work. Almost all translators can reasonably ask for more as they gain experience.

3. You Don’t Necessarily Need Special Training

While many people who work as translators have special training or a college education, it’s not always necessary. A lot of employers prefer this, but would not be opposed to hiring a highly qualified candidate or independent contractor who can deliver excellent results. As long as you’re able to easily demonstrate your proficiency with the necessary languages and the ability to translate whatever needs translation, you’ll be able to find a job in the field.

4. Specialty Translators Are in High Demand

Some companies desperately need translators with a technical or otherwise highly specialized area of expertise. Highly technical instructions, medical and scientific terminology, and even mechanical expertise can make you sought after. Many people with degrees in complex arts or sciences who happen to be bilingual can find work translating industry specific documents, speeches, or information to make the verbiage accessible to everyone.

5. Keeping Yourself Sharp is Necessary

One of the most important things translators do is convey nuances or turns of phrase that would be missed or misconstrued by automated translation services. Different languages and different cultures contain their own expressions. These sayings, adages, colloquialisms, puns, idioms, and expressions may not properly translate to another language. They won’t have an equivalent, and automated translators or inexperienced translators might not be able to figure out what they mean.

This is where staying sharp becomes relevant. The best translators, especially those that want to capture nuance and deeper meaning, will immerse themselves in the culture surrounding the other language. They’ll learn the things that don’t quite translate and find the most effective way to clearly and concisely place them into another language.

These customs extend past turns of phrase. Gerber once marketed baby food in Africa without understanding local marketing practices. Packaging often depicts what’s inside of the container, because the literacy rate is low. When customers saw a baby on the jar, they weren’t too happy. That’s why cultural understanding can be equally as important as an understanding of a language.

Translation can be hard work, but that work has the potential to be rewarding. Make sure you understand the salary you’ll be coming into and the best path to success for your skillset and abilities. As your proficiency develops over time, you’ll continue to grow as a professional.


Anna Ashmore is a woman of many talents. She is passionate about leiterature, sports, travel and education among many other things. She is also an amateur writer who hopes to make it big in the blog world. Professionally, Anna is a market research analyst at http://businesscheck.co.nz/ and loves her job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe to get the latest marketing checklists and tips, plus a notice when a new episode is out.
Click Me