Freelance Translation Work

It probably goes without saying that you do need to have a good grounding in your mother tongue and at least one other language to become a translator. To ensure the highest quality translation, you should ideally only accept translation jobs where you are a native speaker of the target language and have professional expertise in the subject matter.

Although you do not necessarily need any specialist knowledge, you will have a greater chance of obtaining work as a freelance translator, or commanding a higher rate of pay for translation work, if you have expertise in a particular field, say medical or legal training. Unlike interpreter work, almost all translation work can be home based. In many cases companies transmit the work to be translated electronically so the translation can be carried out anywhere in the world.

Starting Out As a Freelance Translator

Trying to introduce themselves directly to companies, freelance translators are likely to find it difficult to find any freelance translation work. Companies are more likely to outsource translation services to agencies that can meet their translation needs in a range of different languages, can deal with specialised texts with a higher degree of availability, and will ensure that all deadlines are met. It is hardly surprising that many companies select an all-round translation agency rather than individual freelancers. Whilst an agency may cost more than a freelancer on a price per word basis, the additional service and quality guarantees justify the extra investment.

Luckily, there are hundreds of translation service bureaux and agencies across the world, who will gladly add an extra freelance translator to their books. Expect to be given a test piece of work to assess your ability. Register with as many companies as you can to increase your chances of being offered work.

Tips to becoming a successful freelance translator

1. When starting out, it can be tempting to rush out onto the market as a freelance translator, but first try to find employment at an all-round translation firm and spend a couple of years there to gain the necessary practical experience. As a salaried employee your income will be less compared to what you might potentially earn in a freelance capacity, but the experience you gain can be invaluable. You will often be assigned to a senior translator who will revise your translations, monitor your progress, and point out your strengths and weaknesses. This will enable you to acquire the skills you need to become a professional freelance translator.

2. If you can’t find paid employment, try to find a post as an unpaid trainee, if only for a few hours a week. A translation agency may not need new staff, but may be able to offer you the necessary training to help you gain the practical experience in a commercial environment. Who knows – if a vacancy crops up, you may find yourself top of the list of candidates. Additionally, charitable organizations like the Red Cross and Translators Without Borders, refugee assistance programs, and public health clinics are often looking for volunteer translators and interpreters.

3. Having refined your skills at a translation agency for a number of years, you’ll then be in a position to start to find your own clients. If possible, try to keep a part-time contract with your exisitng agency, giving you time to obtain clients and complete assignments for them, whilst still bringing in enough money to live on. It is highly recommended that you keep your exisiting employer informed at this stage, to avoid a conflict of interests. The best strategy is to send your CV to professional translation firms and also to translation departments within companies and governmental institutions, detailing your work experience and highlighting any specialist skills, eg computing, engineering, medicine.

4. Don’t forget to register as a self-employed person with the relevant tax authorities. They can advise you on any requirements.

5. Once you have about 20 hours of freelance work a week, you can consider terminating your employment contract and spending this extra time trying to attract new business. In 20 hours most experienced freelance translators can expect to earn as much as a full-time translator in salaried employment.

Translation Organisations

You can contact the Translators’ Association at 84 Drayton Gardens, London SW10 9SB. Telephone 0207 373 6642

or take a look at the websites of Institute of Translation and Interpreting, United Kingdom and The Institute of Linguists, the UK’s largest membership organisation for professional translators, interpreters, language educationalists and those using languages in industry and commerce.

For more international organizations, visit

If you’ve little experience to fill your CV, consider offering to translate websites. You may not get paid much but it is then highly visible for your CV. Just browse the Internet for likely sites. Good sources are sites where they have attempted to use translation software, with dire, almost comical, results. You don’t even need to stick to topics with which you are familiar. One quick easy way is to buy books on the topic which are already available in two languages eg the English original and the Spanish translation and work between them for obscure phrases. You will of course need to be fairly fluent even doing this.
Promoting Your Services

Unless you’re fortunate enough to be signed up with an agency that keeps you fully employed with work, it’s highly likely you’ll need to find ways of building a client base yourself. As most translation work now involves translating documents already in electronic format, geographical location becomes less of a consideration and the Internet is an ideal place to both find work and promote yourself. See for a list of online freelance project databases where you can register your services and bid on projects.

An increasing number of freelance translators are now finding that creating their own website is bringing in business they would never have found otherwise. An excellent free 10 part e-mail course, The Service Sellers Masters Course, explains how to do this. Also available as an immediately downloadable free eBook. See for information.

For a good example of translators who’ve done just this, take a look at the following sites: – . Written by an Irishman living in Berlin, it not only promotes his services but is also an educational website for students, translators and people looking for translations. – Created by a very successful translator, this site provides free reports (including a Free marketing ebooklet for Freelance Translators), message board, and the chance to subscribe to a free monthly newsletter of tips for translators. You can also purchase a copy of Tranmail, a list of 1700+ translation agencies around the world, or the highly recommended eBook “How to Earn $80,000/£50,000+ per year as a Freelance Translator”. (Chapter 1 can be downloaded free)
Translation Agencies

The following agencies invite you to register

Live Translation provides professional translation in minutes from only $1.99. If you are a native speaker of the language you want to translate into, hold a degree or other linguistic qualification and have at least one year’s commercial experience then they would like to hear from you to become a translator for their unique online translation service. Live Translation pays it’s translators a fixed price of $0.08 / £0.05 / €0.06 per word depending on your location, and paid through Paypal. The agency does not accept projects over 300 words so is ideally suited to fitting around existing work. Simply login when you have some spare time and you’ll be allocated the next available job. No software to download or formatting required – just simple text. Full details available from

Datawords was created in 2000 and has specialized in the translation of Asian languages, European languages and Arabic languages. It also offers website localization and desktop publishing services. To apply send your CV to

On its site you’ll also find articles about translation, localization, a glossary and other interesting information about translation.

Axis Translations – If you are interested in employment and freelancing opportunities with Axis Translations, please email your CV (and rates for freelancing) to

To assist them with reviewing your CV, please show your language combinations in the subject line of the email. They guarantee that every CV received will be viewed and, if acceptable, added to their translators database.

S.J.H. Translations, 62 Westfield Road, Birchington, Kent CT7 9RN
Tel: 01843 846490, Fax: 01843 848595, Mobile: 07968 539191, ICQ: 109529212

E.I.T.I. ,7 Station Rd ,Cippenham, Berks. SL1 6JJ – Interpreters & Translators wishing to register with EITI should send plain text CVs only to: or to register with Bilingual Recruitment for permanent and temporary placements:

Dixon Servicios Lingüísticos, S.L.
Spanish based multilanguage company welcome contact from freelance translators working in all language pairs. Click on “working with us” at the bottom of English version of home page (or equivalent in other languages) for online application form.

Calle Mestre Racional 1-7º-14ª
46005 Valencia – España
Tel.: 0034 963732248
Fax: 0034 963736381
Tel. 24-h: 607 663 984

RVR Translation Limited are a translation and interpreting agency specialising in European languages and cultures and are currently interested in expanding their database of both translators and interpreters.

If you are interested in registering with the RVR Translation Limited database, please send an e-mail with current C.V. to

Information required:

* Contact details (full name, address, telephone/fax/mobile number if relevant, e-mail address).
* Area of language expertise; specialist subjects; target, source and native languages.
* Details of qualifications and experience.
* Average rates.
* Tools, hardware and software used.
* References and samples of previous work (translation) if possible If you are a translator and would like to work for them, please send your CV or résumé and details of your rates by e-mail or by post.

Suite 6, Regent House Business Centre, Skinner Lane, Leeds LS7 1AX (UK)

Telephone:+44 (0)113 3993283 Fax:+44 (0)113 3993275

Euronet outsources about 95% of its work, so they are always interested in having new people find them. They welcome applications from freelances but, please, NO novices unless you have specialist qualifications or years of experience in the sort of fields that are of interest to the business world. For Euronet, that means particularly law (from basic commercial contracts all the way up to Court of Appeal decisions; national, international, patents and trade marks) and engineering of all sorts, into and out of English, plus EU institutional documents, directives, regulations and so on into English only.

email or check out the website for more information.

Roevin Translation Services – Roevin is a leading language translations and interpreting company, providing a international translation services in over 60 languages including English to Russian Translation in a range of technical fields, including manufacturing, pharmaceutical, legal, financial and medical. They have exclusive access to a global network of linguists with specialist qualifications and skills in their native language.

It is a Roevin requirement for all their translators to be educated to degree level, holding a recognised post-graduate Translation Qualification and / or membership of an official Translation Body such as the Institute of Translation & Interpreting. A certain level of experience in the field of translation is preferred. If you wish to be considered email your CV to
To be considered to join their translation teams you must have:

* At least 5 years experience as a freelance translator.
* Experience in translating business text, a full knowledge of business terminology.
* Excellent interpretation skills, to be able to communicate the intended message.
* A credit card, (to accept international payment)

If you satisfy these requirements please e-mail them with your language skills in the subject line, attach a CV and include pricing information.

Home Based Foreign Language Typesetters
CETRA accepts applications from professional linguists in all languages. CETRA works with translators and editors worldwide on a freelance basis. Linguists for a particular project are selected according to their area of expertise, credentials, and rates. Translators and foreign language typesetters. This very old translation bureau handles all languages and subjects.

Native translators are preferred, but will consider translators with absolute knowledge of a foreign language and good English skills. Must have a particular area of expertise for the terminology of that field.

Apply online:

Indian Translators provide service for almost all Indian and International languages and welcome applications from translators. Apply online are a large translation agency and are always looking for new translators as all of their work is outsourced.

KENAX Translating now offers more than 180 languages and continually seeks more translators. Apply online.

The following UK publishers sometimes require translators.

Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd
Hopetoun Crescent, EDINBURGH EH7 4AY
Tel: 0131 556 5929; Fax: 0131 556 5313;

Translators (French, Spanish) Contact: Catherine Johnson
Media: Dictionaries Use freelances: Regularly

Thomas Nelson
Nelson House, Mayfield Road, WALTON- ON-THAMES, Surrey KT12 5PL
Tel: 01932 252211; Fax: 01932 246109;
Email:; WWW:

Translators (French, German, Spanish)
Media: Books, CD-ROM, integrated media Subjects: All school curriculum subject areas. Use freelances: Regularly

Click here for a list of US companies believed to be looking for translators worldwide

Or try the following websites (in no particular order): subscribe to a free monthly newsletter of tips for translators plus free reports, message board, and more. Get your copy of Tranmail, a list of 2000+ translation agencies around the world, or ” How to Earn $80,000/£50,000+ per year as a Freelance Translator”.

If you’d like a look at an earlier newsletter without registering, click here – Home page of the American Translators Association. Membership information, Accreditation, Chapters, Divisions,Cooperating Groups, Conference, publications and useful links. – Searchable database of translators by language, country, and field of specialization, containing over a thousand translators. Free directory and job posting service for translators, translation users, and translation agencies, free for both potential translation buyers and translation providers. invite you to register online and also pay you commission on any work undertaken by other translators you introduce. a free list of translators, as well as resources and products for people needing translations. Searchable database of translators by target or source language. Lots of interesting links.

– List of translation agencies in the Republic of Ireland Searchable database of translators, based in the Netherlands. Add your own details.

Lots of useful links, Database of NCTA translators and translation companies, dictionary reviews, etc., etc.
Translators’ On-Line Resources – dozens of links to useful sites, including several mailing lists to join
– general job listings site, with translation section.

For the most comprehensive directory of translators links, take a look at Neotext

If you’re having no success getting assignments from others, browse the web for sites that could benefit from translation into your chosen language. See Anda La Musica for an example of a site that works well in English and Spanish
Recommended Reading and Publications

Translation agency, Lingo24 provide articles on translation, including the language translation industry from people in the know and a light-hearted look at languages and the translation industry. You’ll also find the latest news from the translation industry and a career guide for linguists interested in finding out more about the translation industry.

The following books are all suited to the beginner. Click on the titles to go to to order.

Becoming a Translator – Doug Robinson.
Amazon Price: £17.99. Paperback – 344 pages (October 1997)
Routledge; ISBN: 0415148618

Integrating translation theory and the practical skills required by the working translator, Doug Robinson draws on a broad range of contemporary translation theories and integrates the latest in learning theory, memorization skills and brain science. In addition, the book provides the type of practical information and advice that novice translators need, including: how to translate faster and more accurately; how to deal with arising problems; how to deal with stress; and how the market works. A wide variety of lively activities and exercises are included to facilitate the learning of both theory and practice. The text also includes a detailed teachers guide which contains suggestions for discussion and activities and hints for the teaching of translation. This book has been specifically designed for introductory undergraduate courses in the theory and practice of translation. It should also be of interest to professional translators and scholars of translation and language.

Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications by Jeremy Munday

Paperback – 224 pages. Routledge; (June, 2001)

Jeremy Munday is lecturer in Spanish Studies at the University of Surrey and is a freelance translator, lexicographer, and materials writer. His publications include Spanish vocabulary books and translations of Latin American fiction.

Introducing Translation Studies is an introductory textbook providing an accessible overview of the key contributions to translation theory. A very wide variety of text types is analyzed, including a tourist brochure, a children’s cookery book, a Harry Potter novel, the Bible, literary reviews, a technical text, and a football report.

A Practical Guide for Translators – Geoffrey Samuelsson-Brown
Amazon Price: £11.95. Paperback – 213 pages (September 1998)
Multilingual Matters; ISBN: 1853594288

This is the third revised edition of this text written for those considering a career in translation. It is directed at those studying languages and those who already have a language capability but who are considering a career change. It considers the practical aspects of the translation profession and provides a complement to language teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

It is well worth buying and reading, even if you have been around for a couple of decades and think you know it all already! Something there for everyone, from novice to expert, translator to buyer of translations.

Translation and Translating – Roger T. Bell, Christopher N. Candlin
Amazon Price: £20.99. Paperback – 320 pages ( 7 October, 1991)
Longman Higher Education; ISBN: 0582016487

Introduction to Spanish Translation – Jack Child
Amazon Price: £24.50. Paperback (April 1992)
Univ Pr of Amer; ISBN: 0819185892

The Art of Translating Prose – Burton Raffel
Amazon Price £34.95. Hardcover – 169 pages (April 1994).
The Pennsylvania State University Press; ISBN:0271010800


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