Become a Freelance Translator | Steps and Tips

Do you speak multiple languages ​​and want to start a self-employed business? You can become a freelance translator and put your language skills to good use. To cope with the globalization of their activities, many companies are in need of translations and now do not hesitate to call an outside service provider to get them done. Our article explains how to become a freelance translator. Essential Qualifications, Administrative Procedures and How to Get the First Assignment… We Tell You Everything!

What are the qualities required to become a freelance translator?

To be a freelance translator, you must have proficiency in at least two languages, both spoken and written. Spelling and grammar should be impeccable. Not only must you speak and write these two languages, but you must also know their intricacies, master sentences and expressions. Besides your passion for languages, there are other qualities you need:

  • professionalism and honesty;
  • availability and accountability;
  • curiosity and good general knowledge;
  • Rigorous, organized and attention to detail.

Do you need to graduate to become a freelance translator and interpreter?

The activity of a freelance translator-interpreter is an irregular liberal profession. As a result, no training or diploma is required to practice this profession. So it is quite possible to become a freelance translator without a diploma.

However, your credibility as a translator will be much better with your prospects and clients if you have training, diploma or if you can justify your qualifications (long time living abroad, parents of a different nationality) , Etcetera). It also gives you a significant advantage in facing competition that can be harsh.

There are many translation training courses offered by universities with specialties in the language or field of activity (legal, commercial, etc.) or type of translation (interpreter, subtitles, dubbing, etc.). Private schools also exist for students or professionals: ESTRI (High School of Translation and International Relations), IELTS (International English Testing System) or ETL (Literary Translation School).

In addition, some professional translators become “sworn” translators.

To become a sworn translator, you must submit an application to the Tribunal de Grande Instance of your constituency before the end of March of the current year. If your application is selected, you receive the status of a Ministerial Officer authorized by the Ministry of External Affairs. This means that you are able to affix a certification on your translations, but also that you may be called upon by justice, police, gendarmerie, customs to translate or to be an interpreter on certain files.

good to know

Even though a translator may not have a sworn diploma or training, it often reassures private clients, individuals or companies.

It allows you to do more assignments, and especially the translation of legal documents (birth, marriage, death certificates, driver’s licenses, accounts, commercial documents, wills, judgments, etc.).

What is the legal status for a freelance translator?

This is an important step when one becomes a freelance translator: the choice of legal form. This will have an impact on your taxation, your social status, your remuneration and your expenses as well as your company’s growth prospects. A freelance translator-interpreter can choose between several legal situations:

  • Auto-enterprise: easy to create and manage, you benefit from the benefits of social and financial governance of the situation but the level of turnover is limited;
  • Sole Proprietorship (EI or EIRL): The cost is high but there is no limit on the turnover, the growth potential is wide;
  • SASU or EURL: More complex to build and manage, these are solid and protective structures.

All have advantages and limitations. To make the right choice, don’t hesitate to go with a chartered accountant or lawyer.

What are the administrative formalities to become a freelance translator?

Once you’ve chosen your legal status, the first step to becoming a freelance translator-interpreter is starting a business. Depending on the construction process to follow and your appetite for legal and administrative tasks, you may choose to:

Then you need to open a business account to manage your business income and expenses. Online banks are a very attractive solution for freelancers with suitable and affordable business accounts.

Before starting your activity, also remember to find out about professional insurance for freelance translators. Although not required by law, Pro RC is highly recommended and sometimes even required by some customers.

Finally, to manage your accounting and invoicing, dedicated software is very useful. Some are free, others are paid. You can view our selection here.

Become a Freelance Translator in 4 Steps

1 – Create a business plan

To ensure that your activity is viable and sustainable, you must create a business plan. This is a file that presents your project and details a financial analysis. You will study the expenses required to conduct your activity and estimate the turnover.

The cost of an independent freelance translator is relatively low because the needs are simple: space to work, computer equipment (computer, internet connection, printing, etc.), and possibly translation software.

In terms of remuneration, it can vary widely depending on the profile of the translator, field of activity, volume of work, language etc. Most translators charge per word. Calculate between 0.5 and 0.20 € per word. But some clients offer fixed-price remuneration when it comes to translating a website, for example.

2 – Work on your portfolio

A portfolio brings together a set of documents that enhance your profile and your experience. These can be documents, quotes, links to websites you have translated, opinions of your clients, your diplomas and certificates …

The portfolio may take the form of a paper file, but to give you all the opportunities, a web presence is strongly recommended. Today there are simple ways to create a website in just a few clicks. Thus, you will reach a wider clientele and perhaps even internationally.

3 – Find Missions

Depending on your experience, finding customers at first can be difficult. To get your first assignment, don’t hesitate to do some translations for free. Not only will you gain one or more firsthand experiences, but you will also complete your portfolio.

Missions are also more or less easy to find, depending on the languages ​​you master. In France, English is the most common language but competition is strong.

good to know

If you speak a rare language, you’ll have a better chance of landing a mission, although they are less frequent. Also think about your geographical location: closer to a big city, closer to a border country…

You can also go for the platform for freelancers, not specialized or in translation. You will be charged a commission on each assignment, but this is an easy and quick solution to completing your first assignment.

Word of mouth is widespread among freelancers. A positive experience with a customer will certainly lead you to other actions if they don’t hesitate to talk about you. Lastly, direct prospecting is also quite effective, even if it takes time. You can approach translation agencies or experienced translators who wish to be representatives. You can also target customers in an area of ​​activity that attracts you and who are most likely to need it.

4 – Develop your network and communicate about your activity

Through a website, as we mentioned earlier, or through a social network (Linkedin or others), you have to get people talking about yourself. A professional presentation of your profile and your experience, a complete and clear portfolio, customer recommendations… all these elements will reassure potential customers. If you have no experience with the subject, consider taking an online digital marketing training.

Don’t hesitate to join professional translators, freelancers’ groups, freelancers’ groups, etc. Often there is an exchange of announcements, requests for recommendations. By being active there, you develop your professional network and thus increase your chances of achieving the mission.

Finally, you can also talk about the launch of your new activity around you: family, friends, former coworkers…

general question

How much is the salary of a freelance translator?

The remuneration of a freelance translator varies according to several criteria and ranges between €0.5 and €0.20 per word.

How to become a sworn translator?

To become a sworn translator, you must submit an application to the Tribunal de Grande Instance before March. At the end of the year you will be notified whether your application has been accepted or not.

How to find an assignment as a freelance translator interpreter?

To find translation assignments, you can use freelance platforms, activate your professional and personal network, or even do direct prospecting.

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