• Virginia Magrì

Starting a translation business: some points to keep in mind

Actualizado: 11 de abr de 2020


There is a common idea about translation and it's that everyone can basically be a translator and start a business if they know two or more languages. Or, everyone can be a copywriter if they can write.

Two things have shocked me in the past week:


1. A Facebook Ad by someone who claims that it's VERY easy making money as a translator even though you are not qualified. She also claims that professional translators don't know how to do it. 2. A person telling me that maybe she should start working online like I do and make money as a translator because she's currently unemployed.


Unlike these widespread ideas, starting a business and being successful is even more complex.

My goal is not to teach you how to be successful but I would like to share some tips that could perhaps guide you through the creation process. I constantly learn from my mistakes and fortunately I made many (and will surely make more) so I'm happy to share with you what I learned and what I wish somebody had told me before starting my business.



1. Set up a strategy




Setting up a strategy is essential to define the skeleton of your business plan. Here are a few questions that can help you with that:

a. Why do I want to create a translation business? What is the goal?

b. Who do I translate for? (Please, don't say "I work for anyone who might need a translation service")

c. Does my brand reflect my vision and my mission?

d. What are the current tasks I need to prioritize?

Know always where you're going, what you need to achieve and how. Set realistic goals that you can easily achieve in 3-4 months. Lacking a plan is basically like driving without a seatbelt, you'll crash at some point.


2. Are you a qualified professional?


Knowing two languages doesn't make you a language professional. Translation not only requires the perfect knowledge of your working languages. You have to be able to be familiar with the cultures of the countries where those languages are spoken. Translation is about bringing cultures together and a good translator is able to identify cultural differences and adapt them to the target language.

A good translator is also a good reader as well as a good writer. Make sure your final translation is fluent and your writing style suits the target audience. How to figure out if a translation is of quality? Simple, nobody would say it's a translation!


3. The importance of specialisation

As I mentioned above, you can't work for anyone who needs a translation service.

It is important to pick up one or two niches and focus on a specific market. The reasons are simple: first, we can't just be good at everything; second, customers look for experts of a specific field, people who are familiar with the terminology and are able to reach the target audience because they really know who the target audience is and what it's looking for.

Choose something you're interested in and you would like to know more about. Start with master classes, webinars, free trainings, books and then, if you have the possibility, get a Master's Degree. There are a lot of useful resources for translators, and a lot of them are free. I will talk about this in another post.

Also, make sure to choose a field in which you have more opportunities to grow as a professional and for which the demand is high (e.g. Marketing, Legal, Medical, Media&Software, etc.)


4. Be prepared to failure and disappointment

I know it sounds bad but that's a fact and failure is part of life. When I say "be prepared to failure" I mean accept it and figure out the way to start again. Successful entrepreneurs teach us that success is a collection of failures. Failure trains our mind to figure out a lot of possible ways to do and not do something. Stay open to critics, accept negative and constructive feedback from clients. It feels horrible but it helps you grow up.



5. Invest

We live in a time where people prefer getting everything for free. We look for free software, free music, free movies, free...everything. But we get super mad at potential clients who look for free or cheap translators! And we perfectly know that good quality is not cheap at all.

At some point, investing in ourselves and our business becomes mandatory. Invest your money in something useful and essential for your success as a professional, for example, a website, a SEO expert, a training course, a good translation software or anything that can add value to your project. Don't be afraid: if you invest wisely, money will come back.


6. Don't sell yourself out

As freelancers, we are constantly selling our services and trying to convince pospective clients to trust our work and to choose us rather than competitors.

At the beginning of our career, we might tend to lower our rates in order to be selected for projects. We might think that we don't have enough experience, therefore we can't charge "a lot". Be careful with this: don't use it as a strategy to get more clients. It may work at the beginning but, as I mentioned a moment ago, high quality is not cheap. Would you buy a 30 $ laptop? Maybe it's a little extreme but you get the idea. Once, I saw a "translator" promoting their services on a platform for freelancers: 5$ for a legal translation and I'm not joking. Would you hire them? In my opinion, sometimes it's OK to negotiate over rates but remember to keep in mind your expenses, hours of work, etc. A rate can be negotiable but it has to be a win-win.


Be proactive and work on your business

As an entrepreneur, you know that your work is not limited to translation jobs. Your business is your baby and as such, it needs to be taken care of. Be proactive and look for your own clients. The Internet provides us with precious tools that can help us with this task: I'm talking about Social Media. Social Media represents the tool to showcase our services. Implement a Social Media strategy: start by identifying the type of Social Media where your services would be more visible; in other words, the Social Media your potential clients use the most. Post useful content, don't write for yourself but for your clients. Your main goal is to teach something useful to your followers, something that will keep them engaged. Frequency is also important. Make sure you post regularly (so that they don't forget about you) but not excessively.




Are you about to start a new project? Do you wish to know more about business or you just want to share new ideas? Feel free to get in touch with me to have a talk!

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