Digital Nomad Jobs – Freelance Translator
(traductor independiente, الترجمة المستقلين, 自由翻譯, slobodni prevoditelj, překladatel na volné noze, freelance kääntäjä, freiberuflicher Übersetzer, egyéni fordító, traduttore indipendente, nieetatowy tłumacz, Serbest çevirmen, cyfieithydd llawrydd.)*
*This is Google translating, if it’s wrong or I’ve called you a hideous name it is entirely accidental.
I can speak a grand total of 1 language. I know about 8 words of other languages and usually tend to bumble along with a mixture of mispronounced mutters, endless pointing and my patented daft, tall, awkward and obviously out of his depth gormless grin. To be fair, it works 99% of the time but the routine is getting a little stale and I’m rapidly approaching an age where it’s just going to start looking sad. It’s probably time for me to start trying harder. Hopefully, being young, go-getting, jet setting fantastic digital nomads you won’t have this problem. You are probably fluent in 4 different languages and are always on the lookout for new ones to learn? If that sounds like you why not consider becoming a freelance translator.
Immense language skills are obviously a key skill for this role. You will need to be a little bit more than fluent in all honesty, it’s not really enough to just understand the words when they are written down. You’ll need to have a good grasp on the tone, intention, usage, expression and any types of slang words you might come across. All aspects of language can be needed in translation so maybe it’s time to start brushing up your skills! Whilst it’s probably a given I should point out here that not only will you need to be cosmic in your language of choice you’ll also need to be as cosmic in your original language. That includes all of the literary conventions. This is starting to sound a lot like hard work to me.
If you are completely new to learning a language, translation might not be the right choice just yet. It’s not impossible to pick up the skills at any age and you should definitely have a go, just maybe pick a different career for the next few years whilst you learn the ropes. If you are interested in learning a new language have a look at the following sites and hopefully start a new adventure on language learning.
Anyway, should you posses these, frankly quite insane sounding, language skills and you think translating is the way forward for you, great. You are almost ready to get going, well, as long as you have the following attributes to go with your amazing bi/tri/quad/lingual genius. Translators need great written skills, which include knowing your spellings and being an effective proof reader. If you’ve read more than one of these articles you are probably aware that I have neither of these traits. Fortunately I am not a translator. Attention to detail is a must, people won’t want to pay you for sloppy work and I’m fairly sure you won’t want to put yourself in an awkward position. I’m fairly sure that an extra a, e, i, o or u in a word can change friend into f****r^. Any budding translators should be aware that they are going to need some good to above good computer skills. They’ll need to be fast and accurate on the old keyboard and at least know what CAT tools are. Thankfully, you can find that out at this link. It’s not 100% that you will need a CAT tool and they’re not always cheap or easy to use but if you are a serious translator it’s a serious tool for you to seriously consider.
^If I’m honest I have no real idea if you could change friend into finger in any language with a miss placed vowel. It’s just a joke. A bad one at that.
The work that a translator does can be incredibly varied. If you have a particular field of interest or knowledge of a specialist subject, like mastermind contestants do, you could try to corner that market. This can be anything really but it will be a little bit more useful if it’s a subject people are likely to want things translated in. Things like medicines, mechanics, Morrissey and legal jargon are a few examples for you to consider. You will need to be flexible, organised and highly self motivated as a translator. It can be tough to stay on top of everything looking for work whilst doing work and in several languages (I imagine). People need all sorts of things translated and you may find that many of the jobs you are required to do vary. Some people may just want a basic text translation, others may want you to edit a computer assisted translation to make it more readable. Either way you are probably going to have to do some research to ensure you are getting the right fit. You need to reach the target audience and make it accessible to them. In a second language. On a computer. This really does sound like hard work doesn’t it. Don’t worry, there are some good, fun aspects to the job. I’m just saving them till last.
As your work can be varied and potentially involve legal issues or similar it is important that you are a discreet worker. You will need to respect your clients confidentiality and also remain impartial. There’s a chance that you may not like or agree with whatever it is that you are working on. Neutrality and an unbiased opinion are called for here*.
*Failing that, just don’t take the job I guess. It’s not my place to tell you what to do.
Ok, if you still think this is the way for you to go, you can start now! If you are keen to freelance but want a hand-held for a while or if you are just eager to work you are in luck. There are several companies on-line* that you can sign up for in the hope of finding work. You can find them listed further down the page. If you want to go all in and have a crack for yourself, I like your style. As well as the usual job sites to search for (listed below) you should absolutely set up your own website. It’s so cheap and easy to do now that there really isn’t much of an excuse not to. Fill it with a portfolio of some of your best translations or your ‘greatest hits’, accentuate your key skills and what makes you the best and keep your fingers crossed. Promote yourself online/offline, network and hopefully the work will be flooding your inbox for years to come.
*You may need formal qualifications for this. See below.
I promised a fun part was coming, it’s here! I briefly mentioned the need for translators to research things earlier. What better way to research things than to go and see it for yourself. As a freelance, digital nomad translator you have the ability to work from anywhere. Hopefully you can take advantage of this and base yourself in the country or your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th or even (show-off) 6th language. Earn whilst you learn and when people whine that you are on permanent holiday you can look them square in the eye and say ‘I’m working’ or, even better, ‘What the flip’s it got to do with you, you stultus!’
What do I need skill wise?
You might need a degree. I’m sorry, I should have mentioned that earlier. Although, you only need a degree if you want to work for a few of the big companies, and lets face it, you’re on a website called digital nomad jobs reading an article about becoming a freelance translator. Let’s not work for the big companies!
All of the major skills you’ll need are listed above but obviously some places might require a few more, always check with the website/employer before committing to anything. You don’t want to find yourself stuck on the 3rd sentence.
What do I need hardware wise?
Your brain needs to be hard-wired for translating. Other than that it’s the standard digital nomad hard ware kit. A laptop and a decent internet connection. Oh, you might need one of those CAT tools as well.
Where do I find work?
There are quite a lot of places actually. It surprised me a little. Obviously you have the standard Upwork, Freelancer and the like. I’ve mentioned these so many times now you must know them and it’s getting dull typing them out.
If you want to take a more hands on approach on your travels why not offer to translate menus for bars and cafes or something in shops. Whenever you see that something has a bad translation offer to fix it. I’m sure no-one will find you pretentious or annoying at all…
What can I earn?
The wage can be quite good from what I can gather, anywhere from $8 to $20 an hour. Ok, it’s not mind-blowing but if you are living in a cheap country you could live like royalty*. Obviously the wages vary and there is a fair bit of competition for the work so you’ll have to impress, but with a bit of elbow grease you can easily make enough money to live on for a while.
*Except you’d be earning your money, not being a benefit scrounger with a huge council house in the middle of London.
How well does it suit the Digital Nomad Lifestyle?
Pretty great I’d imagine. You get to do something you enjoy, from anywhere in the world and learn new languages whilst you doing it. I you are someone who likes to travel and learn new things it could be perfect for you. The equipment list is minimal, if you avoid using CAT tools the start-up costs are minimal and it’ a really, really, useful and interesting skill to have. In fact, I’m jealous. Good luck to you.