Start a Translator Business
There's no denying the global marketplace is growing and reaching beyond the borders of China and Mexico. All that cross-cultural communication is creating a growing need for translators, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. It predicts a greater demand for interpreters and translators resulting from the broadening of international ties and growth in the number of non-English speakers in the United States will result in a projected 22 percent increase in the number individuals employed in this profession.
This translates into a big business opportunity for entrepreneurs who can bring foreign-language speakers together with businesses in need.
How to Become a Professional Translator and Interpreter
Achieving a successful career in the field of translation and interpreting is not easy and it requires education, skills, hard work and determination.
Get the right education and qualifications. Get a degree or a combination of degrees in translation/interpretation studies, foreign languages, linguistics, comparative literature, or intercultural communication and all the qualifications and training necessary.
Gain experience. This involves interning with an office or an organization or simply freelancing. For tips, see How to succeed as a freelance translator.
Join a local or national professional translation/interpretation society. Such organizations exist all over the world and serve as a means of providing proper certification as well as professional development opportunities.
Choose an area of activity. Different careers require different things. If you do not want to freelance, you will need to get signed with an agency, a translation office, publishing house, a large business or an organization, such as the UN or EU.
Choose an area of specialization. Many translators only translate and many interpreters only interpret. Each field further more has specialized sub-fields: technical translation, certified translation, film translation, literary translation, simultaneous interpreting, court interpreting, medical interpreting, etc. Go with what you're good at. If you have a degree in physics and German for instance, you may want to specialize in translating German scientific texts, etc.
Get people to know you and get to know people. You need people to know your name in connection with the business you work in. Begin with your friends and family, tell them you are in the business and have them recommend you to other people. Also, get some advertisement if you can afford it.
Be quick and effective. To succeed, you need to work fast, yet provide high quality services.
Be professional. Always be professional to your clients and co-workers. You do not want to gain a bad reputation. Never accept jobs you are not qualified for or accept too many jobs at the same time and always keep your deadlines.
Work hard. Just like in any other business, you have to work really hard to succeed. To become really successful, you might (and probably will) have to work nights, weekends and holidays.
Practice. When you're not working on a contract or at a conference, exercise your translation and/or interpretation skills for fun by rendering things like news broadcasts, news articles, short stories, etc.
Maintain your languages. Human language is a very fluid and constantly evolving entity. Travel to the countries/regions where your languages are spoken, watch films and soap operas, befriend native speakers, read comic strips, newspapers, and novels etc. Interpreters in particular have to be conscious of a language's dialects and different registers of speech.