Having been working in the translation services market for more than a year, I often get questions about how large companies hire translators and what criteria the customer uses to decide which applicant to give preference to. This is the right question, because we all sometimes must look for work, and these days more and more people find themselves in this position. However, in the case of translators, outside is not so easy. Unfortunately, there are still people who believe that the ability to speak fluently in a foreign language gives them the right to apply for the position of an interpreter. But is it? If you are fluent in, say, English, then you have only taken the first step towards becoming a translator. This job, like any other specialty, requires practice, experience, and knowledge. It is difficult to draw a single path to success for everyone, but five main steps can be identified along the way.
The first thing everyone who asks how to become a translator, get a diploma, or go through the certification process should do. Such an official document confirms that its owner has the skills necessary for professional translation. Today it is not difficult to find educational institutions, language schools and universities that offer training courses for future best certified translators, where you can improve your qualifications, defend a dissertation, or learn another foreign language. All this will improve your competitive advantages in the labour market, you can, of course, buy a diploma, and this is the choice for those who really know the language and would not like to spend time and effort on obtaining additional knowledge. Some organizations and associations of translators also issue certificates, such as medical or legal translators. Having received such a document, a professional enters a special register of certified translators, where potential clients can see him. This is not required and, strictly speaking, you can be a successful translator without such certification, but if you are just taking the first steps towards the profession, it may be worth starting with obtaining such a certificate.
STEP 2: PASS THE INTERNATIONAL EXAM
Certificates of passing international exams are another brick of your resume. These documents once again confirm not only your knowledge and skills, but also show the employer that the applicant for the vacancy of an interpreter strives for excellence and constantly improves his qualifications in the profession. You can choose any of the known tests in your language, prepare and pass the required exams. It costs some money, and while a beginner doesn’t always have a lot of it, consider it an investment in your career as a successful translator.
STEP 3: GET HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE
The next step to a successful career is gaining experience as a translator. Don’t be afraid of simple jobs that don’t pay as well as you’d like or as industry forums suggest. We all started somewhere, we all need entry-level hands-on experience to move up the career ladder, and the translation industry is no exception. Start building your translator portfolio while still a student. Sign up for an elective course in translation and/or interpretation, look for any opportunities for translation – for your university or for small customers. In the early stages of your career, it is much more important for you to gain experience than to earn big fees. These orders will allow you to get good recommendations and subsequently show potential clients samples of your work.
STEP 4: ADVERTISE YOUR SERVICES
After the diploma is received and some experience is gained, the time comes when your services become a competitive commodity. Start your job search. Prepare a resume and send it to law firms, hospitals, government agencies, private companies, translation agencies, etc. that you think may need translation services. Today, most translators and interpreters fulfil their clients’ orders on a contract basis, and not as full-time employees of the enterprise.
A great way to advertise your services is to create a website or start a translator blog and join one of the active communities of professionals online. Post your resume, portfolio, and prices for your services on the site! Yes, prices are a very important indicator of professionalism. And not only because many potential clients do not even begin negotiations with the applicant if they cannot find the price data. Experience shows that the lack of information about the cost of services is the best indicator that you have a novice translator or a professional who has not yet taken shape, who has no idea about what money he is willing to work for. If you really don’t know how much to ask for money for your services, search the web for your colleagues’ websites and blogs and find out the market prices.
STEP 5: KEEP LEARNING!
As your career as a translator develops, you will have free time and some money for further education. So, it makes sense to think about what related areas of knowledge you could master. These may be certain specializations of the translator (technical, medical, legal, financial, etc.). If your specialization has already been chosen, then think about whether you maintain the necessary level of knowledge in your industry, do you follow the latest, how well do you navigate with new trends in the industry? Are you good at computers? Do you use translation memory software? Can you work as a simultaneous interpreter? If you’ve already reached the top in your working language, it might make sense to learn another language and consider diversifying your services.
In general, I want to say that a translator always has room to grow, something to learn and what skills to master to increase their competitiveness and, consequently, their earnings. This article has been written as a helpful guide for those who are just entering our highly competitive market for translation services and aspiring to become a professional translator.