In our blog series ‘Online Job of the Month,’ we share the most interesting online jobs with you. You might think only web developers and graphic designers can be digital nomads. But there are actually a wide variety of interesting (and profitable) jobs out there for aspiring Digital Nomad Girls. This month we will tell you all about working as a Translator.
We talked to Federica Bruniera, Martina Russo and Maria Sokolova who are successfully working as Translators while travelling the world. So let’s get straight into it!
What exactly is a Translator? What do they do?
Maria says that as a Translator, “I translate websites, newsletters, documents for fashion and travel brands from English (sometimes Spanish) into my native language (Russian).” Alongside that, Maria says that she also edits (proofreads) other translations.
Federica clears up an important misconception. “There’s always a bit of confusion out there between the roles of translators and interpreters. Translators work with written texts, whereas the interpreters’ job is mainly spoken.”
Federica gets specific about the types of awesome hobbies that would not be possible without translators: “We are basically the ones that make possible for you to browse websites, watch your favourite Netflix show and read the Harry Potter books in your native language.”
How awesome is that!
So how does translation work? Which languages do you translate from? Federica says, “we normally work from the foreign language(s) we know into our native one. So, as an Italian native speaker, I could know 10 foreign languages but I can only translate from those ten into Italian.
Translators usually work also as reviewers/proofreaders (revising someone else’s translations) and sometimes as transcribers, subtitlers, game testers, copywriters, depending on their specializations.”
What kind of skills do I need to become a Translator?
Both Federica and Maria agree that the most important skills are:
- excellent command of at least two languages (your native and a second language)
- good writing skills
- Learner & researcher skills
- knowledge of cultural backgrounds
Federica also adds that, “Specializing is also of paramount importance. Knowing another language doesn’t mean you can translate everything (I don’t understand legal jargon in my own language, imagine in a foreign one!).
It’s important to pick fields you are passionate about, that you know well or that you are willing to study. In my case, for example, I do:
- (obviously) Travel related stuff because I love it and it’s something I have a good experience in,
- Football/soccer for the same reason,
- Mangas and Japanese fiction because it’s challenging and fun, and
- the Medical sector because it seemed interesting, and I started taking online courses on the subject.”
That’s awesome! Specialization is one of those tips that carries across many different types of online jobs, for sure. Specialization allows you to become an expert in a topic and become well known for that specific field!
Do you need any qualifications or certificates?
Maria has a diploma in translation which comes in handy, but says that actually, “I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary if you have good command of both languages.”
Federica also has a translation degree but agrees with Maria that it’s not absolutely essential. She notes in particular though that “Some countries require certification to do official translations (for example, in Canada you need to be certified if you want to translate official documents for immigration purposes), but overall what you really need is expertise in a certain field and excellent linguistic skills.”
Where do you find jobs as a Translator?
Martina has a few suggestions up her sleeve! Firstly, “You can go to industry specific conferences (another reason why it’s important to pick a niche), contact companies directly etc. but when starting out it’s probably easiest to get in touch with translation agencies.”
Maria says that she has been working with an agency for a few years, but that she also finds jobs through her personal network. Federica similarly suggests that when you are just getting started, “it’s easier to work with agencies than with direct clients.”
Federica has more tips for you for finding jobs! “Translation portals have good visibility and a lot of jobs get posted on there every day. I would recommend using those portals to look up agencies that have good ratings and then check their websites and apply directly there.” Martina, Maria and Federica suggest the following websites for getting started:
Martina specifically says: “Use the directory at https://www.proz.com/business to filter agencies according to specific criteria, e.g. score (on a scale o 1 to 5, I wouldn’t touch an agency with less than 4.5 with a barge pole – double check every agency’s score here: https://www.proz.com/blueboard), location, language pairs, and once again niche.”
Okay… what about applying? How should you apply?
Martina says: “ Once you have a list of agencies (or companies), you want to reach out to them. You’re better off sending up to 10-15 highly personalised emails rather than blasting off 100s per day that all starts with DEAR SIR / MADAM.
An agency gets dozens of emails and CVs a day – even I do, and I’m not an agency – and most of them look like spam, and I promise no one is going to bother and open your email or read your CV if it’s not to the point and attention grabbing.
As with everything marketing related, make sure you speak to them and about them, how you can solve their issues etc rather dwelling on your skills and qualifications.”
Federica agrees with Martina and adds that, “CV spamming at the beginning is normal, but do your research first and make your CV and emails relevant and personalized to improve the chances to get the attention of the project managers. Then, of course, networking is a gold mine. I got my best jobs from colleagues, people I met at conferences and events, friends of friends. Never underestimate the power of networking!”
So key tips are: attend events, use translation portals, find agencies to work with and don’t forget to network!
How much can I earn as a Translator?
As with any job, it really depends!
Martina says: “The money you can charge will depend on your experience, your confidence, the market segment you’ve positioned yourself in, your client’s budget and willingness to pay / invest in translation and how efficient you are at communicating your value. Obviously, you can’t command 10K from a company that makes 30K gross per year. Hence the important of positioning and market segments.”
Federica says, “I would recommend asking at least 0.06 – 0.07 euros per word when starting out and then working your way up. The higher-end translators charge up to 0.50 euros per word in their fields, there’s really no rule. It’s totally up to you to study your market, decide where to position yourself, your value and charge whatever you’re comfortable charging.”
Martina specifies: “Specifically, To start out with agencies, I would recommend NOT going below 0.07- 0.08 € per source word, but would aim at 0.10 €. Always best to start higher to allow room for negotiation. From there, depending on your niche, you can go as high as you want to and your market allows.
What you charge is up to you and do not let anyone dictate what you should do or tell you you’re ruining the market, there is not such a thing as ONE market. To convert these amounts into hourly fees, you should know your productivity and output. Generally, unless you use MT and other technologies, you’ll translate around 300-350 words per hour.”
“Money is a big taboo among translators and I don’t know why, I feel that if we were all more open on the subject it’d be easier to help others navigate through what’s possible and out there. ” – Martina Russo
Maria says, you can make around $2,000-$2,500 on average, up to $5,000, and Federica knows translators who make 6-figures doing translation work!
So overall, Martina, Maria and Federica all agree that you can make great money doing translation!
How do Translators price their services? Hourly, per project, per word?
Long story short: “It’s usually hourly for proofreading, and per word or per page for translations” says Maria.
Federica says it really varies, but agrees that “most translation projects are priced per word (or per line like in Germany). Asian languages are often priced by character, since there’s no space between words and getting an actual word count would be extremely time-consuming.
There are many exceptions though and ultimately it’s up to the translator to choose the best format depending on the project. For example, in manga translation we define a price per page, in video game testing it’s mostly by the hour, subtitling is charged by minute of video.
When you are starting out and have less negotiation power, try to have a price per word and an hourly price ready. Then, as projects get more complicated, you can start considering other solutions. For multi-services or multilingual projects, a price per project is totally acceptable as well.”
Is it easy to work as a Translator while travelling?
So… what’s it actually like to work as a traveling Translator? Are you able to balance traveling and working set times?
Federica says absolutely! She says as long as you have your laptop and Wifi, you’re good to go. Additional things that might come in handy may be “two monitors, external keyboard and other equipment, but I’m extremely minimalist, so my laptop and electronic dictionary are enough.”
Do you need any specific tools or softwares?
Federica suggests: “In terms of tools and apps, the so-called CAT tools (translation software) can make the translation process faster and your texts more consistent, so investing in one can be a good idea (most agencies require one anyway).”
Federica suggests the following:
Maria gives one word of warning – be mindful of time zones! As with any nomad job, always be mindful of your clients’ time zones and delivering your work on time – aka. on the client’s time!
Woo! Looks like overall, being a Translator is officially a nomad approved job.
What would you recommend to other nomad girls who’d like to get started working as a Translator?
Martina has tons of amazing advice for girls who are thinking about working as a translator.
Here is the step-by-step process that Martina recommends!
1. Pick a Niche
Martina says, “When you start out, it’s easy and normal to just go for general translations. However, the more you’re specialized, the less of a commodity you become and the higher of a rate you can command.
It’s not necessarily an easy step but it’s one you need to take at some point, so try to focus on one area or more you’d like to work with in the future and start from there. (legal, medical, marketing and so on).”
2. Think Carefully about Market Segment & Positioning
“Make sure you determine which market segment(s) you’re comfortable working with from the start, that will save you lots of frustration in the long-term. How do you position yourself? By putting yourself out there as the authority in your niche and by using specific language.
For starters, if you want to position yourself in a higher paying segment, I’d avoid using the word “freelancer”, which is widely associated with sites like Fiverr, and replace it with “professional” wherever possible. Which one sounds more authoritative to you – freelancer translator or translation professional / professional translator?
3. Don’t forget mindset!
Martina writes, “You do not work FOR anyone. You work WITH someone, as a partner, you add value and work with them to make them successful.
That’s crucial and it took me a few months to figure that out, coming from an employer when I started out. It might seem trivial now, but you’ll see these little details creeping up when you write your first 100s cover letters writing stuff like “I’d be honoured to work for your company…”
4. Build up your online presence
Martina says on this: “If you don’t want to be just anther translator, build up your online presence. Googling you is the first thing everyone does to make sure you’re legit these days, so you want to have social proof up and running…
- CV / RESUME: use a template from a platform like Canva.com to make it visually appealing.
- Generally, you want to include details such as the obvious ones (contact details, name, nationality etc), your language pairs, your experience and education, and so on. Refrain from mentioning anything that doesn’t have to do with translation, unless you have worked e.g. as a sommelier and now you translate about wines.
- You’ll probably also want 1 CV for your agency clients and 1 for your direct clients, or 1 for each different niche.
- If you’re starting out and have nothing to put in your portfolio, think of creative ways to assemble one. E.g. provide some free work (make sure you have clear conditions in place) or translate publicly available copy under CC (look it up on Google) to get samples for your ideal portfolio.
- Creating a portfolio based on copy isn’t easy, look up the web for some inspo.
- Martina’s look like this: www.movingwordstranslations.com/portfolio & www.theactionsportstranslator.com/portfolio.
- This doesn’t have to be fancy, you can put up a one page site from WP or Squarespace or the like. In fact, Martina built up www.theactionsportstranslator.com herself (with a few tweaks from a WP dev). Also, register a domain for your email address, @gmail domains and the like look fishy and end up in spam most of the time.
- SOCIAL MEDIA:
- You probably don’t need to be on EVERY platform out there, just pick the ones you think would work for you best (AKA where your clients would hang out) and stick with them.
Do not do the mistake most translators do: don’t talk exclusively about translation from a translator’s perspective for other translators, because the only ones who’ll be interested in you content will be – you guessed it – translators.
Federica adds to this and says, “Getting the first clients could take a bit of time, but that should not discourage you. Keep studying, hone your skills, build up experience in the fields you’re interested in and don’t give up.
Consider doing volunteer work at first for organizations like Translators without Borders or the TED Project (subtitling TED Talks can be pretty interesting). The most fascinating part of the translation world is that you learn something new every day. It’s hard to get bored!”
On a side note – subtitling Ted Talks sounds SO fun!
Maria gives you some extra advice as well, “I would recommend choosing a niche and building your portfolio around it, don’t take just any translation job.
If you never worked as a translator, check out other translators’ portfolios for your language pair to see what a good translation looks like — it’s not about translating the words, it’s about getting the message across. And don’t forget to read a lot in your native language.”
Martina leaves us with some amazing resources for getting started. Here they are:
- http://wantwords.co.uk/school/ (Martina’s fave!)
Resources not specific to translation:
And… there you go! If you’re a persistent person who is fluent in at least 2 languages, translating might just be the perfect digital nomad job for you. I hope we answered all your questions, if you have any more, please leave them in the comments and our girls and I will try our best to answer them all.
If you’re curious about even more jobs that you can do online, check out our series on the 50+ digital nomad girl jobs to inspire you!
Are you an interested in becoming a Translator? Please share below!
If you enjoyed this post, please share it with others who might like it, too, and to find out more about the girls you can find their author bios below:
Martina is an Italian professional translator, business owner, outdoor enthusiast, and true world citizen. She’s been making premium products and brands accessible to the Italian, Swiss Italian, and European markets for over 8 years. Her work can be found online on Linkedin, Website and theactionsportstranslator.