4 Reasons Why People Give Up On Becoming a Freelance Translator




  • Greater than 4 minutes, my friend!

    The thoughts of us being a full-time freelance translator who get to manage our own time and amount of work to do each day, being our own boss while making triple the amount of money others make working for other people is definitely very enticing. ฺBesides, what very special about this is, this dream can actually come true. Many people made it into the industry and love it.

    But why do a lot of people give up on their dreams of becoming a freelance translator?

    After working for others all my life, I decided to work on my own as a freelance translator at the age of 33. It all started from the fact that life as before no longer provide me with enough time and freedom now that I am married and have 2 beautiful children. The expenses increase while the paycheck never raised, the absence of time flexibility, all the while having to put up with work that I dreaded waking up every morning to go to. Fast forward to this moment, I am now on my third year of my career and doing well.

    Having said that, the factors that determine success though, are what also determine whether or not ones will continue on the path of becoming totally independent in their career or rather bitterly turn away. Here are my short list of 4 reasons why people give up on becoming a freelance translator;

    Expect fast results: Whether your plan is to become a freelance translator by attending course or jump right in to the market, one of the first things that needs to be done is to be known by as many translation agencies as you can be. They will not know that you are available to work with them unless they know you exist. This means you will spend most of your first year in the industry creating resume, building website for portfolios, and sending out emails to all the translation agencies you find online.  If you expect that from the moment your website is set up, you will be swarmed with work and so swimming in money right away, you will be discouraged very quickly.

    Fear the future: When you decide to quit your day job and start your journey as a freelance translator. One of the things that will popped up in your mind a lot is whether you will make ends meet. During the first few year, unstable income is what keeps you on edge most of the time and that is just the nature of the journey you embark on. I am one of those who kicked start while out of job. As a result, I desperately hoped that whatever I make throughout the month will cover all my expenses, and the fear that it will not be so ismassive. The only reason why I kept going was because it was the only way forward for me at that moment and I truly believe I could actually live my dream if I go on. So expect that fear. Maybe start the journey as a translator on the side while you are still working full time, or start on putting some savings aside for rainy days. The idea is to be well prepared.

    Overwork:  As a freelancer, you are on your own in managing time and resources. It is way too easy to find yourself overwork and starts to think if what you are doing right now is what you actually really wanted to do. When work starts flowing in, you are happy at first but soon realize the challenges and felt overwhelmed. Relax and start learning the art of time management. All you need to do is promise yourself free weekends for quality me time (or a wonderful time together with your children). Put your working hours up on your website and in your email signature. Split work, no matter how much, into small percentage and fit them into your work schedule according to the deadlines and keep at it. Remember to come up with the ideas each day to work smarter, not harder.  Keep in mind, that you are working for a living, not living so that you can work.

    Dwell on mistakes: On the way to success, it is not uncommon to face criticism. No matter how much you know the both of your language pairs and no matter how hard you work on each project making sure the output is spotless as much as possible, you will likely to make some mistakes along the way. Depending on the people you work for on that particular project, some might not be professional enough to just request for revision (which is quite common), but top that up with criticism they know will most hurt your confidence. If you are facing this at the moment, relax, and try the best you can to response professionally. Use terms that are strictly business without any traces of emotions involve. Revise the work the best you can and immediately move on. Learn from mistakes, but do not dwell on them.

    Keep going if your dream of becoming a freelance translator is bigger than your fear and the discouragement you feel. You know you are moving forward when you make mistakes, learn from them and get better as you go. The reality is, you will get there if you don’t look back, and believe in yourself.

    Thitima A.

    About Thitima A.

    English/Thai Linguist & Translator. When not at work, I can be found reading, making jewelry, painting, learning new languages (currently Korean), and spending quality time with my family.

    2 thoughts on “4 Reasons Why People Give Up On Becoming a Freelance Translator

    1. Thank you very much, Thitima! I’ve read all your posts this morning, but this one is most helpful. When I was 50, I decided to become a full-time freelance translator after a successful career in another field (R&D, pharmaceutical industry) . And it was not easy at all! It is always nice to hear from people that have the same problems and dilemmas.

      1. @Biljana
        Thank you very much for sharing your story! Trust me, problems and dilemmas for translators are solid stepping stones. They are there because we are meant to be the best! Have a great day.

    Leave a Reply

    The Open Mic

    Where translators share their stories and where clients find professional translators.

    Find Translators OR Register as a translator