How To Earn More As A Freelance Translator

By Chiara Grassilli
In Getting Started
Jun 10th, 2013

Top 3 Tips To Earn More As A Freelance Translator

Earn More As A Freelance TranslatorDo freelancer translators struggle with money? Of course sometimes they do. The main reason is that freelancing is a huge activity that requires you to be your own CEO, your own accountant, your own marketing specialist, your own PR specialist and so on.

So it could take a while to get into the game and make it a sustainable lifestyle.

What if we could find a way to play it a little bit safer and earn more as a freelance translator?

There are three things we can do, and they will increase our success as freelancers (and thus, our income):


1. Get educated.

Try to know a little bit of everything. Take some courses on marketing, web designing, public speaking or advertisement. The more things you know the more you’ll handle all the tasks that come along with freelancing.


2. Learn from others.

Mistakes are important in order to learn, but try to reduce them to the minimum. Study what successful people do and adapt their lessons to your experience. Maybe listen to some of my interviews and get inspired.


3. Get yourself a part-time job.

Translators often think that the only way to use language skills is working as a translator or interpreter. But how many other possible roles exist out there for someone who speaks two, three or four languages?

I spent couple of hours looking up the subject on the Internet, and I found that in the UK, unlike other countries, there are several websites that recruit language experts. And there I found a list of roles that many people never consider during their translator’s career, even when their freelance activity goes through a bad period and they could consider opening themselves up to other possibilities.

A friend of mine who I interviewed some weeks ago told me that in her opinion having a part-time job is very useful for a freelance translator.

A part-time job provides you with a small yet steady income that can be completed by your freelance work. At the beginning it will only be a backup, then if over time you don’t need this small income any more you can leave the job and dedicate yourself completely to your own business.

Another aspect to consider is that a part-time job can provide you with experience of how to run a business.

Because if you work as a freelancer, you own a business.

How does that company find new clients? How do they retain existing clients? How do they run their marketing strategy?

Learn as much as you can, increase your business skills, and then apply your knowledge to your own freelance activity.

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.
Benjamin Franklin 

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About "" Has 116 Posts

Since an early age I have been passionate about languages. I hold a Master's degree in Translation and Interpreting, and I have worked as a freelance translator for several years. I specialize in Marketing, Digital Marketing, Web and Social Media. I love blogging and I also run the blog

9 Responses to “How To Earn More As A Freelance Translator”

  1. windhof says:

    Hey Chiara, nice post and you can never go wrong with a Nelson Mandela quote:)

    I have to admit though that I would disagree with point 3 (unless a) you absolutely have to in order to pay your bills or b) the part-time jobs helps you to get clients contacts for your business).

    What happens if you get a big translation job from a direct client and you can’t deliver in the time the client wants because you have to work for your part-time job?

    • Chiara Grassilli says:

      Hey Tim! Thanks for your comment.
      You are right, what if we suddenly get a big assignment? However, I think a part time job leaves the time to handle everything, and at the same time gives the freedom to accept or not a translation assignment that we don’t like. In this way we don’t depend upon freelancing only, and we can learn little by little how to market our brand and how to find clients. These things require time, and especially at the beginning what we do as freelancers might be insufficient to support us…does it make any sense?

  2. Hi Chiara,

    I think you made some important points on 1 & 2, but point 3 might use some rethinking.
    Getting a part-time job can’t help you earn more as a freelance translator – as a matter of fact, you would earn more as an employee, whilst your freelance balance would be the same (if not less).

    Of course getting a part-time job can be useful to make ends meet and pay your bills, but the goal as freelancers should be getting enough to keep us going on our own.

    • Chiara Grassilli says:

      Hi Alessandra, thanks for your comment. I do believe that a part-time job is positive not only for the immediate income, but because we can learn something new. It can provide us with better tools and a better understanding of business mechanisms, that’s why I see it as an investment on the long term (of course, if we can learn something meaningful).
      Very often we translators are very good at translating but a bit poor in marketing. I think at if we work in a company where we can improve our marketing and selling skills, we can boost our self-marketing ability. But of course there are other ways to learn these skills…

      • I do see your point here, Chiara, and agree that marketing and business education is vital to any entrepreneur (including freelancers). Nevertheless, I do not think that presenting yourself on the market as “also a freelance translator” because you have a part-time job elsewhere can benefit your business in the long run.
        Customers expect us to have regular (or almost regular) business hours, and it would be difficult to become a reference point for customers if you’re available only 3 or 4 hours a day.
        Moreover, freelancing requires performing more than core activities – complementary tasks such as creating quotes, handling business correspondence and invoicing, active marketing etcetera take a lot of time you might not have if you’re tied to another job.

  3. If you do get a part-time job (or, equally, if you start out translating at evenings, lunchtimes and weekends around your existing job), a) don’t present yourself as “also a translator”, as Alessandra says, and b) don’t let that arrangement continue too long.

    Before your client base fills out, you may need to keep some cash coming in, but you need to be available to get those translation clients to get you going.

    You’re probably better off (more experience of the world and, ideally, of a specialist industry) getting a job outside translation first, if you can. Translators ripen with age 🙂 – as long as they keep themselves fresh and up to date at the same time.

    • Chiara Grassilli says:

      Hi Oliver,
      and welcome to my blog.
      I totally agree with you that you can’t present yourself as “also a translator”. In my idea, even with a part-time job the quality of the translation activity must be top notch. This means that the clients always have priority, and deadlines always have to be met. This also means working nights and weekends if necessary..
      As you said, translators ripen with age, and I would add “translators learn how to run a business with time”. A 20-year-old student cannot know how much marketing he/she needs to make before making the freelance activity a sustainable lifestyle, that’s why with experience from another company he/she might acquire the skills he/she needs to have…and on the long term, good skills always pay off.
      Thanks for your comment 🙂

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