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How to Start a Translation Career as a Bilingual or Multilingual Professional


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If you're fluent in a second or third language, you have a unique talent. You might even consider turning it into a career. A job as a translator will allow you to leverage your language skills while making a living. Plus, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for translators is very good. However, if you've never worked in translation before, you'll have to put in some effort to break into the field. Today, WiserU outlines what it takes to become a professional translator and provides some tips to help you get started.

Learn about the different types of translation jobs you might pursue

A translator takes written words and translates them from one language to another, while an interpreter does the same for spoken words. Within the translation and interpreting fields, there are many niche specialties. Possible options range from health or medical translation to legal translation. Translators may also work in localization, in which they take a translated document and make sure it's adapted for a certain geographic area. For example, the Spanish spoken in Spain is unique from the Spanish spoken in Mexico.

Get the credentials you need to stand out in your chosen field

If you're going to work as a professional translator, simply speaking another language isn't enough. You need to back up your skills with credentials. You can get a translation degree from a university offering translation degree programs. There are also specialty translation certificates available for fields like legal and medical translation. You can further boost your profile by becoming a certified translator. This requires passing an exam from the American Translators Association.

Know where to look for translation work

Once you have the necessary credentials, you can start looking for translation jobs. For newcomers to the field, work-for-hire platforms like Upwork are one way to get your first clients. As you finish projects, ask clients to write you references or invite them to connect on LinkedIn and ask them to write you a written recommendation there. Both options can help you score even more work. You can also look at websites dedicated specifically to translation jobs, such as TranslatorsCafe and ProZ. Another option is to set up your own website and use search engine optimization to drive potential clients to your platform.

You will also want to strengthen your LinkedIn profile and resume to better match translation or interpretation job opportunities (Contact WiserU about our LinkedIn and resume services). Or, you may elect to use a curriculum vitae (CV), which is a longer, more detailed version of a resume where you can highlight all of your translation and educational experience. The CV format can be a bit daunting to those who aren’t used to it; luckily, you can use a premade template for a CV to highlight your skills and give you an advantage over the competition. And once you have your CV started, it’ll be much easier to keep updated.

Consider setting up your own translation business

If you decide you want to turn translation into a full-time career, you can set up your own translation business. In this case, it's important to register your business as a formal legal entity, like a limited liability company (LLC). This helps to protect your personal liability in case of legal issues, simplifies tax filing and bookkeeping, and provides tax perks. You can use a business formation service to register your company—a cheaper option than hiring a lawyer. 

Market your services to find your first clients

Marketing can help you get your first clients when you're getting your translation business off the ground. There are many ways to promote yourself, from networking through social media to increasing your online presence and attending networking events. You can create your own website using a platform like Wix to get started. This is a space to showcase translation samples and to tell people about your experience and credentials, like translation degrees and certificates. You can also post your CV and references here.

Translation can be a great career path for people who are bilingual or multilingual. Make sure you're getting your new profession off on the right foot by taking care of essential steps, like obtaining the necessary credentials and formally registering your translation business. There's no time like today to get started!

Questions? We’d love to hear from you! -- Kathy

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WiserU, the publisher of the WiserUTips.com blog, provides LinkedIn and career training and services for individuals and organizations. Visit WiserU.com for details.
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