Translator has become one of the sought-after professions of the 21st century. With globalization, international trade, and increased connections between different cultures, people who know how to create those cultural bridges are increasingly important. The work environment is also tempting for many: it allows you to create your own schedule, it’s relatively flexible and there’s little to no supervision (in most cases). For bilingual and multilingual people, a career of a professional translator is the possibility of a dream come true: working while traveling all over the world.

The only question is: how exactly do you become a professional translator? Like in most other professions, it seems like there’s a vicious cycle involved:

In this guide, we’re bringing you 10 steps on landing that first job, even if you don’t have a translator experience.

1. Hone your craft

Every successful business story starts with passion. However, as you know from many stories, passion and talent are not enough. You actually have to put in the work. With language and translation, that means taking enough time to actually perfect your fluency to that level where you feel absolutely confident. Translation abilities imply that you’re 100% sure in your knowledge and resourcefulness.

2. Start small

A misconception that you have to get rid of when you want to pursue a career of a professional translator is that things are going to happen fast. It’s quite the contrary – you have to start with smaller, less paid projects in order to gain the experience to move on to the bigger leagues.

3. Network

Like in any other industry, networking is important in the language industry. There are many professional groups where you can share experiences, learn more about the business, or directly find new projects and opportunities. Always be on the lookout for new contacts.

4. Team up with an agency

Professional translation agencies outsource their work to freelancers and professional individual translators. You can apply at transcription services and start advancing your career in that direction. Almost all translators start either in a translation agency or by freelancing, which is again for agencies, in most cases.

5. Attend workshops

The translation industry is dynamic, versatile, and active. There are many workshops and seminars which you can attend to improve your skills and increase chances of succeeding in the industry. If you don’t have the possibility to travel to those events, you can also attend online workshops, which are aplenty in this industry.

6. Start working on your own

After you have been providing translation services for an agency for some time, honed your craft, connected with new contacts, and perfected your skills, it’s time to consider branching out on your own. Slowly start testing the waters and contacting some of your connections for possible cooperation. Here are some recommendations on how to start building your own translation business:

  • set up business profiles on job platforms – if you have personal freelancer profiles on platforms like Freelancer, Upwork or ProZ, consider switching them with profiles that will present your new business
  • create a website – when you determine that you want to differentiate from your work as a freelancer, you can set up a website that will be designated for your translation business
  • create social media pages – Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn…
  • post content – to build authority in the industry, you can start posting translation-related content

7. Boost your marketing

When you’re ready to take on new and bigger translation projects, the best way you can do that is by increasing your marketing budget. This will allow you to go beyond your existing connections and reach the right businesses that need your services. Approach this strategically and figure out the optimal marketing platforms for advertising your translation business. 

8. Collect great reviews and ratings

During months and years of consistently good work, you will gather dozens of positive reviews and recommendations related to your work. Word of mouth recommendations are a great source of organic marketing, but reviews on job platforms can also help you land more projects from clients who search according to reviews.

9. Consider scaling

Once your business is up and running, you might start considering adding more translators to your one-man-show to help you with your workload. You can even hire a professional translation company to help you with volumes of work you can’t handle. Check best certified translation services to look for and hire technical, medical, or academic translations companies if you don’t have expertise in those fields. It’s the circle of life! You start by working for companies, and then you advance to the point where you hire them to work for you. 

10. Add new languages

We have come to the ultimate stage in every translator’s professional life – should I expand my service portfolio by adding another language I work with? If you’re interested in that – go for it! However, if you feel like you’re under pressure with the work you’re currently doing and you feel like you wouldn’t particularly enjoy learning a new language, you don’t have to do it. Many translators work with just one language other than their native throughout their life.


Don’t make assumptions that becoming a professional translator is easy. Like any other skill or profession, it takes years of practice to get to a level where you’re comfortable with offering your services and vouching for their quality. It’s a step-by-step journey and you need to have patience. Don’t expect everything to start rolling your way from day one. At one point, when things start going your way, you’ll get to enjoy one of the most rewarding and lucrative professions out there!

Author’s Bio :Henry Mcdowell is a professional translator who has been working with some of the biggest translation agencies in the world. He speaks four languages and is currently working on his fifth. Next to his professional work, he’s interested in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and innovative technologies.