10 Pieces of Advice for Young Translators

Last Updated June 24, 2024

Here’s 10 essential pieces of advice to help young translators excel in their careers by mastering tools, specializing in niche domains, and effectively managing their workload and business relationships.

Entering the world of translation can be both exciting and daunting.

As you embark on this career, you’ll quickly realize that there’s more to it than just converting words from one language to another. It involves understanding the nuances of cultures, mastering the tools of the trade, and navigating the business landscape.

Drawing from years of experience, we’ve compiled these ten pieces of advice to help you start strong and build a successful career in translation.

Whether you’re just beginning or looking to refine your skills, these tips will guide you on your journey.

Note: These tips were originally written by our CTO Gert van Assche.

10 Pieces of Advice for Young Translators

1. Experiment with New Tools

Don’t hesitate to spend time testing new translation tools. Trust yourself to test them on smaller projects before scaling up.

Share your feedback with peers; they might have valuable insights or similar experiences.

2. Specialize in a Narrow Domain

Aim to become “the” translator in a specialized field rather than “a” general translator. Focus on one or two domains and strive for expertise in those areas.

Choose domains that interest you and consider the financial prospects, as some niche domains can be more lucrative.

3. Understand the Business

Comprehend the nuances of the translation industry. Translating literature differs significantly from translating medical documents. Working as a freelancer is different from being employed by a translation company.

Assess your risk tolerance and align your professional setup accordingly.

4. Keep Your Tools Updated

Regularly update your hardware and software.

Slow machines and outdated software can hinder your productivity and competitiveness.

5. Network Wisely

Networking is crucial.

People prefer to work with those they know and trust. Attend industry events and meet people in person.

A handshake and a smile are often more impactful than social media interactions.

6. Track Your Time

The time you spend on a job is a key metric.

Regardless of how you quote your work—per character, word, line, or page—ensure you know how much time you spent.

Calculate the effective rate and evaluate if it was worth it.

7. Deliver Quality Consistently

Understand your customer’s quality expectations and meet them.

Both over-delivering and under-delivering can harm your business.

If you receive feedback, take it constructively rather than defensively.

8. Avoid Clients Who Don’t Pay on Time

Set a firm boundary against clients who don’t pay on time.

If you deliver on time, timely payment is non-negotiable.

9. Use Machine Translation Judiciously

Machine Translation (MT) can be both beneficial and detrimental. Assess its utility on a per-job basis.

If you dislike post-editing, stick to traditional translation, but recognize that others might work faster with MT.

Give yourself time to adapt before dismissing it.

10. Manage Your Workload

Your brain isn’t designed for 10-hour workdays. Avoid overloading yourself with such jobs.

If you have too much work, outsource to someone reliable and always review their work before delivering it to your customer.

Never skip a final quality check and always use a spell checker.

And here’s a bonus piece of advice for young translators:

Verify Credentials

Before accepting a project or entering a partnership with an LSP, thoroughly verify their credentials. Check for reviews, testimonials, and industry certifications to ensure legitimacy.

On our freelance page, for example, we urge everyone to please be cautious of communicating with individuals who may contact you via email or social media on behalf of Summa Linguae Technologies.

Any official contact with Summa Linguae will come via an email address from the summalinguae.com domain.

If you receive a suspicious email, please verify the authenticity of the sender or communication by contacting us at vmteam@summalinguae.com immediately.

Summa Linguae specializes in technology-enabled translation and localization solutions. We combine the best of what human intelligence and machine learning have to offer to bring your business to more people around the world—quickly, efficiently, and affordably.

Taking an outcome-based approach, we tailor a language solution to meet your objectives. A fit-for-purpose strategy that simplifies even the most complex situations.

Our customers see cost reduction, more efficient operation and experience outstanding customer service.

Embarking on a translation career is a rewarding journey filled with opportunities for growth and learning. By embracing these ten pieces of advice, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the complexities of the profession, build a strong reputation, and achieve success.

Remember, the key to becoming a standout translator lies in continuous improvement, specialization, and effective networking.

Stay curious, stay connected, and most importantly, stay true to your passion for languages and communication.

Happy translating!

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