Seeking advice on starting out as a freelancer
Thread poster: Arianej

United Kingdom
Local time: 11:42
French to English
+ ...
May 14, 2013


I'm a French national, and a UK resident for the past six years.
I'm starting postgraduate study in International Relations, and I would like to make ends meet using my language skills.
I have no qualifications per se, but I translate documents for work and for my studies on a regular basis. By now, I would describe myself as bilingual. I constantly switch between English and French.

How do I start? Should I contact companies and apply for freelance work? Should I set up my own business? I have no idea on where to begin. I am settled in London, so I'm sure I can find something pretty easily.

Thank you for your help.

Best regards,



Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:42
English to Polish
+ ...
Well May 14, 2013

Ariane, you should visit the Chartered Institute of Linguists and look at DipTrans. Getting credentialled solves most of the problems you mentioned. Since you're a French national that translates in both directions, it makes sense for you to get credentialled in France or even other francophone countries.

As for starting up your precious little operation, I'd get a good profile on LinkedIn, here and on other translation-related portals and in online directories. Solid agencies are probably a good choice rather than direct clients if you aren't confident enough that you can do without a proofreader and QA people watching your back.

Once you have the time, get yourself a killer website and start a blog.


Lucia Leszinsky
Getting started with May 15, 2013

Hi Ariane,

Welcome to!

I invite you to check the "Getting started with" section available here:

In this section you will find all the information you need to start getting the most out of the site while starting as a translator.

Hope it helps!

Kind regards,



564354352 (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:42
Danish to English
+ ...
Have a look at the Translation in the UK forum May 15, 2013

Hi Ariane

There's loads of information and good advice to be found in the Translation in the UK forum here on ProZ.



United Kingdom
Local time: 11:42
French to English
+ ...
Thank you May 19, 2013

Thank you very much for answering me.
I actually cannot afford getting credentials at the moment, I don't even have a paid job! I'm starting postgraduate study and an internship. Maybe later, but I need to start now.

I also notice people often specialise. I believe I would be able to help governments for social research, international organisations, and NGOs thanks to my studies. Without any qualification though, I doubt they will offer me any role. It is frustrating because I actually speak better English than many French people qualified in translation/interpreting because I've been here for so long.

I want to build up my profile here, with no references to add. I can't pay for upgrades because of the same reasons mentioned earlier. I don't mind starting as a freelancer, but I don't want to be scammed as a beginner who has no idea on how to run a business and who is new to the industry. Maybe it's better if I apply in an agency, but they appear to only take qualified translators. I also don't know which agencies to go for and which to avoid.


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:42
Member (2007)
+ ...
Step by step May 20, 2013

Arianej wrote:
How do I start? Should I contact companies and apply for freelance work? Should I set up my own business?

I'm not clear of the difference you see between these two options. A freelancer is running a small business. We may be operating under our own names, and we don't have a full company structure behind us to fold up if the going gets bad, but then we have very little investment, and very few debts that are business-related. We either receive enough invome to survive as professionals; or we don't.

I don't believe there are any real procedures to go through in the UK, as long as you declare all your income for tax and social security contributions, though I was never self-employed there. As Gitte says, there's a forum dedicated to the UK here so check that.

If you really want to attempt to make a career out of translating, I would advise you to:
- spend time researching here and elsewhere so you're as prepared as possible to present a professional image (especially as research skills are primordial for a translator), as you'll need to know a little about translating in Word/Excel/PPT/PDF... formats, about CAT tools (some are free), word-counting methods etc.
- decide on your rates, specialisations (they are important for your pairs), services (I think EN>FR is your logical pair, at least the most-important one), etc.
- apply to agencies and direct clients who might be interested in your services: for that you'll need a polished CV (a freelancer's CV, not a job-seeker's one), short letter, maybe logo and/or business card; but don't expect immediate replies from many agenciesicon_frown.gif

Don't expect the money to start rolling in, though. Freelancing in any discipline is a business that builds up slowly.

I've missed out a lot, of course. Everything depends on motivation and determination, plus a lot of patience and a little luck.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:42
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Find a niche May 20, 2013

Decide on an area to specialise in, and study it.

You need not take a lot of courses and exams, although good, relevant courses are a great help - where an experienced teacher has selected and organised material to get you started.
Either way, you have to do a lot of self study, both to boost your basic knowledge of the subject and to find specific terminology etc. for specific jobs.

Then you can target clients in that field.

Many people still take on 'general' jobs for variety or light relief, or to fill in the gaps between specialist jobs, but you can often charge higher rates for specialist work.

An unusual second language might also be a good niche, as I found with Danish, but you really need to know the lanugage very thoroughly.

Best of luck!


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