Steps necessary in starting a career of a translator?
Thread poster: Lukas_Fr

United Kingdom
Feb 2, 2015

Hello everyone,

I am a Business Management student, currently on my 2nd year at Uni in UK. All of a sudden, I realised, that Lithuanian-English-Lithuanian text translation is a job I'd love to do, as it's flexible and provides with intellectual stimulus- unlike those bartender jobs I had...

My basic action plan:

Acquire experience in non-profit organisations --> Get necessary certificates --> Find a job --> Start working as a text translator

My questions are:
1. What are the steps necessary to start such career for one who has no experience whatsoever in this area?

2. How much experience is usually 'enough' in terms of pages translated and companies worked for? In other words, what's the 'minimum threshold'?

3. What certificates are necessary for one to become a certified and legitimate translator in United Kingdom?

Thank you for your time and answers.


ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:00
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
Being a Translator Feb 3, 2015

1. I believe you can start by trying to make the most out of ProZ. Along the way, you can consider being a paid member if you think this will help you. Many people tend to do that. Job postings in ProZ are excellent resources for getting jobs. To make the long story short, you are currently at the right place and at the right time. icon_smile.gif

2. I think you may need to change your perspective of gaining experience a little bit. We all start with zero experience, and slowly but surely, we gain experience. Also, experience is a continuum rather than a discrete entity. In other words, it is extremely difficult to quantify the amount of experience that is necessary to do a certain job.

3. I do not have any knowledge of anything in the United Kingdom, unfortunately. I have not even been there at all. However, it should not be difficult to learn that.


Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:00
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
I would advice.... Feb 3, 2015 have a look at one (or more) threads on this topic on Proz. There are many, and just a few mouse clicks away. Probably you'll find most answers on your questions there.


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:00
Member (2007)
+ ...
Cart before the horse? Feb 3, 2015

Hello Lukas, and welcome to

I take it that you're wanting to prepare for a career as a freelance translator, rather than expecting translation to be a job that will bring in money while you're studying? The latter isn't likely to work, for several reasons (e.g. long lead time building your business, short deadlines requiring instant availability, and little to interest clients). As for a career, it's good that you're planning it seriously.

You've clearly thought about why you think it would be a good career for you, though I doubt that someone doing a business degree should be comparing it with bartender jobs (surely that was never considered as a career move, was it?). But have you looked at it from the client's point of view? What skills do you have to offer?
- Excellent comprehension skills in one or more source languages, with writing/speaking skills at least adequate for communication with clients?
- Excellent writing skills in your native/target language, above those of an educated native speaker who isn't a professional writer?
- Excellent research skills to back up an innate inquisitiveness?
- In-depth knowledge of the terminology, in both/all languages, of one or more fields in which you wish to specialise (e.g. medical, legal, business...)?
- Entrepreneurial skills, sufficient to enable you to start and run a (very) small business (marketing, client relations, negotiating, invoicing and payment chasing, bookkeeping...)?

Clients are looking primarily for reassurance that you've got what it takes to do their job. You can justify your claim to be the one for them in terms of qualifications or experience, or a mixture. What "proof" can you offer?
- Qualifications in individual languages and/or translation techniques?
- Qualifications in specialist subject areas, in at least one language?
- Experience using languages (i.e. not just being taught)?
- Experience in the techniques of translating?
- Experience of working in your specialist subject areas?
Lukas_Fr wrote:
My basic action plan:
Acquire experience in non-profit organisations --> Get necessary certificates --> Find a job --> Start working as a text translator

NPOs don't exist to give you experience in translating. They are generally in no position to give feedback. They need totally autonomous, experienced translators who can guarantee to produce suitable translations entirely independently. It's a common notion nowadays that that's where you should start. But it's false; it's where you should arrive at when you have experience and can afford to give a contribution.

Also, finding a job doesn't mean getting through an interview and then drawing a salary for the next several years. Almost all translation work is done by freelancers. Your first job may well be to translate 200 words. That will take you around an hour and bring in a few euros. Then you'll need to find another job. It will probably be several months before you have a few regular clients giving you something to do each week; it may be a couple of years before you're working flat out and earning a decent living.

So, I would say that the ideal action plan for you might read:
Finish degree --> Maybe get some experience --> Add an MA in translation ---> Set yourself up as a freelance translator (with maybe a bartending job on the side for steady income).

The straight answer to your 2nd and 3rd questions is "none". You simply (icon_wink.gif) have to come across as not only motivated but also entirely capable.

So, my advice would be to get a good education, and maybe a bit of work experience, before you launch into a translation career. On the other hand, there are jobs that don't require too much in the way of skills and experience. Perhaps you could offer to translate an English blog that you personally find interesting - but it should be a non-commercial blog, unless you charge the going rate for your services. Maybe blog readers could be asked for feedback. You could also try translating for Wikipedia or TED - other translators may edit your work (for better or for worse).


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:00
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Console yourself that 'bar tending' jobs are great places for picking up experience Feb 4, 2015

Sheila has said a lot of important things.

Get out and listen to what people are really saying, and the words and phrases they use in those 'bar-tender' - or preferably more specialised - jobs. Find the equivalents in both languages. That is where you hear 'real' language, perhaps in the social services or health care services, as I did, or in some other field that interests you. That is where you learn the jargon and special terminology, or what linguists call collocations and so on.

You would be amazed at what comes up in a translation. Business Management is probably a good place to start, and if you do a few years as a trainee in business - monolingually - add your Latvian for yourself wherever you can. Visit the country and listen to the language there too - you think you know your own language, but as a translator you never stop learning it! Build up a network and let everybody know you translate, but don't take on anything you are not happy with. Specialist technical, legal or medical language is not something everyone can produce from the top of their heads (even in their own language), but you want to find a specialist area or two where you are really confident and really good.

Like Danish, which I work with, Latvian one of the 'smaller' languages, but there is probably still plenty of work. You may need to work more widely than for instance in FIGS languages, where there is more competition. But that does not mean you don't have to specialise. You can't be good at everything.

I know very little about Latvia, but I believe the economy is picking up, and there are sure to be opportunities.

Best of luck!


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