Poll: In your opinion, which is the ideal age to become a freelance translator?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 01:51
Mar 12

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "In your opinion, which is the ideal age to become a freelance translator?".

This poll was originally submitted by tilak raj. View the poll results »


Kay Denney  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:51
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
There's no ideal age Mar 12

There's no ideal age. We all follow our own paths and there's no medal for the youngest or oldest translator.

I would say it's better to have worked in other fields, or studied them, first to gain experience and spend time living abroad so you can then claim a speciality, but then I know of good translators who didn't do that.

But there are all sorts of other considerations too such as your family life which can get in the way. I was first paid for a translation a week before giving birth to my daughter, but then took a while off while establishing breastfeeding and recovering before working again.


neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:51
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Mar 12

There are too many factors to consider to make a generalised statement about this. In my case, I became a full-time translator quite late in life, having worked in TEFL and done other things previously. However, nowadays some people go directly from school or college into a translation training course and come out of them ready to eat the world.
"The times they are a changing" ... icon_smile.gif


Dr. Tilmann Kleinau  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:51
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Other Mar 12

I think this depends on the individual's character, career, goals, and education. Generally speaking, some years in one or more companies after college and/or university are never bad - but this is not a must. A freelancer needs to be self-disciplined and tough and to know what he or she wants, and if a young person has this character already - which is rarely the case - why not start freelancing immerdiately after education?

[Edited at 2018-03-12 09:12 GMT]


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:51
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Not too early! Mar 12

Having said that, someone straight from college who still has the self discipline to study as required and deliver assignments on time will glide into the routine. However, they still need a thorough, real-life knowledge of two or three languages and a subject speciality... which all takes time.

Some young people have travelled and lived in several countries, speaking two languages like natives, which is an advantage, but more is needed.

Many people come successfully to translating as a second career, or late in life, as I did. It is no hindrance!


Teresa Borges
Local time: 09:51
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Other Mar 12

In my case, I became a full-time translator quite late in life, after a few years part-time. If I could do it all over again I would probably start at a younger age than I did but then again I wouldn’t have all the useful knowledge and experience I had gleaned over the years…


Mike Roebuck  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:51
German to English
+ ...
Another late starter Mar 12

I came into translation later in life, too (it's my third career), but I wouldn't have been able to, had I not

(a) learned and been good at languages at school

(b) spent 25 years living and working in other countries, using my language knowledge constantly

(c) had specialist knowledge of an industry, which is where I started translating.

I don't think you can generalise here, but I do think that practical experience is a great help to a freelance translator.


Gordana Sujdovic  Identity Verified
Member (2010)
English to Serbian
+ ...
As above Mar 12

By chance; browsing the Internet, after 50. Knowledge and experience from former job, not exactly translatiing, but translating was involved, helped, along with small help of programmer.


Amlaku Eshetie
United States
Local time: 02:51
Member (2017)
English to Amharic
+ ...

Posted via
ProZ.com Mobile

Age, not a factor Mar 12

I don't think that age is a factor as such.


Ricki Farn
Local time: 10:51
Member (2005)
English to German
Other Mar 12

Whenever you feel like it. Just like many other things in life.


Yetta J Bogarde  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:51
Member (2012)
English to Danish
+ ...
Other Mar 12

In my opinion, besides having a good grasp of linguistics, you need to know both source and target languages very well and must have lived in both source and target language countries for at least a few years.
Any knowledge/expertise you may have picked up from other fields can be very useful as well and help you select/create your specialties.

And as others mentioned too, it is important to have self discipline and be content working alone.
Some knowledge of administration/business comes in handy too.

To accumulate all those things takes time, that's why I believe one is best qualified after 35icon_smile.gif


Cinthya Chamarelli
Local time: 06:51
Japanese to Portuguese
+ ...
Between 21 and 26 Mar 12

Of course, you can become a freelance translator at any age, and whether it will be "ideal" varies from individual to individual.

However, I voted "Between 21 and 26" thinking from the POV of someone whose first career choice was translation. (I may be biased, because I started working as a freelance translator at the age of 26.)

It's the kind of work that I wouldn't recommend to someone in their teens or fresh out of high school if they wanted to take it seriously, because I think it requires a certain level of maturity and life experience that usually only adults (+21 yo) have. Also, at this age, you probably already have a degree or are about to get one - so you've had some time to study Translation, Linguistics, etc., which makes me assume you're at least minimally qualified to translate.

It's also an age range where you are more easily forgiven if your lack of experience reflects in the quality of your work. When you're older, I feel that people expect more from you, because you're supposed to have more experience... even if you never worked with this before! So, 21-26 is a great age to make mistakes and learn from them, so that when you're older, you'll feel much more secure about getting jobs that require more responsibility.


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:51
Member (2007)
+ ...
If I could live my life again Mar 13

With the benefit of hindsight, I'd concentrate on languages and international mobility from a younger age. Then I'd be ready to move into translation a little earlier than 52 and so profit from more years in this very interesting career. But I'm sure it was a good move to have careers in administration and IT (many, many years ago), followed by language training, before arriving where I am today. But I'm equally sure that I couldn't have run a successful micro-business before seeing how a million and one bigger businesses are run and learning about the world from the old 'school of hard knocks'. Freelance translation must be incredibly difficult for young people just out of education. There are shark-infested waters around some agencies icon_frown.gif.


Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:51
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Other - two stages Mar 18

A person will hardly ever be a good translator only with their education/theory in their backpack. Translation requires a lot of knowledge in your areas of interest.
I started at the age of 19, but I had no experience or sufficient knowledge for any field at all. I had to do a lot of researching, spend hours in libraries, etc. There was no such a thing as Internet, and computers were quite rare and expensive then.
I had translation as a secondary source of income for almost 15 years. I worked in five international companies in several administrative, managerial and engineering roles, acquiring experience and knowledge. Only at the age of 40, I started working as a professional translator, purely, and only at 45 I became a full-time freelance translator.
So, you can start translating whenever you feel you're ready for it. But you'll only be a high-level professional after many years of experience in specific areas, outside translation.


Nikolay Novitskiy  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 13:51
Member (May 2018)
English to Russian
+ ...
In Russia - after you turn 46 :) Oct 4

In Russia company owners may be convicted, if they fire people after they turn 50 (or even 45, if it's a woman with 4 children). That's why companies are encouraged to fire people before they turn this age, and not to hire older people.

So if you just turned 46, becoming a freelance translator in Russia is a super good option to earn some money for food and medicine!


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Poll: In your opinion, which is the ideal age to become a freelance translator?

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