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How to Start a Freelance Translation Company

Having the right tools and mindset to start a freelance translation company is key to laying a solid foundation. This series will help develop necessary business skills.

Freelance jobs have increased since 2019 according to a study published by Upwork that estimated that 57 Million US workers in total were now working as freelancers. Many businesses experienced layoffs during the pandemic and many remote workers realized they liked working from home more than working in an office setting because of the flexibility that remote work provides. 

Companies saw sales decrease and buying patterns changed so many businesses are expecting to remain with lean, project-based work going forward which is the ideal environment for freelancers.

How can new freelance business owners meet the demand for translation services and start their own translation company when there are many freelancers working in the same space? 

How can you make yourself stand out and build an amazing business that will help you build a long term business?

Choosing a Specialty

This doesn’t mean the language(s) that you are able to translate in. Choosing a specialty means choosing the type of translation that you are able to offer, have experience in, or are certified to translate in. Some areas of translation require not only experience but education or certification in that area. For instance, if you have no experience in translating legal documents, that may not be the best specialty for you to start with.

Many translators choose a basic translation specialty when getting started and then gain experience or certifications in more complex translations to expand the services they offer. 

Photo by Faizur Rehman on Unsplash

Building Your Brand

Congratulations! You are now a business owner so it’s time to start thinking about how you want potential customers to view you. Questions to ask yourself when getting started include

  • What makes you different from other translators?
  • Are you an expert in your field?
  • If you are an expert, how can you let potential customers know that?

Elements of a brand include:

  1. Qualifications. What translation work experience do you have? Do you have proof of your experience and the quality of the work that you’ve done? Do you have a client base already that you could ask to support your personal brand? 
  2. Digital Media. Do you have translation projects that you can use for your portfolio? If you need to showcase your language skills, consider doing work for a local business in your target languages. Have you created any social media posts or participated in podcasts aimed at your target market? 
  3. Online Presence. Every reputable translation provider needs to have a website, blog, or professional profile on a translation agency website like Hanna Interpreting Services LLC. Hanna provides free resources (like this one) to potential clients and translation businesses. Create an amazing bio and explain the process of how to work with you or contact you to ask about services.

Creating a Great Portfolio

Having a portfolio and reviews from previous clients is key to getting more paying clients. You may need to do some work for family or friends and ask them to leave you a great testimonial. 

Avoid doing translation work at a reduced rate when building your portfolio because this can establish a reputation in your local translation market of being the cheap service provider and that is hard to change later when you want to raise your rates. 

Improving Your Social Presence

If you want to be taken seriously as a business owner, you will want to have a social media presence on at least two platforms for your business and promote your services regularly by posting high quality blog posts that you can link to on social media. 

Don’t spread yourself too thin by trying to post on every social media platform or posting too often. The key is to post consistently over a longer period of time to grow a loyal audience. Let your audience see your personality by posting about your interests and hobbies outside of your business, too. 

Putting Your Best Foot Forward When Applying to Gigs

New translation freelancers must pass rigorous application processes to get gigs through reputable language service providers but it’s worth it because this is how you will get your initial work and build your online presence. Building your experience online will create projects to add to your portfolio and will build your confidence in your abilities. 

Many freelancers start their careers by using a service to find gigs and then move into individual client work that is stable and long term. When you’re in between long term work, you can go back to applying for gigs on service websites. 

Industry leaders counsel new freelancers to always keep your online profiles active by applying for gigs even when you have a full client list because this will keep your account active and allow you the opportunity to find new clients when you need them rather than scrambling at the last minute to find clients to pay your bills. 

Selling Your Abilities

As a business owner, we always have to find new ways to find clients. Post your services on job boards like Craigslist, Upwork, or Fiverr or search these platforms for potential clients that need your services. Most of these sites will allow previous clients to review your services which is a huge bonus to help you get future work. You can even make it easy for clients to leave you an awesome review by sending them a template after you’ve completed the job.

Running a Business

Making money using a side hustle is great but you will need to register with the IRS or local tax authority to pay taxes for your new business so you don’t get into trouble. Come up with a name for your new business so clients will know how to get in touch with you next time they need translation services. 

Keep track of your business expenses and put all of your receipts together in an envelope so you have them for tax time. Develop a contract or download one from the web and figure out what to charge for your services. Pricing will depend on what others are charging for the same service because you want to be in the middle of the price structure until you have a good reputation established.

In Conclusion

Building an online presence for your business takes time and consistent effort. Post to social media on a regular basis, link to relevant blogs, keep your online profiles active, and provide excellent customer service to build a solid foundation for your business. 

Disclaimer: All content published by Hanna Interpreting Services, LLC is owned by Hanna Interpreting Services, LLC and is for educational purposes only. Published information is opinion, not fact, and should not be used in lieu of legal or professional services advice. Please consult a professional for help in regards to your individual situation or circumstances.