Setting up as a freelance translator

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

It's no longer the case that all you need to start working as a self-employed translator is a good knowledge of the languages you intend to work with and a school exercise book to record the jobs you do.

A first degree followed by a Master's, preferably in translation, is today by no means enough to get our fledgling translator launched onto the market. Translation software, social media presence, relationships with work providers and colleagues, accounting, ethical and regulatory requirements all need to be dealt with, as well as overcoming lack of experience and deciding whether to specialise.

And for those of us who may already have translation experience, it's the thought of dealing with the business side that is the most daunting.

Happily, our professional association, the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) has stepped in and runs a training course, now well-established over several years, helpfully entitled "Setting up as a Freelance Translator" or SUFT. The course runs over 10 weeks, and covers topics such as "How do you get over the no-experience barrier?", "How to create an effective cv", "Specialising and networking" and the all-important "Getting paid on time" to mention just a few of the subjects covered.

I was lucky enough to attend SUFT, now in remote mode, from September to December 2020, and found it really useful. There was plenty of food for thought in the homework assignments and it was great to hear the different experiences and perspectives of the inspiring tutors and the diverse course participants.

SUFT 2020 “Best in Class” award winner Caroline Cronin had recently completed an MA in translation:

“While the MA had increased my confidence to translate professionally, on a practical level I was more clueless! How did I get started? How should I market myself? What were LSPs looking for? How would I cope with the administrative aspects of working freelance? The SUFT course is a financial investment so I weighed it up carefully but I was encouraged by the comments of others who had done the course and decided to go for it. I am so pleased I did!"

William Young, also a SUFT 2020 “Best in Class” award winner, felt he lacked confidence in the business side of freelancing:

“I learnt a great deal about all aspects of being a freelance translator, from marketing your services using online resources to handling the admin side of the profession. Ultimately, I came out of the course feeling that getting into paid translation isn’t as daunting a prospect as I had originally thought it would be, which was a great relief!”

I can highly recommend attending SUFT for anyone about to start out on a freelance translation career, or who has perhaps recently started, or is changing career. The next course will be in September 2021, so have a look at the details on the ITI website and take the plunge!

SUFT is open to both members and non-members (perhaps future members?) of ITI.


With thanks to all the tutors and fellow students for their hard work and input to the course, and especially to William Young and Caroline Cronin and ITI's Professional Development Officer for the quotes from the SUFT "Best in Class" report.


(Photo © Wix)

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