How to Become a Freelance Translator Online

Nov 27, 2019

While some proctored testing on location may be required, most of the steps to becoming a freelance translator are available in an online format. Read on to learn about translator education, certification and potential jobs.

Introduction to Freelance Translating

Translating is the transposition of written materials from one language into another. Many translators also double as interpreters (verbal communication). Individuals who wish to become freelance translators can do so online, although some certifications may require on-site proctored testing. Freelance translating is available in many different niches. Some examples include medical, legal, engineering, sciences and video gaming translation. The table below offers a brief overview of this career.

Required Skills Fluency in target language, oral and written communication skills, computer skills
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 19% (for Interpreters and Translators)
Median Salary (2018)* $49,930 (for Interpreters and Translators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Steps to Become a Freelance Translator Online

Online language tools are readily available to help prospective freelancers gain the necessary skills and certification, as well as apply for freelance work.

Step 1: Gain Education and Fluency

A degree isn't required to become a freelance translator, but many translators have at least a bachelor's degree in their target foreign language. Bachelor's degrees in foreign languages are readily available online through multiple accredited universities. Associate's degrees in a foreign language or specifically in translation and interpretation are also available online or in hybrid formats and take around two years to complete. Translation programs focus on the art of translation as well as field-specific terminology.

To build their language skills, aspiring translators can go online to participate in language forums, watch videos, have a video chat with someone who speaks the language or find an online tutor. Keep in mind that fluency not only encompasses the technical translation work but familiarization with the target country's culture and customs, so it's a good idea to develop an understanding of cultural context.

Step 2: Get Certified

The American Translators Association (ATA) offers certification programs for translators. Although professional translators do not need certification to do translation work, it can help demonstrate their proficiency. Details about the ATA certification exam can be found online, but it must be administered by a proctor at an approved test site.

If a freelancer wants to work in medical translation, certification is available through the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters. This organization offers online testing from home. To be successful, translators must not only possess a high degree of fluency in the targeted language but also the necessary medical knowledge to understand the technical terminology.

Step 3: Apply for Jobs

There are several online platforms that offer work for freelance translators. Many jobs require field-specific vocabulary (e.g. video gaming, legal, medical, engineering). Prospective freelancers applying to these platforms should have certifications, degrees and personal information at the ready. Once accepted, freelancers can choose various projects to work on from a remote location. Projects vary in complexity, subject and length as well as remuneration. Some are first come first serve, and others require the customer to evaluate the translators' online profiles and applications before picking one to do the work.

Freelance translators can also create their own online platforms to sell their services. However, if this route is chosen, they must be able to find business and aptly market their skills to the right consumers. Many translation jobs are also available in-person at schools, courtrooms and hospitals.

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