This article will provide some brief tips for those of you who want to start a career as a translator.
90％ of the people who work as professional translators have never attended a single class relating to translation in their entire lives. Most of the 700,000 translators all over the world are in one of the following groups:
1. I studied philology, and since I couldn't find a job, I started doing translations as a freelancer.
2. I studied abroad, and since I couldn't find a job, I started doing translations as a freelancer.
3. I got married, and since as I had to leave my previous full time job, I started doing translations as a freelancer.
4. There is nothing I can really do... but I am bilingual. I will start doing translations as a freelancer.
5. A friend of mine asked me to translate an email for him. I realized it was a good way to earn some money without going into an office. I started doing translations as a freelancer.
Thus, we can say that most freelance translators became translators casually. The number of vocational translators is really low. So, what to do if you want to be a professional translator?
1. Choose some translation-related university major. It doesn’t have to be pure translation - you can study philology or linguistics.
2. Try to read a lot in your preferred TARGET language. This seems pretty obvious, but being born in France does not necessarily make you a qualified French speaker...
3. Specialize. Try to focus in just one field from the start. Usually employers are looking for specialized translators.
4. Familiarize yourself with the tools of the trade. Buy Trados or ask a friend to teach you if you can't afford it. Read about other tools as well.
5. Accept cheap jobs. Yes, seriously, do it. You can't expect to be paid 0.25 USD/char. for your first assignment. Once you get more experienced, you will be in a position to require more from your employer(s).
6. Translate in more than one language pair. It will provide you with additional translation skills.
7. Be very careful with your assignment management. Use Excel and other schedule management tools.
8. Avoid tight schedules. At least in the beginning.
9. Try to be natural. Avoid sounding literal. Focus on the meaning.
10. Try to have a close relationship with some translation Project Managers. Let them know when you are available. They may be too busy to be thinking about you.