How I Got Started as a Freelance Translator

There are many paths that can lead to a career in freelance translation. Some studied translation or languages at university, and then started working in-house before establishing themselves as freelance translators. Others come from completely different fields and pretty much learned the job on the field, which is my case.

I graduated from university in 2008 with a degree in IT and software development. I could have started working in that field in France right away, but I wanted to explore the world a little bit while I had the chance. Japan turned out to be the destination, and while I was planning it as a short-term experience, I am still there with no plans to return to my home country.

Freshly arrived in Japan with little knowledge of the local language and a modest CV, I settled for the best I could find: a job as a developer for an English-speaking start-up, which happened to be a localization agency. In such an environment, work is never in shortage and everybody has to wear several hats. My business card said I was a “technical director”, but as it turned out, I was a developer, a software translator, a web marketing consultant, a recruiter, a tester and a project manager (plus a few I forgot).

It was a great environment to grow, because it gave me a full insight on how the translation industry worked while gaining experience as technical translator.

About 2 years later, personal projects encouraged me to pursue a new career, and moving to deep countryside meant freelancing was the only reasonable option for me. Having done different jobs in my previous company, I tried to do them all as a freelancer and did the classical beginner mistake of spreading myself too thin. By trying to do so many different things, I ended up doing none of them well enough, and it took me some time to figure it out what I was doing wrong.

At some point, which I guess is when my finances kindly asked me to get things moving forward, I took a step back and had a deep look at what I was doing. It is when I realized that of all the projects I was working on, the translation ones were my favorite. Not that all was perfect at the time, but it was the area to which I wanted to start dedicating more time.

Once I decided I wanted to be a full-time freelance translator and give it all my energy, it didn’t take very long before projects started pouring in. This is how I got things started. Of course, at that time, I still had so much to learn. My rates were low and I, like many newcomers, tended to accept projects that were a bit outside the scope of my knowledge. But this is for another story.

When I was at university, I never thought I would ever work as a professional translator. In fact, hadn’t I worked for a translation agency at some point, it would most likely have never happened.  It probably is the biggest lesson I learned in my entire life: the best way to find the job of your dream is to try and experiment as many things as possibly, and see what you really enjoy doing. For me, the results were beyond anything I could imagine just a few years back.