A freelance translator or interpreter is someone who works for individuals, translation companies/agencies (aka Language Service Providers or LSPs) on a contract basis. By freelance, we mean that the work is done according to the liking of the freelancer himself. Unlike a full-time regular job, here freedom and flexibility define the lifestyle. Of course, other things are taken into consideration like for example, the type of service offering, timelines, discipline, rates of services, etc.
Duties of a translator
Whether you are working as a freelancer or on a regular job, the technical side of the job is roughly the same. It’s just that a freelancer has more flexibility than an employee (and fewer of the typical non-financial benefits). So let’s put the word freelance aside for a minute and focus on the duties and responsibilities of translator for now.
All translators have to do the following:
- Keep the customer/boss informed of all aspects of the project for which he/she is responsible.
- Be available at (practically) all times, even if the answer has to be a polite “no”.
- Transform messages in the source language to similar and corresponding concepts in the target language.
- Research technical terms or jargon used in a legal setting, into terminologies and glossaries creating a database in the target language.
- Have a good command of at least two languages that should include English and another. The translator must be able to understand, speak, listen and write the different languages effectively, to the point that the message conveyed in one language can be easily transformed into another language.
- Maintain insofar as possible the style and tone of the source material.
- Follow ethical guidelines throughout for the sake of confidentiality of information.
- Be able to classify and resolve conflicts related to concepts, practices, meanings of words and cultures.
- Maintain the originality of the context and content.
- Ask the customer when any aspect of the original text is unclear, ambiguous, seems incorrect, out of context, etc.
- Explain to customers the decisions taken when translating specific segments or documents.
- Train and supervise other translators if working as a team or a building one for the company.
- Actively interact with people speaking another language.
- Stay up to date with the different language improvements, changes, and barriers.
- Avoid guesswork! This is tempting but seldom leads to the best result, so just avoid it!
These are the overall duties and responsibilities of the job description of any translator. A freelance translator must be able to do all of this for (often) several customers. A well-qualified, experienced, highly responsive freelancer is what translation companies are always looking for. Companies hire freelancers not just because of their flexible cost commitments, but also for their motivation, maintain quality and ability to go the extra mile.
The freelance market is big enough for thousand of professionals, and the world economy is not about to run out of work. So in order to keep up in the market and build a reputation, a freelance translator must be
- Highly efficient
- Fully committed to delivering quality and quantity in the timeframe specified.
Customers do not part happily with their money, which means freelancers must provide a near-perfect level of service, always.