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Qualities of a Good Freelance Translator by Professional English Japanese Translator

What makes a good, or successful, freelance translator? 

Professional Japanese Translators Tokyo, Japan

Obviously good translation skills are a given, but, in this article, rather than focus on the skills required by all translators, such as strong linguistic skills in both target and source language and attention to detail, I would like to focus on the qualities that are particularly needed to work in the freelance format.

The first of these is time management. This is, of course, required in many lines of work, but in the case of a salaried worker this affects quality of work rather than whether you earn enough to pay the bills. Working on a freelance basis gives a great deal of freedom to the translator but, as they say, with great freedom comes great responsibility. When time spent working, relaxing, doing chores, handling family commitments etc. is all merged together, a different kind of discipline is required. Contrast this, for example, with interpreters who are normally paid (deservedly well) by the hour. There is no temptation to pick up a magazine and start browsing through it while you are working as there may be when you are translating at home. The actual skills of time management are beyond the scope of this article, but suffice to say, developing time management techniques is essential for a freelance translator.

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Another quality required is being able to switch between work and relax modes. Translation work often comes in waves. As the saying goes, “It never rains but it pours”, and for a translator to achieve a good average income throughout the year, it is necessary to be able to maximize your potential earnings when there is a high volume of work, and be able to switch off and relax when things are quieter. A natural inclination is to relax when you have a sufficient stream of work, spread it over several days and decline work to stay in your comfort zone. This can lead to you being short for the month, however, if things slow down at a later date. Similarly, many translators find that even when they have time to relax when the work eases off, they are unable to do so due to worry that no work will ever come again. 

In conclusion, in addition to good translation skills, a freelance translator needs to be able to manage their time efficiently and learn how to flip the switch so they can both “really work” and “really relax.” Neither of these come naturally to us, but are essential skills for success in this trade.

About the Author
Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, the owner of Translation Services Japan. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news by Professional Japanese Translators

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