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Getting into translation part 2

This is another post aimed at those considering a career in translation, following my recent similar post. A few months back I was asked to write a case study for 50:50 Magazine, about what it was like being a freelance translator. It’s hard to pin down what a typical day would be like for me, but the case study I wrote describes some of the tasks my working day generally involves*.

I’ve written a replica of that case study for my blog:

Job title:

Freelance Translator


French, Spanish and Portuguese (into English)


My cosy home office in London!


I translate from French, Spanish and Portuguese into English (my mother tongue). I started off by doing a BA in French and Spanish at Cardiff University, then went on to do an MA in Translation and Linguistics (Spanish and Portuguese) at Westminster University in London.

After my studies I managed to get a job as an in-house translator, and this gave me the opportunity to really hone my language skills. However, after a few years I decided that freelancing was for me and so I launched a new career beyond cubicle life.

A typical day for me:

I’ll usually be at my desk quite early in the morning, since my commute only involves a short walk to my desk! I often start my day in the same way as most other people, by checking my emails. There may be urgent requests from clients that I need to respond to. I will also typically do some reading of industry-specific newsletters and foreign press or listen to podcasts in my source languages. When I start working on a translation project, I will need to consult with the client for any background references and will need to carry out my own research into the subject matter and terminology. The finished product will then need to be thoroughly edited and proofread before delivery to the client.

Working from home, I get to manage my own workload, but I generally try to work a standard 8 hour day, although I sometimes need to work evenings and weekends to complete urgent or large jobs.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Without a doubt, being my own boss!

So you want to be a professional translator?

You’ll need excellent writing skills in your mother tongue and of course fluency in the languages you translate from. You’ll also need to acquire sound knowledge of one or two specialist fields, for example medicine, law, IT, engineering or physics. I work mainly in the fields of law and marketing, so I need to maintain my knowledge in these areas through ongoing training.

You’ll also need to bear in mind that if you’re freelance, you’re effectively running your own mini-business, so take some time to check out what that entails.

*Psst! If you’re tempted by translation but would like to have a taster before committing, I notice that London Metropolitan University are hosting a Taster Day for Linguists as Mediators, through the UK National Network for Translation.

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User Responses

3 Responses and Counting...

  1. Amanda Sackur

    November 03, 2009

    Did you know that London Metropolitan University is currently subject to greylisting (boycott) because of the way it has dismissed staff and because it is threatening to cut hundreds more? Many language staff are included in this. for more information see or

  2. philippa

    November 03, 2009

    I did not know this, thanks for bringing it to my attention. Actually I think event I mentioned in my post is actually run by the National Network for Translation, and I believe London Met is simply being used as venue for hosting it. I support the action but I hope the situation doesn’t mean anyone misses out on a chance to learn about a career in translation at this event.

  3. englishtospanishtranslator

    November 03, 2009

    I have been working as a freelance translator for a while. Lo más difícil de llevar es la incertidumbre de tener o no tener clientes solicitando tus servicios.Hay miles de traductores que necesitan compaginar su profesion con otros trabajos.
    Admiro a los que viven exclusivamente de la profesión de traductor.

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