Freelance Translator Essential skills for Success (Part I)

I- Reading and understanding complex texts

It goes without saying that you have to be bilingual to work as a freelance translator. You should be able to read for hours a day and stay focused for a long period of time. Besides, you have to possess the ability to understand and decipher complex texts and grasp all the nuances.

To advance your competences in reading I advise you to:


  • Read a variety of text in your source language in a form of articles or ebooks. For this, you can simply use Google news, or browse the internet for magazines and ebooks. If you are a specialized translator read extensively about the subjects that you work on to be always up-to-date with new vocabulary and concepts.
  • As this study confirms passive listening to foreign language via podcasts and radios will improve your understanding of this language. Personally, I listen to BBC Radio 4 and France Culture. I chose, these two channels as they offer many talk shows, the language used is formal, and their pronunciation is standard. Another advantage is that radio can be used everywhere and for free. You can listen to podcasts when commuting, walking, cooking etc. To download podcasts try gPodder it is for free and it works well.Passive listening will not only polish your listening and speaking skill but also the structure and understanding of the language. Additionally, the passive listening technique will boost the required skills for transcription projects.

II- Writing and proofreading

1- Writing
Translating is the process of reading, understanding the source text then writing that text into the target language. Thus,
writing is a core skill for any translator. If you lack writing capabilities and you consider working as a translator, you have to put a great amount of energy and time to hone this skill.

In fact, if your resume, profile, or even email text are not well written your chances to land a translation job is nearly impossible. Thus, you can start by revising grammar and ameliorate your orthography by reading daily meanwhile Googling if in doubt. You can also use Chrome or Firefox extensions that define words on the browser when you double-click. This will save time and energy and make it easy to define more words. Following these steps, writing correctly and proficiently will become a second nature.

2- Proofreading 
The insure a superior translation that does not contain inaccuracies proofreading is with no doubts a key aspect of your work.

Personally, I proofreading three times at a minimum manually. Twice by comparing the source language to the target language and once by re-reading carefully the target language. There are also automatic spell-checkers that can help (MS Word, Grammarly etc)

If you think that proofreading three times manually is excessive, let me explain why it is not:
Imagine you spent seven days translating a document but you did not do a proper checking and proofreading. If you document, contains two blatant inaccuracies, the trust between you and your client may suffer. For this simple example spending an extra day or two proofreading is essential. More importantly, if you are an ethical translator and you care about your clients and career you will have to invest between 20% and 30% of the project time proofreading and editing.

Meticulous proofreading will boost your language skills as you will discover your mistakes and fine-tune your text output thus with time you will become a faster and a more proficient translator.


If you have any comments feel free to leave a message. Part II will be about marketing and search capabilities.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top