10 Steps to the Goal, or the Tao of a Translator

How do you stand out among other translators, get interesting jobs and find your way to the top of search results? We brainstormed a little and came up with a few simple tips that we hope will be of help to both aspiring and experienced translators.

10 Steps to the Goal, or the Tao of a Translator

Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.
Lao Tsu, “Tao Te Ching”

  1. Specialize and deepen your expertise. Customers prefer freelancers who have had experience working with texts similar to theirs. Your unique expertise is your competitive edge. Whether it was a book about the butterflies of Madagascar or a huge catalog of oil pipes — make sure to mention your most significant projects in your profile.
  2. Offer more. Don’t limit yourself to just translating. Develop your skills in adjacent areas such as editing, proofreading, or even managing projects with your own team. Are you an interpreter? Do you do desktop publishing? Add this to your profile, and you will get one step closer to winning new clients.
  3. Take care of your reputation. It’s your most valuable asset. Always ask your clients for feedback. The “stars” in your profile are an excellent proof of your skills.
  4. Translate! Translate on a regular basis to stay fit as a professional — even if just for fun. Make sure to do this on smartCAT — the more you translate on the platform, the higher your marketplace search ranking becomes.
  5. Learn from successes and failures. Add your best translations to your portfolio. If you worked with an editor, study the changes they made. Learning from one’s mistakes is essential for professional growth.
  6. Build relationships with clients and colleagues. Don’t hesitate to ask questions from and provide advice to your customers. Suggest ideas that could have evaded their view. If you can’t take a job due to time constraints or lack of subject matter expertise, recommend a fellow translator who you trust — the good will come back to you. And if you don’t have anyone to recommend, get involved in the smartCAT community to meet and talk to other translators.
  7. Focus on the customer. Do not write what you are good at. Write what the customer can achieve with your help: Engage the audience with a well-transcreated copy, get new users through a localized website, outrun competitors by having a high-quality translation of an important international standard, and so on.
  8. Create an image. Your profile is your business card. Make it as detailed as possible (add your photo, location, education) — and we will take care to have it indexed by Google, Bing and other search engines.
  9. Sharing is caring. Asking is, too. If you’re having a hard time translating a difficult sentence, it’s better to ask for help from a more experienced colleague than to distort the meaning. And by helping others you are contributing to the future of the whole profession. We have created special sections on our community website to let translators share their experiences, structured by subject areas and languages.
  10. Never stop growing. The Translator’s Tao has no point of arrival. However high you climb, there’s always a path up. Learn about industry innovations, watch CPD webinars, become a Senior Translator — we at smartCAT strive to make your road as smooth and exciting as possible. But it is you who has to walk it.

Have your own tips? Share them with us and fellow translators!