Podcasts & Videos
BLEND podcast Qenut nomad translator
Podcasts & Videos

Podcast: What It’s Like to Be a Professional Nomad Translator

In episode four, our guest is Qenut Amen, a professional translator. Qenut, part of our BLENDers community, shares insights from her vast experience as both a freelance translator and digital nomad.

The BLEND Podcast Show S1E4 – What It’s Like to Be a Professional Nomad Translator

If you have a passion for languages and want to embrace a more flexible approach to working, becoming a nomadic translator is something to consider. The internet age is making it easier than ever for digital nomads to forge successful careers online. In the United States alone, there are more than 15.5 million digital nomads. 

In the next few years, this number is expected to grow considerably as more people make the switch from office-based employment and seek out remote working opportunities. Freelance translators are well-positioned for the nomadic lifestyle. Provided you have sufficient linguistic skills and access to a reliable internet connection, becoming a nomadic translator is relatively straightforward. 

The Translation Industry for a Nomadic Translator

Digital nomads can use many of the same routes to market as any freelance translator working remotely. Many translators prefer working with clients directly. These working relationships offer stable employment and a relatively fixed income. What’s more, once you’ve established a working relationship, you don’t need to worry about constantly delivering sales pitches or fine-tuning proposals. 

However, there’s no guarantee that a client will continue to work with you. They may decide to take their translation services in-house, leaving you out of work. Some clients can place high demands on freelance translators, expecting unreasonable delivery times and endless rounds of rewrites. Freelancers with superior negotiation skills can sometimes thrive in these situations. However, freelance translators also face a level of uncertainty. 

Working with an agency brings more assurance to the life of a digital nomad. Generally speaking, you’ll be able to access translation projects regularly, with a relatively varied pool of assignments. This brings a level of financial stability. The flip side is that agency-based translators face tougher competition. Agency commissions can also eat into profit margins. 

The good news for translators is that many sectors offer lucrative revenue streams. If you have experience working in specialist subject areas, such as the finance or pharmaceutical sector, you can expect to earn considerably more than you would be working on by-the-numbers translations. 

Translation Industry Related Terms

If you’re considering becoming a nomadic translator, you’ll need to get a handle on industry-specific terms. 

Transcreation is a fairly new term. Nowadays, it’s often used interchangeably with translation, but the two are different things entirely. Transcreation refers to a less rigid approach to translation. It typically involved both content creation and translation. It’s commonplace in marketing, where branding and persuasive messaging need to be adapted for new audiences in multiple languages. 

Localization is another term you’ll need to get familiar with. Unlike a word-for-word translation, localization involves heavily adapting source text for a new market. Specific language rules need to be considered, along with cultural norms. Sometimes, localization can be exhaustive, requiring an intimate knowledge of a language and culture. Other times, it’s as simple as understanding the difference between spoken and written language. 

How to Become a Freelance Translator

Ready to say goodbye to the nine-to-five? Remote work is becoming the norm for millions of people and is a perfect fit for anyone working in the translation sector. While there aren’t any formal requirements involved in becoming a translator, there are a few steps you should take to ensure success. 

Step 1: Learn New Languages

If you’re aiming to become a freelance translator, you’ll no doubt have more than one language under your belt. However, a basic level of fluency isn’t enough to succeed as a freelance translator. 

As well as spoken fluency and writing proficiency, you’ll need to focus on further learning. Work on mastering grammatical rules and boosting non-native vocabulary. Colloquialisms are also something you’ll need to explore, particularly if you’re going to translate less formal texts like social media content and marketing messages. 

To make life easy, set clear goals for language learning. If you’re already enjoying the life of a digital nomad, you can consider immersion. If you’re still chained to office-based employment, think about app-based learning or virtual coaching. 

Step 2: Learn to Translate

Being able to speak a second language is all well and good, but being bilingual doesn’t mean you’ll be able to translate effectively. Translation is an involved process that requires an intimate knowledge of multiple languages. 

You’ll need insight into the cultural context of multiple languages, as well as a solid grasp of linguistic conventions. A good translator knows how to accurately convey a message from one language to another. If you’re working within niche sectors, you’ll also need to familiarize yourself with extensive glossaries. Be prepared to add endless lists of technical jargon to your existing language libraries. 

The most successful translators tend to have specialist expertise. Want to make a living translating documents for the healthcare sector? Some experience working in this industry will go a long way. Thinking about adapting texts in the education sector from one language to another? Being able to demonstrate a specialization in education will unlock the best employment prospects.

Step 3: Get a Job as a Translator

If your language skills check out and you have regular access to the internet, becoming a nomadic translator is simple. You’ll find a wealth of assignments online, but you’ll need to be proactive when it comes to proposals and sales pitches. 

Translation agencies like BLEND make it easy for freelance translators to connect with clients and access steady income. By partnering with a translation service provider, a digital nomad doesn’t have to worry about networking or constantly marketing their skills. Furthermore, they can access top-tier projects with B2B companies. 

Step 4: Become a Certified Translator

According to some estimates, there are more than 50,000 translators and interpreters currently employed in the United States. Unsurprisingly, competition for translation projects can be fierce. If you want to give yourself a competitive edge, it makes sense to become a certified translator. 

If you’re based in the United States, think about securing certification from the American Translators Association (ATA). Although entry-level jobs rarely call for such qualifications, being able to boast ATA Certification can set you apart during the hiring process. 

Even if you’ve enjoyed reasonable success for many years, becoming ATA-certified can take your freelance career to the next level. 

Step 5: Continue Your Language Learning 

Are you struggling to secure new work? Perhaps you’re finding that certain markets are becoming oversaturated with freelancers. To future-proof your career as a freelance translator, make sure you’re committed to lifelong learning.  

This can include learning an entirely new language so you can target new markets. Alternatively, you might want to fine-tune your skills by becoming specialized in certain sectors. The localization and translation sector is constantly evolving. If you don’t want to fall behind, you’ll need to as well. 

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Nomadic Translator

Translating is an incredibly rewarding career. When you combine this with the perks of being a digital nomad, it’s even more attractive. 

As with any freelance position, you benefit from being your own boss. Although you’ll be bound to project deadlines once accepting an assignment, you can essentially set your schedule. This autonomy lets you decide on a work-life balance that’s right for you. 

Not every freelancer career is well-suited to a nomadic lifestyle. However, translators don’t have to worry about being chained to a desk for many hours at a time. If you’re working with an established translation agency, all of your assignments can be completed online. 

Becoming a translator also requires minimal investment on your part. You’ll need to cover the basics like the cost of a computer and reliable internet access, but that’s about it. As you progress, you may decide to pursue further education or advanced certification. However, these costs are often offset by increased earning potential. 

Although certifications will allow you to access more rewarding roles, there are plenty of entry-level opportunities for less experienced translators. Finally, translators are always in high demand, meaning you’ll never struggle to secure new work. 

While there’s plenty to love about freelance translation, this career path does have some pitfalls. You’ll need to have a strong work ethic if you want to pocket a healthy income stream. In short, the less you work, the less money you’ll be taking home. 

Dealing with clients remotely can sometimes be challenging. Ironing out issues with project briefs can be difficult if you can’t talk with someone in person. Thankfully, working with translation agencies can mitigate these problems. 

If you are working with clients directly, you’ll need to be able to manage expectations. As a digital nomad, you don’t want to have to deal with unreasonable demands and impossible deadlines. Again, working with a translation agency can help overcome this. 

How to get the Translation and Localization Services You Need

Looking to become a nomadic translator? At BLEND, we work with thousands of experienced translators, providing first-rate content in more than 120 languages. Are you a business looking to expand into new territories? Why not capitalize on the wealth of linguistic talent available? Our localization tools and translation services can help you break into new markets and enjoy sustained growth. Ready to learn more? Get in touch with the team today.

author post

Corinne Sharabi

Corinne is the Social Media and Content Lead at BLEND. She is dedicated to keeping global business professionals up to date on all things localization, translation, language and culture.


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