As a matter of fact, becoming a professional and a successful translator in the full sense of the word can be considered as an important objective that should be seriously sought by any person who really wants to be so. To become a professional and a successful translator at the same time, one should follow the key steps below:
Step # 1: People who want to know seriously how to become a translator should obtain the required formal accreditation or certification for this purpose. Having credentials provides the necessary documentation that you have the skills required to translate professionally. It goes without saying that many universities and associations or agencies offer advanced degrees and professional certifications in translation. For example, if you are in Canada, the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO) offers certification programs for translators and interpreters as well. Therefore, you are always recommended to look for any agencies that could offer accreditation programs for translators. Being certified through one of these organizations is also helpful because you will be listed on their website directories, where potential clients requiring your services can find you. Generally speaking, certification may not be required to be a successful translator, but if you’re starting out in this industry, it is the best place to start.
Step #2: It is very important for you as a potential or a novice translator is to take language proficiency tests such as the Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT) or other language proficiency tests to show potential clients that you are indeed fluent in your specific language. Also you can challenge yourself as a translator and get some more general and academic language proficiency exams in the pairs of language you are interested in such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Teaching of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
Step # 3: The next key step is to gain professional experience. All of us have to start somewhere by doing internships or working entry-level jobs or even doing some voluntary work in the field of translation in order to climb the ladder, and the language industry is no exception. If you are enrolled at or live near a college, take classes in translation and look for opportunities to perform translation work on campus for various departments. It is crucial to get experience where you can show samples of your work to potential clients and get recommendations. Thus, once you do that, your networking base can be broadened and strengthened over the passage of time, where you can build on such relationships and develop them in a gradual manner.
Step #4: After getting credentials and some experience, it is time to market yourself to law firms, police stations, hospitals, government agencies, and language agencies that may need translators in your area. Hence, you can start working as a freelance translator if you like. In fact, most translators work for clients on a contract basis, not as full time employees. A great way to market your services is to start a website or blog and join the active community of online language professionals. Also, make sure you have your resume and rates ready! The best indicator that an aspiring translator is not a professional is when they have no idea what their rates should be! If you don’t know what rates to charge, call other interpreters and translators and find out what theirs are.
Step #5: You need to keep learning all the time. As you progress as a translator, there are other areas to consider as well. What specialized industry or industries can you translate for? Do you keep up with industry terms and trends? Are you computer savvy and knowledgeable regarding translation memory software? Can you provide simultaneous as well as consecutive interpreting? If you have had success as a translator, maybe you could consider diversifying and becoming a certified court or medical interpreter later on. Generally speaking, I sincerely hope I have not discouraged anyone from becoming a translator. In this context, my ultimate purpose is to provide a helpful guide to entering this highly competitive and rewarding industry and interesting and challenging career as well.
In conclusion, you can become a truly professional and successful translator if you work hard and plan well for such an ultimate objective as you have to always remember the English proverb that goes, “Where there’s a will there’s a way!”