When it comes to French in the context of translation, however, you’ll quickly learn that your experience is anything but romantic. It takes time to develop a knowledge of another language at the expert level, but it’s not enough. You need to be a complete French master in order to be a translator, and you need to be aware of the harsh realities of the translation business.
Long Working Hours
Freelance work has one pretty big upside: you’re essentially your own boss…at least that’s what you’re led to believe. Many people go into freelancing assuming they get to make their own hours and be in charge of themselves. Instead, every individual client is your boss, so you may have as many as 20 bosses at one time depending on the amount of work you take on.
Translation projects are almost always urgent. Be prepared to work long hours in order to give all of your clients what they want. If you have a client that wants 500 words in two days, it’s your job to either turn down that money or hop to work.
Writers work harder than people truly realize, even when they’re only rewriting and translating an existing piece. Freelance translators have to cope with deadlines, clients, other life responsibilities and sudden stressful scenarios.
Let’s say that two hours before a deadline, your computer crashes and you haven’t made a backup. What are you supposed to do about this situation? What if a customer tells you they need 2000 words in three days. When you receive the files from them, however, 2000 words is actually 4000 words and the deadline is suddenly tomorrow.
If reading that alone doesn’t make you stressed out, I commend you.
Coping with Solitude
When you work at an established firm or true business, you’re likely on the clock. You have a time to be at work and a time to leave. You may have to occasionally take work home with you, but there are scheduled off days and there’s always a time to go home.
Freelance work doesn’t work the same way. You’re always on the clock unless you force yourself not to be. Many freelancers will soon find they’ve become antisocial because they’ve taken on a rigorous amount of work that they didn’t expect would consume their free time.
It’s Tough to Start a Portfolio
You need to gain experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. This is a common criticism of the job market at large, but it’s one that’s especially true within the world of freelance translating.
While French is a popular language, this doesn’t actually bode well for you as a French freelance translator. The market is saturated, and it can be hard to establish a decent resume in order to stand out from the crowd.
Know the Tools of the Trade
If you’re not enthusiastic about technology outside of what you use for personal benefit, you probably can’t hack it as a translator. Long gone are the days of typewriters and language textbooks. Translation software and other tech tools are required to perform most translation work anymore, and clients that have received translation work from someone else in the past will expect you to be familiar with these systems.
Are you a freelance translator just starting out in the world? What do you find is the hardest aspect of becoming a freelancer?