5 translation mistakes that will ruin your career


Today, we’re going to talk about 5 translation career mistakes that new translators make.

Why is it important to learn about these translation mistakes?

A. Avoiding these mistakes can save you lots of time, effort, and money.

B. If you take advantage of these tips, you can actually grow your translation business or freelance career much faster.

C. If you can learn from the experiences of others trough your career you’re going to be more successful than the others around you with the same level of translation experience.

1. Accepting too many translation assignments:

Many translators in their excitement to gain experience and grow their portfolio of projects accept as many translation projects as they can get. The translation industry is very competitive and sometimes you may only be working on one project while at other times you could accept 4 or 5 projects at any one time.

Problems arise when clients expect top quality work on short deadlines, you may be pressured into submitting work that you have not had time to carefully review of errors. Many clients may consider hiring you for additional work if you perform well, and if you load up on too any clients or projects at one time, you may lose that opportunity for follow-up work and ironically working on more projects may end up being more stressful and less profitable for you.

A good rule of thumb is to remember that 10 – 25% of your time should always be spent marketing and developing new relationships. If you ever find yourself working on projects all of the time and doing no administrative or marketing work you need to re-evaluate where you are investing your time and make sure you are not taking on too many assignments.

2. Lack of cultural knowledge and information

Part of translation is matching up words within different languages but if the literal word to word translation was all that was needed than free online translation tools would replace translators.

You must differentiate yourself from both online translation software tools as well as other translators by gaining superior cultural knowledge both in your target language culture and any sub-niches you may specialize in such as accounting, engineering or business.


3. Being too generic

If you have a headache that is stopping you from being productive and you go to the pharmacy to get some medicine, what are you more likely to buy? A bottle of something labeled Medicine or something called Extra Strength Headache Medicine?

Well, no one wants generic solutions as most problems and challenges are very specific.
This holds true in the translation industry where clients typically need someone with only specific language skills and translation experience. But also, somebody who is specialized in their niche and unique needs, challenges and business.

The more specialized you are the more valuable you are in the eyes of the client.

If you only have generic abilities only the most price conscious, lowest paying clients will be interested in working with you.

4. Stretching the truth


Many times to get experience within a new area you must accept projects that are on the edge of what you’re comfortable to complete. This is natural and the only way in which your abilities will grow. Many times, however, translators who have worked on just 3 – 4 projects will stretch the truth and claim expertise in the area they have never worked in or in industries they have never researched and experienced.

This hurts your reputation, ability to gain referral clients, and greatly lowers the chance of the client using your services again in the future.

Instead, be upfront and honest with your client and if needed slightly lower your rate on the first project or two in a new area until you prove yourself to them.


5. Forgetting about your local and offline community


Most translators look for work almost entirely online. This can be productive and lead to many interesting projects to work with, but don’t forget the community that you live in as well.

In every major city, there are small and large companies in need of professional translators and being local is a big competitive advantage over other translators in the industry. Create a list of the top 30 companies in and around your city that you believe could potentially use your translation services and attempt yo meet with each for 30 minutes to introduce yourself. These local clients can often end up paying as much or more than projects you can find online and clients relationships are always easier to gauge and manage in person.