remote translator

Getting Remote Experience as a Translator or Interpreter

In this article in collaboration with Day Translations we discuss how to gain experience as a remote translator or interpreter.

You can find more information on how to get started on a languages career in our previous article Working as a Digital Nomad Translator.

Once you have obtained the right qualifications and possibly joined a professional association, it’s time to build your online presence and start networking.

Remote Translating and Interpreting

Remote translations can be done easily from any location and a good internet connection. Documents that need translating are shared by email and an inexperienced translator can get set up easily with a minimal capital outlay. After buying the hardware the next investment is computer assisted translation software such as Smartcat, Transifex, SDL Trados Studios and Wordfast to name a few.

Opportunities for remote interpreting have increased alongside the rise of online meetings and conferences. Interpreting was traditionally more of an in-person service but it has evolved to be available as a web service and an interpreter only needs to cover small set up costs (for example, microphones and headsets). Remote interpreters may need to become familiar with interpreting delivery platforms for phone and video interpretation for certain jobs: for example, the European Commission is a user of such technology for simultaneous interpretation at conferences.

How To Get Experience as a Remote Translator or Interpreter

People who have been working in the translating and interpreting industry for years tend to advise newly qualified translators and interpreters to start getting experience in a number of ways:

  • registering with one or more translation agencies;
  • connecting with translators or interpreters who may have client referrals or be able to subcontract work;
  • joining a website such as ProZ and Translators Cafe to build a portfolio;
  • searching for internship opportunities;
  • volunteering for non-profit agencies that require translating and interpreting;
  • attending translation and interpreting conferences;
  • selecting a number of potential clients and contacting them directly.

Also, Day Translations has a dedicated jobs page for various types of roles within the company including translating and interpreting.

While having a website may not automatically equate to being able to attract clients straight away as it takes a while to build an online presence, it is a useful way to showcase your skills and qualifications. Regularly updating social media profiles, especially LinkedIn, which has an endorsements or testimonials feature, can also be an asset because it offers further validation to potential clients.

Day Translations quotes a survey saying that networking is the best route to gain experience because 85% of specialist positions are filled via networking.

Specialising Is Key

The more specialised an interpreter or translator is, the better are the chances of securing experience first and a lucrative job later. Typical specialised fields for translators and interpreters that are likely to pay better than average salaries are medical, technology, legal; then there’s a whole sector working for international organisations, which is highly competitive but also well remunerated. For example, a 2017 United Nations pay scale document for short term translators shows monthly gross salaries starting at about $6,000 for a base salary, gradually increasing with experience.

The United Nations have specific requirements to recruit translators: they must meet very high quality standards for accuracy and readability and make sure they use the correct terminology. The recruitment process at the United Nations includes an application form and language competitive examinations and the whole process can take months. The six official United Nations languages are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Some positions may not require previous experience, however candidates with little or no experience can have a better chance of succeeding if they have an advanced degree such as a Master’s or a PhD.

Interpreting for the United Nations is an extremely pressurised job: in this interesting first-person account in The Guardian, a UN interpreter shares her experience and was lucky enough to pass the entry exam on her first attempt, landing her a job within a month.

What’s the Easiest Way To Gain Experience as a Remote Translator or Interpreter?

In a nutshell, the easiest way to gain experience is to work through an agency: many agencies will accept candidates with no experience and they take on all the risk of attracting and retaining clients, potentially saving time trying to land the first paying job.