The aim of this article is to provide advice to anyone looking to become a full-time freelance language professional, based DCU Language Services’ experience working with freelance translators and interpreters. This article appears in full in the December issue of the Irish Translators and Interpreters Bulletin (ITIA).
Important Factors when Freelancing for a Company
We prefer to work with freelancers who have educational qualifications in their field, and preferably up to Masters Level. If you don’t have a qualification directly related to your field of work then it is advisable to at least obtain a language related qualification and/or relevant experience in the area. If you want to boost your profile and qualifications even further, there are many professional organisations which you can become a member of, an example being the Irish Translators and Interpreters Association (ITIA) and its equivalent in other countries; for Irish language translators, Foras na Gaeilge certification is very highly regarded and we certainly place an emphasis on using Irish language translators who hold this qualification.
In addition to education it is vital for us that our freelancers have prior working experience, and our ideal minimum is 3 years’ working experience. If you are just starting out as a translator or interpreter this is going to be harder to compete with so, when sending your CV to a company, make sure that you highlight any real working experience received through studies, internships, or even volunteer work. We are also always interested to know freelancer’s experience with software and IT related knowledge (translation technology tools, design packages, Microsoft office, etc.) and any areas of specialisation which may set you apart from others.
This always depends on customer demand but the languages that are usually constantly in demand are the main European languages (Irish, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch); Scandinavian languages; Eastern European languages (Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Slovak, Czech, Romanian); Russian; Chinese; Japanese and Arabic. As much as possible, we endeavour to only allow freelancers to work into their native language.
It is imperative to highlight your language pairs to companies, and also to keep your language skills up to date. Be clear about your languages and the extent of your knowledge of them – there is no point in lying about your level of knowledge of any languages in order to get more work, or taking on a job in a language that you are not fully comfortable with as this will become apparent through the course of your work.
There is no point in contacting a translation company unless you are available to take on work. When you do contact a company you should outline the level of your availability (i.e. any days not available); also ensure that you let the company know of any holiday periods and how free you are to travel for assignments, which is especially relevant for interpreters.
It is also essential from our point of view that freelancers are contactable – this means regularly checking emails, answering your phone and replying to voicemails. Due to the nature of how freelancers work, we need to ensure that we can rely on contacting you – if we can’t contact you, we can’t assign work to you.
5. Establishing a relationship with the Company:
Freelancers should look to translation companies as their employers, and this means you should be professional at all times: maintain high standards of quality, stick to deadlines, and maintain strict confidentiality with documentation and during interpreting assignments.
We want to work with people who are going to be personable, professional and flexible; and those who have good communication and customer service abilities.
Freelancers working for DCU LS
We currently have a network of around 700 freelancers, and these are based in Ireland and abroad. Of these, we work with a handful for the main language pairs on a regular basis, but we are always happy to hear from qualified translators or interpreters.