Translators on… Harnessing Linguistic Experience


Translators on… brings together a collection of industry professionals, each sharing their experience and advice on certain topics of their career, offering a wider, more authoritative range of opinions than a single source. Want to know more about the series? Watch the launch video.

In the first five posts of Translators on… we have eased into the series by looking at how our twenty-one contributors prepared to launch their freelance careers and overcame the challenges they faced. One vital element to that initial period is the way you portray yourself. The best clients are not looking for Johnny Translator (no offence if that is your real name), no matter how low your rates are.

Okay, so there are hundreds or thousands of translators with the same language pairs as you, but how many of them studied at the same university as you? How many of them have had the same experiences living, working or studying in a source language country as you? How many of them have worked in the same industries and sectors – bar translation – as you? Essentially, how many of your colleagues will have a CV that looks exactly the same as yours?

When you study a language, aside from the basic grammar and vocabulary, you may learn a completely different side to that language than the next linguist. You may study completely different cultural aspects associated with the countries where your languages are spoken natively, or focus your studies on aspects to do with a certain country or region. We’re now going to look closely at our contributors’ linguistic experience and see how they can – to use a widely-detested yet rather fitting word – leverage it when it comes to dealing with potential clients.


On top of that, you may have worked or taken an interest in sectors other than translation, particularly ones that involved your language or writing skills, before joining the industry and can subsequently use the knowledge and skills that you developed then to your advantage in your new career.


Equally, you might discover that you have a flair or passion for something that will prove very useful indeed for your career – either as a cornerstone of your business activity or potentially as a means of diversification.


It’s all too easy to sell yourself short. In our marketing efforts, on our CVs, on our websites, in speculative emails, it’s crucial to remember all the linguistic stops along your journey to where you are now. Asking yourself what your linguistic USPs are will make you infinitely more aware of what you can offer that Johnny Translator can’t and acting on that knowledge will make you less invisible to potential clients.

Ultimately it will make you happier in your profession as I have found that with this approach you are less likely to be approached by the agencies that thrive on the bottom-feeders. The ones that start their emails with ‘Dear Resource’ and go on to demand free tests. The ones that you see some translators moan about on social media forums. Because these types of client are threatened by confident translators, the ones with a solid linguistic background, who will attract the better clients quite organically.

Now we’ve looked at how our personal linguistic experience can serve us, the next Translators on… will question how we can analyse what we gained from our individual qualifications and present this added value to our clients.