How to Set Up Your Own Language Business

If you’re looking for a solid way to work from home and you know more than one language, starting your own language services business could be your path to career freedom. However, there are many steps to consider when it comes to starting your own business. So below we’ll go into how to get started in language services by launching your own translation business.  

How to Assess Your Language Skills

Start by assessing how good your skills really are with your second language. To offer translation services, you need to be skilled to the point of fluency. You also need to understand the cultural backgrounds of the languages you’re working with. If you only have a passing knowledge of a certain language, you may need to increase both your knowledge of it and your cultural understanding. 

Professional translators often have a range of skills and experiences that help them market their language services to potential clients. They might:

  • Hold a higher education qualification in one or more languages
  • Have lived aboard in a country where the language is spoken
  • Have extensive work or volunteer experience as a translator or interpreter
  • On-the-job training as a translator
  • Be part of a professional association for translators
  • Have become certified as a translator by a professional group

If your background already looks like this, you’re at the level where you can start your own translation firm. Otherwise, you may need to consider gaining more skills and experience by following one of the paths above. 

How to Focus Your Translation Agency on Special Services

A translation agency is composed of a  network of linguists like what I’ve outlined above. Many clients and companies want to know that you have worked extensively with certain documents or communication types. Some of the main types of translation specialisms include:

  • Legal translation: These translators handle everything from court depositions to contracts to patent information. They must have a strong handle on the legal process and be confident in translating legal jargon.   
  • Medical translation: Translators who work with medical texts handle documents like patient instructions, drug information sheets, patient files, and anything else in the medical field. Medical translators should have a strong knowledge of medical terminology, processes, and concepts. Translation skills in this sector can leave no room for misinterpretation or error, as that could mean incorrect drug information or wrong patient instructions. 
  • Business translation: This is a slightly more generalist area that covers anything that helps a business run. A business-focused translation firm will provide marketing translation services, which often translate ads and anything else that markets a business. According to language service provider Tomedes, translation marketing requires a strong knowledge of cultural backgrounds, since the messages have to fit so seamlessly to resonate with target audiences. As well as marketing translation services, business translation can include presentations, financial reports, memos, other internal communications, and much more. 
  • Technical translation: This covers documents such as technical instructions, manuals, product documentation, and the like. This is another jargon-heavy area.  
  • Literary translation: This type of translation covers books, scripts, and stories. It requires a highly artistic eye and an especially strong knowledge of cultures to make sure literary works fit well in the new culture without changing the original tone or message.

What speciality you choose ties heavily into your work background and personal preferences. If you have a background in marketing, for instance, then providing marketing translation services will be a no-brainer.   

How Much Should I Charge for Translation?

An important part of any business is understanding how much revenue you will bring in. In the language services sector, you can look at this from various angles:

  • How much should a translator charge per hour? Indeed lists the average hourly salary for a freelance translator at £13.25.
  • How much does it cost to translate 1,000 words? It’s common for translators to charge between £0.10 to £0.16 per word, with a 1,000-word document costing between £100 and £160. Check out what other translation agencies are charging to understand your competition.

Before you start a business, it’s important to get an accurate assessment of how much you’ll need to earn in order to pay your bills. Calculate how much you need for bills and living expenses each month. You also need to keep in mind that you will need to pay your own taxes and fund your own retirement. Then there’s the need to keep a contingency fund for disasters and slow periods. A common recommendation is having six months’ worth of salary in savings when you work freelance, so this is a sensible approach then you’re setting up your own business too. From there, you can calculate how much you need to make hourly monthly, daily, and hourly. Remember to factor in time for non-billable tasks like marketing and admin. 

How to Market Your Language Services

There are a few ways to find clients. You could start by working with an agency that contracts with freelancers. Some people look through bidder sites like Upwork and others check job boards for translator gigs. Remember that you can also ask your personal and professional networks if anyone needs translations.   

You should also start your own website and use it to host any previous translation projects that you can show to prospects while using the blog section to showcase your knowledge. In 2018, there was a 31% annual surge in UK workers looking to go freelance. Are you ready to jump on the bandwagon and start your own language services business?

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