How to turn a solo translation career into a business

How to turn a solo translation career into a business

Being good with languages means you’re ideally placed to consider a career in translation. But what about if you have a strong entrepreneurial streak as well? In those cases, there’s the potential to turn a solo translation career into a thriving translation company. Want to know how? Then let’s dive in!

What is the role of translation?

Let’s start with the basics. Translation services convert documents and other file types from one language to another. In our globalized society, every country and every industry uses professional translation services in order to compete commercially, deliver medical services and interact with the world in myriad different ways.

Is translation a good career?

The translation is an excellent career choice for those who love languages, have a keen eye for detail and are self-motivated. This latter is a key point. Many translation roles are freelance, so being highly driven can make the difference between just getting by (or even abandoning a career in translation in favor of another sector) and being hugely successful.

How to start your own translation services company  

If you’ve already tried your hand at freelance translation and enjoyed it, but are still hungry for more, then why not start your own translation company? Given the online nature of the industry and the remote workforce, starting your own translation agency is something that is relatively easy to achieve. You don’t need physical premises, which reduces setup costs and the time take to get your business started.

What you will need is translators. Plentiful, high-quality translators. They will be the keystone of your agency’s success. You’ll need good processes in place for attracting them and for retaining them. The translation industry is a competitive one, so what will you offer that will make language professionals choose to work for you rather than another agency?

It’s not all about money (though that’s an important factor – more on that below), so you’ll need to create a culture that inspires loyalty. Defining your core values from the start is an essential part of this and will allow you to deliver superb customer service to your translators as well as to your clients. Knowing what your brand represents and what is at its corer will allow you to build a team that gels. And once you’ve found them, be sure to undertake regular team-building and self-development activities to help you keep them. After all, being a great translator doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be an inspirational leader!

From a legal perspective, you’ll also need to complete the necessary process for founding a company, which will be specific to where you live. Then there’s insurance to think about – both to meet any statutory requirements and to ensure that you have sufficient protection that you can sleep at night. Be sure to seek professional advice to ensure that your legal setup is the right one for your particular service offering.

And then, of course, there’s marketing. Knowing how to market translation services will play a key part in whether or not your business succeeds. Do you understand the finer points of SEO marketing? What’s your unique selling point? Why should clients use your fledgling translation agency rather than an established provider of document translation services that can evidence years of accurate translation?

All of this will take time and/or money to address, so you also need to know where your seed funding is coming from. It might seem like the world’s best business idea to you, but there are plenty of other entrepreneurs out there competing for funds. Indeed, just 37.44% of Kickstarter projects had successfully achieved funding as of December 2019. You’ll need a firm funding plan in place to see you through the setup and ideally your first six to 12 months of operation, if not longer.

Which translation services should you offer?

You’ll need to think carefully about what you offer, not just in terms of languages, but also the specialist translation services that you can provide. Will you specialize in video translation, legal translation services, marketing translation, certified translation services or all of these and more? Will you help clients overcome misguided machine translation attempts by offering human translation services that address the quality issues that result from machine translation?

The languages that you offer also need careful thought. A Spanish translator who delivers Spanish to English translation is obviously ideal if you need to translate Spanish to English. But what about when a client asks for English to Spanish translation as well? Do you take a chance and use your existing Spanish to English translator, or do you recruit a native Spanish speaker to undertake the work (thus delaying the project until you find the right translator)?

Then there’s the matter of ancillary services. Will you offer translation alone or services such as localization, interpretation, transcription or desktop publishing?

Why start a translation agency?

We’ve covered how to start a translation services business, but what about the why? Well, the translation industry is growing rapidly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a well-above-average growth rate of 19% from 2018-2028. That means a whole lot of opportunities for those looking to be a part of that industry.

Aside from the prospective financial gains, starting your own translation agency also allows you to indulge both your passion for languages and your entrepreneurial talents – something that few other language-related careers allow. Just remember that the larger your agency grows, the more time you’ll spend running it and the less time you’ll spend on the actual translation process!



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