Here’s What the Six-Figure Translators Are Doing That You’re Not

Several weeks ago, a TA reader asked me if he can go from 35K to 100K in 24 months.” My answer was “Sure.”

Because it’s not uncommon for freelance translators to earn anywhere from $50,000-$100,000/year.

There’s a myth going around in our industry that it’s impossible to make good money as a translator. And as long as you keep falling for these lies, then you’ll never reach your potential.

You don’t have to “pay your dues” or  work 10 + years to make a great living as a freelance translator. The truth is, there are two games that are being played– The one you see and the one you don’t.

There are the freelance translators that are chronically underworked and underpaid, then there are those that have completely flipped the script and don’t play by the industry “rule book.” They’re the folks commanding top dollar and landing four and five figure translation projects.

So how are some translators able to make a great deal more money than others?

It’s not because they have in demand language pairs, a graduate degree in translation, they’re better translators, or that they’re more experienced. Yes these things may be helpful, but being part of the top 3% of freelance translators is deeper than that.

In fact, experience can work against in you in many cases because you get set in your old ways and stop experimenting.

Besides confidence and mindset, the real secret is that they’re tapping into a “hidden hungry market.” It’s where clients have the ability and willingness to pay for your translation services.

Successful freelance translators have figured out how to tap into the hidden hungry market. Additionally, they go against the grain and ignore the “traditional” advice in our industry.

This lucrative market is “invisible” to the majority of translators. In this post, I will share some of the strategies freelance translators making an upwards of $50,000-$100,000 and beyond have in their arsenal.

But let me warn you: This isn’t for everyone. Running a highly successful freelance business is not for the faint of heart.

It’s not all unicorns and rainbows. It takes grit (a secret ingredient for success), an unfaltering belief in yourself, and blocking out the noise and false narratives that plague our industry.

With that said, let’s dive into the good stuff.

 Ignore the marketing hype 

Most translators make things more complicated than it should be.

They get caught up in fancy marketing tactics. But I don’t blame them because we’re constantly being bombarded with well intended but ill advice like, “Get a twitter account” and “You need a professional email account.”

Yes, those things are important, but they’re not “must haves.” It’s not what’s going to bring in the clients in droves.

So many talented translators get sucked in to this marketing “hell” and in the end get disappointed when there in nothing to show for all their hard work.

That’s when they throw their hands up in the air and say things like, “All the good clients are taken” Or “Clients only want cheap translations.”

Freelancing is an eco-system. There is a purpose for all freelancers. The cheap competition has a role to fill. It’s up to you to breakthrough the noise so you can tap into the hidden premium market.

 Freelancing gameplan 

A well planned freelancing gameplan is the cornerstone of every successful freelance translator.

That means you need to:

1. Know the exact amount you want (not need) to make. Example: “I’d like to go from making X to X.” Be realistic. Don’t expect to from 35K to 100K in three months. That’s overreaching. If your goal is to hit the six-figure mark, then you need to first have a system in place to go from 35K to 50K, then 75K, to 90K and beyond.

2. Have a timeframe for you to reach your monetary goals. Example: “I’d like to earn X in the next three months.”

3. Know your metrics. How many clients do you serve per year? Most freelance translators don’t even know this! How much do they spend with you on average? These are all important questions to ask yourself to identify the loopholes in your business. For example, if you have more clients than you can handle but you’re barely making ends meet then you need to raise your rates.

4. Have a system in place to keep you on track to reaching your goals. You don’t need the latest productivity tool. Something as simple as Google Calendar will do the trick. If your goals aren’t broken down and written, they’re just wishes.

5. Check in every few weeks to see if you’re on track. Set a time and date aside to see how you’re doing. If you’re not making your financial goals, don’t get frustrated. Take a step back and see what is broken in the chain. Ask yourself? “What am I doing that’s not helping me hit my goals.”

6. Rinse, lather repeat. There is no shiny magic bullet. You have to constantly test new strategies and learn new skills.

 How to double (even triple) your income in the next three months 

If you’re interested in playing in the “big leagues” as a freelance translator, there are number of things you need to do (working more hours isn’t one of them.)

First, separate your self from the sea of faceless translators competing on their rates. As our industry gets more and more commoditized, the demand for highly specialized expert translators increases. Instead, go after the top clients by using the 1% strategy in my ebook, “The Ultimate Guide to Finding High-Paying Translation Clients.”

Second, there are three ways you can grow your freelance translation business exponentially. You can:

•Increase the number of clients in your translation business (that’s if you have a small clientele to begin with.)

•Raise your rates

•Get repeat business and get clients to buy from you more often.

Most freelance translators only focus on one of the above. And it’s usually getting more clients (even when they have their plate full.)

These aren’t the only strategies to help you grow your translation business faster. There are many more strategies I share in my free ebook.

But these three should be your focus at first. Setting up a twitter page and sending mass resumes is the easy stuff. It’s instantly gratifying, the numbers make us feel good, but it’s not effective and doesn’t bring in enough paying clients.

Now staying motivated, keeping yourself accountable, reaching out to clients, these are the difficult parts we avoid but are the most rewarding.

So if you really want to makes strides in your freelance translation business aim for easy, realistic broken-down goals that won’t intimidate you. Like a domino effect, you’ll get to your goals, faster without losing steam.

For example, if your goal is to go from 35K to 100K in the next 24 months, then make a plan to reach 50K first.

How much more money do you need to make each month to reach your target income? Do you need to raise your rates, get more clients, or increase repeat business?

What are you doing now that’s not helping reach your goals? How will you keep track of your progress?

Now I want to hear from you, do you have a freelancing gamepaln in place? Share your plans with me below. I’d love to see what’s in store for you in 2017.




  • Mario Chávez

    Reply Reply December 6, 2016

    Maryam, there are some kernels of truth in your article, such as increasing the number of clients and increasing one’s translation rates. But these tips are known to anyone who runs any kind of business or who practices any type of profession or occupation, from licensed electricians to dental assistants.

    The gist of your posting is “how to make more money as a translator” in a number of more or less easy steps. I will choose to ignore the hype and the marketing that permeate your posting, with due respect.

    • admin

      Reply Reply December 8, 2016

      Mario, thank you for sharing your insight. You’re right, these tips may be known to many professionals who run their own businesses but I felt they were worth mentioning because they are the cornerstone of any successful freelance translation business. Perhaps you may be a seasoned translator but to many aspiring and new freelance translators there’s a lot of marketing buzz that pulls their attention from the business practices that really matter. Earning more money as a translator doesn’t have to be complicated and these certainly are not the only tips freelance translators can use to grow their businesses. If you think there are others worth mentioning, feel free to share your tips in the comment box, all feedback is welcomed.

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