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As the world grows increasingly interconnected, translators and translation companies are becoming more and more in demand.
With businesses expanding globally and the rise of digitalisation, localisation of products and services is now a necessity.
So, if you’re thinking of starting your own translation business, here’s everything you need to know about getting started.
What types of translation are there?
As a translator, there are a number of fields you can choose to specialise in, with some of the most sought-after translation services including:
- Literary translation – this involves translating books, novels, plays, and other creative works of literature from one language to another, whilst preserving the style, tone and cultural nuances.
- Technical translation – this area focuses on translating specialised texts in fields such as IT, engineering, science, and medicine. Accuracy, precision and expertise are essential in this area, to ensure the correct interpretation of terminology.
- Professional translation – this applies to different professional industries such as legal, financial, and medical. It can involve translating documents, research papers, contracts, and other sector-specific content, requiring the highest quality standards and specialised knowledge.
- Administrative translation – this refers to the translation of texts used by businesses, corporations, government bodies, ministries, and other organisations during their daily operations and management processes.
- Marketing and advertising translation – this includes converting promotional materials, advertisements, brochures, and slogans into a format that resonates with an audience in another language, taking into account cultural differences and sensitivities.
What qualifications do you need to start a translation company?
While having a formal qualification is not a legal requirement, it is highly recommended to strengthen your credibility and improve your chances of business success. Many people, particularly in a professional industry, will specifically search for registered and certified translators.
Joining a recognised association such as the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) or the Institute of Translation & Interpreting (ITI) can help you stand out from the crowd and gain instant trust. Associations like these also offer certification exams to help you validate your skills and enhance your professional profile.
As well as having an official certification, it goes without saying that you will need language proficiency, subject-matter expertise, superior interpersonal communication skills, and extensive experience to run a successful translation business.
5 steps to starting your own translation business
So, if you have the qualifications and know-how, let’s take a look at the steps you’ll need to follow when starting your own translation business.
1. Choose your specialist area
As mentioned already, there are a number of fields you can choose to specialise in. You’ll likely already have a good idea of the area you’d like to focus on, but consider where your strengths lie and where you have the most experience.
Clients often like to see a portfolio demonstrating your ability, so take time to build some solid samples of your work and showcase them on your website or an online platform such as Adobe Portfolio or Carbonmade.
Defining your niche will ultimately differentiate your services from other translators, and allow you to cater to the needs of specific clients.
2. Ensure compliance
As a translator, it’s hugely important to be aware of any necessary compliance related to your specialist area.
For example, when specialising in legal or financial sectors, you will likely be handling highly sensitive information and confidential data, so it’s vital to adhere to data protection laws and regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and take the appropriate measures to safeguard client information.
It’s also crucial to be aware of any copyright laws which may apply to your work, and respect the intellectual property rights of others. Always make sure that you have the necessary permissions to translate and reproduce copyrighted materials, and seek guidance from your client or a legal professional if you are ever unsure.
When dealing with language barriers, it’s essential that you understand and respect cultural norms, sensitivities, and diversity when translating. Always be sure to conduct any necessary cultural research to avoid misrepresentation or bias.
This is another reason why joining a professional translation association like the CIOL or ITI and gaining certification can be advantageous, as they can offer guidance and support on professional ethics and codes of conduct, whilst keeping you up to date with any changes.
3. Choose your business structure
The next step is to officially set up and register your translation business. The structure you choose will depend on several factors. Let’s take a look at two of the most obvious choices as a translation business.
A sole trader is the simplest and most straightforward business structure. This means you’ll operate the business as an individual without forming a separate legal entity. This gives you full control over your operations; however, it means you are personally responsible for all business liabilities and debts.
Although there are few administrative responsibilities as a sole trader, you must register for Self Assessment with HMRC and complete a tax return each year. It’s vital that you keep an organised record of any expenses throughout the year, to make this process as smooth as possible.
The other popular option for you as a translation business is to register as a limited company.
This structure provides you with limited liability for any debts or legal claims your business may face, and enables you to access a range of tax-saving and tax-planning benefits.
Limited company status often appeals to people as it can appear more professional to clients and give you greater credibility. What’s more, raising funding and getting investors onboard is much more viable as a limited company.
You’ll need to register for both Corporation Tax and Self Assessment. Using a reliable company formation agent like Rapid Formations can help simplify the process and ease the administrative burden.
4. Get set up with the right equipment
One of the wonderful things about translation is that it requires minimal overheads to get started, since it can be effectively completed digitally and remotely. This means you could easily set up office from the comfort of your home or a coworking space, depending on your preferred working environment.
Some of the essentials you’ll need to get set up include:
- A reliable computer or laptop with sufficient power, memory, and storage capacity to handle translation software. An extra monitor can also be helpful for translators when referring to more than one text at a time.
- A stable and high-speed internet connection.
- Translation software: depending on your area and specific client requirements, you may need to use translation tools and CAT (Computer-Assisted Translation) software. Some of the most popular CAT tools include SDL Trados Studio, MemoQ, and Wordfast Pro. The one you choose may be down to your client’s preferences, but it’s recommended you weigh up the different pros and cons of each in relation to your field of work.
- An effective file management system: a cloud app is recommended to protect and organise client projects and save you from losing vital files. Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive are all great options and make it easy to store, share and collaborate on documents with clients in real-time.
- Reference materials: build a collection of reliable materials to aid your translation, such as specialised dictionaries, industry-specific glossaries, and style guides, to help improve the accuracy of technical translation and promote consistency across your work.
5. Get insured
Insurance is a vital consideration for any business, but especially so as a translation company, where your work is centred on accuracy and dealing with professional materials and sectors.
With that said, professional indemnity insurance is crucial for translators as it provides coverage in case of errors, omissions, or professional negligence that could result in financial loss for your clients. Having this type of insurance in place can protect you against any potential claims that arise relating to inaccurate translations or breaches of confidentiality.
Cyber Liability Insurance is another important consideration, given the digital nature of translation work. This can help protect against data breaches, cyber-attacks, or unauthorised access to sensitive client information.
When choosing your insurance protection, it’s always recommended to consult the advice of an insurance professional to assess your specific needs as a translation business.
6. Market yourself
Of course, having the knowledge and experience won’t be enough alone to guarantee you clientele. You’ll need to market yourself and spread the word about your services.
There are various ways to achieve this as a translator.
First and foremost, you’ll want to ensure you have a professional website that showcases your portfolio, your qualifications, accreditation, and details about your services.
LinkedIn is another great platform on which to promote your qualifications and expertise. Of all the social networking sites, LinkedIn is renowned for having the largest professional presence, so it’s a great place to connect with your target market and advertise your services. Ensure you create a compelling bio that summarises keywords about your translation offerings, and includes a link to your website and/or portfolio.
Online marketplaces dedicated to the translation industry are also prime spots for advertising your business and finding clients. ProZ is perhaps the biggest online community for language professionals, while other popular sites include TranslatorsCafe and Fiverr.
7. Continually develop your skills
Lastly, as a translator, it’s essential that you’re committed to continuous learning and development. This helps you remain competitive, improve your skills and expand your client base.
Make sure you regularly schedule in time to actively engage with professional development activities such as online courses, webinars, or one-to-one classes, to enhance your translation abilities, language proficiency, and subject-matter knowledge.
Join communities and online groups with like-minded professionals to share experiences, advice, and tips that can help keep you informed on emerging trends, technologies, and tools – and even lead to referrals.
Thanks for reading
So, there you have it; seven ways to get your translation business off to a successful start. We hope you’ve found this guide useful and that it’s given you enough information to take the plunge and launch your translation company.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and we’ll come back to you. We wish you the best of luck on your business journey. And remember, if you need a helping hand getting your company set up, we’re here to help. Contact us today to get started.