What it is

The world is full of texts that need to be translated into other languages. Contracts, technical manuals, novels, video game scripts, business plans, and much more are being translated every day. Most translators are freelance, working for one or more translation companies; some work in-house for just one company. A related specialty is localization, the cultural and linguistic adaptation of online content and resources for different locales.

Starting Points

Translation companies are an excellent starting point. Anyone may apply to work for translation companies; acceptance is based at least partially on successful performance of a translation test. Freelancing can be parlayed into more work, more interesting work, or an in-house position.


The advancement opportunity in freelance translating lies in the ability to develop your practice in any direction you like: you have the power to decide what kinds of work or clients to take on. You can also go in-house if you wish, which will expose you to different kinds of advancement opportunity. In-house translators can likewise go freelance.


For translation, a graduate degree or certification in a language is helpful, but not critical. What is critical is fluency, ability to meet deadlines, and finally, in third place, subject matter knowledge. In-depth knowledge of the values and semiotics of a particular culture or region – which humanists and social scientists sometimes develop – is useful in localization.

Personality & Outlook

Freelance translators tend to work at home, making this a good career for introverts, although some marketing and social interaction is needed. In-house translators are usually more extroverted because they work with others toward team and organizational goals.


Start freelancing! Let people know you are available and say yes to pretty much anything you are offered. Also, if you are affiliated with a university, take classes in Translation Studies, or consider an online certificate program in Translation and Localization Studies. Make sure your resume includes any experience at all with language teaching or translation-related work.

Real Life Examples