Marketing and Networking as a Freelance Translator

While you need an initial contact to make more contacts in a new industry, your approach matters. Have you spent time emailing your friend whose boss has a friend whose brother-in-law works as an interpreter? It might have been a longshot, but it was worth a try. You need clients, and you’re really not sure where to start. It’s intimidating to think of going to a conference where everyone already knows each other. Instead, maybe it’s better if you call up a former classmate in one of your translation or interpretation classes to see if they’ve been successful as a freelancer and what their approach is. They’re in your same boat? Maybe you’ve tried talking with your former professors.

People always say how important marketing yourself and networking with colleagues is without ever providing a list of specific benefits and tips on a way to do that. That’s because there is no one-size fits all list of benefits or approach that will work for everyone in every profession. Here are a few benefits to making professional contacts and recommendations and where to find them.

  • They are invaluable resources to turn to in order to help you figure out wording on a difficult translation, giving you an idea how much to charge for your language combination or in helping you determine whether or not to accept work from a new client.
  • Professional contacts can provide you information on resources like dictionaries and glossaries you have never heard of, and can encourage you in your freelance work. They know how scary it is to start out trying to gain clients when you have no name recognition or idea of where to start.
  • They can provide professional recommendations for you to potential clients who you have never worked with previously.
  • They can be there when you complain about the frustrations of keeping track of your own benefits and tax withholdings, and can celebrate with you when you gain that first big client.
  • You can find contacts at professional organizations such as the American Translators Association, state-specific translation organizations (such as the Colorado Translators Association), or industry-specific organizations, such as the National Association of Judiciary Translators and Interpreters. Ideally you would join a combination of these organizations, depending on the area of translation or interpretation you’re interested in pursuing. And if you’re not sure what type of language work you want to do, the people you meet from these organizations can tell you the advantages and disadvantages of their specific type of translation or interpretation work. In addition to websites with forums and email lists, these organizations also hold conferences you should attend to meet new colleagues and expand your network.
  • Although it can be scary to network at a conference where it seems like everyone knows everyone and you’re the odd one out, every person at that conference can relate to your situation. They have been there before, and most will be eager to help you in your freelance career. Freelance linguists are a unique group, and love to learn new techniques and approaches to doing their jobs more effectively.
  • You will often have an opportunity to meet direct clients and agencies through conferences, which can be invaluable when working to gain new clients and agency contacts. Take these opportunities seriously. Although you may not have thought of making business cards for yourself as a freelancer, it is a really easy way to network outside of conference events and get name recognition after making a positive first impression on both colleagues and potential agency contacts.

You should also view yourself as a business. Just as a business markets itself to potential customers, you need to do the same. For example, you can send your resume to direct clients and agencies or you can call them. You could create a simple webpage that highlights the services you offer, some of the projects you have worked on, and eventually some testimonials from satisfied clients.

There may not be a single approach to marketing and networking for everyone, but these are a few benefits and specific approaches that have proven successful for freelance linguists in the past.

Are you currently working as a freelance linguist? Do you have advice for newcomers to the profession? Share your expertise in the comments!



Nisar, the dynamic force behind Translation Excellence, stands tall as its founder and CEO. This isn’t just any company—it’s a global heavyweight in boutique language services. Hailing from the vibrant city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nisar brought his passion and expertise to the U.S. shores in 2001. In the realm of languages, he’s a titan. With 19 years under his belt, he’s worn hats from a linguist and instructor to a cultural bridge-builder and curriculum craftsman.

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