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  • Alexis Wing

"Going Freelance": 5 Tips and Tricks for Translators

Updated: Oct 1, 2019

It’s been five months since DINGSBUMS was born!

From websites and newsletters to flyers and brochures, in total, DINGSBUMS has translated 157,071 words from German to English – but who’s counting? Oh, right, I am. Just to put that into perspective, the English dictionary has 171,476 words (thanks, Google!).

I’ve learned a lot in these past five months and thought I’d share some tips that have helped me along the way. If you're looking to "go freelance", read on.

1. Don't just jump. Learn to fly.

Does a baby bird jump out of the nest immediately after hatching? No. They stay and let momma bird deliver the “goods” while they grow their wings. What I’m trying to say with this strange metaphor is that before becoming a freelancer, you should first gain experience somewhere – anywhere! Find your nest and get fed some tasty worms of regurgitated knowledge! Mmm …

I was lucky enough to work in a fast-paced marketing agency – and the skills I learned there are instrumental in my work today: time management, communication, translating, and editing with a fine-tooth comb, to name a few. Also, working among others who have done your job much longer than you is like working in a treasure trove of knowledge. Take advantage of the opportunity, ask questions, and don’t assume anything. You’re not expected to know everything, and you don’t have to act like it either. Stay humble; it looks good on you.

2. Quality, quality, quality.

If you say it three times fast, it sounds like Koala Tea, but that’s beside the point. I’m here to talk about quality because that’s what really matters. Quality is your reputation. Quality keeps your clients happy. Quality is KING... or QUEEN… or "QUING" to keep it gender-neutral.

If you have to re-read your work three times over, do it! If you have to re-read your work five times over, do it! Until you’re sure your work is as close to perfection as possible, keep re-reading.

Pro tip: Use a program to read your texts out loud. It helps catch mistakes you might accidentally overlook. If possible, hire someone to proofread your work. Even the best writers make mistakes; what’s important is not to let them reach the client.

3. Know your worth.

One of the biggest challenges is knowing what to charge. Submitting proposals is nerve-racking, to say the least. It made me question everything: Am I good enough? Did I price too high? Is my deadline acceptable? But after several months, I realized I am good enough, and if the client doesn’t like the price, the worst that can happen is that they submit a counteroffer or they find someone else. "So, wait, you’re telling me everyone lives and life goes on?" Yes, yes, I am! A true revelation, really.

Do some market research to define your competitive pricing. If you know someone working in the same field, ask them for some advice! Clearly define your rates, and be proud of the services you offer. There’s a reason you became a freelancer and a reason your potential client contacted you in the first place. Rock it!

Pro tip: Define your rates using a formula. Charge per character or line. This way, you won’t feel the pressure of trying to figure out how much to charge each time. Once you define your rates, creating a proposal is easy to do and transparent.

4. Three little words.

I know what you’re thinking, and it’s mutual. 😘 But actually, these three little words mean even more to me. I’m talking about word of mouth, and I never knew how powerful it was until I started working as a freelancer.

A friend. A friend of a friend. Someone you met at a party for five minutes. Your dentist. They are all potential clients – and if not them, maybe someone they know! Plant your seeds when it’s appropriate, and in due time, you can reap what you sow. Go on, Johnny Appleseed.

5. Deadlines.

Analyze the approximate amount of time it will take you to complete a project and add between one and three days, depending on the project's length. You never know what might come up in between – whether it’s another urgent project, revisions, or a random headache. Strive for the best, prepare for the worst, and give yourself a little leeway. Don't let deadlines be the death of you.

Good luck!


Five months have come and gone, but the lessons learned have remained. Here’s to the next five months of DINGSBUMS living it up in South Tyrol.

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