How to become a professional translator in 7 easy steps

Maybe you've always had a love for languages. Maybe even as a kid, you knew you wanted to study linguistics, maybe you even knew you wanted to become a translator and went to get your degree right after highschool.
Rodrigo Demetrio
2 min

Maybe you've always had a love for languages. Maybe even as a kid, you knew you wanted to study linguistics, maybe you even knew you wanted to become a translator and went to get your degree right after highschool.

Maybe you only discovered your passion for languages when you were already working as a baker, a lawyer, or a salesperson.No matter when your ambition to become a translator emerged or what your background is, you can become a professional translator. These 7 steps help you on your way. These steps are aimed at aspiring translators who don't have a degree in translating.

Of course, when you do, there’s still plenty of helpful hints in here, but you may want to skip some steps.

1. Pick your language pair

When you start out as a translator, it’s tempting to try and do as much as possible. In addition to your native language, you speak Spanish, a bit of Chinese, and you may be interested in even more languages.

It’s tempting to advertise all your language skills. In general, that’s counter-productive. Focusing on multiple languages means that you’ll learn less about more languages. It will cost more time to get the knowledge that you need. As a rule of thumb, you translate to your mother tongue. Clients expect you to be fluent in the language that you translate from.

For most people, that’s only one or two languages. If you advertise more than two languages, you’ll most likely be taken less seriously by potential clients. Even if you are fluent in multiple languages, start with one language. Once your business is up and running, you can add more.Your mother tongue plus the language that you translate from, is your language pair. If your mother tongue has several varieties or dialects, be sure to specify which one is your mother tongue.

For example Chinese, English, Dutch and Spanish are languages that have multiple varieties. Make it clear in your resume and your online profiles whether you speak Portuguese from Portugal or Portuguese from Brazil for example.

2. Pick your expertise

Once you've decided on your language pair, the next step is to pick your expertise. That sees to two aspects: the subject-matter of your translations, and the type of translation work that you do.The first one, which topics you have sufficient knowledge of to translate with confidence, would be topics that you have worked with or that you are interested in.A lot of translation assignments are on general topics and don’t require a specific expertise.

In general, there is a lot of competition for those general assignments, and rates are usually lower than for assignments that involve specialized topics.

You’ll be able to get more assignments and you can set a higher rate if you advertise your specialty. Same as with choosing your language pair, it’s important to choose a limited selection. Two or three specialties works great.Ideally you pick expertises that you already have. That can be based on your previous or current work experience, but it can also be a hobby. Don’t disregard an expertise too fast because you think it’s not professional enough.

Translators are needed for all topics. For example, a specialty that’s currently in high demand is gaming.Second, you choose which type of translation work you would like to do. Text translations, subtitles, interpretation, website translation, games translation; they all involve a different level of creativity, a different level of localization and different skills. For example, when you’re translating (texts for) websites you’ll need to know about SEO, and if you love to elaborate, subtitling would probably not be the best choice for you.

3. Choose courses to boost your knowledge

Your mastery of your mother tongue, your knowledge of the language you translate from, and the expertise(s) that you pick form the basis for your translation skills. Next you'll want to further develop those skills. Learning goes in threes: coursework, coaching and doing. The 70:20:10 learning model states that we learn most effectively if our learning consists of 10% coursework and training, 20% being coached on the job, and 70% practicing and doing.

how to become a professional translator

Online you can find various courses that you can take and that will teach you the basics of translating or that help you develop your translation skills. For example, edX, an online course provider created by Harvard and MIT, offers various free courses on linguistics, localization, or search engine optimization. Other providers of free online courses on relevant topics include Coursera and Translation Commons.

Also, various freelancer platforms (where you can find assignments) offer free e-learnings.Even when you have a degree in translating, some of these courses can be very helpful to you, especially if you want to expand your knowledge of a field you’re not very experienced in.

4. Know where to find resources and support

As a freelance translator, you can get coaching from experienced professionals, even for free. For example, if you’re learning how to be a subtitler, you can join volunteer projects like TED and Amplifying Voices and receive feedback and coaching from experienced reviewers.Also, various online communities are available where you can find answers to all your translation questions.

The most well-known communities are ProZ and TranslatorsCafé. Here you can sign up for free, participate in discussions, find terminology resources and ask questions to other translators. For a lot of languages, there's language-specific resources. For example a local language institute with an online database, or an official word list. Find out which institute or resource is considered an authority for the language that you're translating to, see if they have an online information database and bookmark it for future reference.

5. Volunteer Experience

For your 70% learning by doing, there are various options. This 70% includes passive activities like reading and watching TV, in the language you intend to translate from. The more practice you get in that language, the better you’ll be able to understand nuances, slang, cultural details and other aspects of localization.A great way to learn by doing is to participate in volunteer programmes.

These are great practice opportunities, and will help you develop your skills and your translation speed. Translation speed is key. Of course, the quality of your work needs to be good as well. However, if you want to make a living out of translating, it helps a lot if you can deliver the right quality in less time. Let's say you focus on translating business documents, and you have an assignment that pays $0.05 per word.

If you translate 200 words per hour, you make $10 per hour. If you translate 400 words per hour, you make $20 per hour. Also, the more experience you have, the better quality you deliver, and the higher rate per word you can ask. Use volunteer work to build up that speed and quality.Volunteer programmes tend to cover a single field of translating. For text translations there is Translators Without Borders, for e-learnings and (online) courses there is Coursera, and for subtitling, Amplifying Voices and TED are a great start.

6. Set your rates

Before you start taking paid assignments, you may want to figure out what rates are acceptable to you. As a translator, for most fields you would not use an hourly rate. Instead, you set a rate per word (for text translations) or a rate per minute (for subtitling). For subtitling, minute refers to the duration of the video; not the time it costs you to work on the subtitles. Once you have gained sufficient experience, you may add rates for proofreading or reviewing. These would be the primary rates that you use. In addition, clients may offer separate rates for post-editing machine translations (MTPE), where you work on a text that has been translated by using software.To calculate what rates work for you, you need to know what your translation speed is.

Let's say that you translate 250 words per hour, and that you want to make $15 per hour. You then divide $15 by 250, which gives you a rate of $0.06 per word. Most likely you'll have to pay taxes on your income as a translator, so take that into account when you set your rates.

Also understand that being a freelancer means that you'll spend time on your business that you can't charge to a client (e.g. drawing up invoices), and you may want to adjust your rates to compensate for that.It may be tempting to set a low rate in order to be eligible for more assignments. Keep in mind though that a lower rate means you'll have to work more hours. Make sure that you keep enough time for any other obligations and for yourself. It's important to keep a healthy work-life balance.

7. Find paid assignments

Lastly, what the above is all about: how to find paid assignments.The easiest way to find paid assignments is to subscribe to platforms for freelancers. That can be platforms that are dedicated to translators like ProZ or TranslatorsCafé, but also general freelancer platforms like Upwork, Fiverr or On these platforms you can find one-off assignments.

Be aware that some platforms may charge fees, for bidding on an assignment, when getting paid by your client or when transferring your money out of the platform to your bank account or virtual payment service like PayPal. Some clients may ask you for a resume, so make sure you have a recent version available that highlights your (volunteer) work as a translator.Platforms are a good start when you're still building experience and you can't set your ideal rates yet. As the speed and quality of your work grows, you can apply at translation agencies.

Most agencies require you to pass a translation test. Make sure you take the test when you really have the time to focus on the test, without distractions. Those tests aren't easy, and in general there's no retakes. As a freelancer, you will most likely work for multiple agencies, as the available assignments at agencies vary per week and per day. Who knows, one day you may even work for Bureau Works.

Collaborative translation is a powerful tool for your business if you’re looking to expand to new global markets. By coordinating a team of professionals who work together in real-time, you can quickly deliver high quality translations that resonate with local audiences.

But what if you don't know how to synchronize a large team's efforts? Or are you‌ struggling to find the right software for a well-coordinated translation process? Well, look no further! In this guide, you'll learn all the know-how's of collaborative translation to bring your brand to global audiences.


  1. What is collaborative translation?
  2. Why seamless translation collaboration is important
  3. Best practices for collaborative translation and global market success

What is collaborative translation?

Collaborative translation is when multiple people simultaneously work together to translate content. A collaborative translation process often makes use of specialized tools and software to make sure the translation is quick, accurate, and consistent.

  • Example: Let's say you're a B2B SaaS company looking to translate your marketing materials into a new language to connect with potential clients abroad. Use collaborative translation to bring together translators, developers, and other specialists to translate content into many languages at once.

Your team can use a collaborative translation platform like Redokun to work on projects simultaneously. A coordinated workflow will make sure that your translations use the same terminology and style, improving the quality of the translated product for your target audiences.

Collaborative Translation vs. Crowdsourcing

People often confuse collaborative translation with crowdsourcing and think the two are the same. However, these approaches to translation are different.

Crowdsourcing is when a large group of people contributes translations, often through an open call or invitation by a company or author. Brands can turn to crowdsourcing, community translation, or volunteer translation when they are looking to reduce costs and accelerate the process, especially for large multi-language projects.

In crowdsourced translations, the contributors can be volunteer translators, subject matter experts, or just anonymous individuals online. In other words, you may not know who's worked on the translation and what their qualifications are. It makes crowdsourcing distinct from collaborative translation, where the team would be an established group of professionals you've selected

Why seamless translation collaboration is important

As a busy B2B/B2C marketing manager or project manager, you might ask yourself: Isn't the "divide and conquer" a better strategy when working on a translation or localization project? It seems logical that each project team member, including translators, designers, and editors, works on their tasks separately and step by step.

However, collaborative translation can help your team reap many benefits compared to a traditional approach to translation projects:

Reasons why seamless translation collaboration is important
  • Produce high-quality translations consistently. When your whole team works on a translation project simultaneously on one platform, it's easier to stay in context and keep track of the translation accuracy for every target language. On top of that, your team can conduct agile QA throughout the project cycle.
  • Faster turnaround times. By working together, your team can complete projects faster and more efficiently. Centralization saves a lot of time at every stage of translation. And since your team can work on more than one translation at a time, you can publish your translated content in several new markets at once.
  • Reduced costs. You get to improve efficiency while working with a smaller team of translators. The smaller and more coordinated the team, the less the risk of costly translation errors. It means reduced translation costs and better project budget compliance.
  • Increased flexibility. Collaborative translation allows your team to produce translations into many languages at once and easily make changes to any project document. You can conveniently engage in a feedback loop and guarantee a continuous localization process.
  • Better communication. Collaborative translation effectively brings all members of your localization team together on one platform. It helps you make sure that everyone is working toward the same goals ‌and simplifies overall localization management.

Six best practices for collaborative translation and global market success

To be great at collaborative translation, you need to approach it strategically. Even if you've never used this approach before, you can follow the six steps below to build an efficient collaborative translation workflow. And if you're already familiar with this method, these practices will help you improve the way you collaborate on any translation projects.

Six best practices for collaborative translation for your global business success

1. Work out a detailed project plan

Before you start working on translations together, you need a clear-cut project plan. You should first identify the following items.

  • Project timeline: Define crucial deadlines, project milestones, and the overall project duration.
  • Translation volume and key deliverables: Calculate the general word count, and determine the workload for every language pair if you translate into multiple languages.
  • Project budget: Keep in mind possible added and hidden translation costs.
  • Project team: Define what kind of specialists you need: translators, editors, proofreaders, etc. Will you need to find external translators? Consider all your HR needs in advance.
  • Your approach to the translation process: How much do you want to rely on machine translation? At what point will you edit translated strings? Answer all these questions before you go on.
  • Quality assurance protocol: Establish an efficient QA procedure for all the language pairs you're working on.

It may sound like a handful but the more detailed the plan, the more streamlined the translations will be down the road. Besides, you can already use Redokun to boost this stage of the localization process!

Redokun is a translation management system you can use to automate, coordinate, and optimize your translation processes from content creation to publication.

Redokun simplifies your project planning. In particular, you can use the tool to:

  • Monitor your ongoing translations easily. Keep track of all of your translation files and projects across multiple languages in one space, and check their progress at a glance.
Redokun Document Detail Page
  • Meet deadlines with digest emails. Redokun will send you daily or weekly email digests to update you on the progress of translations. From there, you can initiate one-click reminders to your translators who are potentially falling behind schedule.
  • Making budget planning easier. Redokun has a transparent, scalable pricing structure that will cover exactly the volume of work your project needs.
Redokun is an easy-to-use tool that requires no onboarding. Your team can start using all the system’s features right away. During your project planning stage, you won’t need to factor in a lengthy training period to introduce team members to the tool.

2. Divide tasks and assign responsibilities the smart way

Good collaboration is impossible without a well-planned distribution and organization of roles and tasks. Ensure that every team member is on the same page and understands their respective responsibilities.

For example, the project managers should divide ‌translation tasks among translation team members according to their language proficiency, area of expertise, or subject matter knowledge.
  • On Redokun, you can invite translators to work on different language pairs and content types depending on their skills. All you need to do is enter the translator's email. The software will send them an email invitation and let you know once they've started translating the file.
  • You can also invite several translators to work on one document.
How to invite translators to Redokun

To maximize the efficiency of project management and task division, establish a clear structure of your workflow. Make sure all your pages, files, and folders are well organized and team members know where to find necessary resources for their respective tasks. A centralized, cloud-based storage for all your documents is a must.

  • Redokun is a cloud-based software that makes file management easy. You can create folders and customize permission settings for multiple users for better organization. No more need to look for spreadsheets and lost documents scattered around different digital locations.
  • Don't forget to make the most of the Reporting Dashboard. It shows you the status of the translation project and helps you see how users distribute tasks (for example, what methods they use to translate different content segments).
Redokun Dashboard with translation statistics

3. Enhance the collaborative translation process with clear communication

It's important to have open communication channels among all team members in your translation project, including internal and external translators. For a successful collaboration effort, you need a shared communication space to:

  • Conduct regular check-ins.
  • Discuss translation options and other aspects of the working process.
  • Update and adjust requirements and guidelines.
  • Maintain feedback loops.
It's up to you to choose between email, messengers, or tools like Google Drive or Slack to keep your collboarative operations flowing. However, using multiple channels for different aspects of the project can get messy. It's harder to manage your team and make sure all collaborators are up to date on the ongoing translation tasks.

You can avoid these potential problems by centralizing all your communications and project management. With translation software like Redokun, you can manage, translate, communicate, and collaborate — all in one place.

  • Translate content in context. Your translators or editors can use page previews in Web Editor to understand the context of the text while working on it.
  • Work together in real-time. Use Redokun as a full-scale collaborative translation platform. It enables real-time cooperation among your team members, improving efficiency and reducing communication errors.
  • Use comments, mentions, and notifications to exchange feedback quickly. Redokun's Web Editor is a convenient place to stay in touch and discuss your translation progress every step of the way.
Collaboration feature in Redokun
  • Create a hybrid workflow. Work with your in-house teams or external translators to suit different localization project formats and scalability needs.

4. Use machine translation and translation memory tools

Computer-assisted translation tools are a great addition to human translation. Machine translation (MT) helps your collaborators speed up the localization process by automating translation. Of course, it doesn't have the quality of a human professional translation — it’s more like a helping hand that's always there to facilitate the translation of complex phrases or new terms.

  • Redokun is integrated with two Machine Translation tools: Google Translate and DeepL. Translation suggestions by these two tools pop up right below where the translator should key in the translation, as shown here.

To enhance collaboration even further, consider using translation memory tools. They ensure consistency and save translation software users a lot of time.

Translation memory (TM) is a translation technology that stores previously translated sentences or phrases as segments and creates a unique database for your localization projects. You can reuse your translation to increase efficiency and consistency in ongoing and future translations.

With Redokun as your collaborative translation platform, you can leverage TM to:

  • Consistently translate any repeated word, phrase, or sentence across different language pairs and documents. It's especially important for translating technical terms, marketing slogans, CTAs, and other catchphrases. Translation memory helps you stay consistent in your marketing messaging.
  • Pre-translate your entire documents. Combine TM matches from your previous translations with Machine Translation to get a fully pre-translated document even before your team gets to work.
  • Manage your translation memory database. Import and customize your TM database to further improve translation quality and consistency.
”The speed of translation is quite impressive in that it doesn’t take [much time], maybe a couple of minutes when you translate from English to eight markets. I think that’s what I’m most impressed by.”

Read more about how Kenni and the marketing team at Rockfon increased their translation productivity by 70% using translation memories and other Redokun features

5. Use glossaries and style guides

Glossaries and style guides are valuable resources your team can use for reliable reference.

A glossary is a list of terms and their corresponding translations that are specific to a company or industry.

A style guide outlines the preferred tone, voice, and style for a company's marketing materials across markets and languages.

Your collaborators can refer to these resources when they’re not sure about a translation. For example is when they're deciding how to translate a company abbreviation, whether to the Oxford comma, or choosing the right tone to address customers, etc. No more ambiguity about linguistic, stylistic, and cultural aspects of your translations.

  • Use Redokun's glossary feature to create a glossary and style guide that outlines rules for spelling, grammar, punctuation, terminology, and tone specific to your project.
Redokun glossary feature preview

6. Continuously review and revise

A key benefit of a collaborative translation platform is the ability to review and revise translations in an agile and efficient manner. By involving multiple specialists in the process of editing and QA, you can guarantee accuracy and consistency in the translated content at every stage of the project.

To implement effective review and revision procedures in your collaborative translation projects, it is important to:

  • Plan for review and revision in advance. Identify who will be responsible, set the timeline, and use specific tools.
  • Consider involving in-country reviewers who are familiar with the local market and culture to ensure that the translations are accurate and appropriate for the target audience.
  • Perform regular QA checks. They should include consistency in terminology and formatting, and verify that the translations are free from grammatical errors and typos.
Pro-tip: Ever experienced the headache of having to update a translation that’s already 70% done when there is a last-minute change to the source document?

With Redokun’s revision feature, you don’t have to spend hours poring over Excel sheets and comparing files to spot the places where new words have been added or sentences have been changed. Just upload the latest document version and the system will identify new text that needs translating — saving your team’s time and effort while keeping previous translations intact.


Collaborative translation is an excellent approach if you want to improve the consistency of your translations, reduce costs, and establish a strong presence in global markets.

The key to seamless collaboration is a combination of careful planning, role distribution, agile QA, and smart use of translation software.

Make Redokun part of your collaborative translation efforts and enhance the pace of your global business growth‌. Start your 14-day free trial today and benefit from a quicker and more streamlined translation workflow.

Till next time,


Rodrigo Demetrio
Steering the marketing ship at Bureau Works with 17+ years of MarTech under my belt, I transform mere ideas into tangible realities. Passionate about languages and their power to build bridges, let's build a new one?
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