Top 7 things to consider when hiring a freelance translator

Looking at a wall

You want to make sure that your business communicates its message effectively on the global market. You therefore need a translator who offers high-quality translations, so you can confidently launch your service or product and grow your business.

But all the options are overwhelming. There are so many translators out there! Some could be amazing, while others may be downright awful. They may promise you the moon and the stars but deliver a translation that isn’t up to scratch. And they may even charge you high rates for their services. So, how do you find a good, reliable translator?

In this blog post, I will reveal the 7 most important qualities you need to look for in a translator. This will enable you to avoid all the frustration, lost time, and wasted money because of unprofessional translators or even scams that are all too common online.

Sounds good?

Let’s dive in…

1. Know exactly who the translator is

Translator Identity checked

If you want to work directly with a translator, you probably understand the benefits of hiring an individual translator as opposed to contracting an agency. But before your project kicks off, learn the basic info about your partner and their business. For example, do they go by their first and last name, or do they use a business name as well? What kind of business is it: a sole trader or a limited company? Check their contact details, business website, and profiles on social media and professional platforms. You can even ask them for their resume or anything else that will leave you with a feeling of confidence and comfort.

And if you order your translation from a small, boutique translation provider, you could ask for more information about the translator who will take care of your project. Don’t feel like you are being a nuisance. Quite the contrary, translators will be glad you want to learn more. They may even be more confident reaching out to you in case any questions arise. Therefore, your final product could be even better and you will build a good business relationship right from the start.

2. Make sure the translator has the right training and qualifications

Translator Training and qualifications

Although paths to a translation career can vary, you should always hire translators who are trained professionals. Most often they have:

  • a university degree in translation or modern languages, or
  • a university degree in another field (law, business, social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, etc.), plus a professional certificate or diploma in translation.

In short, they don’t just “speak the language”. Sure, you could go to your bilingual friend (or, nowadays, use Google translate or DeepL) to understand casual documents such as a love letter or takeaway menu, but we’re talking business here.

Let’s return to degrees. They still don’t mean you’ll get the best work. I’ve seen great translations done by non-linguists and deplorable pieces done by linguists. So let’s move on to the third tip.

3. Make sure the translator has the right skills and experience

Translator Skills

Degrees can be a great start, but a translator’s skills and experience matter just as much. You want to make sure your translator has the right skill set and experience with specific topics and types of files you are sending. Let’s imagine you want to translate a promotional brochure for your fintech start-up. In a PDF format. You could ask them:

  • What is your general knowledge about financial-technology services?
  • Do you use CAT (computer-assisted translation) tools to ensure terminological consistency?
    (Not to be mistaken with machine translation!)
  • How many years of experience do you have as a translator?
  • How many words have you translated in the field of finance and banking?
  • What language resources do you use? Which dictionaries, manuals, and style guides?
  • Are you able to work with PDF files? Can you manage the formatting or should we hire a DTP professional?

4. Check their CV, references, and online presence

Translator Curriculum vitae

Much of the information mentioned in the last two points may already be in the translator’s CV. So before asking all these questions, look at their CV. Then ask anything that remains unanswered or unclear.

In addition, you could ask for references or any other kind of proof that they have the skills you need. Similarly, you could check their social media accounts to see if they are involved in the translation community.

Do they have a website? If so, they probably have testimonials. They demonstrate their reputation in the industry and can back up their skills and experience.

5. Pick translators with specialisms

Standing out

Some translators advertise as generalists. They often adopt the “I can do it all” approach. They may even claim they work in both directions. Always bear in mind that only translations into one’s first language are deemed professional in the translation industry. (There may be some exceptions where human resources are scarce, but that’s another topic.)

As a business owner, you should steer clear of translators who boast about being able to cover everything. They usually promise much, but deliver little. Translators who are specialists in a few fields are a safer bet and have a much better chance of delivering quality work. They will always be honest about their limitations and decline your project if they can’t achieve what’s expected. They may even recommend a trusted colleague who will meet your specific needs!

6. Hire professionals who translate full-time

Brick wall

Nowadays we have so many possibilities to learn and change careers, but translation isn’t a gig, a side job or an in-between job. Even language professionals such as teachers cannot instantly become translators. They lack the skills you need because they don’t have the same training. Pick those who want to be a translator, not those who want to make money from it, or do it as a side hustle.

7. Hire translators who have proven themselves in the industry

Translator Association

Tried and trusted translators usually have many projects and satisfied clients under their belt. They are often members of professional associations, so looking in such directories may be wise. Note that qualified translators don’t tend to use platforms such as Upwork, Fiverr and Freelancer. In a recent poll I conducted among 346 qualified translators on one of ProZ.com’s channels, a staggering 90% said they’ve never worked on these platforms. Of those, 36% signed up to test it, but soon gave up disappointed with the overall experience. Only 10% of the 346 translators used those platforms regularly. Hence, I would instantly write those avenues off, at least for translation.

But I invite you to use the following resources where you will find skilled translators:

And finally

Translator Checklist

In conclusion, hire a translator well versed in your industry, who has done many translations similar to what you need and who has demonstrated excellence in their work. Finding an expert can be hard, but it’s worth it because great copy in any language can go a long way.

Make sure you get a feel for their professionalism and the way they work. And finally, ask your potential freelancer to send you any supporting documentation that will make it easier for you to determine if they are the right fit for your project. Good luck!

PS If you’re looking for a Croatian translator, check out my website and get in touch. Even if I can’t help, I may recommend someone!

To help you even further, I’ve come up with a short checklist that you can use every time you need to assess a translator you are interested in working with.

Download the “Hiring a good freelance translator checklist” now!

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