There are certain skills and qualities each translator must have in order to be successful in their career regardless of if they work as a freelancer or are a member of a great team of professionals with a language service provider.   

In addition to the best practices in the industry that the translators should try to follow, there are generally two groups of skills each professional should try to master in order to be successful: translation-related skills and general business skills or the ability to work with clients. Here are a few details about the two groups. 

Translation-Related Skills

In addition to having a specific education related to translation, the successful specialist in the field should also possess a series of translation-related skills. Here is a list of the most important ones: 

  • Ability to write 

The ability to write is very important for each translator. It is one of the basic translation-related skills that the professionals master at the early stages of their education and career. There are special courses in writing that can help you polish this skill to the maximum.  

  • Ability to stick to a given framework 

Some clients have specific requirements to the size of a particular translation. Therefore, they give a certain number of characters or words that the translator should not exceed. The ability to stick to this framework reveals the level to which the expert has mastered their craft.  

  • Ability to translate style and jargon 

The knowledge of how to cope with style and jargon is very specific and the skill should be mastered by any translator who wants to provide the highest level of service. The basic rule is to take into account the purpose of the text and the cultural setting and thus proceed with translating the text into the target language. Practice makes perfect and this is very true in this particular case.  

  • Extensive knowledge in a given industry 

Being a specialist in at least one area of expertise is of particular importance. As a translator, who is specialized in chemistry, economics or in a certain industry, you will be more sought-after. If you have a full second degree in addition to the language that you have studied, you can receive a higher salary thanks to your additional expertise.  

  • IT skills 

All translators, both freelancers and staff members, should have basic IT skills and as a minimum should know how to work with word processing software. Programs such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel should also be part of your arsenal as a translator. CAT (computer assisted translation) tools are a great asset too and can help in the overall process of providing a better service.  

  • Strong attention to detail 

It is very important to pay attention to all details in the text. That goes not only for the linguistic specifications but also for cultural peculiarities. Attention should be paid to all figures as well – dates, prices, etc. and they should be correctly configured in the target language. At the end of the translation, the translator needs to check if the entire text is translated – there might be some footnotes, for example, that were left behind, or a column in a table, etc.  

  • Ability to remain neutral 

Last but not least, the translator should be able to remain neutral to the text they have to translate. Often the job may face the professionals with a document that they disagree with, however they should remain non-judgmental and render the meaning and the tone in the target language in the same way as presented in the source language. 

General Business Skills

The ability to do business is very essential for the successful translators, whether they work as freelancers or as staff members. Here are a few of the basic skills they need to have: 

  • Good communication with clients 

One of the important skills in every business is the ability to communicate. Try to establish a good relation with your customer and keep all communication channels open. Be willing to answer and ask questions in order to avoid misunderstanding. Never leave an e-mail unanswered. Be honest if there will be some delays due to seasonal holidays or illness to the staff.  

  • Sticking to deadlines and fulfilling other commitments 

Be very firm and specific when you make an offer to a client and stick to your commitments. Do not try to promise more than you can deliver. Always stick to the given deadlines. If possible, try to over deliver – return a translation prior to the deadline or charge less because the text had many repetitions or figures, that required less translation. The gesture will be noted and remembered, however try not to turn this into a practice where the clients always expect more than what was agreed.  

  • Keeping confidential and other sensitive information safe 

When dealing with document translation, translators are faced with different types of personal, sensitive, or confidential information. This may be data contained on birth or marriage certificates, new patents or legal arrangements between parties. Therefore, the company or the independent translator must have a system that guarantees the safety of this data and that no unauthorized personnel has access to it. Quite often the client requests a confidentiality agreement to be signed by the company or the translator providing the service prior to awarding the contract for translation. 

The successful translator is the one who manages to combine both the translation-related and the general business skills and to master them to a certain satisfactory level. The key lies in the fact that translators remain open to new knowledge and tools and keep learning and developing throughout their entire career.

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