As communicating around the world becomes easier and quicker, the demand for translation is increasing. Translation is a popular professional option for those with a knowledge of multiple languages but is being bilingual (or even a polyglot) enough? How can you get started in the industry?

If you’ve been working in another career but want to change to translation, don’t panic. There are undeniable transferable skills and expertise that can be successfully brought into the translation world from other professions, a prime example of which is the vast number of former doctors, lawyers and accountants who have become translators.

However, although they are highly experienced in their field, when starting out as translators, these professionals may not have an understanding of how the world of translation works and what is required to be successful in the industry. Gaining an accreditation or certification is a great step towards proving they have the skills to translate or interpret professionally.

Experience is key

If you are starting your career in translation, it’s important to gain experience. If you don’t have a wealth of industry knowledge from a previous career, you can still be successful as a translator. Begin by establishing what you are already familiar with or interested in, speak to friends and contacts in those industries and gain as much knowledge as you can.

Before you can be considered by some agencies and direct clients, you’re going to need translation experience. As with all professions, it can be difficult to break into translation without experience, but luckily there are plenty of ways you can gain invaluable translation experience, for example by volunteering for organisations such as the UN, Per Mondo, Translators Without Borders and Translations for Progress.

If you are interested in subtitling, Amara works with TED conferences and can be a great place to get started. If you have a nice voice, you could even contact some recording studios near you and look into becoming a voice-over artist.

Finally, if your calling is in interpreting, one possibility is to take internships at international conferences and festivals in your city, such as arts/film festivals, to gain some hands-on, practical experience.

Network and market yourself

You are your business and you need to show the world what you can do. Join as many professional organisations as you can, use LinkedIn and ProZ to participate in groups and discussions that interest you and try to attend local networking groups.

Explore the businesses in your city. Are there legal firms, IT companies, hospitals, government organisations and language agencies that need translators or interpreters? Speak to people who work in your area and keep your eyes open for any opportunities.

Bear in mind that most clients employ translators and interpreters as freelancers on a contract or project basis and it’s quite rare nowadays to employ them full-time.

Never stop learning

As lovers of language and the way it evolves, translators are usually curious people with a thirst for lifelong learning. Never give up on expanding your wealth of knowledge and skill set – take courses at your local college or university, join online training webinars, and keep yourself up-to-date with industry changes and translation technology advances.

After progressing in your career and establishing yourself as a translator in your chosen fields, start exploring and specialising in other industries that interest you. Some things to consider are:

What niche industry can you translate or interpret for?

How much demand is there for translation in that area?

Are you aware of said industry’s current terminology and trends?


Remember that it’s impossible to master every subject – never translate material you do not fully comprehend. Build your career on quality and accountability. Respect deadlines, clarify whatever is necessary with your client and do the best work you can, time and time again.

Here at Language Insight, we are always looking for talented professionals, so if you think you have the skills and experience necessary to collaborate with us, please get in touch! Send your CV and a covering letter to our recruitment team on [email protected].

Please note that all our translators must have an MA in translation or 5 years’ work experience.