Best Books for Translators: 5 That I Recommend

  • Time to read: 6 min.

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We’re going to talk about the best books for translators.

Before we do, though, a couple of things.

As you’re reading this, I’m assuming two things about you:

  • You are a freelance translator and
  • You want to become a better freelance translator

If you’re a freelance translator, you obviously spend a lot of time translating as part of your job.

But how many of you are really spend time outside of your translations to become better translators?

First, though, what does it mean to become a “better” translator?

For different people that means different things but for most, it can be boiled down to the following:

  • Working faster
  • Finding more clients

Becoming better at these two things will bring you more money.

Let’s look at each of them individually.

How To Work Faster

The faster you work, the more money you will make as a freelance translator.

Working faster can come in a variety of forms. One way to translate faster is to improve your source language and your target language. The less time you have to spend in looking up words and translations, the faster you can translate. That means you can do translations faster, thus earning more money per hour.

Another way to work faster is to eliminate distractions.

Are you translating while watching TV or while distracted by your spouse or kids? If so, then you’re not maximizing your translation speed.

Eliminate distractions by working in a closed office. Work in one to two hour stretches where you don’t do anything except translate. That means that you don’t check your email. You don’t check out your social media feed. And you don’t start watching funny videos on YouTube.

You focus 100% on your task at hand. When you’ve done your allotted time, then you take a break.

Not before.

How To Find More Clients

The other side of the coin to becoming a better translator is to find more clients.

I’ve written extensively on how to do this but the basic principle it comes down to is this:

It’s a numbers game. The more people that know about what you offer, the more potential clients you’ll have.

There are literally thousands of ways to find clients and make money from translation. You just have to put in the work. Here are eight:

  • Optimize your LinkedIn account
  • Contact translation agencies
  • Set up a Twitter account, be active, and advertise your services
  • Email previous work colleagues and contacts and ask for referrals
  • Call every small business in your town asking for work
  • Make an account on Upwork and bid on freelance jobs
  • Use Fiverr to start with small translation jobs until you build up your profile enough to start charging more
  • Reach out to local charity organizations and see if they have work for you

Best Books for Translators

OK, now to get back to the topic I started out with.

As I said before, the two most important steps you need to know in order to become a better translator are outlined above. However, there are plenty of things that you can do to become a better translator. One of those is to study the words of other translators and see what they’ve done to have the success you’re looking for.

With that advice, here are 5 books you should definitely check out if you are serious about becoming a better freelance translator:

Translator’s Market: The GIANT Book of Translation Agencies [Buy It]

Yes this is my book and yes I’m biased. But I also think that this is the best book for anyone looking to find new translation clients.

And finding new clients is the lifeblood of a freelance translator.

This book makes it easy for you to find potential clients, contact them, and then offer them your services.

This book lists contact information for more than 1,000 different translation agencies throughout the world that are looking for translators just like you. All you have to do is reach out to the agencies and find the ones that are looking for your particular language combination and specialization.

If you only got one job from the book, you’d pay for cost of it 10x over, even as just a translation side hustle.

How To Succeed as Freelance Translator [Buy It]

This book is probably the most well-known book on translation written.

It’s written by Corinne McKay, a translator who has been heavily involved in the industry since the early 2000s.

This book is especially useful to those that haven’t started their translation career yet. It has solid information for beginners new to the industry. It’s especially useful to those that are looking into a career in translation in this relatively new age of the Internet.

Probably the best part of the book is Chapter 4, which discusses how to launch your freelance translation business.

Marketing Tips for Translators: The Ultimate Collection of Business Tips from the Podcast [Buy It]

If you haven’t heard of Tess Whitty, you’re missing out on one of the best podcasts out there for translators. She runs the Marketing Tips for Translators podcast which, as you can probably guess, is all about how to market yourself as a freelance translator.

And, again, as I said above, marketing your services is one of the most important things you can do to become more financially successful.

What Tess has done is taken some of her best podcast material and included in this super easy-to-read book.

This is from her description:

We’ll also cover proven methods and systems for marketing to your ideal potential clients, and strategies for maintaining a continuous marketing plan for finding new clients, keeping your existing clients, and getting the word out about your translation services.

The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business School Approach to Freelance Translation [Buy It]

This is an older book (it was written in 2012), but that means you can get the paperback for less than $5.

And even though it’s an older book, it still has some great info, especially for translators just starting out.

The book was written by two sisters (twins!), Judy and Dagmar Jenner, who know their fair share about translation.

One of the things that makes this book a good addition to the other books on this list is because this book doesn’t specifically focus on translators and translation.

Instead, it helps “language professionals” become successful, whether that be through translation or some other language-use profession.

The General Theory of the Translation Company [Buy It]

This is a very different book the the previous best books for translators that I’ve mentioned above but no less useful.

This book has some great insight into the translation industry as a whole and what it means to own and run your own translation company.

So who is this book intended for?

It really is essential for anyone that deals with some aspects of a translation industry:

  • Freelance translators interested in building your own translation company
  • In-house translators trying to understand how they fit into their company’s vision
  • Translation managers looking to lead their translators
  • Language service provider owners trying to grow their business translation service


So, in the end, if you want to become a better translator, don’t forget the importance of focusing on the two things that will get you there:

If you’re still at a loss on how to do those, read the top 5 best books for translators that I’ve outlined above. You’re bound to find what you need to help you advance to the next level.

FAQ – Best Books for Translators

Which degree is best for translator?

There is no one “best” degree for translators. However, a degree in translation or a related field such as linguistics is definitely beneficial.

What are the three 3 main types of translators?

There are three main types of translators: literary, scientific, and commercial. The type of translator you are will likely depend on your education, experience, and personal preferences.

What is the best translation software for translators?

There is no one “best” translation software for translators. However, there are many excellent software programs available that can help make your job easier, such as SDL Trados, memoQ, and Wordfast.

What is the best way to become a translator?

Gaining experience in the field and completing a degree or certification in translation are both excellent ways to become a translator. Additionally, networking with other professionals and staying up-to-date on industry news is also beneficial.