15 Translation Rules New Translators Must Follow

  • Time to read: 8 min.

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If you’re a new translator, you’re looking for guidance. You want direction. You want someone to hold your hand and give you the translation rules to get started.

I know I did.

I wanted someone to tell me if I was doing the right thing or wrong thing.

If my focus was where it needed to be.

If I was even on the right path.

But I never got it.

I was even enrolled in a Spanish translation program in college.

But we never talked about the business of translation.

Most of us wanted to be freelance translators but nobody would show out how to get there.

Most classes were just Spanish classes where I studied linguistics properties of Spanish rather than read Don Quixote.

I learned some techniques for improving my translation skills, but nothing about marketing.

Nothing about the myth of finding translation clients.

Zilch about the importance of knowing the top highest paying translation languages.

I mean, we barely even learned about translation terminology.

Don’t worry, though.

I’m here to help you get started.

I’m not going to hold your hand through the process.

But I’m going to give you the tools you need to succeed. Translation rules.

It’s up to you to take these tools and make something of yourself.

Don’t blame me (or anyone else) if you don’t get where you want to be.

Only you can do it.

But I’ll be rooting for you.

15 Best Translation Rules

While, there are no steadfast rules in translation, these are general guidelines that will help you become a successful translator.

1) It’s not about your language skills

Language skills for a successful, professional translators are secondary.

Because if you want to be a success you have to make money from translation. And making money means finding clients.

I’d much rather be a decent translator with killer marketing skills finding clients than the most awesome translator ever with no skills at finding new clients.

The first way, you’ll make money.

The second way, you won’t.

It’s as simple as that.

Here’s how to become a Chinese translation professional.

2) You have to solve a problem

Translation is just like any business.

In order to succeed, you have to solve a problem.

You have to be the solution.

And in order to do that, you have to know what problems you are trying to solve.

Do you know what your translation clients need from you? Or are you just guessing?

3) Success takes real work

It’s easy to look at successful translators and complain how they have it so easy.

How they are successful because of X, Y, or Z.

But what we don’t see are the hours of laboring in obscurity that they’ve gone through.

The frustration, wins, and losses that have hardened them to where they are now.

Don’t think that success is easy.

It takes work.

Lots of work.

And when you’ve done that, it takes even more work.

4) Tactics are for lazy people

Don’t get caught up in the entrepreneur hype when you first start out.

You know what that hype is.

“Get on Twitter!”

“You have to be on Pinterest!”

“Instagram is where it’s at!”

Instead of tactics, focus on your strategies.

Figure out your goals and make long and short-term plans to reach those goals.

The only real thing you need is your own website.

As a translator, you want a way for people to reach you, find you, and know who you are.

A professional website is the best way to do that as a translator.

I use Siteground for my websites. It’s what I recommend for all translators.

5) Professionals get paid

To be considered a professional translator, you need to learn how to get paid.

If you love translating for the fun of it, fine.

But if you want to treat it like a business, that means figuring out how to get people to pay you for your service and expertise.

Don’t feel like you have to provide free translations to your local community center just so you can “pay your dues.”

That’s stupid.

If you’re a translator, act like one.

Treat it like a business (either a full-time or side-hustle business) and do work that gives you money in return.

6) You don’t need credentials

And speaking of paying your dues, you don’t need permission to be a translator and follow these translation rules.

You don’t need a translation certification.

You don’t need another translator’s blessing.

You don’t need a college degree.

You don’t even need to have lived in a country that speaks your second language.

If your language skills are good enough, and you can market your services effectively, you’ll get paid.

7) You need a medium of communication

Remember that part about tactics?

You need a way to get your message out.

A way for potential clients to find you, trust you, and hire you.

Some people use Facebook.

Others use Twitter.

Or YouTube.

I don’t recommend any of these.


Because you don’t own any of these platforms.

You could be banned for no reason from any of these platforms and your audience would disappear overnight.

However, if you have your own website, you own the platform. You make your own translation rules.

It’s your place on the Internet.

And nobody can arbitrarily take it away from you because they disagree with your message, or any other reason.

So, get your website.

8) You don’t need fancy equipment or software

Be careful when you first start out as a beginning translator as a side hustle.

Don’t bye into the hype that you have to own the latest and greatest translation software or computer equipment.

Don’t spend $1000 on translation software before you even know if you’ve positioned yourself well enough to earn that money back.

Instead, use free options.

Your equipment doesn’t make you successful. You make yourself successful.

Then you can get the equipment to push you even further.

9) Communication is key

One of the most important translation rules for new translators is that communication is important.

Not just communication itself.

But also knowing how to communicate effectively.

As a successful translator, you will not hide behind your email.

You will not hide behind your website.

You have to be in front of customers, either in person or virtually.

Make sure you know how to talk on the phone.

Know how to use Skype or Facetime.

Understand that you need to exude confidence in yourself and the services you offer.

And that confidence has to be conveyed to your potential clients.

They don’t want to entrust their business to a loser.

Show them you are a winner by how to talk to them.

10) Don’t care what others think

As a translator just starting out, you need to not care what other people think.

You’ll have lots of people tell you that you’re wrong, or you’re wasting your life, or whatever else.

The reason they will say these things is because you will no longer fit into the mold of what they are stuck in.

They want out of their boring life.

You are trying to make something more of yourself and they don’t like it because it shows that they are lazy and not willing to work to get what they want.

11) Be prepared to put in the time

Everything worthwhile takes time.

There are no shortcuts.

If you want it, you have to be willing to work for it.

Day after day, month after month.

Year after year.

But if you’re consistent, you’ll be a success.

You’ll make it where you want to be.

Imagine yourself already there and let that give you motivation when times get hard and you feel like you’re stuck.

12) Lay off the social media

Putting in the time means making sure your efforts are directed where they need to be.

Finding clients.

Making money.

Marketing your services.


It doesn’t mean wasting time on translator forums.

It doesn’t mean wasting time on social media.

Those are time sucks.

If you want to be on social media, fine.

But don’t fool yourself into thinking your building your business by posting on Twitter or Facebook.

You can do that when you have a consistent stream of 1,000+ visits a day to your own communication media, like your own blog.

13) Look for ways to diversify

Some of the most successful translators don’t limit themselves to simply translation.

They offer complementary services.

They figure out what they enjoy and see how they can solve other problems their customers have.

When I was translating full-time, I noticed that the clients I translated for also need native language writers.

I always felt confident in my writing abilities, so I started adding that to my services offered.

Pretty soon, writing overtook my translation.

I found it more rewarding.

So I started offering it more.

I would have never evolved in that direction had I not been willing to branch out and try something new.

If you’re a translator, you can transition to a number of other ventures.

You just have to be open to the opportunities.

14) Certification is not necessary

Don’t fall into this trap.

Don’t think that you need to be certified.

Don’t think you need to have permission from anyone to start.

Just start.

Certification can be useful.

But it is not necessary.

Let me say that again.

Translation certification is not necessary to becoming a professional translator.

15) It has to be done your way

One of the final translation rules for new translators is this:

Remember that your path is and will be different than any other translator.

It will be different than mine.

It will be different than your mentor’s.

It will be different than the path of any other translator you read about online.

And that’s how it should be.

You are unique and the services you offer are unique.

Your personality makes you different than others.

That will lead to your success.

But you have to follow these translation rules.

Until next time.

FAQ – Translation Rules for New Translators

How do I get started as a new translator?

The best way to get started is to find a mentor. There are many experienced translators who offer their services online. You can also join a professional organization, such as the American Translators Association or the ATA’s Online Mentoring Program. Another great way to get started is to take a course or workshop on translation and translation rules.

How do I find clients as a new translator?

There are many ways to find clients, including online directories, job boards, and social media.One of the best ways to find clients is through networking. You can also start your own website or blog to attract clients.

What are some common mistakes that new translators make?

One of the most common mistakes that new translators make is not being prepared for the reality of the profession. Many new translators think that translation is easy and that they will be able to find work quickly. However, the reality is that translation is a challenging profession and it can take years to build up a successful business.