5 things I hate about being a translator

5 Things I Hate About Being A Translator

What’s to hate about being a translator? You get to work from home, choose your own hours and get up when you like. You even get to cherry-pick projects and live your life by making a career from your language skills. Right?

Well, yes, but…not quite. Whilst some of the perceived benefits of being a translator may appear attractive to outsiders and newcomers to the industry, being a translator is not all plain-sailing.

Don’t get me wrong, a career as a translator does have its perks. But like any job, there will be days when you wonder why you bother. This article looks at the five of the things you will probably hate about being a translator – so, if you are contemplating a career in the translations industry, this is what you can expect and if you’re already a professional linguists you have probably experienced some of these…


what I hate about being a translator


1. Tight deadlines

The perceived benefit of working on projects you want and choosing your own hours is not strictly true. Yes, you do have some freedom to choose which clients you work with, and if you want a lie-in, ordinarily you can.

But sometimes, tight deadlines get in the way. And you do have bills to pay…

Working as a professional translator involves more than running through a document and translating the gist of it. If you want to maintain a career as a freelance translator, you have to be able to deliver high quality translations on time. And that often requires putting in long hours in to meets deadlines.

To make a living as a translator – and still have a social life – requires speed and effective means of working. Although this is very personal and would vary from person to person, as a new translator you should be aiming to translate about 1,500-2000 words in seven or eight hours. Once you have some experience, you need to be hitting 2000+ words in the same time frame.

It’s also important to remember not to sacrifice time for quality. When working on a project with a tight deadline, give yourself plenty of time to make sure you meet it. To make a living as a freelance linguist you need to retain your best clients, and when you deliver high-quality translations on time, you will get repeat work.


2. Finding the right balance

Choosing your own projects and working hours might seem like a paradise to an outsider, however, only expert linguists will understand how difficult it can be at times to find the right balance between work load and social life. Often, translators must sacrifice precious sleep-ins and social events to complete projects. Whilst you want to try and find a good work-life proportions, it’s not always easy to forgo jobs and still hit your earnings target for the month.

A number of linguists, especially those without years of experience, find it difficult to find clients who they would be able to work on regular basis with at rates which will allow them to make a comfortable living.

Most clients, especially individual clients from the private sector, who perhaps do not fully understand the effort linguists must put into their work, aren’t willing to pay high rates. If you need to hit your bottom-line every month, you sometimes have to take on more work than you would like. Even experienced translators who aren’t working with agencies on regular basis sometimes have this problem.

If you’re a fairly new to the translation industry and are still searching for clients, you will be faced with the dilemma of taking on enough work which will allow you to meet your monthly income targets and keeping the workflow under control, which will allow you to provide the highest quality of work, and consequently allow you to build your personal brand up and find regular clients, which would be beneficial in the long run.


3. Late payments

Late payments or even unpaid invoices from clients can be a real problem, and unfortunately many of us know this from our personal experience. Inevitably, you’ll find yourself waiting for a client to cash in when you need the cash the most. A solution to this would be working with a reputable translation agency on regular basis, a solution which in today’s saturated market is a privilege for many.


4. Translating jokes and idioms

Translating jokes and idioms, even for the most talented and experienced linguists can be a nightmare. Frequently, the problem with jokes is that they simply don’t translate. Oftentimes, there is no context to the joke and the translator must make up a punchline which will work in your target language. This is not easy and requires not only excellent language skills, but also a lot of creativity.

Another aspect to bear in mind when translating humour are the cultural and local references a linguist must be able to navigate.

This can be true even when watching comedy in the same language. For example, an audience in the US does not always understand the sarcastic humour of British comedy, and vice versa. Imagine the problems when the languages are differen

Similar problems can be encountered when translating idioms. Popular expressions and figures of speech do not translate well unless they are already a cliché in another country. ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’ – try translating that literally…


5. People who think translating is easy

I’ve lost count of the number of times people asked me if ‘being translator is my proper job or just a hobby?’ Just because we work from home, some people annoyingly automatically assume that translating is an easy job. It’s not, I dare them to try it…


As I stated at the beginning of this article, quality translations require more than extracting the general meaning of a document. The standards you are required to achieve as a professional freelance translator require hard work and years of studying, not only the language itself, but also other factors which can directly affect the translation, such as country’s culture.

Your ability as a polyglot is earned. You deserve to have some freedom to choose a job you love, and anybody who tells you translating is easy can…well, stop.

If you’re thinking about becoming a translator and came across this article, please don’t let it put you off. Just about every career has things you will hate, and the translation industry is no exception. There is also plenty to love about being a professional translator, and soon we will also write about that, so stay tuned.