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7 Unspoken Skills Translators Absolutely Need

Language and translation skills are pivotal for freelance translators who want to provide professional translations to their clients. But other skills are also of utmost importance to make a difference and consolidate a sustainable and profitable independant business.

Here are seven skills that are often overlooked when starting a translation activity.


Most translators are curious, open to the world and always on the lookout for language evolutions and communication habits.
Good translators are indeed intrinsically curious about the different contexts of the texts they are translating. They appreciate researching source terms, finding reference documents or sources that will help them better understand the stakes, logics and vocabulary of their clients' text.


Most sought-after translators have long ago adopted a customer-oriented approach.
Indeed, not only should translators show empathy to understand their clients' needs and do their best to meet their project requirements, but it is highly appreciated that they feel and behave as in-house resources that would work from home. It does not mean that translators need to submissively say "yes" to any request or condition, but that they should pay close attention to the human dimension of their mission – being professionally friendly, sometimes flexible, always trustworthy and willing to walk the extra mile when needed.


Experienced translators have a strong sense of initiative, they do not passively type words one after another.
Translators should be able to take initiatives: check a term that seems inconsistent with the rest of the source text, feel confident to report any potential error to their client or suggest a change, solution or process to solve issues that put a curb on the translation process. Indeed, translators are the most valuable proofreaders of a source text. They should therefore feel entitled to report any doubt, improvement or mistake they find while translating.


Translators who make a living in the translation industry know that paradoxically their job is about time and efficiency.
Not only do they know how to manage their time and share it among the different non-productive tasks of a freelance (business development, administration, IT-management, project management...), but they are used to translate any quote that has been accepted into a time-budget equivalent.


As freelance professionals, most translators learn to resist the most frightening aspect of freelancing: the resistance to uncertainty.
Translators usually have a very short vision on their schedule of the week to come, as well as on their future monthly or yearly income. This is a potentially stressful situation that should be taken into account when freelancing, and a mental strength that translators need to reinforce.


Translators should absolutely be detail-oriented, mainly because professional translation is all about details. This concerns linguistic details, of course, but project-related details also, as well as cultural details, DTP details and other IT-related details.
Translators need to pay attention to all the details of the source text, but should also remain focused on the details of their translation. This double layer of attention to detail can be challenging to some translators, but are an essential aspect of a professional translator's daily job.


Freelance translators are real pros at being extremely focused, while simultaneously being able to multi-task.
Indeed, clients and project managers often expect prompt (if not immediate) answers to their email. This specific aspect of the industry implies that translators should remain totally concentrated on their project when translating, while constantly keeping an eye on their mailbox and interrupting their work to send out answer.

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