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How to Start a Translation Business

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If you have ever thought of it but never knew how to start a translation business in particular, today is the best time for you! While translation has always been in demand, this demand has grown largely for the past decade or so. Today, people around the world are closer than they have ever been before, largely thanks to the globalization and internet. Yet, the number of languages or dialects did not change and the language barrier is still a serious problem for many, which has now become very apparent. With only 30% of people with internet access speaking English, the need for translation services rises rapidly, so starting one creates almost limitless opportunities.

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Why Should You Consider Starting a Translation Business?

Freelance vs. Agency Translation Businesses

Steps to Blast Off: Major Stages of Translation Business Opening

Conclusion: Translating Business is a Good Idea

Why Should You Consider Starting a Translation Business?

Aside from a vast and constantly rising demand, there are a couple of more reasons for the translating business to be so profitable today. Getting back to the demand more specifically though, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a much faster than average growth of the profession. By 2028, the Bureau reports, the number of people working as translators will experience almost constant 19% annual growth. So, every year, there will be at least nineteen percent more language specialists in the United States. Just imagine how many of them will be needed by 2028 and how much they are needed today (and will be needed in the future). In addition, the population grows in terms of numbers and the concentration of native speakers. For example, considering the popularity of this language, Spanish document translation services might be the top option to aim for in the nearest future. So, going after such stats seems like a real business idea.

The second reason for the rise of translation businesses is the need for human professional translators in particular. While the translation can be done by machines quite effectively today and many companies do opt for using computers as translators, this is not a panacea. A lot of interpreting work has and can only be done by a human being.

Such jobs include editing of machine-translated text, localization, and translation of fictional works that may even contain made-up words. While those are the main two reasons for translation services growth, there are also many more, of course. They include the imperfections of machine translation in certain language pairs, the need for quality translation in particular, and the demand for certain jobs that can be done only by the human interpreter. So, the need for professional translation services online will certainly grow and you certainly should consider using such an opportunity. But how are translation businesses started in the first place and what points there are to consider? Well, the matters are not as complicated as you might think in fact. Yet, first, it is important to think whether you want to start a translation agency or a freelance platform.

Pros & Cons of Agency as a Translation Businesses

Translation can be provided by two types of businesses in most cases, a translation agency or freelance employees. Both forms have their benefits and downsides. For the agency, the benefits are:

  • You can generate more revenue as translation agencies usually charge more.
  • You will provide services faster as you can divide the work between a couple of specialists.
  • You will maintain higher quality with a separate quality assurance team.
  • You can offer additional benefits and services to your customers.

The downsides of going with the agency are essentially the flip side of the benefits as with the great quality and potentially great profit comes the great cost on the customers’ side. So, the downsides are the following:

  • You will attract considerably fewer customers at first as the cost of translation services you provide will likely be somewhat high for them. While this can be mitigated if you do some research to find translation services cost online, the risk of losing potential customers is often the highest due to the financial part of the story.
  • You might provide services faster at the cost of their quality, which may vary depending on the employees you will delegate the work between.
  • You might be able to offer only a limited number of services and translation pairs due to the limited personnel.
  • You will be much less mobile and bound to the office space, which will also create additional costs.

Benefits & Downsides of Freelance Translating Business

Running an agency might be really profitable, but it largely depends on your ability to manage the business as well as leadership skills. This is mainly why many opt for going with freelance. This option provides you with a lot of freedom indeed. You can either be your own master and work solo or create a platform and work with a community of freelancers. In either case, the benefits are:

  • Bigger profit in the long run as you do not have to pay anyone in the middle. Either you take all the money as a solo lancer or pay the fair amount only to other freelancers on your platform.
  • More consistent quality. Freelance specialists often tend to focus on their language pairs better, albeit the number of language pairs will obviously be smaller.

While the benefits do not seem like much, they are in fact more considerable in the long run. And, like with agencies, the downsides of freelancing are actually the flip side of benefits. Hence, the number of downsides will be corresponding. The challenges and issues that come with freelance work are the following:

  • Issues with customers. While translation agencies guarantee quality and rarely have any client-related issues, freelancers will likely have them due to more interpersonal nature of work.
  • A limited number of services. As freelancers tend to provide better quality, the quantity might suffer as a result. Thus, fewer services can be offered.

So, while the upsides and downsides of working with translation agencies are bigger by the numbers, they are more considerable and sensitive for freelance work. This provides you with a clearer picture of both sides and allows you to choose depending on your personal preferences. Yet, returning back to the question, what is needed to start a translation business? Well, not that much in fact. The following ten steps are often quite enough.

Major Stages of Translation Business Opening

As you have made a solid decision to start your business in the translation sphere and have settled on the form, it is time for action. Starting a translation company or agency is very similar to starting any other business for the most part. You have quite a lot of legal and economic things to consider. The following list will help you sort them out a bit.

Step 1

Have a plan. Never go to distant and unknown lands unprepared. Just before you enter the arena of translation services, you should consider quite a few economic factors. Those include your potential audience, competitors, startup costs, and ongoing costs. While this seems like much, it can be done via internet research or with the help of other specialists for rather fair compensation. The final thing to consider before you go is the translation company name. People have to know you by the name, right? This point might seem like an easy one, yet, you should still check whether there’s another firm with a similar name in your area in order to not get confused with somebody else.

Step 2

Form a legal entity. Now as you have the plan and have the business part considered, it’s time for the legal side of the story. Different legal entities have their benefits and downsides and there are quite a few of legal forms for a translation service to consider, regardless of whether you go for documents translation services or technical translations services. You can do your business as a private proprietor if you consider freelancing. Yet, if you would really like to start a translation agency or a platform in particular and work from the comfort of your office, you should consider a limited liability company or a corporation for the start.

Step 3

Register for taxes. As you register your business, you become obliged to pay taxes from what you make. There’s a lot of ways you can do that, yet, the easiest one would be applying for the employer identification number, which is also known as a Federal Tax ID and is quite self-explanatory.

Step 4

Set up a bank account. Of course, in order to delegate your finance somehow, you will need some kind of container to do that. The business bank account or a private credit card (if you opt for freelancing) would be the best choice. Additionally, you can acquire a business card if you’d like to broaden your network faster and more easily.

Step 5

Keep track of your finances. As you have opened your bank account and began earning, you have to make sure you earn the right amount and spend for the right causes. Keeping track of your earnings and expenses is mostly a matter of discipline or a good accountant, who you can hire on a freelance basis. In addition, watching your finances closely helps greatly when it comes to tax filing.

Step 6

Obtain permits and licenses. In order to provide your services legally, you have to be certified to do so. While documentation is fairly thin in the U.S., such as the Sales Tax and Service Agreement, some countries might require additional documents for you to open a translation business.

Step 7

Get business insurance. It’s always a great idea to feel safe and sound. This idea is applicable to business as well. Having your business insured, you will certainly be exposed to fewer financial risks and will always be able to recover in case of any unforeseen matters. Even if you’d like to start as a private proprietor, getting a General Liability Insurance will certainly not harm you. In case if you want to go bigger, insurance is going to be a must. Aside from protecting your business in general, you might also like to ensure the safety of your employees with Workers’ Compensation Insurance.

Step 8

Develop your brand and marketing strategy. As all formal things have been set up, it’s time to go for fun things. The opportunities here are nearly limitless and depend only on your imagination. You can try out different names, slogans, ideas for advertisement campaigns, email and social media marketing, and so on. The main thing that you have to seriously consider here is to make your customers come back. You can and should do this by providing excellent services, of course, yet, nobody’s perfect. Most of the successful translating companies strongly recommend acquiring some great communication skills in case if any conflict situations arise.

Step 9

Set up an online presence. In the modern digitally-driven world, having a website or at least a public page on social networks is a must. Remember that more than half of the world uses the internet, so that’s quite a big audience to target. By running a website or regularly posting updates or even funny memes on your social media account, you attract that audience’s attention, which, of course, increases your chances to build up the desirable profit.

Step 10

Localize your company. While you will be the one providing localization services, you have to apply them to your business as well. Localization is a very nice wrapper for what has been said above and it will make your potential customers see your company in the best light and, hence, increase your reach vastly.

Translating Business is a Good Idea

Yet, it requires you to be brave, remain patient, and constantly work on improvements. Nobody’s perfect, but you can certainly try and become at least one of the best. To do that, you have to consider quite much, do a lot, then work even more, and then make sure you present your work as best as you can only imagine yourself. That’s where all that courage, patience, an ability to self-reflect, and discipline work for you and repay you the double. The most important thing is that you should never be afraid of accepting the challenge or when you feel like getting stuck, you were brave enough to address your questions to those who might know the answers. Those are more experienced businessmen, experts in the business who share their advice online, or simply people you know. As you get yourself together, gather as much courage as you can, and make the first step, starting a translation business will not seem like an undoable thing to do.