Lives of translators

Hey everyone, so I am studying language interpretation in college right now but was always curious about the translation profession. For those here who are translators what is life as a translator usually like? What I mean is for a translator what is a typical schedule usually like?


Hi landho. Talking about this subject, Robert has some great videos on his youtube channel. Here is the link to one of them:

He even has some videos where he is in action in the interpreter booth and everything; really good and cool to watch.

Thanks but he is talking about interpretation, I wanted to know about what it is like working as a translator, as in for instance a translator who translates through a publisher, or professionally translates documents, etc.

ad landho:

You are right, in my videos I only talk about my work as an interpreter. If you work as a translator your daily routine will mostly depend on the type of translations you do and the kind of clients you work for. I used to work for the European Patent Office for about 10 years and during that time I sometimes had to hand in translations the same day and sometimes I was given a deadline of one month. I now mostly work for law firms (as a translator). These people are always under a lot of time pressure and this certainly also has an impact on your schedule as a translator.

I normally try to limit the time in front of the computer to 8 to 10 hours a day, but I sometimes have to work 14 hours a day, on weekends and on holidays. Due to different time zones it may be necessary for me to get up at 4 am my local time to be able to finish a translation that I need to hand in at 8 am local time of my customer.

There are days when I am so tired that I only manage to translate for 4 hours and try to do some administrative work during the rest of the day. If you work on a freelance basis you must not forget that you also need to answer e-mails, talk to your clients on the phone, submit offers, reply to inquiries, prepare invoices, glossaries, do proofreading, etc.

If you work as an in-house translator you mostly have little influence on the kind of source text you are given. Theoretically, people should only work in their “field of specialty” but in real life you will be given any kind of text the agency you work for needs to have translated for its client. They will try to match your technical background and experience with the source text, but if the going gets tough you will just have to deal with whatever text they give to you.

Pay normally is lower for in-house translators compared to what you may be able to earn on a freelance basis, always provided you get enough clients and they stay with you because they appreciate the quality of your work.

Working for publishing houses is very demanding but does not pay well. Publishing houses generally pay per page (including research work, proofreading, etc.) while for other translations you normally get paid per so-called standard line of the target text (e. g. in Germany, Austria) or per words/per thousand words of the source text (e. g. UK, US, Italy, etc.).

It is no secret that translators are better paid in German speaking countries than in many other European countries. Switzerland, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria are much better “markets” than let’s say Spain, Italy, Greece, Poland, the UK, etc. I’m afraid I can’t tell you why but that’s the way it is. Rates in North America usually are also lower.

Normally translators work into their mother tongue only (while interpreters usually are expected to work both ways). If they translate into a foreign language they will have to make sure their translations are proofread by an experienced native speaker.

Working as a freelance translator will allow you to work from any place you want as long as you have access to the Internet and can communicate with your clients. Of course, you need to be available at times that are convenient for them. I sometimes spend months abroad working for my clients at home. You can adapt your daily work routine to your own personal schedule as long as you manage to hand in the translations by the deadline set by your client. My client does not care if I work during the day, in the evening or in the early morning hours, the only thing he cares about is high-quality work submitted in time.

I hope this gives you a rough idea of what the work of a translator is like. You may get more information on sites such as, etc. I’m sure there is also a professional association of translators in your country where you can find more information (either on their website or through some newsletters etc.).

Very interesting, Robert. I’ve done a bit of translation from Japanese to English, but I’d like to do more. I’ll have to improve my level first though, as I’m only comfortable translating simple, general things like travel brochures. I don’t have a specialty either, which will hurt me, so we’ll see what happens!