Working as a certified translator – everything you need to know

What is certified translation and when do you need to use it?

In today’s fast paced, globalized and internationalised world, certified translation services have become an inseparable part of our lives. Whether it’s in our professional or personal life, translating and certifying documents is an everyday occurrence for many people. 

Certified language translators are at the very forefront of providing this service. They use their linguistic skills and knowledge in order to convert written documents from one language into another, keeping the meaning of the translated text as close as possible to the original file. 

If you’re interested in becoming a professional translator or want to learn more about certified translations – keep reading! In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what’s actually involved in working as an accredited translator, what the responsibilities and salary you can expect and what legal memberships are necessary in order to provide this service. 

Types of certified document translation

In the United Kingdom, officially certified translators who provide this service are able to work with a variety of documents, which makes the job truly interesting. From legal firms, private clients and financial companies – as an accredited translation supplier, you can expect to come across projects from a broad range of professional fields and clients, which can include documents such as:

  • Legal documents
  • Marketing & advertising campaigns
  • Financial papers
  • Medical records
  • Technical documentations
  • E-commerce materials

Additionally, certified translators and linguists can also expect to work with specific projects from the media & literary areas, for example, translating books or subtitling movies or translating dialogues in programmes or video games. 

The responsibilities of a certified translator

Being an official translator can be a truly rewarding job, however, it also comes with a lot of responsibilities. At this point, it’s key to mention that certified translators are legally accountable for the content of the documents they converted. This means, that they are responsible for ensuring that the translated text is a true and accurate representation of the original document. They are not able to alter or change any content and can only convert it into the target language. As a certified translator, your responsibilities will also include:

  • Following high-quality standards to ensure ethical obligation to the customer
  • Become a specialist in your given translations field
  • Work with clients to clarify any unclear points
  • In order to help efficiency, use tools such as Trados
  • Provide quotation and expected turnaround times for translating documents
  • Meet all agreed deadlines and price quotations

Now, let’s talk about the salary…

Generally speaking, certified translators and linguists can expect very competitive salaries. As a rule of thumb, the rates are often calculated according to the total wordcount within the original file. The final rate however, depends on a wide range of factors, which can directly or indirectly influence your income. 

For example, and this is perhaps fairly obvious, your experience will have an impact on how much you can charge for your translations. Of course, the more experience you have and the more documents you have translated, the higher your rates can be.

Interestingly, another factor which can directly influence your rate per word is the language pair you translate. Certain languages, for example French, German, Polish or Spanish tent to be slightly cheaper due to the number of suppliers available. Languages such as Japanese, Danish or dialects which are perhaps somewhat more unusual can be charged at higher prices.  

Your specialty will also come into play when setting your rates. For instance, if you’re an expert in advertising/PR translations, you can charge higher rates, as marketing materials tend to be more difficult to translate than legal or financial papers. This type of content tends to involve more creativity, thinking outside the box and is often also influenced by cultural factors, which you’ll have to understand and take into account. As a result, the price translators charge per word for this type of work is generally higher.  

Working hours

The working hours for a certified translator can depend on whether you decide to work as an in-house translator, or a freelance linguist. Of course, if you decide to work within a company, your working hours will be set by the contract. If, however, you decide to work as a freelance certified translator, your working hours can depend on the amount and type of work you decide to take on. It’s also key to mention, that freelance translators must be able to manage several different projects at a time.

Where to find work as a certified translations provider

In today’s economy, certified translation services are once again becoming a key part of most international business ventures. In the UK, after Brexit and a world-wide pandemic, things are slowly started going back to their normal self. We have, in fact, previously written about the economic impact Brexit has on UK based business and the global economy in general. 

The majority of certified and legalised translators are self-employed. As a result, they are responsible for finding their own work and projects. This, nonetheless, allows them to work across different types of translations and partner with a wide range of agencies, companies and brands. Interestingly, a number of government agencies and public sector organisations such as MI5, MI6 or police also work with professional linguists, and so a number of translators choose to go down that route. Your success in the industry can truly depend on the languages you translate as well as any sector expertise you possess. 

Additionally, there are also specialist translation agencies, which partner with certified linguists. If you decide to work with such company, they will provide you with projects regularly (giving that you meet their quality expectations), however, your charges will need to be lower in order to compensate for this. 

Professional organisations and memberships for translators

As a certified translator, you’ll be expected to follow strict guidelines and meet the highest industry standards. In order to prove to the potential clients or employers that you are in fact, a professional linguist, you should register with legal bodies.

In the United Kingdom, we recognise associations such as CIOL (Chartered Institute of Linguists) or ITI (Institute of Translation & Interpreting). By becoming a member of such bodies, you’ll stand out from the crowed in a saturated market and be able to showcase your professional approach to translations. You can learn more about becoming an officially chartered translator here.

A quick summary

As you can see, working as an officially registered and certified translator can be truly rewarding. From being able to consistently work with some of the biggest global brands to having a very competitive salary – the translation industry has a lot of benefits. 

It is, nonetheless, a fast paced, stressful and often tense industry to enter. It is also extremely competitive, especially if you translate a popular language. This means that in order to become a successful linguist, you must specialise in a particular type of documents, allowing your clients or agencies to approach you directly, and consider you an expert in the field.