Becoming a professional translator is all about loving what your job. If you don’t like Japanese, Italian or German (for example), you are likely to burn out and look for an alternative career down the line.
However, one of the more exciting prospects of being a professional translator is the ability to specialize in a certain field. You can choose a number of fields and translation types that will make you unique among your colleagues. Let’s take a look at several examples of careers that you may want to consider:
- Medical translation in Spanish language
- Technical document translation in Chinese language
- Copywriting with translation and localization for German and Scandinavian languages
The list goes on and on without any signs of stopping. This means that the prospect of being “a translator” isn’t as simple or straightforward as many people assume. With that said, I’m about to list several reasons as to why a specialized translation career makes sense both from a personal and a professional standpoint.
- Clear career path
Seeing that you specialized in civil engineering translation or legal document translation means that you know where your career is headed. You can easily identify seminars, conferences and meet ups that are relevant to your work.
This is a benefit that general translators generally (pun intended) don’t have access to. Having a clear career development path based on your choice of translation niche will save you a lot of time and energy – not to mention the added points and references in your resume.
- Higher pricing range
Being a specialized translator with access to resources and knowledge unbeknownst to other translators makes you special in the clients’ eyes. You are solely capable of translating that difficult legal document into Greek (for example) like no other translator out there.
You can safely bump up your prices and make much more money than before. It goes without saying that the quality of your work should (and will) reflect the price point you set out to achieve. After all, you are a professional in your niche.
- Establishing niche authority
Niches owe their name to an Italian renaissance architectural ideology in which separate art guilds had separate spaces to show off their work in public places. This means that every “niche” had a unique work of art displayed for everyone to see. As it turns out, the logic applies to professional translation as perfectly as it did in the 16th century.
Once you establish yourself as a reliable, capable and willing professional in a narrow translation niche – the work will come by itself. Word spreads around very quickly in small industries with only a few stakeholders (who more than likely cooperate on some level). In practice this means that you will always have a source of work in some form or another because just like your clients, you are a niche professional yourself.
- Shorter turnaround times
Professional translators who specialize in certain areas will most likely run into clients that know exactly what they need. This is one of the most important benefits of opting for a specialized translation career path rather than keeping things general.
Clients that work in small niches usually know what, why and how they want their translation or localization to look like. They are also much easier to work with since you will already be familiar with the industry and the terminology required towards getting the job done successfully. If working in a slightly less stressful environment means something for you as a person, this one should definitely be taken into account.
- Well-informed audience
Lastly, the audience involved in consuming your translation will more than likely consist of industry professionals as well. For example, translating medical, legal or technical documents into different languages means that they are meant for trained eyes. This means that you can look forward to understanding, well-informed and patient readers that look forward to reading your texts.
It’s also quite possible to receive critical and positive feedback about your work for the betterment of your professional experience as a result. If the audience you write for means something to you as a translator, opting for a specialized career route might just be the best solution for you.
Making sense of it all (Conclusion)
It’s easy to tell someone else that a life choice “makes sense” – after all, your choices will reflect your career moving forward. Translators who are not excited about their jobs anymore or feel that the process is getting stale need to change things up.
Specializing in a certain translation area doesn’t mean that you are shutting yourself off from the rest of the translation community. Taking on regular work on the side is still a viable choice from time to time, however specialized you may be.
Kristin Savage has graduated from Columbia University where she was majoring in Germanic Languages. Besides English as her mother tongue she also speaks German and Dutch fluently. Currently Kristin is studying Spanish and planning to obtain her PhD in Applied Linguistics since she is interested in how to use her to some extent practical knowledge of language processes in everyday life. She is known for her thorough approach to all the tasks and aspiration to fulfill assignments with flying colors.