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More Than Just Translating: Work Speed as a Freelance Linguist

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

Not long ago, we talked about the importance of feedback from previous clients and keeping a 'priority list' when applying to agencies as a freelance translator. Well, today we're going further in that direction as our job application email starts taking shape. There are some 'peculiar' metrics you should add to your email, such as work speed. Let's see the key areas to improve that. This is more than just translating.

Words per Day Processed Matter

Now, agencies have different parameters to assess your competence. One of those metrics might be words per day. Particularly useful if you're applying to a big agency that works with heavy workloads on a daily basis.

Especially if related to your specific field of expertise, adding the number of words per day that you're able to complete helps with giving the recruiter a clear picture of the candidate - you.

I can't stress it enough: in the end, what really matters to the recruiter is seeing if you're able to do the job. The clearer you are, the better. And keeping stuff short makes it easier for everyone.

Now, there are some rare cases where I prefer to write a super customized email (and the criteria to use to pick such cases is very personal). Well, in that case, most of the stuff here doesn't really apply - and we'll get there in a future post.

But, given that many job applications are 'regular' for me, I just give it the appropriate time and effort for the application process. So, for almost all of my job applications, I just add 'up to 10,000 words a day'. In your case, add the number of words you're able to work with.

Key Areas to Improve Your Translation Speed

As you have noted, 'up to 10,000 words a day' is really a lot. I can reach that amount for multiple reasons.

  • That speed applies to post-editing work (i.e., MTPE). Most translators are reluctant to do MTPE, and I'll give you my very different perspective on the industry and MTPE in a future post.

  • I can reach an objectively high speed because I'm a touch typist, and a very fast one too. Basically, I type fast and never look at the keyboard. It's a valuable skill you can also learn with courses.

  • While translating/post-editing/proofreading/etc. I try to automate tasks as much as possible. This means everything from learning and using keyboard shortcuts for the operating system and software to benefiting from templates and automated processes of CAT tools.

  • I said 'up to'. That's just the max amount I ever reached. Actually, it's closer to 8k words per day for MTPE and 4k for translation. Still a lot, but with this little trick I give a better impression.

All those things are extremely valuable to know. You'll not only work faster and reach higher rates for each client but also complete their jobs faster and take on multiple clients in parallel and for bigger projects.

More Than Just Translating

We'll explore each of those points during our journey with this blog. There's really a lot of stuff most translators don't ever say - but I'll give you the tools you need to improve in each of these very different aspects of this job. It's really more than just being a translator.

See you soon!



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