2.1 Decide on the Subject Matter(s) to Specialize In
Your specialization in a field or industry will directly affect the speed and fluency with which you translate. An individual cannot translate that which they do not understand, and researching terms or concepts takes up time.
Choose your specialization areas wisely as you will likely find that it is much easier to translate a document that is written in a subject or field that interests you. A translator may specialize in a number of fields, or focus mainly on one, but your specializations will affect the jobs that you receive. Try not to list too many specialties.
Promoting that you specialize in ten fields will lose you credibility, plus you don’t want to be assigned projects that will haunt you because you claimed to be knowledgeable in that field. But if you are looking to diversify your fields, training in various specialization areas is available through online courses, workshops and seminars.
Choosing Your Specialty
Let's agree that it is impossible for you to become a medical-expert translator overnight. Being expert in something requires many years of study and practice. This said, it will be much easier for you to become an expert in a field you already study.
So, translators who have undergraduate studies should choose to work with their already acquired knowledge. A few examples: a paralegal who becomes an expert translator for law firms, a web developer who changes career to software translation, and a nurse who becomes a medical translation expert.
Previous knowledge is just part of the equation. We don't want you to specialize in a field unless you actually like it. Affinity will help you stick to a certain field and improve the pleasure you will derive from translation.
Don't be a "do them all" translator. Specialist translators will perceive a substantially higher compensation. Try to stick to a specific niche and don't deviate no matter how much your clients ask you to do so. "Real specialist translators" command respect from translation agencies and the best translation rates possible.
More technical fields are better compensated. And, between the technical specialties some are better compensated than others. Financial translation, for instance, would command a higher rate than "general business translation" does. Consider how a field of knowledge will evolve over time. The more sought-after a field of knowledge and the fewer the translations specializing on it, the higher the rates will be.
Instructions to Follow
- If you have studied a subject matter such as engineering, law or business in college, this would be a natural candidate for your specialty. A specialty aligned with your college degree will look much more credible to potential translation clients
- If you didn't study a specialized subject matter in college (e.g.: you have a degree in 'Translation Studies' or 'English Language' or 'French Language'), then you may choose a subject matter more interesting to you
- Remember that the more difficult the subject matter, the less competition you will face. A translator specializing in 'clinical trials', for instance, should face less competition than someone focused on 'general business'.
- Go read our next chapter: 2.2 Get the Most Out of Your StudiesOr see index for the Ultimate Guide for Becoming a Freelance Translator