How to Choose a Specialization for Your Freelance Translation Career

Jun 15, 2018

Content how to choose a specialization for your freelance translation career

A way of increasing your earnings as a freelance translator is by specializing in a certain field.

What Is Field of Specialization?

Field of specialization in translation means that as a translator you put your focus on one specific area or niche and learn as much as possible about it in both the source and target language.

The primary motivation for specializing is to minimize competition as a translator. When you have less competition, you can charge even higher rates, make much more money and you do not have to wrestle with general subject matter professional translators offering services on those online platforms.

There are many paths of picking specialized fields of translation. Let’s explore each of them/

Online Classes

The traditional institutions of higher learning which have joined the online education market are now offering these translation certificate programs. Good examples are the University of Arizona Online Translation Certificate and the specialized course in financial translation from Udemy.

The merits to an online degree or certificate include:

  • Online courses are less expensive than traditional ones
  • The convenience of not having to show up anywhere means you can take classes on your own time.
  • There are more specialized translation fields of expertise. Since there are varieties of specializations, you need not pick an area you have no interest. For instance, if your interest is business translation, you can skip medical translation classes

The demerits to an online degree are:

  • Limited quality. There are not many specialized courses at the moment.
  • There are more prohibitions against beginner translators

College Classes

This is probably the most automatic path to specialization. You go to school and take classes. You get a certification to prove you know the subject matter well. There are now several university certification programs that offer specialized translation certifications like the University of Texas at Austin Medical Interpreter Certificate Program, University of Louisville Certificate in Translation and Interpreting. In these institutions, there is a list of translation specialization you can pick up from.

The merits of a college degree or certificate include:

  • It looks nice
  • It is a confidence booster

The demerits to the college certificate are:

  • It is a very expensive program
  • It takes a lot of time. These programs take three months. It means that you have to physically show up for all that time at the venue where the classes are offered. This could be counterproductive.
  • There are no guarantees of landing translation jobs upon completion.


Having real-life experience in a particular area of specialization usually sets you on the path to becoming a specialized translator. You may have learned and worked on that specific subject extensively. A translator who has a wealth of experience is the best possible option for translation clients. They have a lucrative translation career in their translation fields of expertise.

The advantages of experience include:

  • Having specialized industry knowledge puts you in a better position than a translator with knowledge but has no particular specialization.
  • Relatability. Being experienced gives you an edge over potential clients. You have dealt with and worked with them. You are in a much better position to understand what they want, what they need and what they mean when they are saying certain things.

The disadvantage of experience:

  • Time. Many beginner translators lack the patience to get the experience needed to be good at a specific area of specialization. They do not want to spend time getting that experience.

Online Platforms

You can learn a lot about how to be a translation guru in any field via YouTube. You can watch as many videos as you can and learn as much as you want to.

The advantages of using online platforms:

  • They are free. It doesn’t cost you a dime to get on YouTube.
  • Many topics. You can learn as much as you need on a variety of fields.

Demerits to online platforms

  • You might not inspire the confidence of potential clients by candidly admitting to learning stuff by watching YouTube videos. You will need to create another way to market you specialization service.
  •  Time-consuming. By its nature watching a couple of videos online takes a lot of time before they can help you master the content thoroughly.

In conclusion, you can make plenty of choices as you seek a path to become a specialized translator. All you need to do is to weigh your option very carefully.