Writing, Editing and Translating Your Way to Career Freedom: What You Need to Know


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The Internet has made it possible for nearly anyone to market their skill-set to others. This means that with a bit of effort and talent, one can make a career doing what they are best at. For many, this is a career in writing, editing or translation. The global nature of the Internet and the amount of content that is added to it daily makes writers/editors/translators in unbelievable demand.

General Information

How It Works

Freelancing means that the writer, editor or translator does not work for someone else. They are "free" to accept work as they find it. Freelancers may advertise, or they may use freelancing sites such as Elance or Fiverr to generate leads for their services.

The writer/editor is solely responsible for finishing the project according to client specifications. He or she must be very self-disciplined as there is no one to tell them what to do. In other words, the writer is self-employed, or they have another job and freelance on the side for extra income. No matter what the situation, the freelancer is accountable for reporting their income and paying estimated taxes as needed.

Pros/Cons

The plus side of freelancing is that one is totally free to pursue the jobs they want (even if they are not very sophisticated or even ethical). There is no set schedule and they can work from home so there is no commuting. The downside is that jobs do not just appear, one has to get out there and fight for them.

A freelancer may apply to 100 jobs and end up with none or only one of them. There will be days spent "applying" with no contracts given to him/her. Freelancing in this field is highly competitive. Many people can write, edit and translate well. Income is not necessarily steady, so one must plan ahead and save for the "lean" times.

Freelance Writing in Detail

Only about one-third of the population uses the Internet. Yet, each day over 2 million blog posts and content articles are uploaded. Further, with mobile websites becoming more and more popular, landing pages are going to need to be written. For the foreseeable future, writers will be busy. Thus, there is not a problem about anyone who wants a piece of this pie to get it.

Needed Skills:

  • Excellent grammar
  • Excellent vocabulary
  • Ability to vary sentence lengths
  • Ability to write coherently while incorporating SEO keywords
  • Self-discipline and ability to meet deadlines
  • Understand 1st, 2nd and 3rd person and write accordingly

Once a writer has hustled and received a job, it is up to them to produce. If the client does not like the finished product the writer must be willing to make reasonable changes. "Reasonable" means that the writer will be willing to change things that are on par with the original order. One of the biggest frustrations writers will deal with is clients who "change their mind". In fact, most clients are not clear about what they want or they do not know how to express it clearly. Thus, when they see a finished product, it may not match what they had in their mind and they will ask for a rewrite. Most customers do not understand how difficult it is to write an article that is fun to read, concise, and SEO (Search Engine Optimized) friendly. As a writer, one will have to "stand up for themselves" and be sure not to rewrite articles that are wholly unrelated to the original order. Writers need to be clear about their "changes or revisions" policy so that clients understand.

Finally, writers must create original pieces. "Cutting and pasting" and selling this to someone as unique content will mostly likely end up in a lawsuit. Sites like Copyscape can determine if an article is unique, and how much has been simply paraphrased from someone else's writing.

Freelance Translation in Detail

Because the Internet is accessible to people all over the world, the Tower of Babel Problem has arisen again. There are a few languages, such as English and Spanish which are considered so widely understood that students in most countries study them. But this does not mean these students become fluent or are able to conduct businesses in these languages. In other parts of the world, such as India, there are so many dialects that much translation is needed just in that country alone. In short, translators are needed. After all Google Translate can only do so much. The world needs human translators!

Needed Skills:

  • High level of spoken fluency in English, Spanish or other common language used in business
  • High level of spoken fluency in at least one language other than these
  • Ability to expresses nuances in meaning in target languages
  • Sensitivity to all cultures involved in the translation process
  • Ability to write very well in native and target languages
  • Knowledge of technical or niche vocabulary in native and target languages

Like freelance writers, translators too have to find their own work. This usually means applying for jobs at freelancing sites, or networking locally and online. Once one is established as a reliable translator, many clients will be repeat clients.

One of the most difficult parts of translation services has to do with niche vocabulary. Suppose for example that one is asked to translate at a meeting for a special education student. He/she will have to know such technical terms as "accommodation", "auditory processing deficit" and so on. The same will be true for any niche translation job.

Another difficulty will be to express sentiments without offending. For example, if in a video conference one person uses vulgar language, the translator will likely have to improvise and find another way to express the thought without profanity.

Editing Services in Detail

Most writers are not editors. It is very difficult for a writer to edit their own work. With all the writers writing content and eBooks, freelance editors too will continue to be in high demand. A freelance editor will still have to find his or her own work just like a freelance writer. But what makes this freelance job interesting is that there are so many types of editing:

1. Copy Editor: This is a person who checks grammar, spelling, punctuation and word choice. They also check facts and ensure that the piece has a comfortable flow.

2. Developmental Editor: The job here is to assist a writer from the beginning to the end of a piece. They will check facts, help plan out a storyline or outline, and otherwise check that the writing has good structure. He or she will review several drafts during the process.

3. Ghost Writer: Technically, this is an editor's job, but it may also be done by a freelance writer. A ghost writer writes the content of a book or article which will be credited to another.

Needed Skills:

  • Understanding of target audience
  • Be able to improve structure and meaning
  • Excellent vocabulary
  • Ability to pay close attention to details
  • Be comfortable with tedious work

Freelancing in these areas is a viable career for those who want it. There is plenty of work and chances to meet people from all over the world. So, go ahead. Hang your shingle and get to work doing what you love on your terms!