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How do I Start a Translation Business?

Fluency in two languages is an asset. Fluency in multiple languages can be a very remunerative asset. A freelancer that offers a video transcription service, for example, stands to make good money. Such a service, along with regular translation services, has significant market potential.

Technology still plays a crucial role in the translation process, but human translators are invaluable assets. These translators ensure quality and accuracy, things that translation software has yet to perfect.

Burgeoning international trade and globalization have created a massive demand for translation services. A few decades ago, a small business could not dream of scaling its operations beyond regional borders. Such was the reality that many small business proprietors did not have ambitions of conquering overseas markets. Increased immigration and closer economic ties between countries now necessitate document translation.

Economic projections predict a significant upswing in the translation service industry.

Starting a translation business involves the following steps:

1)Business Plan

It’s perplexing how many people dream up ideas and expect to implement their ideas without a definitive plan. Even with the perfect business idea, you must strategize. A clear course of action means you’ll know what works and what requires improvement.

In the case of a translation business, the initial startup costs are varied. If you plan to start as a freelancer that markets their services, these startup costs are very minimal. All you would require are some equipment like a computer with a reliable internet connection, a printer, and some good lighting. Cheap, professional translation software can cost about $200.  However, starting as an agency requires additional costs. These additional costs should also include :

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  • Payment of the human translators
  • Office space and furniture
  • Stationery

Identifying your ideal customers and their pain points is crucial to your translation business. People in the legal profession, for example, may require a different kind of translation service than, say, an export trader. Identifying the type of customers you’ll serve helps you to focus your marketing and advertising campaigns. All your initial startup costs plus your target industry will influence the price for your translation services. If your locale or submarket is heavily saturated, then you won’t make any significant profits.

A business name is also a serious issue to consider. Registering your translation business under your own name can have serious consequences. It can lead to the seizure of your personal property in the event of a lawsuit directed at your translation business.

2) Registration for Tax Purposes

Local and federal taxes may differ. Ensure that your translation business complies with all such laws.

3) Creating a Business Account

Protecting your personal assets is crucial. It’s advisable to use a dedicated bank account and credit account for the business. These accounts enable you to build business credit which can be very valuable for your translation business. As a business owner, you need protection from liabilities if your translation service gets sued. This protection from liability is known as ‘maintaining the corporate veil.’ Proprietors must separate their business dealings from their personal finances.

4) Acquiring the Necessary Licenses

Many businesses may unwittingly run afoul of the tax regulations in their local area. Ensure that your translation business is properly licensed. You can get all the necessary permits through your local council office or any local tax office. Some business owners mistakenly assume that setting up their services online exempts them from certain taxes. Make sure your online translation business complies with all tax laws. Failure can usually be very costly in terms of hefty fines or closure of your business.

As a side note, you should draft a service agreement that clients should sign. Such a document clarifies expectations and ensures that critical details of the agreement are addressed. A typical service agreement includes payment terms, intellectual property rights, and ways of airing grievances and settling disputes.

5) Get Business Insurance

Much like getting the necessary licenses, ensure that your translation business has reliable business insurance. Some regions require these kinds of business insurance. Start with a general liability insurance policy. Such a policy covers small business needs. Later on, your translation business may need a different type of policy, like a workers’ compensation policy.

6) Define your Brand

A strong brand means more business for your translation agency. When starting, you may not be a household name yet. Try to build relationships with institutions that may require your services. Government agencies, corporations, legal firms, and hospitals are all potential clients. You can start by offering limited free translation services for charitable causes or subcontracting your service to an established freelancer. With time you will gain credibility and enough visibility.

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Christophe Rude

Christophe Rude

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