(Confessions of a human translation tool)
I’ll only say this once: yes.
Recently this question was posed by an illustrious tweep, and pinged
in my direction.
She asked whether it would be necessary to have a (real?) job on the side.
I grew worried for myself and my partner. Three years after
going freelance, would we need to look for a job?
The answer to your question, my friend, is no.
But it’s complicated.
Second, you need to be able to translate. (I’m leaving “first” blank,
just in case.)
All of these skills help.
But apparently they are not essential. I’m just biased.
I also abide by the standards of recognised international translation
associations: only translate into your first language.
Do a translation course (Masters) if you can, get qualifications if
you can. These are preferred or essential in many countries. Japan
seems to be an exception.
My question to you is, what do you hope to translate? If you miss out on Murakami’s novel this year, will you have to keep your albeit at the conbini?
In terms of demand, translation of esoteric novels ranks low on the scale. Translation on boring business reports, meanwhile, is booming. It’s regular and people pay for it. You do the math.
I had my first break in translation working in-house in the
International Department for a prestigious Japanese university.
And I have hopped between a number of in-house positions, sometimes labelled “Editor” despite involving lots of translation.
In-between, I truly freelanced for about a year, but my former employer
wanted me back, like all my exes.
Now I’m freelance again, but as you see, I’m in France eating cheese,
so it doesn’t really count.
My partner has been totally freelance for three or four years now.
My freelance work has mostly come through a couple of translation
agencies. Apply, take their tests, register, occasionally remind them
you are alive and available. Then kick back with good cheese and wine.