Guidance for new practitioners

Starting out in a new field is always daunting. Below is some information on language practice that will help newcomers to the profession or prospective practitioners.

The demand for language practitioners:

In 2012, the government passed the Use of Official Languages Act (Act 12 of 2012), which came into operation in May 2013. This legislation requires various government structures to set up language units, which in turn influences the demand for language services, especially in the indigenous languages. Thanks to globalisation there is also a demand in our country for translation between local and foreign languages.

However, one must not expect to enter the freelance market and be flooded with work immediately. It takes years to build up a successful practice, and many people start on a part-time basis until their client base is large enough to support a full-time practice. There is a huge untapped market for language services, if potential clients can be educated and convinced of the need for these services.

Starting out in the language practice business is not easy. Here are some tips for becoming more successful:

  • Join SATI and other professional bodies in your field.
  • Mix with others in the profession, e.g. at SATI chapter meetings.
  • Have yourself listed in translator directories such as SATI’s database.
  • Get accredited. SATI offers accreditation in various fields of language practice. Some overseas associations also offer accreditation to foreign members.
  • Promote the fact that you are a member of relevant professional associations and the fact that you are accredited.
  • If you are not accredited or just starting out, find an established translator to work with, who can mentor and train you.
  • Identify potential clients’ needs and approach them with solutions.
  • Advertise as widely as possible, also on the Internet, e.g. in SATI’s online database.
  • Do volunteer work for clubs, interest groups, friends, etc. to gain experience and references.
  • Do not be shy about using any contacts you have.

How much should I charge?

People who are new to the profession often want to know what to charge. Translation operates on free market principles, and practitioners can charge and pay as much as they see fit. There should, however, be a balance between the cost and the service delivered and a correlation with charges in similar professions. This is a professional service and clients should expect to remunerate a language practitioner accordingly.

SATI undertakes surveys among its members to indicate the going rates in this profession. However, these surveys are only guidelines, because SATI does not set recommended rates (it is illegal to do so).

Join the SATI Emerging practitioners Chapter:

For more information go to our Chapters page.