I do freelance Chinese to English translation for about 20 different translation agencies based in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Florida (some of those 20 agencies give me lots of work every month, while the rest send me the odd small job interspersed with the odd big one).
This week one of my agency clients asked me to give them recommendations for translators because they’re so hard up. They need people. I gave them my list of 5 personally approved C-E translators (ironlady, you’re one of them!), while once again turning down yet another assignment from them because I’m just too busy.
I started this topic and told you all that to tell you this: there’s a future in freelance Chinese to English translation if you are good enough and really want it. China’s growing economic importance and overall influence don’t hurt my field, I’ll tell ya. But here’s another aspect: I’m getting a sense that many people are willing to pay four times as much money to an agency in New York for a native English-speaking translator (me) in order to have the job done right, because they know that the “English-speaking” translator in China working for peanuts is a “monkey.” If your Chinese comprehension and English writing skills are both up to par, you can make a go of it in this business because the customers are there.
Just give yourself five years. I think five is the magic number when it comes to how many years you need to get good and established. For those first few years you might not make much money (I didn’t), but I’m currently writing this from the house I bought using the proceeds of my earnings. Learn Chinese well, practise translating simple sentences from textbooks to see if you have any aptitude for it, help your Taiwanese friends out at their companies by editing the English materials they want to send overseas, and who knows? You may have found yourself a career.
Caveat: you gotta really want it. There are no half measures in this business.