Start a translation agency by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your translation agency. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a translation agency?
The costs of opening a translation business are minimal, since it isn’t necessary to rent office space. You’ll need to invest in office furniture, good lighting, a computer with high-speed internet service and a good all-in-one printer. Building a library of reference materials such as dictionaries and grammar books is also a wise initial investment. There is also professional translation software available, the cost of which ranges from between $200 and $1000.
What are the ongoing expenses for a translation agency?
Ongoing expenses for a translation business include:
- Internet connection
- Office supplies
- Payment for freelancers
- Advertising and promotions
- Continuing education and certification in a greater number of areas of expertise
- Maintaining current research and reference materials
Who is the target market?
Preferred clients are people able to effectively communicate their needs as well as negotiate and adhere to the terms of a contract for translation services.
How does a translation agency make money?
A translation business makes money by charging a fee for translating various types of documents. Depending on the length and complexity of the document, fees may be either by the hour or by the assignment.
How much can you charge customers?
A survey of the American Translators Association concluded that the average freelance translator makes approximately $64,000 per year. While there is no set rate, it’s estimated that 11 cents per word is an approximate industry average. Many translators choose to charge by the page, rather than the word. The rate for translating a document depends on a number of factors including the word count or length of the document, the complexity of the information, and how much research is required. Another factor is how quickly the client needs the document, with rush jobs generally commanding a higher price.
How much profit can a translation agency make?
Translators can earn from $30,000 to $80,000 per year, depending on experience, location, and the volume of work available. As a sole proprietor working alone, your business is confined to your own language skills and areas of expertise. As the owner of a translation agency, you can either hire employees or contract with other freelancers with experience in other languages and specialties, such as commercial, technical, medical or legal documents.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Offering localization services, which involves using local idioms and creating visual content to accompany the translated information, is one way to make your business more profitable. International businesses require information about their goods and services in the languages of every country in which they hope to conduct business to succeed. There are many different niches in the translation industry, including business, education, government, and the healthcare industry. Specializing in specific types of documents such as business contracts, educational content, medical transcripts, or advertising materials can substantially increase your profits. Many translators also expand their operations to providing subtitles for audio/visual multimedia presentations. The worthy goal of any translation business is making valuable information available to the greatest number of people possible.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Translation Agency Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your translation agency is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
A translation agency requires a business license. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed inUS Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Translation businesses should consider requiring clients to sign a service agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership. Here is an example service agreement.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your translation business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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How to promote & market a translation agency
The global marketplace is expanding, and translation services are in high demand for both government agencies and international corporations. Introducing yourself to the directors of communications of businesses and agencies that frequently require translation services is the first step. Creating a database of potential clients such as healthcare organizations, law firms, financial institutions will enable you to send them e-mails, brochures, and other promotional materials periodically. Those materials should include information about your qualifications and areas of expertise.
How to keep customers coming back
There are a number of ways a translation business can attract and retain customers, including volunteering your services to charitable community organizations. You can also subcontract your services at a slightly lower rate to other translators until you’ve built a solid professional reputation. Your business should appear in the Yellow Pages and any local directories even though translation businesses also operate online and many assignments aren’t limited to a specific geographic area. That’s why it’s important to build a professional website and maintain a strong online presence, complete with testimonials from satisfied customers.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Start A Translation Agency In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
This business is ideal for those who speak more than one language and have a desire to contribute to achieving greater understanding and cooperation between people of different cultures.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a translation agency?
The day to day activities of a translation business owner might include:
- Negotiating contracts with clients and other translators
- Translating documents
- Maintaining business records
- Preparing invoices
- Bookkeeping and accounting
- Utilizing reference materials
- Seeking out and contacting potential clients
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful translation agency?
Some of the skills essential for building a successful translation business are:
- Extensive knowledge of another language
- Translation skills obtained through a certification program
- Superior interpersonal communication skills for negotiating contracts and clarifying clients’ requirements
- Time management skills for meeting deadlines demonstrated
- Certification to demonstrate proven translation skills
- Cultural awareness
What is the growth potential for a translation agency?
As globalization continues to increase, the growth potential for translation businesses increases as well. The need for interpreters and translators is projected to grow 29% within the next seven years, much faster than other occupations. Immigration, multi-national businesses, and the internet have all contributed to an increased awareness of our interconnectedness. Some of the largest translation agencies have offices all over the world and employ thousands of translators.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a translation agency?
Industry experts recommend networking with other translators. Passing along jobs that require expertise that you don’t have usually results in other translators returning the favor. Confidentiality and respect for one another’s clientele as well as professional capabilities is essential. However, it’s equally important that you take the proper steps to assure the quality of other translators’ work before entrusting them with projects for your clients. This can be done by requesting some samples of their work in the target language. If you aren’t proficient in a language yourself, it is worthwhile to hire a native speaker to judge the quality of a translation. Those with experience in the industry maintain that it usually takes at least two years to build a clientele.
How and when to build a team
It is important to build a team even before you open your business. You should also become a member of some professional trade organizations to keep abreast of new developments within the industry. They also provide many types of professional development opportunities and other valuable resources.