Reflections on 2016: Becoming a Freelance Translator

It’s that time of the year again. In the 12 days leading up to Christmas, anime bloggers around the world write a post every day, reflecting on the year as a whole. It’s called the 12 Days of Anime Christmas, but for some strange reason, it doesn’t coincide with the actual 12 Days of Christmas at all. Oh well, don’t think too hard about it.

The usual format is to write about 12 moments in anime that stood out to you, but in most years, I don’t watch enough anime in order to come up with 12 distinct moments. However, because this year has been eventful in so many other ways, I can actually come up with a list of things that happened in the anime world that impacted my life in some way, for better or worse. This is the first year I can actually do the 12 Days of Anime properly. Huzzah!

Yeah, baby!

So here we go. Let’s do this!

12 Days of Anime
#1 — Becoming a Freelance Translator

2016 was the year I took my first step towards becoming a freelance translator.

Until this year, I never translated for money. I did fan translations of light novels and occasionally some other stuff for my own blog, but I firmly thought of myself as an amateur just doing their bit for the community.

Things changed, however, towards the end of 2015. I could see my graduation looming ahead of me, and I was starting to feel somewhat anxious about my future. It was no longer practical to spend so many hours on unpaid work that I couldn’t put on my resume, even if it was for the sake of sharpening my language skills. By then, I’d built up a fairly positive reputation as a translator, so I decided to start up a translation commissions service and see what happened.

As it turned out, it was a good experience for me. I got commissions almost immediately, and when I finished one job, I usually had another one waiting. As a result, I ended up having a few hours of work to do everyday, a bit like a regular part-time job. Because I’ve been busy every day this year, I’ve never had to grapple with that empty feeling of being unemployed, even after leaving university. While I don’t earn enough from commissions alone to make a living, I’ve been able to save some money while I look for full-time work for next year.

Becoming a freelancer taught me some important skills. I had to learn how to manage my time effectively and market myself as an individual. I had to learn what my limits were and how much work I could accept before it became difficult for me to meet my deadlines. I had to think about how best to satisfy my clients so that I would get repeat commissions. I’m sure these experiences will be useful to me no matter which career path I take.

This all sounds well and good, but actually the best thing about doing commissions was the commissions themselves. Most of them were for weeb-related things, like the interviews I did for Wave Motion Cannon, but I’ve translated songs, manga pages, novellas, web pages, magazine excerpts, and all sorts of things. I’ve even helped my clients communicate with Japanese people by acting as a go-between. Oftentimes I’d learn something interesting just by reading the material I was given to translate.

But I think the commission that will stick out to me most is the Sword Art Online erotic fanfiction that I translated a few months ago. It was a Kirito x Death Gun fanfic, and honestly it was rather rape-y, so I can’t reproduce it here. However, I can say that the fanfic was based off this hilarious comic on pixiv:


God bless the person who commissioned me to translate gay porn. I love the freelance life.


  1. I got started at my new job just this Monday, with the boss just throwing at me roles I initially didn’t think directly applied to my position. Suddenly, as a casual marketing guy, I also somehow started to wear the hats of property photographer, copywriter, designer and content creator as well (guess I oversold myself in terms of my abilities…he wasn’t gonna waste my pay on such limited duties if I am a jack of all trades). Haven’t been able to sink any time into anime or blogging this week, starting to think that this supposed casual position is actually a full-time job in disguise.

    Anyway, like you (though about 11 months later) I turned over a new leaf of my life this year: like Aoba, I’ve gotten that real ass job and have become a responsible member of society, money will actually start floating BACK into my account in a fortnight. What a time to be alive. Yet I’m still halfway through uni, studying with people who may still be struggling to find internships. Life is confusing right now.

    Looking to get my name out there on the freelancing sector too, once I’ve settled on my regular job and made sure I upgraded my camera gear, but let’s hope I know how to sell myself out there.

    Anyway, had the urge to lay this little story out, looks like freelance life is treating you well. I will be seeing you around the web and Twitter, whether I lose my weebness by next month or not.

    • Thanks for sharing your own experiences! I hope you manage to settle in with this job and your studies and whatnot. Hopefully I’ll see you around next year! (Just don’t kill yourself with all this work!)

  2. As someone who is in his first year of studying Japanology and Sinology with an in depth focus on the language side of things, hearing about your experience as a freelance translator is incredibly interesting.

    Once I feel secure enough about my Japanese skills I plan to get into the freelance translator life as well tho I’ll probably start with smaller steps than you.

    I’m curious. Are you planning to take all this experience and using it to apply for some sort of position that includes work similar to the one you’ve done so far? Like applying for a translation group or finding a place within the process of licensing?

    Anyway, thanks for this insightful article and I wish you the best!

    • If you’re asking if I’m interested in getting a job in the anime industry, then yes. But I’m also interested in doing other kinds of work related to my Japanese skills as well. For example, I applied to the JET programme last month for the CIR position. That’s my top priority at the moment. If that doesn’t pan out, though, I do have other job options I’m considering, and some of them are related to the anime industry. That’s about all I can say until I get my application results back.

      Also, thanks! Glad you find my ramblings interesting, and best of luck with your studies!

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