This post is the second in the series of posts about the characteristics of great translators.

The topic of the first post were the language background features, while this post describes the most important working skills that set great translators apart from their average colleagues.

The third post will deal with the mental attitudes every translator must have to climb to the top.

All these posts describe a comprehensive but not conclusive list of features, skills and attributes.

Perfection is almost unachievable in any profession, so has also every translator individual strengths and weaknesses.

But striving for perfection is what drives one forward and ensures above-average success.

A great translator usually outperforms average colleagues in the following 5 working skills: flexible time management, research, CAT tools, typing speed & accuracy, keyboard shortcuts.


Due to the unpredictable agencies’ and clients’ needs, freelance translators can hardly plan their working times much in advance.

Not rarely have they days or even weeks of idle periods, but they more often have periods of work overload, when huge projects are required to be completed in record time, or many small projects in a very short term.

Such situations require any translator to juggle between the own realistic potentials to finish such projects in top quality and the risk to lose clients.

A great translator brings in excellent time management skills, overcomes stressful situations easily and is flexible to work faster and more efficient over a longer period of time, while maintaining the quality of their work.

An average translator, on the other hand, might overestimate the own potentials, miss deadlines, provide translations with mistakes, etc.

And that would much more likely turn an agency or client away than a rejection due to work overload.

A detailed post on flexible time management will be published soon.


Most today’s freelance translators must be able to translate specific contents in multiple areas of expertise.

In some fields, a wrongly or imprecisely translated term, phrase or context can alter the meaning of the original text, which is why the translator is required to conduct a deep and sometimes time-consuming research to find the most suitable solution.

The information sources can be different kinds of dictionaries, publications, videos, experts in the respective fields, or other colleagues in translator forums and communities.

A great translator is a skilled researcher when it comes to optimising every small detail, but is also ready to invest time even for a proportionally small amount of translation work; as opposed to an average translator, whose failure to do that might lead to inadequately translated content.

As a reward, translators with good research skills gain more trust from agencies and clients and are therefore more often rewarded with huge and well-paid projects.

A detailed post on research will be published soon.


The modern translation industry is unimaginable without CAT tools.

When used in the right way and on the right types of translation projects (standardised documents with similar content, documents with many repetitions), their features such as the translation memory (TM) and glossary can help to keep the productivity, consistency and quality assurance of translations on a high level.

However, disadvantages such as the initial price, the time to invest until the tool can be taken advantage of, incompatibility issues between the individual tools, etc. keep many translators away from using them.

Notwithstanding, a great translator sees CAT tools as an investment for the future, i.e., that the time and money invested would pay off after some time using them.

An average translator rather focusses on cheaper and initially time-saving solutions; but in the end, they might work slower and less accurate in some projects, and they can’t work with agencies and clients requiring CAT tools.

A detailed post on CAT tools will be published soon.


Typing skills are often undeservedly let aside in talks about necessary skills of successful translators.

Fast typing enables translators to increase overall productivity, while typing accuracy saves a lot of time and energy for quality assurance and proofreading.

A great translator with quick fingers and surgical precision gets more and better-quality work done in the same time than an average translator.

That productivity, in the end, can make the difference in the number and value of projects awarded by agencies and clients.

A detailed post on typing speed & accuracy will be published soon.


Keyboard shortcuts are another helpful skill that deserves to find its place among the working skills that make great translators stand out in the crowd.

A translator does countless different work operations such as text-editing, operations in CAT tools, switching between windows, filling text fields, etc., most of which can be shortened with tricks and commands.

A great translator, similar to the typing skills, takes time to learn keyboard shortcuts for as most operations at possible, which helps them to improve their work efficiency; whereas an average translator wastes valuable time for unnecessary clicking and typing.

A detailed post on keyboard shortcuts will be published soon.

Each individual main category and their individual characteristics can be read about on the Apollo Transolutions blog.

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