For some time now, life has been full of other interests and concerns like, say, building a family or working a 9 to 5 rather than nurturing a reputation as a linguistics expert. Life has changed. Now you are here, dusting off your virtual power suit, pulling out all the dictionaries that have languished for years on the shelf beside "What to Expect...", and trying to oil those joints and come back up to speed.
You have perhaps just completed your first paid translation in a long long time. It was satisfactory. Just. Or perhaps it was awful and you are studying your navel, wondering what happened to the wunderkind you were some years ago. Or perhaps it was some of the best work you have ever done, and you are now wondering why, in the first place, did you stop.
Well, you are getting back up on the horse, just as I have recently. Naturally, we will all have our own experiences, credentials, and ideas about the best way to proceed, but allow me to offer my two cents worth about those first few translation jobs after your long hiatus:
1) Don't bite off more than you can chew - Start small. Bid on a relatively small job to get your feet wet again. You will need to see how much rust has accumulated around your translation skills. Most clients will expect an estimate of how many words per day you can reasonably accomplish. Take something in the source language off your shelf, or visit a website created in the source language, and do a translation for yourself, just to have an idea of what to tell your potential client.
2) Specialize. Don't go too far away from your interests, hobbies, and experiences. You may be completely bilingual, but there are industries of which you may know nothing. There are constantly new technological developments that may make your passing knowledge obscure and out of date. Stick to your specialty. It will make for a happier client-translator relationship, as well as save you from a few overnighters doing excruciating research.
3) Relearn your craft. Brush up on your skills, your professionalism, new developments in computer software that may make your work easier (like Trados), etc. Read some of your old favorites in the language from which you will translate. Check out certifications and do a thorough self-assessment of your translation strengths and your "need to improve"s.
4) Check the online translation community often to stay abreast of new developments, average going rates for comparable work, new jobs coming down the pipeline, or just to remain active and visible. Reading How-Tos articles are an invaluable way to brush up on old skills, as well as learn new ones.
5) Lastly, do your research on payment methods in the industry, how to charge for your work, and how to make sure you are paid for your work as promised. Again, the online translation community, as well as the Better Business Bureau, are good places to start.
Hopefully, this will get you started, power up your skills again, and keep you sitting pretty atop that career horse and riding it all the way home. It's a bumpy ride at first but you are not alone.