So... you would like to become a certified translator, but that moment is years, or at best many months, away. Is that an excuse to sit there twiddling your thumbs or, to use more diplomatic language, just waiting? Absolutely not.
As I wrote in my last post, the value of certification lies above all in showing that you are different, more qualified and at least in that respect better for the job, relative to the next person in line. And even if you cannot immediately achieve formal certification there are lots of things you can do to show that you are in fact a more professional translator than many.
ProZ, as a standard gate of entry into the world of freelance translation, offers a few such elements at no cost beyond your annual membership fee, including Kudoz points, WWA entries and the Certified PRO network. I managed to make all these work to my advantage, and my advice is that you look into them too.
You can earn Kudoz points by helping out fellow translators with their language problems. These points will almost certainly mean nothing to a direct client, who may not even have heard of ProZ, but they show translation agencies that you know your stuff. In my experience, moreover, they appear quite high up in Google searches, so they go a long way towards quickly identifying you as a translator who is active in his or her professional community.
Also on ProZ, you can get satisfied agency clients to give you WWA points. These simple statements of the client's willingness to work with you again help establish you as a reliable professional. I found I had to ask clients for their entries, but having a few makes me look better.
After a while, you should seek to join the Certified PRO network, to take you a step further amid the tough competition on ProZ. Again, this is most helpful with agencies rather with direct clients, but I found it led to higher rates and more job offers overall, and it costs nothing beyond standard ProZ membership and the effort to fill in the application including a brief translation.
To further establish your credentials as a translator, even if you are not certified, you should look into the local translators' association. It is simply good to be in their directory in case anyone looks for a translator there. It is also an asset to be able to say you are a member: you are not just another inexperienced part-time wannabe but a member of the local professional association. And if a potential direct client wants to check your credentials they may actually look there.
In Argentina, for example, the translators association gets picky if you do not actually have a degree in translation, but you can still prove your aptitude through references and examples of your previous work.
Beyond that, there is the American Translators Association. Membership of the ATA requires only that you pay an annual fee, and in return you get a place in their directory and use of their logo on your website or CV. They also grant access to plenty of professional literature, forums, webinars and an annual conference that I will probably never attend since I live outside the United States, but just being able to say I am a member (which is NOT the same as being ATA-certified) stands me in good stead in my dealings with potential clients.
In a nutshell, you know you are both a diligent translator and a reliable professional, and anything that helps you bring the point home is great to bring on board. If you are serious about your budding career, you will do well to go for any credentials you can lay your hands on. Certification is the best option, but it certainly is not the only one, and seeking lesser badges to pin on your chest is at least a good stepping stone.