Two of Three Things
Okay, Sensei isn't thinking too fast this morning, so I'm going to go to an old fallback story that frequent visitors of the annual Lost in Translation panel at San Diego Comic-Con hear just about every year. This year, surprisingly, it wasn't from me, but a slightly modified version from Jake Forbes. That's okay because the story isn't mine anyway. I heard it at a panel from a comic-book editor back in 1984 about what you need to have to stay working in comics. It also works the manga industry.
There are three things, any two of which will allow you to keep working as a manga translator.
Being on time. (Always meeting your deadlines.)
Being a genius. (Having work that's obviously above the rank-and-file.)
Being a nice person. (You're someone the people like to work with.)
This is, of course, after you've broken in already, and it assumes that you are basically competent in your job.
You don't need all three, but you do need two of the three.
If you are on time and a nice person, then you may not get the best jobs, but you will always have work because people want to work with you. Just being a nice guy isn't enough though. Being late will put your editors off.
If you are a genius, you need one of the other two. If you are a genius and on time, it doesn't matter what your personality is like. Editors recognize talent, and they will put up with a lot of attitude if you can get good work in on time.
Similarly, if you are a genius and the editors like to work with you, then they are willing to put up with missed deadlines because they like you and your work. This is one of the few instances where an editor is willing to overlook missed deadlines. In nearly every other case, deadlines are the freelance killer.
In practice, even the genius/nice guy combination (but missing deadlines) has a limit. If the freelancer flakes out and misses deadlines by months, the freelancer will get fired no matter how brilliant and beloved the person may be. Books have to come out -- especially in manga where the date of publication is usually written into the contracts. But a week or two off of the deadline will be overlooked.
But in translation, there aren't that many obvious geniuses. Most of translation is craft. In other words, most of translation is changing uninspired Japanese dialog into uninspired English dialog. (I reserve the word "inspired" for really penetrating text, but most scripts are normal, everyday text, and that's the way it should be. In every story, even fantasy stories, it starts in normal, everyday life and ventures into the fantastic. People in fantasy worlds still worry about family, food, aching muscles, romantic involvements, everything that makes up the reader's life as well. This text doesn't have to be inspired, and the translation doesn't have to be especially beautifully worded, in fact, it would be a mistranslation if it were. So it is no insult to think of translation as a craft that touches art every now and again. Okay, enough digression.) So because most of it is uninspired text, it will be difficult for even the most experienced editor to see genius through that. Eventually they can (when inspired text needs to be translated), but it isn't an easy thing to see.
So we translators have to rely on the other two aspects. Be on time and be an easy person to work with. It's all that we can control anyway, and the best way for you to keep working after you've managed to break into the industry.