As a beginning freelance translator, the most important question you ask yourself is how to find translation jobs online.
That’s the number one thing new translators want to know.
Why? Because as a freelancer, you measure success ultimately by how much business you’re bringing in.
No business coming in = no business at all.
So how can you bring in more translation jobs online?
Five main ways:
- Job boards
- Freelancer job sites
- Social media sites
- Translation Agencies
- Your own website
Translation Jobs Online
When I talk about online job boards, I’m referring to sites where you can find (mostly) permanent translator or interpreter positions.
I’m not talking about freelance gigs.
I’m talking about working for a company that pays you to do language work on a full or part-time basis.
That language work (like translation or interpretation) could make up the majority of your duties on the job, or could just be a portion.
If you want to find this type of translation job online, here are some sites.
This is the most common job search engine in the U.S.
It’s pretty straight forward to search for translation-related jobs.
However, it’s not the most robust search engine to use.
I like to start with a more general search (but in the advanced search options). Afterwards, I can narrow the results as I go along.
Let’s say you’re a Spanish language expert looking for a position as a translator.
In the advanced search page, search Spanish and translator.
You could do the same thing for other languages or job titles. If you were looking for a position as an editor for Italian, you’d search on Italian and editor.
One thing to keep in mind is that even though you type in certain terms, all the results won’t match up to what you’re looking for. For example, in the search on Spanish and translator, results still show up for Japanese translators.
There doesn’t seem to be a way to those results out. If you search on a quoted term, like “Spanish translator,” you’ll only get results with that exact phrase, and that will limit your search results.
The next step is to narrow the results.
The advanced search option gives you four ways to narrow the results.
- Company Search – Here you can type in the name of a company if you’ve got one in mind. If you don’t care where you work, you most likely won’t use this filter.
- Job Status – Two options: part-time or full-time.
- Skills – Here you can filter your results based on relevant skills. A lot of these suggestions are nebulous terms that don’t really even mean anything and could be included on any job announcement. They don’t necessarily help you narrow down your results in any meaningful way.
- City – The final filter option you can choose is location. But instead of being able to type in your own location, it gives you a list of locations. This is fine if you are interested in a job in that location. If you’re not, you’re out of luck. The only way to fix that is to type in your location when you do your initial search. Which, when you think about it, is probably the better way to start your search, especially if you want to restrict your job search to a specific location, like state or city.
While Monster.com is one of the oldest job search sites on the Internet, it’s not the best. The best one is Indeed.
First of all, the initial search page is super simple. Google-esque.
Type in keywords followed by location (if you want).
From here you’re taken to the results page, which is similar to Monster. However, you get a bunch more information.
First of all, look at the information in the red box.
This area shows a rating for the company. These reviews don’t necessarily correspond to the position you are interested in. However, they are a good indication of overall sentiment towards the company by current and former employees.
If the rating is a one star, or maybe even two, you might want to dig a little deeper to see where those ratings are coming from.
For more information on the company, you can click on the more… link just under the job posting. This opens up the information in the blue box.
You can click on a link that will take you to all posted jobs by that company, or jobs in that particular region. You can also find out salary information related to your job search and in that area of the country, or read forums related to your job search.
These can be valuable links to broaden your foundation of information related to your search. You shouldn’t ignore the more… link.
Finally, take a look at the information in the green box on the left side of the screen.
This is where you can refine your search based on salary, job type, and location. What’s great about this filtering (as opposed to the one on Monster.com) is that the system tells you how many jobs fit the category you filter on.
So if you are only interested in jobs with a salary higher than $60,000, click on the last link in the Salary Estimate filter. You’ll only have to go through 57 jobs instead of going through all 329.
Dice is a specialized job search engine.
It’s also been around a while. However, instead of being a general search engine trying to index every job announcement out there, it remains focused on one domain.
While Dice doesn’t have the sheer numbers of postings as Monster or Indeed, it does have a much better advanced search function than the other two.
This makes narrowing down translation jobs much easier and faster.
Once you hit the search button, you get back a results page that won’t have nearly as many results as the other two search engines.
But remember, that’s because Dice only cares about tech jobs.
If you’re a translator or language guy looking for language work in an area outside of tech, don’t waste your time with this search engine because you won’t find anything you’re looking for.
But if tech is your thing, you could find a good gig using Dice.
Translation Jobs Online
Freelancer Job Sites
The sites above are good if you’re looking to work for someone other than yourself.
If you’re like the majority if translators, though, you don’t want to work for anyone else.
That’s one of the reasons you want to become a translator.
So you don’t have to answer to anyone but your own self.
In that case, don’t waste your time with job boards looking for translation jobs online.
Instead, you can spend your effort more efficiently by looking for clients on freelancer job sites.
Before I talk about some of sites best suited for translators, let me say one thing.
Freelancer job sites are not the best use of your time if you’re a translator trying to find clients.
Building your own website or reaching out to colleagues and business contacts are much more efficient and will lead to more positive results.
However,, freelancer job sites are valuable for some people. If you want to give them a try, do it. Just be forewarned that there are other ways to skin the cat of looking for translation jobs online.
OK, on to the websites.
The first step is to Get Started.
Once you create an account and log in to your dashboard or front page, this is what it looks like:
You have your main job feed in the middle that displays jobs that are selected based on the information you have in your profile.
I have information about my writing as well as my translating so I have both of those job types show up in my job feed.
If none of the jobs that show up in your job feed are interesting or relevant for what you’re looking for at the moment, you can then type your search terms in the Search for Jobs box at the top of the screen.
I typed in Spanish Translation and these were the results:
A couple of things to notice.
First, you can add this search to your job feed. This allows your job feed to be automatically populated with searches so you don’t have to search on multiple terms or phrases every time you want to do a search.
Second, the filters on the right are similar to the filters on the job search sites. You can filter by job type, experience level, or client history. In addition (and not shown here), you can filter on budge, location, project length, or hours per week.
Finally, all that information about each individual job is located in the posting advertisement itself on this page. This makes it easy to decide if you want to investigate the job further or just skip over it.
Let’s say you find a job you’re interested in.
Click on it, and it takes you to the page for that project.
In this case, someone posted a job needed a translator to translate some websites from English to Spanish.
The job posting tells you some important things.
- The budget for the project, which is basically just the amount of money the client is willing to spend.
- A description of the project. Some descriptions are better than others. This one falls in the middle. It is a decent description but doesn’t provide everything I would like to know as a freelancer bidding on the project.
- Information about the client. The most useful piece of information I look for here is how many jobs the person has posted, and how much the person has spent on those jobs. If the person hasn’t posted any jobs, or has posted a bunch of jobs but spent very little, I tend to be hesitant to bid on those jobs. I prefer dealing with a client that is not afraid to spend money for a job.
- Finally, the Submit a Proposal green box is located at the top right of the screen.
If everything looks fine, go ahead and click the link and you’ll be taken to the proposal page.
Here’s where the magic happens.
First, enter your bid amount and how long you think it is going to take you to finish the job.
Then you enter the stuff that really counts.
Your cover letter and any attachments you think might be relevant to the job poster or posting.
I’ll say that the most important section of the whole proposal is the Cover Letter section.
This is what the client is going to read. The client’s emotional response to what you write in this section is going to be the difference between getting the job or it being given to someone else.
One thing I forgot to mention (and will do so now) is that Upwork has designed a way to keep people from submitting thousands of proposals, even when they may or may not qualify for the job in question.
The way this is done is through the use of Connects. Look at the image just before the last one and where it says You are submitting a proposal as a Freelancer.
Right below that is the line Requires 2 Connects.
On a free account, you are given 60 connects every month. Each job you bid on requires a certain number of credits. Once you’ve used up all those credits for the month, you either have to wait until you get more the following month, or you have to purchase more.
So, make sure you have enough connects before bidding on a job.
Once you fill in all the required information, submit the proposal and you’ll come to a page that looks like this:
The only thing you’ll want to pay attention to on this page is the green link button that gives you the option to Propose Different Terms, as well as the link below that to Withdraw Proposal.
Then you just wait until the ad ends and the client picks the provider.
There’s no need to keep going back to the job posting to see if you got it. You’ll receive an email if you won the bid. That email will tell you exactly what you need to do in order to submit your work and get paid.
Be sure to pay attention to the instructions in that email so you don’t miss anything.
Some people wouldn’t consider Fiverr.com a freelancer job site. I disagree.
Freelancers use the site to make money freelancing.
What would make that not a freelancer site?
Fiverr has been around a while, but it’s still new to a lot of people, especially translators.
Most translators I talk to, in fact, haven’t heard of it, and if they have, haven’t thought of using it as a freelancer job site for their own freelance translation business.
What is Fiverr?
Fiverr is basically a marketplace for various kinds of services. The initial price for these services starts at $5 but can increase based on the type of service offered or any additional add-ons provided by the seller.
There are hundreds to thousands of different types of services offered on the platform.
Everything from people willing to make videos to catchy business jingles to having tinfoil man sing happy birthday while only wearing a thong.
So, it’s not a stretch to imagine that translators have also taken to Fiverr to advertise their freelance translation services.
So how can you get started on making money on Fiverr through your translation services?
Well, that’s a topic that’s even too big for this page, but needless to say, you’ll need to first create an account.
Once you do that, it’s just a matter of following the prompts and posting the type of service you offer.
And before you scoff that $5 per translation is beneath your or is not what real translators should be charging, check out this guy.
He’s one of the top sellers of Spanish/English translation services on Fiverr. He’s got nearly 4,000 orders just for this gig alone (he’s also got other ones as well).
Now look on the right side of the picture. While he does sell a $5 gig, his standard gig is actually $20 and he even offers a $100 premium gig.
There’s money to be made in translation on Fiverr.
Translation Jobs Online
Social Media Sites
To be honest, you’re not going to find a lot of translation jobs online using social media sites.
Most social media sites don’t really lend themselves that well to freelancer writers or translators looking for work, unless you’re using LinkedIn.
Instead, social media can provide a translator with a few other things:
- Getting your name out there
- Increasing your authority level
- Networking with likeminded translators
- Opening up your eyes to new opportunities
Getting Your Name Out There
What does this even mean?
People talk about the importance of getting your name out there but then don’t explain what it is or why it’s even important.
If you’re a translator (or providing any type of service in exchange for money) you want people to know about you. Unless you’re a prostitute. Then you might try to keep it on the down-low.
But if you’re a translator, you want as many people you know to know that you’re a translator.
Because if any of those people ever hear or know of someone that needs a translator, you want your name to be the name that they think of and recommend to that person.
The people you connect with on Twitter or Facebook or whatever social media site of the day might not ever need a translator. But some of them might come in contact with someone that does.
And you want your name brought up in that conversation when it does.
I’ve said this before.
The first translation job I ever got was because my wife had a friend whose parents lived the next state over and ran a food processing plant.
They needed some materials translated but didn’t really know how to go about doing that.
They told their daughter.
She knew that I was a translator because of my wife.
So I got the job.
That’s what getting your name out there gives you.
Increasing Your Authority Level
If you want to be a translator that’s trusted and that gets translation jobs online or otherwise, you need to be seen as an authority.
But you can’t be an authority if nobody knows who you are.
Here I’m talking about others seeing you as an expert in a certain skill or area.
And here’s a dirty secret nobody will tell you about becoming an expert or authority figure.
You don’t decide for other people whether or not you’re an expert.
Only other people can decide if you present yourself as an authority figure.
What this means is that even if you have the best degree in translation, or have been working in translation since you were 12, or know 17 different languages at a high-level of fluency, other people may not look at you as an expert.
You have to show them with your words, your actions, what you produce, what you provide to them in order for them to view you as an expert.
For example, to a first time client looking for a translator, a mediocre translator with a polished website and online presence will have more authority than an expert translator with zero online presence.
You can cry all you want about how this is unfair, but that’s the reality.
You have to deal with it if you want to succeed.
Networking with Like-Minded Translators
Translators are like writers.
They like to think of themselves as solitary creatures, slaving away over their keyboards in some obscure, dim coffee shop, cursing the success of other translators and wondering why nobody will read their work.
If you want to think of yourself like that, go ahead.
But if you want to be successful as a translator, if you want to find translation jobs online or offline, you need to connect with other translators.
There is no better way to do that today than social media.
Sure, you might have a nice little translation group where you live, or maybe a satellite ATA group meets regularly in the city next door, but if you want to meet other translators, you use social media.
My Twitter is super small.
I don’t use it very much, which is why I only have 66 followers, but even so I’ve met other translators that I would have never known had I not been on the site.
That’s what most social media can get you as a freelance translator.
Opening Up Your Eyes to New Opportunities
Finally, a social media presence can open your eyes to new opportunities, and not just opportunities for translation.
By becoming more involved in the translation, and more generally, the language community, you will be presented with more opportunities to provide your services to other people. In addition, those opportunities will be more than just translation opportunities.
Maybe you might be approached to teach a language class.
Maybe you’ll meet someone who needs voice-over talent in your language.
Those interactions you have might not initially lead to translation jobs online, but they might lead to other experiences that you would never have had you decided to be a hermit translator and never interact with anyone.
Translation Jobs Online
One popular way that many new freelance translators get started finding translation jobs online is through using translation agencies.
Now, let me just say one thing first about translation agencies.
They are not the devil.
They are not evil.
They do not hate translators.
If you’re a translator with any time in the business, you’ve no doubt heard fellow translators complain about how all translation agencies just exist in order to scam translators out of their hard earned money.
Or how they undercut translators.
Or how they purposely pay translators super low rates.
Some of this is true for some agencies.
But here’s the truth.
Most translation agencies are just trying to make money like you, doing the best they can like you, and doing it because they love language and believe in what they’re doing like you.
OK, so now that I’ve talked about the elephant in the room when it comes to translation agencies, it’s time to talk about why translation agencies can be a good way for freelance translators to find translation agencies online.
- Translation agencies are plugged into the industry
- More translators that work for an agency usually means more work for that agency (and more money)
- Translation agencies are a great springboard for networking with clients and gaining experience
Translation Agencies are Plugged Into the Industry
Freelance translation agencies have to be plugged into the translation industry, and specifically their industry of expertise, if they want to succeed.
A translation that focuses on translating medical information has to be up to speed on the state of medical translation or else they’ll be missing valuable information that will help their business grow.
The good thing for you is that if you are a medical translator, and you become a freelance translator for that agency, you will also be plugged into the latest about the state of affairs of medical translation.
This will save you valuable time, energy, and resources that can be devoted to helping your own freelance translation business grow in different ways.
Now, what if a translation agency is not specifically tied to a specific sector?
Well, you can still take advantage of the information that agency has regarding the state of affairs in your language or you location.
Remember, more work for you means more work for the agency. They want you to succeed because that means that they are as well.
More Translators Equals More Money
Don’t be dismayed about a translation agency that hires or accepts resumes from a large number of translators. Usually that means that the agency is in need of those translators to help the agency meet their demand.
Agencies can only grow as they grow their cadre of translators.
Sure, some agencies might not want to grow.
If that’s the case, you’ll know because the agency won’t be accepting resumes.
However, if they are accepting resumes, you’ll want to submit your own because that agency is either growing or is planning on growing.
And you want to be attached to an agency that has a healthy growth mindset, because that means that you’ll grow (financially) as well.
Translation Agencies Are a Springboard
A lot of successful freelance translators (some you’ve heard of and some you haven’t) got started through translation agencies.
Working for agencies gave them two things:
- Translation business experience
First of all, they learned how the business of freelance translation works. But they learned in an environment where they didn’t have to do it all alone.
They had the agency there at their back, acting as a liaison between the translator and the client.
Sure, that means the translator earned less, but the translator also learned valuable lessons that could have even been more costly than the cut in pay for using a translation agency as a middleman.
Second, working for translation agencies gave these translators contacts.
Contacts of potential customers, and contacts within the translation business.
Those contacts can provide freelance translators with everything from job opportunities (freelance and in-house) to opportunities outside the translation industry.
Translation Jobs Online
Your Own Website
The final way for a freelance translator to find translation jobs online is to build his own freelance translator website.
A professional freelance translator website will be your digital business card.
That’s how people will find you, get to know you, and be convinced to do business with you.
Every translator that wants to do business online should have a freelance website.
But your translator website doesn’t have to be a big deal.
For example, your website does not need:
- Blog – You don’t need to blog if you don’t want to. You’re a translator, not a blogger. Don’t feel like you have to write about your life or your translation work, unless you want to. TranslationRules.com helps freelance translators become successful. This site is not a calling card for my personal translation business.
- Ads – You don’t need to make money from your site itself. Don’t worry about trying to fill it with ads, or selling links for money. The money from your site will come from people finding you and requesting your translation services.
- Random Stuff – Don’t put pictures of your family on your site. Don’t include shout-outs to your favorite sports team. Instead, keep your site on point. Keep it narrowed down to what it is: an online place where people can find out about your professional services and, more importantly, what problems they have that you can solve for them.
Instead, focus on what your site should get across to new/potential clients:
- Contact Information – Basic stuff like your name, an address, a phone number, email address. Be as real as you can, as real as you feel comfortable with. If you’re scared to put yourself and personal information out there, you’ll have a tougher time. Remember that clients want to deal with real people. They want to know that they can trust you with their information. And one way to build that trust is to let them know you are real.
- Picture – Post a picture of yourself. This goes along with the above but a lot of people, translators included, are scared of strangers on line seeing their picture. Guess what? You’re more likely to get run over by a wild rhinoceros at your local McDonald’s than getting stalked by a crazy person because you put a picture of yourself online.
- Solutions – I won’t go into this here very much except to say this: Don’t tell potential clients what you can do and what your credentials are. Instead, focus on what your clients pain points are. What are her problems? What makes her lose sleep at night when thinking about hiring a translator? Then figure out how you can make that pain go away. Advertise that. Nobody cares what you’re degree is in. What they do care about is how you can help them.
If you don’t have a website yet, there’s only one place you should go to get one.
I use them for multiple web properties I own and won’t ever choose another one.
A website complete with domain and hosting will cost you about $5 a month. For a year, that’s $60, less than the cost of a single translation job.
It’s well worth the investment.
P.S. There are lots of ways to find translation jobs online. The ultimate trick is to be consistent with your efforts and make sure you’re out there trying to find jobs. One of the best ways to do that is to have your own website. I can’t recommend that enough.