Get Translation Jobs From Home In 5 Stupid Simple Steps
Have you ever thought about monetizing your linguistic skills? As more and more companies expand internationally, making money doing translation jobs from home doesn’t have to be just a dream.
How do I know? Because 12 years ago, I started to translate as a side hustle during university and never looked back. Translation allowed me to never even entering the corporate world. Oh, and in 2018 I even made six figures doing translation projects from home.
If you are:
- A stay-at-home mom
- An aspiring digital nomad
- Or you just want to leave your 9 to 5 ASAP
Translation may be the perfect choice for you. It offers flexibility, the chance to work from home, and, if you’re multilingual, it’s a skill you already possess that can easily be transformed into a steady income stream.
Let’s see how.
1. (re)Assess your linguistic capabilities and pick a niche
Before diving into the world of translation, it’s essential to honestly evaluate your language skills.
Just speaking another language isn’t enough; you should be able to understand nuances, cultural contexts, and the technicalities of both the source and target languages. If you are a bit rusty, I recommend to dust off your foreign language skills before you start taking any of the steps in this guide!
Translators who specialize in a particular niche (like medical, legal, or technical translation) often find more opportunities and better pay. Think about areas you already know, either from past work experiences or passions you cultivated over the years.
Some niches won’t have enough demand. Others are just too crowded. Look for the sweet spot – areas with real demand, but not many specialized translators in your language pair.
The reason why most aspiring freelancer fail is simple – they can’t find clients. While there are many ways to get freelance clients, even as a beginner, I recommend one of the following two:
- If you have no academic background or work experience in translation, freelance marketplaces can work as a springboard to give you some experience
- If you have credentials or some kind of previous experience, then you’d better skip marketplaces altogether and start cold pitching translation agencies
While landing a few translation jobs here and there is not difficult, turning this into a full time gig will require time and effort. Translation, just like any other freelance gig, is not a get-rich-quick scheme.
2. Get jobs on Upwork
While there are tons of websites to land translation projects, not all of them are worth using. For beginners, I recommend Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer.com or a mix of these.
Navigate to the translators’ job board on your chosen website and search the keyword of your second language (e.g., French, Spanish).
Explore the available jobs and identify any consistent patterns. Do you notice plenty of technical documents? An increasing demand for Forex and crypto content? Maybe business and marketing materials? Identify which domain frequently pops up.
While this approach is effective, it has a limitation – you’ll only spot jobs that haven’t been taken yet. Hence, I suggest you activate email notifications and monitor the job board for the upcoming week to understand client requirements, then tailor your profile to cater to a common niche.
Create a profile
Most clients will only see your profile after they have received your proposal. If it resonates with them, they’ll delve deeper into your profile to get to know you.
Ensure your essential details are prominently displayed at the top of your profile, highlighting your language pair and specialty.
Detail the documents you’ve previously translated. If you’re new to the field, focus on the types of documents you’re confident in handling. Stating, “I can translate emails and press releases, Pinterest posts and promotional materials for your business” offers more precision than a generic “I can translate anything.”
Craft a perfect proposal
The key to success lies in your proposals. Consistently craft quality proposals, and opportunities will gravitate towards you. But if you can’t write a good one, you are doomed to fail.
So, what elevates a proposal from ok to exceptional?
• Brevity. Clients are keen on why you’re the right fit, not your entire backstory. It’s embarrassing to admit, but early in my Upwork journey, I used to send proposals that maxed out the 3,000 character limit. I still wonder how I got my first job ever!
• Directness. Skip the small talk and unnecessary pleasantries. Highlight your aptness for the role. Elaborate on related projects you’ve handled, your time in their sector, or familiarity with niche terminology.
• Visibility. As previously noted, clients are inundated with proposals. More often than not, the job goes to the first translator who matches the criteria at a fair rate. Craft a good proposal, but also… be quick.
• Right pricing. You might assume a client would adjust their budget for the perfect fit, but that’s seldom the case. They have a budget and tend to stick to it. If the indicated budget aligns with your rate, go ahead and propose. If not, it’s best to keep looking.
3. Pitch translation agencies
Upwork is fantastic, but it has a huge limit.
If you are just looking for a side hustle, Upwork is the place to be. There are many jobs, clients are looking for translators to start immediately, and payments are quick. But if you have hopes of maybe turning translation into a full time career, Upwork has a problem – most clients there are looking for a cheap solution.
That’s why you should start marketing your services to translation agencies as well.
Agencies have a lot of things you want as a translator:
- They have ways to tell if a translator is actually good and if they are worth their price
- They can provide you with a steady stream of jobs without any need for further marketing
- If they like working with you, they’ll keep you busy for years
How do you start working with translation agencies? The easiest way is to reach out to them.
How to contact an agency
Keep in mind that the average agency received hundreds of cold emails every single day.
Sure, most of them are pretty bad. But your chances to get a positive answer are still slim, even when you do everything right. That’s why you should not send one, two or three cold emails – you should send 500 to start with, and then keep sending them until you have enough clients to send you all the work you want.
You will need a few assets:
- A professional resume that highlights your language pair and niche
- A good cover letter that make people want to open that resume
- A decent LinkedIn profile to accompany all of that
A good cover letter template you can use is available here.
4. Decide how much you’ll charge (I get this question all the time)
If you have no idea about what to charge, consider this.
Generally speaking, anything from 0.01 to 0.05 $ per word is quite low, but this is what you’ll get on generalist freelance platforms. 0.06 to 0.1 $ per word is what most translators earn in common language pairs. However, when you are starting out, you are quite unlikely to be paid that much.
Want a controversial tip?
Starting with low prices doesn’t mean you’ll keep making peanuts forever. When I started to get translation jobs from home regularly on Upwork, I was charging clients $0.04/word. Years later, I easily apply rates from €0.09 to €0.12/word.
To get a better idea for your specific language pair, you can check out the average rates on Proz.com, the largest online community for translators and interpreters.
5. Time block your days to actually Make the time you need
If you made it this far, you have a plan.
You know what you are going to do, you know how you are going to do it, and you can’t wait to start.
But there’s a problem.
If you think you can do this when you get the chance, when your children are asleep or when you find the time, you are going to fail. Not because you lack the enthusiasm, but because enthusiasm alone won’t take you anywhere if you are short on time. You can’t launch a freelance business by ‘finding’ the time.
You have to make it.
And to do that, there is no better way than time blocking. Here is what you should do:
- Time block 8 to 20 hours per week for your freelance business, depending on your life circumstances
- Needless to say, the more time you can dedicate to it, the quicker you will be able to land your first client
- Write down what you will do and when. If it’s not written down, you’ll never act on it
- Stick to your plan no matter what. Your time is precious, and everyone is trying to get some of it. Don’t let them
According to Cal Newport, author of ‘Deep Work’, a 40 hour time-blocked work week produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure. Having tried the system myself, I tend to agree with him.
A word of encouragement
Starting out as a freelance translator is tough.
You are competing with hundreds of translators, and most of them have something you don’t have – previous experience.
A word of encouragement, though – while there are a lot of translators, not many of them are actually good. Even fewer are good at selling themselves. Apply the principles you found in this guide, customize your marketing assets, be quick and stay patient, and luck will find your way to you.
Just. Keep. Going. Even when it seems like no one is answering.