How to land translation jobs on Upwork – a quick guide

It’s just a matter of time – if you want to start freelancing, in any field, you will land on the most popular freelance platform ever seen online. Let’s find out how to actually get translation jobs on Upwork.

Let’s make it clear – landing your first project on Upwork is not easy. Every freelancer has reviews, many don’t mind getting paid very little, and sending proposals can be intimidating if you’ve never done it before.

I know… because I’ve been there.

Twelve years ago, I started my career as a translator on Upwork. It took me two full months of silently rejected proposals to land my first gig. Had I read this guide, I could have saved at least one of them.

With this guide, I want to help you to make things a bit faster for you. Let’s get to work.

Study the competition and the jobs

In order to get jobs, you need to know what most jobs look like for your language pair.

To do that, go to the job board, and search using your target or source language as a keyword (Russian, German, Arabic, etc.). Open all available jobs and identify any common themes.

This way, unfortunately, you’ll only see the jobs that are still unassigned, but not those that are actually assigned.

To have a better look, over the next 7 days you need to opt in to receive email notifications about the jobs that are posted.

A lot of Amazon product descriptions? An abundance of projects in the automotive sector? Novels? Video games? Identify which areas receive numerous requests, select one you feel confident you can tackle, and tailor your profile accordingly.

Just as important, your competition is a treasure trove of information. Find the top translators in your language pair and look at their project history – it’s packed with useful information.

Project history of a translator on Upwork

Create an Upwork profile that works

Typically, clients on Upwork won’t contact you directly; instead, they post a job and await proposals. If yours grabs their attention, they’ll explore your profile to learn more about you. You have done the heavy lifting – don’t lose them here. Ensure your vital information, including your language pair and specialization, is prominently displayed on your profile.

You will have plenty of opportunities, because there are a lot of clients on Upwork – that’s why I think it’s the best platform if you are interested in becoming a translator as a side hustle.

Struggling to find a fitting specialization? Or perhaps you’re a newcomer still finding your footing? Adopt a statement like ‘I assist businesses in thriving in the Japanese / French / [Your Language] market’.

In the Portfolio section you can detail the projects you’ve previously worked on, including any voluntary work. Always ask clients if you can utilize their projects to enhance your portfolio. The more notable the project, the better it is to feature it.

Regrettably, the review section, a crucial part of any profile, will start at zero. But once you secure your initial reviews, landing more projects becomes much smoother.

While you wait for that all-important first review, do you want to maximize your chances to receive your first translation assignment? Don’t limit yourself on Upwork – explore 14 more websites to find translation jobs.


Beginners often try to list everything they have ever done. Don’t. Stick to relevant info only.
An example? Let’s say you have done translation and English tutoring and you will be applying for translation jobs only. Don’t write ‘My name is John and I am a translator and English tutor’, but rather ‘My name is John and I’m a Turkish to English translator’.

Learn how to send winning proposals

Sample job description. Based on the level of details the client specified in their post, this would be an idea job post to answer to. Source: Upwork

The mistake I see a lot of beginner translators making is that they apply to every job they see with the same scripted template, listing everything they ever accomplished from first grade to that moment. This is not how to get translation jobs on Upwork.

First, if you are sending template messages, please stop now – clients can tell in 3 seconds that you are sending them a canned response.

The more personal you can make the proposal, the higher the chance of winning that job. The client has only said ‘I need to translate a document from English to Swedish’? Don’t apply. There are ways to win similar jobs as an advanced user, but with zero reviews, your chances are next to none.

Dig through the client history to see if any freelancer thanked them by their name. Personalising the proposal with the person’s name shows that you have already put in some effort to find out more about that person.

Be concise and go straight to the point – if you worked on similar projects in the past, tell them. If you know the industry as an insider, tell them. If you did something vaguely similar 4 years ago, that’s not relevant. Don’t tell them.


Since most jobs receive A TON of proposals, visibility is extremely important on Upwork. Try to send your proposal as soon as possible, and don’t be afraid to use Connects to boost it (more on that later).

Create a Project… if you want

Creating a project in Project Catalog is another way to get jobs on Upwork and make money. By creating a project, you can tell clients ‘this is what I can do for you, how long it will take me and how much it will cost you’.

I am a fan of projects… but not for translators. As we charge per word, it’s hard to tell in advance ‘I can translate a book for $xx,xx’. Is the book 40,000 words? Is it 400,000?

It’s not a case that when you look at the project catalog for translators, many projects have never been reviewed.

That said, you miss a 100% of the shots you don’t take. You can try to create a project and see how it goes. You have nothing to lose.

Sample of a translation project. Source: Upwork

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is getting a job on Upwork so difficult?

Because the competition is fierce. Upwork is the most well known freelancing platform on the Internet, and every aspiring freelancer tries their luck there. But if you follow the principles outlined in this guide, you are sending proposals that have much higher chances to land projects. Then it only becomes a matter of time.

Does Upwork pay well?

No. Compared to other translation portals, on average Upwork clients pay low rates. However, if you are quick enough as a translator, you can still get a good hourly rate ($20 to $25 per hour).

How do you get paid on Upwork?

As a freelancer on Upwork, you get paid via PayPal, wire transfer or direct deposits. In case of any disagreement between clients and freelancers, there is a dispute process you can start.

Does Upwork charge a fee for translation projects?

Yes, Upwork charges freelancers a 10% fee on their earnings. The fee also applies to bonuses, if you get any.

How much should I charge on Upwork as a beginner?

As much as your language and niche allow you, based on a careful study of the competition. If that’s too low for you, then you need to look at other websites.

Is Upwork better than Fiverr?

In my opinion, yes. The rates are generally higher, as well as the caliber of clients (usually).

That said, I believe the biggest advantage to general freelance platforms is the chance to get experience to put on your CV. Where you get it doesn’t matter much.


This is it – the full guide to land translation jobs on Upwork. I can promise this: if you apply what you learned here, you will be successful. Sooner or later.

And here lies the key: persistance. No one can tell you how long it will take before you receive the so-coveted assignation email.




Even when no one’s answering you. Even when you feel hopeless. Even when it makes no sense. Just keep shooting proposals.

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