As technology makes our world smaller, many businesses choose to promote themselves beyond the borders of the English-speaking world. This means translating their marketing materials into one or more different languages.
Do you write or read in a language other than English? If so, you can tap into individuals, colleges, and businesses seeking your services as a freelance translator. Whether you’re translating or simply proofreading someone else’s translation, you can find plenty of paying freelance jobs in this field.
Who is hiring freelance translators?
Many international and domestic businesses that serve various ethnicities need freelance translators. In the US, it is often essential to have your promotional materials in Spanish as well as English. In Canada, people are usually looking for French/English translation.
More often than not, companies with websites are the ones that hire freelance translators. It makes sense: it’s more cost-effective to reach international clientele through the Internet. Yes, they have a website, but now they want to market to Japan – that’s where, you, the freelance translator, comes in.
On the other side, foreign businesses want to market themselves in the US or Canada. That means they need someone like you to translate from the foreign language into flawless English.
What skills do you need as a freelance translator?
Your skills depend on the job. Writing in a foreign language is more difficult than reading in one. Even if you have a solid command of a foreign language, you may not have educated yourself to the extent that you can write it effortlessly, with all the colloquialisms and nuances of a native speaker. If that’s the case, stick to the jobs where you’re translating to English.
Of course, if you can write in a foreign language as a foreigner can, go for it – you are a rare commodity!
Where can you find freelance translation jobs?
Check out websites like online-writing-jobs.com and writingbids.com. These sites devote themselves to connecting freelance translators with clients who need things translated.
Freelancing websites like Guru.com and Peopleperhour.com are also excellent resources, especially if you know a highly sought-after language like French, Spanish, German, or many of the Asian languages.
On these sites you bid for projects, which can be competitive for more run-of-the-mill freelance work. For translation projects, it’s a whole different story. There are few capable translators out there, so your bid will often be the only bid.
If you don’t speak one of the more “popular” translation languages, don’t worry – you can still find projects that pop up occasionally. Look at it this way: the rarer the language, the rarer the competition!
How can I quote appropriately for a freelance translation job?
Because your freelance translation services are in high demand, you can quote high, but do your best to estimate what the client can afford. If it’s a startup project, chances are they don’t have a ton of money to throw around.
That said, freelance translators can expect to earn at least $35 per hour and can charge much more as they build up a portfolio of happy customers. You have a unique skill, so don’t undersell yourself. Use the marketing concept called “prestige pricing” — if you lowball your prices, potential clients will assume you aren’t good enough for them to pay you well.
How should I respond to a translation job ad?
Always present yourself professionally. Clients need to trust that you can handle the job because they (usually) have no immediate way of checking to see how accurate your translation is.
Read the sample ad below and ask yourself how you’d respond:
We have Japanese documents that must be translated to English for a business meeting. Please only respond if you can translate about 25 pages within one week. US English only.
If you can handle translating that quantity of Japanese in a short timeframe, then decide if you want to respond to the ad. When you respond, make sure you:
1. Emphasize your translation skills and what qualifies you as an expert translator.
2. Reassure the client that your English is of a professional caliber, so the documents will be appropriate for a business meeting.
3. Estimate your fee based on the time you need to complete the project.
Remember that people usually need translators because they can’t do it themselves. Demonstrate your ability and integrity, and you should enjoy substantial success as a freelance translator.
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