Have I convinced you to try your hand at translation? Maybe you are filled with excitement, and ready for the newest challenge that awaits. So dive right in! Where? Where is the diving board? Where is the pool? How do you even start?
Like any new career, it can be hard to find where to begin. Luckily it no longer involves searching in the dark in the hopes of finding some ray of light leading to an entrance. There are multiple websites that you can join that allow you to dip your feet in the translator pool for the first time, or dive into the deep-end, depending on your experience and desire.
But first let’s talk about experience.
Most places ask for experience. Of course if you are hiring someone to do a translation job you are going to ask for experience. Why wouldn’t you? This leaves you in a catch-22, where to get experience, you need to have experience. But you have a good option available to you in the very beginning:
This has a three-fold effect. You develop actual translation skill, you build up your resume, and you make connections. It isn’t hard to do. For example:
1. Go to a amateur Japanese manga site and offer to translate manga into English.
2. Go to an amateur Western comic site and offer to translate manga into Japanese.
Then do the same for every field of content you can think of. Amateur newspapers, websites, YouTube videos, etc. No one is going to pass up free expansion of their content to either the rest of the world, or to Japan.
Resist the temptation to do copyright infringing translations. While you might have fun translating manga or anime you love, it can become an issue if you are asked about it. It also limits your ability to develop contacts and references. When you are working from amateur sources, they may pay you in the future for additional work, or refer paying sources to you.
Get creative. Offer to translate restaurant menus, social media, presentations, speeches, e-mails, and anything else you can think up. While not everyone will respond to you, some will, and you can work from there.
Use your experience to start small.
Congratulations, you’re experienced! Your next urge is to immediately explore the sites and start picking out jobs for massive projects, like translating hundreds of pages of instruction manuals for large companies. Don’t do this. Start small.
There are often two types of gigs you’ll find:
1. Large projects from regular companies
2. Casual stuff from individuals asking to translate an email, small report, or subtitle their video
Begin with something tiny and specific. It’s easier to get a job like this with less experience. It also gets you warmed up to dealing with clients, gives you a good feel of how much time translation takes, what projects you should be bidding on, and at what rate.
To the websites!
Below I’m going to introduce 4 freelance translator websites, and 3 regular translator hire sites, in no particular order. I’m not endorsing any of them, so use them at your own risk. I’m including what a sample search for Japanese translation jobs looks like, and for the freelance translator sites I’m also including a screenshot of a random project.
Go ahead and start translator job level upping!
I don’t have any samples because they require registration, and taking a series of tests to even look at the jobs posted. But they are fairly big and popular, so definitely worth checking out.
Upwork is the merger of the two older freelance services Elance and oDesk.
Next up are some typical places to find non-freelance translation jobs.
And there is always Craigslist…
Taking your first steps
Your experience will vary greatly depending on how you use a site, the people posting the projects, and how good you’ve built up your resume.
What other sites do you know of that are great for either getting freelance translation work, or a full-time translation job? If you have any experience with the above sites, or stories of how you got your own volunteer translation experience before using these sites, leave a comment!
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.