How to Find Online Translation Jobs: The Essential Guide

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Do you know a second language? Do you perhaps have several languishing in the back of your mind? If you are fluent in more than one language, online translation jobs may be your route into home-based work.

Many companies are looking for people to translate a wide variety of material for many industries. Read on to learn what kind of specialisms are out there, and find out how to find freelance and online translation jobs. Maybe you can finally put those eight semesters of foreign language classes to work!

What Types of Online Translation Jobs Are Out There?

When you think of translation, it’s easy to picture someone sitting in a room alone transcribing lengthy books. But actually, there are many specific areas translators tend to focus on, known in the industry as specialisms.

Some main specialisms include translation services for the following areas:

  • Legal translation
  • Financial translation
  • Medical translation
  • Marketing materials
  • Video subtitling or dubbing
  • Translation for a variety of specific business industries: tourism, construction or IT, being a few examples

You can go about finding a specialism is two ways:

The first is to think about what you have a background in. For instance, if you have a background in the medical field and you’re highly fluent in Spanish, you could focus on medical translation projects converting Spanish to English, or vice versa.

The second way is to focus on what languages you are competent in. You can start as more of a generalist and let specialisms come to you organically. This works well if you don’t have an extensive professional background in one specific area.

As you take on more projects, you will learn what topics you like and have more aptitude for. For instance, you might take a translation job for clients in the pet care industry and find you really enjoy the topic. If you also have a much-loved pet, it could turn out you knew more about the topic than you thought you did!

Translation - form one language to another, written on pavement slab

WARNING: Be careful to not take translation work in something highly technical that you have zero knowledge of. Pharmaceutical-related translation is a good example. Medical industries require extensive knowledge of medications and medical terminology. Getting the translations wrong could result in serious harm – so, be sure to choose your specialism carefully.

The more difficult and serious translations – namely those that require professional base knowledge – tend to pay the highest rates. Because incorrect translations in industries like medical, financial and legal can result in serious issues, clients tend to pay more of a premium for them. Also, because of the specialized industry jargon required, this type of works tends to be in strong demand.

Succeeding with Online Translation Jobs

In order to be successful in online translation work, it’s also important to know which languages are most in demand. You’re probably not going to find a lot of work translating text into Latin, for instance.

The most popular languages with the most translation jobs available tend to be Chinese, Spanish, German and French, according to translationRules.

However, don’t think that because you don’t know those four languages you’re out of the game. You may just need to search more for jobs that fit your language pairing. If you have a highly specific language pairing, like translating French to Japanese, for example, that – in effect – could become your niche.

Qualifications and Experience Needed for Translation Work

Beyond knowing a couple of different languages and possibly knowing a certain industry’s terminology, you also typically need to tick off a few other attributes:

You should have a variety of soft skills, with good reading and listening skills at the top of the list. Your main goal is to translate how the person speaking would express something, not how you would get it across, so these skills are key. Also, good listening skills can help you break into translating audio and video. This is a fairly in-demand specialism, thanks to the ease of recording anything these days.

To do online translation jobs you should also have a high degree of cultural knowledge, and strong writing skills in the language you are translating into. A work may be full of cultural references you need to get across to the reader/listener in the other language. Sometimes certain terms don’t have an exact equivalency between two languages. You therefore need the skills to convey certain ideas in as smooth and natural way as possible. You should have a good handle on style, so that your work comes across sounding competent and intelligent.

You’ll also need computer skills, like knowing in-depth how to use Microsoft Word and Excel. Some companies will have you work through their own website portal or app. Translators may also use translation memory and glossary systems. These typically come as software programs or files, and help to store certain text segments or terms for later referencing.

Keeping yourself on track for meeting deadlines is essential with freelance translation; Often, translation work comes in the form of huge projects, and it’s down to you to keep yourself on track with how much you need to get done, and when, to ensure you hit your deadline.

You may want to set yourself up with a project management system like Basecamp or Trello. Once again, strong computer skills help!

Building up Translation Experience

To get started with online translation jobs it helps to have some solid experience under your belt. This both hones your skills and shows potential clients that you can do the job.

Here are a few ideas to help you gain such experience:

  • Find ways to do translation work for free; Volunteer your time to translate a document for a non-profit, or work on crowd-sourced translation projects.
  • Travel to a country that uses your translation language; You can boost your skills in the language – “full-immersion” style! You’ll also learn all those little cultural quirks that don’t quite come across in textbooks.
  • Take a translation course.

With these ideas, you should be able to boost your translation resumé. It’s also worth noting that some companies will work with less experienced translators.

What Rates Should You Set?

We finally get to the big question on everyone’s mind: How much money can you actually make doing online translation jobs?

Unfortunately, there’s no single answer to that question. Like a lot of freelance work, you’ll most likely end up setting your own rates as you work to find your own clients.

When it comes to setting your rates, it’s something you have to work out yourself. First, you’ll need to calculate what your monthly expenses are, including taxes, insurance and retirement funds. (Note that, in most cases, you’ll most likely be working as a freelance translator).

From there, you should figure out how much money you’ll need to make each hour, depending on how many hours you are working. Remember to take into account non-billable hours, such as those spent doing admin and finding clients. You can find a comprehensive freelance rate calculator here.

Another crucial thing to keep in mind is how fast you can translate. Many places pay per project in some way, for example per word or per document. This means that the faster you work, the more you get paid per hour. However, you need to be realistic, ensuring you’re not rushing yourself and sacrificing your work quality. You may want to take on a few free projects and run a timer to see how fast you translate in a real-life scenario.

As a frame of reference, Tomedes polled how fast their translators work:

  • 36 per cent of those polled said they do 1,500 to 3,000 words per day.
  • 26 per cent said they do 3,000 to 5,000 words per day.
  • 21 per cent said they do fewer than 1,500 words per day.
  • 17 per cent said they do over 5,000 words per day.

As you can see, translation speeds are all over the place. How much you can do per day will depend on your skill level, natural work speed, and the difficulty of what you are translating.

Where do you Find Freelance Translation Jobs?

You can find freelance or home based translation jobs the same ways you’d find any other freelance work:

  • You can ask the people in your network if they know of anyone who needs your translation services.
  • You can check online job boards.
  • You can attend local business meetups to network and promote your services.
  • You can try bidding sites like Upwork, where a lot of translation work gets posted.
  • You can try making Google work for you by using search terms like “online translation jobs,” “Spanish to English,” and “online translation jobs English to Arabic.”

There are also companies that help connect you with clients that need translation work doing, allowing you to focus more on the actual work, rather than the marketing.

Below are some of the big-name translation companies:


What’s involved?

This site is a marketplace that helps connect you with clients who need translations. You choose your own projects and rates through the system. You sign up with the site for free, and they send an email with available jobs.

You can then bid on an available project, and you can see how others bidded on the same project. You begin work as and when you get an email telling you that you won a particular bid. As you complete projects, you build up a quality score.

Qualifications: Site registration is open to anyone.

Pay: Set your own rates in a bid system.

Pros: You get to choose your own projects and rates; you’re never locked into anything.  Tomedes chooses the winner for each bid based on price and quality score. Payment is through the company’s system, and payouts are via PayPal and Moneybookers.

Cons: A system like this can prove very competitive; You may feel pressured to lower your rates to win a bid; No guarantees of available work.


What’s involved?

People who translate for Gengo can pick and choose which projects they work on. They can also work whenever and wherever they want throughout the day.

Gengo translation website screenshot

Qualifications: Gengo welcomes beginners, so it’s a good place for novices and somewhere to find online translation jobs for students. You must take a two-part test, but the company gives you resources for preparing. There is a “Pro” qualification test to unlock higher-paid work.

Pay: Pay on projects varies depending on client, language and demand; The site lists around $50-599 monthly earning averages, depending on the language; Pay comes through PayPal or Payoneer.

Pros: The company advertises that it has thousands of projects available each day; There are active forums that allow translators to support each other; Work is done within the company’s system on a PC, tablet or smartphone.

Cons: Average pay comes out to only a part-time side income; Employee reviews on Indeed state that the company wants a quick turnover on work (usually within a couple hours); Work availability varies based on what language pairing you offer.

K International

What’s involved?

K-International is worth a look for experienced translators. The company looks for freelance translators with years of experience. At the time of writing, the firm is recruiting for speakers of Danish, Finnish, German, Japanese, Montenegrin, Somalian and Swedish.

Qualifications: Must have a degree or postgraduate diploma and five years of experience in translation.

Pay: Not listed – but presumably in line with the level of skill and experience expected.

Pros: Has many projects over a wide variety of fields like retail, tourism, medical and charity. The company even focuses on translating jobs for governments.

Cons: Not for beginners.

As you can see, much goes into becoming a freelance translator. However, if you enjoy languages, and are fluent in more than one, it can be a rewarding work option.

Check out “How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator” here.

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