Freelance Translating as a Part-Time or Full-Time Job

Modern technology, powered by the Internet, has created an international platform for businesses and individuals in nearly every country to communicate and interact with one another. With less restrictions on transacting business on a global level, businesses in the United States need freelance translators to translate their marketing materials in different languages. Without translated written materials, businesses could never sell their services or products beyond the confines of the English-speaking world.

If you know how to read and write in another language, or if your native tongue is other than English, then you already possess the primary skill to translate English into another language and vice versa. Good translation skills coincides with good writing skills—translating a text requires you to understand English grammar and writing mechanics.

Who Hires Freelance Translators?

Many national and international companies which target different ethnic cultures hire freelance translators. Companies in the United States recruit freelance translators to translate English text into Spanish for a variety of tasks, such as translating their sales materials and business documents. Many companies in Canada recruit translators for translating material from French to English.

Generally, companies and organizations with websites continually need freelance translators to translate online copy because it’s more affordable to connect with a global audience via the Internet. A common scenario—that I routinely encounter—is that a young company with a growing presence in the U.S. now wants to market its products in China to grow profits and stay competitive. This is where you come in, the freelance translator, who will help such companies cross communication barriers and reach new markets.

On the flip side, overseas companies which want to establish a presence in the U.S. market and sell products or services to consumers need translators to reword and rewrite their marketing materials into perfect English.

Common Skills You Need

The scope of the job will dictate what extra skills you’ll need. Writing in a foreign language is harder than reading in one. You may have a strong grasp of a foreign language, but you may not know if the translated words still mean the same thing or if the translated words may stir up ethnic sensitivities. A foreign language may have tricky vocabulary, colloquialisms, and subtleties of a native rhetorician. If that’s the scenario, stay with the jobs that require you to translate into English.

Naturally, if you are as skilled at writing in a foreign language as the foreigner is, then you are a unique asset!

Where to Find Translation Jobs

Browse for freelance translation jobs at or These sites aid translators in finding individuals and businesses that need to hire a translator for a single project or on-going employment.

Outsourcing job marketplaces like,, and have translation jobs available, especially for translating text into Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Spanish and many of the Eastern languages. To land a job at one of these outsourcing marketplaces, you will need to submit a proposal and an estimated cost to do the job. Your proposal needs to convince the job poster to hire you, and not a competitor.

Even if you lack strong translation skills to translate into one or more common language, you can still pick up many gigs. In fact, specializing in a unique language will make you more valuable to prospective clients.

How to Bid for Translation Jobs

If you discover that clients are willing to pay higher rates for your services because you offer something unique and valuable, then don’t shy away from quoting above what your competitors are quoting. Of course, you want to balance the cost of your services between making a profit and what the client can afford. If the business is in a start-up phase, then you might assume that funds are limited.

Common pay rates for translating materials for the general public ranges between $15 and $40 an hour. Many translators specialize in a niche or industry to command higher rates. For instance, translating a research report for a pharmaceutical company can command a pay rate between $40 and $75 an hour. To increase your value in the eyes of prospective clients, build an impressive portfolio of work, along with testimonials from past clients. Translators have unique skills, so don’t discount yourself. Use the sales tactic referred to as “prestige pricing”—if you cheapen your rates, prospective clients are more likely to assume your skills and experience reflect the same.

How to Respond to a Job Ad

Always introduce yourself competently. You need to create rapport and trust with clients so they can trust you to handle and complete their projects with great accuracy.

Below is a sample job ad. Read it and figure out how to reply to the job poster.

We have Spanish-written documents that we need translated into English and French for an upcoming business seminar. We would like to hear from candidates who have such experience. We require you to translate 50 pages of text within six days. Please submit a resume, job experience, and expectations of pay. Native English translators only, please.

When you reply, focus on these elements: If you have the skills to translate their documents before their deadline, then reply to the ad. If you can only translate English to Spanish, then figure out if you can pair up with another translator to translate into French.

1. Highlight your translation capabilities and what makes you as a professional translator.

2. Inform the job poster that English is your native tongue and you are an expert writer whose writing skills further strengthen your translation skills. Guarantee that the translated documents will be accurate and suitable for their business seminar.

3. Estimate how long you think it will take you to complete the project, and multiply the amount of hours with your hourly rate. Provide this estimate to the job poster.

Translators are always in demand because businesses and individuals lack the skills and experience to translate materials themselves. Prove your skills and your worth, and you can expect to land job after job.

About the author

Brian Scott

Brian Scott

Brian Scott uses his creative skills to freelance full-time as a copywriter, SEO marketing specialist, and graphic designer. Self-employed since 1996, he's had the opportunity to work in traditional media (pre-Internet Age) and now online media. Prior to freelancing, he worked in public relations, newspaper copy editing, and mail-order marketing.

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