7 steps to become a nomad freelance translator when you have no experience

Don’t wait. The time will never be right. ― Napoleon Hill

Knowledge should be available for free and nowadays much of it already is.

Before the invention of the internet you needed to go to school to learn whereas now you can study almost anything for free online. For example, the skills needed for learning languages and translations can be found on the internet and with that knowledge you can gain hands-on experience from crowd sourcing sites like freelancer.com.

Thanks to the internet becoming a freelancer is easy. You can create an account at freelancer.com and – congratulations! – you are a freelancer…a jobless freelancer. The challenge is to become a successful freelancer.

In this article I am going to explain how I became a successful, remote-working freelance translator in 7 steps.

1. Join crowdsourcing services right now!

Do it now

By right now, I mean right NOW. Stop reading, open freelancer.com in a new tab and start creating your account. It takes less than 5 minutes. Why right now? Because it’s usually now or never. Most of us think or fantasize about doing this kind of work but we rarely actually act because we either don’t think we’re ready, don’t have the time or we adopt a rather lax attitude and say “I can do it later…” when later often equates to NEVER.

If you are really busy write it down on your hand to remind you to do it today but be specific, 8pm or certain time today.

Then when you have time sign up to other crowd sourcing services like upwork.com, and peopleperhour.com.

2. Join Facebook and Linkedin right now.

Your future employers are looking for you on a Linkedin group. You can send a ‘join-request’ to up to 20 groups at a time. When you send it to the 21st group Linkedin advises you to wait or withdraw request from other groups.

It will take you less than 10 minutes to send requests but it can take a week or more for them to be approved. If you want to join more than 20 groups, and trust me you do, start sending request now.

Facebook groups for translators:

Linkedin groups:

3. Create kick-ass Linkedin & Crowdsourcing profile.

The above process should have taken you less than two hours but this is where the hard work really begins. You actually need to put your head down and come up with some great ways to present yourself to potential employers. Don’t worry! You only need to do this once and then possibly update your profile a few times a year as you gain more experience.

See my freelancer.com profile for an example.

4. Establish an everyday routine to check emails and bid on translation projects.

You don’t encounter good projects often and that’s why you need to be persistent and search everyday to be the first freelancer to apply with the best proposal.

I open Freelancer.com and Upwork every weekday to find new projects and send proposals to employers using my project proposal templates. This only takes me about 5-20 minutes per day because of the number of templates I have meaning I don’t have to write proposals and responses from scratch.

5. Create project proposal templates, send proposal to employers everyday to get your first project and first review.

To be a successful freelance translator the biggest challenge to overcome is to get your first 5 reviews on your crowd sourcing website. You may need to work for a very low wage at first but don’t worry, you won’t have to work at that level for too long. Once you have finished a number of small projects (2-5 hours each) to earn reviews then you should be able to increase your salary to above the minimum wage.

5.1. When applying for various jobs have templates ready with your proposal messages.

Element of good proposals are:

  1. You are motivated
  2. You are better than other freelancers
  3. You are flexible on budget
  4. Your work is valuable to clients
  5. Specific to different projects

I used to write something like this:

“Hi [employer’s name]
My name is Masaharu, and I am a native Japanese freelancer. I am trying to get my first review so that I can kick-start my career on freelancer.com.

I am eager to get my first review so I am offering a very good price proposal with the promise that I will work very hard to get the job done to a high quality.

If you are wondering whether I am qualified or not just call me and I will demonstrate my language skills.”

Then after I got some reviews I created templates to apply for various projects like:

  • Translation) DTP Translation
  • Translation) Difficult formatting
  • Translation) Difficult format. I don’t know word count.
  • Translation) Audio video transcription
  • Translation) App store listing

5.2. Check crowd sourcing websites to find small projects and send proposals everyday.

Finding smaller projects of less than 50 USD might take a few days, or even a few weeks. Certain employers don’t hire freelancers altogether while others hire them from different crowdsourcing websites and I have found that the occasional employers just want to hire ridiculously cheap freelancers.

Not getting projects is not your fault so don’t take it personally or be scared of rejection. Be persistent.

You can play the numbers game. This is the law of averages: if you send proposals to many projects eventually you will be successful in finding one. If you send proposals to even more projects you will get even more projects!

5.3. If you spend enough time on it, you can eventually do good work.

Translation is not like making sculptures or paintings or playing music in a club. You can make many mistakes and fix them later before you submit your work. I am a native speaker of Japanese but my first translation was obvious translation-ese (awkwardness or grammatical errors of the translations often due to overly literal translation of idioms or syntax). I fixed them before I submitted my work to the client. Clients don’t care how many times you rectify your work as long as the final product is up to their standard. *1

If you don’t think you can finish the job by the deadline provided you can always negotiate as clients are often flexible.

5.4. If you cannot get projects lower you rate and sign up to other services.

There are thousands of translation agencies that you can sign up to and get projects.

  1. Go to List of translators and interpreters associations – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
  2. Find association of your country.
  3. Find list of member of the association.
  4. Go to website of the members (=translation agencies) of association.
  5. Sign up to them as a freelance translator.

You might need to take a test or have a job interview using Skype but that’s all you need. I know that many of them accept candidates without experience and that’s why they have tests to ensure the skills of translators are up to a certain standard.

GALA is a huge international association of translation agencies. You can check their membership rquirements and sign up.

There are literally thousands of translation agencies and many of them accept translators without experience.

Some other agencies:

  • Gengo You need to pass a test to start working.
  • Conyac
  • Yaqs Crowd translation companies from other country
  • Bigword One of my clients. They are reliable.
  • Moravia One of the biggest crowd translation agencies.

6. Create more project proposal templates.

If you cannot get projects even when sending proposals to a new ones everyday, maybe your proposal templates are lacking in something.

I have 25 proposal templates for translation projects; small website translation projects; big website translation projects; translation projects without detail; software translation projects; powerpoint presentation translation projects; brochure translation projects; app store listing translation projects; translation projects without word count in description, etc.

When you have more proposal templates you can send the more relevant ones in less than 60 seconds to a potential employer. Legal and contract translations require a different kind of expertise and you want to send specific resposes demonstrating that you are the right person with the right skill set to complete the task at hand. Here is example.

bidding routine

Click to enlarge

7. Get reviews on Linkedin.

Do not forget to ask your clients for feedback on Linkedin as well as crowdsourcing websites. Not all clients will have a Linkedin account and not all Linkedin users give feedback. It’s again numbers game.

8. Being a part-time freelancer will get you a better full-time job.

Even if you are not interested in a full-time freelancing career or you don’t want to quit your job, I strongly encourage you to start freelancing as a side business. Having reviews on Linkedin and freelancer.com will help you get more experience and better career prospects.

For example, I get messages from many head-hunters on Linkedin for full-time positions in big, very well-known companies that I cannot mention (I signed non-disclosure agreement).

If you find this article useful please sign up from link below:

https://www.freelancer.com/affiliates/hayatakimasaharu

Freelancer.com has a commission system and so you will be not be charged for using it. When you get paid by clients freelancer.com takes 5% of your sales – like a tax. If you sign up from the link above this 5% goes to me instead of freelancer.com which means when I need something from you I can hire you without paying freelancer.com commission.


Bare in mind that you can be a freelance translator without experience but that will not make you a Digital Nomad freelance translator earning 5000 USD a month whilst you travel and work only 3 hours per day. You need to build up your profile by completing a fair amount of projects in order to then earn around 2000 USD a month doing 10-15 hours work per day.

Translation is not a easy job. Usually people study translation at university for 4 years. There is a lot of learning to do if you wish to be a professional translator such as how to use computer assisted translation tools, software localization methodology, copywriting, laws, etc., but you must remember that it is possible. It may not easy but it does not require specific talents. You just need to do it and learn by doing it.

*1 To be fair, being native speaker is not good enough to be a translator. You need to study translation, but you be qualified enough to take small projects after studying translation online. You can find more about it on my business website.

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