1.6 Get Your First Clients


Finding Clients

There are a number of ways to find translation work. Some translators are lucky enough to have their first translation clients come easily through a referral or networking. However, if you have to look for those first few jobs on your own, you may find that it isn’t easy to get started, and you might not make much at the beginning. You may have to wait several months until you start to get paid jobs. You can make getting your first translation clients a less daunting process by preparing a strong CV, learning marketing strategies, and using translator resources like online workplaces and agencies.

Online Workplaces

Online workplace sites catered to translators, and the translation clients trying to find them, are some of the best ways to find work. Two of the main sites for doing so are proz.com and translatorscafe.com, though there are many others. Most have free options, but serious freelance translators often pay for one if not numerous sites. In choosing the paid option at an online workplace, the translator is able to have a more complete, personalized experience which allows them to get more work, expand their educations and seek out the assistance of their fellow colleagues, and also gives them access to term databases. While it is not necessary to become a paid member of an online workplace to develop a successful career as a translator, it is extremely helpful to freelancers.

Translator workplaces allow translators that are qualified for posted work to bid on the job, or send the client a quote detailing the return of the document in the desired language. Quotes summarize to the client the rate that the translator will charge, and also include their qualifications and experience translating similar documents, plus how quickly it will be returned. A cover letter is often included, highlighting the strong points as to why they are the best translator for the job.  The client then chooses the most qualified translator. It is not uncommon to see general jobs offered to translators and students just starting off in translation at a lowered rate, and at times there are volunteer translations which provide excellent practice. Online sites are also a good place to find translation agencies that invite translators to join their databases.


You will either be accepting jobs directly from translation clients, or through a middleman by means of a translation agency. Translation agencies provide a number of services to their clients through the use of sub-contracted, freelance translators. As translation jobs arise, agencies go through their available translator databases to review the specialization areas of their translators. When they get a job in your field, they see if you are able to take it, and if you are unavailable, they find someone else. You may accept or decline jobs depending on your current work load or how comfortable you feel with the terms in the document. Getting involved with more than one agency is a good way to get a steady flow of work. Agencies can be found through online workplaces and Internet searches, or check your local phonebook, job sites, or craigslist.


The translator workplaces and associations that you join will likely allow you to create a website that you can personalize to emphasize your education, experience, specializations and other relevant information such as software proficiency. You may also have a professional website in your own name, but an online presence is extremely beneficial to the freelance translator. A personalized website shows clients your level of professionalism and dedication to your field.

Much of your work will come via the Internet; nevertheless that does not mean that you should rule out local jobs. Get business cards made using a professional email address, attach them to your CV and send them to all of the agencies or relevant industries that you can! If you want to do medical translation, send them to hospitals, if you want to do educational translation, send your CV to schools.

Read already translated documents in your surroundings and pay attention to typos and grammatical errors. Often, if you bring errors to the attention of the company, they will give you the job of fixing them; you never know where you may find an opportunity to translate in your area. Search local job sites and craigslist. Many agencies will take on translators that are not in their immediate area, so don’t worry if there isn’t much near you. Don’t be discouraged if you do not get a huge response in the beginning, just one or two responses you will earn you experience. When first starting out as a freelancer, you should expect to do more marketing and reaching out to agencies or potential clients than translating.

Instructions to Follow

  • If you are in the US search for summer internships available in most of the larger cities
  • Submit your resume to translation companies around the world. Make sure you don’t send emails in bulk, since this will make you look like a spammer
  • Call translation agencies and introduce yourself over the phone. They should direct you to the right person in charge of recruiting, which will increase the chances of getting your resume to the right person
  • Go read our next chapter: 2.1 Decide on the Subject Matter(s) to Specialize in

Or see index for the Ultimate Guide for Becoming a Freelance Translator

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