Finding Work



Finding Work


BinocularsWhere to look

To find your first clients, there are four main areas where you should look at first: your ex-employer, translation agencies, freelancing websites and translator portals.

Ex (or current) employer

Providing you left on good terms (and you should always try to), this is an excellent way to start. After all, you had a chance to prove yourself while you were there, so they know your levels of skill and professionalism. Also, you are used to working with them, in their field. So, don’t be afraid to reach out.

PS. Stealing clients from your ex-employer is not cool.

General freelancer websites

These websites put prospective clients directly in touch with freelancers in different fields. Although rates on average aren’t great and competition is fierce, you can learn a lot in terms of how to sell your services, with the added security of a third party check on payments.

WARNING: Make these websites work for you, don’t get stuck in races to the lowest rates.

Enter with a clear strategy and an end goal: get reviews, fill your portfolio and get out as soon as you can—unless you manage to raise your rates to a level you find satisfactory.

The most famous ones are: Elance, PeoplePerHour and Upwork.

How To Succeed

These tips are from Elance; however, they can be applied to most freelancer websites.

We highly recommend the following blog post—you don’t have to copy his method, however it highlights the need to think creatively, test, and treat it like an experiment:

Hacking Elance – The Step by Step Guide to How I Made $23,700 in 4 Weeks

Translators Portals

Registering with this websites will introduce you to a community of like-minded professionals, industry news and jobs

Besides job opportunities, the following associations grant visibility and credibility to their members, so it is worth joining and creating a profile on the ones you think might apply to you.

You can start from the list below:

  • ProZ
  • Translators Café
  • ATA (American Translators Association)-
  • ITI (Institute of Translation and Interpreting)
  • IOL (Chattered Institute of Linguists)
  • SFT (French Translators Association)
  • BDÜ (German Translators Association)
  • NAJIT  (US National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators)
  • ITA (Israel Translators Association)
  • OTTIAQ (Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec)

Some points to keep in mind when quoting on ProZ (and elsewhere):

  • Reply to offers where you have relevant experience
  • Personalise your reply (mentioning relevant experience)
  • Include contact information everywhere (make it easy for them to contact you)
  • Include your CV
  • Contribute to questions to get kudos in your specialist field

Read the whole article here: (How to stand out on ProZ)

Translation agencies

Translation agencies are a great way for freelancers to get work (even if we say so ourselves).

Although you still have to convince them to send you work, they invest in sales and marketing, project management and are therefore able to attract clients that manage large, multinational, multilingual projects.

Far from being easy, you will need to produce high quality work on a regular basis and be easy to work with in order to get repeat business from agencies. Become a trusted resource for a popular sector and language pair for a few agencies and you won’t ever have to look for new clients again.

Additionally, working with agencies doesn’t preclude having direct clients. In fact, a lot of translators get their work from a mix of personal clients and translation agencies.

At this stage, you need to concentrate on two objectives: finding enough reputable agencies and convincing them to give you a shot. Afterwards, it’s all about the work you produce.

Finding agencies

A good place to start is from associations’ members in your country. This is a list of Translation Associations divided per country. Follow the link to browse the members in each group and start compiling a list of targets.

Czech RepublicACTA – Association of Czech Translation Agencies

Country Associations Website
Austria Austrian Association of Language Service Providers
Belgium Belgian Quality Translation Association
Estonia AETC Association of Estonian Translation Companies
Finland SKTOL – Suomen käännöstoimistojen liitto r.y.
France CNET – Chambre Nationale des Entreprises de Traduction
Germany QSD – Qualitäts-Sprachendienste Deutschlands e.V.
Great Britain ATC – Association of Translation Companies
Hungary MFE – Magyarországi Forditóirodák Egyesülete
Italy UNILINGUE – Associazione Nazionale di Imprese di Servizi Linguistici
Netherlands VViN – Netherlands Association of Translation Agencies
Poland PSBT – Polskie Stowarzyszenie Biur Tlumaczen
Polish Association of Translation Companies
 Portugal APET – Associação Portuguesa de Empresas de Tradução
Romania AFIT – Romanian Association of Translation and Interpreting Companies
Slovakia ATCSK – Association of  Translation Companies of Slovakia
Slovenia SATC – Slovenian Association of Translation Companies
Spain ASPROSET – Asociación Sectorial de Proveedores de Servicios de Traducción
Switzerland LINQUA  – Swiss Association of Quality Language Services
Turkey TÇID – Tüm Çeviri Isletmeleri Dernegi
Turkish Association of Translation Companies

It’s all in the numbers

Yes, it would be great if you could only contact a few companies and pick from the best rates offered. But unfortunately it’s not that simple.

At the beginning of your career you are playing a numbers game, as opposed to later on when you’ll focus on quality and might even have to turn down clients regularly.

You need to apply to hundreds of agencies.

To make the application process a little less tedious, here is an advanced technique that will save you time and will keep you organized at the same time.

It is the equivalent of using a digger while everyone is using a spade!


1. Open Google Chrome

2. Visit the following link:

3. Click + drag the green button and move it to the bookmark bar at the top of the browser


Close the page, then open

In settings >search settings > “results per page” set the number of results to 100.

Close the page, open

Search for: Translation agency + “your target country/city” – see the example below:


Now you have a list of 100 translation agencies that you can export into an Excel document to keep track of who you contact. Repeat this process for other pages to get even more results.

Try more combinations. For example, try to get a list of all the translation agencies on the ATC website.

Click on the “Simple Google Results” booklet that you downloaded (see step 3). This will create a list of all results that you can easily copy and paste into Excel.

Export to a spreadsheet and keep track of agencies as you contact them.


Now you have their contact details, it’s time to apply.

  • The number one rule: if the agency has an application form on their website, USE IT!
  • If you also decide to send a quick heads-up email, keep it short and to the point
  • Give professional translation references—if it’s your first job, you can still ask you ex-employer (if you were a translator) or people you interned or volunteered for
  • Clearly indicate your source and target languages as well as any industry-specific knowledge or experience you have

Screening agencies—make sure you get paid

Unfortunately, as is the case with every other industry, not all agencies are legitimate or ethical. So, beware of scams—you are on the internet, after all!

Luckily you don’t have to rely on gut instinct alone.

You can check out agencies that have been flagged as non-payers and read reviews on the following sites:

Note: When consulting these websites, look for trends as opposed to single bad reviews which could be from disgruntled translators and therefore not an accurate representation of how a company treats its freelance translators.