Okay, we know you want translation jobs, you know you want translation jobs, so let’s skip the banal lead-in and go straight to the meat of the matter.

1. Your own website

Let’s start with the obvious: If you are to build a strong personal brand, nothing beats having a website of your own. There are plenty of free or reasonably priced Wordpress themes to give it a professional look and feel. Keep in mind that your website won’t promote itself, so if that’s the way you want to go, be ready to work on your online presence in social media networks and groups. Also, note that this approach works mostly for attracting direct clientsagencies don’t really care how good you are at social media.

(Side note: When working with direct clients, you’re likely to run into difficulties when receiving payments from across the globe. Read or scroll down to the very end of #15 below to find out what you can do to get paid easily.)

2. Traditional agencies

The next obvious way is to sign up with translation agencies, aka LSPs. The process is usually more or less the same: You send your CV, if the agency is interested they send you a test assignment, and, if they like it, add you to their pool of translators. You never really know if you’re going to get an actual assignment — but the more respectable the companies you focus on, the higher your chances. You might want to check out this list of the world’s top 100 LSPs.

Online agencies

These are online platforms that are basically agencies concealed behind a fancy UI. This helps them attract tech-savvier customers, who might not want to have to deal with too much human interaction when they need to translate something. Although the overall experience for you as a translator is similar to that with traditional agencies, it might be more automated. For example, you might do the tests and assignments right on the website instead of sending and receiving files manually.

Let’s look at and compare the five most popular online agencies.

3. Gengo

gengo-1

Currently the most popular among all online agencies, Gengo has set the tone for the look and feel of such platforms. The agency provides educational resources for translators, detailed style guides for some languages, and a practical online platform where you do the translations. Some languages, most notably Japanese, have a steady flow of orders, so if you translate from or to these, you’re unlikely to stay without work for long. On the downside, there are fewer orders for other languages, so there’s always a “click race” to snatch them up as the first person to apply gets the job. The rates are pretty modest, especially at the “Standard” level.

Gengo.com

Site visits/month:
~370,000

LinkedIn followers:
~9,000

Pros:

Helpful onboarding material

Many jobs for some languages

Convenient interface

Cons:

Few jobs and “click racing” for other languages

Very low rates for “Standard” translations, marginally acceptable for “Pro”

Payouts:

Timeline: Twice a month

Methods: PayPal only

Payout fee: 1.5%, but not less than $1.5 and not more than $20 per payout + PayPal’s fees for withdrawal

Service fee*: 50–100%

* Here and below, “Service fee” refers to the amount the given service/platform charges to customers on top of what it pays the translators.

4. Smartling

smartling

Next in popularity, Smartling, is an online agency favored by software companies, which naturally affects the kind of content you get to translate. If you’re a techie, you might enjoy such work. The company also boasts some big names on its customer portfolio, including the likes of Slack, WeWork, and Intercom, which can give you a sense of belonging to the cutting edge of tech. On the downside, the platform provides few resources for translators, and the rates are modest too, so you might feel like a small, replaceable part of a big treadmill.

Smartling.com

Site visits/month:
~310,000

LinkedIn followers:
~9,000

Pros:

Constant flow of order

Content ideal for IT-savvy translators

Big names among customers

Cons:

Over-focused on customers

Few resources & little help for translators

Payouts:

? (Pls message me if you know!)

Service fee: 50–100%

5. OneHourTranslation.com

onehourtranslation-1

OHT is perhaps the oldest among the successful, and the most successful among the old online translation agencies. Unfortunately, its age shows: The agency’s website has a distinctive “2000s” feel to it, and that likely drives the “hipper” customers away. On the upside, OHT works closely with its freelancers, introducing a gamified progression system, which makes growth within it fun regardless of the financial reward. Speaking of which, alas, the money is not great — although it gets somewhat better in the higher “tiers”.

OneHourTranslation.com

Site visits/month:
~270,000

LinkedIn followers:
~9,000

Pros:

Good support for translators

Progression system

Cons:

Outdated look & feel

Rates, rates, rates...

Payouts:

Timeline: Net 30 after earning a minimum of $20; early payout options available

Methods: PayPal, wire, Payoneer mastercard

Payout fee: None for regular payouts; varies for early payouts + PayPal/Payoneer withdrawal fees where applicable

Service fee: 50–100%

6. Unbabel

unbabel

If there’s a polarizing translation service, Unbabel is it. Built entirely on a machine translation post-editing flow, it makes customers rejoice in how cheap it is and linguists shudder at the resulting quality. From a translator’s point of view, working for Unbabel is an unusual experience, partly because the content is mostly simple and partly because it is the only popular service that pays by the hour, not by the word — which has its upsides and downsides. Rates vary from unbelievably low to pretty good, depending on the language pair and perhaps some other factors.

Unbabel.com

Site visits/month:
~320,000

LinkedIn followers:
~12,000

Pros:

Simple content to translate

Edit on top of machine translation

Get paid by the hour

Cons:

Simple content to translate

Edit on top of machine translation

Get paid by the hour

(not a mis-copypaste)

Payouts:

Timeline: On demand (after project approval)

Methods: PayPal, Payoneer (only in countries where PayPal is not available)

Payout fee: According to PayPal/Payoneer terms

Service fee: 50–100%

7. TextMaster

textmaster

Despite the boring name, TextMaster is perhaps the “littest” on the list. Its website features strong “millennial-friendly” features such as being people-centric and explaining complex things in simple words (my own guilty pleasure). Also, from a brief study of the web, it seems TextMaster freelancers really love working for it. The agency also claims to focus on the quality of translations, describing its selection process in detail and boasting that only 25% of freelance applicants get admitted. This might be good or bad, depending on where you are in your career and skills — especially if you couple that with the fact that jobs don’t seem to come in abundance.

TextMaster.com

Site visits/month:
~160,000

LinkedIn followers:
~4,000

Pros:

Presumably good rates

Clear messaging & guidelines

Vibrant community

Cons:

Rigorous selection process

Irregular job flow

Payouts:

Timeline: On demand (after project approval)

Methods: PayPal, Payoneer

Payout fee: According to PayPal/Payoneer terms

Service fee: 25–50%

Other online translation agencies worth mentioning are Lokalise.co, Speakt.com, Stepes.com, TranslatorsBase.com, and Zingword.com (which technically makes this a Top 20 article!).

With that, let’s go on to the next kind of marketplaces—

Oldies (but goodies?)

If by now you’re tired of looking at fancy websites, rejoice: We now explore some “old-style” marketplaces (with one exception). There’s not much automation, if any, and some look like they come straight out of the pre-dot-com-bubble era — but it may be just what you need. Note that if the websites in the previous section were mostly targeted at direct clients, this is a domain where agencies reign — so decide whether you want to work with them based on your preferences.

8. ProZ

proz

Some would consider it a blasphemy that the almighty ProZ only takes the eighth spot here, and in some ways it is. If there is one place that could be considered a “home for all translators and translation agencies,” ProZ is it. The website has no automation — basically, translators just post their profiles, customers post their jobs, and somehow the two get connected. There are also added features on ProZ such as forums and contests that help translators build their presence among both colleagues and clients: “Star” translators — or, rather, translators with star profiles — can enjoy a steady inflow of orders. Others will see some, too — if for the sheer volume of traffic the website enjoys, — but be ready to decline (or accept) a lot of job offers for peanuts before you receive something worth considering.

ProZ.com

Site visits/month:
~4,000,000 (four effing million!)

LinkedIn followers:
~50,000

Pros:

Huge community

Many jobs posted

Helps build a profile in the industry

Cons:

A lot of orders are just trash

Not a hint of automation

Payouts:

Not applicable

9. TranslatorsCafe

translatorscafe

The Pepsi of the translation industry, TranslatorCafe is mostly all the same things as ProZ, but at a smaller scale. Downside: Smaller community, fewer jobs: Upside: More of a “family feeling” and fewer trashy jobs. The absence of a LinkedIn page (no, this is not it) speaks volumes about the level of automation and future-savviness, too.

TranslatorsCafe.com

Site visits/month:
~2,000,000

LinkedIn followers:

Pros:

Family-like community

Many jobs (but fewer than on ProZ)

Fewer trashy jobs than on ProZ

Cons:

Stuck in the 2000s

Payouts:

Not applicable

10. TranslationDirectory

translationdirectory

If you thought TranslatorsCafe’s website was outdated, you have to check this one out. Amazingly, the website manages to garner 130,000 visits per month, so if you set up a profile, there is a chance someone will contact you for something. The website doesn’t work the other way around — i.e. you cannot look for jobs, — which might be a blessing in disguise.

TranslationDirectory.com

Site visits/month:
~130,000

LinkedIn followers:

Pros:

People come here, somehow

It doesn’t hurt to sign up

Cons:

Hm… Everything else?

Payouts:

Not applicable

11. TheOpenMic

theopenmic

A breath of fresh air in the “old-school” department, TheOpenMic is actually a relatively new endeavor by translation celebrity (if that’s a thing) and enthusiast Dmitry Kornyukhov. The website started as a talking spot — think Facebook for translators — but has since tried to re-focus on bringing actual customers to the platform. Time will show if that bears any fruit, but you’ll likely enjoy the community part of it anyway.

TheOpenMic.co

Site visits/month:
?

LinkedIn followers:
130

Pros:

Vibrant community

Family feeling

Lets you build a strong profile among peers

Cons:

You’re not likely to get any jobs here, honestly — at least not directly

Payouts:

Not applicable

Okay, we’re almost 75% through. Before we get to the headliner, let’s take a look at some—

General-purpose marketplaces

Believe it or not, translation is not the only “freelanceable” job out there, so there are quite a few SaaS platforms aimed at everyone from designers and programmers to plumbers, wedding singers, and, well, translators. A word of warning is that since they don’t work exclusively with translators, they might not get how the translation industry works. Nor might their customers. So, if you decide to go for any of those options — why not, after all? — be ready to explain a lot to your customers, who will in many cases be individuals, not companies, with every consequence that follows.

12. Upwork

upwork

The ultimate veteran of all things freelancing, Upwork traces its roots back to 1998! Today it’s the default go-to for anyone starting to freelance in any profession, although Fiverr — see below — has made its life much harder. Given the website’s popularity and the number of translators already on the website, unsuccessful bidding for projects is the norm and might discourage even the most enthusiastic freelancer.

Upwork.com

Site visits/month:
~27,000,000

LinkedIn followers:
~280,000

Pros:

Long track record

Time-tested processes

Variety of jobs available

Cons:

Supply much higher than demand

Hard to win a bid without waging price wars

Customers largely unaware of translation trade specifics

Payouts:

Timeline: On demand (after project approval)

Methods: Direct to local bank

Payout fee: $0 for ACH, $0.99 for other methods

Service fee: 5–20%

13. Fiverr

fivver

Initially a place where anyone can get anything for just five dollars, Fiverr quickly turned into an all-purpose marketplace for all price ranges and a paragon of the “gigonomy”. Most customers are individuals, who, unfortunately, have an even larger tendency to underestimate the effort it takes to translate than businesses. If you go for it, be ready to undercharge. On the upside, you don’t need to bid for projects here — it works the other way around. So if you do manage to bag a few projects at low rates, your profile will likely climb up the search results, opening up opportunities for more lucrative orders.

Fiverr.com

Site visits/month:
~36,000,000

LinkedIn followers:
~150,000

Pros:

Rigorous procedure to protect both sides

No need to bid for projects

Lets you build a profile relatively quickly

Cons:

Overfocused on competing on price

Supply higher than demand

Customers unaware of translation trade specifics

Payouts:

Timeline: On demand (after gig approval)

Methods: PayPal, wire, U.S. direct deposit, Payoneer mastercard

Payout fee: $1–$3 or more depending on the method

Service fee: 5%

14. Freelancer.com

freelancer

Another behemoth of all-purpose freelancing, Freelancer.com undertook a strategy of acquiring smaller marketplaces. This, and a top but bland brand name, correlates well with the overall soulless feeling of the platform. Also, there doesn’t seem to be many translation jobs, with just 70 posted in 24 hours at the time of writing. On top of that, most jobs have 20+ bids, so be ready to master the good old trade of price wars if you decide to try your luck here.

Freelancer.com

Site visits/month:
~9,000,000

LinkedIn followers:
~80,000

Pros:

Hm… Domain name? No, it sucks too…

Cons:

Everything (but do challenge me)

Payouts:

Timeline: On demand (+15 days for the first payout)

Methods: local wire (in ~30 countries), global wire, PayPal, Skrill, debit card

Payout fee: $25 for global wire, none for rest + PayPal/Skrill withdrawal fees

Service fee: 10%

15. Smartcat

smartcat-1

Some might say I left Smartcat until last because I work here,̶ ̶̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶y̶ ̶w̶o̶u̶l̶d̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶t̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ ̶w̶r̶o̶n̶g̶. But the real reason is that it is so many things that it can’t be classified under any other title. It is not an agency, although it is the main business tool for thousands of agencies. It is not an all-purpose platform, and it is definitely not a computerized craigslist.

Of the many things that Smartcat provides, the two that matter most for translators are the (free!) CAT tool and the freelancer marketplace. The logic of the platform is that you use the CAT tool to work on your own daily jobs — wherever you got them from — and the more you do, the higher you rank on the Marketplace. (There are other factors determining your position, which are beyond the scope of this article.)

Once a customer — whether a direct client or an agency — has a job and needs linguists, they send out requests to profiles of their choice. Then, depending on the settings they chose, either the first translator to respond gets the job, or they collect several applications and decide whom they give it to. Sometimes they will also split the job between several translators — all of which happens in the same web interface, without having to send any files.

Although bid wars are not totally out of the question here, they are less common: The customers here know how the industry works and how costly a cheap translation can be. So no need to bring down your rates just for the sake of it!

Coming back to question asked in #1, Smartcat also allows you to invoice customers anywhere in the world. The customer will technically pay Smartcat, but you will be able to withdraw the amount from your balance as usual.

Smartcat.ai

Site visits/month:
~1,100,000

LinkedIn followers:
~6,500

Pros:

Easy-to-use UI

Jobs from industry-savvy customers

Quick & manageable bidding process

Cons:

Customers don’t have to pay upfront, so can disappear. Smartcat does guarantee ultimate compensation, but the investigation takes up to three months

Payouts:

Timeline: On demand + up to 5 days to process on Smartcat side (usually 1–2 days)

Methods: global & local wire, local e-wallets, credit/debit cards, PayPal, Payoneer

Payout fee: 0–4% depending on the payout method

Service fee: 10%

Phew! That was a long read, but hopefully it did make things clearer for you and will help you make a choice. As with anything, sometimes it makes sense to pick several marketplaces, but you may also prefer to double down in one — it’s up to you ?

Good read? Let me know! Did I screw up? Don’t be shy either way!