Yes, translation jobs from home can absolutely pay your bills. Assuming you’ve learned to manage your freelance business appropriately, you can find online translation work with reputable companies that pay well and provide enough work to fill your schedule.
The challenge lies in finding those unicorn positions in the first place. Most LSPs squeeze translators for every cent they’re worth. Working with end clients, you might struggle to achieve a secure volume of work that will cover your bills each month. Plus, most translators find their jobs through networking—a system that unfairly rewards connections over skills.
By following the steps below, you can work to mitigate these challenges and create a thriving career in the freelance translation industry.
How to Succeed with Translation Jobs from Home
Step 1: Manage Your Time Well
Most translators spend an absurd percentage of their working hours on tasks that do absolutely nothing to increase the total on their paychecks. As a freelancer, you have to think about the total cost of doing business for yourself—including time and other soft costs that too often get lost in the shuffle.
You’ve thought long and hard about your per-word rate. But have you considered how much time you spend invoicing, responding to emails, and managing files? You might be a master at using translation tools and terminology assets, but you’re not getting paid for that extra work either.
As a freelance translator, the best use of your time, minute-by-minute, is working directly on translations. Everything else should be considered a cost that detracts from the total amount you could be making. Reducing the total amount of time you spend on administration should be a top priority if you’re trying to increase your take-home pay.
If you’re currently playing project manager with a fifth of your work week, consider switching to a timesaving system like Bureau Works. When you work within our platform, you get projects automatically offered to you based on your previous success. No rapid response needed. No babysitting your email. It just takes one click for you to accept new opportunities and move directly into an editing tool to start working. We also provide tightly integrated terminology assets so you can spend less time with a spreadsheet and more time with the content. Working with a collaborative translation platform like BWX is a simple and instantaneous way to increase your personal efficiency and your chances of making more money.
Step 2: Set and Maintain Fair Rates
Per-word rates have become the unspoken battleground of the freelance translation industry—and we, wholeheartedly, disagree with that paradigm. As a translator, you should be able to set a per-word rate that allows you to make a living wage (at the very least) and, further, to set rates that are commensurate with your particular skills and experience. Setting higher rates would provide the necessary boost for just about any translator to succeed in a freelance career. The problem is getting employers to agree to pay you that much.
Right off the bat, you should know that most agencies operate in a big black box of obscurity. These companies are like matryoshka dolls: they put an absurd number of middlemen between you and the end client. Each of those people must be paid. The more of them there are, the less chance you’ll have of making the rate you deserve. If you try to build a salary on mere cents per project, you’re guaranteed to come up negative.
At Bureau Works, our translators are free to set their own rates. The BWX platform automatically matches projects with linguists based on a mix of factors—including budget—so it’s easy to work with only the clients who agree to pay what you’re worth. We don’t push your rates down, because we believe in a more honest and fair compensation structure. Our platform provides translation memories, term bases, and machine translation to make your job easier, and our algorithm constantly measures the amount of work needed to take each string from zero to translated. With BWX, there’s a tight connection between how much time you spend translating and how much you get paid.
Step 3: Produce Quality Translations (and Get Rewarded)
In the standard model of translation, you’d normally get paid more based on the number of projects you complete—not necessarily how good they are. Nobody’s coming back to you with change requests, because nobody’s measuring the success of the final product. Without transparency, there’s no accountability. Without accountability, even great translators will tend toward submitting less-than-stellar work. And, meanwhile, this system offers no reward for high-quality work.
To maximize your potential, both professionally and financially, you need to find work that rewards you for performing at a higher level. Look for employers who actively track and measure translator performance through the review process. Prioritize those who supply a direct line of contact between you and your end client so you can have access to the information you need. Finally, stay on the lookout for end clients that you find interesting or fun—because at the end of the day, the more you like the content you’re working on, the more productive and successful you’ll be.
Bureau Works is a system that works well for translators who have a high degree of confidence in their skill set and who hold themselves to producing publication-ready translations from the very beginning. Our system is designed to incentivize outstanding translation in the first pass. We expect our translators to maintain a quality score above 85%—meaning less than 15% of your strings need editing by our review team. The higher your score, the more opportunities you’re awarded. We also track which clients and subject areas you’re best at, so you’ll automatically receive more of those projects over time.
Stop wasting your time trying to game the system. By prioritizing quality and employers who value performance, you can instead focus on doing great work and receiving all the rewards that come with it.
What It Takes to Succeed with Bureau Works
We’re always hiring for self-motivated translators in a wide range of language pairs. If you’re looking for secure translation jobs from home that will allow you to work with integrity, consider trying your hand as a member of our team. Localization moves quickly at Bureau Works, and our work definitely isn’t for everyone. But if you’re looking to work hard, produce excellent translations, and get rewarded for doing so, this could be the opportunity you’ve been searching for.
Bureau Works is looking for top-performing translators to support our industry-leading localization platform. And we’re offering secure, fair-paying work for linguists who measure up. Reach out today to join our team and start building a career you can depend on.
Written by Luciana Passos
Luciana is Bureau Work’s COO. She is known as a gap bridger and a heart follower.