How to get a unpaid translating job ?
Thread poster: Wouthan (X)

Wouthan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:21
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Jan 30, 2015

I new to translation and I find it hard to get any paid jobs. The reason why is easy to explain. Although I have an bachelor degree as Mechanical Engineer, a Certificate as CNC-operator and lot of experience in those fields, I have no experience as freelance translator, nor do I have any certification as translator.

So, while I am waiting to get a paid job, I would like to do some small jobs for free. Just to get the practice and get the job registrated as projects on my profile, with feedbacks from client.
How do I get small unpaid jobs?


United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Don't work for free. Jan 31, 2015

All of us started out with little or no experience -that's how it works in every career. You have to use a combination of honesty and bluff: be open about your ignorance where appropriate, downplay it if necessary.
I see you're also advertising yourself as an into-English translator. There are a lot of small mistakes in your English, and you should have your work checked by a native English speaker if you're going to do this.
Good luck!


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:21
Member (2007)
+ ...
Please don't do commercial translations for free Jan 31, 2015

It's a seriously bad idea to volunteer to do work for free that would normally be paid for. Your peers won't thank you one jot and they won't look good on your CV if it becomes known. You should also be aware that only a very small minority of clients give any feedback, here or elsewhere. Often, the only feedback we get is a repeat order (not that no repeat has to mean it was a poor translation).

The best thing is to find something in the cloud, that is not for use commercially. Wikipedia, TED and various other places offer that experience. Or find yourself a mentor here (see member activities section). Or find a basic translation course you can do online. Or just wing it, giving yourself time to perfect a commercial translation for a normal rate, or a small amount less - it will take a long time so won't be very profitable, but you'll soon get fastericon_smile.gif.

BTW, a piece of unsolicited advice, meant to help, and to be ignored if you see fiticon_smile.gif: you should only be offering services where you know you have the ability to do a really good job. That applies to subject area, and I see you only intend to translate in your area of expertise. But it also applies to language pair. If you really want to offer translations into English (and I know there aren't an enormous number of English speakers with fluency in your native language), you should definitely work with an English native speaker as a proofreader.


Cesar Silva (X)
Local time: 16:21
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A few tips Jan 31, 2015

Hi Wouthan,

Although I am not a professional translator yet I can share with you a few things that I am using to initiate my career as a translator:

Only translate into your native language.

You don't need to get unpaid jobs for training, you can look for volunteering work like me. I've been translating to TED and Global Voices for quite a while and both of them give credits to your work.

Besides these, you can find thousands of non-profit organizations looking for volunteer translators like us. You could find the one that best suits your passions.

Again, its not advisable to translate into your second language, unless you have native level in it.



Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 21:21
English to Russian
+ ...
You can offer free translations, but only as an advertising tool or non-profit volunteering Feb 1, 2015

As Sheila and Phil already said, doing free work other than non-profit volunteering just to gain experience is not the way to go. However, if you feel confident about your skills, you can approach potential clients and offer to translate a small document for free just so they could assess the quality. A good variant is to find a relatively poor Norwegian translation that's already been published (e.g. an operating manual for a machine), correct it and offer the corrected version to the manufacturer/distributor for free, mentioning your availability to do further paid work if they like what they see.

Don't offer translations into English, though - your English is not at a professional level yet, and offering such work may actually damage your reputation instead of boosting it.

[Edited at 2015-02-01 12:24 GMT]


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:21
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
If you want to work for experience and references alone... Feb 1, 2015

Wouthan wrote:
So, while I am waiting to get a paid job, I would like to do some small jobs for free. Just to get the practice and get the job registrated as projects on my profile, with feedbacks from client.

I suspect most agencies won't trust a translator who's willing to work for free -- not even the cheapie agencies. But the cheapie agencies may be willing to take you on board for a cheap rate. So, my advice to you (if you're keen on getting WWA referrals for your profile) is to sign up with Middle Eastern, Indian and Chinese agencies for a very low rate (not too low, though). You can find them in the Blue Board on Just remember not to work for such low rates forever.

Another thing you can do is to get referrals from colleagues. Colleague referrals at does not require that you have worked with those colleagues. One idea may be to translate Wikipedia articles in your field, and ask some other members here to review your translations and possibly put you as a reference on their profile pages, if they think that you're good enough.


Xiaowei M
Local time: 03:21
Serbian to Chinese
+ ...
English Language Translation Course Feb 1, 2015

Are you planning to take any translation course? I think that even for doing for free for non-profit organizations you should have a translation related certificate.

[Edited at 2015-02-01 13:41 GMT]


Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:21
Member (2008)
Italian to English
work on your profile Feb 1, 2015

You say you hold a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering, a Certificate as a CNC operator and have lots of experience. This gives you some very strong advantages as a translator, because you can work in those specialised fields. Your big advantage is that you are not a quaified translator who can translate Mechanical Engineering documents. You are a Mechanical Engineer who can translate a specialist idiom in which you are at home. This is much better !

You should restrict yourself to Mechanical Engineering and related fields, and put a strong emphasis on them in your Proz profile. Don't claim to be able to translate *anything* or you'll end up in a nightmare trying to translate technical documents on open heart surgery, or the law on gambling, etc.

Slowly but surely, on condition that you demonstrate genuine competence and professionalism in your specified fields, you'll find that jobs will come in. Over time you'll be able to build up a portfolio of regular customers who come back to you because of your particular specialist skills.

Just be patient and work on your profile, which at present is a bit thin. The "portfolio" section is particularly important. This is where you can give examples of complex Mechanical Engineering texts in English that you have translated from English into Norwegian. And don't worry - people will find you when they need your skills. I don't quite know how the algorhythms work, but I started to get jobs when I completed my profile.

But N.B. the other way around - from your native Norwegian into your non-native English - could be problematic and might be best avoided, so take note of what Phil, Cesar, and Sheila said above. You may think your English is good, and so it is, but it isn't good enough for professional translation. A native English-speaker will immediately pick up on small mistakes or "stiffness" and this will make them uneasy about the reliability of your translation in general.

Last but not least: **never** work for nothing because as an Italian colleague of mine used to say "Ciò che non costa niente non vale niente" (a thing that costs nothing is worth nothing).The only exception to this would be the sample texts you use in your profile. There's no reason why you shouldn't do your own translations of some particularly tricky mechanical engineering texts, and put them in your profile.

You DO have competition:

But competition is healthy. That's why you need to demonstrate not that you're cheaper than the others, but that you're at least as good, or better !

[Edited at 2015-02-01 16:19 GMT]


Wouthan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:21
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Thanks for all the good advices Feb 2, 2015

I was not planning to work for free for long, merely to prove my skills. But I will of course listen to the advices given. I know I could not offer a professional Norwegian to English translation, not yet. As Tom said:

"A native English-speaker will immediately pick up on small mistakes or "stiffness" and this will make them uneasy about the reliability of your translation in general."

I know this to be true. As an native Norwegian grammar-nazi, while reading norwegian I spot every tiny mistakes written or slightly unfit words. (There are few who's capable of writing one single sentence in Norwegian without a lot of errors)

I was thinking of taking a course or two, and maybe I will. But right now I don't got much money to invest.


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