Online translation job boards have a bad reputation.
The way some translators talk, you'd think that the only people who go on them are ghastly night creatures ready to suck the marrow from your bones.
It's not that there isn't truth to this — cheap clients, clients with unrealistic demands, clients who don't pay it all — but these realities don't represent the whole truth.
Because a lot has changed in the past two decades.
Whereas at first only cheap people would even think of turning to Craigslist to find talent, now very serious companies look for resources on places like ProZ and UpWork.
So let's look deeper to find some new perspective on how you can use these platforms to your advantage.
Are online job boards ruining the world as we know it?
As the gig economy becomes more commonplace, a danger of job boards is that clients see translation as a low-priced commodity.
You'll often hear the complaint: the more people get used to paying low prices for translation, the less they'll pay good rates.
However, I've always found this argument a bit faulty.
Let's take French fries bought from your side-of-the-road chip truck: you would expect to pay just a dollar or two for this cheap and easy treat.
But put those French fries next to a steak at a fancy restaurant on crisp white linen, accompanied with a lively and bold Chardonnay, then suddenly we've upped the price by a couple hundred dollars.
Translation is much the same.
Some translations are fast food and quickly fill a quick need.
Other types of translation are like fine wine with a gourmet dinner: the work that goes into it is much more intense and complex, the clientele is much different, and therefore the value is much higher.
Ergo, these translations are much more expensive.
But just because the steak frites costs more, doesn't mean we have to get mad at the chip truck vendor.
They're just different products for different markets.
Why online job boards suck
Of course, I won't lie to you. There are many reasons you shouldn't use online job boards to find freelance translation jobs.
First, they are an easy route.
They're so tempting! Clients want translations right now! And you want the work right now!
But since they're so easy to access, every translator and her sister is on them.
Which means your competition is fierce.
Second, the clients who go there may have no idea what a professional translation entails.
Many--oh so many--are looking for rock-bottom prices.
This can leave you holding your nose as you wade through the muck for a lost lamb who may have gotten onto a job board because they have no idea where else to turn.
I don't blame you if you want to stay away for this reason alone.
What online job boards are good for
...Online job boards can be used strategically.
Here a just a few ways:
Practise reaching out to clients: When you're just starting out, practising in these informal environments can be much less intimidating. Also, if you get a job and doesn't quite work out, these people are nowhere near your network and can't give you bad word-of-mouth.
Practise your proposal writing skills: You can see how much people are willing to pay when you add value.
Practise talking to clients over the phone: Many clients on UpWork want to interview you. Practice selling yourself and learning about client needs is invaluable.
Boost your inbound marketing with SEO juice
You don't have to actively search for jobs on ProZ or UpWork to use them to your advantage.
When you start building an online presence, it can take a very long time for Google to recognize your site.
But ProZ and UpWork? These sites have great page rankings and pop up in pretty much any search related to freelance translation.
For example, if you Google yourself, you may find that your UpWork or ProZ profile is one of the top results and will outperform even your own website.
So keeping your profiles updated on these sites with good keywords about your service can help clients find you!
Be realistic about what you can accomplish with job boards
Many translators have unrealistic expectations of what online job boards can do for their careers and the number of viable clients on them.
But they also think that just because the majority of clients are a bad fit, that all clients are bad.
And that's just not the case.
I compare online job boards to mining for gold.
You have to get rid of 99% of the crap you don't want to get to the good stuff.
For example, it may take you weeks or more to find one good client.
But one good client is still a "win" and can lead to a testimonial that you can use to market yourself.
Not sure about online translation job boards? Test!
A lack of success with online translation platforms can come from very small experiments, a big dash of assumptions, and a penchant for taking the easy way out instead of putting these networks to the test.
My advice is, in fact, not to listen to anyone’s advice.
Everyone’s experience is different, which means yours will be too.
Experiment and then decide for yourself.