7 Ways to Be a Poor Freelance Translator

  • Time to read: 11 min.

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Most of the articles on this website are geared towards making you more money.

Because if you’re a freelance translator, your ultimate goal is to make money.

It doesn’t matter if you do translation part-time or full-time.

It doesn’t matter if you want a full-time income or just something to supplement your day job.

The reason you’re going it is to make money.

But instead of talking about what you can do to make more money as a freelance translator, this article is going to focus on seven things you might be doing that are making you a poor freelance translator.

Avoid these if you want to become more successful in your translation business.

1. Trading Time for Money

I’ve talked about this before but it bears repeating here.

If you only trade your time for money on a 1:1 ratio, you will hit a ceiling on how much you can make. That’s because there are only 24 hours in a day. For everyone.

You can’t work more than that.

And in fact, nobody can work for 24 hours on a continual basis. It’s physically impossible.

What does trading time for money look like as a freelance translator?

What it means is that as a translator, you are only earning money when you translate. When you are not translating, there is no money coming in so you have to be working actively in order to make money.

It’s the same way for a lot of professions out there.

Doctors trade time for money.

Lawyers trade time for money.

Supermarket managers trade time for money.

My kids working a part-time job at a fast-food joint are trading time for money.

And if you are only getting paid when you work as a poor freelance translator, you are also trading time for money.

Steps to Take

So, what can you do to get out of the trap of only trading your time for money and being a poor freelance translator?

Figure out how to incorporate other side hustles in your income stream.

Passive sources of income are those income streams that don’t require your active participation to earn money.

For example, I’ve written an entire course for language freelancers.

I wrote these books to provide translators more direction on how to be successful as freelancers.

While they are low priced, they do cost money. And whenever someone buys one of those books, I get a percentage of the profits.

This is considered passive income because while I worked extremely hard on putting those books together, once I wrote them, they were done. Translators can now go on Amazon and buy them and I don’t have to do anything.

I don’t have to be “working” to receive that income.

Writing books and selling them isn’t the only type of passive income.

There are lots of ways to receive passive income as a translator.

Watch this page in the future and I’ll have some additional ways you can create passive income as a freelance translator.

2. Not Investing in Yourself

It’s hard to find people (translators included) that are willing to take the time to invest in themselves.

There are lots of ways we can invest in ourselves.

  • exercising regularly
  • eating better
  • getting enough sleep
  • having better relationships
  • taking classes
  • learning skills
  • improving talents

Some of these cost money, some cost time, some both, but all take commitment and dedication.

And if you’re not willing to invest in yourself, you will not be as successful as you could be.

Steps to Take

Only you know what you need to improve in your own life.

What you need to do, then, is to take an inward look at yourself to see what those improvements might be and then take the necessary steps to actually improve.

Last year, for example, I made a real effort to start exercising regularly so that I could feel better and get more work done.

It was an investment. A set of Powerblock Dumbbells.

The time cost wasn’t that high, either. I committed to 15 minutes per day.

What did cost was that I had to make a commitment to do it every single day.

Maybe you already exercise and don’t need to invest more in yourself in that area.

But what about your knowledge of the translation industry or entrepreneurship in general? Do you need to increase your knowledge of those things?

If so, maybe the thing you need to do to invest in yourself is to take a class from Udemy, one of the online education platforms.

If you’re looking for ideas on what classes would be good for you as a freelance translator, check out the list I put together on the top 10 online courses for translators.

3. Failing to Market Yourself

Do you want to not make any money as a poor freelance translator? If so, then the only thing you need to do is not market yourself or your services at all.

Don’t tell anyone, either online or in person, about your desire to make it as a full-time or part-time translator or language professional.

People can’t read minds.

So they won’t know that you are starting your own business or looking to make extra money on the side as a freelance translator.

Steps to Take

It’s simple.

You have to spread the word.

You have to have the confidence to speak up and tell people, both online and in person, what you are doing and how awesome you are at doing it.

I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating here.

The first paid translation job I ever got was through word of mouth.

My wife was telling a friend of hers about how I was doing translating on a part-time basis while going to school.

Her friend told her parents, who owned a food processing plant that employed a number of Spanish speakers.

The processing plant needed to have a lot of material translated from Spanish to English and had been casually looking for someone to do the work.

A recommendation from their daughter was enough for them to pass me the job, which led to a bunch of work for them down the road.

None of that would have happened had my wife not been willing to spread the word.

So start telling people in the real world.

In terms of social media for translators, let people know on the social media platforms that you already use.

There’s no need to open accounts on every social media platform just for the sake of it. Instead, use what you are comfortable as you are starting out.

In the end, you’re essentially playing a numbers game. The more people you tell, the better chance you’ll have of finding someone that needs what you have to offer.

4. Not Upselling/Cross-Selling Your Services

Do you know what upselling or cross-selling are?

If you don’t, now’s the time to learn because you need to start doing them if you want to make more money as a freelance translator and language professional.

You likely are familiar with the ideas even if you’ve never heard the terms before because they likely happen to you every single day.

Think of an airline trying to sell you a seat in an upgraded class or cabin or McDonald’s asking if you want to supersize your combo meal. Those are both fairly common examples of upselling.

Now, what about cross-selling?

An example of cross-selling could be selling ice cream to someone who has bought a cake.

Businesses use both of these techniques all the time in their sales pitches, stores, online, and everywhere else to maximize their profits.

There’s no reason you shouldn’t be doing that as well.

Steps to Take

As a freelancer looking to maximize your profits, you should be trying to figure out how to use both upselling and cross-selling.

In terms of upselling, maybe you have a premium service or product that you can offer your clients that makes sense for them.

Or maybe when providing a service, you could let your clients know that you also offer other services that could help them.

Maybe you own a translation business with translators that translate into other languages. You could cross-sell your other language services to your customer, helping them to understand the importance of getting their message across to different language-speaking groups.

Remember, though, that while your goal is to maximize your profits, you only want to do that in the context of helping people solve real problems.

People will be able to see through you if you are only searching for those $$$$$; however, if you come across as truly and genuinely interested in helping them, those clients will often be willing to pay you as much $$$$$ as you charge them because they know you will help them solve their problems and reduce their pain points.

5. Charging Too Little

Unlike most translators and language professionals, I have absolutely no problem with freelancers offering their services for super low prices.

You often see this on freelancer websites like Upwork.

For example, I saw an example the other day of someone that was looking for a translator that could translate 2,800 words in 24 hours and be able to do it for $15. That comes out to a price per word of $0.00535714285. Less than 1 cent per word.

That’s a pretty low offer.

But guess how many freelance translators bid on that job?

Between 20 and 50.

A lot of freelance translators get hung up on that and in fact get angry about other translators willing to do work for super low offers like this.

I don’t.


Because the market should be in charge of deciding.

And guess, what, every single one of the translators bidding on that job are not maximizing their profit and will continue to be poor translators.

Steps to Take

If you want to avoid becoming a poor freelance translator, you need to stay away from this trap.

The trap to lowball the price of your services just so you can feel “validated.”

You are a professional freelance translator. As such, you deserve work with professional freelance translation clients.

Let other translators have the lowball clients. That is their niche and they can have it.

You, on the other hand, should be working to find clients that value the service you provide and are willing to pay a proper price for that service. You should charge what you’re worth.

6. Not Understanding Your Market

And speaking of finding the right clients, another problem that a poor freelance translator has is that they don’t understand their market.

Who are you marketing to?

Who is your ideal client?

If you say, “well, anyone that needs a translation is my client” then you’ve failed in this department.

You simply can’t be a translator for everyone if you want to be a financially successful translator.

When you don’t understand your market, you have no direction. You’re trying to please too many people and we’ve all heard the saying that when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.

Steps to Take

OK, so the thing you need to do is sit down and map out who your ideal client.


Sit down with a pen and paper and write down the qualities that would define your ideal client.

What specialization do your ideal clients work in?

Are they located in a specific region geographically?

What’s the size of their business? Small, medium, or large?

How do they interact with you as their freelance translator of choice?

Really imagine what that client would be like.

Then think of what you would charge that client that would be good for both of you, as a client/provider relationship.

Are they happy with that price? Is it fair for both of you?

That’s the price you want to charge.

Visualize that ideal client as you do your marketing and business outreach and you will eventually find them.

7. Having Low Confidence

If you look at the previous six characteristics of poor translators, you’ll be able to see that they all have this characteristic in common.

Having a low amount of self-confidence as a poor freelance translator is the biggest detriment to becoming a financially successful freelancer.

When you have low self-confidence in your skills, you feel like you don’t have a right to belong to this group of successful freelance translators. And when you feel like that, it is extremely difficult to:

  • not trade your time for money
  • invest in yourself
  • market yourself
  • upsell and cross-sell your services
  • charge more
  • understand your market

And as we’ve seen, if you don’t do these things, you will be stuck and not be the success you want or deserve to be.

Steps to Take

Get confidence.

Now I understand while it’s easy to say, it can be a nightmare for some to try and implement and turn into a reality.

To be honest, while I’ve had my own issues with dealing with confidence (almost everyone I know at one point or another has had to deal with low-confidence issues), there is not one single thing that I’ve done that has helped me to overcome that.

Instead, I’ve continually invested in myself and my learning, experimenting with different approaches to building confidence.

If I had to pinpoint to one thing, though, now that I think about it, I would say that I’ve tried to surround myself with people that are confident themselves.

And not just people that I know.

I only follow people on social media (Instagram, Facebook, etc.) that are positive and confident.

I only listen to podcasts that seek to build up rather than tear down. Ones that are positive rather than negative.

I try to read books where the author attempts to actually help his or her readers as opposed to authors that are cynical or spend their time putting down other people.

My music is limited to that which is uplifting and leaves me energized and happy.

If you’re having self-confidence issues, that’s probably the first step to better confidence: look around and see who you are surrounding yourself with, both in real life as well as in the digital world.

You’ll know if you are surrounding yourself with negative people. If so, you need to drop them from your life.

Your confidence, and by extension your business and life, is dependent on it.

FAQ – Poor Freelance Translator

Is it hard to be a freelance translator?

Being a freelance translator can be a very rewarding career, but it is not without its challenges. For one thing, it can be difficult to find consistent work. translator often have to contend with periods of slow work followed by bursts of activity, which can make it hard to manage your time and finances. In addition, working as a freelance translator can be lonely. Without the structure of an office or workplace, it can be easy to feel isolated and disconnected from the outside world. Finally, freelance translators must be very careful to maintain their impartiality and objectivity.

How much should a freelance translator charge?

What you charge as a freelance translator will depend on a number of factors, including your experience, the difficulty of the text, the length of the text, and the deadline. In general, you can expect to charge anywhere from $0.10 to $0.25 per word for a standard translation, and higher rates for specialized or technical translations. For rush jobs or tight deadlines, you may also charge a premium.

How can I be a successful freelance translator?

There is no one answer to this question, but there are a few things that all successful freelance translators have in common. First, they are passionate about their work and have a strong commitment to quality. Second, they are excellent communicators and have strong interpersonal skills. Third, they are well-organized and efficient, with a strong attention to detail. Finally, successful freelance translators are always learning and expanding their skills, keeping up to date with the latest trends in the industry.