Proz, Translators Café, and Other Freelance Translation Sites: Are They Worth It?

Many freelance translators, particularly when they are just starting out, opt to create accounts on sites like Proz, Translators Café, and others. When I first started freelancing, I also opened Proz and Translators Café accounts. While some translators report success using these platforms, I have not once received a legitimate job offer through either of these sites. Depending on your goals and where you are in your freelance career, you may derive some utility from these platforms, but many translators will not. Here are some pros and cons of using these kinds of platforms:

Advantages:

1. Improve your chances of being found
Proz and TC directories have decent Google SEO rankings when you search for words like “[language] freelance translator.” Having a profile on those sites could therefore make you more searchable, and since setting one up is relatively easily, you may find it worthwhile to have at least a basic account.

2. Linkbacks
A linkback is when a blog or webpage has a link back to another blog or webpage. If you have your own translation blog or website, using links on sites like Proz and TC that link back to your page can help improve your SEO and thus further increase your searchability.

3. Credibility
For many people these days, a robust online presence is a synonym for credibility. You might not receive work through these sites, but if you are on them, it may make you appear more credible to potential clients. That said, read on for more a better way to build your credibility online.

4. Terminology forums
The only feature I use on Proz is its KudoZ Term Questions forum. It can be a good place to have a pesky term question answered or to browse previous research by other translators. Answers are graded and rated by the community, so the really bad stuff is usually filtered out. For me, FR>EN results are much more reliable than ZH>EN ones. If the answerer does not post a reference or the response doesn’t “feel” right, it probably isn’t. Proceed with caution, but there are sometimes gems to be found.

5. Vet potential clients
These sites can be a helpful way to share information about scammers and vet the credibility of potential clients.

Disadvantages:

1. Spam
If your email address is listed on these sites, you will inevitably receive some spam. You will also potentially receive messages generated by the sites’ internal messaging systems, which agencies can use to blast vendors in their desired language pairs. Make sure your settings are configured in such a way so that you only receive the messages you want.

2. Upselling
Many of the features on these sites that are purported to be the most useful are behind a paywall (they have to make money somehow, right?). I have never paid for a subscription to either of these sites or any other site, nor do I intend to, but some users clearly find whatever is back there worth the cost or else where would be zero paid subscribers.

3. Limiting the clients that search for you
If Proz and TC are your only online presence, you will be severely limiting yourself. The buyers searching Proz and TC are not looking for expert translators and do not pay premium rates.

4. Lack of ownership
If the Proz or TC sites were to disappear tomorrow, say goodbye to the presence you’ve created. Do you want to run that risk?

Alternatives:

1. Start your own website
With about as much effort as creating a Proz or TC profile, you can create a free website on a platform like WordPress or Wix. For a nominal fee (between $100-$150 a year) you can register a URL and get a basic, add-free website all to yourself. If you want to talk about building credibility online, an attractive and well-designed website can work wonders. Plus, you can track who visits your page, what links they click on, and offer a customized digital representation of your brand that you own.

2. LinkedIn
Why limit yourself to a website solely for freelance translators? On LinkedIn, you are part of a directory of millions of professionals in hundreds of industries. The problem of ownership still exists, but your exposure will be greatly increased. If you are going to join an online directory just for translators, make it the directory of the official translators association in your country or region (ATA, ITI, etc.).

3. Start a blog or participate in someone else’s blog
Sure, everybody is blogging these days. But creating useful content for your colleagues and potential clients is a great way to get your voice out there, showcase your writing skills, and drive traffic to your website, which improves SEO.

What do you think about freelance translator websites like Proz, Translators Café, and others? Have you found them useful or useless? Leave a comment or tweet me at @Bentranslates.

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14 thoughts on “Proz, Translators Café, and Other Freelance Translation Sites: Are They Worth It?

  1. Pingback: Weekly translation favorites (Apr 28-May 4)

  2. Unfortunately, due to the way ProZ works (with ranking in search lists for translators based on membership and then on how many KudoZ points you have), it will benefit people like me, who have been on the site for years and back in the day answered loads of terminology questions, far more than newcomers. I agree, therefore, that paying for membership of ProZ might not be worth it for some people if they are new to the profession and work in a common language pair. The ranking system really does need tweaking and as I don’t spend much time on Proz now, I don’t know if this is in the pipeline.
    However, I disagree with your comments about the type of clients searching for translators on ProZ. Agencies working in the industry should certainly know what to expect, but, as you said, ProZ has good SEO rankings, which means direct clients (companies and individuals), who will probably not be aware of ProZ.com’s reputation, should be able to find you easily.
    I am one of those people who does still get new clients occasionally via ProZ and as membership now includes free access to all past webinars, I will probably renew when mine is due.

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    • Thank you for your feedback, Nikki. I agree that Proz does work for some people and I have referred people to that site to find qualified translators (and interpreters) in their area (most recently a colleague looking for a Chinese interpreter in the Washington DC area). Back when I first started, I also tried participating in Kudoz forums to get points, but I stopped trawling the job boards and trying to be the first to respond to their automated placement emails because I wasn’t competing on the same basis as many of the other freelancers there. I’m glad to hear that you and others are deriving value from Proz and from their membership (after all, good webinars can be worth their weight in gold). I really appreciate you taking the time to read and to comment and look forward to continued exchange via our respective blogs and elsewhere.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the info, David. Do you have a reference I could look up for that? I don’t want to promulgate incorrect information, but the research I did for the post indicated that Proz specifically was a good place for freelancers to improve their SEO through links. I would like to correct the information if it is incorrect and to cite a reputable source. Your help is appreciated!

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  3. Interesting article! Proz and LinkedIn helped me build my current portfolio of clients. You can find my personal story of becoming a freelancer with steady workload in my blog: freelancelife.blog.

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  4. Thanks for the article. I am quite a newbie in freelance business, and I must say that Proz helped me a lot, as I found several good clients thanks to it. I think building your own site is a very good idea, but my actual work load doesn´t leave me any spare time for this.

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    • Hi Nati, thanks for you comment. I’m glad you have found Proz useful. When I first started, I felt like I needed to take every project that came to my inbox that I was qualified for, and I didn’t spend nearly enough time on developing myself, my brand, or my business. The sooner new professionals in the industry can do that, the better. Carve at least an hour of two out each week to figure out how best to do that for you, whether it’s a website or something else. Good luck!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Setting up your own website and/or LinkedIn profile may or may not work. If you are a good translator and you translate into English and your source language(s) comes from the FIGS (French, Italian, German, Spanish) languages, you will most likely find work quickly. Agencies do all the marketing for you, and they are fairly regulated by the Blueboard system. The way I see it, registering with ProZ is virtually a sure thing whereas going solos is full of maybes.

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    • Thanks for your thoughts, James. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, perhaps? As I wrote in my post, I think registering on Proz is a great idea for freelance translators for several reasons but that I do not rely on Proz for finding freelance work. If you’ve had luck with it, that’s great!

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  6. When I started my career as freelance translator a few years ago, I found my very first clients through Proz. And recently I have found the best two agencies I have ever worked for and who send me regular jobs, or better they found me as they contacted me after finding my Proz profile. No direct clients, but still it proved very useful for me.

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  7. Nice post. i have only been a full-time translator for a few years, but I agree with you. They have their uses, especially the forums on usage, but I don’t really find quality work there and I would not pay for the up-sells.Your post really resonated with me, I signed up for the newsletter and look forward to more of your posts.

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