Greater than 2 minutes, my friend!
In reading various blogs and forums, the general feeling in the translators’ webiverse is that work platforms (such as UpWork or ProZ) are about as popular as spinach flavored ice cream. There are stories of freelance translators abandoning the work platform altogether, such as the recent Open Mic article by Simon Akhrameev called, “Best Paying Websites to Find Translation Job Online”. But before you go and burn that particular bridge behind you, I would suggest that while there are still massive drawbacks in these platforms, they can still be a useful tool to the freelance translator.
There is no denying that there are plenty of points in the con column regarding work platforms, first and foremost being that they charge up to 20% commission. As a result, you have to either take on that cost yourself, pass it on to the client or somehow split the difference. And that’s assuming that the client’s budget is in line with industry standards. Some potential clients know next to nothing about the translation industry and believe that $200 or less is enough for a document of over 6000 words. (The bare minimum would be at least $300 and could reasonably be as much as $600.) I personally don’t really feel like I’m missing out because, to be honest, those kinds of clients are hurting themselves with those rates more than they’re hurting me. After all, if you only pay peanuts, all you’re going to get are monkeys. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that some deadlines can be too tight to do your best work. Then sometimes, there are scammers and just plain lousy clients hoping to land the trifecta of fast, accurate and cheap. So, with all of these negatives, why on earth would anyone want to use a work platform?
Firstly, there are still good jobs with fair rates and reasonable deadlines to be found on work platforms once you’ve sifted through the chaff. For a rookie translator, work platforms can lead to that all-important “foot in the door” and the indispensable experience that everybody seems to want but is not willing to give. (But I digress!) I myself got my first translation job through oDesk (now UpWork), a text for the liner notes of a CD of medieval and Renaissance music. So, it can be a good place for a newbie to find someone willing to give them a chance as I did.. Along those same lines, work platforms can also be useful for networking with other translators as well as testimonials from clients that can be posted on your profile. Some platforms, such as ProZ, offer other amenities specifically for the translator other than job postings. There are forums where you can network and even find help from other translators for a tricky or difficult text as well as webinars and continuing education courses. They also have a corporate directory much like the ATA’s corporate directory, so it is another way to find good leads. In my own job search efforts, I have made extensive use of this feature. Moreover, when you land a job through ProZ, they don’t charge any commission, so you get fully paid for the work you do. (And speaking of getting paid, ProZ has a very handy invoicing engine.) If nothing else, a work platform can be yet another forum to increase your online presence and make yourself more visible to potential clients.
It is true that the work platform is not without its shortcomings with unrealistic deadlines and insulting rates. But alongside other job search channels and solid marketing, it can also be a useful “arrow in your quiver” for landing good translation jobs.