Membership: when and why should translators pay? 2

There was an inquiry this morning regarding a translator portal– to purchase membership there or not? I am copying here my reply, and would like to hear from others on this:

Hi Mike,

I’m not familiar with that site. I can give you some general advice when it comes to investing in membership at translator portals, and maybe others can add to this as well.

There are many sites which offer services for professional translators. Most of these will allow you to register and use some features or give you limited access to what they have to offer for free. What you get for free is not necessarily indicative of what the return on paid membership there will be, of course, but it can give you an idea.

I would recommend registering at several different portals, after doing some homework on each (a few Google searches can usually turn up pros and cons for a site, to begin with). Get what you need from each of those sites, no need to limit yourself to just one.

When it comes to opening your wallet for paid services for translators, make sure you’ve formed a clear idea of what you want in return. A membership fee should be viewed as an investment, and not necessarily a magic solution to get jobs– professional, well-paying clients look for professional translators (this does not mean that there is not room for other levels of translation work, see for an example of what I’m talking about), and you need to be able to show this in your online presence anywhere. Getting direct access to jobs is only a (small?) piece of the puzzle; keep in mind that networking, for example, can play an important part in building your online presence and in meeting new clients.

Ask other paid members on the sites where you’ve registered what they’re getting out of their membership. Ask more than one– most translators are more than willing to share this kind of info or to pass on a few pointers, and you may find that each person you ask is getting something different that they find valuable out of their membership (or not!).

Membership fees can differ from site to site, and it all depends on what you expect in return– is 150 bucks too expensive? If it leads to one new regular client, probably not.

Before paying for membership anywhere, also make sure it readily clear to whom you are making the payment (the person, persons or company behind the site or service), that the payment options are reputable, and what your options are for requesting a refund should you decide the service is not for you.

I know this doesn’t really answer your question, but I hope it helps.

What advice would you share with other translators or aspiring translators when it comes to the membership question? What steps should translators take to make those investments smartly?


  1. Another thing to consider is the scope of what these portals really “do” in terms of earning their money and detecting good clients.

    Some of them are mere releasers of job posts, with no filtering, no scam/spam detection, no validation or verification at all of those who publish ads. It’s nonsense to pay much for this, as the real only service they provide is email notification when a post matches your profile. They are not professional portals, as they don’t offer much value, but they are not cheap either.

    I have had a bad experience with one of these sites and a scam attempt. I had assumed that the site had made a minimum homework of validating the client’s identity or requesting valid information for registration, but it was not the case. When I contacted the site administrators, after I got no response from the client and I had already done the job, they said they didn’t even request a phone landline nor verify the posters’ identities or addresses. The only requiered field for a client to register and post a job request was an email address.

    In sites like this, there will be much more probability of fake posts or scam attempts.

    So I agree, you should not only have in mind what you want to get for your money, but also consider what they commit to do for that money.

    Other sites invariably validate not only your identity and contact information but also your client’s, and they have escrow systems to ensure that the funds will be available before the project is assigned. But they offer more complicated services and they manage money collection, so you don’t arrange terms directly with your clients, but through them. is a place like this. They get a commission on your funds and transfer the balance to your account or PayPal when the process is finished, and you know for sure that the client is real and he will not avoid payment. But I saw two major inconveniences with Elance which made me decide to unsuscribe my full paid account with them.

    The most significant was their low-budget projects. All projects have a budget set by the client, so in fact, as a freelancer if you bid, this means you accept their budget. This goes against the principle of freelancing, on the one hand, and on the other, the budgets clients establish for their jobs are quite below the industry rates standards. So basically if you wait for better budgeted projects, the job frequency you will get is quite low. And if you want to bid regularly, you will find yourself working for less than you usually get in other sites.

    The other inconvenience is that their system is quite complicated. You need to undergo online training (Elance University), get online validations for your knowledge, their degree validation system is expensive and crappy, and if they cannot have the process done, they charge you all the same. The UI is overloaded with information, links and different access-points, and you need to find your way through it in a not-so-simple navigation. Also, communications with your clients cannot be done directly, but through their system, after logging-in into their workplaces.

    Maybe other people have had better experiences, but after six months of keeping a monthly paid full account, I decided Elance was not for me, as it did not pay off in terms of money, and I didn’t find the system agile or dynamic. However, I have to reckon they DO earn their money in terms of task performance, and they offer real, tangible services both to clients and to TSPs.

    If your rates are low, and you want to get security and guaranteed fees for your work (in exchange for a commission), maybe this place is interesting.

    In any case, the question remains, “What is this place exactly going to provide me for the money they will get from me, and which is the extent of their responsibility?”.

    I hope this will be useful to other colleagues.


  2. Hi Paula! Good stuff. It’s true that it’s important to know what you are getting, and to use the service accordingly if you decide to go ahead. Thanks for sharing!


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