Paid membership to translation job boards

This week I was asked by a fellow translator if I think she should become a paid member of one of these job boards online, such as Proz and Translator’s café. In this post, I discuss my experience and why I think it depends on your strategy.

I have been an unpaid member of ProZ for over 6 years, and I have profiles created in most of the major job boards for translators online. I have already discussed why I think you should take the time to create a profile in a previous post. In short, these websites’ ratings improve your visibility, because it is easier than boosting your own website’s ratings or even creating one to begin one.

Creating hundreds of profiles is a time-consuming task, but I think it is worth it. There is a cheat though: I actually hired a virtual assistant, provided her with copy of the general text, my CV information, login and password to be used and she created the accounts for me. Now, I have a spreadsheet, where I have all the websites where I have profiles, login and password, and latest updates. Hence, it is easy for me to track where my information is and update it every so often (for which I also use my virtual assistant).

I can safely say that I have had potential clients contact me at one point or another through most of these websites, but still I would not recommend them as a marketing strategy. These profiles are nice to have, but do not expect them to generate a lot of spontaneous business for you, most of your business will come from active marketing. You can read some of my tips on that as well here and here.

However, I digress…these are unpaid profiles, but what about paid membership? Is it worth it?

Over one year ago, I wondered that myself, and after being a member of ProZ for over five years, I decided to make the investment and pay for a year of membership. I read several testimonials by other translators on the ProZ website saying that they got the return on their investment, so my goal was to at least get my money back in jobs won.

Hence, I bid for all suitable projects in my language pair, which I had not been doing as a free member, and made an effort to tailor all my bids to the job offers. As a result, I won quite a few jobs in my first six months of membership, and made some contacts that did not award me the particular job I bid for, but came back to me later for other jobs. The bottom line is that, like the testimonials that I read, I did get my money back.

The fact that I had paid, made me more diligent in bidding and tailoring my bids, which could have accounted for the positive results. Nonetheless, I did find that, as a member, I was allowed to bid first, so my bids were noticed more often than when I bid as a free member. This is the true value of the paid membership. I believe that a job poster will not read more than 10-20 bids, so by the time you bid as a free member, they will potentially have already selected their provider.

Another interesting aspect of the membership was having access to the Blue Board, which is a board where translators rate job posters. I could check whether a poster paid on time, was serious and ethical, etc. This obviously made me feel a lot more confident when accepting jobs.

Bottom line is that you should definitely pay for membership, at least with ProZ, right? Well, I have not renewed my membership this year.

Despite the “success”, the jobs posted there usually offered lower rates than I expect to earn. The “clients” on the ProZ website are not my target market, because I target a more specialist type of agency and end client, who usually have longer selection processes and testing, so they will rarely post a job on a job board. My clients usually pre-emptively recruit and create lists of approved suppliers so that they can easily outsource jobs to trusted partners.

Hence, I found that the time I spent tailoring bids and looking for suitable projects was better spent sending my CV and marketing information to potential clients in my target segment. I spent the last six months of my membership with ProZ sending CVs and marketing information, and taking tests. The result was that I got fewer responses and fewer replies, but the companies that became my clients in that period paid me at least three times more than my Proz clients did. In other words, in the second half of my membership year, I was able to earn a lot more, doing what I specialize in.

The lesson I learned is that both of these approaches are valid ways of finding clients and winning jobs. However, your choice of one or the other depends on your strategy. In fact, you do not even have to choose, you could do both and maximize your earnings by choosing the highest paying jobs by order of request. I find that doing both takes more than my allotted marketing time and I need to translate as well, so it is not feasible in my business, but it all depends on your demand.

A paid membership is certainly something to consider when you are going through a low demand period or building your business. When you reach a more stable level, you can then make a choice about whether this is helping you get to your target market or consuming more time than it is worth.

My main take away from this experience was that we should be open to trying new approaches and assessing them pragmatically. Sometimes, a return on investment does not make an approach attractive in the long term. As translators, we need to think as business owners and make these decisions. However, we will only be able to focus on the best approach for us, once we have tried a few different strategies and tailored our choices to our business.

Now over to you, have you had any experience with paid memberships in other job boards? How did it go?


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