Working in Japan: Getting Started as a Freelance Translator on Gengo

Although I still get some work with oDesk, it hasn’t been nearly enough to make ends meet.  On top of that, I’m finding that for quite a few companies that advertise, outsourcing to freelancers = way to get away with paying less than minimum wage for work.

Seriously, I just did a timely estimate of website translation job (privacy policy, user agreements, the whole shebang) for a company that originally approved my character rate, only to be met with the response that they were looking for something more in the range of $0.01 – $0.015 a character.  What a time waster!  (For reference, a $0.02 – $0.03 character rate is pretty much minimum wage for Japanese > English translation work.)

So in light of that, I started branching out more.  In March I registered with Gengo, one of the bigger translation sites, and it’s currently one of the places I’ve been receiving steady work from.

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Goodbye Old Teaching Job!

I’m not out of the teaching business completely, but I was so glad to finally be able to say good riddance to my old company and crazy boss at the end of March!

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

In Japan it’s customary to give departing teachers flowers or another small gift.  Although I was aware of this custom, the sheer amount of gifts I received was surprising and somehow much more than what the past departing teachers had received!    It was bittersweet to say goodbye to all of my kiddos, but I felt loved reading their letters and how many of them said they enjoyed having class together over the past five years.  I ran out of things to use as vases halfway through the week, and this was only a third of it all!

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Honyaku Konnyaku

© Shogakukan

Doraemon holding his honyaku konnyaku (translation jelly), that lets him understand any language.
© Shogakukan

I’ve been translating requests from friends or work, and song lyrics for years, but this week I was offered a part time position where I’ll actually be making a little money to translate articles for the fashion and idol news site Tokyo Girls’ Update.  It’s my first time working for a real Japanese company (and all the paperwork that goes along with it), so I’m sure it’ll turn out to be an adventure!

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