Guide to getting freelance work in Russia


freelance moscow

UPDATE FOR 2015:

I originally wrote this one a while back when the pound was at 50 to the rouble and dollar like 35. As you probably noticed, the rouble is currently at toilet paper status, so a little side action in dollars is always going to come in handy. 

So, to keep you paying rent and not turning tricks, here are some tips for landing freelance gigs in Russia. This applies to any expat, not just English speakers. 


We're going look at what type of freelancing you can do and, more importantly, how you can do it. And remember, having at least some Russian will give you a big advantage over the competition - even when just teaching or giving out handjobs at the train station.

Time to pick a side job
finding work in Moscow
Teaching

Well shucks, there was no way I could miss this one out! Now, as any regular reader knows, I hate teaching, but you can still make quite a bit of money doing it.
It doesn't matter what your native language is, in a city as big as Moscow, you can find someone who wants to learn it. 

How to start
  • First, head over to the expat.ru and redtape forums and make a job posting. The competition there is strong because it's basically made up of endless waves of expats offering to teach. But the demand is still high enough that you can find work there, so go register anyway.
  • Next, register at the masterrussian forums, they have an excellent community of learners and you won't have any trouble finding people for lessons or free exchanges (this applies to all those non-native English speakers too).
  • Word of mouth is your friend. Every Russian has a friend who wants lessons. And, if you don't know at least one Russian, you suck. Go find one intimately and take one foot out of the expat bubble. 
  • Go hit up your network and put the message out on FB, VK, twitter, etc and ask who needs sweet, sweet lessons. Just shoot an update out along the lines of Друзья! кому нужны уроки по английскому? If you're friends don't need lessons, they can find someone who does. VK is good for more than porn and pirated music.
  • Once you've harassed your friends with messages, go search groups for English learners on VK, FB and search twitter too. Look for things like уроки английского (or Spanish or whatever), уроки английского с носителем, английский по скайпу. Here's a twitter search I just did:  
see, they're plenty of them on Twitter alone with very little competition!

The key is to put yourself in the place of the learner. If you were Russian and looking to take private lessons with a native speaker, where and how would you search? Find the places Russian learners hang out. Also keep in mind, they won't be searching in English so fire up that Russian language wizardry. 

If you're not a blatant sex criminal and have an ounce of personality, you will get new clients from the first person you ever teach. Russians are huge on word of mouth.

Earnings

You can set your own rates, although if you get too mad and start charging 1000 dollars per lesson, you won't get anywhere (or you might get lucky and snag a stupid oligarch who then recommends you to his friends!).

1000 roubles per 45 mins for a native English speaker used to be about the standard, but now, 1000 is only like $20 dollars and adjusting for inflation may limit your options. As you know, Russian wages don't exactly go up with inflation. 

I suggest you play with your price point, but naturally your salary will depend on the type of client you find and how good you are at selling yourself.
A friend of mine teaches rich kids and makes around 2000 USD per week, so it really depends on who you are working with.



If you need some pointers on this or don't want to feel like you are under/over charging, Nick Reese has a nice post on how to negotiate prices for freelances. 

Skype lessons will naturally be cheaper, but the time you save not ingesting mullet fumes and angry pensioner in the metro should not be underestimated. I'd probably charge about 1000 roubles, or a shade more for Skype lessons.

Downsides

I touched on some of them in this post about the depressing reality of working in Moscow, but, as before, the main downside is the lack of growth. Basically, your skill set is flat lining while you teach. 
  • If you have to teach officially for your visa, you won't be making a fraction of what you could if you did your own thing. Plus, you might not have the time or energy for privates. There are other ways to get work permits when you are here though and if any of you are interested, drop me a mail and I'll be more than happy to point you in the right direction.
  • Clients can sometimes just decide to stop taking lessons and never tell you. They might go on holiday and then just never contact you again. This can happen with a lot of freelancing, whether you're a cleaner or boxing trainer. They might secretly hate you, or they might just have some other shit going on.
  • Moscow is a big-ass city. Get ready to spend 30-60 minutes getting to each lesson.

Translating / editing 

How to start 
  • Step one is the same as with teaching. Go to expat.ru and redtape forums and make a job posting. Save the job offered section in your bookmarks and check it daily. Things do pop up from time to time. 
  • Step two is searching the web and cold blasting e-mails / calls. Search in Russian переводы с русского  на английский, бюро переводов. Next, create a non-spammy sounding template and start putting it around like a sailor that just just docked in Amsterdam.
  • Since Russian agencies pay absolutely shockingly little money (and sometimes they straight up don't pay at all) I would suggest starting with translation agencies based in your own countries. If you are from, for example, the UK, hit up every single agency you can find in the UK, America and Australia. Just go balls to the wall. I would sometimes spend hours just sending mails to 50 companies per day. 


To make sending easier, use Gmail's canned responses. If you don't use Gmail, Yandex has the same feature called templates (шаблоны). Basically it let's you send the same message time and again without having to copy paste all the time. If you're cold e-mailing, it will save you vast, vast amounts of time .

Get a gmail or yandex account and add your primary e-mail to it. So, if you are a hotmail user, you can have your hotmail displayed in gmail and take advantage of the extra features without having to change your primary address. 

Reaching out to these agencies is simply a numbers game so just keep smashing until you get something. If you end up with too many clients, start outsourcing the work and take on more of an editorial role.

By doing things this way, you will get paid a good rate (far, far higher than local Russian rates) and you've got a lot more security that you will get paid.
  • Go set yourself up on Upwork. Formerly Odesk, they are now merging with Elance. They have a huge base of freelancers and you should be there. You can set your own price and the stronger your feedback, the more jobs you will get. 

freelance translating russia

Um, actually now Upwork  


Earnings
A typical Russian rate for translation hasn't really adjusted for inflation and ranges from 280-350 roubles-ish per 1800 symbols with spaces. At about 500 rubles per 1800 w/ spaces you'll start hitting resistance. Russians are used to paying peanuts for (often) bad translations and they don't want to pay more. Quality is rarely a factor. Just poop out some trash on a page and they'll be happy.
The highest rate I got was 25 bucks per 1800, which was about as good as it gets. 
You might be able to get more of course, but again, it depends on the client and budget.

This is why it is better to focus on clients from your own country if possible.

The most lucrative place to be a freelance translator is Scandinavia. The standard rate there is around 30-40 Euros a page! But, not everyone can do Russian to Norwegian translation. Still, I registered with about 5 translation agencies over Norway, Finland and Sweden because they do sometimes have orders for Rus-Eng translation. This is more of an off-chance type thing.

I simply Google translated 'translation agency' into Finnish, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian and started blasting them. I probably contacted around 100 agencies and 5 confirmed clients was the result. If I was a glorious Scandinavian though life would have been far easier, plus I'd probably look more like a Viking, which is always nice.


freelancing rates in moscow

Downsides
  • The unpredictable nature of the job. You might go days without any orders then BOOM you're assaulted with 5 at once and you can't possible do them all.
  • Clients seem to think that you will be chained to your computer at all times, primed to start translating at any second.To avoid this, I have a filter in my email for translation work. Any mail from clients goes straight to there and doesn't cause my phone to notify me all the time. This way, I check my work folder when I want to, it keeps me proactive instead of reactive.
  • A bad feature of freelancing is that by turning down work, you might loose a client. You see, people get used to sending work to certain translators, but if you can't take an order (for whatever reason) they will find someone else. That someone else may then become the new favourite. I have had this happen way too many times to count. There is always this fear that 'fuck, it I don't do it, I loose the client'.

To add to the fun, the client doesn't ever formally say 'thanks, we won't be sending anything any more', they just go silent. 


freelancing in russia
  • Translation deadlines tend to always to stupidly urgent. Very rarely does anything come in which is due in a few days time. I was coming out of the gym last week and saw I had a request to translate 7 pages by 4pm (it was already 11.30).Since the pages were not blocks of text, I actually did the whole thing by 15.00, but still, it's all a mad rush.

Another example was when I was settling down after a day working on my site to watch Game of Thrones and got sneak attacked by 2 pages due by midnight. I just declined that one.
  • Finally, translation can be very tiring. Try sitting down for 5 hours of solid translating. It's not like 5 hours in an office, getting distracted, looking at Facebook, gossiping at the cooler - it's solid in-the-zone work. It's mentally exhausting and you feel like a spent vegetable afterwards, especially if the text is a tricky one. Doing that day after day can lead to some major burnout.  

SEO writing  

WTF is SEO ?
It stands for search engine optimization writing. Basically, you write content for sites as part of their content marketing strategies. A client gives you a topic to write about, tells you what keywords need to splashed around in there (so it can rank in Google for those words) and you take it from there.

The entry barrier is very low and the pay - relatively decent.

To go way more in-depth on this, go read this post on how to make 1k a month SEO writing. It pretty much covers every base you can imagine.

seo writing russia

How to start
The link above goes into all this, but first you'll need some writing samples, then you'll need to put those samples up on a site. I'll talk a bit about getting a site up a bit later, but for the meanwhile, here is a quick guide on how to whip up an easy web site. It really isn't very hard, and you can even outsource it to a freelancer if you want.

Next, you'll need to start cold mailing companies, just like the step for finding translation work, and play the numbers game. 

And just like before, hit up Upwork.

Also, make a job posting on the Reddit SEO subreddit, there's a good chance of getting a few bites there for sure.

Earnings
You can make a lot or a little depending on how much you put into it really. I would suggest starting with a base rate of 30 dollars per 500 word post. Also, agree on the amount of edits this cost covers (that way a client can't ask you to change something 400 times).

You can get more, but to start with 30 is a good number. If you get a lot of clients you can then scale things up and outsource the writing at a percentage and just edit the texts.

Some clients will want to pay less, but don't fall into this trap. I did some writing work for less than 30 bucks and I can't say I enjoyed the experience.  

Voice over work
voice over work russia

That's right, your silky smooth expat voice can be put to better use than trying to seduce the local ladies (or mullets, for you female readers out there).

How to start 
  • Get yourself some decent-quality voice samples. Read out some advertisements and put some voice acting action into it, pretend you're Morgan Freeman to really get into the zone.
  • Go register up with as many sound studios as possible. A Google search of звукозаписывающая студия will do the trick. E-mail them (in Russian), find out what their conditions are and take it from there.
Earnings 
The payout for voice over work is pretty sweet. Each studio has the rates for customers on their sites so you can work out your cut from that. 

I have limited experience with this. The last time I got paid 20,000 roubles for two hours in the studio. It was awesome and beat the crap out of translating or teaching and that was in the sweet, pre-crash rouble days.

Downsides
All the money might go to your head and turn you into a wild douche, but seriously the only drawback is that this is highly unpredictable work so not something I would risk betting on. Just make it a little part of your freelance arsenal and you'll be good to go.

Get paid for those other random skills
flute lessons russia

Can you design logos? Are you a Photoshop ninja? Can you make custom WordPress sites? Play the guitar? If yes, register on Upwork and start offering your services to people.

Whatever skill you might have, there will be a market for it.

If you are in Moscow and play the flute, try finding expats on the forums that want flute lessons. Go online to the flute forums and look for people that might be willing to do flute lessons on skype. Your clients don't have to be Russians, or in Russia. If you have a computer and wifi, you'll be good to go. Someone, somewhere needs a flute lesson right now and by god you could be teaching them.  There will always be a way to market your skill.

If you don't have any skills, go get some. Take a marketing class, learn to flip websites, take an online copy-writing course and start doing that on the side. Go learn a skill right now that will make you more valuable than just an English speaking machine. 

learn new skills in Russia

We live in a pretty amazing time and thanks to technology, you can learn anything, anywhere and make them monies wherever you want.Just because you are a native English speaker in Moscow doesn't mean you have to resign yourself to just teaching English. 

One thing I personally focus on now is Amazon consulting. I started Private Labelling, importing and selling products on Amazon this year and, as another income stream, I used the knowledge I gained to also help other sellers. This is what I now feed my family on, and while you might not be doing the same, if you take the time to learn something new, you can spin that into something.

Those side gigs add up

Get a website if you are serious about freelancing 

A lot of people still think that building a website is difficult, but it doesn't have to be (unless you have some complex tool or custom feature). For freelancing, you just need a simple little site with a contact form and with some sample work pages (translation/writing samples etc).

The two easiest ways to get a site like this up and running is to go with WordPress (here's a beginner guide on how to install a wordpress site) and here's another detailed link on getting a WP site up and running.  

An even easier option is to whip something up on Wix. A small child could use Wix and you don't even have to pay for hosting if you choose the free version (although it will make you seem less professional is the wix logo will be on your site). I personally like Wix a lot. 


There's a lot of debate (and website snobbery) over WP Vs Wix and some other side builders like Joomla, but really, the the platform depends on what you need your site to do. 

However, for a freelance profile, almost any will suffice. Sure WP has a much steeper learning curve, but shit, being able to install WP themes and custom templates is in itself a popular freelance skill! 

If you really don't want to touch site building, head over to Upwork and hire a freelancer to make you a site. It won't be very expensive and you'll have it done in a couple of days, max.

Quick e-mail tip

If you don't already, start making use of e-mail filters - this will really make life easier and a lot more organized. If you really start ramping up your business and freelancing and your inbox starts getting the better of you, check out this ultimate inbox management strategy .

Final thoughts

Knowing that you can make money and survive whenever and wherever you may be is a liberating feeling. The more diverse you can make your income streams, the better things will be for you, period. 

If any of you guys have some good freelance tips, advice or good resources, drop me a comment and I'll add them in.

Good luck and happy freelancing!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Resources from this post

E-mail

Freelance tools 

Website building

Forums to find work




Technorati Digg This Stumble Stumble Facebook Twitter

3 comments:

Laura Pickens on November 1, 2014 at 1:06 AM said...

Awesome. Did it all. Now what?

Lt. Columbo on November 13, 2014 at 8:57 AM said...

keep hustling until you break through ;)

Peachy Sanchez on June 10, 2015 at 4:45 PM said...

Online really is the answer! :) You can teach language thru Skype. I'm taking Russian classes thru Skype from http://preply.com/en/russian-by-skype , so I'm pretty sure companies like these hire freelancers too. :)

Post a Comment

 

You need this book in your life

Russian language kicking your ass?

" />

Try a better approach to Russian

| An english perspective on life in Moscow, Russia © 2009. All Rights Reserved | Template Style by My Blogger Tricks .com | Design by Brian Gardner | Back To Top |