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Hiring Freelancers to Help You Enter the Japanese Market

Learn the easy way to hire native Japanese-speaking freelancers for a broad range of tasks and projects — without any payment hassles.




If your company is interested in entering the Japanese market, it’s likely because you are aware that the country is the world’s third-largest economy. In fact, for some industries and sectors, Japan is their most lucrative market.


However, setting up a Tokyo office and hiring locals is a big investment. Before you reach that stage, it can make sense to look at starting small with cost-efficient alternatives. One option to consider is hiring local freelance specialists and work with them remotely.


Services Offered by Japanese Freelancers

Generally, freelancers tend to specialize in one or two kinds of work. Below is a list of the categories that you will likely need to hire a native for. Beyond helping you bridge the language and cultural gaps, they can also help with their local knowledge.


Market Research

Research is crucial to making informed decisions. However, often, the information available in English is limited and outdated. It is best to have a native speaker do research in Japanese and compile their findings.


Translation

Machines vs. Humans

Machine translation (MT) is helpful for content such as technical or legal documents. However, it doesn’t yet work well for the content which requires a deep understanding of social, cultural, and other contexts. Thus, human translators are still doing a brisk trade with a broad range of items, including the following.

  • Advertising & Marketing: Copy for ads, product descriptions, website content, and email newsletters.

  • Publishing: Articles, books, and magazines — for both digital and print.

  • Entertainment: Subtitles, game content, song lyrics, and video scripts.

  • Tourism: Signs, menus, and guidance recordings.

  • Business: Proposals, sales letters, presentations, and correspondence.


Editing & Localization

The job of a translator is to create a mirror copy of the original content in the target language. However, due to cultural differences, this often results in text that feels awkward and unnatural. For this reason, it is worthwhile having an independent editor check and polish it to flow better and use more appropriate vocabulary, expressions, and style to match the context and target audience.


Creative Work

Hiring freelancers can be much cheaper than engaging a creative agency.

  • Audio & Video Editing: It is impossible to properly edit audio or video content that contains speech unless you understand what is being said. Ditto for subtitles and transcriptions. Hiring a native speaker is the only way.

  • Voice-Overs: If marketing to a Japanese audience, you may need a native speaker to record voice-overs for items such as whiteboard animations, YouTube videos, voicemail greetings, or commercials.

  • Graphic Design: It can help enormously to work with a native to adjust your branding and any visual items to fit local tastes. Items to review include designs for web or print, branding elements, art, diagrams, and illustrations.

  • Photography & Videography: Perhaps, at some stage, it might make sense to do a photo or video shoot in Japan featuring local talent. A local freelancer could organize, manage, and produce this remotely.


Marketing

If your headquarters has various marketing systems and initiatives in place, these could be adapted to fit the Japanese market. Consider hiring a Japanese freelancer to work with your HQ marketing people to implement this. If further local specialists are required, they may be able to manage this on your behalf. This should be much cheaper than working with a Japanese advertising agency.


Sales & Business Development

It is quite common for overseas companies to start out by hiring one or two Japanese people to represent them at trade shows and other events. They may also approach local companies and organizations on your behalf for business development.


User Support & Community Management

If you are running an online service, selling software, or operating a mobile app, once you have Japanese customers, you’ll need to be able to provide them with support. You could start out by hiring a Japanese freelancer to manage support tickets, produce a Japanese version of your help documentation, respond to messages received via social media, and reply to online reviews.


Business

If and when your activities in Japan warrant it, you may wish to seek help with issues from qualified professionals related to legal, taxation, and HR issues. Starting out with freelancers can be much cheaper than contracting one of the big consultancy firms to handle everything for you.


Where to Hire Japanese Freelancers Online

Most of the major global online freelance job marketplaces have a smattering of Japanese service providers. If you want access to a larger pool of Japanese talent, it will be more effective to use a domestic marketplace.


Launched in 2009 and operated by Tokyo-headquartered Xtra, Inc. Conyac caters to both Japanese freelancers and English-speaking clients who may wish to hire them. Their platform is fully bilingual.



The work process is quite straightforward and similar to what you may have encountered on other freelancer sites:

  • Job Listing or Offer: Post a job and wait for proposals, or send offers directly to suitable candidates.

  • Negotiation & Contract: Negotiate terms such as scope, fee, and deadline. Contract with your freelancer and pay the escrow deposit.

  • Work Starts: The freelancer will commence working on your project. All communications are done through Conyac.

  • Submission/Approval: The freelancer submits the work for your review. Once you approve, the freelancer will receive payment.


Conclusion

Even global brands with deep pockets have found Japan to be a challenging market. It makes sense to test the waters with arrangements that don’t require a large upfront investment or long-term commitment. Freelancers can be hired remotely on an as-needed basis for a wide variety of tasks or projects. Sign up for Conyac and post your first job for free today.

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