Many beginning translators would like to volunteer their services in order to gain some experience before applying to translation companies and/or direct clients. This is a great idea because it benefits both the translator and the client, and pro bono projects are often less stressful than projects for a paying client; for example the pro bono client may be able to give the translator a much more extended deadline than a paying client would.
If you’re interested in volunteering your translation services, you can either go through an established service that matches volunteer translators with clients, or you can seek out work on your own. If you’d like to use a service, the two main portals I’m aware of are:
–Translators Without Borders works mainly with international humanitarian organizations. Prospective volunteer translators go through an application and testing process, and TWB’s main languages seem to be English<>French.
–Translations for Progress is more of a job board for volunteer translators, with a wide range of languages. They include a disclaimer that the translation must be for not-for-profit purposes. Once you create an account, it seems that you can directly contact the non-profits that are looking for translators.
If the options above don’t appeal to you or your languages are not represented, consider finding some volunteer translation work on your own. Obvious possibilities include legal aid agencies, public health clinics, NGOs, international development organizations, etc. Really, almost any small business might be interested in a high-quality pro bono translation, and I think it’s acceptable to ask up front whether the business would mind serving as a reference for you as long as they are happy with your work.