Working as a freelance translator might be the perfect side hustle for someone who speaks multiple languages. You can make some extra money with your language skills or potentially turn it into a career or business.
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Bilingual friends: How about a side hustle that pays well, allows you to work from anywhere, has a ton of work available, and won’t be disappearing anytime soon?
How to Become a Freelance Translator
Sounds ideal, right?
If you can read and write in more than one language or grew up in a bilingual household, doing freelance translation work might be that ideal side gig you’ve been looking for. Translating is a side hustle with low startup costs and it could even grow into a full-time career or business.
Translation offers plenty of opportunities in a variety of industries. The legal and medical fields have an obvious need for translators, but plenty of other opportunities exist. Companies that want to expand into new markets and businesses that have a diverse customer base need translators too.
Demand for translators and interpreters is projected to grow 18 percent through 2026, according to the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook.
People often use the terms translator and interpreter interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing.
Translators work in writing. Interpreters translate orally or via sign language. The difference goes far beyond written versus oral, though.
Interpreting requires a different set of skills. Interpreters must be able to listen, understand, then take what they just heard and immediately paraphrase it in the target language. Interpreters usually have to be physically present as well.
If you’re looking for a side hustle or a career that allows you to work from home, becoming a freelance translator gives you the freedom that being an interpreter won’t.
Language pairs consist of a source language and a target language. Translators work in language pairs.
Pick the two languages you know best to start. Make sure your resume and any professional profiles you create state the language pairs you’re qualified to work in.
Not all language pairs are created equally in terms of supply, demand, and pay. The language pair or pairs you work in go a long way toward determining your earning potential.
There might be a lot of demand for English to Spanish, but the supply is also very high. Spanish and French translators face a lot of competition, but there are also a lot of opportunities.
On the flip side, the pay rate you see posted for an English to Hmong job might be higher than a similar English to Italian project, but the amount of regular work available won’t be enough to provide a steady income.
The highest paying language pairs usually share these characteristics:
Some examples of high paying language pairs:
Whether you work in a high paying language pair or not, specializing in a specific field or industry leads to less competition and higher earnings.
Being a subject matter expert and bilingual is potentially more lucrative than being a general translator regardless of language pair.
If you have a background in finance, law, health care, or IT besides being fluent in another language, these types of specialized translation projects pay more. Here are some areas of focus that are always in demand and pay well:
The path to becoming a specialist translator usually involves a degree in one of the above areas, industry work experience, and advanced language skills.
For the most part, there are no education or certification requirements to make money as a freelance translator. Degree and certificate programs in translation are available, though, and they help. Being certified could be the difference between having your bid accepted and watching a job go to someone else with formal certification.
For example, an American Translators Association certification gives you instant credibility. As a certified translator in a specific language pair, you can command higher rates.
In addition to ATA certifications, many colleges offer certificate or degree programs in translation. Some are delivered online while others have both online and on-campus courses. Here are some programs to investigate if you’d like to pursue formal study in translation:
Most of the online translation jobs you see posted will attract multiple bidders or applicants. To win the job, you must stand out.
Any professional profiles you create on freelance websites or on LinkedIn should include your background, experience, and education. Profiles can be dull so try to inject some personality with your summary statement or objective to capture attention.
You can start a blog or website where you post sample translations, testimonials from clients, and links to completed projects. Link to your site from every professional profile you create.
When you’re bidding on a project:
Consider taking smaller jobs and accepting lower rates at first. You’ll gain experience and references you can leverage later to get higher rates.
Pay rates for translation jobs vary based on language pair, type of translation needed, and competition. You might get paid per word, hourly, or a flat rate, depending on the project and the client.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the median pay for interpreters and translators at $51,830 per year or $24.92 per hour as of 2019.
There are several sites that can help you find work as a freelance translator. The best websites for translators have several paid projects and positions posted with new ones coming in almost every day.
It will be difficult to compete with the more experienced translators you’ll be bidding against if you’re just starting out. Early on, focus on building your portfolio, gaining experience, and making clients happy to build references.
Networking and cold outreach can be good ways to land your first gig.
For example, you might spot a local business that could benefit from having its marketing materials translated into Spanish.
Or you could contact the owners of websites you frequent to see if they need help to reach audiences in other languages. Travel websites, review sites, and software companies are good candidates for outreach.
Whether you’re looking to build your portfolio or find high paying translation work, these websites will help get you going. This list includes job boards, freelancing sites, and companies that provide translation services.
All have remote translation jobs available. Some have in-house positions available as well in case that’s something you might be interested in as well.
The jobs you’ll usually see posted on these websites are mostly one-time projects, but some can lead to steady work. You’ll be able to post a profile to attract clients.
The translation work being offered on Clickworker is of the shorter variety. You might translate blog posts, product descriptions, or instructions. European languages only from what I’ve seen.
Fiverr is different in that it’s more of a marketplace for selling your services. Don’t let the name fool you, though. You can charge more than $5 for your work.
Sign up, create a profile, and start bidding for jobs. Competition is stiff on this site. Some pay rates offered aren’t great, but you can take on smaller projects to build up your profile.
You must apply to join PPH as a freelancer. Once approved, you can set up your profile and bid on up to fifteen projects a month for free. You can buy credits if you want to bid on more.
You do not bid on projects at ServiceScape. Instead, you split translation fees with ServiceScape. They pay freelancers once a month.
A platform that connects translators with clients looking for bids on translation work. Offers a limited free membership and a paid ($120) annual membership for more exposure and priority access to projects.
The website is messy, but there are translation gigs posted regularly and they cover tons of language pairs. You can register and set up a profile to get started.
Probably the best known and most used freelancer website, Upwork has many projects ranging from entry level to expert level. Short-term and long-term opportunities are also available.
Job boards offer a mix of contract opportunities and staff positions. Two on this list are specific to language jobs. The others are general job boards where translation jobs appear from time to time.
A job search site that has remote translation jobs available. Most are long term, contract positions.
While Indeed.com won’t win any design awards, there are online translation jobs available. You can also sign up for alerts then get an email when new jobs that meet your criteria get posted.
Online community of language professionals with over a million members. Their job board is busy and highly competitive.
As the name suggests, only accepts job postings from companies seeking remote workers. You probably won’t find translation job listings every day, but the website is worth checking.
TranslatorsCafe.com is another huge community of language pros with discussion forums, articles, a directory, and a job board.
Translation agencies offer translation services and often use freelance translators extensively to get the work done. Some specialize in a specific industry like legal or medical or focus mainly on a specific language or languages. Others are more general and offer translations of any document, audio, video, website, or text in almost any language.
Offers translation, subtitling, and voice dubbing services for different media. They’re not always hiring, but monitor their Careers page for remote work opportunities.
Translation agency always looking for experienced freelance translators for projects translating European and Asian languages.
Transcription is their main service, but they also offer translation services. Looking for Spanish translators with a legal background to work as independent contractors.
Localization and translation services provider with offices around the world. Hires freelancers with language ability and familiarity with CAT tools.
Translation company that provides language related services including translation for businesses in several fields. Check out their Careers page for translator jobs.
Offers translation services to companies in any industry. Their projects include books, corporate documents, websites, medical reports, and more. They always need freelancers.
Provides a steady supply of all types of translation work. Once you sign up, you must pass a two-part test to get approved to work.
A travel website aimed at helping users book tours and activities around the world. They sometimes have freelance translator positions available for Japanese and European language translators.
Interpreters and Translators, Inc. hires interpreters and translators for several languages. Entry level translator jobs are available.
Provides several language services including document translation, website translation, transcription, and more. They regularly recruit translators and interpreters.
Online translation agency with a simple interface that allows customers to upload documents for translation. After you sign up and pass their test, you’ll get emails with the latest jobs.
Translation services company that requries two years of translation experience, a bachelor’s degree, and you must be familiar with translation software.
Lionbridge provides translation and localization services to international clients. They help with many products, websites, and written materials.
Register as a translator to get email invitations to work on projects. Work as much as you want whenever you want. Also has a mobile app you can use to track your activity and get notified when work is available.
Translation service company that hires freelancers to work from home. You can choose which projects to accept and work whenever as long as you hit your deadlines. You get paid per project.
A large translation agency with steady work in many language pairs. Sign up, create your profile, and take their proficiency test. They rank and rate translators based on the number of words translated and other factors.
Provide translation services to legal, healthcare, education, and tech companies. They also translate websites and marketing materials.
Produces multi-language content for ecommerce businesses. There is a screening test you must pass for consideration. There are also project specific tests you must pass to work on a particular project.
Provides translation services for clinical trial, medical device, and test publishers. Seeks contractors for translation work including post machine translation editing.
Rev provides transcription, translation, and captioning for media companies and other businesses. Document translation and video subtitling work are also available. Pays weekly via PayPal.
Computer assisted translation software maker that provides localization services to IT, multimedia, ecommerce, and engineering industries. They’re always looking for freelance translators to join their team.
This company specializes in translating and localizing mobile apps. Translators will need to be tech savvy.
The company has big clients across a wide range of industries. Including your interests and areas of expertise when you register will help them determine what types of projects suit you best.
Much of the work offered on Translate.com involves correcting or editing machine translation output. Not the most lucrative, but the work is steady for some language pairs.
Translated.com is always looking for freelance translators to handle the high volume of work they have. You can set your own rates and take advantage of the ongoing free educational programs they offer.
This language learning software company hires freelance translators with at least a year of experience. Also has opportunities for bilingual content creators and proofreaders.
Provides translation and other services to multinational companies. Has offices all over the world and jobs for interpreters, translators, and other language professionals, some of which are work from home positions.
Global translation company that hires professional translators qualified to translate in one of a variety of specialties including legal, medical, high tech, finance, and more.
Another site where you edit machine translated text. Most of it is short, user generated content like emails, blog comments, customer support requests, and product reviews.
Their website won’t win any design awards, but they are always on the lookout for freelance translators with English and any of several languages.
Primarily a transcription service provider, but also provides translation services. Email them a cover letter and resume to see if any opportunities are available.
Offers translation services for documents, websites, and audio or video files. They assign tasks to translators on a first come first serve basis. They pay on the 15th and 30th via PayPal.
WorldLingo has freelance translator positions available for generalist and specialist translators with 2-5 years of experience.
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