Make Money as a Translator

11 Ways to Make Money as a Translator

If you’re a translator reading this page right now, it’s a safe bet that you want to make money from your language skills.

Nobody who is interested in translating as purely an academic experience or fun hobby visits this site.

But if you’re a beginning translator, you might not realize that not all translators earn their money the same way or from the same source.

Translation is just like any other profession in that there are many ways to approach it. Once you start thinking that there is only one way to earn money from translating, you’ll limit yourself and never make the kind of money that you want.

The reason is simple. Everyone is different.

Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. And the way you approach your translation business will (and should) be different from the way that I approach mine. You should look for opportunities that complement your skill set and that can maximize your revenue.

I should do the same.

But, as I mentioned, if you’re a brand new translator, you might not know about all these ways. So let’s get started.

Let me say something really quick, though.

I’ve seen translators who have done each of these things. Some do them in addition to translating; some have transitioned from translating to these things. Remember, strengths and weaknesses. You can change. At the least, you should always evaluate and adjust.

Working for Direct Clients

This is what most translators do to earn money. If you want to only translate and not do anything else related to the translation profession, you’ll want to start building up your own client base.

There are lots of ways to do this.

However, the most important thing to remember is to take it one client at a time. One of the biggest mistakes that new translators make is that they want to start off with a stable of 20 direct clients.

It doesn’t work like that.

That’s a sure way to burnout because, no matter the profession, clients are found one at a time.

So find that first client. Then the next. Then the next. That’s how you’ll build your portfolio.

Working for Translation Agencies

Many translators make a good living translating only for translation agencies.

Remember, translation agencies aren’t evil.

They’re a way for you to find work without having to find the clients yourself. That’s essentially what the translation agency gives you.

You both win.

Forming Your Own Translation Agency

In fact, many translators realize that they can make even more money by forming their own translation agencies.


Because then they can offer translations in languages for which they don’t speak the language.

Instead, they can subcontract these jobs to other translators who do speak those languages and focus on a larger share of the translation client market.

If you do decide to form your own agency, you don’t have to do it all at once.

You can do it step by step, adding languages as you find people you feel comfortable working with.

Teaching Translation Courses at School

I received my undergraduate degree at BYU in Spanish Translation. (I also received a degree in Linguistics, but that can be a story for another day.) There were two professors who taught in the translation program.

One was a native Spanish speaker who worked full-time at the university.

The other one was a native English-speaking part-time faculty member who did freelance translation work on the side.

Teaching is a great way to stay on your game as a translator.

And not just universities need translation instructors.

Community colleges, adult schools, and even summer programs are all interested in teachers that can provide courses people will be interested in (and interested in paying for).

Designing/Selling an Online Translation Course

If standing in front of a room full of students looking at you to instruct them scares you, go a slightly different direction and design an online course that teaches translation principles and/or succeeding in the translation world.

The great thing about these types of courses is that you just have to design it once and then it can be used over and over again.

It used to be that it was difficult to use software to design and host these types of classes.

However, that has changed with the advent of websites that offer online courses.

Udemy, for example, makes it easy for anyone to set up their online course for free.

I just might try it out one day.

Unless you beat me to it.

Building a Website for Translators

If you’re a translator, I hope you have a website.

Without a website, your not going to last very long

Maybe you built a good website and enjoyed it.

Guess what? There are plenty of translators out there who don’t know the first thing about designing, hosting, and running their own website.

Should they learn?


But they don’t… and won’t. That presents a great opportunity for you to step in as a professional translator AND web designer to design something for them that takes into consideration the needs of the translator.

If you don’t have a website yet, but are looking to get one, be sure to check out Bluehost for the best place to get started.

Writing Books about Translation

There are almost 20,000 books in the Kindle store that pop up when searching on “translation.”

Translation EbooksThese are all written by someone and that someone could be you.

You know what you know about translation and the translation industry. And what you know might be new to someone else just starting out.

Why not write it down and share it with people through the Amazon Kindle store?

I won’t write about the process here.

Needless to say, it was a great experience writing my first translation book, and it is just the first of many to come.

Offering Courses on Passing ATA Exams

I’ve written about the ATA before and whether or not it pays to become a certified translator through them.

I won’t rehash those arguments here. What I will say, though, is that regardless of what your feelings are on the ATA, there are still plenty of translators out there that are interested in taking (and passing) the ATA exams.

If you are a translator that has passed the exams, and you understand how and why you passed, you could make good money teaching other translators about the techniques you used to help you pass.

The standardized test prep market is a $500 million to $4 billion dollar global market, depending on the person you ask.

Either estimate means that there is a huge market for these services.

So why hasn’t anyone tapped in to the ATA test prep industry yet?

Teaching Translators How to Market Services

While we’re on the subject of teaching translators, let’s mention here the market for teaching translators how to find clients, or how to market their own translation services.

Marketing is a skill that needs to be learned.

But translators are impatient, just like normal people 🙂

So help alleviate the impatience of your fellow translator by offering to do their marketing for them. Just make sure that the translator actually has a good product to market.

Teaching Social Media for Translators

In that same vein, teaching translators how to use social media could be a great source of income.

Of course, in order to teach someone about social media marketing, you have to make sure your own social media empire is on point.

Nobody will want to hire you with 3 Twitter followers and 12 likes on the one Facebook post your wrote last Thanksgiving.

Reviewing Translator Resumes

Resume reviewing is also a big business. And if you can do it for a specific audience, say translators, then you can have another solid income stream.

The key is to know what translation clients and agencies are looking for in a translator.

And the only way to know for sure is to make sure you have a top-notch translation resume that gets people’s interest.

If you do, and know how to replicate that success for others, you’ll have yourself a good business opportunity you can couple alongside your main translation business.

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