Three ways to make money with your translations.

Three Ways to Make Money from Translation

As a language professional, you have a lots of different ways to make money from translation and by using your language skills.

[If you need a list, be sure to pick up my book, Second Language, Second Income.]

But what you might not know is that there are also ways that you can make money from translation that are outside of the norm.

And these ways can either be supplemental income opportunities for you or even be your full income, depending on how hard you want to work to get there.

Make Money by Translating Words

When most translators think of translating in a general sense, they think of translating page-length documents or presentations. But one of the most overlooked types of translating is that of translating individuals words and compiling them into dictionaries and glossaries.

Bilingual glossaries and dictionaries are a big business.

A quick look on Amazon says that as of today, there are 489 Spanish-English glossaries for sale.

language glossaries
489 Spanish language glossaries for sale on Amazon.

That doesn’t even include searches for “Spanish-English dictionary” (of which there are over 6,000)

A lot of translators think that bilingual glossaries and dictionaries are out of date and aren’t used anymore.

But that’s not necessarily the case.

The sheer number of books on Amazon should indicate to you that there are plenty of people still purchasing these books. Some of the purchasers are translators or other language professionals, but many of the people buying these types of language materials are new language learners and students.

The best way to get started with this type of work is to just start and put together a glossary of terms in a subject that you know something about or that you enjoy.

For example, I enjoy basketball.

So a few years ago I decided to put together a Spanish/English basketball glossary because I noticed that there weren’t any at the time on Amazon.

English/Spanish Basketball Glossary
English/Spanish Basketball Glossary

And it’s still the only English/Spanish glossary of basketball terms on Amazon.

There are million other subjects that don’t have glossaries that could be written. And you could be the person to do that.

Make Money by Selling Translations

Another way to make money with translations as a translator is to actually sell your translations.

Now, before I go on, it’s important that you understand that I’m not saying that you should willy nilly sell the translations of the work that you do for clients.

As a language professional, you absolutely have to keep in mind the confidentiality agreements (implicit and explicit) that you have with your clients.

That means that you can’t just sell any of your client’s translations.

However, what you can do is sell translations that you do on your own.

This is especially easy to see looking again at Amazon and see what sellers are doing there.

One example is the Mueller report. (This isn’t political, don’t worry).

As soon as the report came out, there were publishing companies that took the report, bound it up in a physical book, and sold it on Amazon.

In fact, a search for “Mueller Report” pulled back a total of 281 different results! What’s really crazy, though, is that the complete report is actually free to read. You can download it on the Department of Justice website (along with a million other sites).

Even with it being available for free, a ton of people are still spending money to buy a copy on Amazon.

But guess how many people are selling the Mueller Report in languages other than English on Amazon?

  • Spanish – 1
  • Portuguese – 0
  • Russian – 0
  • French – 0
  • Chinese – 0
  • Italian – 0

Now is the low number of other-language books on Mueller Report because people that speak those languages don’t care?

Maybe.

But maybe not.

If you are a translator, though, and can translate the report into your other language, you could sell the translation.

This is different than doing a translation for a client and getting paid for doing the translation. When you sell a translation, you’re getting paid not necessarily for doing the translation. Instead, you’re getting paid for finding people to buy the translation.

It’s a subtle difference but one that’s important to understand and recognize.

Make Money from Translation Royalties

The final way to make money from your translations as a language professional is through translation royalties.

This is also most easily shown through Amazon and books.

At one point in my career I had the opportunity to do this.

An older relative of my wife (who is part Peruvian) had written a book about his life and experiences traveling to Texas when he was younger.

He had written the book in Spanish and was looking for someone to translate it.

He asked me as well as my brother-in-law to take a look at the book and see about translating it.

In the end, I decided against it.

There was some other things I needed to do and at the time didn’t have the time necessary to dedicate to doing the translation.

However, if I had had more time, I would have worked out either one of two payment deals with him.

I could have asked for a set price for the complete translation with nothing expected on my part after the translation was delivered.

Or, I could have asked for translation royalties. This means I would have been paid a certain percentage of every translated version of the book that was purchased.

That would have likely been payment instead of an upfront payment.

That is certainly an avenue you can take with potential clients who are in need of your translation services. This is especially true for literary translators. It can also work more with authors that are looking for translation work but that don’t have money up front to pay for a translator’s service. In that case, the author might be more willing to give up a share of future earnings.

Conclusion

No matter what kind of language professional you are, one of the most important things to understand is that there are lots of ways that you can make money besides straight up interpreting or translating.

Don’t be afraid to look into them, experiment, and see what sticks.

You might be pleasantly surprised!


P.S. For more information on how to become a successful language professional, read my book.

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