Here’s the bottom line. If you’re not sure if translation is the right career for you, become a part-time translator first before jumping in with both feet. Let me explain.
Becoming a freelance translator is easy.
Yeah, it takes time.
It takes patience.
And you’re going to hit roadblocks on your path to becoming a successful translator.
But it’s still a relatively straightforward affair.
Because the formula is simple:
Paying Clients = Success.
But as a person just starting out, it can seem daunting.
I get it because I was there.
I was in college unsure of what I wanted, thinking that translation might be a good career option for me.
But like most translators who go the freelance route, I didn’t start out as a full-time translator.
Instead, I started translating part-time.
Why Become a Part-Time Translator
If you’re thinking about doing freelance translation, I recommend that you start out doing it as a side gig.
1. Get Some Breathing Room
A lot of the translation industry “old guard” started out as full-time freelance translators right out of college.
Their time was different.
Freelancers could find a lot of well-paying clients right out of college.
Sure, it was still a lot of work. But it was possible.
It’s still possible now, but the supply/demand ratio of translators is a lot different today than it was back in the day.
Plus, pay has actually decreased in many translation areas as the supply of translators has increased.
That makes it much more difficult to quit school or a current job and go all-in with translation.
Instead, it’s best if you have a full-time job that gives you some stability. You can then pursue your translation career in the late evenings or early mornings.
If it’s something you really want, you’ll find the time to make it a success while giving yourself some breathing room until your business grows.
2. Use Your Current Situation to Jumpstart a Translation Career
The best jumping-off point to becoming a freelance translator is to already have a job where you have some contacts that need language services.
It could be any kind of job.
It doesn’t matter what you do.
What does matter is the contacts you have that can help you find work/clients.
Does the school district you work for print handouts in Spanish for parents and/or students?
I just got a letter in the mail from my kid’s school about parent-teacher conferences. The front was in English. The back in Spanish.
Someone had to translate that.
And that person got paid.
It might as well be you.
If you’re an English/Spanish translator, this is a perfect opportunity for you.
Find out who is in charge of contracting out the translation work and let them know that you’re a translator and can do the work faster/cheaper/better.
Start with your school.
Once you start translating flyers or documents for your school, move up to your school district, or other schools in the region.
Pretty soon, you’ll have a stable of clients.
You’ll be able to point to your work with other schools as a sign of your professional abilities.
And your business will grow.
It works the same for nearly any profession.
Make contacts, get referrals.
3. You’ll Know if You’ve Got What it Takes
Dropping your safety net to pursue something you’re unsure about is stupid.
Especially if you don’t know whether you’ll even like what you’re doing.
I know too many people that have done translation work in their day jobs, and they thought they would love translating full-time.
And they ended up going back to work at a regular job.
Maybe they liked translating but didn’t like everything else that went along with running their own business.
And that’s OK.
Not everyone is cut out for the freelance way of life.
But if you find out you’re not, it’s best to have something to fall back on.
However, if you do have what it takes, you can go full speed ahead and success will certainly await you.
4. You Can Grow Your Business Gradually
When you start out as a freelance translator, it will be slow going at first.
You won’t have a lot of clients.
You might not even have any paying clients.
But that’s OK.
You can start by translating for free.
I know that sounds counterintuitive, but it’s actually a great way to get your name out there, build a portfolio, and make contacts.
There are plenty of ways to find free translation work.
You can volunteer to translate for a non-profit organization.
You can offer to do a test translation for a potential client.
You can even join a translation forum and help translate texts that are posted there.
Doing all of this work for free might not seem like a great way to start your business, but it is.
You’ll be getting real-world experience that you can put on your resume.
You’ll be building a portfolio of work that you can show to potential clients.
And you’ll be making contacts in the industry that could lead to paid work down the road.
5. You Don’t Need a Lot of Money to Get Started
Starting your own business is expensive, right?
You can start a freelance translation business with very little money.
All you really need is a computer and an internet connection.
If you’ve got that, you’re good to go.
Of course, there are some other things you might want to invest in down the road, like software, reference materials, and perhaps even a website.
But those are all things you can get later on.
To get started, all you need is the willingness to work hard and the dedication to learn your craft.
6. You Can Work from Anywhere in the World
One of the best things about making money from translation is that you can work from anywhere in the world.
All you need is a computer and an internet connection.
You could be living in the middle of nowhere, or you could be living in the heart of a bustling metropolis.
It doesn’t matter.
As long as you’ve got a computer and an internet connection, you can work from anywhere.
This is great news for anyone that loves to travel or that has wanderlust or that wants to try out becoming a translator without having to move away from their current job.
It also comes in handy if you need to move for any reason.
You can just pick up and go without having to worry about finding a new job.
7. You Can Set Your Own Hours
Another great thing about being a freelance translator is that you can set your own hours.
Go to your regular job Monday to Friday.
Work on your part-time translation side hustle during the weekend.
Or vice versa.
It’s entirely up to you.
This is great news for anyone that wants or needs a little bit of flexibility in their work schedule.
Maybe you have young children at home and you need to be able to work around their schedule.
Or maybe you’re a night owl and you prefer to work late into the evening.
Whatever your situation, being a freelance translator gives you the flexibility to set your own hours and work when it’s convenient for you.
8. You Can Choose Your Projects
As a freelance translator, you get to choose which projects you want to work on, especially when you’re starting out part-time.
Do you only want to translate documents? Or do you want to do some interpreting work as well?
Do you want to only work with businesses, or do you want to work with individual clients as well?
It’s up to you.
You can choose the type of work that you want to do.
You can also choose the language combination that you want to work in.
For example, maybe you’re a native English speaker and you want to translate documents from French into English.
Or maybe you’re a native Spanish speaker and you want to translate historical documents like the Gettysburg Address from English into Spanish.
Whatever your situation, as a freelance translator, you get to choose which projects you want to work on.
9. You Can Continue Learning
As a part-time freelance translator, one of the best things you can do is to continue learning.
Learn more about the industry.
Read blog posts and articles about translation.
Attend webinars and online courses about translation.
The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to handle any challenges that come your way.
And as you continue learning, you’ll also be able to command higher rates for your services.
10. You Can Make a Good Living
Despite what some people think, you can actually make a good living as a part-time freelance translator.
Of course, how much you make will depend on several factors, such as your experience level, your language combination, the type of work you do, and the region you’re in.
But if you’re willing to put in the hard work and dedication, there’s no reason why you can’t make a good living as a part-time freelance translator.
So there you have it, 10 reasons to become a part-time freelance translator before making the full-time plunge.
If you’re thinking about becoming a freelance translator, hopefully, this has given you some food for thought.
And if you’re already a freelance translator, maybe this has reaffirmed your decision or given you some new perspective.
Until next time.
FAQ – Become a Part-Time Translator
Can part-time translators make good money?
Yes, part-time translators can make good money. In fact, many part-time translators can earn a very good living. However, it is important to note that earnings will vary depending on several factors, such as the languages you translate, your level of experience, and the type of clients you work with.
What are some of the benefits of becoming a part-time translator?
There are many benefits to becoming a part-time translator. First and foremost, it is a great way to get your foot in the door of the translation industry. It can also be a great way to supplement your income or even replace your full-time income if you can find enough work. Additionally, part-time translation work can be very flexible, allowing you to work around your other commitments. Finally, it can be a great way to build up your skills and experience so that you can eventually transition into full-time translation work if you so desire.
What are some of the challenges of being a part-time translator?
One of the biggest challenges of being a part-time translator is finding enough work to keep yourself busy. This can often be difficult as many clients prefer to work with full-time translators who are available on an ongoing basis. Additionally, part-time translators may not have access to the same resources and support as their full-time counterparts. Finally, part-time work can often be quite unpredictable, making it difficult to plan for and budget for your expenses.
How do I get started as a part-time translator?
If you’re interested in becoming a part-time translator, the first step is to assess your skills and experience. Are you a native speaker of the languages you’re interested in translating? Do you have any experience translating professional documents? Once you’ve determined that you have the necessary skills and experience, the next step is to start marketing yourself to potential clients. This can be done by creating a website or blog to showcase your work, joining relevant online communities and forums, or even attending translation industry events.