This may come as a surprise to some people, but I never saw myself as being only a translator for the rest of my life.
I always felt that my love of language would involve much more than translating.
But translation is where I wanted to start.
That’s why I began my translation career while I was in college.
I did some freelance translation on the side while also working as an in-house translator.
That in-house translation gig ended and I went to full-time freelancing.
During that time, I also did some language teaching, mentoring, and even transcription work.
And in the past year I’ve put some of my translation work aside to focus on writing.
Everything I’ve done has been an evolution for me and it all involves language in one aspect or another.
Why Translation Does Not Have to Be Your End Goal
First things first.
I’m here to help you become a translator. If that’s what you want, and that’s the only thing you want, no problem.
My goal is to help you with that.
However, I also want to help you realize that translation is just one of the many awesome things you can do with a background in foreign language.
And it doesn’t just have to be translating.
But first, if you’re just starting out in translation, let me take a minute to explain some of the advantages and disadvantages of working either as a freelance translator or an in-house translator.
- Strictly Translates
- On a fixed salary independent of work load
- Fixed time schedule
- Has to deal with office politics and management
- Responsible for every aspect of business, from marketing to translating, to customer satisfaction, to setting translation contracts
- Salary depends on willingness to get it. Harder work usually equals more money
- You can work as little or as much as you want
- Possible feelings of loneliness or isolation
Language Jobs That Pay Well
But translation is obviously not the only type of language job that pays well. That’s what this post is about.
If you’re looking to branch out from translation, here are two types of jobs you should consider if you want to stay in the language field.
This is such a broad category that I hesitate to include it on this list, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that writing is probably the best way for a language nerd to make money.
Writing is such a big part of life and is so pervasive in everything which means that writing is going to be in demand.
In general, the practice of writing can be divided into two categories, writing for yourself or writing for others.
Writing For Others
This type of writing is any writing you do for a customer or client who then pays you for that writing.
It’s similar to the way freelance translation works.
You get an assignment or job from a client, execute that writing assignment, and then get paid accordingly.
This type of writing can include everything from copywriting, website articles, white papers, blog posts, marketing materials, etc.
As I mentioned earlier, while I started out translating, I wanted to branch out into doing more writing.
Over the past year or so I’ve written for both print magazines and online publications, writing about an eclectic mix of topics, including translation, triathlons, and the outdoors.
I’ve even got a sampling of my writing online if you’re interested in where my writing has appeared.
If you’re interested in pursuing writing at all, no matter the language, one of the best resources online is Renegade Writer.
Writing For Yourself
While writing for others can be a very lucrative opportunity for language lovers, writing for yourself can be just as good or even better.
Writing for yourself has no real equivalent in the world of translation.
I don’t know any translators that make money translating something that is not intended to be sold to a client.
Writing for yourself is different. You’re not being paid directly for what you’re writing.
Instead, you make money by writing for an audience, usually about a certain topic, and then make money by selling something to that audience.
Think of the blogs you follow and the people you read online. Maybe you follow gardening blogs or blogs on fitness.
One of my favorite sites is IWT.
Yeah, it sounds like a total scam site, but it’s not. It’s run by Ramit Sethi, a super smart dude that is all about teaching people how to make more money.
It’s a great niche site that has expanded over the years.
Remit offers awesome free advice on finance, careers, and psychology, and then sells his own products as well.
That’s what writing for yourself can get you.
I started TranslationRules in January 2015.
It started out pretty small with only an average of six visitors a day.
Since then, traffic to the site has increased exponentially, with more and more visitors finding the information they’re looking for about things like using MOOCs to specialize and ways to improve second language abilities.
Traffic is exploding.
While I’m not earning any money directly from the how-to articles on write on my site, I soon will sell an ebook for translators that will help them earn money by translating for translation agencies.
The people visiting my site like the free material I provide, realize that my paid stuff will be just as good, if not better, and will be happy to spend a few bucks to really ramp up their own translation business.
That’s what writing for myself has done.
I’ll always love teaching.
Unlike most everyone I know, I love standing in front of a crowd and speaking. The crowd could be hundreds of adults interested in my perspective on life, or two kids in a Sunday school class bored to be there.
Either way, I love it.
There’s something about standing in front of a crowd of people anxiously waiting to hear what you’re going to say that really motivates me.
And language teaching is no different.
I got my first taste of teaching when I was in college and had a job teaching English classes to Spanish-speaking immigrants.
It was great.
I loved making them laugh. But most of all I loved helping them learn to speak English, something that most of them had wanted for a long time.
And if you like teaching, it can be another way for you to make money with your language skills.
While a lot of teaching isn’t very lucrative by itself, it can be a great side hustle that can lead to bigger and better things.
So where to find teaching opportunities?
There are three main types of teaching you can do as a side job while maintaining your career as a freelance translator.
Each of these types of jobs can also be turned into full-time gigs if you’re looking to do something different beyond translating.
If you live in the United States, this is a pretty easy gig to get in most places. A lot of school districts have shortages when it comes to substitute teachers, and if you can be somewhat flexible in both when you’re available and where you work, you’ll be at the top of the list for teaching opportunities.
When I my kids were in elementary school, there was such a lack of substitute teachers in the district that the principle asked for parents to sign up to be teachers.
Even though I was full-time booked with other things, I wen through the process of registering to be a substitute.
I love my kids, and I really enjoy teaching, no matter my audience, so getting the opportunity to spend even a day or two a month was a no-brainer.
For most school districts, you have to register to become a substitute teacher. However, different districts have varying requirements.
When I lived in Maryland, the process was fairly simple and painless.
However, when I lived in Utah, the process was much more complicated and more selective. In addition, there weren’t many opportunities.
Maybe there were more applicants than in Maryland.
Check out the district website where you live and follow the requirements there. If your district needs teachers, the process won’t take very long and you can make $80 to $130 a day.
If you want a little more action than just one or two days a month subbing in your local schools, online teaching could be the way to go.
I’ve never taught online, although I have gone through the process of applying with a couple of different organizations.
Online teaching can be done one-on-one between student and teacher, or it can be through a more traditional classroom setting.
For example, when I was in college getting my Masters degree, I applied to teach for Rio Salado College in Arizona.
I had a brother-in-law at the time who was teaching Spanish classes through the college and it seemed like a decent gig.
I ended up not getting the job, but then became a teaching assistant at school, so it worked.
In addition to teaching for legit accredited brick-and-mortar schools, there are also plenty of opportunities to teach one-on-one to students all over the globe interested in learning about various subjects.
Teaching English is always a popular subject, but there is also more competition.
If you have a speciality in another area, however, you’re chances of sticking out and finding more lucrative opportunities is higher.
This is especially true for people with specialities in the hard sciences like math, physics, chemistry, etc.
Taking online teaching one step further is private tutoring.
When most people think of online tutoring, they think of a tutor meeting at someone’s house or at the library and teaching them.
That was then.
Now, the most lucrative tutoring opportunities are online.
Here are three online tutoring jobs that were posted today on Indeed.com
One for Rosetta Stone teaching English.
Another to teach students located in Los Angeles.
And then one located in Idaho, of all places.
These companies usually don’t care where you’re located. As long as you have access to broadband internet and have a flexible works schedule (to accommodate people located in various timezones), you’re good to go.
And each of these will pay up to $20 per hour.
That’s not Ritchie Rich money, for sure.
But it beats other jobs out there.
And really, $20 an hour is the bottom of the barrel for private tutoring, whether it’s online or in person. Tutors can easily top that and make nearly $100 an hour, depending on location and subject matter.
So listen. Don’t feel bad if you don’t want to be translator for the rest of your life or if you’re getting bored with the translator’s life and want to branch out.
There are plenty of opportunities for a language pro like yourself to make some money doing something other than (or in addition to) translating.
Question: Can you think of any other language-related jobs that a translator can transition into either on a part-time or full-time basis? Let me know in the comments below.