Speaking another language can mean some extra income. But just how do multilinguals turn their skills into money?
If you’re looking to build a business on the side or start a new career, consider freelancing!
Often time people see the word “free” and get excited. And there are plenty of reasons why.
Freelancing helps you strive for a work life balance.
It also gives you the freedom to spend more time with family.
But what about the “lancing” part?
Freelancing teaches you to fight, or rather defend yourself as an independent contractor.
You learn to:
✦Find clients or agencies
✦Establish boundaries between yourself and your client
It takes trial and error. My goal with this post is to be as informative and real as possible.
You can keep scrolling for more precautions about freelancing or skip to the list.
FREELANCING DOES NOT ALWAYS GUARANTEE A "JOB"
Freelancing is very different from working a typical full time job. That’s why you won’t see the word “job” appear much in this post.
As a freelancer, you have several responsibilities:
✦Administrative tasks (invoicing, emailing, etc)
✦Following up with clients
✦And much, much more!
It’s no wonder why businesses hire virtual assistants (#4 on the list).
HOW TO AVOID SCAMMERS
I’ve been scammed twice since I started freelancing. So here’s some wisdom to keep in mind.
Red Flags for Freelancers
What can make a potential client sketchy:
✦Longer than usual delays in responses*
✦Little to no social media presence
✦No testimonials or portfolio
✦No phone number or website
*Given the current state of the things, delays in responses may be more common.
Sometimes a company’s priority isn’t hiring independent contractors. Don’t get discouraged, keep looking for opportunities!
Best Practice for Freelancers
✦Trust your intuition. If it feels wrong, then it probably is
✦Don’t give out sensitive information
✦GOOGLE. Pay attention to what pops up
✦Check scam reports for your industry
Alright, now that we got that out of the way, let’s get to the list!
1. Make Money as a Freelance Translator
After creating your profile, you can start applying for freelancing opportunities.
Also, your profile will attract translation agencies and clients.
I was scammed for not being able to tell the difference between a legit email and phony one.
Here’s what a legit email looks like:
And here’s a trifling one:
Not only is this email full of embarrassing typos, but the scammer is using a free domain (gmail).
Agencies will ALWAYS email you from their own domain.
So Rose is not only fake af, she bougie.
Anyway, with a premium ProZ membership, you have access to the Blue Board, which includes a huge list of translation agencies. I’m still debating whether or not it’s worth the investment.
Check out this video from a Japanese to English translator if you’re considering a premium membership!
Define Your Translation Niche
After deciding on your language pair, you’ll need to decide on your niche or specialization.
Most sites ask you to do this anyways. Some agencies will have you undergo a translation test (usually unpaid).
Translating can be a lot like transcreation. You’re not just translating from one language to another but you’re using some creativity. So whether or not you pass translation exams can be a matter of preference rather than expertise. Just saying.
Setting Your Translation Rates
Many agencies treat translation as a transaction.
Considering the cost of CAT tools (Computer-aided translation tools), setting a low rate may cost you in the long run.
If you do go with a low rate, then you have to make sure you’re getting consistent work. That too is left to chance in some situations.
If you build a good relationship with a client or agency, they will contact you work frequently.
So what counts as a low rate? I charge $0.05/character for Japanese but I’ve been asked to go as low as $0.03/character.
This is when that “lancing” part of freelancing comes into play. You have to experiment and see what’s working.
Know that you don’t have to accept every project that comes along. And being turned away because you want “too much” is normal.
More importantly, make sure that money, no matter how small, makes it to your pocket.
Payment Terms for Freelance Translation Projects
Contracts and agreements are nothing to gloss over when it comes to translation. Pay close attention to the terms that your client or agency will set.
In the beginning you’ll encounter agencies with payments terms of anywhere from 45 to 60 days.
That means you won’t receive your tiny translator’s paycheck until nearly two months after your project is considered complete.
As you land more clients, you’ll have more independence and can set your own terms. I’ve learned to do this with copywriting (#3 on the list).
Project Completion Terms for Freelance Translation
It’s also important to know what your client considers “finished.”
Do they want several edits?
How many rounds of review?
Once you have a completion date, that’s when the countdown starts.
If the payment is late, just contact the agency with a cordial email. Don’t go all “b*tch better have my money” on them.
MT Editing & Copy Editing in Another Language
Machine translation editing is a good branch of translation work. It focuses more on being able to correct translations that have already been completed.
You can be approached by agencies for work like this too. They may ask for your rate per page (I’ve seen as low as $2.50 per page) or per word. In the case of Japanese, per character.
Similar to machine translation editing, copy editing includes rewriting translations that have already been done. As the editor, you’re the bridge between the source language and the target language.
The “copy” is the words that reflect the client’s brand voice. It’s your job to understand if the translation flows smoothly and reflects the client’s tone the right way.
Freelance Transcription in Multiple Languages
Crossover between transcription and translation is very likely!
I completed a transcription job in Japanese and Spanish before. It’s rigorous and requires total silence and concentration.
I’ve been paid paid per line, not word. Some transcription agencies only pay per page or per hour of transcribed audio.
Transcription appears deceptively easy but it’s about speed and accuracy. Just to give an example of setting boundaries: I had a client who let me transcribe and translate some files, but the work was so time consuming that I could not sustain doing that kind of work given the pay.
I just knew that the client’s standards were too much for me. I have a one year old that constantly shoves my laptop out of my lap. I couldn’t serve my client well in an environment like that, so I ended things.
I’m all about landing clients, but there will come a time you may deal with a difficult client or take on a project with an impossible scope. You have to be honest. I understand what it’s like to go after that money, but it’s not worth your sanity.
Freelance Subtitling & Captioning for Videos in other Languages
If you enjoy watching some of your favorite shows over and over, this isn’t a bad gig to look into!
This would require you to have a lot of uninterrupted time at a computer. Of course, you’ll have to undergo a test.
These projects are often advertised on ProZ and Translator’s Cafe.
But who’s to say you can’t reach out to companies like Netflix or Crunchy Roll and see if they need translators?
Often times you may ask for translation jobs and be offered something else. So keep an open mind!
2. Language Coaching or Tutoring
Put those language skills to use as a coach or an instructor!
People from different age groups are learning languages. As a freelancer, you can determine the kind of audience that you want to target.
Business Language Training
Potential clients include business people whose jobs require them to understand other languages and cultures.
You can certainly “apply” for a career like this or operate on a freelance basis.
As a freelancer, you have the freedom to scout your own students. LinkedIn is a great place to start but clients could come from anywhere. Your personal circle of friends, connections of former colleagues—there are many options!
Virtual Language Tutoring
Many children are being homeschooled now. And with social distancing, going virtual is highly popular.
You could target parents who need virtual language nannies for their children.
If you enjoy creating language learning material and shy away from conversation, there’s a way to build a business off that as well.
Language Learning Printables
I’ve come across many language coaches on Instagram, a great platform for marketing your language services.
While some coaches work directly with their clients, there are language lovers who market printables or online reading material for their audience.
Teachers pay teachers is a good example of instructors generating side income from educational material.
Printables can come in various forms:
It really allows you to do creative work but it can be a big investment of time and resources.
Still, if you market the value of your work properly, it can be a successful income stream.
Or maybe you enjoy writing over tutoring in general (like me!). You can certainly earn money as a writer with a focus on language learning.
3. Earn Cash as a Language Learning Copywriter
Billboards, advertisements, and newsletters all have one thing in common: copywriting.
Copywriting is the art of writing words that turn readers customers.
It’s the memorable (sometimes forgettable) slogans and catchphrases that stay stuck in your head.
Copywriting is not just writing. It’s creative work and marketing rolled into one.
So if you can speak another language, get ready to learn the lingo of marketing.
Content Marketing for Language Learners
You can blog in another language or you can blog about learning languages.
There are plenty of solo language learners out there that blog about language learning (like this site). They could be language coaches or solopreneurs that get sponsored by or work in affiliate with language learning companies.
A good way to start getting paid to blog is to have your own blog!
Your posts become your portfolio. From there you can move on to pitching your writing or even guest blogging for an established company’s website.
Newsletters, Landing Pages, and More
Copywriting projects aren’t limited to blog posts. Language learning sites also need landing pages and e-newsletters optimized to reach their target audience.
If you’ve ever signed up for a newsletter from your favorite language learning site, study the copy (the text and wording)!
I’m not saying that anyone can become a copywriter but if you enjoy writing that makes an impact, it’s worth looking into.
Remember that although creative, copywriting ideally converts a language learner into a paying customer. It’s requires being aware of data and being able to conduct proper research on the language you’re writing about.
4. Freelance Virtual Assistant
Virtual assistance can help businesses with administrative tasks. Some go as far as managing social media (#5 on the list).
Speaking multiple languages widens your scope of prospects. You can target a small business that’s looking to expand into another cultural market.
In this role, you can set your own boundaries depending on the client. If you aim to help with invoicing and managing clients, that’s fine. If you want to do more, that’s OK too.
The key is to make sure you’re being compensated and having your boundaries respected.
It’s not the same as being an executive assistant but there are some similarities. Again, it depends on your terms.
5. Freelance Social Media Manager
Did you know that companies pay for people to manage their social media? Companies that are expanding on a global scale need people like you with language skills!
Community management can encompass several aspects of digital marketing, but at the center of it lies engagement.
I did community management for a bilingual kids app. Every day I interacted with parents on a daily basis—in Spanish and English! How cool is it to get paid to use different languages? Pretty great, I’d say.
So where can language enthusiasts like you find work like this?
Platforms for Multilingual Community Managers
There are plenty of digital marketing Facebook groups where small businesses recruit talented individuals to manage their Instagram. You can also reach out to companies directly.
But businesses also need managers for other social media platforms:
Cautions for Freelance Social Media Managers
The issue with community management: brands are looking grow their following fast.
So fast that they don’t care about making content that will resonate with their audience.
As a community manager, you might just be in charge of scheduling and posting the content, plus interacting with the users that engage with that content.
Having a say in the kind of the content ties back into copywriting.
If you’re sharing content ideas, performing hashtag research, and helping with measuring insights, you may want to consider charging a higher rate that reflects your creative endeavors.
Also, please let the client know that you’re not a bot, you won’t be expected to be on call all day and night, and that you won’t put up with micromanagement. Remember, you’re a freelancer, not an employee.
If someone hires you, that means they trust you to do the work!
5 Ways Multilinguals Can Earn Money From Home
I hope this list has got you generating some ideas!
Especially in these times, it’s important that you have someone to talk to about your career goals. Even if it’s just to brainstorm ideas.
I love to see people go after their dreams and share their love of languages with the world!
If you ever want to reach out and brainstorm some ways to generate ideas, contact me for a FREE consultation.
Fill out the form below and we can get in touch.