Digital Nomad Jobs: How to Become a Translator
Once you’ve traveled for a while, you’ve probably seen some pretty hilarious failed translations. “Please do not eat carpet”—what?? That can’t be what they meant to say.
Despite the increasing popularity of translation apps, real human translators are still very much needed, especially for the translation of important texts.
If you love languages and have high proficiency in at least one foreign language, then you should think about how you might become a translator.
Why is a freelance translator a good career for a nomad?
Many digital nomads live in countries where the dominant language is not their native one. You’re already constantly processing foreign language text on signs, menus, labels, and so on, so why not start to earn some money from your skills?
Plus, by becoming a translator, you can deepen your understanding of a foreign language. Plus, you may find that you can better connect with the people in the countries that speak it.
Freelance translating is also a good career for a nomad because most jobs are very independent and self-directed. Normally, you’re sent documents by a client, you translate them on your own, and then you send them back once the translation is finished.
You have the freedom to do the work when you’re available. Which makes this career a good fit for someone who wants to structure their life around exploration and travel rather than typical work hours.
How much can a freelance translator earn?
Earnings for freelance translators vary enormously. According to Indeed.com, translators earn, on average, about $20 an hour, but payouts can range from $7.25 to $51 an hour.
There’s clearly a huge difference there! Your experience, speed, technical knowledge, and language pair all play a role in determining your rate. In addition, if you work directly with clients, you will earn more than if you work through an agency.
What kind of education do you need to become a translator?
Ultimately, the best way to train to become a translator is to start getting experience translating! Some beginning translators find that it’s hard to get clients at first because they don’t have the experience that the clients are looking for.
Native-level proficiency in the language you wish to translate is the most important qualification that you need to become a translator. Your secondary language skills may not come from formal education at all—maybe you grew up in a family that speaks a language besides English at home. Or maybe the time you’ve spent traveling and living abroad has helped you master a foreign language.
However, the vast majority of translators do not rely solely on their language skills to get translation jobs. It’s one thing to be able to communicate fluently in another language. It’s something entirely different to be able to clearly and concisely convert the text in that language to English.
Some translators pursue university degrees in translation, languages, or linguistics. A degree shows your employer or client that you have experience with the nuances of the language and know how to handle different kinds of documents including literature, technical content, legal content, and advertising content.
If you’re interested in going this route, check out this list of programs and courses recommended by the American Translators Association. Of course, not everyone has the opportunity or the desire to complete a translation degree, and you don’t necessarily need one in order to start landing translation jobs.
How to train for a career as a freelance translator
If you have the necessary language skills but don’t want to invest in a degree, set you and your business up for success by seeking out specialized training. Many freelance translators decide to specialize in a certain realm such as law, medicine, or business.
Start studying advanced technical vocabulary in both English and your secondary language. Enroll in a course that is specifically geared towards teaching translation in one of these specialized fields. When you feel ready, take a certification exam that will give your resume an extra boost.
Check out these affordable courses on Udemy
Don’t forget about investing time in the business side of things as well. As a freelance translator, you will need to market yourself, find new clients, and negotiate payment with those clients. You may find it helpful to enroll in a course for beginning freelance translators to give yourself more confidence to move forward in your new role.
To combat this catch-22, you may have to start out taking lower-paying jobs or even volunteering as a translator for websites such as YouTube and TED Talks. Once you get more experience and build your online presence and portfolio, then you can up your rates.
Where can you find clients?
Postings for translation jobs exist all over the web. Some of the most well-known communities of freelance translators are:
Post your profile and seek out jobs on the job boards on these websites. You can also connect with other translations and interact in community forums.
You can also apply to be in the pool of translators of these translation service websites. Applications tend to be competitive, however.
If you’re a beginning translator and need to build your profile, you may want to start on general freelancing websites like Upwork, Fiverr, and freelancer.com.
When you translate a text, you make important information accessible for more people around the world. In that way, a translator builds a linguistic and cultural bridge between people. Your language skills and writing abilities may be just what a client is looking for to help better serve their diverse audiences.
Yes. Although a degree helps, you do not need to have a degree in order to become a translator. There are other ways to prove your qualifications, such as passing a certification test.
First and foremost, to become a translator you need native-level proficiency in a second language. Other qualifications that can help you find jobs include a translation degree or specialization in a specific realm of translation, such as medical translation. Ultimately, experience is the best qualification.
You can look on the job boards of online communities of freelance translators such as ProZ and Translator’s Café, apply to be in the pool of translators for Gengo or Smartling, or look for clients on a freelancer website such as Upwork or Fiverr.
When you work directly with clients, as opposed to through an agency or through an online service that takes a service fee, you will be able to charge more. You can also raise your rates if you have specialized skills, such as a unique language combination or the ability to translate a specific technical field.