Freelance Work-from-Home Translation: How to Optimize Your Earning Capability

Freelancing is on the rise in the US and around the world. According to recent surveys, almost half of our entire workforce will comprise freelancers by 2020. The so-called “gig economy” doesn’t only include professionals and specialists who offer their time and skills through digital or other means. It also includes people who participate in peer-to-peer platforms, such as Uber and Airbnb, which allow users to provide services through a sharing ecosystem.

For anyone skilled with a second language and the relevant qualifications, freelance translation jobs can be an excellent way of earning money. There are many translation services online looking for skilled translators. According to a report by U.S. News & World Report, freelance translators earn an average $44,190 per year, with the top percentile earning as much as $60,000. But earnings can vary depending on the language pair, experience, and the demand for such services. Which means that not all freelance translators will earn the same.

What’s great about freelance translation work is that you can offer your services from practically anywhere, especially if the material involved is written. With the popularity of cloud-based online collaboration software, broadband access and freelancing platforms, you can make a good living from doing work-from-home translation assignments. Other translation works include writing subtitles for audio-visual material or translating recorded audio.

Remember that, as with any freelance work, earnings won’t be the same per project or per client, although you can certainly set a standard rate for yourself when working independently or through a freelancing platform. But how do you optimize your earning capability as a freelance translator? Read on to find out!

Which language pairs are the best?

An informal study conducted by Translation Rules involves the different language pairs and their potential earning capacity. The study didn’t exactly use regression or other statistical methodologies. Rather, the author took an overview of the demand for the different language pairs, based on popular freelancing platforms. It also considered the number of available translators on these platforms as an indicator of supply.

With demand and supply as the main indicators, the best language pairs, in terms of earning capability, will be the ones with either high demand and low competition, or high demand and high competition. After all, it won’t do you much good if you are an expert, but no one wants to hire you for your services!

The study found that the language pairs that meet the sweet spot in terms of demand and competition are Chinese to English and Japanese to English. The demand is also high for Spanish or French paired with English, although your potential income might diminish since there’s also a high level of competition with other translators in these language pairs.

What specialization should you pursue?

Finding the right language pair is already one specialization, and you would do well to build up your expertise in this skill by taking certifications and taking translation jobs. However, within the translation industry, it also helps to have a specific industry focus.

According to the ATA (American Translators Association), the most common areas of specialization are business and finance (57 percent), legal (55 percent), medicine (47 percent) and IT (38 percent). This means you’re more likely to find translation jobs in the aforementioned areas compared with entertainment (18 percent), natural sciences (16 percent) and pure sciences (8 percent).

At the very least, having a specialization will give you a better earning capacity than if you can only provide generic translation services.

How much experience should you gain?

According to data from Payscale, translators’ potential earnings can also vary with experience, as is the case with most professions. Entry level translators are likely to earn 6 percent less than the average. Mid-career translators can earn 7 percent above average. Experienced freelancers can earn 19 percent above average, and late-career professionals can command a 26 percent higher income level.

The majority of the surveyed translators have one to four years’ experience, and the mean annual income is above the national average.

This goes to show that, just like any full-time or freelancing endeavor, you will need to rack up experience points in order to increase your earning capacity. Gaining experience in a specialization also makes it easier for you to land jobs that are more challenging for a beginner.

To sum it up…

To optimize your earning capacity as a freelance translator, you will need to focus on three things. First, find a language pair that’s in high demand. Second, specialize in a more focused (but not too focused!) aspect of translation. Third, gain experience in the field.

Getting the combination right is easier said than done, especially if you’re already well-versed in a language pair that may not necessarily be in high demand. But if you can get training, certification, and practice, you’ll be able to get a better asking price for your services.

By |2017-10-23T04:59:19+00:00February 12th, 2017|

About the Author:

Christina Comben is Content Manager at medical translation services specialists, Day Translations. Multilingual and qualified to MBA level, Christina is passionate about writing, traveling and continued education.

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