There’s no one single way to make a living from translation. We all come to the industry from many different paths. Some of us take the unexpected route: we suddenly discover that translation is something we love doing and we’ll never do anything else again. Or the long way: we work for a number of companies for 20 years and then go back to our college dreams to work with languages. There’s also the planned way: A-levels from languages, BA in modern languages, and MA in translation. Some people I know living off translation take the ethical way, making sure that everything they do is good for the profession. Then there are people who have other jobs, but they translate from time to time because they’re passionate about it.
I guess there are many of you out there whose ways into the translation business were different (write about it in a comment below!). But we all have some things in common: some qualifications, some experience, some dedication, and some rules we never break.
But imagine there’s an easy way. Much easier than you imagine, and it could potentially bring you much more money. I am going to share this secret with you now, and you should read carefully until the very end to make money in translation.
1. Do you have what it takes?
You absolutely mustn’t have any translation qualifications. Languages are ok, but still look suspicious. If you accidentally have any language-related background, you better erase it from your CV and forget about everything you’ve learned. You must be an entrepreneur and a born marketer, preferably thinking only about your business. You’ve got to be passionate about networking, talking to people, and making good impression. Be great, good looking, and smart.
2. Setting up a company.
The first and most important aspect of setting up your company is to make sure that it looks bigger and more complex than it really is. Pretend that you have five departments and a whole team to support you. You could even create imaginary personalities and make your clients believe that someone else’s on Twitter, someone else’s dealing with invoices, and you as the CEO – you work only 5 hours a day.
3. Defining your products.
You must stress that you’re providing top-quality translations in 170 languages both ways, complex services, telephone interpretation, video conferencing, transcreation, subtitling, voice over, private tuition, translation certifications and all these other services you have no idea about, but you’ll be able to find a freelancer who does. When describing your services, use the following adjectives: professional, outstanding quality, native-only translators, 24 hours a day, top quality, in-house proofreaders (tip: meaning you), etc.
4. Setting prices.
If you think there’s a healthy business model to tell you how much to charge to your clients, you’re wrong. The easiest way to do it is as follows (and it’s really easy because it allows you to do two things at the same time). Find a directory of translators online, write a dull email that you’re expanding your base of providers and you’re recruiting freelancers in this language pair (please note: use recruit freelancers again and again – it doesn’t make sense and is a great example of an oxymoron, and never try to specify the language pair – it could get you into trouble because you’re sending this email to all language pairs on earth). Ask for the best rate and invite them to send their CVs. Don’t forget to send this email from a gmail or any other free mailing service. Oh and by the way: always, but always start your emails with Dear Linguist.
You’ll receive a range of replies, so just find the lowest possible best rate offered. That’s how much you’re going to pay your service providers. Now multiply this fee by 8.852 (that’s the translation income rate I just invented) and there you go. That’s how much you charge your clients.
5. Finding providers.
But you already found them! All these emails you received to find out the lowest prices did the job for you. Without looking at CVs, delete these emails that state a fee twice higher than your minimum. Still without looking at CVs, create folders for different language pairs and copy the documents there. Create a mailing list to all people who’re in your folders and congratulate them on joining your successful company and agreeing to work for your rates. Job done!
As I said, you must be smart and good looking. Your website has to be brilliant. Don’t hesitate to invest loads of money in making your company look international and global (nice words to add to your copy, by the way). It doesn’t matter what colours are used, or if your copy makes sense. Just be there and remember about SEO and social media. You could have someone blogging, but it’s much easier to use this funny piece of software that changes some words in existing articles online to give you a “brand new text”. If you don’t like the hassle, simply steal some articles from freelance translators.
7. Enjoying the profits.
Now imagine. The only thing you’re doing is some marketing and forwarding jobs to your service providers. And you make so much money on it! Isn’t it just great? Oh, I forgot to mention something earlier. Your business name has to have “solutions” in it. It’s so catchy – they’ll think you can solve their problems! If you’re really good at what you’re doing, you could even win a government contract and sell your company as soon as you can. Believe me on this one.
I don’t have to mention that it’s a satire, do I? The number of agencies/companies operating this way is increasing. I’m always fishing for dodgy websites, but I’m under the impression that there’s more and more of them popping up. People who call themselves entrepreneurs use the slimiest, ugliest, and easiest model to earn some money and then get rid of the body. This model stands against everything we value in our profession and is insulting to our skills. There’s one thing we can do to stop it: never, never agree to work for the bottom feeders and their ridiculous rates.
Even if that’s far from easy, I’m prepared to take up the challenge. Are you?