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Earning Money with Languages

Updated on July 13, 2016
Michael Ttappous profile image

Michael has been an online freelancer and writer for many years and loves discovering and sharing about new experiences and opportunities.

The Tip of the Iceberg

One of the first ways I discovered that I could earn money online was through copywriting. This was a form of content creation for different clients looking for product descriptions or blog posts or general articles about given topics. I got very excited when I realized that I could be one of the people getting paid to write for other people online. And because the Internet is a never-ending sphere of information, there will always be some sort of work available for content creators. Indeed, the wider your basket of sites that you are able to write for, the more jobs that you'll have access to.

Although it's important to remember the challenges in working online, it is fascinating to think that there is money to be made off of your skills in a particular language. I was very excited when I learned about websites that I could work for--and ones that I should have avoided--and that I could be paid to write interesting and engaging articles that sometimes stimulated my own research into different fields. As well as creating content, I was also able to earn money from editing and proofreading other peoples' work.

The Next Level

I was making decent money working for a few good sites, but then I had the epiphany that I shouldn't be limiting myself just to one language: There are lots of small, well-paying jobs out there for people who are bi- and multi-lingual. In fact, because there is a larger and more specific skill set required for translation work, these jobs are less competitive to find than regular content-creation jobs.

Once I realized that I was able to successfully translate documents from one language to another, I immediately knew that this was an untapped avenue for more online income. In the same way that websites will need a continuous flow of new content to keep customers interested and to keep their websites ranking well, so will websites and businesses also need translators to expand their reach to non-English (or non-French, or non-Dutch) speaking customers.

Taking the Next Step

Once you realize the potential of your language skills, you will start to realize the earning potential that comes with them. Although it can be tricky sometimes to understand the technical phrases that people may want to translate, most of the time you are able to translate the content with fairly less effort than it would take to create the content from scratch. Indeed, translating is relatively simpler than content creation, but it does also depend on your language level and abilities.

If you are fully fluent in many languages, the chances are that you will work relatively fast and that you will get through more words per hour. This means that you can earn more per hour and can get through more individual projects, which are what you will normally be working on as an online freelance translator.

So, How Do I Get Started?

You might be thinking to yourself, "Hmm... I speak three languages very well. How can I make money with that?" The truth is, you have to put some work into it. You either have to 1) sign up with a freelancing site and work on individual projects or 2) offer your own private services and try to market them. Let's look at option two first:

  • The one site that I am going to recommend is Fiverr. This site allows you to create your own 'gigs' and enables you to offer and provide whatever services you are good at. Indeed, this site allows to you to make money in more ways than simple translation, but it is also an ideal platform for offering translation work of a few hundred words. People want to translate stuff quickly and cheaply, and this is a great source for them to do that. I strongly recommend starting with Fiverr if you're looking to make some extra income doing translation work.
  • The first option is the more traditional route and takes away some of the burden that sites like option two present: They bring the customers to you instead of the other way around. Indeed, most sites will present their freelancers with a job board that lists whatever work is available for them. Although these jobs are taken up on a first come, first serve basis, if you have access to a few sites that list jobs like this, chances are that you will have a more consistent supply of online jobs to do. The main site that I will recommend is TextMaster. This site provides multiple jobs that require translation from multiple source languages to US English or to UK English or to Canadian English (there are subtle differences). The table below lists a few examples of the types of languages that you can earn online with on sites like this:

(click column header to sort results)
Source Language:  
Target Language:  
Dutch
English (US/UK)
Flemish
English (US/UK)
French
English (US/UK)
Portuguese
English (US)/UK
Polish
English (US)
Italian
English (US)/UK
German
English (US/UK)
Spanish
English (US)

As you can see, TextMaster offers you a huge abundance of languages to work with, and this is just one of many sites.

The difficulty with following option 1 over option 2 is that you will have to take and pass tests that assess your translation skills. However, this is also a great way for freelance sites to ensure that they maintain quality control from the start and that they only have the most qualified people working for their clients. The platform for option one sites are relatively straight-forward and enable you to quickly pick up how they work. The in-built staff support system is also very helpful and responsive and there is often a messaging system between you and your client to ensure that they are satisfied.

Making the Plunge

There are only a few sites listed on this article that allow you to make some extra money online through your language abilities (and I'm hoping that we get to see a few more listed in the comments below), but they are reliable places to start your language venture.

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