How to work from home as a translator

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So, your personal Remote Working Revolution is to work from home as a translator. Congratulations, I wish you the best of luck in this endeavor!

You’ve got this.

I have spent countless hours gathering as much information that I could find so you don’t need to go anywhere else to learn what you need to work from home as a translator. Happy reading!

How much can translators earn?

Most people who want to learn how to use their language skills to translate from home are curious about how much a translator can earn.

How much you earn can depend on the type of translating you do and how in demand it is. Generally, according to salary data, the average reported hourly wage for freelance translators is around $23/hr. 

However, this can vary widely depending on demand, the language you are translating and what country your client is based. According to the American Translators Association, one should expect to earn $0.12 per word on average.

9 skills you will need to work from home as a translator

I think these 9 skills are important to focus on as you build your career as a home based translator.

Understanding your native language

This may seem obvious, but it is likely the most important aspect out of the whole list below. To set yourself apart from other translators, you should ensure you have a very strong understanding of your native language. 

One resource you should consider is Udemy, which is a very large marketplace for learning and instruction. I have personally taken many courses on Udemy and they are very helpful and accessible.

To brush up on your native language, sometimes it’s best to go back to the basics. Be sure to check out these popular Udemy courses listed below.

Can’t find your language? Check out Udemy’s language course catalog.

Extensive knowledge of your second language

This also may seem obvious, but it is critical. This will likely be the basis for the jobs you will seek to translate. Be sure you are very strong in your second language and aren’t merely replacing text for text. If this was all that was needed, Google Translate would be doing these jobs. You should really know many of the nuances of the second language so you can accurately translate so native speakers will not know the difference. 

Knowledge of cultural translations in both languages

Understanding cultural differences in both your native and second language is helpful to allow you to translate in a way that best relates to your audience. Don’t make this translation mistake made in an Indian airport:

Credit: justinrosslee

Understanding cultural norms with translations is so important that it can even spark protests. In late May of 2016, Hong Kong took to the streets in front of the Japanese consulate to protest as the Nintendo company planned its rollout of its upcoming titles of Pokémon Sun and Moon. 

The controversy centered around everyone’s beloved pocket monster, Pikachu. Previously, the character’s name was translated to “Bei-kaa-chiu” for Cantonese and “Pi-ka-qui” for Mandarin speakers. The Nintendo company ditched the Cantonese version in favor of using “Pi-ka-qui” as the character’s only official Chinese name.

Nintendo obviously didn’t anticipate this controversy. It is important to understand any cultural sensitivities when translating other languages.

Willingness to continuously improve

Like any field or profession, continuous improvement is important. As a translator, there are many different areas you could invest your time in to continuously improve your skills.

  • Study both languages frequently by taking courses
  • Immerse yourself in the culture whenever possible
  • Understand current events within cultures who speak the language
  • Speak your second language frequently with native speakers and have them correct any mistakes
  • Study the history of your language
  • If you focus on a specific area, hone your skills as a specialist
  • Use computer assisted training tools such as Linguee, SDL Trados, Fluency Now or MemoQ.

Strong skills with computer applications

Make sure your skills with computer applications are up to date. Depending on your specialization, you could be asked to translate in a variety of mediums. For example, you may be asked to translate a complex eBook written in a Microsoft Word document or a company’s PowerPoint presentation. It would be important to have a strong grasp of computer applications. 

One of the best resources I personally use is LinkedIn Learning. It is one of the best resources for improving your skills with computer applications. I have personally taken several courses on LinkedIn Learning (back when it was, and they are very professionally done. Right now, they have a 30-day trial of their program.

LinkedIn Learning: Start your 30 day free trial

Find a niche or subject to focus on

This may be hard to do at first as you are becoming established in the field. At first, you will be motivated to grab at any gig that comes your way. This is perfectly understandable, but you will want to specialize in an area eventually.

Here are some areas you can become a remote working translation specialist:

  • eCommerce websites
  • Video games
  • Computer software
  • Marketing
  • Mobile apps
  • Social Media
  • Copywriting
  • Technical translating
  • Ebooks
  • Literature
  • Journalism/Blogs

Ability to be highly organized

Like many remote working careers, you need to be organized. At times you may be juggling 3-4 clients at a time who all have competing deadlines. Staying organized is essential. 

Here are some quick tips to help you stay organized:

  • Take small breaks – breaks whether they are mental or otherwise are always good for your brain. Be sure to schedule breaks in to your day.
  • Use a calendar – to keep your client project delivery on time, use a calendar. One of the best out there is Calendly. It allows you to organize time with your clients in a more automated fashion.
  • Avoid distractions – make sure you are in a distraction free area where you work. Distractions are one of the biggest time killers.
  • Track your time and activities – this strategy doesn’t work for everyone, but for some it does. Track each of your activities you complete diligently so you can stay organized.
  • De-clutter your space – this has really helped me in the past. If I feel overwhelmed, the first thing I do is look at my space. A cluttered space is a cluttered mind.

Excellent time management skills

Working as a translator from home comes with many time management challenges. Here are a few tips to better manage your time:

  • Avoid the temptation to browse – information consumption at times may seem important, but it can stop you from completing your work. I had a mentor teach me that your work is directly tied to either making or costing money. When you are consuming information (could be in the form of browsing the internet, checking your phone or even a client call), you are not completing the work that is getting you paid. Be sure to keep tabs on how much time you spend “browsing”.
  • Eliminate distractions – we discussed this above in staying organized, but it is also worth mentioning that distractions are a time-killer, too. They can come in the form of phone notifications, Twitter, Email, Skype, etc. Try to limit these types of distractions to manage your time better. 

Pro tip: I’ve used the Freedom app in the past. It blocks apps and websites to keep you distraction free. It is available for Mac, Windows, Android, and iOS and is used by millions.

  • Treat remote working as a job – though you may do your work in a home office or digital nomad style, make sure you treat remote working as a job. You may need to educate your family and clients what your working hours are. One risk you face is clients pulling you in all different directions outside of your normal working hours. This can put a burden on your time.

Develop a mentality of client service

As a work from home translator, you will need to develop a mentality of client service. Here are some ways you can achieve that:

  • Empathize – put yourself in your client’s shoes. They are people just like you and I. An important skill to master is listening. Train yourself to listen effectively to pick up on signals to inform your response.
  • Build relationships – to be in the business of remote working, it is really important to build relationships with your clients. The more relationships you build, the more consistent business you will have.
  • Be generous – try to find ways you can do more than what is expected. Don’t go overboard with this as it can easily become an expectation, but it is a good practice to over-deliver.
  • Set expectations – from the beginning, set clear and reasonable expectations with your client. Make it very clear what you offer and what you don’t, what you charge, how you deliver, and how/when you will be paid. Setting these expectations can avoid awkward situations in the future.
  • Over Communicate – communicate frequently with your clients by giving them progress updates and anything else helpful. Good communication will help deepen the relationship with your client.
  • Make things simple – to have great client service is to have great processes. Part of building your freelance translating career should be developing processes. This could be an intake form, payment processes, or mechanisms for delivery. Avoid giving your clients to-do lists or difficult hoops to jump through. 
  • Be friendly – this should go without saying, but I think it is important. As people, we sometimes have rough days. Be sure to put a smile on while communicating with your clients regardless of how you feel. It will go a long way.

One of my favorite books about customer service is Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. This is a book about how the online shoe store Zappos started and how they focus on serving their customers. This book is a great resource that can help you establish your client-centered approach.


Becoming a remote working translator can be a rewarding career path. We learned that translators can earn an hourly rate on average of $23/hr and should start out charging around $0.12 per word.

We discussed the 9 skills you will need to become a remote working translator:

  1. Understanding your native language
  2. Extensive knowledge of your second language
  3. Knowledge of cultural translations in both languages
  4. Willingness to continuously improve
  5. Strong skills with computer applications
  6. Find a niche or subject to focus on
  7. Ability to be highly organized
  8. Excellent time management skills
  9. Develop a mentality of service

Let me know in the comments what advice you would have for an aspiring or current remote working translator.

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