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I’m a lover of new languages.

I’ve learnt some bit of Spanish over the past few years just because I wanted to boast of being bilingual.

I love to hear people from all walks of life speaking and writing their native language.

If you are like me and you would like to start a business that embraces your passions, a translation business is what you are looking for.

If you have a knack for learning new languages, you can do that and start a translation business.

We have one universal language today: English.

Some countries do not speak this language and when they want to expand their businesses to a global market, they need translation services to eradicate this language barrier.

This is your perfect opportunity to start a translation business and make money from it.

A decade ago when I plunged into the world of online work, the easiest job, I thought would be translating documents from English to Swahili because I thought I knew I was an ace in the two languages.

I signed up on Elance and got a job as a translator.

Translating materials from English to Swahili and the 1000 word document paid me 100 dollars, at the time, 7,400 shillings.

The first thing about the material, it was all medical terms and the moment I saw the document, I thought fainting wasn’t going to be easy.

I promised to work on the document for a day and the work ended up taking a week!

My client, though disappointed, understood me and warned me against taking jobs for which I’m not qualified and also not keeping with the deadline.

I learnt while working as a translator, know the language. Also, choose your niche.

Have a portfolio that proves you worked as a translator.

You can choose your working hours, the more you work, the more you make.

Also, don’t have any clients knocking on your doors.

Ensure you work with only high-quality clients that pay you your worth.

Also, demand for your worth as a translator.

There’s no point in earning $100 for a week.

The quicker you complete your job, the more you earn.

Also, acquire as much experience as possible.

Ensure to also multiply your income as a translator, let money work for you, not the other way around.

Is Translation a Good Career?

If you are wondering if starting a translation business is a good career choice, I’ll have to ask you to look at the most sought after translators in the world.

Translators usually get employed by big organisations that want to expand their businesses globally.

This means that you will be able to secure a ton of money from these businesses just by translation.

Translation services are usually needed by the legal and medical industries and this means that you will get paid well.

If you love languages and you are ready to make a career out of translation, I would say you give a translation business a try.

What is a Translation Business?

Translation business is a business that provides translation services to clients.

This means that they will convert different types of documents from one language to another (usually their native language) while maintaining the confidentiality of the client.

However, do not confuse translation with interpretation.

Translators usually convert written language while interpreters are concerned with spoken language. 

How Does Translation Work?

There are usually two parties involved: the translator and the client.

A translator is a person who is doing the translation services for you.

The client goes to a translator and asks for his services.

He or she will present you with the documents that they need you to translate in their preferred language.

You have to make sure that you convert this language to the desired language without losing the meaning or context of the original document.

What Roles Do I Play in Translation?

These are some of the services that you will be responsible for your clients when you start a translation business. 

  • Reading through written documents or listening to material in one language and understanding it.
  • Converting the written documents from one language to the second language.
  • Make sure you do not lose meaning or context of the material when you change it to the second language. 
  • Making sure that there are no errors and that the spelling and grammar are correct.
  • Seeking out clients. 
  • Maintaining client’s  records.

How Do I Start a Translation Business?

Starting a translation business has been made easier over the past few years.

There are two ways you can start your translation business: by freelance or starting a translation agency.

Before you choose to go, either way, it is important to know what you want to build out of your business.

Do you just want a side job or do you want a long and standing business?

If you want a side hustle, you can start a freelance translation business and if you want a full-time job, you can start your own translation agency. Here is how you will start your translation business.

  • Freelance translation business

There are many freelance translation websites that are available online so if you are well equipped in a particular language and you are ready to get the wheels turning, you can sign up to these sites and start making money.

You can advertise your translation on these websites and get clients. You can visit websites like Fiverr, Guru or Upwork and get started.

Fiverr is a top freelance website so that means it is very competitive. 

If you do not want to join these websites, you can create your own website, have your own blog, own domain and then offer your services and build your business.

You can give videos, tips and tricks and market yourself thoroughly to start getting clients.

  • Translation agency. 

Like I said before, only start a translation agency if you are sure this is what you want to do for the rest of your life.

Plan your business.

This involves laying out a clear road map of what your business is, who your clients are, your goals and how you are going to achieve these goals.

You have to have a financial plan and know all expenses that you are going to cater for in your business. Some of these expenses include:

Internet connection

Office furniture

Lighting

Staff payments 

Other necessary certifications 

Computers

Form an entity

Decide if you want your translation agency to be an LLC or a corporation and register your translation business with the local authorities. 

Obtain the necessary permits and licenses

You need clearance from the local authorities before you can start operating and exercising your services on your clients.

Hire staff

Get the best and well-tested translators for your business.

You can do this whether or not you know how to translate yourself. 

Build a website

You will be marketing your content and building your portfolio so that you can get your first customers and your translation business can actually kick-off.

How Do I Become a Certified Translation?

You will need certification before you can start your own translation business.

You can not just jump right off the bat and start translating.

Besides, your clients need to know that your services are credible and professional.

This is how to become a certified translator.

  1. Join a degree program. Colleges today offer language study so you can choose to major in any of the languages you want and become instantly certified through your degree.
  1. Take short courses. There are some short courses you can take online or onsite and be certified through that.
  1. Join a translator association. Find a translator Association in your country, go through training and become certified.
  1. Gain experience. You can easily become certified if you have years worth of experience in translation.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Certified Translator?

Learning a new language can take quite some time, depending on the effort you put in and how much practice you do.

It will take you a minimum of 4 years to get your degree and become certified.

This plus the fact that you have to go through a minimum of 3 years of experience before you can actually start a credible translation business. 

Can I Become a Translator Without a Degree?

Although a degree sets a good base for your translation business, you can still become a translator without a degree.

The translation is all about having a variety of language competencies and skills.

Through independent training, you will be able to achieve all that, even if it takes you a long while.

How Do I Become a Translator Without a Degree?

If you don’t have your degree, this is how you will become a certified translator and start your translation business.

  1. Start volunteering. You will be gaining experience through volunteering to translate for other people. Translation usually has a lot of paperwork so if you can offer to help, you will become one easily.
  1. Get independent qualifications and certification. You can choose to register for courses that allow you to learn how to translate and be given certificates after successful completion.
  1. Self study. Take time away to learn how to translate different materials. Keep on practicing until you master the language. 
  1. Develop a translator portfolio. This is what you will use to market your service to prospective clients and they may engage you in business.
  1. Start a freelance translation business. You can choose to go into independent jobs and start translating material without a  degree.
  1. Market yourself. Promote yourself on different online platforms so that you may get more clients and your business may grow.

Qualifications and Certifications for Translation

Here are some of the qualifications and certifications that are needed to prove the credibility of your services. 

  • A degree certificate in a related course.
  • A business license for a translation agency
  • Membership with a translation association 

What Skills Do I Need For My Translation Business?

These are the skills and qualities you need to start and do your translation business.

  1. Time management. You need to have good time management skills because you will be working on  a lot of written materials and required to beat crazy deadlines.
  1. Computer Assisted Translation (CAT). You need to know how to use machine translation for your work at certain times.
  1. Attention to detail. You need to pay extra attention to what it is you are translating so that you do not make silly spelling mistakes or grammar errors. 
  1. Interpersonal skills. Since you will.be working with clients from different walks of life, you will have to build a good relationship with them. This includes knowing and understanding their values, beliefs and culture.
  1. Sound translation and review process. Your translation skills should be top notch. You should be able to change the original language to the second language without losing its meaning or context.
  1. Advanced language knowledge and skills. You must be proficient in the language right from knowing their slangs and any other nuances. 

How Do I Make Money in a Translation Business?

You make money in a translation business by translating the materials you have been provided.

There are different ways you can earn money from translation.

Usually, the most common route is earning money per word, although you can also choose per-hour earnings.

Choose the most suitable way for you to make your money and do not forget to consider your level of skill or the difficulty in the material you are given to translate.

How Much Should I Charge as a Translator?

The amount of money should be dependent on the following things:

  1. The number of words. The more the words, the more you charge.
  1. Difficulty. If a particular material gives you  a lot of headache, you need to charge more. 
  1. Skill. If you have years of experience and are proficient in what you do, this means that your skills are valuable and you need to charge more.

On average, you should charge an hourly rate of Ksh. 3,500 to Ksh. 6,000, depending on your experience.

How Much Does a Translator Earn Per Word?

Set a base for how much you are going to charge for just translating one word.

You can do your calculations on how much it will cost to translate 500 to 600 words or more.

On average, translating one word is usually Ksh. 10, depending on the difficulty level.

How Much Do I Earn as a Translator?

You can make a monthly income of Ksh. 250,000 or more.

You have the potential to earn more depending on the number of clients you have or your experience or if you diversify your income.

How Do I Get Clients as a Translator?

It is possible to get your first clients at social gatherings or social media. You will have to cater for direct clients who need your services. This is how you will get them.

  1. Use social media. Use the connections you have built online to showcase your private labels. Go to Facebook or LinkedIn, talk about your skills and leave your business information set up so that people can contact you.
  1. Business cards. Have a business card with good branding, business details and contact information so that your prospective clients can reach out to you when they want translation services.
  1. Create a website. Do some content marketing on your website and optimise it so that it appears on top of the lists when someone searches for it on Google. 
  1. Be the expert at translation. Be the business everyone knows about and within no time, people will start contacting you for your services.
  1. ProZ. Join ProZ and you will get instant direct clients who are looking for translation services.
  1. Offline marketing. This means being active in community events and social gatherings and spreading news about your translation business by word of mouth. 

How Do I Promote My Translation Business?

This is how you can promote your translation business and market yourself as a translator:

  1. Website. Go online and build a website for your freelance translation business. Take time to optimise your website for SEO and also build content.Your website will create a first impression on your customers and this will determine if they seek your services or not.
  1. Social Media. Leverage the connections you have on social media and use that to showcase your portfolio on Facebook and Instagram, share relevant contents and create promotions to get more clients. . 
  1. Email Marketing. Run a cold email sequence on your clients and offer solutions and tips to take care of their translation needs. You can offer free resources or provide educational content if you want to build trust and authority with them on your translation business. 
  1. Professional Association Directories. Make your translation portfolio available in sites such as Google so that people can come online and search for your services easily. Create a business profile, showcase your portfolio and ask for client reviews if you want to make it to these directories.
  1. Networking. Connect with business experts and participate in local and community events  and meet new people. Join online forums related to your field or join freelance groups and create a post with your portfolio to promote your services.

Advantages of Starting a Translation Business

These are the benefits of starting a translation business.

  1. Low startup costs. When you are starting out a freelance translation business, it will not cost you much to sign up on the websites or create your own.
  1. Work from home. A freelance translation business is home based so you have the freedom to work from home.
  1. A wide target market. Your market will include legal, medical, commercial, technical, interpretation and more.
  1. There is a growing demand for translators. This means that your skills are highly valued and you can get more clients this way.
  1. Meaningful connections. When you translate work for people for all walks of life, you make long lasting relationships with them.
  1. High customer retention rate. Once you translate someone’s work, they will want to keep you for future use.
  1. There are low overhead costs. This is helpful because you get to earn profit at its full potential.
  1. Flexibility. You can open a translation business solo or manage a group of translators even if you are not one yourself. 

Disadvantages of Starting a Translation Business

These are some of the problems and challenges you will face when you start your translation business. 

  1. High competition. This includes computerised translation programs and voice recognition technology that may be hard to beat.
  1. You need to have the necessary certification if you want to u crease your business credibility.
  1. It can take time to reach your clients and establish your business so you need to have thorough marketing efforts to have a customer base fast.
  1. Demanding clients. Some clients may give you a lot of materials that need translation and give you very strict deadlines to.complete the work.
  1. Stressful work. Not being able to retain the context and meaning of an original document in the second language can be quite daunting.
  1. Repetitive work. It gets boring going over the same pattern with other materials over and over.
  1. You have to have perfect language mastery and this includes knowing all the slang, colloquialisms and cultural norms of the region the language is used in. 

Best Paying Translation Languages For Your Business

When you are starting your translation business, you need to have great knowledge and proficiency in languages that are in high demand and will make you more money. Some of these languages include:

  • German 
  • French
  • Arabic
  • Dutch
  • Spanish 
  • Russian
  • Italian
  • Mandarin 

Tips for Starting a Translation Business

Starting a translation business is a bit tricky.

You need to know the language that you are going to be translating and if you are starting your own translation agency, you need to have the best translators on board.

Otherwise, your services will not be sought after and you may be forced to shut down.

I will give you some tips and advice on how you can start a successful translation business.

How to Start a Successful Translation Business 

This is what you need to do if you want to start a successful translation business.

  1. Specialise in one language. Sometimes juggling different languages can leave you confused and overwhelmed. When you are starting to learn a language, go for one at a time so that you can pay good attention to detail and you can master it fully. 
  1. Have an online presence. More of your clients are available online so you need to promote yourself on online platforms such as social media to get clients for your business.
  1. Do not rely on machine translation. Remember, computers are programmed by human beings and language changes so a machine may miss out on the latest slang and your translation will not be accurate.
  1. Build your portfolio. This is what you will use to get your first clients or even apply for a job at a translation agency.
  1. Advertise your business. Go on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube and promote your business on these sites  to get more clients. 

Translation Business Ideas

Here are some ideas you might find useful when you want to start a translation business and don’t want to go the freelance or the agency way.

  • Develop courses for online coaching
  • Start a language learning app
  • Start a multilingual stock brokerage business 
  • Foreign language training business
  • Start  a mediator business 
  • Become an interpreter 

FAQs on How to Start a Translation Business in Kenya

  1. Can I start my own translation business?

Yes, you can start your own translation business.

Before starting a translation business, identify your speciality as a translator.

Create/build a translation brand. A brand means, building your identity. What do you want people to know you by?

Start building a portfolio. Portfolio, like a resume, shows your work experience as a translator.

Have a website showing the kind of translation service you offer.

Apply for translation work

Pitch on job boards like Upwork, Fiverr and other translation services.

2. How much do online translators get paid in Kenya?

Kenyan translators get paid 2000 shillings an hour more or less depending on your expertise in the language you translate.

3. What languages are in high demand for translators?

All languages are in high demand for translation but some like Spanish, German or Mandarin have more people looking for experts in these languages.

4. Are translators in demand?

YES, translation is a demanding career.

5. How can I become a translator without a degree?

You can become a translator without a degree like the following:

Start by gaining experience

Take courses

Understand the culture of the people you want to translate into.

For example, if you want to work translating German, learn everything about the German language, culture and its people. If possible, travel there.

Market yourself as a translator.

Work as a freelance to help gain experience.

6. Can you make a living as a translator?

Yes, you can make a living as a translator in Kenya. Earning 10M plus per year is enough to live in Kenya comfortably.

Learn to invest your money.

7. How do I get a job as a translator?

8. Can you become a millionaire translator?

Yes, any job can make anyone a millionaire and working as a translator can turn you into a millionaire.

Millionaires work longer hours than hours.

Raise your rates. Millionaires don’t work cheap because they know their worth and they come with value.

Diversify your income. Don’t only work as a translator launch online courses for people learning the language.

Work or take more clients. You cannot have one or two clients offering you 2000 shillings and expect to become a millionaire translator.

The more experience you gain, the better clients you command. Better clients pay more.

Learn more languages. Don’t specialise in one language only, learn more languages that are in demand. Clients love people with more language skills.

9. How much do online translators make per month?

Translators make 250k or more a month depending on experience, diversity and how many clients you have.

10. How many hours do translators work?

Translators work as many hours or as few hours as you want. You have to determine whether the translation is a full-time, part-time or side hustle. The direction you decide to take your translation business will determine how much you get paid.

11. What’s the difference between interpreters and translators?

Interpreters are trained to convert oral messages from one language to another

Translators are trained to convert written text from one language to another.

12. What skills do translators need?

The skills translators need include:

Language knowledge/Passion of chosen language

Cultural knowledge

Communication skills

Writing

Research

Active listening

Attention to detail

Time management

Ability to accept and take criticism

An active listener

13. How do I get translation experience?

To get translation experience do the following:

Find a job as a translator.

Volunteer.

Travel to the designated country to learn more about the language, culture and its people.

Gain experience.

Start marketing yourself

14. How can I improve my translation skills?

To improve your translation skills:

Read in the target language

Practice the language daily

Listen and watch movies in the language

Talk in the language

15. How fluent do you have to be a translator?

You need to be fluent to become a translator, otherwise, you risk distorting the message.

16. How do you overcome translation problems?

To overcome translation problems grasp the language.

17. What makes translation difficult?

Translation becomes difficult because of cultural differences,

Not understanding target language.

18. Why is machine translation hard?

Because machine translation doesn’t understand how the same people can speak a different language.

For example, a machine cannot translate a man speaking in Pidgin correctly.

A machine will only understand the standard language in it/ the preprogrammed language.

Therefore, don’t rely on Google Translate as a way to translate your work when working as a translator.

Translation services are in high demand because we have more international travel and businesses extending their services globally.

You can start a translation business, fill this market gap and make money doing what you love.

You just have to be sure that it is what you are passionate about because if money is your only motivating factor, you won’t last a day in the translation business.

Learning the languages of other people and their culture isn’t easy.

Following the guidelines on how to start a translation business and you will build a successful and long-lasting translation business. I wish you all the best!

Do you want to begin a freelance translation business from home in Kenya and are confused about how to get started?


stephanie

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2 Comments

Stephanie Weder · 10 November 2021 at 7:46 PM

Hi Stephanie, I just read your article and I think you are the perfect person to ask for advice! I have been a translator for 9 years now, working in a translations agency in Switzerland (I am a swiss citizen). Right now I am thinking about moving to Kenia for a while and finally use my professional skills on the freelance market. My question is, how can I start working as a freelance translator in Kenia? Do I need a work permission? It would be just me, I don’t want to start an agency and I don’t want to employ any staff. Maybe you could help me out with a bit of administrational insight?
If so, I would love to hear from you by email: weder.stephanie@gmail.com

    stephanie · 10 November 2021 at 11:20 PM

    Hello Stephanie, Thank you for reaching out to me.

    Wooow, welcome to Kenya in advance.

    The best way to work as a freelance translator is online.

    Have a website and start advertising your translation services to the world.

    No, if you’re working online, you don’t need work permission at all.

    You need work permits if you register a physical translation agency or want to get residency in Kenya. Then the process becomes lengthy and a headache.

    You can register or create a translation company from the comfort of your home, in Switzerland. And your services get accessed by people from around the world, Kenya included.

    Would you care to elaborate on the administrational insight you’d want help with?

    You can contact me on gertrude dot akinyi at gmail dot com

    Love and Success to you.

    Don’t hesitate to ask any questions you have about working online as a translator or finding your way in Kenya.

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