How to earn more while working less: passive income for translators
Success is a relative concept. What success looks like might be very different from one translator to the next.
But many of us choose to go down the freelance road because we want more freedom. Because we believe work shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all.
If being able to work less and earn more sounds like your idea of success, then there are plenty of ways you can make that happen.
One option is exploring passive income.
So, what is passive income?
You’ve probably seen this term being bandied about a lot online.
It’s a popular topic among freelancers and entrepreneurs because it’s about finding ways to earn money even when you’re not actively typing away at your laptop.
Theoretically, creating passive income streams means you could even be earning money while you’re sleeping.
That means that if, for whatever reason, you can’t or choose not to churn out client work, you don’t lose out on income.
Sounds good, right?
Well, it can be.
But before you get too excited, just be warned that starting to generate passive income will take an awful lot of work.
And some things that are generally seen as types of passive income involve far more input and maintenance than you might think. So they’re not really that passive at all!
But if you decide that diversifying your business in this way is right for you and are willing to put the effort in, then it could be a great way to boost your income in the long run.
Here are some suggestions for passive income streams that can work well for linguists.
1. Write a book
Writing a book is far harder than it looks and involves countless hours of work.
But if you can identify a topic that people are interested in, write it well and get the marketing right, you could end up with monthly royalties.
This could be a nice addition to your monthly income, but it’ll never be a fortune, so don’t go down this road if your only motivation is money.
A book is a labour of love, so only write one if you’re genuinely excited about the process and your topic.
2. Translate a book
Some literary translations are paid for by the word or by the project, but sometimes a percentage of royalties can be agreed on.
It’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to accept royalties and if that works out better financially in the long run than a lump sum.
But if you pick the right project you could receive modest royalties on an ongoing basis.
Again, translating a book is a huge commitment, so don’t enter into a translation agreement lightly, and make sure all the terms are agreed upon in writing.
3. Start a YouTube channel or podcast
A successful YouTube channel or podcast is a classic form of passive income. We won’t go into it in depth here, because there’s already so much on the internet aimed at anyone interested in going down this road.
But, again, it does involve a lot of work. Regularly producing a podcast or video takes a lot of time, and you’ll have to invest in the right equipment.
On the other hand, if you love it and you really commit to it then, eventually, it could start making you money.
4. Launch a course
People are hungry for knowledge, and launching a good course can be a great way to boost your income.
Just bear in mind that how “passive” this is very much depends on how your course is run.
If it includes live lessons or calls, or has assignments that you’ll need to mark and return to participants, then it’s probably going to be a lot of work.
A course like that is super hands-on for the person running it, and you’ll probably be answering emails from your students constantly.
On the other hand, if people can buy and start the course at any time and it’s not very interactive, then it’ll be lower maintenance.
But you’ll still have to update it regularly to keep it current and relevant.
Don’t get us wrong, we don’t want to put you off running a course!
We’ve seen some linguists launch incredible courses that are a real credit to them, and genuinely helpful for other translators and interpreters.
We love seeing you all thrive and sharing your incredible knowledge.
Just make sure you’re contributing something new and valuable, not just recycling everything you’ll find in every other ‘how to get started as a freelance translator’ course out there.
Put your heart and soul into it and people will see the value of it.
Is there a course you wish existed that doesn’t? Then create it!
5. Sell digital products or resources
Selling physical products online is very much *not* a passive business, as it’ll involve a million trips to the post office.
But if you can create digital products people will love, then all you have to do is create them and make them available and easy to buy.
You’ll have to work hard on your marketing if you want to spread the word, but this can become a good passive income stream.
What you might sell depends entirely on your skills.
If you’re a dab hand with graphic design, then maybe you could sell social media templates.
If you’re a whiz with financial spreadsheets, maybe you could make them available to buy so other people can be just as organised as you.
Get creative and think about things that would appeal either to other translators or to your clients.
6. Turn a translation service into a ‘product’
Think about your services. Is there anything you could offer as a package deal?
In the translation world, every project tends to be different, and prices vary accordingly.
But if there’s a certain document you translate that’s always fairly standard and you have bags of experience with, maybe that’s a service you could offer at a fixed price.
This could work well with something like patents or certificates.
This isn’t strictly passive, but it can become more passive than it would be otherwise if you allow clients to purchase this package and upload their document directly.
That saves you all the time you’d spend going back and forth over email, making this service more profitable.
Get creative and see if you can think of any other ways to turn your services into something more akin to products and streamline the way your business works.
Make your business work for you
There’s no one right way to run a freelance translation business. Just because something works well for someone else doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
So don’t be tempted down the passive income road if you’re not genuinely excited about it and know that whatever you’re selling provides real value.
This isn’t something you should do just for the sake of it.
But at the same time, don’t be shy! Remember: nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Your business is yours to do with what you will, and you can take it in any direction you like.
So if you’ve got an idea you’re excited about, then go for it. We can’t wait to see the results.
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