Small Business Idea – How to Start a Translation Service Business

Although the United States does not have an official language, the vast majority of the population speaks American English. However there are an estimated 337 other languages spoken by the population. Spanish is the second most common language in the U.S. with it being spoken by over 12% of the population. The Chinese languages, French, German, Tagalog (of the Philippine’s), Vietnamese, Italian, Korean and Russian round out the top ten languages spoken in the United States according to the 2000 census.
As we move towards a more culturally diverse country, coupled with the impact of globalization on our economy – the need for translation services will increase. Most, if not all major corporations offer a Spanish language translation to their customers via telephone IVR systems, marketing materials and other customer promotional items. It’s easy for them to do this because they have the budget and manpower to put into it, but this isn’t the case for the small business owner – and this is where you come in!
If you are fluent in multiple languages, consider putting that highly valuable skill to good use by starting a Translation Service business. The Internet book of the last 15 years has had a tremendous effect on marketing, for the first time in history the small business owner can reach a global audience with just a few clicks of the mouse. The unfortunate thing is that most of them are not capitalizing on this wonderful advantage due to fears of language and cultural barriers. If a Translation Service sounds like a business that you’d be interested in keep these things in mind:
1. What are the set up costs of a translation service business: For the price of marketing materials, a website, and the cost of your business license – you can start a translation service business. The main component of your business model is the ability to speak another language(s), however it is important that you are fluent and well versed in the proper spelling, grammar, tenses, etc. If you need to brush up on those things, we suggest making the investment in Pimsleur or Rosetta Stone language courses. Remember that your clients are business owners and professional so their documents must reflect that no matter what language they are written in.
2. How much money can I expect to make?: The going rate for professional translation services is 0.15 to 0.30 per word, however the larger companies tend to pad this amount with minimal requirements and other processing fees. It’s not uncommon for a 75 word document to run the neighborhood of $100 if not more. Considering the fact that the average email sent in the United States contains 50 words, paying $100 for translation is not cost effective.
Your competitive edge will be found in your price point. By keeping your minimum requirements low coupled with a wide range of services, you will make a name for your business.
3. How can I market my translation service business?: The first thing you’ll want to do is establish your online presence. This will allow you to reach a global market. Your marketing efforts however will begin on a more local level until you can build the revenue to advertise on a broader skill. Your target demographic will be businesses that while they attract a culturally diverse client base, they have no materials available in the language(s) you specialize in. Offer to, for a free or reduced rate – translate one page of their brochure, website or other important documents in exchange for their testimonial or reference.
Don’t limit yourself to brick & mortar businesses, reach out to online businesses as well.
When approached with professionalism, the possibilities of the translation service business are endless. As your client base grows, you may also consider hiring employees who are fluent in other languages as well. This will expand your reach and give you a leg up on the competition!

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