In Canada, there are many businesses that need websites, social media and videos translated into Canadian French, aboriginal or other languages that reflect the cultural diversity of this country. If you’re qualified, you can make a good living with digital content translation as a home business, or even start an agency of your own.
“Translation is an important component of the Canadian language industry,” says the Canadian General Standards Board. “Official bilingualism, multiculturalism and the communication needs of an outward-looking economy have nurtured a strong and innovative translation sector made up of in-house language service departments, translation firms and independent translators.”
eCommerce alone has brought so many business opportunities for support services like translation. Online businesses know how critical each and every corner of the market is. By nature, they serve national and international consumers. Multi-lingual copywriting, product descriptions, advertising and communications are practically mandatory for localization.
“According to a recent report from a top language-industry research firm, 75% of consumers in non-anglophone countries prefer to buy products using their native language,” says Versacom, a Canadian translation company. “60% of those consumers rarely or never buy products from English-only websites.”
All online content has the potential to reach people who speak another language, inside or outside of Canada. That’s why digital content translation or creation is a top-level niche with virtually unlimited potential.
Translating the Top Languages Spoken in Canada
Demand isn’t necessarily determined by the most commonly spoken languages, since you’ll probably have more competition in those languages. However, it’s a good place to start as you explore the potential of your translation business.
In the 2016 Census, 8,030,695 Canadians indicated their first language wasn’t English or French. The top five languages spoken in Canada are English, French, Mandarin, Cantonese and Punjabi. The top five Aboriginal languages spoken in Canada are Cree, Inuktitut, Ojibway, Oji-Cree and Dene, but more than 70 distinct Indigenous languages are spoken here in total.
In the beginning, it’s best to focus on one pair of languages. The language you’re translating into should be your native language, unless you’re exceptionally proficient in another language. If you grew up in New Brunswick (an officially bilingual Province) you might consider both French and English to be your native language and can easily translate one into the other. However, most translators provide the service in only one direction, choosing their native or strongest language to work in.
Eventually, you could have a team of VA’s working with you to provide a broader range of languages.
Start an Online Content Translation Business in Canada
We have a couple of articles that will help you start an online translation business that focuses on digital content.
How to Start a Profitable Online Business in Canada is a step-by-step checklist to help you set up your digital business in Canada.
How to Start a Digital Content Freelancing Business in Canada focuses on all forms of online content production and provides general freelancing tips & resources.
In short, you’ll need the following:
- A domain and website are an absolute must for any online service. Use our Checklist: Choosing a Website Host for your Canadian Business to ensure you make a wise choice.
- Resume, credentials & portfolio
- Experience, testimonials & translation samples
- Defined services and price list
- Ecommerce platform / shopping cart / payment solution
- You don’t have to publish a blog, but I recommend it. There is no better way to demonstrate your expertise and you can practice translation while you’re at it.
Equipment & tools for digital translators:
- Fast, reliable internet connection
- Computer / laptop
- Dual monitors / screens (double productivity, according to Microsoft). I use two monitors because it’s so much easier to read one screen while touch-typing on the other.
- Word processing software
- Computer-Aided Translation (CAT) software, such as SDL Trados or WordFast Anywhere (free, web-based CAT)
- Reference materials, including online dictionaries, grammar and industry-specific guides
- Digital marketing tools
- Accounting tools
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools
What Services do Freelance Translators Offer?
You may choose to only translate existing content from one language to another, such as:
Ebooks, reports & whitepapers
Email newsletters & other communication
Localized content (such as French for Quebec)
Software & Apps
Online manuals, instructions & support
Visuals like charts or infographics
In addition, you might want to offer freelance writing services in another language. Multi-lingual editing, proofreading and transcription are other complimentary services that are often in demand.
How to Choose a Translation Niche
You’ve already narrowed down your niche by focusing on digital content. Your niche will also be defined by the language you’re translating into.
Additionally, translators often specialize in a certain industry:
IT & telecommunications
Medical & Pharmacy
Publishers and authors
Government & political
Most of these niches can be narrowed down further. It’s important to choose a niche that you’re qualified for in regards to language, education and/or experience, but other factors come into play when deciding which is best suited for you. Your niche should be something you’re especially interested in, for example, and it must have great profit potential.
Keep in mind that the more narrow and professional your niche is, the higher the expectations in regards to education and experience. For instance, you may need certification in medical transcription or technical business writing to break into those niches, but experience in a related industry may be accepted in lieu. Research minimum job requirements by reading Canadian translation job descriptions. It will give you a good idea of what you’ll need to do to be qualified to serve the Canadian Business to Business (B2B) market online.
How Much Should I Charge for Digital Translation in Canada?
The amount you charge will depend on various factors, including your level of education & expertise, specialty, experience, and demand. You’ll also need a variety of prices for individual services, along with special pricing for rush jobs, research, formatting, or what have you. Most online translators charge per word, but there will also be situations when you have to charge per hour, per project, per page, or per character.
You can use job data as a starting point but remember to factor in your expenses, including time required for the administration of your business and communications.
“In BC the median annual salary for translators and interpreters is $54,830,” says the Skilled Immigrant Infocentre. “Your income depends on certification, experience, education, and type of employer. Earnings also depend on the languages you speak and the subject matter being discussed. If you work on a freelance basis you usually earn an hourly or daily rate. Hourly wages can range from about $15 to $40, although some can make $50 or more an hour.”
According to Neuvoo, “the average Translator salary in Canada is $53,625 per year or $27.50 per hour. Entry level positions start at $28,383 per year while most experienced workers make up to $91,163 per year.” PayScale reports the average salary for a translator is $49,676.
You’ll probably find the most clients if you target small businesses. Large companies and government websites usually deal with established translation agencies. There are exceptions though. For instance, you can offer your linguistic services to the Translation Bureau of Canada and other Federal departments or agencies. If you have specific qualifications that allow you to compete at that level, it’s certainly worth a shot.
- Approach translation agencies as a freelancer or sign up for online translation jobs that you can do from home. It can be an effective way to break into the industry and build your portfolio. Even if you don’t get the job, you’ll probably be added to their list of contacts.
- Create a profile of your ideal client and use that to determine the best way to reach them online.
- Do targeted searches on job sites like Indeed and LinkedIn.
- Join translator job sites like ProZ or sign up with an agency like Bureau Works.
- Target language hubs in major centres, such as Punjabi in Vancouver, BC. The companies doing business there are most likely to require online translation services.
- Gain experience by volunteering.
- Join translator associations (see list below). Provincial translator associations often have member databases.
- Obtain certifications
- Start a blog that provides true value to potential clients.
- Start an email newsletter
- Submit guest posts to blogs, write for well-known trade publications, post to social media networks, or consider writing an eBook.
- Focus on LinkedIn for social media marketing, followed by Twitter. Both networks are best for B2B prospecting and engagement.
- Collaborate with web designers and other related freelancers, or offer them a commission if they refer clients to you.
Compliance with Canadian Language Laws
The Official Languages Act guarantees Canadians the right to use the official language of their choice, English or French.
Quality standard CAN/CGSB-131.10-2008 specifies the process requirements for the provision of translation services by Canadian translation service providers.
Each province will have it’s own laws and requirements for language professionals. In BC, for example, there is no mandatory licensing or certification required to work as a translator. That said, you do need certification to claim it in your title, such as “Certified Translator.”
Qualifications & Education
First and foremost, you’ll need exceptional language skills (preferably a native speaker), a full understanding of the culture you’re translating for, and the ability to write well.
Writing skills are more important than you might think, if you envision translating to be a simple matter of changing the language of something from one to the other. In practice, you’ll encounter many situations when there is no direct translation for words or phrases, or changes have to be made to suit another culture. You’ll have to do some rewriting and editing so it makes sense, without changing the meaning of the content.
Other qualifications that may give you an edge:
- University degree in translation, specializing in translation in two languages (language pair)
- University degree in a related discipline, such as languages or linguistics
- Experience in translating digital content
- Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council certification
- Membership with your local Translator association
- Related certifications for specialties and skills
Canada has the most university programs in translation, terminology and interpretation in the world (per capita). For example, McGill University (Montreal) offers certificates in English, French and Spanish translation.
Some certifications are available through Canadian Translator Associations:
Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council
Fédération internationale des traducteurs
Literary Translators’ Association of Canada
The Society of Translators and Interpreters of British Columbia
The Corporation of Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters of New Brunswick
The Association of Translators and Interpreters of Nova Scotia
The Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario
The Association of Translators and Interpreters of Alberta
The Association of Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters of Manitoba
The Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec
Translation Bureau course directory and calendar (English & French)
Certification is available from the Language Industry Association
How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, by Corinne McKay
Marketing Cookbook for Translators, by Tess Whitty (currently available free if you have Kindle Unlimited)
Canada is one of the best countries for starting a translation business for online content, thanks to our diversity and bilingualism. It’s an ideal home-based business for freelancers and it can grow into something much bigger!
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Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In 25 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and ecommerce websites. Her book, 7 Recession Proof Online Businesses to Start From Home, is available on Amazon.
Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.
I am a student of English language and also I have experience in translating. After reading your article, I tried to apply as content translator in Linkedin and I have been recruited. Thanks for sharing.
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Thanks for sharing!
Great idea thanks for sharing!
We are Leading Language Translation & Interpretation Company in Alberta. Providing translator & interpreter Services for Government, business, academic and personal documents from more than 50 languages.
Holy mackerel, that’s one great article! I’d like to do Spanish but I don’t know if there’s enough demand 🙁
It may be a harder sell than French in Canada, but you’re not limited to our country when you offer online services.