Ideas for earning money to complement creative/freelance projects?
May 1, 2014 3:05 PM   Subscribe

Any ideas to help myself continue to be a wandering freelancer while increasing my income and expanding job opportunities?

Through living life, and working various kinds of jobs (service industry, camp counselor, Americorps volunteer, ESL teacher, preschool teacher, international education program coordinator, copywriter/editor) I have determined that what works best for my personality is to be self-employed, and that a 9-5 office desk job is out of the question for me. (I've tried it)

Currently I work as a freelance Chinese interpreter and translator (my native language is English but I lived and studied for several years in China). For the most part I like this, although I am not making much money yet. If I had more money, I would focus only on assignments of interest, and I would do more of my own writing. I also want to travel more.

I have two questions:

1. Can you think of any short-term/seasonal employment that would be relatively lucrative, supplementing my income for the rest of the year so that I can focus on building up my freelance writing and translation work?

2. Do you have any ideas for part-time, contract, or freelance work in the field of Chinese interpretation, translation, or work dealing with Chinese culture? For now, I would like to be based in the US, but am certainly open to working abroad for part of the year.

Other than my language skills, I have a yoga teaching certification (although I haven't yet worked as a yoga teacher); I also enjoy reading and writing, have some artistic skills, have a B.A. in Sociology/Anthropology and a graduate certificate in China Studies.

My Chinese (Mandarin) is decent and I am professionally proficient, but in order to do something specialized like simultaneous interpretation or court interpretation I would need more training. Right now I interpret at hospital visits, and also with an early-intervention program.

I am personable though introverted, like interacting with and helping people, but also enjoy working alone and having autonomy over my schedule. I enjoy an intellectual challenge but do not enjoy high-pressure or competitive environments. I am in relatively good physical shape.

Myers-Briggs type INFP.

I am open to many different ideas and really appreciate any input. Please don't tell me to get a 9-5 office job, though;)

posted by bearette to Work & Money (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Check out for translation contract work. My partner works there, and I know a couple of the paper editors. If you're good, you can get as many assignments you can handle and make decent money.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 4:22 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you have the temperament to be great wait/barstaff, seasonal employees at ski resorts or beach towns can make excellent money during prime season without a long obligation. Because those positions are desirable, there is a good deal of competition for them. Could you find a seasonal job with a tour company that caters to Chinese speaking tourists?
posted by Candleman at 4:35 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Google and Candleman led me to this result, but it reminded me I do actually have a distant relative who makes decent money on a cruise ship. You have to always be on and available, apparently, for some of the guest-facing jobs, which isn't to say there aren't others.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:09 PM on May 1, 2014

There might be something in the job boards (freelance translators/interpreters).
posted by bentley at 5:47 PM on May 1, 2014

Surely Chinese ad agencies need someone with your skills to help prevent those cringe inducing product names and descriptions for English language marketing.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:53 PM on May 1, 2014

No idea if this is your cup of tea, but you could look into jobs as a traveling nanny. (One of your criteria was travel and I bet your language & teaching skills would be a big plus for many families). Here is an article; can't recommend any specific agency, but there a several.

I also know someone who graduated with a M.A. in Chinese Studies (also lived/studied in China and is professionally proficient) and he works as an intercultural consultant. Smaller companies that want to shift production to China or need to establish or improve other business relations ask for his expertise regarding Chinese business etiquette, cultural awareness, cross-cultural communication etc. Last time I heard he did the consulting on a freelance basis and it was not a full-time gig, but it could maybe be one more thing in your portfolio...
posted by travelwithcats at 5:58 PM on May 1, 2014

If you live in a touristy area of the US, maybe you can look into being a travel guide in your city and cater your tours to Chinese tourists. Or if there's a Chinese cultural centre/museum in your town and they're looking for seasonal employment, you can consider that too. I don't know how lucrative these jobs are compared to freelance translation projects, though.

Depending on how enterprising / how much you like/hate training yourself up on HTML and CSS / how proficient you are at Chinese input on your computer, you can also consider developing Web sites for small businesses run by Chinese people on a freelance basis...
posted by Tsukushi at 6:40 PM on May 1, 2014

With your language skill and experience in ESL/language education, you may want look into being a study abroad consultant or coordinator. There are increasingly more Chinese students studying abroad, and speaking from experience (I work in international education in Japan), educational institutions will pay good money to someone on the ground who can help plan logistics and arrange host family/housing, airport transportation, etc. Do you have any connections in China that could lead to this type of work?
posted by Kevtaro at 9:23 PM on May 2, 2014

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