The deeper reward: "It's the satisfaction you get from being able to help individuals communicate," Romo says. "In the courts, you have to be very precise. You translate the words the individual uses, and not what you think he's trying to say … it can be a matter of their rights." In other words, "no ad libbing," he says.
While part-time home-based jobs like translation services can be a boon, keep in mind that work-at-home scams have been around for decades. In the past few years, the FTC has seen the number of complaints nearly double. Legitimate work-at-home jobs exist, but you'll need to do legwork to avoid the unscrupulous operators.
Below are five great work-from-home jobs to consider. Pay ranges, which will vary based on factors such as experience and geography, are primarily derived from U.S. Department of Labor data.
The nitty-gritty: You may brag that you're fluent in two languages, but are you really? It's easy to get rusty. Just because you were a Spanish major back in college isn't going to be enough. Languages evolve and being in synch with modern terms and slang is vital. Idioms matter. If you're going to be a Spanish translator or interpreter, for example, you need to know the difference between Spanish spoken in Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Central America. Note: Interpreters deal with spoken words, translators with written words. Interpreters are the go-between for two parties, such as a doctor and patient, or client and lawyer. Translation work is generally done on a computer with files transmitted electronically back and forth. Online dictionary resources can be invaluable, but they don't replace expressions gleaned from interacting with others who speak the language frequently. Spanish is the most in-demand language, but other languages are growing, such as Arabic. Specializing in a field such as the judicial system or health care and knowing the terminology will increase your job opportunities. This is precise work. Words have repercussions. If you don't know the vocabulary, don't take the assignment.
The hours: Flexible. Project-based.
Median pay range: $11.03 to $41.50 an hour. Depending on assignment and expertise, pay can top $100 an hour. Translation and proofreading projects are generally billed at a rate of 15 to 30 cents per-word, depending on the skill level.
Qualifications: Interpreters and translators must be fluent in at least two languages. A subject area of expertise helps. There are no official certifications required, although several are offered through trade organizations, such as the American Translators Association, which provides certification in 24 language combinations involving English for its members. Federal courts have certification for Spanish, Navajo and Haitian Creole interpreters, and many state and municipal courts offer their own forms of certification. The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators also offers certification for court interpreting. The U.S. Department of State has a three-test series for prospective interpreters. The International Association of Conference Interpreters offers certification for conference interpreters. If you have solid language skills, you can get translation training at community colleges and universities to prepare you for a translator certification. The ATA has a list of programs it approves along with a job bank when you're ready. The All Language Alliance also connects job seekers and positions. Internships, apprenticeships and volunteering via community organizations, hospitals and sporting events that involve international competitors will build your résumé. The ATA, for instance, works with the Red Cross to provide volunteer interpreters in crisis situations. Working with a mentor and networking with native speakers will keep your skills fresh. The ATA, for instance, offers formal mentoring programs and has chapters in many states. Other good resources: American Literary Translators Association, International Medical Interpreters Association, National Council on Interpreting in Health Care. Selling point: A good ear for languages.