When looking for a side hustle to engage in, I would recommend you take a serious look at the power offered by translation. You might be thinking: “But I’m not bilingual, I can’t translate for anyone.” Suspend your disbelief for a moment, because I’m not talking specifically translating from one language to another as you might expect. I’m talking instead about translating from the jargon and lingo of one specialized group of people into language that anyone can understand. If you consider the jargon of your hobbies and/or career specialization, most people speak at least two or three languages.
While it is true that being bilingual in the traditional sense opens the door to opportunities to translate, the problem is that many of the languages that people want to translate to and from are crowded with people happy to do that work for a low wage.
So why do I feel there is still power in translation? Because if you are able to take specialized knowledge and convey it in a way that a broader audience can understand, then people will universally find value in that skill and you will be able to get paid for it. At the root of it, this is what most bloggers, non-fiction book writers, YouTubers, PodCasters, etc. are doing. I’ll start with an overcrowded space for my example: consider that in your day to day life you were a chef. I, as a common person trying to cook for myself, can never seem to make meals that are as good as what I get at restaurants. Personally, I’ve tried using recipes from online, but to date I have been unsuccessful in recreating that restaurant experience. Either I am really bad at following instructions (entirely possible) or the people posting haven’t been able to translate the information into a format that was understandable and digestible to me. Regardless, if you are able to take that specialty skill and make it more accessible to the common person, there is value there.
I’ve given you two examples of overcrowded translations. Traditional language translation and food blogging. Now let’s see how we can take this approach and carve out some space where you won’t run into so much competition. For this I have two strategies.
Strategy 1: Move into a more specialized niche
Going back to my chef example, one way to modify that would be to focus on a particular diet. It could be something like a fad diet, but those spaces often tend to fill up pretty quick. If you are on the cutting edge of the trend, then it could be an excellent move. But if you don’t find yourself in that position, then take a look at who might not be getting any attention. How about a food blog around people with certain allergies or medical conditions that restrict what they eat. You would be cutting back on your potential audience, but the numbers are on your side in that case. I am going to make up a statistic here and say that if you got 1% of all the people with Crohn’s disease to read your blog, then you would have way more readers than the 0.00000001% of Paleo dieters you would get if you went chasing that trend. Specializing like this also has the added benefit of being able to help serve people that might not otherwise be getting a ton of attention.
Strategy 2: Translate from one specialization into another
This one is a bit more complex, but it allows for far more variety in the sorts of opportunities that you can find. The core idea here is to take two worlds that you know and understand deeply, but that rarely interact with each other, and act as the interface between those two worlds. This doesn’t always have to be a two way translation. You can take your knowledge of one world and translate it into a format that is digestible by people in the other world, and that may be enough. The good thing, though, is that you don’t need a lot of people interested in the service you are providing because it is so specialized that it is possible to charge a lot for it. Just be prepared that you may need to justify your value. Let’s look again at the example where you are a chef and see how we can apply this approach.
We will assume that beyond your standard responsibilities at the restaurant, you have a side interest in suggesting wines to pair with the plates. Let’s also assume that you have a side interest in home brewing and craft brewed beer. The typical participant in the home brew and craft brew beer has little knowledge of the complexities of the human pallet. But that’s where your specialization at work comes in. You have developed the language and skills to enable accurate descriptions of wines as well as understanding what foods they would pair well with. So who might be willing to pay for this knowledge? How about a brewpub that wants to offer beers that are properly paired with their menu options? Or a home brewer that is looking to go big and wants accurate descriptions of what he is brewing for his marketing material? With your specialized skills and knowledge you have something special to offer many people in the brewing world.
So what’s the takeaway? The sole purpose of language is to communicate thoughts and ideas. Yet we develop these closed circles where only people inside the circle can have access to those thoughts and ideas. By getting inside the circle and learning the secret decoder ring for the jargon used, you can learn these ideas and then share them. Whether with the general public or another closed circle, sharing this information means you bring value. And value is what gets you paid.