How to do you say 'party of the first part' in Spanish? If you know the answer, or if you know someone who does, then a language translation service might be just the business for you. Language translators are in big demand these days. International commerce is growing as fast as the internet, and while we may believe that English is the world's linguistic choice, it's not. So people who can translate documents from one language to another are in high demand. As a language translator, you'll interpret all sorts of documents, from books to private letters to product labels, but your greatest source of revenue will be legal and medical companies. You can specialize in the one or two languages you speak fluently, or you can hire other linguists to translate dozens of other tongues. You don't actually have to speak anything other than English--you can function as the management and administrator for your bilingual freelance consultants. The advantages to this business are that you can work at home, you can start part time, you'll deal with all sorts of interesting people and materials, and if you like the nuances of languages, it's always fascinating. You (or your consultants) will need a definite fluency in your specialty languages. High school French is not enough, especially if you'll deal with legal and medical documents. An understanding of medical or legal lingo is also a plus so that your translated materials come out sounding like the real thing. You'll also need good administrative and organizational skills.
Your customers can be anyone who needs something translated, but your best sources will be the legal and medical communities. You can also target book publishers, government institutions like welfare agencies and immigration services, insurance companies, and import/export firms. Send direct-mail brochures to targeted businesses. Place ads in trade publications and introduce yourself to supervisors and administrators at local hospitals and institutions.
Certification as a translator is a plus but not a necessity--if you're a doctor, a nurse, an attorney, a paralegal or are otherwise well-versed in the lingo of the profession, you'll be way ahead of your competition. You'll need a computer with the usual office software, a laser printer, and a fax machine. There's a variety of translation software on the market, but since they tend to translate verbatim regardless of context, they don't really do the trick--in most cases you're better off without them.