Recently Forbes published an article titled "How American Fans Pirated Japanese Cartoons Into Careers". After reading that I thought "wow, that is my story basically". So here's the story.
I started getting interested in anime in mid 90s. I set up dial-up Internet (Trumpet Winsock on Windows 3.11!). I met this guy from Germany online who had somehow managed to get Ranma 1/2 on VHS tapes, which he graciously agreed to mail to me in Finland. I knew a guy who was into video editing, so he had the setup to be able to copy them so I could mail the tapes back to him.
From there it took many years before I knew enough Japanese to be of any use to anyone. But once I started to get there (and with a ton of help from my now wife), I skipped the fansubbing part and instead made a demo manga translation and sent it in a professional looking folder to two companies who were doing the official translations. I thought it was worth the shot, but didn't really expect a response.
But to my astonishment BOTH agreed.
Soon I found myself regularly visiting the publisher for new work and had a professional translator as my mentor. I was getting paid to translate manga, it was my dream come true.
But after the dream ended the hard work started. I was surprised by the speed at which I was expected to translate these books. I was supposed to do 2-3 books every month! Take a look at a manga, see how many pages there are and you are not just translating the dialogue, but also explaining all the sound effects floating in the background.
Around this time social networks started releasing their APIs and I got into that world instead and left the translation work for others. That was a great choice, as I started making WAY more money doing that than I ever could have with translation. But I'm glad I gave manga translation a shot, as now it won't be left nagging as an unfulfilled dream in the back of my mind.
We translated the complete series Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne and some other manga before "retiring" from this profession :-) Nowadays both the social media stuff and translation are over and the next step in our story is Candy Japan.