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Is it an advantage to be "independent"?
Thread poster: mariana24

mariana24  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 01:50
Spanish
+ ...
May 26, 2008

Hi All,

I've seen in recent posts that I am not the only one seeing that work is not flowing as intensely as it may do some other times. I gather all of us more or less learn how to deal with these ups and downs, but this time I am finding it particularly difficult, to the point of wondering about the worth of it all. Does it happen to you? Do you ever wish to go back to an office -for the relative security it offers at the end of each month- to immediately dread the only thought of it?

Mind you, I like my life as a freelance translator. I love it. When I have work to do, that is.

I would be most grateful for your sincere thoughts/feelings on this. I'm in bad need of them.

Best,


Mariana

PS: Are we "independent"? Really?

[Edited at 2008-05-26 03:14]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:50
English to Spanish
+ ...
What's your situation? May 26, 2008

It depends wholly on your own situation. If you do not have much to fall back on financially, yes, it can be scary not knowing whether you will be able to make your expenses from week to week or month to month. When you are independent that is the risk you must take. But you can minimize that risk. The sensible thing to do is make sure you do have something to fall back on before you take the plunge, such as savings, another source of income or even a regular job while you do freelance work on the side. That way if one thing fails, you still have something coming in from elsewhere.

Everyone going into a business of their own faces such risk, and most even much more than we do, because our business requires very little financial investment whereas others sometimes risk considerable sums.

So you can easily have your cake and eat it too. You could work part-time or full-time at an office for the security and benefits while at the same time developing your own business, and if business picks up to the point that you can quit the job, then do it.


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Elena Robles Sanjuan  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:50
English to Spanish
Henry´s description of a plan, that´s my idea May 26, 2008

Good morning, Mariana,

I´m going through a period of dangerous instability from the business point of view. I could blame it on the crisis, on the poor or even indecent business practices that agencies and companies are fond of these days, on anything I want. But the truth is, I have reached a point where I am seriously thinking of going back to an office.

I love being a translator, but my gut feelings tell me that I have to go back to doing something that pays the same amount of money at the end of the month or I´ll go bonkers.

The advantages of being independent are numerous. Working from home, being my own boss, learning to fend for myself, I have enjoyed every minute of all that.
But I want a decent salary, which is almost a dream right now.

I´d love to be told otherwise, but I have always sensed that in times of crisis, being independent puts you in a very weak position. On top of that, translation is the business that usually takes the worst part of it.

I wish you good luck with whatever you decide to do.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:50
Flemish to English
+ ...
Combination. May 26, 2008

The ideal combination would be to have a weekend job with perks which pays full-time (Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday) and translate/interpret the other 4 days.
Such jobs do exist.
Or : When I started as a translator at a government institution, there was a translator who worked from 8-12 for the institution and started translating for himself during office hours or when he had no work for that institution.


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Probably better in-house May 26, 2008

Hi,

Loved the idea about working 7 days a week!

It rather depends on how much you could earn in an office and on the cost of living in your part of the world.

I really like translating but I do get bored. I've have never been short of work but I still wouldn't advise anyone to become a translator. It takes years to become a good translator, and you must pour lots of money into training. The translation market is unprofessional and is unable to provide translators with professional rates. People in offices get perks too.

BTW, in answer to your question. We are independent insofar as we do not have a boss but if I want to earn my money I am stuck infront of this computer all week. There is a way around this, if you go to work in an office, you should try to become the boss as quickly as possible!

[Editado a las 2008-05-26 08:58]


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Cristina Cajoto  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:50
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
It also depends on where you live May 26, 2008

I am aware that this profession has certain disadvantages, but for me it has a huge advantage: you can work from anywhere in the world. I am about to move back to my hometown, where unfortunately there are not many interesting jobs in my field, so for me being a freelance translator is a fantastic option.

As always, it all depends on your personal circumstances.

Regards,

Cristina.


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Andres & Leticia Enjuto  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 01:50
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Business plan + marketing plan + other investments May 26, 2008

I agree with Henry. Before we started freelancing full time, as a first step, we made sure we had 6 months covered.

We market our niche and are always willing to give a little extra ( e.g. basic formatting. etc...) to our clients. We're ALWAYS looking for more and better paying clients. And in our experience, if you offer a quality and professional work, they keep coming back.

You may also consider making other investments, whenever you can.

In short, make sure you have a solid business plan + marketing plan + other investments. That'll work fine.

Saludos!

Letty


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Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 00:50
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It's hard to be in a "feast or famine" business, May 26, 2008

especially when the situation often relies on the client and not on our own abilities.

It's always good to have a little "curro" on the side (language classes, lecturing, etc.) which can be expanded when work suddenly dries up and kept to a minimum when things are flowing. I suppose it depends on your specialization, but it's also a psychological thing. Also, I don't recall who it was, but someone posted once, a long time ago, on the importance of having some money put away for emergencies (Viktoria I think...).

Hang in there. After a long stretch of lots of work, I went on vacation and came back to find my best long-term client had disappeared, and all my little guys forgot about me for weeks and weeks. Just as I reached desperation level a flood of work came in...That's the nature of the beast.


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mariana24  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 01:50
Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The feeling of worthiness... May 26, 2008

Henry Hinds wrote:

It depends wholly on your own situation. If you do not have much to fall back on financially, yes, it can be scary not knowing whether you will be able to make your expenses from week to week or month to month. When you are independent that is the risk you must take. But you can minimize that risk. The sensible thing to do is make sure you do have something to fall back on before you take the plunge, such as savings, another source of income or even a regular job while you do freelance work on the side. That way if one thing fails, you still have something coming in from elsewhere.


Thank you very much, Henry and all. I see mine is a shared feeling and that alleviates the load somehow.

Financially I do have where to fall back on, although it is obviously not the same situation if I work than if I don't (I would probably dedicate my entire life to volunteer work if I was not in need of money at all). Working as a translator does help a lot. What I am becoming concerned about is this sense of absolute instability we all know.
I agree with Juliana, it is very much of a psychological thing, and am starting to wonder whether I can truly deal with it without losing my sanity. There is a sense of self-worthiness in work, and when due to tons of different reasons - recession of certain economies, rates of exchange, the Irak war, elections 20,000 miles away from where you live or you-name-it- coincide, it is very difficult to face days, or weeks, without an e-mail asking for your services.

It undermines my own sense of worth (workwise, but let's agree it touches every aspect of our lives, it is what we should be doing with some sort of minimum regularity). It is very easy to fall in the belief that one's work is not good enough, no matter that reality is there to prove otherwise. The slope down towards a feeling of low self-esteem is only a step away. I don't like that, I respect myself too much. What I cannot come to terms with is that having a boss be the only answer to all this. I'm good at what I do. I can't understand why I should go through "feast or famine" in such a painful way (and I do understand the rules of the market, yes).

And yes, Tatty, I agree with you. The market is unprofessional and I also believe we are as far as anybody else from being independent.

Best,

Mariana


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:50
English to French
+ ...
Being independent means wearing a dozen different hats May 26, 2008

I am a translator. I am also a salesperson, an accountant, a customer service representative, a marketing executive, a secretary and, as if that weren't enough, I am also a CEO. I am all that by myself - and more.

If you became a translator to simply translate, you would be better off translating in-house as an employee. However, if you became a translator because you wanted to be independent, work for yourself and not for your boss, have freedom to set your schedule, do work that pleases you and refuse work that pleases you not, be there for your children while they are little and go on holiday whenever you wish, then you need to be aware that you are not a translator anymore but a businessperson. Being independent also suggests you want to have control over the amount of work you take on, the terms and conditions of your services, the rates you charge (and thus your revenue) and the type of clients you want to work with, etc. If you became an independent contractor to have control over these things, it goes without saying that you have to take control of these things. If not, you would be a horserider who can't grab hold of the reins - and it's only a matter of time before you fall off the horse.

As an independent translator, the first thing you need to realize is that you will not even spend half your workday actively translating. First of all, we sometimes have to "get lost" on the internet because we are trying to find a long-forgotten, archaic term. That takes time - and you don't get paid for it. Proofreading your own translation - ditto. Creating, sending, receiving and implementing comments - ditto. But here's where it gets tricky. In order to keep a steady workflow, you need to actively seek out that workflow - which also takes time that nobody is paying you for. Visiting events, networking, getting business cards printed, updating your website (or merely creating one), compiling a list of prospects, contacting prospects, following up with prospects, or even worse, writing for your blog, writing and distributing a newsletter, updating your mailing list, etc., are all activities nobody will pay you for. Yet, you need to work on these things - although only you know how far you need to go in all this, and writing a newsletter or keeping a blog may be a waste of time in your case.

Now, if you spend all this time only to get a steady flow of work, you will be working a lot without being paid and you will also have less time to translate. Therefore, you need to factor the cost of business, in terms of time and expenses, into your translation rates. If you do this well, you will come up with rates that will compensate for the time you worked but did not translate. You will therefore make the same money week in week out - but translating less. At the same time, you will get a more steady flow of work - which will eventually increase your revenue because you will be busier. After a while, you will need to spend less and less time marketing yourself, because your website will be at a favorable enough spot in search engine listings, because you will have networked enough to have a large circle of acquaintances referring people to you, etc. After a while, you will not need to spend so much time on marketing anymore - but you have to spend a lot of time on it now if you ever want to get to that point. Better sooner than later...

In a nutshell, being independent means you have to look out for a bunch of things, because you are alone and nobody else will look after things for you. That takes time - and you have to charge for your services accordingly. For example, I spend about five hours each week on marketing my services (and it will be a few hours more soon). And guess what - it's working! But keep in mind that this will only work if you adjust your rates accordingly.

And if looking out for all these things isn't exactly your cup of tea, then indeed, being independent is not a good thing for you.

Just remember that no business keeps afloat if it is not being taken good care of. And you are running a business, right?

[Edited at 2008-05-26 15:41]


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mariana24  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 01:50
Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes.. May 26, 2008

...Viktoria, I am running a business, doing all the things you took the time to mention -and I truly thank you for that- except for the website, about which I have not yet decided whether it helps or not. Up to now, clients have seemed to be happy enough with what I do and what they can get to know about me through my Proz.com profile.

I could not agree more with what you say, I do all those things too (marketing myself), these last month probably more than ever before because the other plate of the balance just doesn't show up, or not as it usually does. It could be my language pairs. I don't know. It is getting either slower or lower -quite- and sometimes, valuing as I value "being independent" in the sense you used it -I agree with that definition too- you just wonder. It's as simple as that.

Thanks very much.

Mariana.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:50
English to French
+ ...
You should go ahead with the website May 26, 2008

Since you have time now to create a website - at least part of it - you should go for it. A website is a business card, a resume and an initial means of impression all in one. Furthermore, if you do it right, it will attract direct clients without attracting a bunch of people who aren't even considering buying the services you offer. And keep in mind what agencies are doing: they appear in search results - and they get the contracts. This is how business is done these days. Not taking advantage of this will most likely leave you at the end of the queue. Hint: the number of translators building a website is sharply increasing. Will you be able to face their competition?

For many translators, the website is the hook on their fishing pole. In numerous cases, it is what brings in the most contacts. It is a storefront - and if it is a pleasing one that also inspires credibility and seems to address the needs of the client, it can bring in a nice stream of work. You really should try it.

Maybe that is what's missing from your marketing equation.

Have you ever been approached by strangers on ProZ enquiring about your services? I bet you have. Those people contacted you (maybe among a bunch of other people) despite the huge competition present on this site. If they chose to contact you and not the other guy, then you probably have something interesting to offer to them. Imagine being contacted through your website, where there is absolutely no competition (i.e., there are no other people on other continents displaying rates that are 80% lower than yours). Wouldn't that be neat?

Hint: Many professional translators aren't even aware that ProZ exists. Now, imagine how many potential clients aren't aware of this site! When they get their Google listings, you may, depending on the search terms used, appear way ahead of this site. This means that chances are that that potential client doesn't know that the industry is highly competitive, and therefore will not shop around extensively. Offer them what they seek.

It will take time before you get a nice flow of work through a website - so you might as well get to it now.

All the best!

P.S.: Build your own website. It costs nothing. HTML is a piece of cake. Buy a basic HTML book and get to work. If you want a pretty looking site and want to make sure that everything works correctly on it, submit the end result to a web designer. They will correct it - and it will cost less then getting it all done by them. Pay attention to keywords and SEO. Read some articles on how to write headlines, how to structure a website, and try to tailor the site to the potential client's needs. Even if your website is simple and doesn't have much content, upload it and wait for the search engine spiders to index it. Then, you'll be able to monitor who visits, how many visits you get, what pages are the most visited, and that will give you the means of finetuning the website further. In time, it will bring in the contacts.

[Edited at 2008-05-26 16:23]


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Marion Rooijmans
Netherlands
Local time: 06:50
English to Dutch
+ ...
Curious May 26, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

P.S.: Build your own website. It costs nothing. HTML is a piece of cake. Buy a basic HTML book and get to work. If you want a pretty looking site and want to make sure that everything works correctly on it, submit the end result to a web designer. They will correct it - and it will cost less then getting it all done by them. Pay attention to keywords and SEO. Read some articles on how to write headlines, how to structure a website, and try to tailor the site to the potential client's needs. Even if your website is simple and doesn't have much content, upload it and wait for the search engine spiders to index it. Then, you'll be able to monitor who visits, how many visits you get, what pages are the most visited, and that will give you the means of finetuning the website further. In time, it will bring in the contacts.

[Edited at 2008-05-26 16:23]


Just wondering what you would say if someone wrote the following:

Translate your own texts. It costs nothing. Translation is a piece of cake. Buy a dictionary and get to work. If you want a nice translation and want to make sure there are no grammar mistakes, submit the end result to a translator. They will correct it - and it will cost less than getting it all done by them. Pay attention to grammar and terminology. Read some articles on translation, how to construct sentences, and try to tailor the translation to the potential reader's needs.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 05:50
Dutch to English
+ ...
Brilliant May 27, 2008

Marion Rooijmans wrote:

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

P.S.: Build your own website. It costs nothing. HTML is a piece of cake. Buy a basic HTML book and get to work. If you want a pretty looking site and want to make sure that everything works correctly on it, submit the end result to a web designer. They will correct it - and it will cost less then getting it all done by them. Pay attention to keywords and SEO. Read some articles on how to write headlines, how to structure a website, and try to tailor the site to the potential client's needs. Even if your website is simple and doesn't have much content, upload it and wait for the search engine spiders to index it. Then, you'll be able to monitor who visits, how many visits you get, what pages are the most visited, and that will give you the means of finetuning the website further. In time, it will bring in the contacts.

[Edited at 2008-05-26 16:23]


Just wondering what you would say if someone wrote the following:

Translate your own texts. It costs nothing. Translation is a piece of cake. Buy a dictionary and get to work. If you want a nice translation and want to make sure there are no grammar mistakes, submit the end result to a translator. They will correct it - and it will cost less than getting it all done by them. Pay attention to grammar and terminology. Read some articles on translation, how to construct sentences, and try to tailor the translation to the potential reader's needs.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:50
English to French
+ ...
Hilarious, yet again May 27, 2008

What I find hilarious is how people seem to think that translation and writing HTML code require the same level of qualification. How many successful web designers went to university to learn their trade? How many translators did the same?

A simple HTML page only requires paragraph, boldface and italic tags, and maybe a few headers - how does that require a professional? The page structure - same thing. Now, if you want a really neat website with Java, Flash and elaborate pictures, then that may be a different matter - but are freelance translators going for that type of website? Does it take animated banners to let a client know that you are a professional and that you specialize in this and that subject matter?

I would ask around to see how many of our freelancer colleagues got their website designed professionally from scratch. And it's not even a question of wanting to save on costs - why pay $1000 for a simple, basic site you can build yourself in just a few hours?

It goes to show that some people here don't have a clue what work a website requires. About 80% of the work is creating content - and no web designer will be able to provide you with that. Web designers are no writers - I prefer to do that myself. As for adding paragraph tags - I already know how to do that...


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