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Off topic: Being a freelancer
Thread poster: Silvia Barra

Silvia Barra  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:52
English to Italian
+ ...
Feb 6, 2009

Dear collegues,
I'd like to know what being a freelancer is for you.
I mean, before working as a freelancer, I worked in in-house positions (not in the translation field thought) and for me freelance is above all freedom. Freedom on when, how much, how, where, if to work, without being obliged to respect strict working hours. I have a baby and in Italy mothers are not helped as for flexibility, home working and so on.
Yes, being a freelancer also means that last week I was sick but I worked all days. If I were an employee I could rest quiet at home while being paid by the social security.
And, yes, I don't have regular workflows. But considering the present crisis, the same argument is valid for employees.
So, I can say that after an year of freelancer life I see mainly advantages.
I'd like to know your opinions about this argument. Maybe you know some disadvantages that I still could not see...
Tell me your experience.
Thank you
Silvia


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Mats Wiman  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 07:52
Member (2000)
German to Swedish
+ ...

MODERATOR
Freedom is relative but still worth having Feb 6, 2009

Hi,

Do not forget that you have to pay for food, rent, phone, gas and clothes for your children etc
AND
your cash flow just might not be in tune with your expenses.

Being a freelancer is more often to be free to chose what comes up rather being free to choose the things you want to come up. = Working the whole weekend or into the night or from 4 a.m.

Your stomach and your nerves might suffer at times, but the pride in sticking it out helps you get through the next difficult period.

My personal summary: In spite of difficulties I am rather a freelancer than an employee.

Mats

PS. Always remember: If it gets too tough, you can always give language lessons, work as language relief teacher.


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Capesha  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:52
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Freedom is the decision.... Feb 6, 2009

... to work when I want to.

Since the beginning of my freelance career I am working more hours than in my previous in-house position. But I work when I want to. I enjoy going late to bed and accordingly I am not too happy with getting up early in the morning.
My freelance position allows me to work in the night and until my agencies in the US start their business day, I am well prepared to answer my first emails


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Jenn Mercer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:52
Member (2009)
French to English
Working sick Feb 6, 2009

I have worked when sick as a freelancer and it is really not the same thing as working sick in an office at all. I didn't have to "meet the dress code," I could take a quick nap, and I didn't have to put on a happy face for my coworkers. I was able to just hunker down with my tissues and poke at the text. Yes, I worked more slowly and had to catch up later, but at least that was an option. I am sure that my feelings would have been different if the deadline was that afternoon. For that reason, I try to work a bit faster in the first half of a project so that if anything does come up (illness, computer problems, family crisis), I know that I have a bit of a buffer.

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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 06:52
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Choice Feb 6, 2009

Even my first year as an independent (freelance) consulting, in which I made something like $5000 total, was better than my best year in a day job, and I've had some rather enjoyable in-house years. What I enjoyed about those years, however, was being able to work as if I were already independent much of the time.

What I value most is the complete freedom to decide where I take my business, when I work or don't work. The pleasure I get from being able to make my own decisions, deal with my screwups as I see fit and distribute the profits from any success as I choose (even if it is sometimes choosing which bills to leave unpaid if the cash flow sucks) is independent of the actual level of success. I've worked independently for most of the past 21 years, and I often had the most fun which I was losing my shirt. And I learned enough in the process that I could buy a few new shirts to replace it later. But hey, if the next time one of you sees me I'm running around shirtless, as long as I'm not stuck on some damned payroll dealing with "core hours" and other nonsense I'll probably have a big smile on my face.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:52
English to French
+ ...
If you don't want to work for an employer, you freelance Feb 6, 2009

Contrarily to what many of our colleagues seem to think, freelance translation is not what you are supposed to do if you couldn't find an in-house position. It is not a solution to an unemployment problem. Freelancing is for those independent people who are able to recognize that they can work better when they are in charge, whether that means more money, more freedom or simply being able to use one's own tried tested and true methods and not being forced to comply with someone else's ISO manual. It is also for those adventurous people who know that there are needs and opportunities on the market that haven't been addressed, and who are willing to work towards filling those gaps. Some freelancers are, in a way, pioneers.

I also find that freelancing has mainly advantages. But you also need to be the freelancing type, that is, you need to have faith in your translating AND business abilities, have a lot of discipline and be willing to take risks. This means that freelancing has mainly advantages only to those who fit the profile. Those who find that freelancing is too tough and yearn for an in-house position are most likely people who don't have the freelancer profile, and they shouldn't have started freelancing in the first place.

Freelancing does have its disadvantages (the main one being lack of work at times and too much work at other times), but for me, they definitely don't outweigh the advantages: freedom to choose your contracts, clients, hours, etc., not needing anybody's permission to take time off whenever you want to, being able to work out of a variety of places and not being chained to a cubicle, having a flexible schedule so you don't actually need to take a day off (and lose a day's worth of pay) to take your kid to the doctor's office, working at the most productive time of day and not 9-to-5, and most importantly, shaping your work around your lifestyle and not shaping your lifestyle around your work. I could go on and on...

I like where I am now and I could never go back to a regular job.

[Edited at 2009-02-06 18:12 GMT]


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xxxPRen
Canada
Local time: 02:52
French to English
+ ...
Yes. Feb 6, 2009

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

Contrarily to what many of our colleagues seem to think, freelance translation is not what you are supposed to do if you couldn't find an in-house position. It is not a solution to an unemployment problem.


Well said Viktoria. I just smile when people say they envy me being able to "set my own hours and not work if I don't feel like it" - what I don't tell them is being free to set my own hours often means working 10 to 12 hour days. It takes a lot of stamina and initiative to freelance. It's definitely not for everyone. But the payoff is huge.


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Christina Courtright  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:52
Spanish to English
+ ...
freedom is being your own taskmaster Feb 6, 2009

When people think freelancing is just taking it easy anytime we want to, I am reminded of a sign my father always had up in his home office (he too was a freelancer):

Whey you work for yourself,
You are working for the biggest SOB of all.


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Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 14:52
Japanese to English
Responsibility Feb 7, 2009

For me, being a freelancer is about responsibility.
Being responsible to my family so that they don't starve and have a horrible Papa about the house.
Being responsible to my clients so that nothing goes wrong for them.
Being responsible in refusing work that nobody should do at any price.
Being responsible and cutting bad habits without being told by somebody else.

This burden of responsibility results in a little freedom, which is nonetheless valuable.

(Sorry if this sounds awfully pious but that's how it seems to me most of the time.)


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 11:22
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Disadvantages Feb 7, 2009

You sometimes miss people contact in a freelancing situation. The computer screen becomes your most constant companion. That can give depression over time. So you have to be wary about that. If you are in a family situation, the family members can bail you out of this. Otherwise build up a good friends circle and make it a point to go out and meet them.

You must clearly dedicate time for non-translation activities, like exercise, rest, relaxation, etc. Otherwise you can work yourself to death.

The third thing is financial. You never know how much you are going to earn in a year. So you must compulsorily save when times are good so that you do not run out of money in bad times.

These are the three main disadvantages of being your own boss.

Work-wise there is not much of a difference. You actually end up working longer hours than when you were governed by office timings. So people who think that freelancers have enough time to watch movies, read books, travel, etc., are clearily living in delusion. Looking back, I had more time for all these when I was working full time for a company than now when I am a full-time freelancer.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:52
French to German
+ ...
Oh why not? Feb 10, 2009

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

Contrarily to what many of our colleagues seem to think, freelance translation is not what you are supposed to do if you couldn't find an in-house position. It is not a solution to an unemployment problem.


I would just like to know why you wrote that. Unemployment in France, as an example and for what I saw of it, is partially linked to age. It's a "Bang, you're dead!" if you are over 35, no matter what your competences may be. You simply stop to exist for many companies.

I actually became a freelancer to show (myself and others) that I was still alive, doing well and competent.

But I never quite played by the rules, so...

Laurent K.


[Edited at 2009-02-10 07:49 GMT]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:52
English to French
+ ...
Here goes Feb 10, 2009

ScottishWildCat wrote:

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

Contrarily to what many of our colleagues seem to think, freelance translation is not what you are supposed to do if you couldn't find an in-house position. It is not a solution to an unemployment problem.


I would just like to know why you wrote that.


Certainly, Laurent. Here goes.

If you've been around this site for a while and if you have collaborated with other translators more than a few times, you may have noticed how many people get into freelance translation because they think it is a get-rich-quick scheme. You know how it goes: "Earn thousands of dollars each month without even leaving the comfort of your home - all it takes is a computer!" You probably know how desperate certain unemployed people can be - they will try anything, and most of all, believe anything. So, these people start freelancing, thinking the contracts will roll in non stop, that they will just have to type away to earn good money, that the cheque will be in the mail any day now. Little do these people know that the contracts don't just roll in on their own, that they have to actively market themselves to get work. They also don't seem to be aware that freelancing doesn't only require a computer. It also requires a lot of discipline, flexibility, a family who is willing to support you when that deadline is approaching and you can't afford to grace them with your presence. They also don't seem to be aware that only half of the ten, eight or even two cents they charge will end up in their pocket, since the other half will be spent on business expenses, taxes, etc.

I've seen people switching from in-house work to freelancing because "the pay is better, I am free to set my schedule, I have no boss" - we all know that isn't exactly how it works.

The thing is that freelancing, as Paula said, takes a lot of determination, initiative, hard work, flexibility, patience, etc. It is definitely not for everyone. There is a price to pay for that kind of freedom, and many of us pay for it dearly. So, contrarily to what some of our colleagues think, you don't start freelancing because you couldn't find an in-house position. You do it because you fit the profile and because you are willing to work hard on your career. In order to be a successful freelancer, you need to like it. In order to like it, you need to be aware just what freelancing really means. Sadly, this knowledge seems to be lacking in a great number of cases...

Maybe in your case, Laurent, there was a little bit of both. Maybe it was easier to freelance. But, judging from your contributions here, at least, you seem to know what you got yourself into and you seem to be apt to deal with it. Not all of us have that aptitude - and those who do not should look for something else to earn a living.


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Silvia Barra  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:52
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
More advantages Feb 11, 2009

I can see that for you too being a freelancer brings more advantages than disadvantages.
And I completely agree with the fact that not only can be freelancers, since being a frelancer requires discipline, organisation and a big stress resistance. Some of my former colleagues envy my working at home, when and how much I want, but they don't even think becoming a freelancer. They don't understand that this means working at night or weekend (often more than in an in-house position), facing up lack of jobs or an overflow of jobs, thinking about taxes and the like. I've decided to become a freelancer keeping in mind at least some disadvantages, but, as Victoria says, because I wanted no more being an employee. And also because the company for whom I worked was and is in a bad situation, so also as a solution for possible unemployment.
Thank you for all ideas.
Have a nice day.
Silvia


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:52
French to German
+ ...
Point understood, Viktoria Feb 11, 2009

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
So, contrarily to what some of our colleagues think, you don't start freelancing because you couldn't find an in-house position. You do it because you fit the profile and because you are willing to work hard on your career. In order to be a successful freelancer, you need to like it. In order to like it, you need to be aware just what freelancing really means. Sadly, this knowledge seems to be lacking in a great number of cases...

Maybe in your case, Laurent, there was a little bit of both. Maybe it was easier to freelance. But, judging from your contributions here, at least, you seem to know what you got yourself into and you seem to be apt to deal with it. Not all of us have that aptitude - and those who do not should look for something else to earn a living.


OK, Viktoria. Now I can understand you better and gladly agree that freelancing is not for those who couldn't get an in-house position.

Either you KNOW what you are about to do, or you don't. I also could tell of people (extreme cases, I agree) who thought freelancing was about laying lazy on the sofa and waiting for the big & easy job to come; definitively not my style!

Thanks for your answer.

Laurent K.


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