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Feedback from Freelance Translators about their experience
Thread poster: Gwladys Jouble

Gwladys Jouble
France
Local time: 03:10
English to French
+ ...
Mar 20

Hi Everyone,

I have decided to start translating as a freelance recently, although I have thought about doing it for years.

As such, I would like to get some genuine feedback from freelance translators about their experience since they started their business. What did you find the most challenging thing as you first started? Which difficulties did you come across over the first year? Which most useful piece of advice would you give for someone starting as a freelance translator? And maybe, finally, what do you enjoy most since you have become a freelance?

I would appreciate your feedback.

Thank you in advance,
Best Regards,
Gwladys


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:10
Member (2008)
Italian to English
My replies Mar 20

Q. What did you find the most challenging thing as (?) you first started?
A. Getting clients.

Q. Which difficulties did you come across over the first year?
A. Getting paid (I've now solved that problem)

Q. Which most useful piece of advice would you give for someone starting as a freelance translator?
A1. Never claim that you can translate perfectly out of your mother tongue into another language. You may be certain that you can, but trust me: you can't.
A2. Specialise. Don't claim that you are able to translate all types of document. You can't.

Q. And maybe, finally, what do you enjoy most since you have become a freelance?
A1. Translating.
A2. Not having a boss.

I now look forward to reading other people's replies, hoping that they all stay on-topic!

[Edited at 2017-03-20 15:04 GMT]


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:10
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
My answers Mar 20

Q. What did you find the most challenging thing as (?) you first started?
A. Diversifying my client base and settling on a sustainable pricing strategy.

Q. Which difficulties did you come across over the first year?
A. Convincing potential clients that even without a masters degree I was still a good translator. Having the confidence to market myself properly.

Q. Which most useful piece of advice would you give for someone starting as a freelance translator?
A. If this is going to be your career, treat your business like a business and give it the respect it deserves. Learn how to run the business side of things (translating is not the only thing you do when you are freelance). Stay positive and don't get sucked into negativity, not yours and not others'. Be open to collaboration with colleagues.

Q. And maybe, finally, what do you enjoy most since you have become a freelance?
A. Running my own business, learning business skills that are transferable, being my own boss, taking charge of my own destiny.


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Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 03:10
Member (2016)
English to German
Probably not the same for everyone Mar 20

I believe that in most freelancing professions, much depends on your personality. So what worked for me might not work for you. For example, my personality is absolutely unsuited for acquiring clients: I'm a rather introverted guy, I hate making phone calls or talking to unknown people on social events or whatever. I'm a lousy salesman and negotiator.

As a consequence, I have no clients. No direct clients, that is. I work exclusively for agencies. I approach agencies when I believe that my fields of specialization (mainly IT) fit with what they are looking for. It was a slow start but now I have a couple of agencies that give me projects regularly and another couple of agencies that give me work occasionally. It seems that they like my work and my work ethics. Or maybe the market is just so strong that it works out by itself. I have not figured it out yet.

So my piece of advice would be that you find out your own strengths and use them. Also, a bit of luck always helps ...

Regarding your last question, what I enjoy most is being able to work virtually anywhere.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:10
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You need to show self-respect from day one, or clients will not respect you Mar 20

Q. What did you find the most challenging thing as (?) you first started?
A. Delivering work! I'd proofread, proofread, proofread... and then proofread again. Not good for the per-hour rate .

Q. Which difficulties did you come across over the first year?
A. Deciding which jobs I could do well, and which I really should steer well clear of. The IT side of the job stressed me out (and still does, TBH): using a CAT tool and other professional software, manipulating files, resolving hardware/software problems...

Q. Which most useful piece of advice would you give for someone starting as a freelance translator?
A. If this is going to be your career, treat your business like a business and give it the respect it deserves. Learn how to run the business side of things. (With thanks to Angela Rimmer .) But I'd add that learning when and how best to say no to clients is absolutely essential.

Q. And maybe, finally, what do you enjoy most since you have become a freelance?
A. Running my own business, learning business skills that are transferable, being my own boss, taking charge of my own destiny. (Again, Angela said it all for me.)


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2011)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Saying no Mar 20

Saying no was the hardest thing to begin with (it's hard to say no to the few people who are not just ignoring you, and it can be hard to turn down the money) but is the best thing about being freelance now (it allows me to concentrate on what I enjoy and work the hours I want to, and I hate being told what to do).

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Gwladys Jouble
France
Local time: 03:10
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Mar 21

Thank you all for your valuable feedback. It's been a real pleasure reading through your various experiences and I appreciate the time you took to share them. It is certainly not easy to start from scratch as a freelance translator but still it does sound to me like a fulfilling experience, a thrilling adventure, with ups and downs... yet definitely worth it.

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Jan Truper
Germany
Local time: 03:10
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
... Mar 25

Gwladys Jouble wrote:

Which most useful piece of advice would you give for someone starting as a freelance translator?

Gwladys


1) Research the companies that you are dealing with. This will minimize your chances of getting shafted.
Here are a few useful links:

http://translationethics.blogspot.se/p/blog-page.html#.VKq878axEl8
http://www.translator-scammers.com/
http://www.glassdoor.com/index.htm
https://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostRecent=&gid=3415770&trk=my_groups-tile-flipgrp
https://www.linkedin.com/groups/Translation-agencies-good-bad-cheap-4161115?home=&gid=4161115
http://www.proz.com/blueboard

2) Don't take it personal when you are rejected or ignored. It takes time to build up a decent client base.

[Edited at 2017-03-25 08:44 GMT]


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Roy OConnor
Local time: 03:10
Member (2009)
German to English
Flexibility Mar 25

The others have covered most of the ground. I only want to add that it is important to be flexible with regard to new technology and business situations.

As one who has seen a lot of change in our industry due to IT and globalisation I think it is important to follow developments in MT so that you are able to use these new techniques to your advantage. As well, social media platforms are playing an important role, also for well established companies. It might be an advantage to keep tabs on developments here too.

I wish you the best of luck!


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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:10
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Is "feedback" the right word? Mar 25

To me, if you want feedback from someone, you must have interacted with him or her. If there is no input, there are no grounds for feedback.

No offense to the OP. This is purely out of linguistic curiosity from someone who is not a native English speaker.

[Edited at 2017-03-26 12:56 GMT]


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:10
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Reply to Juan Mar 25

jyuan_us wrote:

To me, if you want feedback from someone, you must have interacted with him or her. If there is no input, there is no ground for feedback.

No offense to the OP. This is purely out of linguistic curiosity from someone who is not a native English speaker.


I think "feedback" works here. First, from a purely instinctual basis as a native speaker, I did not find the word choice odd at all. But also, in this case the OP is asking for feedback in terms of our experience with the translation business. So the "interaction" is actually between us and the translation "industry". I don't know if I am explaining this properly, hopefully I haven't confused things.


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Texte Style
Local time: 03:10
French to English
reporting back Mar 26

Angela Rimmer wrote:

jyuan_us wrote:

To me, if you want feedback from someone, you must have interacted with him or her. If there is no input, there is no ground for feedback.

No offense to the OP. This is purely out of linguistic curiosity from someone who is not a native English speaker.


I think "feedback" works here. First, from a purely instinctual basis as a native speaker, I did not find the word choice odd at all. But also, in this case the OP is asking for feedback in terms of our experience with the translation business. So the "interaction" is actually between us and the translation "industry". I don't know if I am explaining this properly, hopefully I haven't confused things.


I'm inclined to agree with jyuan here. The "back" part is the key. For example, manager tells her team to go out and do some marketing research, then the team report back on their findings.

Not that it really matters much here, we all understood what the OP wanted. But there could be circumstances in which this erroneous usage could lead to a misunderstanding.


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Susan Welsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:10
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
@jyuan Mar 26

jyuan_us wrote:

To me, if you want feedback from someone, you must have interacted with him or her. If there is no input, there is no ground for feedback.



I agree with you. ("There ARE no groundS for ..." - "ground" is not used in the singular in this meaning. Don't ask me why.)


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:10
Member (2008)
Italian to English
no "a" Mar 27

So long as nobody says "a feedback" I'm happy. (You know, the same people who talk about "a software").

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Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:10
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
My two cents Mar 27

Q. What did you find the most challenging thing as (?) you first started?
A. Getting known, as Internet/e-mail was only just coming in at that time, and everything was local-local-local.

Q. Which difficulties did you come across over the first year?
A1. And the second year, and the third, and probably up to year 5 or 6 - wasting a lot of time and money going to and from agencies with diskettes and print-outs.
A2. Having to do all areas of technical stuff, since at the beginning you couldn't pick and choose. I'm more specialised now, but all that experience in technical areas has stood me in good stead, because even in specialist translations some of the technical may come up here and there, or they may simply ask you if you can translate such-and-such an area too.

Q. Which most useful piece of advice would you give for someone starting as a freelance translator?
A. Specialise, to reduce the list of possible translators they can use.

Q. And maybe, finally, what do you enjoy most since you have become a freelance?
A1. Relative freedom of choice of jobs.
A2. Not having to catch a bus or the metro to the office twice a day, and having to make/buy sarnies.


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