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Fulltime freelancing translator/mum - worth the trouble?
Thread poster: Nesrin

Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:47
English to Arabic
+ ...
Jun 20, 2007

A while ago I wrote on this forum to ask for some time management tips for freelancers who also happen to be mums (http://www.proz.com/topic/63290). Sadly, after a few attempts at being better organised, my life is back to its normal schedule (often hectic, with work often taking priority over needs of house & family).
The issue was discussed with my other half. Having recently completed my tax return, we could again plainly see that my annual income is just not proportionate to the amount of time I spend on the computer, morning, noon and night. It just doesn't seem to be worth the trouble. My husband asked me to consider two options: either to considerably raise my rates (I explained to him that my rates are already normal for the UK, and quite high for most of the rest of the world, and I can't just go on raising my rates whenever I feel I should be earning more), or find an office job with a fixed salary, which would give me peace of mind (not having to chase clients and meet deadlines), as well as free evenings and weekends, and annual holidays. Right now, this latter option seems most likely. It would really break my heart to have to give up what I consider my vocation, esp. after having proven myself on several levels, but I also don't want to go on doing something that is just not worth it (both financially and for the general benefit of my family, and ultimately for myself).
Does anyone else feel the same? Is there something wrong with the way I run my business if my income is less than an average office job? Any feedback welcome!


------
Just corrected a silly typo: "either to considerably raise my RATES" of course

[Bearbeitet am 2007-06-20 19:49]


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Mary Worby  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:47
Member
German to English
+ ...
Childcare is the only way! Jun 20, 2007

I think working full-time and looking after children is simply unattainable. You'll drive you and your family mad!

I have two small children (3 & 1) and work part-time in translation. I used to be full-time before they were born but it's a question of finding a balance, and once they got old enough to need my attention virtually full-time then the only way to get a sensible amount of work done was to shuffle them to nursery. They now do two days a week, which at least means I know I have two clear days to work. Anything else is a bonus.


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Margreet Logmans  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 01:47
English to Dutch
+ ...
I'm happy this way - wish you the same Jun 20, 2007

Hi Nesrin,

I don't think I replied to your time-management post, but I read it with great interest.
I too have small children. I love my life the way it is, even though I haven't exactly struck gold either.

You might want to consider two things:
- get a part-time job while your childeren are still very young. That way, you will have a fixed income and maybe a little less stress over what you earn. Try to find a job with a salary that will cover your daily expenses. You will have to do some math here, calculate a budget, see what you need to get by. If you want to keep on working as a translator, you can fill the other part of a full working-week with that. Once your kids are in school and all, you can get back to being a full time translator and make use of the rhythm that school schedules automatically bring to your life.

- Keep track of what you actually do when sitting at the computer. Find out how many hours you really spend on translating and things that are directly related to translating. Maybe your per-hour-income is not as bad as you think. The time you spend at the computer without really working could be seen as leisure time or hobby. Find a way to make really good use of your computer time.

Don't give up your vocation - if you end up working in a job you don't really like, there'll be stress too, only another kind of stress. Result is the same.

Just some thoughts, I don't know if they're useful in your situation. I thought I'd share them anyway.

Good luck and all the best!
Margreet


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Livia D'Ettorre  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 01:47
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
I completely understand you Jun 20, 2007

Hi Nesrin,

I completely understand you! I am in the same situation and find it quite difficult to find the balance Mary mentioned. I agree that childcare would probably be the best solution, however you can only afford it if you have enough work... I don't live in the UK anymore, but I remember that childcare was quite expensive. I have just read your previous thread and I think that you are putting too much pressure on yourself. To do all the things you mentioned there, you would need 48 hours a day!!! Personally, I think that spending more time with your kids is invaluable, so if I were you I would try to find the balance and, once you have enough jobs, I would do what Mary suggested.
Good luck!

Livia

P.S. I'll try to do the same


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Diarmuid Kennan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 00:47
Member (2006)
Danish to English
+ ...
2 jobs Jun 20, 2007

I'm am not a mum, not even a dad, but I can't help wondering if your problem is that you are actually doing 2 full-time jobs (housewife and translator).
If your rate is £80 per 1,000 words, it should be possible to make £250 in a normal working day (if you have the clients, but I gather that is not your problem). That is more than an average office job.

It must be very difficult to work when you are constantly being distracted (or typing with one hand).

is it possible to pay someone to do the housework (or get an au pair?), or persuade your husband to give up his job and stay home so that you can concentrate on what you want to do.
I got into translation by accident, but now my wife, an economist with 15 years working experience is giving up her job to work with me.


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:47
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks all so far! Jun 20, 2007

I really appreciate your input to my very personal problem.

Mary: I didn't mention that my kids are 5, 7 and 9, so they all go to school till 3, which is really a relief. But still, time flies like crazy!

Margreet: I do like your idea of a part-time job, though it will probably only leave me little time to do any translation, except on exceptional occasions. And you're right, a lot of time is spent on the computer doing non-work stuff (like now!).

Livia: A 48-hour day would be great! I wonder why nobody thought of that idea before!

Diarmuid: I wish I could do 3,000 words a day! I'm nowhere near that at the moment. I'm sure it has more to do with organisation and discipline than anything else.


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Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:47
French to English
+ ...
Hang on in there Jun 20, 2007

Hi Nesrin,

I certainly found that once my children went to secondary school, the time I had available for translating and thus my income suddenly jumped. Admittedly, I didn't have to work from a financial perspective when the children were younger, but I just loved the fact that I could choose when I worked and still get to go to sports days, concerts, help out in the classroom, be there when they got home from school, take them to sports, music, etc, etc. OK, it sometimes (often!) meant working late at night to catch up, but I always felt that was a small price to pay. I had a job that I loved - still do - and I was there to be with my children when it mattered. I wouldn't have changed that for the world.

I really can't imagine that any standard office job would pay more than you can earn when you take into account the hours you actually do - with three children to organise, you're probably fairly busy anyway and childcare would cost you a fortune if you were to go out to work full-time. If you then take into account commuting costs, lunches, office clothing, it really starts to look a much less favourable option.

My advice would be to hang on in there - look at ways of increasing your effectiveness. Have you tried voice recognition software? I've recently converted to Dragon (to ease my RSI rather than anything else) but I've been amazed by how much faster I can translate by dictating rather than my laborious two-finger typing - hence the RSI! Also translation management software is a boon once you've got through the initial stages of mastering your chosen program. All these things can boost your words per hour and leave you free to do the other things you want to do - well, in theory anyway!

Good luck - and don't give up. I've always thought it's the best job in the world to be able to combine with bringing up a family. You can stretch your brain and enjoy the children at the same time.


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Rad Graban  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:47
English to Slovak
+ ...
Hi Nesrin, Jun 20, 2007

I'm neither mother nor father but here is my suggestion:

Divide your working week (ideally only from Mon to Fri) into two halves (and a day).

-Find a part-time job for two days (Mon-Tue) to have a regular, stress-free income. -
-Have a Wednesday off to do your housework.
-Do what you really love to do on Thursday and Friday (translate).
-Spend the weekend with your family.

Let your regular clients/agencies know which days you are available to accept translation jobs and explain them why. They will understand.
It's only temporary and as well established pro you will have no problem.
If you get a really lucrative project and you think it's worth to work on it on your "days-off", don't be afraid to ask your your husband or your/his parents to look after the kids till you finish it.
Also, if you got a spare time and are bored, bid for jobs.

I must be very lucky myself. I'm single with no kids. I'm fairly busy but still got a part-time job (and a fantastic boss) where I work only when I'm not translating.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck Nesrin!!!

Rad


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Anne Goff  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:47
French to English
+ ...
Hi Nesrin, Jun 20, 2007

I'm not a mother, but I do share your internet addiction and I can waste an amazing amount of time at the computer not working.

I don't know if this would work for you, but I found that keeping a stopwatch next to me to time my actual working hours has helped me be more focused.

At the end of a day when I had accomplished very little, but felt like I'd been working a lot I could look at my stopwatch and know just how much time I'd actually spent working.

It really helped put things in perspective.

As for the rest, good luck! This is a great topic and one that I believe we all deal with. Whether or not we have kids we have people in our lives that we're responsible to/for and balancing work/life stuff is never easy.

Bon courage!
~Anne


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:47
Dutch to English
+ ...
Had the small children and got to the end of the tunnel Jun 20, 2007

I realised early on that something had to give: my work, my kids or the household stuff. I decided to get a cleaner and give up on cleaning completely. I still have my cleaner, I only do the washing and cooking, I work full-time plus and earn at least double what the average paid job would. My kids are now 13 and 16, well-adjusted and perfectly happy.

Another job that is completely pointless is ironing. I do not iron a thing, ever. You'd be amazed at how much time you suddenly have when you do not do any of the normal household jobs.


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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 19:47
Spanish to English
+ ...
This is eerily familiar territory Jun 20, 2007

Anne Goff wrote:

I'm not a mother, but I do share your internet addiction and I can waste an amazing amount of time at the computer not working.

I don't know if this would work for you, but I found that keeping a stopwatch next to me to time my actual working hours has helped me be more focused.

At the end of a day when I had accomplished very little, but felt like I'd been working a lot I could look at my stopwatch and know just how much time I'd actually spent working.

It really helped put things in perspective.

As for the rest, good luck! This is a great topic and one that I believe we all deal with. Whether or not we have kids we have people in our lives that we're responsible to/for and balancing work/life stuff is never easy.

Bon courage!
~Anne



I love the stopwatch idea, and use it myself in an unofficial manner...I KNOW that although I ought to focus 100% when I actually have free time to work (given that I have a 4 and a 2 year old who are only in school half days, and I have no help...), I also believe heartily in the need for a few seconds of distraction as a way of not letting things blur in front of you. Hmmm.. that's what I'm doing right now actually (better make this quick).
Allow yourself say one minute of quick glances at your favourite 2 sites every half hour or so, and then back to work!
I also have to agree that getting a cleaner once every week made my life much easier, and I NEVER iron a thing.
The day flies past, but I love the work and so I know that on days I waste time, I will make up the time and money in the evening after the kids are in bed.
If you want to do everything yourself ( or even most things, as many of us do), you will not win the pools in this field probably. So hone your craft, do great work for your current clients, and as the kids get older it must get easier to expand...right??


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Katerina Fragkiadaki  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 02:47
German to Greek
+ ...
househusband* Jun 20, 2007

Diarmuid Kennan wrote:

or persuade your husband to give up his job and stay home so that you can concentrate on what you want to do.


I'm certainly as off-topic as it gets but I couldn't stop laughing at the idea of suggesting this to any man I know in Greece...On the contrary there are plenty of women who still choose/have to leave their jobs in favour of the family. Still far from real emancipation I guess...


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:47
Spanish to English
+ ...
the ideal world - x words guaranteed per day, good rate, no complications, no distractions, no admin Jun 20, 2007

Diarmuid Kennan wrote:

I'm am not a mum, not even a dad, but I can't help wondering if your problem is that you are actually doing 2 full-time jobs (housewife and translator).
If your rate is £80 per 1,000 words, it should be possible to make £250 in a normal working day (if you have the clients, but I gather that is not your problem). That is more than an average office job.

It must be very difficult to work when you are constantly being distracted (or typing with one hand).

is it possible to pay someone to do the housework (or get an au pair?), or persuade your husband to give up his job and stay home so that you can concentrate on what you want to do.
I got into translation by accident, but now my wife, an economist with 15 years working experience is giving up her job to work with me.


I'm neither a mum or dad, either, but life as a translator isn't as simple as churning out a steady 2500 words a day at a reasonable rate. That's the theory. The reality is that our 16-hour day, leaving out sleeping time, is simply that - a 16-hour day, with an umbilical cord that attaches us to the computer.

To predict earning X amount per day/ 365X a year:

You need a guaranteed x words per day words a day.

You get a rate that is not only reasonable but which is directly proportional to complexities of whatever nature.

The jobs are interesting and so motivate you.

The jobs bring no special textual or research complications.

You feel no special loyalty or obligation to particular clients (eg, regulars) and won't lose them if you say no.

Your clients and their billing system aren't high maintenance or complex (preferably you have one client with an easy billing system and/or you always have all the info you need to hand, with no need to chase up on details, or print and post bills, etc)

All administrative tasks are minimal and dealings with tax authorities and accountants are simple and straightforward.

There are minimal distractions from partner, children, other family, friends, animals, etc. They - and you - lead utterly tranquil, non-turbulent lives.

Other regular features of your life, such as exercising, food shopping, housework, social life, etc are all slotted in nicely at a convenient time of the day and bring no complications.

Nesrin, as an alternative to childcare, what about an office away from home? With office hours that coincided with your children's school day, say 9 to 3. That would actually focus your work - 4 blank walls and a computer:-) That's assuming you work from home. My few experiences of working like this were difficult to adjust to, but since it's a "work" place, that's what you end up doing.

Or a 3/4 time non-complex office job that is the kind of work that you won't be bringing home with you. That is, go for a job that might be below your capabilities but which guarantees being able to leave around 3-5 pm each day with no briefcase of papers or laptop:-)







[Edited at 2007-06-20 23:46]

[Edited at 2007-06-20 23:47]


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 18:47
English to Russian
+ ...
Hi Nesrin Jun 21, 2007

I don't have kids so my suggestion comes from a different, more practical angle. Think of less drastic changes.

Apparently your current income puts your family into a non-favorable tax bracket. In other words, it might be so that only a certain amount a year is positive and the rest of it is negative, so to speak. Maybe it would make sense to pay a good tax advisor and do a precise math - how much is really profitable and helpful for the family. Maybe you'll find out that in your case part-time freelancing is the best of both worlds, especially after you realise with numbers in your hands that Mon thru Wed you work for yourself, and Thur thru Sun - for taxes only. Calculate approximate net income and taxes related to a full-time job separately and do some cross-comparison. Maybe you do not have to change your life, only your income. Maybe you should only be kicking in to bring home a chunk of money for some major purchases and devote the rest of the time to your family and yourself? When was the last time you'd been to a spa?:-). I'm sure you can select your best clients and stick with them, drop the rest.

One thing I can tell you for sure - our freedom, as illusive as it might be for the most part, is a big part of our mental health. We are too used to no fixed hours/no appointed managers environment. Should you start taking the pain from the abrasions inflicted by your new chains on your family, taxes might no longer be your top priority... God forbid!

It's a gamble - you must be sure you can say "no" to any extra work. Leave the slot machine after each small win, don't count on a jackpot:-). And be sure to learn to say "no" to the same after your regular full-time work hours. We can not run from ourselves and should you not change your approach a full-time job will only be an addition to freelancing:-(

I insist:-) on going after specific numbers - those inexorable figures flashing before your eyes and reminding you that you are about to sacrifice good things for nothing might cool you down and "no" will pop out easier.


Good luck!
Irene

[Edited at 2007-06-21 01:47]


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:47
German to English
+ ...
Raising rates Jun 21, 2007

If I understand you right, your main problem is too much work and not enough return. Seems to me like the ideal scenario for an increase in rates. In the short term this could lead to a reduction in the amount of work you get (i.e. losing some clients, especially agencies), but in the medium term it could herald a shift in your focus to direct clients who are willing to pay good money for a good service.
You mention that your rates are "normal for the UK". Why only "normal"? Do you mean normal for agencies or direct clients? Is there any reason why you can't target the high end of the market?
I think your other comment (about global rates) shouldn't inhibit you - you have to pay UK bills, so good work should command a good UK rate.

If you hike your rates, this will of course mean that some jobs (including many or perhaps most of the jobs offered on ProZ) are not worth considering. So be it. But you can pitch your marketing/website etc. elsewhere.

If freelance translation is where your heart is, it would be a pity to sacrifice the work because of time constraints that will only affect you over the next 5 to 10 years.

Can't say anything meaningful from a mother's perspective (for obvious reasons). But I hope you find good solutions.


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