To what extend is the translator a slave of his/her own trade?
Thread poster: Williamson

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:08
Flemish to English
+ ...
Feb 3, 2003

A typical example of a job offer: \"We are looking for a translator D>E\" with a CAT-tool (Trados, Déjà Vu,...) to translate a financial text\" and would like to have the translation finished by yesterday. Must have experience in finance and Framework.\" We are looking for a person with the highest quality at the best (read: lowest) price.\"

This typical phrase comes from lets say a P.M. working from 9a.m. to 5p.m. for an agency or from a person working at a big corporation.



You, the translator want to acquire those skills. Unfortunately, the turnover time and the rate of the translation do not permit you to follow the required evening course of CAD or financial management.

So you can never place a bid for this offer or raise your rate. How do you break through this vicious circle?



In certain professions “freelance” is a beautiful word: I have known a freelance programmer, who had a detachment contract and worked 9 to 5 at a bank from Monday to Thursday, earning 500 euro every day for 4 years.

During the weekend Friday, Saturday and Sunday, he either studied other software-tools or made other projects for other companies at the same rate. Calculate his earnings for yourself.

To what extend does this apply to translation? The bigger the volume the more you earn (given the best quality at the best rate), but the less time you have to enhance your knowledge and grow (even if you use CAT-tools). Working together with others makes you shift in the direction of the project manager\'s role and does not leave any spare time for study either.

In certain countries a combination of p.t.-employee and freelancer is very interesting from a fiscal point of view. However, to what extend does being freelance translator allows you to be a p.t.-employee?





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Alison Schwitzgebel
France
Local time: 01:08
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Hey, you work full time and study in the evenings..... Feb 3, 2003

And I\'m not joking about that - it\'s exactly what I did. I was working for a bank (Mon-Fri, 9-6, plus copious amounts of overtime) when I started evening classes for my marketing diploma. 2 evenings a week plus 8-1 on Saturdays for three years.



Then I took a year out of the studying loop as my first daughter was born three weeks before my marketing finals. But then, when she was six months old (I was working at home as a freelance translator) I decided to get my translation qualification - so there I was, sitting another round of exams.



A glutton for punishment, when she was a year old (okay, 14 months) I started evening classes for my business administration diploma - again 2 evenings a week and Saturdays - for 2 1/2 years. I was working in-house as a translator for about the first 18 months, and then freelance for about a year, and this time around I was 6 months pregnant with number 2 by the time I got the whole thing over and done with.



Have I have much of a private life over the last 5 years? No. But for that I get to have one now (except the kids kinda get in the way of going out and partying all night long...). How many hours of TV have I watched? I guess you could count them on your hands. You know how many times I\'ve been to the cinema in 5 years - 5 times! But it\'s all over and done with now, so I just top up the knowledge base as I go along. Until I start on the next round of learning that is - I\'m toying with the idea of an MBA.....



You can do it - but you have to be prepared to pay the price, not to mention having to have your friends and family to back you up. I couldn\'t have done it all without my husband\'s 100% support. All I can say is that at the end of the day it\'s all worth while.



Alison


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:08
Flemish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I was just wondering... Feb 3, 2003

@Allison: At what schools would you be aiming?

If you are aiming for the top-business schools: How are you going to \"sell\" the fact that you have been a freelance translator to them. Out of pure curiosity, I have visited some of them (One was on Soldiers Field Road and the other in Palo Alto).

How to explain to American admission officers that you have been a translator, when they are used to receiving applications from engineers, science people and economists with a caree at a company. Some of these people don\'t even have the faintest idea what it is to be freelance translator.

The same question for the better European schools, like the school in Fontainebleau for example.





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Alison Schwitzgebel
France
Local time: 01:08
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Well... Feb 3, 2003

I\'ve already applied to and been accepted by Heriot Watt for their distance learning MBA program, but I\'ve put this degree on ice for a while until my youngest daughter is a bit less demanding (she\'s 7 months old now, so maybe in a year or so).



Check out their web site: http://www.ebsmba.com/



The other idea I\'m toying with is attending some specialist accounting lectures at Mainz university, but again, I need to wait a while for family reasons before starting on anything like that.



Basically, the long and the short of it is that if you\'re a translator, you HAVE to spend SOME time at least keeping up to date with the subject areas in which you work, otherwise one day you\'ll look up from your mountains of work to find that you\'ve been hopelessly left behind. Other professionals do it - imagine going to see a lawyer who wasn\'t au fait with the latest court rulings... Or a tax adviser who didn\'t know the latest version of the tax code.



You have to plan some time into your translation day to learn. Be it by reading professional magazines or attending an organized course of study - it\'s pretty much a must in my book.



Alison


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Alison Schwitzgebel
France
Local time: 01:08
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
To answer your other question.... Feb 3, 2003

The professors I have talked to have all understood perfectly that translators need to learn other subjects and not just focus on pure language learning.



As a translator, I need to understand what I translate - I truly believe that if you don\'t understand what you\'re writing about then you\'re not going to produce a good translation. The professors fully accepted this arguement.



Also, as a freelance translator, I\'m not just a linguist, I also run my own business. I need to know about legal issues affecting the profession (contract law, to name but one), accounting and taxation (you need to keep your books in order). If you have an employee (or even more), then at least a basic grounding in HR management is well in order.



A favorite example of mine was when I was on the phone to a client of mine (a large bank), and they advised me to install a certain program on my PC. I asked them where I could get it from and they told me \"Well, you\'d better ask your IT department\". To which my response was \"I AM my own IT department!\".



I don\'t think that being a translator would be any kind of obstacle in applying for a post-graduate degree. In fact, it could well be seen very positively.



HTH



Alison


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conny  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:08
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Seminars on CAD tools Feb 3, 2003

are held by the BDÜ (and probably by other translators\' organisations) every year in every larger city. Take the time and spend one weekend to grasp the basics of CAD tools like Trados and others.

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Gillian Searl  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:08
Member (2004)
German to English
Slave? Not me! Feb 3, 2003

It\'s all a matter of attitude really. When I chose to become a translator a worked hard at doing just that. I love the variety and the challenge - and I love the freedom. I smile whenever the news tells me the weather outside is so awful that the whole country has come to a stop. That\'s just fine - I\'m not going out there! I think your question is about progressing on after translating and when you want to do something different - well, I\'ll cross those bridges when I come to them. If I can give up a job that wasn\'t going anywhere and build up a successful business as a translator I\'m sure I\'ll have enough left inside to do something different if/when I want. I\'m not limited to a \"traditional\" career path but if that\'s what you want then just go for it. I\'m sure if you were going for an interview with a top university you would do enough preparation to convince them that your skills to date are relevant to the course you want to study - and at least in the UK money talks. So if you put your mind to something you can achieve it and if you don\'t want to apply yourself then you can always choose the other route. It\'s up to you. I certainly don\'t feel trapped but if I did then I would investigate other options and change my life - not wallow in my misery.

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Patricia Posadas  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:08
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Where there is a will there is a way ... Feb 4, 2003

I have done all my studies (5 year degree and then PhD, plus some extra postgraduate and similar courses) while working full-time or then working half-time and having children. One of the reasons for turning to translation work was that I could choose my working hours and so be able to attend lectures just like other students.



This is not a bad job, at least I feel really priviledged to have the opportunity to organize my life as I wish and have the freedom to take in work or refuse it on a per project basis.



Just establish your priorities, and set targets you can meet. You can go very far step by step, if the steps are the good size!


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