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starting my business as an independent/freelance
Thread poster: N_Y
English to French
Feb 3, 2008

Hello !

I just graduated from university and I would like to work as a translator. I live in France.

My wish is to work part-time, so I was wondering if working as a translator from home is a good way to manage my time-table the way I want.

I know that there are few companies who hires translators, and I was interested in working as an independent.
But I don't know how to manage this financially as I just graduated, I don't have enough experience and I still live with my parents. So there's a lot of things to do and a lot of money to spend before I can start my own business.

Also, I don't know if it is possible to save time when you work as a translator and manage your time as you want.

So if you have any advice, and if you can tell me how you live your life as an independent, please answer this thread.

Thanks a lot,

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:49
English to French
+ ...
Part time as a freelance translator Feb 3, 2008

Being a part-time freelancer is unlike other part time jobs. If you did this part time, you wouldn't be doing a few hours of work each day, but you would rather have a few days of full-time work on and off. This is because usually, the work you get as a feelancer was already due yesterday by the time it is assigned to you, and if that isn't the case, then it is definitely due fast enough that you can't put in just a few hours per day for several days - you would have to work entire days for a few days to deliver on time.

If you live at your parents, that can be a great thing - but that would also affect your tax deductibles. If you are not the person who pays the rent and the utilities, or if you are only one of several paying for it, then you can not deduct nearly as much as you would have been able to had you lived on your own. But on the other hand, your cost of business would be smaller, too. So, depending on how you set it all up, this can be a good thing or a bad thing.

The lack of experience should not bother you too much - but bear in mind that pretty much all freelance translators start off being part-timers, because they don't have a reputation yet and so they don't get enough contracts to work full time right away. To some of us, it took mere months to start making a living - to some, it took several years. In my case, I was riding the wave after about six months. Pricewise, the lack of experience shouldn't bother you much either. Please, do charge the standard rate everybody charges and don't give rebates because you are new to this. Try to land some not for profit jobs - NGOs have tons of them. They don't pay, or pay very little - but they provide you with things to put into your resume. Then, go for contracts that don't require a very high level of knowledge of a particular field, and as you work, you will have an idea what you want to specialize in. Once you make up your mind about your specializations, you can go take some extra courses in those fields and target contracts that deal with those subjects. It takes some time to get there, but as you make your way, you will become more confident and you will build up a reputation. That's when you will start getting some regular clients.

I suggest you consult tax laws and regulations for your country and try to find the best way to set up your business moneywise. Once you have started a business, you can't really fiddle with it anymore, so make sure you are on the right track from the start.

I am not sure what you mean by saving time, but I can tell you that if you have lots of discipline, you may find it is more efficient to work from home than to transit to work every day. Being your own boss also means you take a leave when you deem it fit and you don't have to work on texts you don't like - you have the power of deciding everything. But you will also have more paperwork to handle. To me, not having to transit to work is a blessing, for several reasons. I don't spend on public transport or gas and I don't get stuck in traffic (I live in Montreal, and when you get stuck in traffic, you can be stuck for hours - that's a lot of time you can save in a day). I also don't have to wait for the bus at -30 in a snowstorm. Best of all, I can get to work within a minute, which means I can also end my workday much sooner than others. That is extra time you will have for other things, but if you are wise, you will not use it to work more but rather to spend more quality time with friends and family - that is something that can be greatly missing from your life as a freelancer, especially if you live alone. Of course, setting your own working hours would enable you to not have to lose part of your daily earnings because you had to go to the dentist's - you can move your working hours around other activities that matter to you. Freelancing is a great way, for example, to find the time to go back to school, because you don't have to find a job that will respect your work schedule - you can customize your working schedule to fit with your course schedule.

All this may sound great and tempting - but like I said, it takes a lot of discipline to work this way. If you are not a very well organized person and don't usually take initiatives, then you may be better off working in-house. But above all, remember that the total time spent in front of your computer handling your business will not be spent translating. If you have an eight-hour workday, chances are you will only translate during five hours. Why? Because you'll have to handle your finances, do your taxes, update your resume, contact potential clients, etc. Make sure you make time for such activities as well. As a freelance translator, you are much less a translator than a businessperson. Always keep that in mind.

All the best!

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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:49
Partial member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Start as volunteer Feb 4, 2008

In my experience, start freelance job as volunteer is good for future business.
The key reason is that, first you enjoy with the jobs. Next, you are paid for your good jobs.
To start as a freelancer and earn financial reward when you are not known to many clients is not very ideal: Serious clients hire translators with plentry of achievements.

Best regards,
Soonthon L.

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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:49
English to German
+ ...
Build up your profile and start participating in KudoZ Feb 4, 2008

Otherwise potential clients don't even know that you are out there.

Make use of this great marketing tool.

Other than that, I second my colleagues suggestions. Personally I never had to take the path of doing volunteer work as my services build upon decades of professional experience, only that this know-how is put to use in translation services now.

Make sure to indicate fields of specialization. A translator who claims working fields in legal translation, technical, advertising, financial, science, etc. all at once won't earn much credibility.

Setting up a business doesn't require a lot of investment. Basically you need a fast computer and a reliable Internet connection.

I highly recommend to get yourself registered as a business (and become a legal entity) as soon as possible. This way you will be more respected on the market and potentially unreliable payers are less likely to mess with you.

All the best!



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writeaway  Identity Verified

Local time: 11:49
Partial member (2003)
French to English
+ ...
Look at the discussions on the French-language forum Feb 4, 2008

There is no point in getting advice from people who don't live in France. In the US or UK for example, setting yourself up as a company is relatively easy and won't involve much expense or bureaucratic red tape. In France (and in Belgium) however, you must get advice because it does involve a lot of red tape and can end up costing you more than you will be making.
Good luck!

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English to French
Thanks a lot Feb 4, 2008

Hi all,

Thanks for all your comments, of course, from a financial/tax/legal point of view being a freelance translator can involve different issues and you may face different things according to the country where you live.

However, all your comments were very interesting and relevant as we can find similar characteristics : not charge lower costs than the standard costs in the translation business of your area, having discipline, indicate fields of specialization and not pretend you can translate in EVERY technical field, etc... This confirms what my teachers told me ! So I appreciate all the information you provided as professionals.

Thanks for all the links provided I will check them, and as my business plan won't be ready before one year or two, I will of course need to get lots of information about how to become a freelance translator in France before I get involved in it.


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