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Advice: Relocating to the US from Italy and taking my business with me
Thread poster: Jennifer Baker

Jennifer Baker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:58
Partial member (2004)
Italian to English
Oct 29, 2006

Hello everyone-
After years of struggling to make ends meet in over-taxed Italy, my family and I have decided to try greener pastures. I'm seeking advice from any of my colleagues who have relocated their businesses from the Euro zone (where we apply VAT), or Italy in particular, to the USA.
I'm moving to the US next year, and obviously hope to take my entire pool of clients and outsourcers with me.
My main question is:
Will the agencies and clients that I work for in Italy (which now make up roughly 70% of my business) continue to work with me steadily, even though I will no longer apply VAT to my invoices, or will this be a disadvantage?
I am planning to retain my Italian bank account and will still accept payments in Euros, as well as USD.
And on a broader scope, has anyone had experience with relocating from a country where the source language is spoken to a country where the target language is spoken? Did you find a difference in your workload? Your marketing strategies? If you are an Italian outsourcer, would you have any hesitations about continuing a working relationship with a translator who is no longer in Italy? Or anything else at all that may come to mind...
I would greatly appreciate any and all advice!

Jennifer


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Patricia Lane  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:58
French to English
+ ...
Happy trails :) Oct 29, 2006

JL Baker wrote:


My main question is:
Will the agencies and clients that I work for in Italy (which now make up roughly 70% of my business) continue to work with me steadily, even though I will no longer apply VAT to my invoices, or will this be a disadvantage?


Hi Jennifer,

No longer having to charge them VAT should, in my mind, actually be an advantage!

The more important questions I think are:
- steps to reassure them of your ability to continue working with them in the manner and style to which they have becomed accustomed and they appreciate
- steps you are planning to take to keep your languages fresh and current
- communicate to them why they are important to you and that you will continue to provide top attentive service even as you develop a new client base.

Where are you moving to in the US?

Kind regards,

Patricia


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:58
German to English
Re. VAT Oct 29, 2006

Jennifer,

I can't tell you anything about relocating (except that time zones may be both a positive and a negative factor). What I can say, though, is that VAT is a non-issue. It doesn't matter where you're located (anywhere in the world!), your business clients still have to pay VAT on your invoices. If you're located (anywhere) outside Italy, your VAT-registered clients simply add notional VAT output tax to your invoice amount and simultaneously deduct the same amount as input tax. It's as simple as that.

The rule is: VAT (or the lack of it) is not a competitive factor when it comes to choosing translators.

HTH,
Robin


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sokolniki  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:58
English to Russian
+ ...
Language demand on the local level? Oct 29, 2006

Hi Jennifer,

I relocated to the US over 4 years ago. Although I cannot compare the workload and income since back in Russia I was an in-house translator, later editor, and here I am a freelancer (and would never survive on my own without support of my family, even with all demand for Russian translation and interpretation), I would ask myself two questions:

1. What is the demand for my primary language pair in the area in the US where I am planning to relocate? You cannot rely 100% on remote outsourcers - that I know for sure. It took me over 2 years to build my client base and they are primarily local agencies and just a couple of direct clients.

2. Do I have enough cash on my bank account to live on until I manage to build the local client base?

A small but probably crucial note: are you sure that you will keep all your current Italian outsourcers after you move to the US? VAT, as already noted, is not really an issue here.

I am sure you made a thorough research on the US taxation, health care, what not systems, and specifically the cost of living in the USA. It might be quite cheap in Texas, for instance, where I live, and very expensive in California or NYC.

Good luck and keep us updated about your move.
Bella



[Edited at 2006-10-29 14:50]

[Edited at 2006-10-29 14:51]


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 16:58
English to Russian
+ ...
Very important question Oct 29, 2006

Patricia Lane wrote:
Where are you moving to in the US?


NY or CA won't be much greener, IMHO...

I'd love to work with the person who is intimate with both countries' specifics.

Other than that it's a new and free checking account, 5 dollars for registering a dba or ~$2000 for setting a Chapter S corporation. Then you give your clients your new email address and... here comes the main answer - your inital business success in the US, meaning that you'll have a source of income from Day 1, is a direct function of your clients' love and devotion to you. They shouldn't care about your location at all. I'm sure:-( you'll lose one or two small ones with a narrow vision who are simply scared to step outside like some indoor cats:-) but for any serious medium-to-large scale outsourcer this should not be a problem at all.
Other that that it's not really a "relocation" unless you wish to open a branch of your Italian firm here, which, I hope for your sake, is not the case:-) - technically you start from scratch. Strictly speaking, you don't have to register anything at all, and at the end of the year you simply collect 1099s and file as self-employed. This is a drag in terms of obtaining credit lines with good interest of any nature - mortgage, credit card, car loan etc., especially when you can't prove that you are a really established US freelancer by showing a decent US income for at least 3 years in a row. After 15 years I don't experience this discrimination any more and get the best rates. I only had to submit income tax froof for the last 3 years both for my latest car and for the mortgage. Normally this would be required only for people with bad credit history or for self-employed.
Good thing is that in the US everything in your new place is operational from the moment you move in - phone line, internet, TV, along with your new bank account are no hassle at all, everything can be set in advance over the internet or in 1 day. I assume you have the US SSN#. right?

When I work for European clients I do not worry about VAT, I simply send my regular invoice. Have no idea what they do on their end:-)

Did you compare the rates in your pairs in Italy and the U.S.? This is very important as well. In Russia people work for 1/4 of my lowest rate here. Depending on the big picture, finding clients in the U.S. might be much more profitable.

The results of a 1997 survey (I understand the date is obsolete but for Russia it still seems to be true:-))

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/7110/rates.htm

Lowest-paying countries

The lowest-paying country was Italy, at 43% below the average for the survey, followed by Russia at -40%, Spain at -30% and the UK at -13%. The proportion of translators in these countries working with agencies/customers in other countries is higher than the average (35%), the highest being Italy (62%) and the UK (49%).

You are welcome to contact me personally for any details. Please do so in 2 weeks:-) - I'm going out of country tomorrow.

Irene


[Edited at 2006-10-29 16:49]


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Laura Gentili  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 22:58
Partial member (2002)
English to Italian
+ ...
Right decision! Oct 29, 2006

Congratulations on your decision!

Many translation companies prefer to assign jobs to in-country linguists (i.e. linguists who live in the country where the target language is spoken) since they think that over time translators living abroad tend to lose some of their linguistic skills in the target language. I am not saying this is true, I am saying this is what I have heard from several translation companies.
In my case, after living abroad for 8 years, I moved back to Italy and translation opportunities definitely increased (my clients are based in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France and Belgium).

Laura


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Jennifer Baker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:58
Partial member (2004)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Excellent feedback from everyone- Oct 29, 2006

Wow- thanks so much for everyone's time and advice.
My suspicions about not being an issue are true, then. My accountant here in Italy said the same thing.
To answer some of your questions- I'm now and always have been on financial turf in the US as well as in Italy as far as banking, credit cards, etc. goes since I left New York.
I think the time difference may be an issue to deal with. I recently returned from a month's stay in the States and loved the fact I could finally do some fast turnaround work for my American clients, and that all of my European clients had already closed their offices by 11am there, so I could work in "Santa Pace"! As for keeping my Italian fresh, I'm bringing the entire clan with me, so Italian will definitely still be spoken in my home, and we will surely be back to Italy a couple times a year. I'm excited to get back to dreaming IN ENGLISH for a spell!
As for where I'm moving- Summit County, Colorado (9,000 feet altitude!). Bears and all...
I really appreciated Irene's comments about practical matters being simple in the US- it's one of the reasons that I'm moving. Italy is definitely not simple...
Another question- does anyone have hands-on advice about health insurance plans for the self-employed?


Thanks again to all-
Jennifer


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 16:58
English to Russian
+ ...
This is a small world:-) Oct 29, 2006

I go to Colorado Springs every year for an assignment with the military. Beautiful country! Who knows, maybe some day we'll have some fun together. This is also one of the options on my retirement list:-)

If you have pets, keep them indoors at night - bears or mountain lions might pay a visit indeed.

About Italy - my Italy-based friend and I share an apartment ownership near Castelfranco, Veneto. The story about gas connection can make a stone cry. 1.5 months... and I thought Russia was a nightmare:-)

Welcome!
Irene

Oh, health insurance. No good news here.

To have a right to visit any doctors with a minimal co-pay ($10-30) at will with all lab work covered + hospital, a self-employed needs to pay between $470 and 600/month, and you'll still have deductibles. The cheapest 'hospitalization only' coverage I found so far was $91/month.

Blue shield/blue cross site will give you a whole picture.


[Edited at 2006-10-29 19:17]


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Elizabeth Adams  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:58
Member (2002)
Russian to English
+ ...
time differences Oct 29, 2006

Hi!
Be sure to work out a plan in advance with your best clients about when you will be available to give immediate answers to questions, quotes for projects, etc. I usually stay up until midnight or later here to Skype with people at the start of the business day in Moscow. People can deal with you being in another time zone as long as they know exactly when they can reach you.
Good luck!
Elizabeth


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maryrose  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:28
English
+ ...
I transferred successfully Oct 31, 2006

Hi Jennifer

I transferred from Italy to Australia and established myself with a minimum of fuss. The only client I lost was the Comune which couldn't seem to cope with the fact that I was (a) on the other side of the world and (b) wouldn't have (because didn't need) a VAT number. Shame, they were a great client, but there was no convincing them it was possible.

To make everyone comfortable with the change, I kept my bank account in Italy, as you plan to, and bit by bit I got people to pay directly here which is obviously much easier, especially as individuals (ie, me!) using Italian internet banking can't do international bank transfers. I do have a couple of clients that still pay into my Italian account.

A big difference is the dearth of direct clients here, and so for the first time I have been working for agencies - quite a shock to the system. 120 days to pay???

On the plus side, everything is SO EASY here! Bureaucracy, banking, telecommunications - and everyone in the service industries is so polite and helpful! That was a real shock too.

Good luck with your move!

Cheers
Maryrose


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Jennifer Baker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:58
Partial member (2004)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
... Oct 31, 2006

maryrose wrote:



To make everyone comfortable with the change, I kept my bank account in Italy, as you plan to, and bit by bit I got people to pay directly here which is obviously much easier, especially as individuals (ie, me!) using Italian internet banking can't do international bank transfers. I do have a couple of clients that still pay into my Italian account.


Hi Maryrose,
Thanks for your reply- Do you know if Italian agencies have to pay a surcharge for foreign bank transfers?

Jennifer


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:58
German to English
+ ...
Health insurance Nov 1, 2006

Hi,

My first thought when I read your post was about health insurance! We relocated from Germany to the US, but most of that experience is not relevant, because I was in-house in Germany and freelance here.

When we got back, we applied to Blue Cross Blue Shield for health insurance and fortunately were accepted for a PPO plan (more expensive than HMO, but we wanted more freedom of choice). It all depends on your/your family's pre-existing conditions. If you have any, you may not be able to obtain health insurance at all, or there may be exclusions. Don't know if a maternity rider is an issue for you, but that bumps up the monthly premium quite a bit. Just to give you an idea, I pay around $550 per month for a family of 4 with a $1,000 deductible *per person*. This is for 80/20 coverage after the deductible, except for emergencies, which are covered at 100%. No dental, no vision, no prescription coverage. Monthly premium upped every 5 years or so for reaching a new age level and every year just because!

BUT get any health insurance you can qualify for and cover your family! We have a family member who was wiped out financially due to a serious illness. This happens all the time to people.

I recommend looking up an insurance comparison site and getting quotes from a variety of companies and plans. Then you can see what the best options will be for you. We opted for a pretty standard plan, but you can lower the cost with a high-deductible policy and a health savings plan, for example.

Sorry for the long rant, but frankly, the situation on the h.i. front is somewhat grim. Best of luck to you.


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Jennifer Baker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:58
Partial member (2004)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Nov 2, 2006

Daina Jauntirans wrote:

Hi,

My first thought when I read your post was about health insurance! We relocated from Germany to the US, but most of that experience is not relevant, because I was in-house in Germany and freelance here.

When we got back, we applied to Blue Cross Blue Shield for health insurance and fortunately were accepted for a PPO plan (more expensive than HMO, but we wanted more freedom of choice). It all depends on your/your family's pre-existing conditions. If you have any, you may not be able to obtain health insurance at all, or there may be exclusions. Don't know if a maternity rider is an issue for you, but that bumps up the monthly premium quite a bit. Just to give you an idea, I pay around $550 per month for a family of 4 with a $1,000 deductible *per person*. This is for 80/20 coverage after the deductible, except for emergencies, which are covered at 100%. No dental, no vision, no prescription coverage. Monthly premium upped every 5 years or so for reaching a new age level and every year just because!

BUT get any health insurance you can qualify for and cover your family! We have a family member who was wiped out financially due to a serious illness. This happens all the time to people.

I recommend looking up an insurance comparison site and getting quotes from a variety of companies and plans. Then you can see what the best options will be for you. We opted for a pretty standard plan, but you can lower the cost with a high-deductible policy and a health savings plan, for example.

Sorry for the long rant, but frankly, the situation on the h.i. front is somewhat grim. Best of luck to you.


Don't be sorry- your rant was quite informative! Thank you!


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