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Can you earn a family\'s living as a freelance translator?
Thread poster: Claudia Krysztofiak

Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:51
English to German
+ ...
Apr 28, 2003

Dear busy translators around the world,



I just \"jumped into the cold water\" as we say in Germany, and started working as a freelancer. After 11 years with a well-paid job, which I had to give up last year, I remembered what I had learned in the first place: Translation. Now, I try to get the picture clear: I have three hungry mouths to feed, my own not included and I would be happy to hear some truths from you about whether it is possible to earn a family\'s living as a freelance translator. Please share your experience, whether reassuring and encouraging or a bare and simple: Forget about it!

Thanks in advance



Claudia


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Mats Wiman  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 06:51
Member (2000)
German to Swedish
+ ...

MODERATOR
Yes you can! Apr 28, 2003

Having said that, it easier said than done, but you seem to have what it takes (judging from your profile page and your website.



My advice: Try to find direct customers. They can pay 50% more.

Raise your rate: 0.08-0.10 is too low for your competence.

Earn KudoZ! It helps - I Know.



Good luck



Mats J C Wiman

Übersetzer/Translator/Traducteur/Traductor > swe

http://www.MatsWiman.com

http://www.Deutsch-Schwedisch.com

http://www.proz.com/translator/1749 Deu>swe Proz.com moderator

eMail: MatsWiman@swipnet.se

Träsk 201

SE-872 97 Skog

Tel : +46-612-54112

Fax : +46-612-54181

Mobile: +46-70-5769797



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Jerzy Czopik  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:51
Member (2003)
Polish to German
+ ...
I´m doing so since over 13 years Apr 28, 2003

It works sometimes better and sometimes worser, but it works. Even with rates as low as Mats considered to be to low. But it is a very hard work then...

Raising rates - I would do this gladly, but there are a lot of people out there, who mean working for ridiculos rates as low as 0,01-0,04 EUR per word must be done, and a lot of customers out there, who mean only the price is what matters.

Some of them come back and ask for quality, but then they ask for discounts for volume, for matches, for repetitions. Well, this is a very hard business.



But I´m very optimistic, otherwise I had never started and would never be a self employee.



Kind regards

Jerzy


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Mary Lalevee  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:51
French to English
Yes it is possible Apr 29, 2003

I support myself and two teenage children by translating (in the UK). Being freelance here is relatively easy and social insurance costs are low. However, you may find the first couple of years hard in that you need to work long hours and weekends to be able to have enough work.



Good luck!

Mary


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Karin Adamczyk  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:51
Member
French to English
Absolutely! Apr 29, 2003

Quote:


I just \"jumped into the cold water\" as we say in Germany, and started working as a freelancer. After 11 years with a well-paid job, which I had to give up last year, I remembered what I had learned in the first place: Translation. Now, I try to get the picture clear: I have three hungry mouths to feed, my own not included and I would be happy to hear some truths from you about whether it is possible to earn a family\'s living as a freelance translator. Please share your experience, whether reassuring and encouraging or a bare and simple: Forget about it!





I quit my \"secure\" full-time job in 1994 and have never looked back. I actually started translating part time in 1991, but it was only when I worked in translation full time that I started to attract more customers.



About 6 months after quitting my job, I had several customers. It took about one year to have regular work and five years to realize that customers would still be there if I dared to take a vacation.



I now have a six-figure income and would never go back to a \"secure\" job. To tell you the truth, I never felt that an outside job was secure and I see proof of that every day.



My brother was let go after 15 years with an engineering company because the new owners wanted younger, less experienced and cheaper employees. He now runs his own business (in a completely different field) and cannot get enough time off.



My son was let go after putting his heart and soul into his job, even though his boss absolutely loved him because he was able to do just about every job in the shop, saved the boss lots of money on countless occasions and was never late or sick. He was fired on a Monday morning because he did not work overtime on the Friday. He had asked the foreman if he should stay (the foreman said no, but the owner insisted the foreman was not his direct supervisor -- nobody else was there).



Do everything you can to market yourself and do not give up -- network, call, attend business seminars, etc. It may seem futile in the beginning, but just keep at it. Some of the people I contacted in the beginning only contacted me after a couple of years.



Good luck,

Karin Adamczyk

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Brigith Guimarães  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 05:51
Member (2003)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
i have been wondering the same... Apr 29, 2003

Well, Claudia, as said, I have been wondering quite the same thing. I\'ve been a Platinum member since marcho 03 and have learned a lot with other fellow translators.



After 30 years \"in business\", all my life I have been translating to and from several languages to the profit of others rather than myself.



The answers I read to your query seem prudent, yet satisfactory. Point is: is my CV good enough to actually go further? Getting customers seems something \"a bit difficult\". I am, however, trying to pave my way through...


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Bettina Schewe  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 01:51
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Yes, you can but... Apr 29, 2003

...it is not only knowing how to translate what counts. You have to learn how to \"sell\" your skills too.

There is a lot of marketing to be done, and you may feel a little frustrated at the beginning, but hang on, and keep sending resumés. Work will come up, eventually. Do not limit yourself to the job postings you see here, contact agencies and prospective clients directly.

Good luck!

Bettina


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:51
German to English
+ ...
Be warned Apr 29, 2003

There is enormous competition in Germany for English > German work. At least two agency owners have told me that virtually all companies now do their own English > German translations. This is an exaggeration, of course, but there is some truth in it in that many non-translators in Germany have an excellent knowledge of English, and in their own fields (e.g. their company\'s products) may be able to translate as well as a translator not familiar with the field.



It is absolutely essential that you specialize, and market your specialisms aggressively. I would also advise you to look for customers outside Germany, such as the UK or the US.



Marc


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OlafK
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:51
English to German
+ ...
Marc is right Apr 29, 2003

There is a lot of competion. But good translators are always sought after. If you have regular work you will earn more than the average in-house translator but make sure you set your rates at the right level and put some money away for slow periods. Try to get at least two or three regular clients so you\'ll never be too dependant on one only. Pace yourself, don\'t take on too much work, otherwise you may suffer from burn-out, RSI or stress-related diseases.

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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:51
German to English
+ ...
Yes, you can Apr 30, 2003

but it depends on your expectations, too.



I support my husband, daughter, and soon to be 2nd child with my translation income. We live in an expensive area of the US, however, so we don\'t own our own house, drive a new car, etc. But I take almost 6 weeks of vacation time per year, and we have lots of time together otherwise as a family, which was our primary goal in starting this business. It\'s worth it!





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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:51
English to German
+ ...
Definitely yes - but you better be well-prepared Apr 30, 2003

When I decided to quit a rather well-paid job at a bank seven years ago, quite a few people couldn\'t believe it (\"...er...you\'re going to do WHAT?\"). But it works.



That said, I really support Marc\'s comments - I have seen quite a lot of good translators with poor (to non-existent...) marketing skills and/or business sense.



All the very best!

Ralf


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kbamert  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:51
French to German
+ ...
with the dumping prices May 1, 2003

from abroad and elsewhere you can\'t any more, working normal hours (40 hours a week).





Kurt



unless you live very, very miserably...


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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:51
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Many thanks May 1, 2003

Thanks to all for your honest comments. It is good to hear from people who earn their living by translating.

I am going for the specialization and marketing thing now and do some \"aggressive\" contacting of the companies I wish to work for, both inside and outside of Germany.

I think, the given hints and also warnings are very very helpful, so thanks again to all of you.

I will let you know how it worked out for sure, but of course, this will take some time.

All my best wishes and good luck for the future

Claudia


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Yubing YANG
English to Chinese
+ ...
I'm one of you May 3, 2003

To earn a living and support family as a freelancer is possible, I do translation and interpretation and I have been a freelancer since 2001.



My experience tell me as a freelancer we need to be stategically well planned to be well established. Do not expect too much at start, try your best to work with agencies and client and buildup yourself.



For rate, I agree some professionals here, it really depends, it\'s marketing things anyway. So somebody can always work on good rates but, somebody may bid on a lower rate.



I will not go any further since people have come to each points for one working as a freelancer. Wish you success!



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L. Russell Jones  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:51
German to English
proofreading services as a possible niche May 5, 2003

MARCPRIOR wrote: \"...many non-translators in Germany have an excellent knowledge of English, and in their own fields (e.g. their company\'s products) may be able to translate as well as a translator not familiar with the field.\"



I would imagine that there could be a significant market, then, for proofreading services as well. I did a lot of that in Tokyo - it\'s quite enjoyable and can be profitable work! Is there anyone making a living mainly as a proofreader/rewriter?





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