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UK - practicalities of setting up as a self-employed, working from home translator
Thread poster: Wendy Cummings

Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:53
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Dec 3, 2005

Short background on me: I've got my DipTrans, a Masters in Translation, plus translation and specialist subject experience.

Although I have had a full-time office job since leaving Uni (5 years ago), I realised that my passion lies in translating and on Monday I handed in my notice... (aghh!)

I have done part-time freelance for a while and so have a small, growing client base, and I have contacted the HMRC regarding setting up as self-employed, so I do not necessarily need specific advice on those points.

What I would really like is any tips/advice from other freelancers who work from home about how to go about it all.

Anything from advice on expenses, equipment (hardware, invoicing software...) and how to cope with initial shock of not being in a populated office, to how to cope with tax returns and the cat wanting to sleep on the keyboard.... ;o)

Many many thanks, I look forward to your comments


[Edited at 2005-12-03 18:52]


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Silvia Montufo Urquízar  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:53
French to Spanish
+ ...
Invoicing, etc. Dec 3, 2005

Hello, my name is Silvia and I am a freelancer from Malaga in the South of Spain. First of all, I would like to say that you have been very brave to make this decision which I do not think you'll regret. Years ago I quit a steady job as well which I had had for two years, and did so for the same reason as you. Currently I also work as a court interpreter apart from translating, so I don't feel so lonely. I don't use any special software for invoicing and at the beginning I got really lost with the VAT and everything. My advice is to get an accountant to do it for you if you can't manage it yourself before you get in trouble. I would also draw up a timetable with opening and closing hours and try to stick to it as much as possible. This is really difficult for me I must say, and tend to work for too many hours. Try to set at least one day off per week if you can. Also, it's really important to do invoicing regularly since you won't be getting paid every week anymore, so that you will always have money in the bank to pay for bills and taxes.

And last, but not least... close the laptop or cover the keyboard when you are not working... because cat hair will end up inside and make it go funny... It's happened to me!

...AND DON'T FORGET TO VISIT PROZ EVERYDAY!

All the best.


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:53
Dutch to English
+ ...
Good luck Wendy! Dec 3, 2005

I've been doing it for 20 years now. Some things that may be useful:
1. Keep all your receipts (even the ones for 50 p).

2. Make yourself a dedicated office (i.e. a place where you only work).

3. Go out to your local pub for lunch so now and again (even if you don't speak to anyone, at least you'll see people).

4. Give yourself proper breaks (10 minutes reading the paper, loading the washing machine, walking down the road to post a letter,...).

5. Cuddle your cat when he sits on your keyboard (mine does the same), that is all he wants.

6. Have a window with an interesting view (I can look down the whole of our street and it is fascinating: you get to know all the local cats).


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Natalia Elo  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:53
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Platinum Dec 3, 2005

Hi Wendy,

Brave move, congatulations!

I think, you should go Platinum. You will get it as expences when it comes to filing tax declaration and you will get new clients.

Natalia


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Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:53
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
miaou! Dec 3, 2005

It seems translators and cats go together...!!!

Thanks, they are really good tips. Like Silvia, I can foresee myself overworking, so the idea of writing up a timetable is good, and I also like the idea of pub lunches - thanks Marijke!!

In what concerns going platinum, Natalia - have you really found it can get new clients? I also wouldn't have realised that was something you could put as an expense.

And what about UK VAT - am I right in believing I don't need to be VAT registered until I earn over a certain level? Are there other VAT concerns I need to deal with?

There's so much to learn...Its going to be great!

[Edited at 2005-12-03 21:53]


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Timothy Barton
Local time: 12:53
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Hello, fellow Yorkie Dec 3, 2005

Although I'm not under the British tax system, I have read on many times that there is a very high threshold in the UK, so you won't need to worry about VAT just yet (unlike me).

As for controlling your invoices and accounts, I'd recommend buying Translation Office 3000. I started trying to build my own database, but then tried the demo of Translation Office 3000 (the demo lets you enter the details of 10 jobs per client for a maximum of 10 clients) and it was definitely worth the money. I'd have probably spent a couple of weeks getting the type of database I needed, but what you pay for TO3000 you can earn in a couple of days.

My brother told me the other week it was -5 in York. I assume that was a night temperature? I'm starting not to look forward to the annual Christmas trip home.


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Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:53
Member (2004)
Italian to English
VAT Dec 3, 2005

Hi Wendy
We met at the Brighton Powwow last year.
"The current registration threshold for taxable supplies is £60,000", so I guess you'd better register!!!!! http://customs.hmrc.gov.uk/channelsPortalWebApp/channelsPortalWebApp.portal?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=pageVAT_ShowContent&id=HMCE_CL_000081&propertyType=document#P26_1491
Spatial awareness is different for different people but, for me at least, working in one of my favourite places is important, with a decent view so you can stretch your eyes.
ProZ.com is a great way to stay in touch with like minded people; the work Henry and his team have done this year to make the site more prominent on Google and make it user friendly to potential clients is really benefiting platinum members, especially those who are active on KudoZ and have a speciality, like you. Those of us who went to the Kraków Conference last week can also claim that on expenses!
Very best of luck; isn't it exciting?
Russell


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Julie Arbon  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:53
French to English
+ ...
what about teaching? Dec 4, 2005

Hi Wendy

If you are worried about feeling isolated from other people, have you thought about teaching an Adult Education class? I myself teach 2 French and 1 Spanish class (total 6 hrs) per week as a means of getting myself 'out of the house'. Admittedly, it's not particularly well paid since each class requires an amount of planning time, but sharing your love of languages with other willing learners is immensely rewarding and enjoyable. I think of it as a way of involving myself in the local community. It may definitely be worth considering if you're the type of person who needs to be around other people.

Good luck with the freelancing.

Julie.


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:53
Dutch to English
+ ...
ProZ membership is tax deductible Dec 4, 2005

ProZ membership is a valid business expense. So are trade journals (I subscribe to the New Scientist and The Economist and declare these; it keeps me in touch with what is going on and it has a wealth of terminology). If you subscribe to foreign journals, you can declare these too.

Business trips are also valid expenses. I go to the Netherlands 4 times a year (to meet customers or attend a conference/meeting).

Personally, I have not gained any new customers through ProZ directly but it does help you keep in touch and as a reference source (for technical problems, terminology, customer checking and such). I would say that being Platinum does have added value but not necessarily directly. It is more of a long-term investment.


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Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:53
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
...this is all good advice... Dec 4, 2005

Hi Russell - good to hear from you again. Oh to earn £60K...I'm waiting for all the documentation from HMRC to come through, so hopefully should get all the registration bits and bobs sorted shortly.

Julie - I have done private one-on-one tuition for a couple of years now, but I hadn't thought of doing it through any colleges. Would they not require any teaching qualifications?

Regarding working in a home office - do any of you include a part of gas/heating bills etc as expenses? I am lucky to have a large spare room (filled with the largest desk i could find!) which is my study, but being at home all day will of course raise all the various bills.


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Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:53
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Only electric Dec 4, 2005

As far as I know you can only claim electric used for all your equipment and it is not a lot at all. I suppose, if you have a very cold room and need to use separate heater then you should be able to claim this as well.
When you have a home office you can claim all the furniture, lamps, bulbs, fuel used on trips to buy the above mentioned, parking fees paid during these travels, all the pens, inks, papers etc. Anything you need for work, as long as you can prove it is directly linked to your work.


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Daniel Bird  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:53
German to English
Bank accounts and pricing Dec 4, 2005

Hi Wendy
and good luck with the future; Russian - English strikes me as a very promising combo.
My £0.02 worth is, because many clients prefer to pay by transfer, you should try to find a bank account that will not charge you for receiving transfers from abroad in any currency. Some banks will charge a fee, others will not - ALL will rig exchange rates in their favour to some degree using their spread betting systems, for lack of a more understandable term!
I have a business bank account with a certain former UK building society (it's just a 'habit' if you get my drift). All banking is online or telephone based. Fairly easy to set up - I'm not sure whether you need to be Limited Co. or not (I am)but all the details are easily found. Their offer is free banking as long as you stay in credit; that includes transfer fees from abroad, EUR, USD, you name it.
And it's often pointed out in the forums here - weigh up all risks and don't approach the business in anything but a wholehearted way.
All the best
DB


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ENGSOL
German to English
+ ...
Business Link website Dec 4, 2005

Wendy Leech wrote:

What I would really like is any tips/advice from other freelancers who work from home about how to go about it all.

Anything from advice on expenses, equipment (hardware, invoicing software...) and how to cope with initial shock of not being in a populated office, to how to cope with tax returns and the cat wanting to sleep on the keyboard.... ;o)




Hi Wendy,

You might find this website useful. Lots of practical advice for (small) businesses and 'official' information on VAT, tax regulations etc.

Business Link

Good luck!

Thomas


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Julie Arbon  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:53
French to English
+ ...
teaching qualifications Dec 5, 2005

[quote]Wendy Leech wrote:


Julie - I have done private one-on-one tuition for a couple of years now, but I hadn't thought of doing it through any colleges. Would they not require any teaching qualifications?

Well Wendy, when I first applied at Norfolk Adult Education Service they required either native speakers or a degree level qualification in the target language. (I have since obtained a second post with a Suffolk college.) Teaching experience and/or qualifications are an added bonus, but since MFL tutors are in such short supply, I think you would probably be able to obtain work without having any teaching qualifications. Having said that, the government intends bringing in new qualification regulations with regard to tutors and lecturers of post-compulsory education in the future, but they are not as yet in force. Since my initial appointment, Norfolk Ad. Ed. has put me through various stages of training, which has at times been quite time consuming, but very rewarding since I get to meet with colleagues (other like-minded linguists) on a regular basis. I have also kept up with my translation career, and enjoy it enormously, but there's no denying that it's quite a solitary activity, so would not want to give up my teaching.

If you are interested in teaching a class, I would suggest that you ring round all your local colleges and Adult Education services. As I mentioned before, teaching definitely won't make you rich, but it is immensly rewarding, especially if you're an outgoing kind of person.

Best of luck

Julie.


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Rosemary Harvey
Local time: 12:53
French to English
Make sure you go out Dec 6, 2005

Hi Wendy,

I recenty started work as a freelance translator. I find that it's important to go out and do other things/meet other people. It's important not to stay at home/in your office all the time. I do a German night class so that I can meet other people and I go out to the gym frequently to see other people and get a break from the office.
You should treat yourself as well by going to a local cafe etc.
Otherwise you could suddenly find that you haven't left your house all day.
I don't miss my previous job one little bit. It's great being your own boss!!


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