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Difficulty going from part time to full time
Thread poster: Nicole Y. Adams, M.A.

Nicole Y. Adams, M.A.  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 18:39
Member (2006)
German to English
+ ...
May 14, 2006

Hello,

I apologize if this has already been posted, but I do have a question reagrding a dilemma I am finding myself in:

I have been translating part time besides my full time day job for a little while and I have been able to get regular jobs and a couple of good regular clients. I was able to check my emails and respond to new job postings immediately from work, and I was quite busy with translations most of the time.

My plan is of course to be able to support myself from only translating sooner rather than later, but I have recently changed my full time job (to Translation Project Manager), again to gain a more lateral experience in the translation industry. The downside is that I work very long hours and I am unable to check my emails and job postings during the day. This means that my translating time has gone down dramatically and I cannot reply to any job postings.

My dilemma is: I cannot build a bigger client base while I'm in this job, and on the other hand I cannot afford to just take the plunge and go freelance 100% once my job contract ends (which I would have done had I stayed in my old job which allowed me to get regular translation work). Has anyone been in a similar situation and how did you manage in the end?

[Edited at 2006-05-14 10:52]


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FishX  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 10:39
Polish to English
+ ...
take the plunge May 14, 2006

remember you only live once. Only when you stare death in the face everyday will you find the motivation to get your business started. Graveyards all over the world are littered with the bodies of those who kept putting off the big moment until one day... it was too late.

Or you could find a crafty way to check your mails? Why don't you give your clients your mobile number and then sneak off to the loo when they sms you. Or call in the lunch break or something. In this day and ga ethere has to be some way of being in touch. Give the best clients a signed guarantee that you will cover all their translation needs so all they have to do is send you the text by e-mail and wait for you to get on with it.

Good luck

Adrian Fisher
Polish to English, got any jobs for me?!


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Nicole Y. Adams, M.A.  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 18:39
Member (2006)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
but... May 14, 2006

Hi Adrian,

It's easier said than done, I'd love to just 'take the plunge' but who will pay my mortgage in the meantime?

I already gave my mobile number to my main clients but the trouble is that there is no way for me to check the files to be translated, so even if they were to ring or send me a message I could not check my email to have a look at the files to be translated until the evening which might be too late.

Adrian Fisher wrote:
Give the best clients a signed guarantee that you will cover all their translation needs so all they have to do is send you the text by e-mail and wait for you to get on with it.


This is a good idea but I think they might still prefer an immediate reply for each job rather than a generic promise.

But thanks for your input Adrian.


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Ford Prefect  Identity Verified
Burkina Faso
Local time: 08:39
German to English
+ ...
No problems here May 14, 2006

I have the opposite problem, and this should make you feel confident - I left my job for other reasons, expecting to rely on freelance income/savings for just a short while as I looked for another position. Then two big projects came along back to back, alongside many smaller jobs, and I have not been short of work in over 8 months. Now I want to scale back so I can get out of translation and devote some time to looking for a job in science again, but work keeps coming in and it's hard to say no. I get the impression there is plenty of work in DE>EN at the moment.

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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 03:39
English to Russian
+ ...
Well, kinda hard to give any advices here:-) May 14, 2006

Hi, Nicole,

Seems to me that your question boils down to "I want to feast at this seafood buffet but then I'll have no more room for a steakhouse goodies next door:-)". I wouldn't take it upon myself to state for sure which one will give you an indigestion, if any...

Just don't repeat the fate of Buridan's donkey... (sorry, this is just a very popular reference in such cases, please do not attribute it on a personal level, OK?:-)

From my personal experience - I switched to freelancing only when I was positive that I'm losing money going 9 to 5 while sitting right in the middle of a huge freelance market (at least in my pair with all that Houston petroleum and space businesses with Russia) where I was already known by the time of a decision-making, or, as a minimum, losing free time for myself working nearly half the time for the same income.

You are right, mortgage payments rule:-). My only advice would be - do a self-assessment and draw an honest conclusion - what is the uncertainty risk level at the moment and how well do you handle uncertainties in general.

Best of the luck,
Irene


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Katharina Wawrzon-Stewart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:39
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
Get a blackberry May 14, 2006

Hi there,
I'm in a similar position - I've got an office job from Monday to Thursday and I spend the rest of my week freelancing. I'm also doing a distance learning course at the moment, so time and lack of sleep are always an issue Like you, I'm also not in the position to take the plunge just yet because boring though this might be, I've got a mortgage to pay. I don't feel I'm experienced enough to offer you any advice, but on a very practical level buying a blackberry could be an option. This would allow you to check emails and receive files "on the go" and staying in communicando with your clients. I'm lucky enough to be able to check my web mail at work, so I don't own one just yet... Another suggestion is to keep your work and freelancing time separate, and avoid being drawn into projects that would conflict with your time set aside for translating. Sometimes it's important to say no, otherwise people will start taking you for granted and rely on you to be always available and willing to help.
Best of luck
Katharina


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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 09:39
don't jump yet... May 14, 2006

Sooner or later, the frequent secret mobile phone calls are going to get noticed or overheard - you have got to be careful here!

How long is your contract valid for? Also, what is the story with your work contract? Are you allowed to freelance whilst working for this company? In most places, this is not allowed, so make sure you have not breached your terms of employment.

At the same time, you owe to yourself and your clients to make it clear that you are only available on a part-time basis at the moment, otherwise you will never get any rest. They have to respect your boundaries too - if they like you, it won't be a problem, they'll always come back.

I reckon you'll be fine if you go freelance, I know there are newbies on the boards who would kill to be in such demand!
You may as well finish off the contract, do the maths and see if you can handle the jump. It may mean increasing your rates, making a few cutbacks in your personal expenditure, but it will pay off.

[Edited at 2006-05-14 16:55]


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Angela Arnone  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:39
Member (2004)
Italian to English
+ ...
Er ... I don't want to be a party-pooper here, but .... May 14, 2006

Do you think that sneaking off to the loo on company time is the correct approach to setting yourself up in a future freelancing career?
Moonlighting was never easy and I doubt it can be justified in these circumstances.
I think millions of people are trapped in jobs they hate because they have to keep the wolf from the door and your situation is identical.
I don't know what to advise for the best, but probably being upfront with your clients that you are a "part-timer" and that you can only check mail after hours and reply in that timeframe.
I think most will be understanding (are they agencies?) and if they aren't, well, you're going to lose them anyway if you answer them at funny times of day.
Good luck!
Angela


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Nicole Y. Adams, M.A.  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 18:39
Member (2006)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks May 14, 2006

Hi Angela,

The sneaking off to the loo bit came from the first answerer, not myself. In my last job I was lucky enough to access my emails and secure some translation jobs in my lunch hour etc., but now this is not the case.

My dilemma at the moment just is that while I'm gaining industry experience in my new job I seem to have removed myself further from going freelance full time than I was before, because I have hardly any time left for freelancing at the moment, which is a bit frustrating.

Like one of the posters suggested it seems best to finish my contract and then do the maths and possibly just risk taking the plunge.

My frustration at the moment simply is that I have been quite successful at securing regular translation work part time in the past, but now with my new job this has been reduced to almost zero due to my lack of availability. So it seems I have 'wasted' all my work in the last year and I will have to start from scratch once my full time contract ends. I am not sure at the moment if I took the right decision in going for the new full time job, but ah, well, it was my choice after all, so I shouldn't complain.

But I will certainly consider a Blackberry, thanks for the suggestion!

Angela Arnone wrote:

Do you think that sneaking off to the loo on company time is the correct approach to setting yourself up in a future freelancing career?
Moonlighting was never easy and I doubt it can be justified in these circumstances.
I think millions of people are trapped in jobs they hate because they have to keep the wolf from the door and your situation is identical.
I don't know what to advise for the best, but probably being upfront with your clients that you are a "part-timer" and that you can only check mail after hours and reply in that timeframe.
I think most will be understanding (are they agencies?) and if they aren't, well, you're going to lose them anyway if you answer them at funny times of day.
Good luck!
Angela



[Edited at 2006-05-14 18:27]


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Katharina Wawrzon-Stewart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:39
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
Honesty definitely pays off May 14, 2006

[quote]Angela Arnone wrote:
Do you think that sneaking off to the loo on company time is the correct approach to setting yourself up in a future freelancing career?


I agree with Angela, definitely not! Of course, it would depend on your code of practice at work. e.g. if you're allowed to engage in freelance activity while working for your employer. I'm open about being a part-time translator - in fact, I was able to negotiate a four-day week to be able to devote more time to translation. There was a certain amount of risk involved - since I'm on a temporary contract, my employer could have concluded that I'm not committed enough and given me the boot. Luckily for me, they agreed and from time to time I even get to translate or check documents for the German market. My freelance activity is being perceived as an asset, rather than as lack of loyalty. If I'll get promoted is another story, but I chose to have multiple commitments and that's the price I'm willing to pay. For me, honesty has definitely paid off.


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Nicole Y. Adams, M.A.  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 18:39
Member (2006)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Totally agree May 14, 2006

I totally agree with you Katharina. My last employer knew I was a Freelance Translator and saw it as an asset as well. I would never consider 'sneaking off to the loo' or whatever it was one of the earlier posters suggested, that could not possibly work and sounds way too stressful for me.


[quote]Katharina Wawrzon wrote:

Angela Arnone wrote:
Do you think that sneaking off to the loo on company time is the correct approach to setting yourself up in a future freelancing career?


I agree with Angela, definitely not! Of course, it would depend on your code of practice at work. e.g. if you're allowed to engage in freelance activity while working for your employer. I'm open about being a part-time translator - in fact, I was able to negotiate a four-day week to be able to devote more time to translation. There was a certain amount of risk involved - since I'm on a temporary contract, my employer could have concluded that I'm not committed enough and given me the boot. Luckily for me, they agreed and from time to time I even get to translate or check documents for the German market. My freelance activity is being perceived as an asset, rather than as lack of loyalty. If I'll get promoted is another story, but I chose to have multiple commitments and that's the price I'm willing to pay. For me, honesty has definitely paid off.


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Sarah McGrane Gonzalez
Local time: 09:39
Spanish to English
The established clients will remain May 15, 2006

Hi Nicole,

The only point I wanted to make was not to worry too much about not being able to do much for a while if you need to finish your contract with your present employer. I believe that if you are unavailable for a few months, once you send an e-mail around to that effect and inform them when you are available again work demand will return, although it may take a few weeks to reach previous levels.

The reason I say this is that I am in the final year of my degree course here and I had to completely stop translating from November to January and once again from April until I finish my 2nd semester exams in 2 weeks time. But both times I informed the companies of this well in advance and they were very understanding. They just welcomed me back on board and we started where we left off. Once you have a good reputation with established companies short absences shouldn't jeopardise your career.

You probably know this anyway, but just thought it might provide a little extra reassurance.

Best of luck with whatever you decide,

Sarah


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Nicholas Pain  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:39
Russian to English
+ ...
I know it is intimidating, but it is so worth it... May 15, 2006

I have just done what you are thinking of doing. After working in offices (mostly as a staff translator, but in all kinds of strange and not-too wonderful jobs) since 1989, I finally took the plunge early this year, and have not regretted it (or had five minutes of rest!) for one minute.

I am sure that if you took the plunge after careful preparation, you would not regret it - it really is a wonderful way to live/work.

I agree with everyone who says that honesty is the best policy - I left my staff job because the pressure of freelance work became too great for me to be able to work full time, and because I was up front with them about it, they became a client after I resigned...

Like you, I agonised for months (and planned for years) before going freelance. Here are some things you may want to consider before deciding (in all likelihood, you have already, so forgive me if I am repeating stuff here):

1. What kind of clients do you have? Are they really reliable and long-term? Is the work flow regular enough to cover your bills and give you a bit left over (remember bank holidays, vacations, quiet spells, taxes, any insurance costs, sick time, etc.). I would sit down and work out how much you need to make to pay the bills and cover the stuff you will longer get from your employer. You could also see where you can trim your bills...

2. What other clients are out there that you can contact? What subject areas can you translate in? Perhaps you could make a list of these and maybe start contacting some.

3. Do you have all the equipment/software/reference materials/memberships you need? What will your up front expenses be?

4. (I know this is often a touchy subject, but this was an important factor for me): what is your debt situation? You really need to have no unnecessary debt if you want to go freelance - the fewer demands you have on your money, the less you need to make, and the easier it is to get by on those couple of good clients until you build up your base...

5. Are there any prospects for you to go part-time where you are? It does not sound like it, but perhaps having a regular part-time income flow and building your business during the other half of the week may be a way forward. That would relieve the financial worries of a new freelance business a bit, while allowing you to keep gaining the TM experience.Maybe job-share would be a possibility...

Be brutally honest with yourself, too. Get a friend, partner, or even yourself to be your critic and devil's advocate.

As I said, I am sorry if all of this is old news, but I found when I jumped that careful, careful financial and business planning and extensive research were every bit as important as good translations and reliable clients.

I hope this helps.

Nick Pain


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Nicole Y. Adams, M.A.  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 18:39
Member (2006)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you May 15, 2006

Thanks Nick and especially Sarah for your encouraging posts. It's good to hear your feedback and that it can work even after taking a break.

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