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Approximately How Much Can Translators Earn?
Thread poster: Xtina77
Xtina77
Local time: 16:41
English to Spanish
+ ...
Nov 24, 2007

I am still in university, but would like to go take a translation course in grad. school. My source language is Sapnish and my target language is English.

I know that my question does not have an exact answer. Maybe some translators will roll their eyes or get annoyed. The reason why I ask is because I will be taking a great risk financially when I go to grad. school.

I am 30 years old and will probably graduate when I am 32. I'm already married, and do not have children. Our budget is tight. I want to be a freelance translator in Australia, but currently I live in Korea. If I go to Australia, I will be an overseas student, therefore, I must pay a great amount of money to study for a graduate diploma in translation. There is no Spanish to English translation courses in Korea.

My husband and I are saving as much as we can. After we pay off our school tuition debts, our life savings will go into my education. That is why it is really important for me to have at least an estimate...for now... Our combined income is roughly USD 2,000 a month. If being a freelance translator could help us earn more money, then both of us are willing to take the risk. My husband would continue to work in Korea, and I would go to grad. school for 9 months (the diploma course is 2 semesters in Australia). Then I would try to find employment in Australia. (I finished years 11 and 12 and attended 1 year of university at UNSW before my father's company went bankrupt during IMF period in Asia).

Question: How much does a (freelance) translator earn (annually)? (Technical, medical, or law translations)
(Range: beginner to more experienced)


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:11
English to French
+ ...
It is relative, as you expected Nov 24, 2007

Some translators are having trouble paying their rent, some have 100 square meter swimming pools and cleaning ladies to clean their houses. It depends on many factors. I would say that the most important factor, often overlooked in translation studies, is business sense. Another is specialization. Combined together, these two factors can make or break a translator.

If you have good business sense and are specialized in a field such as the ones you mention, you can easily make somewhere between USD 35K and 50K per year - less taxes. You can even make more, but then you would have to be an excellent businesswoman and be highly specialized.

You are presently in an advantageous position. You are getting ready to take studies. For the moment, you have many paths to choose from. You can still decide what you want to do and how you want to go about it. Getting started in translation without having completed your studies is an excellent way to start acquiring a specialization and business skills - you can learn much from practice, and it is never too soon to do that. Ask yourself what specialization(s) you would be most interested in - not just which specializations are good choices moneywise, but also which specializations you would find fun working in. The best specializations are always the ones you are most passionate about, and being passionate about your specializations gives you an edge that others may not have. Do not be afraid to invest in technology - a good computer, CAT tools, OCR software, speech recognition. I read an article recently, based on a recent study, that said that the translators who will survive and flourish are those who can use translation technology. If you buy your CAT tool now, then you will be versed in its use by the time you are done with your studies. If you have the intention of studying translation, make sure you also take courses on your specialization (for example, law studies if you want to do legal translation), and if you can, also take courses on business management (you will never be able to thank yourself enough once you put your business knowledge to practice).

Most importantly, make sure you have a plan. A plan over five years to start with is good. But if you want to do this all your life, have at least a basic plan for your entire career, and always keep it in perpective along the way.

Translation in the pharmaceutical field pays well and the number of contracts given increases fast. Finance is another field that pays well. Law is awesome moneywise, but it depends where - I just read that court interpreting in France is paid a fixed hourly rate of about EUR 15 - it is regulated and there is no way out. Make sure you do your own investigation on such seemingly minor factors before you make a plan and choose the path you will walk. Technical translation is also usually well paid, but rates are not as stable - it is a bit too common for a specialization because it is wide. However, if you want to do technical translation and you want to specialize particularly in oil and gas or medical instruments, then you will definitely make more money. You will probably have less contracts in the beginning but you can end up making a much better earning within a few years.

Also make sure that your language combination is fairly popular in the geographic region you work out of. I translate from Hungarian to French and English, and because I am in Canada, it is needless to say that my services are not popular. Good thing I also translate from English to French!

If you are serious about this and have the drive to succeed, you will most probably start making good earnings as soon as you finish your studies.

All the best!


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:11
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
You can get by Nov 24, 2007

Xtina77 wrote:
I want to be a freelance translator in Australia, but currently I live in Korea. If I go to Australia, I will be an overseas student, therefore, I must pay a great amount of money to study for a graduate diploma in translation.


Are you thinking of emigrating to Oz? The path study-to-work and then work-to-stay is not uncommon.

http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/general-skilled-migration/485/index.htm

As to whether you'd make enough money as a translator, well I suppose you could. Your unique selling point in Oz would be that you do translations while clients in Spain and the US are asleep...


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Xtina77
Local time: 16:41
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I cannot thank you enough Viktoria Nov 24, 2007

Viktoria, I cannot thank you enough. Bless you!~ Thank you sooooooooooo much for taking the time to answer a ton of questions I did not think of asking, but needed to know the answers to. You have great insight. I've been staying up nights worrying. I've bought The Translation Handbook and two other books to see what translation was about. Yet, it's not the same as asking someone who has been there and done it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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Xtina77
Local time: 16:41
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Samuel Nov 24, 2007

[quote]Samuel Murray wrote:

Are you thinking of emigrating to Oz? The path study-to-work and then work-to-stay is not uncommon.

http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/general-skilled-migration/485/index.htm

Thank you Samuel. I didn't really think of emigrating, but I will keep it in mind. Sydney is so beautiful. I have recently gotten in contact with old friends there. I really hope things work out for me. I would like to go back to Sydney. I miss my friends. And I can start a career.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:11
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Some more comments... Nov 24, 2007

Christina, I'm not an immigration consultant, but I have a few more comments about your post.

1. You can be a freelance translator in any country regardless of what education you have. In my opinion, you should start doing translation right now. Get international clients, build up a client base. Your time-zone is sufficiently similar to Oz that you can retain the same clients even if you move down under. Get yourself Alex Eames' ebook and start getting clients.

http://www.translatortips.net/ht50.html

2. With regard to what you said about your situation, here's what I understand about you (correct me if I'm wrong):

* You have no work experience.
* You have 1 year university in Oz almost a decade ago.

You're going to study in Oz for 9 months, and then hope to find a job. Pardon me, but are you sure you'll qualify for a permission to find a job in Oz if you have less than 2 years university training less than 6 months previously, and no work experience whatsoever?

3. It sounds to me like your husband has a job -- if you want to move to Oz, why not let your hubby be the main emigrant and then you just tag along?

I repeat point #1, though... start your freelance career right now. It can only be to your advantage, and there's no need to study Spanish or English if you're already fluent in it. Further study can enhance your skill, but so can experience. You can also study further in either language by buying style guides and studying them comprehensively.


[Edited at 2007-11-24 19:25]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:11
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Basic bookkeeping Nov 24, 2007

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
...and if you can, also take courses on business management (you will never be able to thank yourself enough once you put your business knowledge to practice).


I also studied business management as part of my translation diploma, but in my case it was a waste of time. Too much theory, not enough applicable to real life. If I could do it again, I'd take a course on basic bookkeeping instead. There are courses on office management too, and they can be useful, but I wonder if a Teach Yourself book on office management wouldn't be sufficient. But basic bookkeeping (if you can do a classroom based course), is a must IMO.


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Gillian Searl  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:11
Member (2004)
German to English
Start with Alex Eames book Nov 24, 2007

I keep saying it and here it is again - I started with no experience and no qualifications 7 years ago. Get experience, get qualifications and get a CAT tool (in my case Trados). Read Alex's book, prepare your CV, send it agencies that are on the Blue Board. Alex is translating Polish to English which is at a higher rate that Western European languages and maybe USD 80 k a year would mean a lot more work in your language combination because you have to work harder to earn the same - but it is possible. Would that be enough for you?
Gillian


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Xtina77
Local time: 16:41
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Book Keeping Nov 24, 2007

But basic bookkeeping (if you can do a classroom based course), is a must IMO.
[/quote]

Oh, thank you Samuel. I, too, have found that some books are more into theory than application.

About your second point. I'm a Korean citizen now but I was born and raised in Latin America. I attended an American school since I was in kindergarten until tenth grade. I did Year 11 & 12 in Australia and one year of uni in Australia. I am now in my fourth year of university in Korea. When I graduate I will have a double major (English Lang. & Lit. and Spanish Lang.). I have been in and out of school for such a long time now because I had to learn Korean to enter uni and I had to work to support my family and pay for university.

I have some working experience, but most of it concerned with ESL teaching. Your suggestion is something I should consider. Thank you very much.

In addition, my husband is not making enough to support both of us. I have to work too.


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Xtina77
Local time: 16:41
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Gillian Nov 24, 2007

Gillian Searl wrote:

I keep saying it and here it is again - I started with no experience and no qualifications 7 years ago. Get experience, get qualifications and get a CAT tool (in my case Trados). Read Alex's book, prepare your CV, send it agencies that are on the Blue Board. Alex is translating Polish to English which is at a higher rate that Western European languages and maybe USD 80 k a year would mean a lot more work in your language combination because you have to work harder to earn the same - but it is possible. Would that be enough for you?
Gillian


I check out the URL for Alex. He wrote two books. Which book are you recommending? I read some responses. People recommend the first one. Am I wrong? Thank you very much. I also feel good that 50% of the cost of the book is going to charity. At first I was surprised at the price of the ebook. I kept reading and saw he was donating half of the proceeds to charity.


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 03:11
English to Russian
+ ...
Don't make that mistake, please! Nov 24, 2007

Don't waste a nickel of your hard-earned money on any graduate school in translating! You are in debt already, you are not 20 and your family income is very modest as it is. The translation degree by itself does not guarantee a thing. Start freelancing right now (great advice, colleagues!), get a feel of the job, build a clientelle, see how it goes. We can't explain you everything and general business rule is very simple - before making some serious investments in your own business go work for someone, get to know your intended trade from all angles. If and when you'll get enough work and your husband will get a steady job then, if you'll still wish so, indulge yourself, go get whatever academic level you desire. At least you'll be able to work in the same trade to earn some extra money while studying. In the meantime, get some part time job to help your husband to sustain family budget and... follow the advices already given on how to initiate your freelancing career.

Should you rush into these studies and expenses right now you might need any job just to support your family and pay off your debts. The very idea of throwing your life savings into this education gives me chills. If you think that there are recruiters waiting for young translating talents at the school exit like they do for programmers, certain engineers etc., think twice - nothing even close. Your current education is plenty for a good start.

I don't have any formal training in translation and 80K is my average annual income. 80 tons of blood, sweat and tears behind it - yes, but no one had ever asked me even for my BS degree. Practice, and only practice makes perfect. Way to go, Gillian:-)


[Edited at 2007-11-24 23:56]


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Gillian Searl  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:11
Member (2004)
German to English
How to earn.. Nov 25, 2007

I'm talking about the How to earn book. That's what got me started. One PC, one CV and lots of hard work. It took 3 years to earn a living and more to earn a really good one. At first I was teaching TEFL on the side. I think somewhere on Alex's site - maybe in the tranfree section - is an article on the stages of being a freelancer. It's very well written and explains it very well.

It sounds like you could also offer Korean as a source language. If you had to learn it to study at uni it should be good enough.
Be encouraged and get started
Gillian


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:11
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Korean as source language? Nov 25, 2007

Gillian Searl wrote:
It sounds like you could also offer Korean as a source language.


I agree. English is your native language, so you can help fellow-Koreans boost their country's tourism by translating tourist stuff into good English. Perhaps this can be a source of local clients for you.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 11:11
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Specialize Nov 25, 2007

Find a speciality field that suites you (law, engineering, medical, business etc.) and learn a rare language, if you want to make sure you get by someday.
Last Friday I found out on Proz.com there are only three translators for the language pair Estonian - Finnish, and not a single official one. That only as an example.
Translation schools are fine if they are good.
Cheers
Heinrich


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:11
Flemish to English
+ ...
Korean Nov 25, 2007

KoreanEnglish and Spanish is a market-niche with relatively few players.
According to the laws of supply and demand, you could command a higher than average rate.
EnglishSpanish is a saturated market.


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