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Full-time freelancer vs. moonlighter
Thread poster: LoyalTrans

LoyalTrans
Local time: 11:31
English to Chinese
+ ...
Dec 13, 2007

This topic may have been raised before, but here again...

I am wondering how many "active" prozians are totally working as a freelancer, with translation as the sole income source, as compared to those who (like me) have a regular job and are just moonlighting to earn some extra pocket money?

Or put this way, which way do you think is better, go dive into the water or stay on the bank while occasionally wetting your foot?

This is not just a financial consideration, I believe. It is also about the pros and cons about whether you want to be your boss. Pros: you have total control of your time; cons: your "physical" contact with the outside world is significantly limited...


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Marcelo Silveyra
United States
Local time: 20:31
Member (2007)
German to English
+ ...
Full-time here Dec 13, 2007

I love my job, I get a pretty steady flow of income from it, and it lets me pursue my other interests, so I don't think I'll be doing anything else anytime soon. The only two things that would make me quit are:

A) My music career takes off - not necessarily to the point where I'm a millionaire, just to the point where I can get some decent money from it (i.e. enough to pay my bills on time - all the time).

B) The translation market totally collapses, my sources of income included. At that point it's good to know that I have several solid backup options available...but I'd rather keep doing this if possible. Anything to not have to wake up at 6 AM to get to work!


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LoyalTrans
Local time: 11:31
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Another thing I forgot to mention Dec 13, 2007

Another drawback for freelancers might be that they are not able to "learn" in a corporate environment. I know there are various resources there so that you can learn new stuff, but you simply lack the hands-on experiences that you can only hope to get from certain companies. As time goes by, this disadvantage will be a big headache I guess.

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Mulyadi Subali  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 10:31
English to Indonesian
+ ...
full-time translator Dec 13, 2007

i'm not a full-time freelancer, but a full-time translator. i have a day job, as a translator, and also works as freelance translator. i took the day job more because of the prestige in working in that institution, as my freelancing actually give me more income. so, actually i can quit anytime and still have a steady income.

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Mulyadi Subali  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 10:31
English to Indonesian
+ ...
details please Dec 13, 2007

Robert Cai wrote:

Another drawback for freelancers might be that they are not able to "learn" in a corporate environment. I know there are various resources there so that you can learn new stuff, but you simply lack the hands-on experiences that you can only hope to get from certain companies. As time goes by, this disadvantage will be a big headache I guess.


what do you actually mean by "learning" in a corporate environment? what are the things you expect to learn?


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:31
English to Spanish
+ ...
Full Time Dec 13, 2007

I moonlighted for 15 years, then took the jump to independence and never looked back; that was in 1986. I still continue, but I have always had other income and assets, so if things became slow I could still get by.

Today I am semi-retired and work when I want to, I no longer need to work to survive.

As far as learning is concerned, yes, you can learn a lot working in an organization, it is a good experience. You can also learn a lot working on your own.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 23:31
English to French
+ ...
Excellent poll question Dec 13, 2007

You should submit this question as a poll. I don't think enough colleagues will post in this thread for us to know how many of us moonlight here. But I would be happy to know!

For my part, I am doing this full time. I always have - when I started out, it took only a few months before I had enough work to live off of, and I never looked back, not once. Not only do I like the logistic setup, but I find I am doing something I enjoy and am passionate about. That goes a long way.

I am exploring other avenues as well at the moment, not really for financial safety but rather because I already have a home office and it can serve for other things, too, which would allow me to add some variety into the mix. I find that even though I have a steady income, I don't even have an idea of what a typical workweek is, because each week goes by at a different pace, and sometimes I am off for the week for lack of work. When that happens, it's nice to have something else to do - and I don't want to spend that time browsing the internet waiting for my boyfriend to come home. So, I am looking at other opportunities that will allow me to apply my other talents and learn, or even have some fun. This could help evening out my rather variable schedule. But translation will always be a priority - and part of my projects at the moment is to get more education so I have such advanced knowledge of my fields of specialization that I will become an expert at them, as opposed to simply being specialized.

I would love to read posts from people who moonlight - how do they manage? Can one really be employed full time and take on translation contracts on the side? What's a workday like for these people? Anybody out there?

[Edited at 2007-12-13 04:03]


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LoyalTrans
Local time: 11:31
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
hard to say Dec 13, 2007

Mulyadi Subali wrote:

Robert Cai wrote:

Another drawback for freelancers might be that they are not able to "learn" in a corporate environment. I know there are various resources there so that you can learn new stuff, but you simply lack the hands-on experiences that you can only hope to get from certain companies. As time goes by, this disadvantage will be a big headache I guess.


what do you actually mean by "learning" in a corporate environment? what are the things you expect to learn?



Let's face it. Sometimes only when you work onsite can you grasp the essence of stuff. Again, no details.

But just imagine that you stay at home all day long and don't have the chance to interact with colleagues and clients, you will sure lose something which you could easily get when you are working full-time in a company.


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Mulyadi Subali  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 10:31
English to Indonesian
+ ...
mine's pretty hectic Dec 13, 2007

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
I would love to read posts from people who moonlight - how do they manage? Can one really be employed full time and take on translation contracts on the side? What's a workday like for these people? Anybody out there?

[Edited at 2007-12-13 04:03]


i'm employed full-time on contract. i'm required to work only to work 150 days per year. i had the option of going to the office five days a week for around eight months, or two days a week for a year. i took the second option. this way, i can still freelance on my own time.
sometimes it's not easy though, as deadline usually doesn't discount my work days. so i have to compensate it by working after working hours.


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Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 06:31
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
It's possible to create a kind of "corporate envirenment" even when freelancing Dec 13, 2007

Robert Cai wrote:But just imagine that you stay at home all day long and don't have the chance to interact with colleagues and clients


After six or seven years of full-tine freelancing (which incidentally brings very high income! But that depend a lot on language combinations) I felt the need to leave my home.

We do meet - at powwows and trainings - to share experience, exchange our opinions of the situation in the freelance translation business on the whole and different markets in particular, and that's a great way to boost up your freelancing skills.

Hands-on experience is a problem. Occasionally, clients find you and invite to interpret onsite. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen too often...

you will sure lose something which you could easily get when you are working full-time in a company.


Isn't it typical for every situation? With a full-time inhouse job, you'll certainly lose something you have when you are a freelancer!

Cheers,
Oleg


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Gianni Pastore  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 05:31
Member (2007)
English to Italian
It can gets very heavy Dec 13, 2007

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

Can one really be employed full time and take on translation contracts on the side? What's a workday like for these people? Anybody out there?

[Edited at 2007-12-13 04:03]


1) Yes, but it can gets very heavy
2) I work full time in an office (not related to translation business) 8 am to 5 pm. Since I have decided to narrow my specialization to just one field (and I am happy with that), I can spend weeks without translating nothing. Having said that, when the translation job comes in, I enter in hell-mode for the time being. I rush home from the office, turn on the PC and it's another 8 hour of work or so. No time for relaxing, cooking, workout in the gym or socializing. I just start working @ 8 in the morning and go ahead until 1-2 in the morning of the day after. Then I happen to get 4-5 hours of sleep and everything starts all over again. This continues until the translation is over, which at worse can be a month for the bigger jobs.

I have managed to keep this schedule for 5 years, but eventually I had to slow down because of health issues, so now I don't accept big jobs with tight deadline any longer. Still, when it gets busy, I don't work less than 12-13 hours in a day.

[Edited at 2007-12-13 07:59]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 05:31
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
The title of my reply Dec 13, 2007

Robert Cai wrote:
I am wondering how many "active" prozians are totally working as a freelancer, with translation as the sole income source, as compared to those who (like me) have a regular job and are just moonlighting to earn some extra pocket money?


From 2000 to 2006 I was a moonlighter (I worked in a translation office for a newspaper during the day, and did freelance work in my spare time). From 2007 I'm a full-time freelancer, working from home. We'll see what 2008 has in stall for me. Odds are I'll be juggling a part-time job along with my freelance activities (although that is not for financial reasons, but for reasons of interest and self-development).


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Jeannette Gustavus  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:31
German to English
I have two businesses simultaneously Dec 13, 2007

I run two businesses from my home office: a small record company and a freelance translating business. The record company has been in existence since 1994 and although I've been translating for other companies the entire time, it's just recently that I turned my translating work into a separate business. It takes some juggling, but all in all it's working out really well since I'm able to organize my days as I see fit.

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Marie-Céline GEORG  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:31
English to French
+ ...
Full-time freelancer Dec 13, 2007

Hi Robert,
Who says you have to stay at home all day long without interacting with colleagues and clients when you're a freelancer?

I've been freelancing full-time for 10 years and don't feel that I'm losing anything. Before starting as a freelancer I worked in a company for 15 months and I don't think that my interactions with colleagues are less important now, especially thanks to Internet. It's rather the opposite: I now have several networks of colleagues and sometimes I have to restrain myself from spending to much time on forums chatting with them

As for learning, after translating for over a year in the same business field, I felt that new things to learn were getting rare. I had to stay at my desk from 8am to 5pm without interacting with lots of people except during meals. Being in-house didn't mean that I could visit the production plant every time I had something to ask about a process! I simply called the persons who could give me the necessary information.
I sure learn more today. I have a core of long-time customers in various fields, so I'm not doing brand new subjects every day although every translation has something new in it. It's like working for several companies at the same time and I love it. I can call my clients anytime to learn what I need for the current work, exactly as if I was in-house and called a product manager to check a technical term.

Maybe you're seeing only the drawbacks of freelancing because you're moonlighting - it must be hard to start a second business day at home (by the way, my office may be in the same house as my home, but I view it as an office, not the living room...) after working a full day, when you would rather relax and enjoy the evening. It's much more difficult to interact with customers at 10pm when they're all back home, too.

I know some people who wouldn't want to "stay at home all day" and handle a freelance business where you can't predict what next week will be. I wouldn't want to spent time in a crowded train or the traffic jams every morning and do the same job day after day. And that's perfect, because the most important thing IMNSHO is that whether you are working in a company or as a freelancer, you're not losing anything so long as it's the way of working you feel comfortable with.

Anyway, it's definitely a good question for a poll. I've checked the older polls, the question "Is translation the sole source of your income" was asked in 2005 (but I didn't check the whole list, just found this one in the last pages - it would be nice to be able to search for keywords in polls), with 60% of the 454 answers being "Yes, 100% freelance" and 31% "No, I do other work". Maybe it's time to see if the figures have changed.


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Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:31
French to English
+ ...
Balance Dec 13, 2007

I think it's a question of balance. I've worked in-house for 5 years, moonlighting a little as and when it was offered, but have worked freelance for the past eighteen years, and I definitely prefer the freelance option. I think I've grown professionally much more as a freelancer than I did when I worked in-house. For a start, your field is much more limited in-house, whereas now I work for a variety of direct clients and agencies and can, to a certain extent, pick and choose the jobs I take on. The very nature of working on your own tends to make you seek out translation networks, either online or otherwise, so you can still make sure you interact with other professional translators and share experiences. ProZ is brilliant for this, of course, but I also belong to a local translators' network and it's good to meet and exchange views every so often. I found that in-house I got bogged down with office politics, whereas there's none of that when you're freelance - it's all down to you.

In saying that, I think it's very useful to work in-house when you're first starting out. I worked as a proof-reader in a big translation agency as a student, then got my job as an in-house translator for a big energy company, where I learnt from the senior translator and was able to consult technical experts if I was struggling with understanding technical concepts. That was in the days before internet access, of course, but there's no doubt that that experience has stood me in good stead.

[Edited at 2007-12-13 09:56]


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