Freelancing "part-time" while getting established
Thread poster: Robert Parry

Robert Parry
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:54
Member (2017)
French to English
+ ...
Mar 2, 2016

Despite having "lurked" here for a good few years, I've never actually posted anything so please be kindicon_wink.gif

So my situation is as follows:

Despite having quite a lot of translation experience (the whole time in-house, would you believe?) in both private and public sector) there is a chance that I will be going freelance in the near future. To cut a long story short, this is due to the threat of redundancy, etc, etc. (I'm sure others on here have been in the same position before!).

I will stress that I'm not 100% sure I want to freelance, but since I've only ever been a translator, the only real option available to me other than freelancing is getting a job (possibly using languages) in some other sector but that would obviously involve retraining or at least starting in a fairly junior capacity. But that's another storyicon_smile.gif

As far as the freelancing is concerned, ideally what I would like to do is "dip my toe" in the water a little and somehow try and take small bits of freelance work to build up slowly, rather than going (possibly) from full-time in-house job to freelancing full-time overnight. How easy is that to do, would you say?

The other problem is that my employer in particular is very very strict on people not freelancing. So I am extremely reluctant to send out my CV, also having heard anecdotally about agencies using translators' CV fraudulently. But I find myself in a bit of a catch-22 situation in that respect. Admittedly if employer is considering making people redundant anyone, I ask myself why should I really care, but ultimately if there's a redundancy package on the table (potentially) I don't really want to jeopardise that by getting myself fired....

(I will concede my Proz profile is completely uninformative in terms of information to a potential work provider, if and when I decide to take the plunge I will obviously update it!)

I realise the post isn't terribly specific in terms of question, but if anyone has been in a similar situation and can suggest some kind of avenue? Translating for volunteer organisations and NGOs was one thing I thought of but most of them seem to want people translating out of English, rather than into English....

Thanks in advance,
Rob

P.S. Suggestions for alternative non-translation careers also welcome, as someone who's only ever been a translator, the idea of retraining is quite daunting but if anyone has any ideas?icon_smile.gif


 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:54
German to English
Part-time at first not necessarily a matter of choice Mar 2, 2016


As far as the freelancing is concerned, ideally what I would like to do is "dip my toe" in the water a little and somehow try and take small bits of freelance work to build up slowly, rather than going (possibly) from full-time in-house job to freelancing full-time overnight. How easy is that to do, would you say?


I suspect that comparatively few people have become full-time freelance translators right off the mark. It takes a while to build up a customer base. You may find it hard to transition to full-time despite your experience. This is a highly competitive business with considerable downward pressure on rates. It could take a while before you can achieve the income you now receive as a salaried translator.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:54
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Initial suggestions Mar 2, 2016

4 initial suggestions:

Bear in mind that it's going to take a while for you to accumulate enough regular work, as a freelancer, to stand on your own feet. So Step 1, in my opinion, would be to make sure you have enough in the bank to cover all your outgoings + contingencies, for quite a long period of even 2-3 years. That's how long it takes most new businesses to get going - in any field.

Focus more specifically on the fields in which you aim to specialise - based on your previous experience. You're more likely to get work if you translate in a few quite narrowly defined fields. This reduces the number of your competitors and gives you better visibility.

Start looking into what you will need to do accounting-wise, as a self-employed person. There's lots of useful information on the HMRC website.

Give some thought to how you could mask your true identity so that your employer need never know that you're moonlighting. A bit of machiavellian scheming might be in order here.







[Edited at 2016-03-02 18:33 GMT]


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 03:54
German to Serbian
+ ...
Illusion. Mar 2, 2016

I would say it's an illusion that freelancing is something you can do as a "side" activity. Because both finding projects/clients and doing actual work takes time. Unless you have a P.A. to do other activities for you. I am not saying it's impossible, just that freelancing takes more time than what it seems to other people.

[Edited at 2016-03-02 18:43 GMT]


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:54
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Striking a balance is difficult Mar 2, 2016

Lingua 5B wrote:
I would say it's an illusion that freelancing is something you can do as a "side" activity.

Lingua is right, it's hard to do. It's certainly possible - I did it briefly - but within a few months, if you're good, you'll find that your clients will start to take up more time than you can allocate to them while still maintaining your day job.

When that time comes you face a choice. You can either keep turning down the larger projects from clients, frustrating them and making them think you're not a serious translator, or you can give up the day job and strike out on your own.

Regard
Dan


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:54
Member (2008)
Italian to English
I did it Mar 2, 2016

Lingua 5B wrote:

I would say it's an illusion that freelancing is something you can do as a "side" activity. Because both finding projects/clients and doing actual work takes time. Unless you have a P.A. to do other activities for you. I am not saying it's impossible, just that freelancing takes more time than what it seems to other people.

[Edited at 2016-03-02 18:43 GMT]


I did it for several years, and a lot of my translating was done surreptitiously in my workplace or on the train during my commute. It was a bit stressful but not impossible.


 

Laura Kingdon  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 21:54
Member (2015)
French to English
+ ...
I did it for my first year. Mar 2, 2016

It worked really well for me because it gave me a chance to drum up some business without the stress of knowing I HAVE to get more clients, or else. When I got enough clients that I was starting to have trouble fitting them all in, I quit my full-time job and have been happily freelancing ever since. You may have to spend most of your otherwise free time working for a while, but I think it's really the best solution unless you have enough savings to last you a long time without full-time work.

 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 07:24
English to Hindi
+ ...
That is one of the commonest route to freelancing Mar 3, 2016

Income flow in freelancing is unpredictable, especially at the start. So few people care to risk it as the only source of income. If your parents have not left you a neat inheritance, or if you yourself have not put together for yourself a comfortable nest egg, the only option is to test the waters over a longish period in freelancing while still pursuing another income-generating activity.

In your case, you already have the advantage of being into translation full-time. All that you need to learn is the different rhythms of freelancing and adjust yourself to it, for example, once you get into freelancing full-time, gone would be the days of a regular monthly paycheck and social benefits such as pension, insurance, housing, education allowance for children, paid holidays, and other perks. You will be earning all these on your own. It can be daunting, but also immensely satisfying, as the umpteen successful freelancers on this site will testify.

You can perhaps start off with a pseudo profile outlining the kind of expertise and experience you have. You can avoid specifics so that you are unidentifiable by your current employer. Gradually you will build up your clientelle if you are indeed good at your job, and perhaps when you are earning roughly as much as you do now in the job, you can take your courage in both hands and venture out as a fulltimer.

You will earn much more than what you would be able to earn currently by moonlighting, as once you become a fulltimer, you will be freed of your job responsibilities and you will have more time for your own translations.

To start with, avoid big projects that would need long and deep involvement as your job responsibilities may come in the way of successfully completing them. Bid for mid-level projects that you can complete overnight or on weekend. Typically these would be 1000 to 1500 words.

You will find plenty of good advice on how to make success of your freelance career here in these forums. So spend some time reading through the posts made in answer to similar queries by successful freelance translators.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:54
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
hey Mar 3, 2016

hs9jlp wrote:

threat of redundancy



Do you have any idea when you might be made redundant? next month? next year?

hs9jlp wrote:

I will stress that I'm not 100% sure I want to freelance



Why are you hesitant about free-lancing? maybe we can give insights if we have encountered whatever puts you off

hs9jlp wrote:

The other problem is that my employer in particular is very very strict on people not freelancing



Do you have a non-compete clause in your contract?

hs9jlp wrote:

Translating for volunteer organisations and NGOs



That's the kind of suggestion we make for people without any experience, you apparently have plenty

hs9jlp wrote:

Suggestions for alternative non-translation careers also welcome, as someone who's only ever been a translator, the idea of retraining is quite daunting but if anyone has any ideas?icon_smile.gif


The only other language-related career I can think of off the top of my head is teaching.


 

Alyssa Yorgan  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:54
Russian to English
I am also transitioning from in-house to freelance Mar 3, 2016

Hi!

I have been trying to make the transition from in-house in a large Russian IT company to freelance working from the US. I would echo the other posters sentiment that it is indeed taking quite some time to build up a client base and the rates I've been offered are typically very low (around $.06). That said, I'm not yet ATA certified and word on the street is that having that credential helps attract better-paying clients. Maybe consider adding a certification to your resume if you don't already have one?

My other suggestion would be that if you find yourself out of a job, maybe consider looking for freelance translation work AND work in other language-related fields simultaneously. Could you teach ESL? Tutor something? Maybe teach a class in a private school where you don't need teacher certification (if you don't have it?)?

Good luck!


 

Serena Basili  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 03:54
English to Italian
+ ...
That's what I am doing! Mar 4, 2016

Tom in London wrote:

I did it for several years, and a lot of my translating was done surreptitiously in my workplace or on the train during my commute. It was a bit stressful but not impossible.


My project is to quit my full-time job in about 2 years from now, hope I can make it!

Anyway, if you REALLY wish to walk this path, you'd better be ready to sacrifice some weekends, holidays, night outs, based on your workflow until you can finally go 100% freelancing...I think it's absolutely worth it, thoughicon_smile.gif


 

Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:54
French to English
Been there! Mar 4, 2016

It takes a lot of effort and lost weekends/sleep to start a freelance business while holding a regular day job, but it is possible, perhaps a bit easier if you don't have children/spouse who care whether or not you're on the computer all the time.

You will only be able to accept smallish projects and may find yourself turning down work more often than you'd like, there are only so many hours in a day after all!

The legal aspect of whether you can/should do so needs to be carefully considered.


Speaking from a French point of view here as I don't know the situation in the UK... if you are expecting a redundancy package then don't rock the boat now. Perhaps test the waters just a bit and drum up one or two clients.... but considering all the experience you have already, I would say just wait until you get the nice fat severance check and then collect your unemployment checks for a few months while you put your new business strategy together? If you expect that the severance pay should tide you over for 6 months, surely that would be enough time for you to get a good start.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:54
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
The ideal situation Mar 4, 2016

If you're pretty sure redundancy is going to happen soon then I'd advise you to start with all the groundwork now. You'll need a freelancer's CV (NOT a job-seeker's one), possibly a website, profiles here and elsewhere, business cards, invoice and other templates etc. There's a whole raft of information on this site - site guidance centre, Wikis, articles, the scam centre etc. There's even a free webinar to help you get to meet clients.

By the time you're free, you'll be ready to put everything into your new career. If you start as an occasional translator you're not going to give it your all and you'll risk being fired. But you will need extra income once you lose your job so the ideal is a part-time job without too much stress, and not intellectually demanding. Work in a shop or something. But just mornings or evenings so that you can keep in touch with clients by email and have big chunks of time clear for their work.


 


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