Off topic: Opinion on a business idea
Thread poster: AntaresTrans

AntaresTrans
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:24
English to German
+ ...
Jun 13

Dear translator community,

right now I am finishing my studies in translation and I am thinking about becoming a freelance translator.
I like the advantages of being a freelancer, however, I do not see myself working from home everyday without having any collegues.

This is where I got the idea of creating some kind of cooperative: Freelance translators who work in the same (office) space, help each other, profit from each others knowledge and maybe outsource the accounting and things like that.

So, I was wondering if any of you experienced translators had an opinion about this and if there are translators out there who feel the same about freelance work?

Thank you very much for your feedback and have a nice day.


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Go for it Jun 13

I believe communities like this already exist, whether just translators or mixed professions (even serviced offices might fit the bill).

In many ways, working on your own sucks. But then I can't think of anything worse than spending all day with other translators...


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 15:24
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Business model Jun 13

AntaresTrans wrote:

Dear translator community,

right now I am finishing my studies in translation and I am thinking about becoming a freelance translator.
I like the advantages of being a freelancer, however, I do not see myself working from home everyday without having any collegues.

This is where I got the idea of creating some kind of cooperative: Freelance translators who work in the same (office) space, help each other, profit from each others knowledge and maybe outsource the accounting and things like that.

So, I was wondering if any of you experienced translators had an opinion about this and if there are translators out there who feel the same about freelance work?

Thank you very much for your feedback and have a nice day.


This is a good business model.
Starting working on it and you find problems to solve each day e.g. uncontrollable colleagues, payment collection.
Bless you with good luck.

Dr. Soonthon Lupkitaro
Bangkok Thailand.


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:24
Member
Italian to English
I've thought about it Jun 13

The model you describe certainly has advantages, so if it suits, why not?
I've always thought that it would involve proofreading colleagues work, which I'm not really crazy about.
One of the advantages to freelancing for me is being able to "dose" the time I spend with others, and prefer seeing friends to having colleagues for this.

If you're really hankering after company in the office, you could consider coworking.

All the best with your career!



[Edited at 2017-06-13 13:59 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:24
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Yes! Jun 13

You always make valuable experiences from working with colleagues, and indeed working from home day after day can feel intellectually empoverishing at times. I like the fact that I have two other younger colleagues at the office I have very interesting translatological and linguistic discussions with.

If I may make one quick suggestion... try to have several coffees together with the people before you commit to renting and contracting services together. When it comes to sharing resources, a space, and part of your life with other people, it is always good that there are good vibes and that they have more or less your same views on the profession, ethics & aesthetics, and the world, so that you never have to argue about petty things and can hold more elevated discussions on what matters to you all.

[Edited at 2017-06-13 14:06 GMT]


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Baran Keki  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 11:24
Member
English to Turkish
+ ...
defeats the purpose Jun 13

If I got this right, this sounds like working in a translation agency without having a boss around. I agree that working at home sucks but what are you going to do?

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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:24
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Solitude vs the company of others Jun 13

AntaresTrans wrote:
So, I was wondering if any of you experienced translators had an opinion about this and if there are translators out there who feel the same about freelance work?

I worked in large companies for over 20 years, and the social side of work - the day-to-day association with hard-working, clever and driven people who were often also excellent company - was very important to me. My colleagues were often an inspiration, and the need to work smoothly even with those who were not particularly inspiring or even pleasant was an important lesson in taking the rough with the smooth.

Eventually I had my fill of the inanities of modern corporate management and decided to move onto something else. I miss the friends I made in the business, but I do not miss working in a large company.

What I'm trying to say is that if you enjoy that daily human interaction that a communal workplace provides, freelancing 8-12 hours a day can be a lonely life, especially if the freelancer is single and/or does not have a family. That sense of isolation can in itself can make the work difficult.

Unless you live in a large city I'm not sure whether you would be able to find multiple translators with whom to share a workspace. On the other hand, there may well be shared offices local to you for people working in various other industries. Such workspaces might offer social interaction and interesting insights to other sectors.

Why not look around and see if you can find something like that?

Dan


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:24
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Indeed, it is being done in many places Jun 13

AntaresTrans wrote:
I got the idea of creating some kind of cooperative: Freelance translators who work in the same (office) space, help each other, profit from each others knowledge and maybe outsource the accounting and things like that.

I imagine it's a great way to go if you can make it work, and freelancers' workspaces are certainly common nowadays - we have one here in Corralejo. However,

right now I am finishing my studies in translation and I am thinking about becoming a freelance translator.

maybe you should first find out what it is to be a freelance translator and a small business owner before you go for anything bigger and more complicated. Because more complicated it certainly will be. How many times have I heard about "participative teams" being set up, where everyone will be pulling together, only to find that one person gets lumbered with all the inevitable organising, interfacing and even sorting out messes (from washing up loads of grimy cups to dealing with tax and legal issues)? If you're the creator, I'm afraid that would probably all come down on your shoulders unless you had some clout, so you'd really need to know all the ins and outs first. How about finding a freelancers' or translators' workspace near you and dividing your time between working alone at home and using a co-working space? I don't know how many are dedicated to translation, but you should be able to find a more general one close by.


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Joe France
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:24
Member (2016)
French to English
+ ...
I agree - to a point! Jun 13

I agree with much of the above comments - working by yourself for long periods can actually be more draining that spending time in a busy office! I think, however, that such communities already exist - whether they're called catchy, snazzy things like 'co-working space' or 'shared office', creating a place for freelancers of all professions to work in a more social environment is certainly a good idea!

The pitfalls in terms of making it something solely translators is that some of the variety such places boast would be lost. You'd just have a bunch of translators together - whereas with shared offices for all freelancers, the range of different occupations and professions is a benefit in itself. You'd also be severely limiting your potential market: while there are lots of freelance translators, not everyone would be up for such an idea, and even fewer would be willing to pay monthly fees to rent a desk.

In essence, your idea is a good one, but I think limiting its scope to translators alone would be it decidedly difficult to operate successfully, and could make it a less appealing compared to alternative spaces with more variety. If you're looking to find somewhere to work rather than for a business opportunity, I can vouch for there being a wide range of 'co-working'/shared office/freelancer spaces in most UK cities - and I dare say the situation is similar in Germany.


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Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 09:24
Member (2016)
English to German
24 hour job Jun 13

Sometimes it seems to me that translating is a 24 hour job. In the morning, I already find the e-mails from Asia in my inbox, then the European agencies come in and in the afternoon, the Americas send their jobs. I am online at least 14 hours a day, and I don't want to spend these hours in an office, I can do this perfectly at home. That does not mean that I work 14 hours a day (at least not every day ...), I can organize my time as I like, but this would not work well when I needed to go to an office first.

But having said that, your idea might have merits anyway, so tell us in which city you are located or plan to be, maybe you are on to something.

Edit: By the way, I found that some translation jobs work excellently with dictation software. Sometimes I blabber away for hours in my microphone to fill Excel tables with seemingly meaningless software string translations. You would not want to listen to that. Even my cat slips out of the door ...

[Edited at 2017-06-13 14:57 GMT]


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:24
English to Spanish
+ ...
Solitude II Jun 13

Dan Lucas wrote:

AntaresTrans wrote:
So, I was wondering if any of you experienced translators had an opinion about this and if there are translators out there who feel the same about freelance work?

I worked in large companies for over 20 years, and the social side of work - the day-to-day association with hard-working, clever and driven people who were often also excellent company - was very important to me. My colleagues were often an inspiration, and the need to work smoothly even with those who were not particularly inspiring or even pleasant was an important lesson in taking the rough with the smooth.

Eventually I had my fill of the inanities of modern corporate management and decided to move onto something else. I miss the friends I made in the business, but I do not miss working in a large company.

What I'm trying to say is that if you enjoy that daily human interaction that a communal workplace provides, freelancing 8-12 hours a day can be a lonely life, especially if the freelancer is single and/or does not have a family. That sense of isolation can in itself can make the work difficult.

Unless you live in a large city I'm not sure whether you would be able to find multiple translators with whom to share a workspace. On the other hand, there may well be shared offices local to you for people working in various other industries. Such workspaces might offer social interaction and interesting insights to other sectors.

Why not look around and see if you can find something like that?

Dan


Thoughtful advice there, Dan. I went through very similar experiences (the joy of having coworkers vs. the stupidity often shown by some managers). A further wrinkle: chances are my home office equipment, including computers and software programs, is far superior to anything any company could provide. So, I prefer to work at/from home.

For an introvert like me, I can work in solitude for many hours, days, weeks and months. But even for me, the company of others is a requirement to satisfy the need for social and intellectual interaction. For three months I worked from an ad hoc home office in my dorm apartment in Lisbon, Portugal, while taking my PhD classes. However, I was always looking forward to see some of my new friends (other students) in the building at the end of the day.

Coworking spaces exist in many cities, Antares. As Dan suggests, you could look into it. Try your local chamber of commerce or similar organization for suitable coworking offices, but also check out your local or regional translators (or interpreters) association to find out if others have done or are doing the same as you plan.

Best of luck.


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:24
English to Spanish
+ ...
Coworking - further thoughts Jun 13

Joe France wrote:

I agree with much of the above comments - working by yourself for long periods can actually be more draining that spending time in a busy office! I think, however, that such communities already exist - whether they're called catchy, snazzy things like 'co-working space' or 'shared office', creating a place for freelancers of all professions to work in a more social environment is certainly a good idea!

The pitfalls in terms of making it something solely translators is that some of the variety such places boast would be lost. You'd just have a bunch of translators together - whereas with shared offices for all freelancers, the range of different occupations and professions is a benefit in itself. You'd also be severely limiting your potential market: while there are lots of freelance translators, not everyone would be up for such an idea, and even fewer would be willing to pay monthly fees to rent a desk.

In essence, your idea is a good one, but I think limiting its scope to translators alone would be it decidedly difficult to operate successfully, and could make it a less appealing compared to alternative spaces with more variety. If you're looking to find somewhere to work rather than for a business opportunity, I can vouch for there being a wide range of 'co-working'/shared office/freelancer spaces in most UK cities - and I dare say the situation is similar in Germany.


Joe provides other interesting reflections here (thanks, Joe). Although I am not on Antares' boat, I can see how I would prefer to work with different professionals, not just with translators, in the same office space.

Now, coworking is not such a new invention. Anyone who has ever worked surrounded by four walls (office, place of work, factory, workshop, etc.) has experienced this “coworking” phenomenon. What Silicon Valley types call innovation, creativity and other buzzwords has already been around since humans started using tools and congregated in societies. Even working as an administrative sales assistant back in the 80s, and surrounded by people who did the same thing, we would share stories, ideas on how to do things better, complaints about current procedures, jokes and more. We had an open space for a shared office, but we wouldn't dream of interrupting others with our cellphone ringing or with some loud conversation about our personal lives.

I miss those days!


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Ricki Farn
Germany
Local time: 09:24
Member (2005)
English to German
Seek "startup help" Jun 13

There are organizations that help new entrepreneurs; they sometimes rent out spaces, have ongoing co-working groups, etc.

Gründer-something, some of them have cutesy names, some are very local, some are specifically for women. Maybe some can be found via universities? others via IHK, Arbeitsamt, Stadtteil-something, even Facebook. Put out feelers a bit everywhere, and you will find!


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The Misha
Local time: 03:24
Russian to English
+ ...
Sounds like a horrible idea to me Jun 13

Aside from personal preferences - some like being around others, some don't - you are guaranteed to have distractions galore. Thank you very much, I have plenty of that at home, for free. On top of that, chances are you will most likely
be responsible for the shared costs jointly and severally, I.e., if some of your colleagues fail to make enough, which is just about guaranteed to happen, to cover their share of the costs, those who do will be on the hook for it. Plus, if you have others who work in the same pairs as you constantly around you, there are definitely going to be confidentiality issues, and someone is also going to try to steal your clients. All of the above is just scratching the surface of what may and will go wrong. I've been in this business for over thirty years, and it is a lonely business indeed, but it's the only way to make a business out of it. Do yourself a favor. Don't do it. If you are craving meaningful conversations around the water cooler, get an office job.


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Texte Style
Local time: 09:24
French to English
co-worker mix Jun 16

For a few years I had a great setup, where I worked in an office shared with another translator and a couple of software developers. These guys actually became very good friends. We'd all work hard, noses to the screen as it were, even messaging each other rather than break the golden silence. Then at lunch and after work, we'd be nattering and laughing.

That all fell through last year for various reasons and I'm back translating at home. In the meantime we had taken a lodger who sleeps in what used to be my office, so I'm working in the living room. I can also hide in the basement if necessary. Luckily there are long stretches of time when everybody else is out, and I get a lot of work done before anyone else is even up, being an early riser.

There's a co-worker place I could have gone to but as a terrible introvert I didn't like the idea of having to mix with other more outgoing professionals. It worked before because we were all on the same wavelength. I'd hate it if guys breezed in making a racket and offering everyone coffee because they feel like a chat. That usually means a chat that's all about them and I end up drained by that sort of interaction, not to mention that it would eat into translation time.

Our young lodgers provide a bit of company. I also make sure of going out regularly. Friday night is yoga night, and after the class we head to a nearby bar. Thinking of signing up for language classes too.


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