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Long-term freelancing, in a world built for "employees"
Thread poster: Emma Page

Emma Page
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:03
Member (2017)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good way of looking at it Jul 3

Philippe Etienne wrote:

Anticipate that only half the amount you invoice will be in your household's piggy bank if you want to match an employee's living standard AND planning (illness, retirement, social benefits...).
To have 3000 in your pocket, you must invoice 6000. Or cut on security, training or whatever you feel is "not that important", like heating in the winter when you're 85 and too arthritic to work.



Yes, this is such an interesting thing. As someone who is a compulsive planner, decent with numbers and prefers to be in control, I don't necessarily mind all the extra financial-planning stuff involved in freelancing long-term.

I like the 50% number. It's more extreme than I would have said, but once you start to talk about pensions, illness, parental leave, etc....that's probably about right.

So far my theory has been: at a normal desk job, I would be expected to "work" 40 hours a week. I rarely spend 40 hours/week translating, but I do spend about 35/week "at work" if I count all the accounting, prospecting, professional development, admin, etc. stuff that I wouldn't do as an employee. The trade-off is, those 35 hours are whenever I want. As we all know, the big perk is the flexibility...and the big drawback is the uncertainty.


Olavo Nogueira
 

Emma Page
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:03
Member (2017)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
tragic truth Jul 3

Andy Watkinson wrote:

Emma Page wrote:

For those of you who have been freelancers for years, what do you wish someone would have told you when you started out?



Attending my niece's wedding in Paris a couple of years ago, I was asked several times by people I hadn't seen in decades "So, still translating?", in a tone more suited to asking someone if they're still living with their mother and getting pocket money.

Gajes del oficio.


Argh! This is so true and so annoying. I had an older friend of mine, when I told him what I was doing, suggest that perhaps in a few years I would be ready to switch into a 'real' career, like marketing. I couldn't believe he thought that selling ad space or writing sponsored facebook posts was more skilled, valuable or fulfilling than what I do know...but monolingual people, what can you do


Andy Watkinson
neilmac
Christine Andersen
missdutch
 

Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 00:03
Japanese to English
That's a problem all right Jul 3

Emma Page wrote:
I've already run into (surmountable but annoying) issues proving my income for housing/visa purposes

This is the main issue I anticipate. I haven't bothered applying for a visa since I started freelancing because I just know it's going to be a huge problem. Proving your incoming for housing isn't as much of an issue in Ghana because landlords take all their cash up front, but buying might be a bit tricky...

Apart from that I haven't had much trouble at all.


Emma Page
 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 02:03
Member (2018)
French to English
. Jul 4

Andy Watkinson wrote:

Attending my niece's wedding in Paris a couple of years ago, I was asked several times by people I hadn't seen in decades "So, still translating?", in a tone more suited to asking someone if they're still living with their mother and getting pocket money.



I read about a woman who suffered from this. A relative who was a doctor used to ask every time she saw him. She found a brilliant comeback. Next time, she said yes, sure am, and how about you, are you still doing digital rectal exams?


Emma Page
Olavo Nogueira
missdutch
Amel Abdullah
 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 08:03
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Tax Jul 4

Tax statements talk loudly. These days I also get to relish in the fact that I am eligible for considerable tax breaks for SME in my jurisdiction, and for all due intents and purposes I get 7.5% off computers because they're my expenses.

I'm entirely satisfied with people being bewildered at how I seem to be able to throw money around at will and have tons of free time all the time.


Emma Page
Philippe Etienne
Amel Abdullah
 

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 02:03
Member
Italian to English
I fail to see the connection Jul 5

Kay Denney wrote:

are you still doing digital rectal exams?


Thank goodness doctors do continue to do these tests - they're vital for detecting a whole variety of health problems, so taunting doctors for doing them seems rather inappropriate.


neilmac
laurgi
 

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:03
Member
English to French
The connection as I see it Jul 5

To make this person feel how undervaluing and mocking the expertise needed in a profession feels.
My dad is a now retired MD, and he never implied that I should find a real job one day. He's done his share of rectal exams as well.
Doctors save lives, translators lubricate global communication.

Philippe


Sheila Wilson
Kay Denney
Christine Andersen
missdutch
laurgi
Amel Abdullah
Jorge Payan
 

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 02:03
Member
Italian to English
Second-guessing Jul 5

Philippe Etienne wrote:

To make this person feel how undervaluing and mocking the expertise needed in a profession feels.


I don't think it's ever a good idea to assume why people ask certain questions. As a vegan, I've lost count of the number of times people have responded by saying "Oh, I only eat a little meat." Their comeback could be one of spite, or flippancy, or indifference, or mockery. Or it could be that person trying to find a connection, an attempt to express their empathy, a clumsy attempt to say "I'm trying my best".

So instead of saying "Sure am!" then mocking the doctor for performing a vital part of his job, why not politely try to educate? Might bring the blood pressure down a few points and make the world a better, more informed place.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 02:03
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Make it sound as if you are doing a 'real' job Jul 5

Of course translating is a real job, but people who have never tried sometimes have very little idea of what is involved. You have to express somehow that it is your chosen career, and not second-best!

I roll my eyes a bit at people who call themselves CEO of a tiny firm, when they really mean Chief Cook and Bottle-Washer… They have a point, nevertheless. If you say something like 'I run a translation business', without sounding overly pompous, it may help to give the right impres
... See more
Of course translating is a real job, but people who have never tried sometimes have very little idea of what is involved. You have to express somehow that it is your chosen career, and not second-best!

I roll my eyes a bit at people who call themselves CEO of a tiny firm, when they really mean Chief Cook and Bottle-Washer… They have a point, nevertheless. If you say something like 'I run a translation business', without sounding overly pompous, it may help to give the right impression.

There is a lot of attitude in it. I try being nice as far as possible, but I never sound subordinate. I actually say, only slightly tongue in cheek, 'We don't do it like that in my firm', or 'My accountant doesn't approve of that kind of thing'. (I am in fact married to him, but if he was not qualified, I would find another accountant.)

Some people have company names, and in practically all EU countries apart from the UK, you have to be VAT registered. That convinces everyone for housing purposes and so on, at least here in Denmark.
One way or another, build up a business identity. Even if the business really is just you, your computer and your coffee cup, as I tell salesmen with the strangest offers! … Yes, I am the person who makes decisions about telephony, and I have reviewed the lighting in my production area, thanks…
I take that approach generally when I talk about my work.

With clients, I play consultant and partner. Some comeback faithfully for more, others go away and look for someone cheaper or who will behave more like an employee.

You do seriously need to set up a pension scheme, take out suitable insurance, and make sure all your subscriptions are paid. An accountant or office person may be useful to keep you on track, or you may like to do it yourself - but make sure those things are done! Then you can throw the odd remark about them into conversation when appropriate. Self-employed people have the same concerns as employees in those areas.
_______________________

I am so glad I have a proper pension, even though I am still working. It is a great advantage when the family is scattered over Sweden, Denmark, Italy and the UK... but even if relatives are close, visiting them and having a decent social life costs money, and I don't work the long hours or concentrate as I used to twenty years ago!
My father went on happily working into his eighties, but he set the pace, and it made an enormous difference that he had his pension to pay the basic bills.

In these days of low interest rates, you really need to save up in good time, and invest safely.
You are your own boss - with all the boss's duties and responsibilities!
Not everyone is the owner of a business, and many would not want to be.

Best of luck!


[Edited at 2019-07-05 13:24 GMT]
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Olavo Nogueira
Sheila Wilson
Gareth Callagy
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
Overqualified downshifters Jul 5

Considering the fact most freelancers [I encountered] are (1) but "pure" translators without specialty and (2) very poor businesspersons, and (3) most agencies require 'novice/cheapest' translators (preferably PEMT), rather many not only needy and naive freelancers seem to follow a Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" quote: "I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes."

While I believe there should be only specialists (enginee
... See more
Considering the fact most freelancers [I encountered] are (1) but "pure" translators without specialty and (2) very poor businesspersons, and (3) most agencies require 'novice/cheapest' translators (preferably PEMT), rather many not only needy and naive freelancers seem to follow a Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" quote: "I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes."

While I believe there should be only specialists (engineers, doctors, lawyers, programmers, workers, builders...) with decent foreign language skills and most real/non-translators deservedly fairly don't take "pure translators" seriously, I can't help wondering WHEN such "under $0.5/c minus discounts" complaisant freelancers would finally become serious enough about their occupation, biz, and themselves... Long-term?
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Maxi Schwarz  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:03
German to English
+ ...
"Pure translators (DZiW) Jul 7

DZiW wrote:

Considering the fact most freelancers [I encountered] are (1) but "pure" translators without specialty and (2) very poor businesspersons, and (3) most agencies require 'novice/cheapest' translators (preferably PEMT), .....

While I believe there should be only specialists (engineers, doctors, lawyers, programmers, workers, builders...) with decent foreign language skills and most real/non-translators deservedly fairly don't take "pure translators" seriously, I can't help wondering WHEN such "under $0.5/c minus discounts"....

Ok, while I could claim a specialization - a real one, since I have a second degree in education plus field experience - mostly I consider myself a "pure" translator. That is, I am trained in translation and provide professional quality service. My fee is closer to $0.20 than under $0.05 and as a rule I don't give discounts. Translation is a profession, when practised properly, and involves more than what one commonly sees in the "under 5 cent variety". I am with you, if you're talking about amateurs posing as translators. But I disagree with the idea of specialists in other fields (lawyers etc.) "with decent foreign language skills". In fact, some of these may make rather poor translators, because besides language skills, one also needs translation skills.

How about redefining it as such:
- competence in what you are doing
- business skills
- courage in defining and sticking with what your work is worth

Would that be the ticket?


DZiW
Emma Page
Vera Schoen
Christine Andersen
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
just the ticket for assumed "IMO" acquittal Jul 7

Maxi, while I respect other ideas and achievements, from a client's/employer's (a "freelancer" is a self-employer) view working in some fields, it's better to hire a relevant specialist--who already can do the job--with some foreign language skills than a top-notch translator who read some glossaries/theory backgrounds, let alone mere PEMT and CAT-operators. A specialist can gain required level of foreign language competence quite soon while bringing profits, but have you ever ... See more
Maxi, while I respect other ideas and achievements, from a client's/employer's (a "freelancer" is a self-employer) view working in some fields, it's better to hire a relevant specialist--who already can do the job--with some foreign language skills than a top-notch translator who read some glossaries/theory backgrounds, let alone mere PEMT and CAT-operators. A specialist can gain required level of foreign language competence quite soon while bringing profits, but have you ever heard of a success "Cinderella" story about a "pure" translator turn a real specialist in a field--even temporarily, after a midnight bell or a client's bite?

It appears that most young specialists see acquiring new skills as a progress, whereas most "pure" translators seem to consider hands-on exp in any field as something dead-end, limited and irrelevant, a no-perspective waste of time.

Of course, the brisk demand for "cheap/novice/pure" translators/PEMTs among middlemen and the fact I personally wouldn't recommend hiring a "pure translator" (for a good reason) doesn't explain why so many proficient and competent translators don't know how to run their biz and agree to "ever amateurish/no-specialization" rates and lousy terms as needy downshifters...

Why, it's ok a biz, including agencies and real clients, tends to minimizing the costs while maximizing the gains, but not at the expense of its workforce. Businesswise, in a long-range guess such a "cheap/pure" translator policy is not viable for translators and (real) end clients, only for bubbling spongers--for a while.
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Jorge Payan
 

Kaspars Melkis  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:03
Member (2005)
English to Latvian
+ ...
@DZiW Jul 7

If the market was in greater need of domain specialists, wouldn't translators be more acceptable to this idea?

The business environment currently is quite the opossite – the demand for lower prices overweigh the concerns about quality. Anything that is passable at the first glance will do. There are some exceptions in very sensitive areas like medicine or marketing but otherwise most translations are done without clear understanding of the subject. There are no incentives for tran
... See more
If the market was in greater need of domain specialists, wouldn't translators be more acceptable to this idea?

The business environment currently is quite the opossite – the demand for lower prices overweigh the concerns about quality. Anything that is passable at the first glance will do. There are some exceptions in very sensitive areas like medicine or marketing but otherwise most translations are done without clear understanding of the subject. There are no incentives for translators to learn about the texts they are translating; they only encounter pressure to lower costs either by manipulating CAT tools, or becoming PEMT operators etc. There are rebels among translators who think like you but they are generally despised, shunned and silenced by most fellow translators. And maybe the crowd is right, at least if you think in short term gains.

Nowadays even the most critical systems are suffering from the same downshifting. Look at Boing 737 Max failure! I knew that it will turn out to be not a single mistake but rather a systemic failure at several layers (it is worth to remember Swiss cheese model here). One crash could be one in a million coincidence, two crashes is the trend. So, what went wrong there? Where do I start? Design based on only one sensor; not informing and training pilots for this eventuality; desire to avoid costly class upgrades and hiding existence of new software; FAA allowing self-certification; and the last but not the least: outsourcing development to engineers in India for $9/hour.

Translation agencies follow the same path. They never cared about the end-users or translators. I was told by one project manager that they don't like translators who ask questions. I imagine that question askers get replaced by those who never question anything even if they have no idea what they are doing. After all, don't we all believe that soon MT will take over with perfectly flawless translations, so we just should try to earn the last dollar or euro without any worries what will happen later.

[Edited at 2019-07-07 15:06 GMT]
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DZiW
 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 08:03
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Aircraft Jul 7

Nowadays even the most critical systems are suffering from the same downshifting. Look at Boing 737 Max failure! I knew that it will turn out to be not a single mistake but rather a systemic failure at several layers (it is worth to remember Swiss cheese model here). One crash could be one in a million coincidence, two crashes is the trend. So, what went wrong there? Where do I start? Design based on only one sensor; not informing and training pilots for this eventuality; desire to avoid costly class upgrades and hiding existence of new software; FAA allowing self-certification; and the last but not the least: outsourcing development to engineers in India for $9/hour.

Because, you know, planes never crashed 20 years ago.


 

Emma Page
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:03
Member (2017)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Off topic! Jul 7

DZiW wrote:

Maxi, while I respect other ideas and achievements, from a client's/employer's (a "freelancer" is a self-employer) view working in some fields, it's better to hire a relevant specialist--who already can do the job--with some foreign language skills than a top-notch translator who read some glossaries/theory backgrounds, let alone mere PEMT and CAT-operators. A specialist can gain required level of foreign language competence quite soon while bringing profits, but have you ever heard of a success "Cinderella" story about a "pure" translator turn a real specialist in a field--even temporarily, after a midnight bell or a client's bite?

It appears that most young specialists see acquiring new skills as a progress, whereas most "pure" translators seem to consider hands-on exp in any field as something dead-end, limited and irrelevant, a no-perspective waste of time.

Of course, the brisk demand for "cheap/novice/pure" translators/PEMTs among middlemen and the fact I personally wouldn't recommend hiring a "pure translator" (for a good reason) doesn't explain why so many proficient and competent translators don't know how to run their biz and agree to "ever amateurish/no-specialization" rates and lousy terms as needy downshifters...

Why, it's ok a biz, including agencies and real clients, tends to minimizing the costs while maximizing the gains, but not at the expense of its workforce. Businesswise, in a long-range guess such a "cheap/pure" translator policy is not viable for translators and (real) end clients, only for bubbling spongers--for a while.


Of course, everyone is free to take this conversation wherever they wish. But I will point out that my original intention was to spark a discussion about the parts of work as a translator which are not directly related to the trade as such....the "side effects" of being a translator, as it were. Perhaps, if we wish to have a discussion of the relative merits of specialisation vs being a generalist, a new thread is in order.


Andy Watkinson
Kay-Viktor Stegemann
 
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