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How did you know when you were ready to freelance?
Thread poster: Anabel Martínez

Anabel Martínez  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:01
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Oct 10, 2005

Dear colleagues,

I'm one of those translators who are not full-time freelancers, but have been working inhouse and also done quite a lot of freelancing over several years. Now, due to many reasons, I begin to feel it's time to go full-time freelance, and I wonder when you were completely sure you could go freelance with some chances of succes in this uncertain world. How did you know it was the right time?

Thanks for your feedback and regards,



Fred Lessing
English to Portuguese
Ready to freelance when... Oct 10, 2005

I would say you're ready to go freelance when you feel confident that you can provide translations that do not require any further review. E.g., imagine you receive the help files for software to translate into your language. Are you sure that no end-user will ever complain to the software company because of your translation?


Mar Anton (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:01
English to Spanish
+ ...
Money matters :) Oct 10, 2005

Hello Anabel,

Personally, I became full-time freelance when I looked into my financial records and I saw I was earning what I wanted to earn as a minimum to dedicate my time exclusively to work as a freelancer.



Steven Sidore  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:01
Member (2003)
German to English
look at it the other way Oct 10, 2005

When was I ready to freelance?

It's easier to say when I WASN'T yet ready to freelance, that is, when I could not rely on the patchwork of clients that I had to provide a steady income. Only once the juice was really flowing could I dare go after it full time. To be fair, I'm a family man with a wife and child that I'm supporting, so the pressures are somewhat sharper, but I think the same would have applied back when I was single too.


Kirill Semenov  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:01
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
When you feel that you're fed up with your in-house work Oct 10, 2005

I perfectly understand what Anabel means. For more than 6 yeasr I had been working as an in-staff translator for a publishing house here. The payment was... well, it would be enough to say that I when I joined proZ I sincerely stated $0.01 in my profile thinking that it would be a good payment. After 2 years, my rate have raisen considerably. I had some hard months during that time, but now I'm satisfied.


Lia Fail (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:01
Spanish to English
+ ...
when you can afford it Oct 10, 2005

In my experience I ended up working at 2 jobs - teaching and translating - until I got enough clients to be able to live off translation.

Assuming you are a reasonably proficient translator:

Calculate your expected expenses including a modest salary to yourself, calculate possible income (make a conservative estimate), and see if the latter covers the former.


Dina Abdo  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:01
Member (2005)
+ ...
When you love it! Oct 10, 2005

That's all:)

If you love what you're doing, then you'll take every thing to keep it on.

Money does matter, I wouldn't deny it ... but you can live with less money if you love what you're doing.

I'm still not making enough ... but I'm still determined to working as a freelance translator. And no matter how long it will take, I'm gonna make it work.

Just decide, are you ready to take it and make it work? Or will you be seeking the easy way?icon_smile.gif

Once you know the answer, you'll know if you're readyicon_smile.gif


Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:01
Dutch to English
+ ...
When I had had enough of teaching Oct 10, 2005

I taught for 8 years and it was becoming repetitive. I decided to make my 'hobby' into my full-time job. Now, I teach as a hobby. Mainly catch-up classes (i.e. kids who are not doing too good at school and need a boost).

I used to do the odd job related to translation and interpreting. I used to teach 12 to 20 hours a week (Spanish and Dutch). This started when I was doing my MA and it was great. I could juggle it all and have a very varied work programme. I've never really worked an office job 9 to 5. When the children came, I gave up on the teaching (I had done it for 8 years and it was repetitive). I started to do more translation work and mark exams (which I did not really like too much). Gradually I built up my work load and now I work more than full-time on translation work. I do not do much interpreting anymore since in the UK it is not really worth it (rates are too low) and I have to make too many arrangements. Now I work on translation jobs around my children (12 and 15). I consider myself very lucky. I am always there if needed with homework and such (although I try to avoid committing to anything that is school related), I am never stuck in traffic and, best of all, I do not have to wear a suit. The other added bonus is that I usually learn something new every day.


Magdalena Reyes  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:01
English to Spanish
+ ...
Just decide and make it work! Oct 10, 2005

For me it was quite easy to decide to work as a free-lance translator... I used to work for a company, even though I earned quite well, I was not that happy with what I did. Then, the came the "opportunity" (= decision)to work free-lance and see that I can manage my own time; and even though I don't earn more than before, I feel better, doing what I like, where I like (I have a notebook) and so on.

Another thing to consider before making the decision, is to bear in mind that besides only translations you will need to do some other jobs, like marketing in order to keep and get your customers, accounting matters, invoicing, dealing with customers and so on. So you have to bear those things in mind...

You may also think about money and see if you can live maybe some time with little... work and money might be very variable from time to time...

But I guess if you asking this, you probably will make it work anyhow... If you like what you are doing and are determined to make it work... it is just fine.

Good luck!! I personally enjoy my freedom!!


Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:01
English to Spanish
+ ...
Financial Security and Work Oct 10, 2005

Money isn't everything except for those who have none. I did everything I could to build enough financial security so I knew I could get by even if things did not go nearly as well as expected, and I did expect a lower income level at least for a while. During the same time period I tried to build a large enough volume of work so that I could have a reasonable expectation of being able to make it.

That accomplished, I got to the point where I knew it could be done, quit my job and never looked back. It took almost 15 years, and now I have been free for over 19 years.

Of course I love what I'm doing, that was always the case from day one. But financial security was the critical factor.


Elena Pavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:01
Member (2005)
French to Italian
+ ...
It depends on your family situation Oct 11, 2005

I personally used to work as a secretary in an office and started my free-lance activity. When I got my first baby, I did not want to start going to the office again and I was lucky because a magazine proposed me to work for them, which meant regular job, because the magazine was going to be published twice a month. I had no written contract, but I decided to take the risk, because I really felt bad at the only thought of leaving my baby to a stranger all day long and for a job I really did not like. But I must also say that my husband had a fixed job and a fixed salary, which helped a lot in taking the decision.
After approximately one year, the magazine closed and I had no more job. I decided once again to take the risk and I also wanted another baby. So we decided to have our 2nd baby and in the meantime I started looking for new clients. Either it worked or I would have taken another in-house job after the baby.
Well, I am exepcting my fourth baby, and I am still working as a freelance translator. I have very good periods with a lot of work and some other more quiet but I am glad to have my own job, which I love, and that gives me the chance of spending as much time as possible with my children.
Actually, I think it's hard to say exactly WHEN you can start being a freelance. It depends on your economic situation, on your family situation, sure, it will take time at the beginning, but I think it is worthwhile.


Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
English to German
+ ...
2 simple facts Oct 11, 2005

1) The experience of direct contact with foreign clients on the phone, in an agency where I had been translator, proofreader, programmer and project manager (and earned only half as much as now).

2) Enough money for 6 months on my bank account.

All of my project managing colleagues in that agency went the same way..icon_smile.gif


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:01
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Can you get enough clients? Oct 11, 2005

Anabel Martínez wrote:
I'm one of those translators who are not full-time freelancers, but have been working inhouse and also done quite a lot of freelancing over several years.

I'm in the same position (in other words, I'm still a moonlighter like you).

I begin to feel it's time to go full-time freelance, and I wonder when you were completely sure you could go freelance with some chances of success in this uncertain world.

Speaking from a theoretical point of view...

As soon as you stop working for a salary, you'd have to get more clients. I assume you already have a steady stream of work, but you need to be sure that you can generate more work easily. Have you practiced getting more clients? If you hit a slow patch tomorrow, how soon can you generate a couple of fill-in clients?

Have you considered a practice run? I mean, if your current employer allows you annual leave, try taking a full month of leave and simulate working as a freelancer. Do you have the necessary self-discipline? Can you get as much money in that month as you'd get at your current job (keeping in mind that you'd have to increase your income to compensate for the benefits)?

I've been considering this myself too. I keep telling myself I'll do it as soon as the kids are just a little older (yeah, right).


Karine J.
Local time: 08:01
French to German
+ ...
same situation... Oct 11, 2005


I´m actually in the same situation as you, working as part-time translator and asking myself if I should begin as full-time.
I would be glad if you contact me to talk about our experience (through my Proz profile)


Laura Gentili  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:01
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
it all depends on your personal situation Oct 11, 2005

As other colleagues have pointed out, it all depends on your personal situation, on how much money you need to make yearly, and on the ratio between gross and net income in Spain.
I live in Italy where out of every 100 euros I make, approx. 47 go to pay state taxes, local taxes, and compulsory social security benefits. I also have to support a family of 5 people (my husband contributes very little and I have 3 small kids). In order to do this, I had to build a client portfolio of approx. 5 agencies which give me regular work every month and another 5 agencies which give me occasional work. This way I am able to earn enough.
Of course if you are single and the ratio between gross and net in Spain is better than in Italy, you could manage with less than 5+5 agencies.


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