How do you manage as a part-time translator?
Thread poster: Sonja Allen

Sonja Allen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:12
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
Oct 12, 2005

When I went freelance, I started out full-time from the beginning as I wanted to be completely flexible when it comes to taking on translation jobs. But as I am still sort of a beginner, I am not a 100% busy and get a bit bored sometimes when there is no work in. I use this time to do my accounting, marketing etc, but this also has its limits. I therefore wondered if I should take on some other part time job, but I simply can't imagine how this should work without compromising my translation work too much. I think the other job then would have to be very flexible, so you can rearrange hours, when you get a translation project in (which I don't think many employer would like), or you do nights and weekends (which would erase any social or family life). So my question to all part-timers: how do you do it?


Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 19:12
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
I think you've answered your own question :) Oct 12, 2005

A. The other job has to be very flexible so you can rearrange hours when you get a translation project.
B. You do nights and weekends which does erase any social or family life.

No kidding!


Local time: 19:12
English to Turkish
+ ...
I do just fine Oct 12, 2005

I am a part timer freelance. My regular work is 8 to 18. I actually have ample time to carry out with my translations in my office, but I dont render it appropriate to spend office time for some personal work so I dont do translations in the office even if I have nothing to do.
I dont have a lot of translation work coming in, but only 30-40 pages per week. So I do my translations in the evenings for 2-3 hours while other family members are watching Tv (doing nothing!)and interfering (joking, chatting..)with them as necessary. So I dont feel isolated. I also translate in the weekends, about 4-6 hours per day, while wife and kids are spending their time with shopping or something around in the city. This means I share about 10 hours with them per day in the weekends. But as I have stated in the beginning, I am not quite busy with translation. Furthermore, sometimes work piles up but my outsourcer is usually not in a hurry. A few days of delay is not important for them. So I suggest if you do less than 30 or 40 pages (about 10 000 words) per week, or less than 4 hours of work every day, you go ahead and get another work, you will still find time for your translations.
Best Regards,


Stephanie Wloch  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:12
Member (2003)
Dutch to German
10000 words for a part time translator Oct 12, 2005

only 30-40 pages per week. about 10 000 words) per week, Seawalker
That's pretty much. This would even be enough for a fulltime job, at least in my language pair. Provided that you working with translation agencies who pay at least 10 Eurocent per word and that a good percentage (around 40 % ) of your clients are end costumers who are willing to pay more than 10 cent.


Karine J.
Local time: 18:12
French to German
+ ...
flexibility is the key Oct 12, 2005

Hi Sonja,

I actually have a fix job and work as translator on my free time.
I´m happy that my "full time" job in the company permits me to be absolutely flexible with work time, so I translate in the evening and on week ends either, sometimes I take some free hours to finish a job.
I´ve no children at the moment, so I cannot really tell you if this is a good solution for you but I have time for my husband also. We have an home office and I´m working when my husband is either working or reading a book, or watching TV, or...

This is not always pleasant to always work but I choose this way, paying attention only for work which allows me to honoure the deadline and my business is growing slowly (only direct customer)
I hope that I´ll be able to work as freelance translator on a full time basis when I´ll get children but at the moment it is the only solution I have to win some experience.

Good luck!


Laura Lucardini  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:12
English to Italian
My other job is being a mum... Oct 12, 2005

Hello Sonja,
I work part-time like you, as I have a daughter at nursery three hours in the morning, which is when I do most of my work, but then as you said in case of big projects... I end up working nights and weekends. I think that taking on another job (unless it's VERY flexible) would probably mean cutting social hours and family time when the translation workload is huge, so you have to consider how much of this time you are willing to give up for your translation career.
One thing you could do, depending on the hours you have available, is concentrate your marketing efforts in those countries which time-zone suits you best. For example, I tend to work quite a lot with the U.S., as their time-zone allows me to work when they sleep and deliver at night if necessary (as it is still early afternoon there). I don't know if this makes sense to you.. but I hope it helps!
Good luck!


Stephen Rifkind  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:12
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
It all depends on how you look at it. Oct 12, 2005

Somebody used the term "killing the weekends." It is a matter of perspective. I am a college teacher, teaching 3 days a week, full days. College teaching generally does not require much take home work, and I keep it that way. Before I started part time translating, I played computer games because I was bored. Now, I translate until 23:00, am not bored, and make money. In Israel, we really only have one day off. I always do something with my daughter on Saturdays for a few hours. Some things are more important than work. So, having two jobs makes for long days, but if you enjoy what you are doing, you don't count hours.

How many pages can you do? I work with three languages, each of which has a different speed. There is only rule: never take on anything which cannot finish in time.

So, view translating as more educational, profitable, and fun than zipping through the channels.


Daniel Ehret  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:12
French to Hungarian
+ ...
Think it through before taking a translation job Oct 12, 2005

Hi there,

I'm also a part-time translator, but my "normal" job is pretty flexible (sometimes the other way round: there ar days when I finish at 8 pmicon_wink.gif)
The most important is to decide how much time you want to spend on translating, then you can calculate (knowing the deadline and the volume) if you can accept the job or not. If not, then
you need to ask for a later deadline (it usually works after you have prooved to be a serious and good translater).
Outsourcing the job in cases when you don't have the time to do the job is pretty risky, I nearly lost a very good client this way, so -unless you are very confident in your translator - only accept if you have the time. Translation is not something you can hurry up, or if you do... goodbye qualityicon_wink.gif)
Anyway, translation is fun (at least I see it this way), but it's not worth killing yourself and your social life. I did it for a couple of months, but I realised that this just doesn't work on long term.


xxxMomoka  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:12
Japanese to Spanish
+ ...
I teach Oct 12, 2005

I'm a part-time freelancer, and teach private English lessons at home. I teach one student at a time, which makes changing teaching schedules more or less easy, whenever I need to do so. So far I've managed! It keeps me busy when I'm not doing translation, and I get a more or less regular income from it. Besides, keeps my English in good shape and me in touch with people (apologies to my computer!).
Keeping the balance was not easy at first, since sometimes you have to take care of teaching and translation at the same time, but it's been worth the effort.
Hope you find something that fits you; teaching has fit me.
Best regards.


Zsanett Rozendaal-Pandur  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:12
Dutch to Hungarian
+ ...
Give it some more time/take on a study Oct 12, 2005

Hi Sonja,

i was a part-time freelancer until June. What i found very helpful at the time was that i had access to my email at my work - this way i could react fairly quickly to any requests for assignments, to make sure i got them in the first place. Part-time translating meant working at night and during weekends, which was no problem in my case, as i don't have any children yet, and my partner works from home, too, so it's easier to be flexible.

I switched to full-time translation from September this year, and i'm in a similar situation as you are. I decided to give it a few months to see whether i can make into a full-time thing on the long run. At this point there are days when i don't have any work to do - on these days i spend time doing some more marketing or acquisition, and if there's nothing to do there, i just read, do some work around the house and enjoy being at ease. You didn't say how long you've been a full-timer, but i think it takes about 5-6 months on average before you can really say whether it'll work out. It might mean a financial sacrifice in the beginning, but i decided to try it because i felt that being available full-time might just make the difference that will enable me to build a solid contact base, on which i can rely in the future.

Another option, if it's not so much the financial aspect as the nothing to do problem, could be to enroll in some sort of (distance) study, related to your field or something new. This way you will not only take away the empty hours, but also broaden your knowledge, which is always a good investment, and at the same time you'll be available.
One interesting thing may be to learn about desktop publishing (but maybe you're familiar with it already), which could be an attractive addition to your services as a translator.

Whatevery you choose, good luck with it! (:

[Edited at 2005-10-12 15:13]


Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:12
another option Oct 12, 2005

Why not give German grinds? You would still be independent and remain flexible.

Another idea: When I was in my final year at uni, I signed up to a local market research company for some easy cash in return for very little effort and time like mystery shopping, taste-tests and questionnaires. It did not interfere with my work and it gave me some great experience for some of the marketing translations I now do.


Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 09:12
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Just the opposite: from full to part-time Oct 12, 2005

Hi, Sonja:

I'm getting ready to do just the opposite and stop working full-time as a translator to working part-time whenever I'm not busy with my other telecommuting position.

At the moment, I'm usually working from 9/10am to 4pm on those calmer days, like today (less than 4,000 words). Sometimes I do have to go from 9am to 9pm (6,000 to 8,000 words) and, when the volume is pretty large (more than 10,000 words), I have to quit my morning running and work from 6am to 10pm. During those heavy days, I have several tricks to keep myself sane (talk radio / music is always on, nice breaks for streching, cooking my own meals, a 30-minute break for a sitcom in the middle of the afternoon or early in the evening just to clear the mind and try to get "re-energized" for the work ahead).

Talking about family and social life, I do my best not to work on the weekends so that I can go biking with my husband, check out some movies at the theater or at home, and visit with friends. Therefore, I always choose to work on those small projects on the very same day — even though their deadlines may have been set for the next couple of days —, so that I won't be overwhelmed when something bigger comes up. I don't have kids yet, but since mine is a home office, it will sure help a lot when the family starts growing and I'll have a little person running around.

When I do start working on my other telecommuting position (also from my home office), I'll be working online from 6pm to 11pm. Since it's a Technical Support position, I'll only have to interact with our clients whenever questions are submitted, then I'll still be able to finish some translation work during these hours — except for once or twice a week at night, since I'm "going back to school" and taking an extension course in translating and interpreting in order to finally have a proper and formal education in the profession I've taken on more than 8 years ago...

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that organization is really the key. And you'll also have to find what can pull you away from work to keep your mind fresh — believe me, when you hit that wall and your brain stops working, it's time to walk away from the computer for good... or until the next day —, so the best thing to stretch your productivity is keeping in contact with the "world outsite your head" as long as it doesn't interfere with your work. Radio really works for me, but some people prefer the silence...

Good luck!


Heike Reagan  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:12
Member (2004)
German to English
It all depends on what you want Oct 18, 2005

I work a 8-6 full time job in a bank, closely monitored at all times and have no chance at all to do anything translation-related. Then I work evenings on my translations, often until midnight or later. And yes, I do have a family, husband and child (thankfully my husband does most of the housework when I have busy days/weeks).

How do I do all that? I don't know, I just really enjoy the few days I have "off" and the nights when I can sleep more than 5 hours.

I need the full time job to pay all the bills and hope that translation will one day be enough to do that.

Best of luck and steady work



Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:12
French to English
Work less, earn more Nov 7, 2005

Okay, so working less and earning more is not always possible.

When I started out over 11 years ago, I was lecturing 20 hours a week at the local university. Lectures were timetabled, so I had to fit my translations in around that. In theory at least. It was not possible to do both properly.

Being able to hold down a job with regular hours and be sufficiently available for translation clients is possible. It all depends. For me it did not work. And it took me two or three years to realise and accept that. The nature of your employment and the type of translations you do will determine whether that is possible, not to mention the way you work, your family committments and free time interests etc.

For my part, I found myself teaching - or stuck at the campus between lectures - and unable to make progress on my translations. Once back at home working on a translation, I would then find myself working right through the night to finish a translation or to prepare lectures and/or correct students' work. Impossible. Add to that two small children and a husband whose job meant anything up to 6 months absence overseas...
When lecturing I was stressed about not getting on with my translations. When translating I was worried that I'd not get stuff prepared in time to be able to present it convincingly to my students. I had to make a choice.

I did the age-old "fors" and "againsts" column thing, setting down the pros and cons of each activity. As is often the case, practical necessity was the deciding factor. The university took anything from 5-9 months to pay me and in three years that never improved. Translation clients sometime took their time, but I got better at making them cough up and became stricter on all fronts. I dropped the lecturing. For a couple of years I was thankful my husband had a regular income without which the odd calm period would have been tough to cope with. But once through that incubation period, I found myself with a steady flow of work and not regretting my decision. Originally, the idea had been that the lecturing would cover for slacker periods in translation, but in fact it was holding me back from getting my business off the ground. And as the uni vwas horrendously slow in paying, the choice was clear.

So, I have since dropped the lecturing, now work full-time translating and have had my office in town rather than at home for the past three years. Much easier to avoid working through the night, although late nights do happen when there is a mad rush on. And I do often work weekends - always on Saturdays and very often on Sundays too when the clients require it. I have become more efficient, see my children more, have more time to scuba dive, ride my bike and contemplate the state of the universe ! Oddly enough I've improved my income too. Nothing astounding but a decent income by industry standards I think, and given the level of taxation etc here.


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