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How to justify having been a freelancer?
Thread poster: Williamson

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:44
Flemish to English
+ ...
Sep 7, 2008

Given my current personal situation, I would not mind selling my soul to the company store (being an inhouse or employee) for a while at an interesting company (bank, multinational courrier company,...) which can be used as a tremplin for further career development.
But I have always been a freelancer combined with being a p.t.employee. How do I justify my freelancer status to career-minded HRM-people? A freelancer = an outlaw in the HRM-corporate system, because sometimes he or she earn as much/more money than a middle level executive. Once a freelance translator always a freelance translator?



[Edited at 2008-09-07 08:28]


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 04:44
Turkish to English
+ ...
I know what you mean Sep 7, 2008

I once recalling filling out a huge and caefully structured application for a salaried position (not translation related). There were dedicated sections in which you could enter details of your past experience and achievements ranging from education and employment to voluntary work, and there was even a separate section covering periods of miltary service. However there was absolutely nowhere for listing periods of self-employment or experience of running a small business. As you say, the world view of people engaged in recruiting staff for large, bureaucratic organisations does not allow for such eventualities.

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xxxPeter Manda
Local time: 21:44
German to English
+ ...
career assessment Sep 7, 2008

I am going through the same thought process this morning.

The question, I think, most important for us to ask is "What motivates me?" in the sense of where is my vision coming from (and what is clouding my vision).

In my case, recent events have taught me this: Lack of success in one thing comes from a blurred vision. In my case, my vision has been blurred from the necessity of pleasing / addressing questions involving a former marriage. The events showed me that by trying to please someone (or some image) that could not be pleased, I was only creating grief for myself. So I turned on the cold and shut out the impossible and focused on the warm, the immediate things and people in front of me.

By looking at the immediate today around me and figuring out "What motivates me?" here and what it is about the here and now that is absolutely wonderful, I am starting to formulate a vision that goes beyond what I imagine other people to be thinking.

Indeed, the realities are: (1) I can't control anything or anyone in life - let alone what other people think, (2) I can't control other peoples' biases or predispositions. What I can control is my vision for the life I want and my direction in that life.

Meaning, after all, comes from within.

I hope this helps.

[Edited at 2008-09-07 09:21]


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
How to justify having been an entrepreneur? Sep 7, 2008

There is nothing to justify.
I have seen more than one employee being sacked because he was unable to think like an entrepreneur and could not foresee the consequences of his actions for the enterprise.
You can also take a look at the 120 ProZ articles about the "Business of Translation and Interpreting", to remember what entrepreneurs need to know more than employees.
I think as a former entrepreneur you will need a position in which you have to bear more responsibility than could be expected from an average employee. In the end, you may find yourself in a position in which HR will be reporting to you.
BTW, when talking to HR, you will have to replace your dolphin by a shark.


[Edited at 2008-09-07 09:52]


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 02:44
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Look for congruence Sep 7, 2008

Williamson wrote:
But I have always been a freelancer combined with being a p.t.employee. How do I justify my freelancer status to career-minded HRM-people? A freelancer = an outlaw in the HRM-corporate system, because sometimes he or she earn as much/more money than a middle level executive.


There are many ways to go about this. In the late 90's, after a decade of self-employment, I had to convince the corporate world that I was employable as a condition to getting a residence visa in Germany to stay near my daughter who was about to be taken there. As a non-EU citizen, self-employment of any kind was not a legal option for me at that point.

I can explain my approach back then in many different ways. After utterly failing to find any opportunities pursuing the path for which I felt most qualified, I took a careful look at the market (well, sort of - if you can call lots of keyword searches on online job boards and following business trends in the WSJ and elsewhere a careful look) and identified skills that were in high demand, and I tailored my "sales pitch" for myself to address those demands. All my crazy experience as a researcher, teacher, consultant, volunteer, salesman programmer, environmental activist and whatnot was woven into a consistent story that made it "clear" that I was the right guy for the job. It worked. There were very few negative responses to this approach, and I was booked full with interviews for a two-week visit to Germany with one every business day and two or three scheduled on some days. The story line that my experiences as a self-employed person made me well-suited to provide support for important company partners domestically and abroad and come up with creative solutions to problems sold very well.

It might be a little tougher if you choose a field you want (regardless of the actual number of opportunities in it) and then try to get in as opposed to what I did, which was find the most opportunities in a field that I found acceptable but wouldn't take as a first choice. I had other objectives in mind. However, if you find a career you want to get into, work on weaving the story of why your experience as a freelancer makes you uniquely suited for that career, more so than someone following a "traditional" path. Use all the right buzzwords for that sector, too. You've probably encountered them often enough in your translation work. Surely you have developed skills like project management and scheduling which are relevant to many interesting careers. Think about things from that perspective, and I think you'll find you can make a "sale".


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Maybe I'm (you're?) reading too much into this... Sep 7, 2008

Williamson wrote:
How do I justify my freelancer status to career-minded HRM-people?


Have you been specifically asked to "justify" this? I did see the original post before it was edited (thanks to the Proz mail system), and it wasn't clear to me from the way you had structured the issue that this is actually what you were being asked.

But assuming for the sake of argument that someone does ask you "why were you a freelance?", what then?

Personally, I wouldn't feel the need to "justify" anything about working freelance (although facing envious friends is, admittedly, different from facing suspicious future bosses).

But I don't see how mentioning your motivations, as mentioned by another poster - and how they (may) have changed - would be harmful, as long as you keep them appropriate for the setting.

If I do ever decide to attempt the plunge into the world of "normal work" again, I'd be more than happy to explain my satisfaction with the self-determination involved in freelancing, including my ability to schedule my own hours, accept or refuse work practically at will, to set rates according to special needs (weekends, etc.), to stay at home and not have to worry about commuting and everything that entails, the allure of not having a boss, the measurement of success not coming from one but from several sources...

And to allay any fears that I wasn't serious about my endeavor in a new way of life, I'd go right ahead and list the negatives, including the long (self-inflicted) hours and weekends/holidays and celebrations given up for those "ultra important rush" jobs, the uncertainty concerning payments and when the next job will come in, work quality disputes that clients appear to have the power to settle with no application of fairness, the impact of the stress related to all of the above, etc.

[PLACE YOUR OWN BENEFITS/DISADVANTAGES HERE]

As long as you take the opportunity (seize it if you must) to explain why things are different "now that you are seeking a change", I don't see why this would be a problem (but I could be missing something).


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
Being a freelancer may not be the problem Sep 7, 2008

I have gone for and got in-house translating jobs in the past. The first thing they ask you is why you would want to give up all your freedom and work in a company. But that's an easy hurdle, just tell them that you end up working a lot of weekends and that you would prefer to confine work to work days, or that you want a steady income or something like that, they agree with you immediately.

The problem comes when you try to cross over into another industry, I have found. If you have worked in many roles in the past then I believe that it is easier for you to migrate from the translating industry. Fickleness will play in your favour. But if it is clear from your CV that you have dedicated your life to translation then people tend to regard you as a translator. You will have to say that translation now bores you, or that you can't take the solitude anymore, or something like that. Another thing is that translating is regarded as a profession out there, and people will be reluctant to put you in a non-professional job. If you were the interviewer what would you think if an architect, doctor, engineer or whatever other profession applied to your company for an administrative job. It is quite difficult to explain why, but you just wouldn't give the chap the job. I think that being a translator is an uncommon job and because of that it conjures up the idea that you are arty, and difficult to please. I think the only thing you can do is to tell them that you have been looking to leave the industry for a while now.

Course, you should also tailor your CV to the specific job.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:44
Flemish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The normal ladder. Sep 7, 2008

Thanks for some of the advice. HRM is about keeping main street happy so that they produce profits which keep Wall Street happy.

I think your last posting summarizes the difficulty and why I am sooo skeptic when translators portray themselves as super-people, only to be frowned upon by those in the normal career ladder. I can see beyond, but they can't. Sometimes, it is not just money, but things you learn, the fact that you work 9-5 for a while and earn less as a freelancer that makes me wants to join them.

When I was working at a multinational, my M.A. in Translation was not regarded as a positive element to climb the career ladder. I was better off without it. A colleague who also started at the lower rungs, but with an M.A. in Applied Economic Sciences and (an MBA from the LBS) got from nowhere to head of a major department in just two years time.....
-*-*-
I have different options and a month to ponder over them.... Sitting down and translating from the early hours of the morning until the wee hours of the evening is one of them. Make money to lay the foundations a business. Personally, I am interested in aviation (too old for it at age 48) and finance (study in finance is possible, but a career:unless I start as a translator at a bank and make a switch, I don't think so).






[Edited at 2008-09-07 11:54]


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xxxPeter Manda
Local time: 21:44
German to English
+ ...
agree w/ kevin Sep 7, 2008

I agree w/ kevin: You have to know where you are heading and why. If you haven't done that first step of the analysis then all else (HRM, Wall Street preferences, market trends, biases, cultural predispositions, perceptions) is merely blaming someone else for a situation you most likely placed yourself in. Most importantly, I'm curious why you need formal approval to do something that you think you are obviously talented at ...?

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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 02:44
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Not sure where you're coming from Sep 7, 2008

Williamson wrote:
I think your last posting summarizes the difficulty and why I am sooo skeptic when translators portray themselves as super-people, only to be frowned upon by those in the normal career ladder. I can see beyond, but they can't. Sometimes, it is not just money, but things you learn, the fact that you work 9-5 for a while and earn less as a freelancer that makes me wants to join them.
When I was working at a multinational, my M.A. in Translation was not regarded as a positive element to climb the career ladder. I was better off without it.


How odd. When I was working at a German software company years ago, I shared an office with a fellow who had a degree in French translation. I hadn't noticed that this was an impediment to his career - the man was an absolutely super analyst who was highly respected for his ability to manage the administrative messes created by so many others in the company. I don't remember exactly what his title was, but functionally he was a sort of controller and a damned good one. Probably still is. He didn't worry about what was holding him back, but just got on with his job.

As far as a lack of respect for translators in the corporate world, I have seen that, but in many cases the translators have brought it on themselves. Like the time my ex-wife (a translator in the same company) told her boss that a certain text would take 3 to 4 weeks, and he brought it to me for analysis with the question of how long it would take to do the work - I calculated about 4 days as I recall. She was furious, because she simply didn't want to put in much effort and probably wanted time to surf the Internet. Another guy in that department who was organized, honest and ambitious went on to various other companies in senior management roles and later back to the same company at the management board level. All that with a "useless" degree in linguistics or translating. Last I heard he's still flying high somewhere as a senior manager in another company and isn't translating a damned thing. But he set his goals clearly and pursued them.

"Earn less as a freelancer" ??? Less than what? I made more per hour as a self-employed medical device consultant, but my life now is easier, and I don't have to travel if I don't want to - a major plus. I can make more now as a freelance translator who walks his dog whenever he feels like it than I could as a well-paid IT systems consultant who had a lot less free time and less flexibility. I think its all a matter of organization and planning. If for some reason I were to decide to work as a dog trainer, I could probably match or beat my present income with careful planning and preparation. You can too if you think creatively about your situation.


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Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 18:44
English to Russian
+ ...
There is nothing to justify, indeed. Sep 7, 2008

Harry Bornemann wrote:

There is nothing to justify.


I agree with 100%.

Of course, there are HR people out there who think otherwise. I wouldn't waste my time trying to convince them.

The point is to be proud of your free-lance experience. To carry yourself with a confident posture, keeping your head high, transmitting an nonverbal message: I have something to be very proud of - I have been an entrepreneur. Those employers who deserve to have you on board will be impressed. As to those who believe it's something negative, something to hide, "explain", or "justify" - well, ask yourself - do your really want to work for these type of employer?


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:44
French to English
Employability Sep 7, 2008

Williamson wrote:
But I have always been a freelancer combined with being a p.t.employee. How do I justify my freelancer status to career-minded HRM-people?


IMHO, it's not so much justifying your status now (after all, you could simply say that you wanted to be a translator & the commonest status in the industry is freelancer, or you could say you wanted to do lots of different "jobs" at once - a spot of translation, a spot of IT, and spot of ... whatever), as justifying why you want to change now, at a relatively advanced age.
Only you know the reason, and how best to twist that reason so it sounds good for an employer.

A freelancer = an outlaw in the HRM-corporate system, because sometimes he or she earn as much/more money than a middle level executive. Once a freelance translator always a freelance translator?

Your posts often seem to focus on the financial side.
I think it's irrelevant here since once you join the corporate web, they will decide your earnings and how they compare to everyone else's.
They will be more concerned with mental factors.
Will you have the discipline to turn up every day at the same time?
Will you tolerate someone else deciding what work you do?
Will you get bored?
Will you be OK working in a team again? Etc.

For any employer to employ you, you need to demonstrate to them what you will give them that they can't get elsewhere, and hassle-free (you may be a genius, but if you only show up twice a week, that is no use). Check out some recruitment websites, they are full of this kind of guff


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Daniel Bird  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:44
German to English
Similar opinion here Sep 7, 2008

Charlie Bavington wrote:
For any employer to employ you, you need to demonstrate to them what you will give them that they can't get elsewhere, and hassle-free (you may be a genius, but if you only show up twice a week, that is no use). Check out some recruitment websites, they are full of this kind of guff


I would echo much of this; the ace up the contractor's sleeve, especially that of an experienced one, is a bloody-minded attitude of getting the job done and putting in the hours that it takes to do it, of ignoring the office politics, of adapting to any environment. In other words using all their strengths as "an outsider". It can be a strangely privileged position.

Williamson wrote:
But I have always been a freelancer combined with being a p.t.employee. How do I justify my freelancer status to career-minded HRM-people?


I have no definite answer to this but remember that for many jobs, HR might have little or no input to the entire hiring process, still less the interview which will often be conducted by people who being specialists in some other field, are hardly adept at the business of interviewing. Find ways to exploit this.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:44
Flemish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Word of explanation Sep 8, 2008

Peter Manda wrote:

I agree w/ kevin: You have to know where you are heading and why. If you haven't done that first step of the analysis then all else (HRM, Wall Street preferences, market trends, biases, cultural predispositions, perceptions) is merely blaming someone else for a situation you most likely placed yourself in. Most importantly, I'm curious why you need formal approval to do something that you think you are obviously talented at ...?



With "Main Street" and "Wall Street" is meant that corporations are no charity institutions and that HRM is the tool to make feel people at home (at "our" company) in a company so that they will work hard and generate profits to make the shareholders richer than they already are.

I do not need formal approval, but try to look through the eyes of the recruiter who epithomizes the corporate values and on the other side of the table a person who has been a freelancer for about 20 years with besides translation a small p.t. evening job for a couple of years. I know that I must try to sell the factor "organisation and project management" part of the profession of translator.

Thanks for all the advice.

[Edited at 2008-09-08 07:18]


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Elena Robles Sanjuan  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:44
English to Spanish
Absolutely Sep 8, 2008

Williamson wrote:

I know that I must try to sell the factor "organisation and project management" part of the profession of translator.



[Edited at 2008-09-08 07:18]


And not only that. Some of our colleagues have made an excellent point, which I´d like to emphasize: you have been able to build and administer your own business; understand where the market is going and what companies want; liaise with customers, no matter what size of company.
And what about your command of software applications?. That is an asset that you can sell too. As a translator, you´re also technically-minded, but I´m afraid this takes a bit of explaining as far as companies is concerned.
Here in Spain some companies demand a combination of administration/secretarial and translation skills, in such a way as you can see many job offers for this type of role. It´s a "bits-and-bobs" job, but it helps go back into payrolls.
I´m not sure whether this is an open door in the UK or whether you´d like to go down that path, but I´d say this is going to be my reality when I decide to move to another type of job.
Good luck!


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