In-house or continue freelancing?
Thread poster: Paul Adie

Paul Adie  Identity Verified
Spanish to English
+ ...
Dec 11, 2007

Dear All,

I have been offered an in-house translation job in Barcelona, but the pay is very low - around 1200 EUR per month, for the first three months 'training' at least. I think this is a bit low...However, I think it would further enhance my translation skills as my work would be checked by a senior translator, and I would get his/her comments (well, I suppose this is how it works). I do make more money than this at the moment, but do not know if this would be a better investment for the future. I would be able to improve my Spanish, translation skills and learn Catalan, but do not want to undersell myself. If you have any ideas/comments, I'd be happy to hear them!



Margreet Logmans (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:44
English to Dutch
+ ...
Money is only one factor Dec 11, 2007

...what about freedom to refuse an assignment you don't like? Choosing your own working hours? Being your own boss instead of an employee?

Perhaps you can live comfortably in Barcelona with this pay, I don't know. Here in NL 1200 EUR just about equals minimum wages for a full time job.


John Simpson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:44
French to English
+ ...
Forgetting about the money for a minute Dec 11, 2007

Hi Paul,

Having had a look at your CV, I see that you already have experience of studying in Barcelona so you know what to expect of the place. As for the pay, in Spain that is probably about average but maybe you could top it up with some freelance work during the week/weekend depending on how things are at the agency. Rather than negotiating on salary, I would negotiate on the hours you work. When I was in Madrid most office workers were knocking off at 7.00 pm. If the agency considers that to be a normal day (i.e. 9.00 - 2.00 then 4.00 - 7.00), you can probably kiss your contacts goodbye. If you can get them to commit to an 8-hour day that suits you then maybe you will be able to accept a few projects on the side. If you think you can survive on that salary then I would try to look at it another way: what else will you get out of it and could it lead to other opportunities that are not open to you in Scotland (to do with work, social life, interests...)?
As you say, a senior translator's input is very important, especially at the beginning of your career. Have you met this person? If not, try going out there for an interview to see how you like the senior translator/colleagues. Are they in the office until 9.00 in the evening working on an impossible deadline? I imagine that most input would be in the form of you rereading translation that he or she has checked rather than a one-to-one focus on style, etc.
One last point, if you are not happy with the set-up, you can always move back to Scotland.




Elisabete Cunha  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:44
Member (2006)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I would only take it if it was a part-time Dec 11, 2007

In my case, I wouldn't take a full-time job as in-house, because that would ruin my long-term relationship with my clients and I don't want to risk that.
I totally agree with Margreet, as I prefer being able to choose my working schedule and take on the assignments I want when I want. That is priceless to me.
But of course you have to consider you personal case and if you have clients that give you work on a full-time basis.

Anyway, think carefully before making a decision.

Good luck!


Andrea Riffo  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:44
English to Spanish
Personal experience Dec 11, 2007

Your dilemma sounds awfully like mine some time ago. Back then, I had gotten my degree about a year before when I was contacted by a company for an in-house translator position.

Since I had not built a good enough client-base, and the money offered was quite similar to the one I was earning on my own, I decided it was a good opportunity and accepted the job.

To make a long story short:
- The pay was steady, true. But the work was stressfull, we usually ran looong hours, and I translated an average of 4,500 words/day. I'm not exaggerating.
- Translating 4,500 words/day means that I was basically asked to forget about checking or revising my own work. That is NOT a good thing to learn.
- Worst of all: in the year I stayed with them, I lost the 2 steady clients I had been working with and had to start from scratch when I quit.

- I met a couple of excelent colleagues, most of whom quit while I was at that company or shortly thereafter, and we have built a strong collaboration relationship

I am not saying "don't do it", nor am I saying your experience will be as bad as mine (hopefully, it won'ticon_razz.gif). I am merely saying you have to consider:

- Do you see this as a long-term job, or as a short-time job? If the latter, then you must take into consideration that after you leave this agency you might be left in the cold regarding your current clients, because it's reasonable to expect that they will find someone else while you're unavailable.

- ASK upfront what is the minimum and average productivity that will be expected of you. Personally, I believe that anything over 3,000 words/day (and that's already pushing it) will not leave you enough time to actually revise and LEARN from the senior translators (which seems to be one of the reasons why you're considering it)

- Ask around and find out how often do people enter and leave the company. I mean it. If you find out that translators there change as often as you change your socks, I would ask myself AND THEM, "why?".

- As for having a senior translator check your work, have you thought about contacting an experienced freelancer and pay them to do exactly that? You say that you earn more than the agency is currently offering you, so it wouldn't be such a big sacrifice to invest that money anyway, would it?icon_wink.gif

Anyhow, good luck with whatever you decide.



John Cutler  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other considerations Dec 11, 2007

Hi Paul, I've lived in Spain for 22 years. I've worked in Girona as an in-house translator for the last six.

Twelve hundred euros may seem like peanuts, but it´s actually a fairly good salary here. The average worker earns less than a thousand euros a month. In Spain, you´d actually be in an upper salary range. Whether you can live on that amount of money is another story. As my Spanish friends say, "We get paid in pesetas and pay in euros". So don't think of it as underselling yourself. It's just the way things are here.

You haven't mentioned your living arrangements, but you´d definitely have to look into housing costs, transport, food, etc. High housing, even high rents, are one of the reasons Spanish young people live with their parents until they're in their 30s and can afford to live on such measly salaries. They have a built-in social network that you may or may not have here.

You also didn't mention if you had plans of staying beyond the 3-month trial. That would make a big difference in other options.

If you have any specific questions, feel free to write me or make another post. Good luck!



Wolfgang Jörissen  Identity Verified
Dutch to German
+ ...
Don't do it Dec 11, 2007

If you already have a foot in the business, you should be able to make at least 1.200 EUR a month (probably more) easily. You have doubts about your skills? Look for a good proofreader, pay him/her and don't forget to sell this "second opinion" to your clients as an asset!

[Bearbeitet am 2007-12-11 22:11]


tom_michell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
A pittance of a salary but a good stepping stone for living and working in Spain Dec 12, 2007

Firstly, from my experience (I've just spent the last year working in Madrid) €1200 is a pittance for an in-house translator, trainee or not. It's borderline exploitation and I guarantee that within a month you will be grinding out 3000 words a day and all you will be thinking is you're getting 2 cents a word for it when you could be earning several times that (or working a quarter of the hours for the same money). You can survive on that salary with a basic lifestyle but you're not just working in a bar and deserve more.

I say that because from what I've seen, there are companies in Madrid that are struggling to find translators and they are offering significantly more money. There is a good reason for this - while the salaries they offer aren't bad, any translator with a bit of experience and quality can earn way more freelancing once established.

On the plus side, you will of course gain a lot of subject knowledge and your speed will increase by leaps and bounds. You need to establish in advance what the nature of the training will be as there is a risk that as soon as they are satisfied you're competent the feedback will dry up.

So, financially it's a really bad deal but if you can put that out of your mind then you will get a lot out of it. If you are keen to live in Spain, this sounds like an excellent springboard because you will be able to get by from day one. After six months you will probably be ready for a change and can start waiting for better opportunities to come up.


Carlos Montilla
Local time: 23:44
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Pros and Cons Dec 12, 2007

Hi Paul,

I've worked in-house in Barcelona for 3 years and, more or less, I was paid 1,200 €/month.

If you show you're good, after the trial period you can ask for a raise. It's not easy to find good native English in-house translators willing to relocate to Spain for 1,200 € a month, so I'm sure the agency will have to accept the raise.

I guarantee you'll learn a lot. You'll be working with native spaniards, and with their help, you'll get to better understand your source documents. And, hopefully (make sure of this), you'll be working with senior English translators, who will proofread your work and you'll have a second opinion about it.

However, as some other colleagues have said, you'll "lose" your existing clients, as you won't be able to work for them during your working hours (over 8 a day, for sure). Anyway, there might be confidentiality clauses that prevent you from working outside of the company.

Maybe there's a solution to the problem:

- work part-time and devote the rest of the day to freelancing. You won't lose your clients and the agency will surely send you work to do as a freelance. Or you can even propose the agency to work at their offices but as a freelance for a lower rate than the one you offer your present clients. This way, you'll have the advantages of working in-house and some of the advantages of working free-lance. Of course, they won't let you do translations for other agencies will being at theirs.

Having said that, and although I know that working in-house has some advantages, I won't work in-house again. At least, if you can live out of freelancing. It's not only the money. As another colleague has mentioned, you are your own boss, you can refuse some jobs you don't want to do, you can manage your time as you want... You've worked as a freelance already, so you know what we are talking about.

Good luck with your decision!


Paul Lambert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:44
French to English
+ ...
Hi Dec 12, 2007

Hi Paul

As some on here have already said, the salary isn't that bad for Spain, I have plenty of friends here in Madrid on wages like that (or lower) and they live quite comfortably...

If you're interested though, I know of a company in Madrid looking for a translator/project manager (unlike lots of PM jobs, you get to do lots of translation in this one - i should know, I did the job at this company for two years) and the experience is amazing - besides, the salary is roughly twice what your Barcelona job has offered...

If you're interested send me a private message with your e-mail and I'll get in touch.



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