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Combining translation with a full-time job : anyone had experience of it?
Thread poster: Peter CD1
Peter CD1
Dutch to English
Aug 30, 2008

So, does anyone have experience of combining translating with a full-time job? Is it best to go part time (if you can of course) if you do?

Do translation companies tend to frown on people who are only available on a limited basis in such a manner?

As someone who would like to go down this route, I would be interested to hear other peoples experiences.

Thank you.


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Sergei Leshchinsky  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 21:15
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
switched from part-time to full-(free... lancing/timing...) Aug 30, 2008

I used to combine full-time teaching in one of the higher educational institutions with part-time translation. Waste of time in both fields... Now, I teach only highly motivated students... it takes less energy... teaching part-time is possible.

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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 19:15
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Customers (agencies & direct) and part-time translation Aug 30, 2008

I translated on the side for a few years while I was still required to maintain full-time regular employment to keep my residence visa in Germany. I never noticed any negative responses from customers to my limited availability. At the time I limited the projects I took to ones that also complemented my work as a systems consultant and programmer, so my employer had a pretty good attitude about it all (it was, after all, continuing education after a fashion). I think the fact that I was actually working in the IT sector at the time was also an important factor in attracting some of my clients back then.

It all worked out quite well on the whole, really. Originally I started out translating just to deal with bottlenecks at my company (the translation department was painfully slow and backward and had a bad tendency to do things like translate the same text three times in the same month without being aware of having done so), then I started taking on freelance jobs in my free time out of personal interest and a desire to fill the empty evening hours in a new country, and I never thought I'd end up doing it full time. I intended to become independent again at first opportunity, but my sights were set on things I had done for two decades already: consulting and development. But over time I discovered that I enjoyed translation much more, and it gave me more time for my dog and my kid while allowing me to earn about as much as I would following other paths. So when the time came to go out on my own, choosing a career as a full time freelance translator was a no-brainer.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:15
English to Spanish
+ ...
Yes Aug 31, 2008

I combined translating with a full-time job for about 15 years. I worked on it evenings and weekends. When it looked like translating could provide enough income, plus I was in a situation where in all other ways I was financially in good enough shape to take the chance, then I quit the job and never looked back.

That seems to be a good way to do it. I worked those 15 years knowing that eventually I was going to bust out, and that was always my goal. I reached it.


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Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:15
French to English
Yes Aug 31, 2008

And it's not easy

Combining family life, a full-time job and translation work is a juggling act.

In the beginning, I found it was difficult to find translation work that fit my schedule (weekends and evenings). Now I have regular clients that are aware of my situation, and only send me jobs with generous deadlines. I can usually renegotiate the deadlines to suit my busy life.

Sometimes, it works out really well for agencies when a job comes in Friday night for delivery on Monday am, those are perfect jobs for me, it can be a win-win situation.


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Luisa Ramos, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:15
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
Totally possible Aug 31, 2008

I have a full time job as in-house translator and interpreter for a federal government agency, and keep on going as a freelancer, only that I do not do any freelance interpreting. I do not have the time.

When I took this job that provides me with excellent salary, and benefits, I notified all my clients and everyone has worked around my schedule. I have not lost any client, actually, I am the one who decides how much time I dedicate to the freelance side, and whether I accept a job or not.


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:45
English to Tamil
+ ...
I have 23 years' experience of doing just that Sep 1, 2008

This is what I wrote in my blog on this subject.
See: http://raghtransint.blogspot.com/2006/09/my-2-cents-about-dealing-with-clients.html

"My 2 cents about dealing with the clients - 6
Never give unnecessary details. What are they? As usual, I will proceed from my own example.

You are holding full-time employment in some organisation. You want to take up translation jobs in your free time. Now, translation is a part-time job. While contacting your clients for your translation activities, you should never reveal to them, where you work. Believe me, once they know you are employed full-time elsewhere, they will do their utmost to find out where you work. Well, it is an information of no concern to them. That's all. I will relate here some of the encounters I had in this connection.

Surely you would have heard about the ISO 9001. One of its salient points deals with information management. When a job is assigned to a person or to a group, it is necessary to give them all the information essential for executing their job. How about other inforation. They are never to be divulged. If you are wondering about my point, just be patient. I will fit this doctrine to my case.

What information are at your disposal?

You are an engineer. How many years' experience? What are the languages being handled by you and how much experience do you have in each language? How fast can you translate. What can be your deadline for a given job?

Is it necessary to give all these information to the client? Yes, of course. And they must be genuine information.

Now about the information that are not to be divulged. As I mentione above, you hold a full-time job. The client will be curious to know as to where you work. What good can come out of that knowledge? Nothing, is the only obvious answer.

But there are many answers to the question, "What bad can come out of that? The first answer will be, the information given out by you is no longer under your control. It will actually turn into a Damocles sword hanging over your head. You are unnecessarily handing over a blackmailing lever to the client. It may happen that your full-time employer gets to know about your part-time activity and he may decide to send you home. An internal auditor in my organisation lost his job in this manner.

There was this Delhi client. Even he didn't ask me about my full-time employment but his subordinate officer pestered me for this detail. I politely and firmy refused. He protested that he was my friend and surely I would not deny a friend his wish. I told him drily that he was not a friend and just an acquaintance. Once I took voluntary retirement to take up full-time translation, I told him where I worked. I was shocked when he told me that his wife's brother was the accountant in my organization. I knew him well, a trouble maker. Had he known at the crucial time, I would have been out of the organisation in no time. It was really a great escape.

Once I quit the full-time job, the fact of my working in the concerned organisation became a detail to be supplied. In that organisation I worked as Electrical Engineer as well as French translator for 12 years. And this combination is of vital interest to a potential client".

It goes without saying, your full-time employer should not know about your freelance work.

This has an interesting development. When at present I negociate with a potential client, I tell him that I have 33 years' experience in German translation, 30 years' experience in French translation and I worked as graduate electrical engineer for 23 years. Thus I have a cumulative experience of 86 years and my age is 62. When the client is amazed and asks how, I reply with a straight face, "Overtime sir".

Regards,
N. Raghavan


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N.M. Eklund  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:15
Member (2005)
French to English
+ ...
Full-time freelance plus some Sep 1, 2008

Yes,
I'm currently doing it. One of my clients offered me a middle-term contract (3 years) for in-house translations working 8 hours a day. Due to confidential reasons they can't send their stuff out.

I'm still a freelancer and when I decided to take this contract I made sure to keep my other clients. Business 101: Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

Conclusion: I've been doing this for a little over a year and I'm busy as hell. Work is pouring in and I'm usually working full-time plus part-time (= about 60 hours a week + weekend work).
I don't think it's something that can be done by people with a busy family life. I found myself rather burnt out after a year of this, so now I'm starting to outsource the less confidential stuff.

The real drawback is that I'd planned on learning a new language for fun, and now I no longer have the time to take classes.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:15
English to Spanish
+ ...
Bravo, Narasimhan Sep 1, 2008

Thus I have a cumulative experience of 86 years and my age is 62. When the client is amazed and asks how, I reply with a straight face, "Overtime sir".

Now that's one hell of a good answer! Isn't that how so many of us have done it?

I worked almost 15 years for a government agency, but I always kept the agency informed about my translation activities and other part-time jobs such as teaching, etc. I was required to tell them, but they could not prohibit me from doing them or much less fire me as long as such outside work did not affect my job performance and there was no conflict of interest. There never were such problems.

Moreover, they were glad to have me around because at times different people in the agency would need material translated and I was always willing to help out, even though it was not a part of my job description.


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Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:15
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
its hard! Sep 5, 2008

For about 6 months before I went full time freelance, I was working full time at a busy office, but wanted to build up some experience, and a client base, before taking the plunge into independence.

I had about 3-4 agencies on my books, but I don't *think* any of them knew that I was not working full time. Because I was still new to them, they didn't send me vast quantities of work, so the issue did not arise. On the occasion that they sent me an offer that i simply could not accept because of my full-time job commitments, I simply told them that I had no availability that particular day. i.e. Exactly the same reason that I use now.

It was a hellish time, and I often remember working until dawn to get projects finished on time, and then crawling into the office fired up on caffeine and sheer stubbornness, but it did mean that when i made that "transition", I wasn't starting from scratch.

I admire all those who have done it for years!


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:15
German to English
Be honest with your employer and clients Sep 5, 2008

As Henry pointed out, you may need to inform your employer regarding your outside activities (some companies require disclosure of outside employment). You also have to be honest with any translation clients you have. I know several translators who successfully combine full-time (non-translation-related) employment with a translation sideline. They tell their clients that they can't take rush jobs, and that they're translating strictly as part-time. In this way their clients don't have unrealistic expectations, and everyone is happy.

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Duobing Chen  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 02:15
Member (2008)
English to Chinese
+ ...
RE Sep 6, 2008

I used to work in the Army and I wanted to proceed my translation, but I found it almost impossible. In that "special" circumstance, internet access is strictly prohibited, and I have to use wireless internet access under the table, of course I broke the rules. furthermore, for the limited speed of internet access, I can't receive large projects, even opening a website is very slow, a painful memory for me!
another factor is limited time. when I decided to delivery my translation before dealine, I must work overtime for in dayime I have almost no free time available for my translation.
finally, I quit the job and become a freelance translator. In my opinion, I wish to find a relatively free job, such as part-time teacher, to combine the two kind of jobs together.


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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 19:15
Briefly... Sep 6, 2008

What if you couldn't finish off a translation at home and the only way you could do that was to complete at work? Obviously I have no idea what your day job is, but sooner or later, someone is bound to notice that you're using company facilities to do work for other companies - a sackable offence in most cases.

I know people in the past who have gotten fired because they left an incriminating email/internet trail at work. You'll have to be super-organised to ensure that translation work is done at home and not in the office.

If possible, only work a couple of evenings per week. You'll burn yourself out otherwise.

It can be done, going by some of the success stories here, but I don't think one could maintain the pace indefinitely. You have to have a life after all and believe me, you'll be mentally exhausted by the weekend.

Certainly, check your contract with your employer to see you're not in breach of it. Also, you may have to inform agencies about your working hours. It usually isn't a problem that a translator is only available part-time, but it is important for them to know that you can do the job properly and punctually. Also, what if they call or mail you at work? Can you take private calls/e-mails at work?

Realistically, Peter, something will have to give eventually. You could ask your employer if you could go part-time, while you try to build up your translation base?

Good luck - Orla


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 19:15
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
It all depends on the amount Sep 6, 2008

Orla Ryan wrote:
If possible, only work a couple of evenings per week. You'll burn yourself out otherwise.

It can be done, going by some of the success stories here, but I don't think one could maintain the pace indefinitely. You have to have a life after all and believe me, you'll be mentally exhausted by the weekend.


You're absolutely right. Not overextending yourself is the key.

However, I don't think any big explanations of "part-time" status are really necessary. Outsourcers have to accept whatever capacity is available. If I have time to deal with two pages of text a day for freelance work - that's my available capacity. Period. Many of my clients have no more access to capacity now when I am a full time freelancer than they did when I translated part-time on the side while writing software and planning IT projects as my main activity. Busy is busy, and it really doesn't matter what you are busy doing. If you are only able to check and answer e-mail after 6 p.m. then say so - those are the working parameters for your part-time business, and if the customer understands this and agrees, no problem. Working across time zones can smooth this problem out to some extent - before the US dollar tanked so badly I used to deal with US clients in the evening. Some of them weren't even awake yet when I finished my "regular" work day.

I think the main thing with this part-time translating is to have fun, learn about the market, make some good contacts and a bit of pocket money (at prevailing rates, please!). If you do it right, if you ever do become a full time freelancer, your clients will probably be very pleased at the news and bury you in work. Then you might wonder about the "free" in freelance


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George Hopkins
Local time: 20:15
Swedish to English
Possible, but risky Sep 8, 2008

Combining freelance translating with a full-time job is possible. It depends on your interests and other commitments.
However, if you have a well-paid job my advice is to keep it. Relying on translation work is rather risky because the amount of work varies considerably, eg, as demonstrated by the present world-wide recession.

It’s a recession when your neighbour loses his job, it’s a depression when you lose yours.
Harry S Truman
(although he spelt neighbour differently)


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