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Veterinary student considering translation as a way to pay my way. Is it worth it?
Thread poster: Sol Richardson
Sol Richardson
French to English
Jan 4, 2009

Hello there...

I am a veterinary student in the United Kingdom and recently I've been considering translation French to English as a way to pay my way through the rest of the long course and raise money for travelling...

Having looked at this site and some others, I'd just like to clarify as to how this whole translation business works and if I should risk the 500 pounds needed to take the DipTrans.

Assuming I am able to pass this, what sort of money would I be able to make within the following year, considering that translation will not be my main priority, but my vet course? Would I require experience to get my foot in the door, and is a language degree necessary? Will my course give me credentials when seeking translation work in fields such as science and medicine? What other sorts of credentials are sought-after? Also... would my language pair be in high demand, and will competition be more fierce to the degree that I should wait another year and do spanish or greek instead?

I take it that it works simply be signing up to an agency or contacting suitable clients, and bidding againt other translators on cost. Or is it alot more time consuming than this?

Basically is this suitable for me... is it worth me taking up translation as a supplementary income having had no formal experience?

So please, if there is anything I haven't considered which should be, please don't hesitate to say...

Sorry for all the questions... and thanks in advance for ur replies

Sol





[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-01-05 14:31 GMT]


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 00:58
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Don't want to rain on your parade, but... Jan 4, 2009

Translation is a career that involves a lot of dedication, and at least in my case, took some time to get going. I wouldn't think of it as a supplementary job, unless you have a lot of time and patience to wait to get established. Maybe others have had a different experience, though, so let's wait and see. But if I were looking for supplementary income, I'd just get a job that didn't require such an investment of time, etc.

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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:58
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
It could be worth while. Jan 4, 2009

I started freelancing while working full-time as a salaried employee (also in the translating field), and it worked out well for me, I increased my income by 30-40% by doing so. My language is Russian and I had an engineering background which gave me an initial field in which to specialize. You could do the same in the veterinary field, presumably. If you can start in this way, you can gradually broaden out to other fields.

I would not like to speculate on your possible earnings, it depends too much on your particular language pair and speciality, with neither of which I am familiar, and of course on how well you market yourself (concerning which much useful advice can be found on this site).

It is difficult to get regular work as a freelance, but one field in which this might be possible is patent abstracting.

I should try to ensure that you can produce good standard work, and attempt to market it at the going rate, rather than aiming to undercut other translators, which would cheapen your own reputation.

There are sites on the Web where you can find lists of translation agencies. Some of these are free, and I should concentrate on these. Some of the paying ones may be worth while but many are not.

Direct clients are generally considered preferable to agencies if you can find them, but most of us have to rely mainly on agencies.

Do not send masses of emails to agencies with all the recipient addresses revealed, this is considered spamming and may get you into trouble. At least send using BCC, but personally I prefer to send each email individually, even though it is a boring chore to send virtually the same message over and over again. If you can tailor your application to the agency or potential client, you are more likely to succeed.

Good luck!


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Michał Szcześniewski  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 03:58
English to Polish
+ ...
definitely requires some time and effort Jan 4, 2009

You need to find your first translation jobs, they won't be looking for you. Once you are an established translator it will change. But, in my opinion, translating part-time means that you will become established later than in the case of translating full-time.
As for the rates... Most probably you will be offered the lowest ones. At least that's what happens with "newbies" in my language pair.
I assume that you have necessary language skills to do the job. This is simply a must. And I don't necessarily mean a language degree, but the knowledge of a language at a very advanced level. I'm afraid, or rather sure, that standard language classes are not enough.
Additionally, please note that knowing a language and translating are two different skills. They don't necessarily come together.
If you know French very well and you are able to translate, I would focus on veterinary and related fields as your specialisation. Your veterinary course should be your main asset. There is, correct me if I'm wrong, a demand for high-quality translations by specialists in many fields. You should try to find direct clients, e.g. companies operating in the vet industry.

Either way, you must invest time. And you shouldn't expect easy pocket money here. Translations are a serious and demanding job.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:58
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
No, it aint worth it Jan 4, 2009

Sol Richardson wrote:
I've been considering translation French to English as a way to pay my way through the rest of the long course and raise money for travelling... [and I'd like to ask] if I should risk the 500 pounds needed to take the DipTrans.


The DipTrans may give you excellent footing for starting a career in translation, but what you're considering is doing freelance translation, and for that, you also need clients. And it takes a long time to get clients. Too long for your purposes.

All is not lost, however. If you want to do translation as a way to pay for your studies, my advice would be to skip the DipTrans altogether, and jump right into the translation business. If you can't make money being a translator without DipTrans, then you wouldn't have been able to make money with DipTrans either.

Buy the following to get you started:
http://www.lulu.com/content/262074 (book)
http://www.translatortips.com/ht50.html#alex1 (ebook)

Some further comment:

Assuming I am able to pass this, what sort of money would I be able to make within the following year, considering that translation will not be my main priority, but my vet course?


The first month or two will be dry months in which you do extensive marketing. After that, well, let's do the math. The average British translator does 250 words of translation per hour (says the previous ITI rates survey). If you manage to scrape together enough work for 2 hours per evening, and you charge a rate of GBP 0.05 per word (which is not excessive for your language pair), that means you'll get GBP 125 per week (gross). At this point you might start wondering how translators make a living... but they do, because they work longer hours, they work faster, they do better marketing, and they charge more money.

Would I require experience to get my foot in the door, and is a language degree necessary? Will my course give me credentials when seeking translation work in fields such as science and medicine? What other sorts of credentials are sought-after?


Clients don't want credentials -- they want a good sales pitch, and after that, they want consistently good service. If you can't sell yourself, your credentials won't either.

Also... would my language pair be in high demand, and will competition be more fierce...


Your language pair is in high demand. Both France and the UK are very wealthy nations and they sit right next to each other (a bit of water doesn't count). I can't imagine that there would not be a very high demand. As for competition, my suggestion to you is to avoid it. Since you'll be a part-time, temporary translator only, don't spend too much energy trying to oust other translators from their clients, but go and find new clients instead.

I take it that it works simply be signing up to an agency or contacting suitable clients, and bidding againt other translators on cost. Or is it alot more time consuming than this?


You can do that, but agencies want years and years of experience, and the moment you start bidding against other translators, your rate might drop to below the cost of your studies and that nice holiday you're saving up for. For you, success would lie in contacting suitable direct clients.


[Edited at 2009-01-04 18:54 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:58
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Where to find your first clients Jan 4, 2009

Michał Szcześniewski wrote:
If you know French very well and you are able to translate, I would focus on veterinary and related fields as your specialisation. Your veterinary course should be your main asset. There is, correct me if I'm wrong, a demand for high-quality translations by specialists in many fields. You should try to find direct clients, e.g. companies operating in the vet industry.


I agree with the sentiment of finding clients in your field. I'm not sure if you should try out for the very specialised stuff, since you're an inexperienced translator. Try to think of French animal related businesses and organisations that might require translation into English.

For example, UK tourists can take their pets along to France if they have a valid pet passport. However, I'm hoping that many places of accommodation in France are not pet friendly and/or do not want pets there. I'm also hoping that there are vets, kennels, animal sanctuaries etc close to or in many towns and cities in France. Typically, these places would market their services to the locals only. But what if they could also market themselves to incoming British tourists? You can translate whole web sites or single web pages, brochures, signs, yellow pages adverts etc for these businesses. You can also contact animal related associations and tourism organisations in France with your idea, and hopefully you'll become "the translator".

Or perhaps you can target French people who have moved to the UK, with their pets. Ideally these people would bring with them medical records from the local French vet, but would the local British vet understand these records? Hmm...

Or, well I'm not sure if this might be a waste of time, but try to use Google Alerts with many French animal related words, so that you're the first to know about news stories and blog posts in French about animals and stuff. Then use this information to generate translation opportunities. News stories and blog posts often mention businesses and organisations by name, and so you can build your list of potential clients. In the case of news stories that haven't been published in the whole world (only in France) perhaps you can build contacts with French journos with offers to translate some of their stuff for republication in Britain (although keep in mind that publishers often have their preferred translators).

What other ideas can you come up with?


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xxxPRen
Canada
Local time: 22:58
French to English
+ ...
Well... Jan 4, 2009

to turn the tables, suppose I'm taking a translation degree and want to earn extra money by doing some veterinary work....

First question you may want to ask yourself is what language / writing skills and qualifications do you have that put you in a good position to translate to a professional level and compete with professional translators? It's a valid questions, and requires answering before you go any further. (Of course, I wouldn't dream of practising on poor kitty just because I love animals, and nor, in my opinion, should someone should think of practising their language skills on potential clients just because they love languages).

For what it's worth... Happy New Year anyway


[Edited at 2009-01-04 20:26 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-01-04 20:27 GMT]


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Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
Two ideas Jan 4, 2009

I though of two things that could help you figure out what to do.

Idea #1: Find a compromise of some kind. Is there some kind of "in-between" credential you can pursue? (One that doesn't take up as much time but will still work in a similar way.)

Idea #2: You could go for it anyway. The future payoff might prove to more than pay for the money invested and very beneficial when it comes to receiving job offers.


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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 02:58
Hmmm.... Jan 4, 2009

Hope you don't mind me asking, but why translation? What about your course work? I'm sure that is quite intensive in itself.

I did a part-time postgrad for two years, whilst working as a freelancer and it was damn hard to juggle my projects with my course work sometimes.
I had to take a few weeks off in order to study for my finals. It meant having to live off my savings and just do small jobs during that period.

Have you done the maths here? How much money do you need to earn to achieve what you want? If you don't want to continue translation work after you graduate/travel, then are you not better off just getting some other job where you'll get a more regular flow of income?

I am not trying to discourage you, but I think it is imporant to examine these angles before you make a decision. Regardless of what job you decide to do now, it should not interfere with your studies.

Orla


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:58
German to English
I'm with Orla Jan 4, 2009

If you need to take on part-time work, you're really better off to try to find something with regular hours. When you're a beginning freelancer, you can't count on work coming in on an ongoing basis. The other issue is estimating the time budget for work when you're new at this. A job that might seem at first to take only two evenings might turn into something requiring a few full days. That could have a detrimental effect on your studies, and if you do a poor job or return the assignment unconscionably late, it could affect the likelihood of receiving additional work from that client.

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darkokoporcic  Identity Verified
Slovenia
Local time: 03:58
Member (2005)
German to Slovenian
+ ...
For a couple of years - no way Jan 4, 2009

This is a very interesting thread as it reveals different ways of thinking about the essence of translation. My opinion is that one can translate part time, full time, professionally or as an amateur. But he/she must definitely like the job and accept its characteristics. One of which is that you don't get very far in one year.

So my clue is that translation is by no means comparable to tuition (in what you are really good at), taxi driving, baby sitting or working in a restaurant. It is an independent profession that, while not necessarily requiring all of your time, definitely implies lots of gradual improvement (in professional skills as well as business development).

So, I do not recommend you to start translating just to earn some money and drop it afterwards. It would be a pity both for you and for your clients.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
do you want to be a vet or a translator of vet? Jan 4, 2009

Sol Richardson wrote:

Hello there...

I am a veterinary student in the United Kingdom and recently I've been considering translation French to English as a way to pay my way through the rest of the long course and raise money for travelling...

Having looked at this site and some others, I'd just like to clarify as to how this whole translation business works and if I should risk the 500 pounds needed to take the DipTrans.

Assuming I am able to pass this, what sort of money would I be able to make within the following year, considering that translation will not be my main priority, but my vet course? Would I require experience to get my foot in the door, and is a language degree necessary? Will my course give me credentials when seeking translation work in fields such as science and medicine? What other sorts of credentials are sought-after? Also... would my language pair be in high demand, and will competition be more fierce to the degree that I should wait another year and do spanish or greek instead?

I take it that it works simply be signing up to an agency or contacting suitable clients, and bidding againt other translators on cost. Or is it alot more time consuming than this?

Basically is this suitable for me... is it worth me taking up translation as a supplementary income having had no formal experience?

So please, if there is anything I haven't considered which should be, please don't hesitate to say...

Sorry for all the questions... and thanks in advance for ur replies

Sol





Do you want to be a vet or a translator of vet? Or do you just need some money?

Translation is hugely competitive, especially in common language combinations, and it takes a very focused and often long-term effort to get really established to the point where you can command prices and not be dictated them.

Have a look at some of the rates offered in ProZ and compare translating 2000-3000 words a day (a full-time workload) with other ways of funding your studies. Especially as you are not going to be available 24/7 like lots of other beginners.

You are not even guaranteed work: you'll send out CVs and apply for jobs, and just as you are about to fly off for a weekend in Hong Kong, you'll be offered a job.

You can sign up all you want, but that's no guarantee of work. And even if you specialise in vet, you'll still be a novice translator and will probably be treated like one (rock-bottom rates).

You should also consider the effect of what you are proposing on professionals and our profession. Translation isn't like taking up a pub job to see you through to the end of the month. If you really want to be a translator, well and good, but if you think it's something you can make a fast buck from, it's the wrong attitude and not one that's going to establish you.


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Gustavo Martínez
Australia
Local time: 13:58
English to Spanish
+ ...
You´re facing it the wrong way Jan 5, 2009

Forget it, dude!

You said it yourself: you´re emphasis is on your studies. Let´s assume, just for a minute, that things go your way from the beginning: you contact a couple of prospects, they give you work and are willing to pay top rates... Now the down-side: since your studies are your priority, you don´t have the time to meet the translating deadline. Even if you only want to do a couple of hours translating every night, you won´t make enough money to live on.

I would suggest you look for work in a field that offers regular schedules that you can combine with your studies (eg, bar work, filling shelves in a supermarket, etc.) It may not be glamorous, but sure is more compatible with university.

Be the best vet you can be. And if at any time you decide you want to become a translator (maybe even specialising in vet science), then be the best translator you can be.

Good luck, whichever way you decide to go.


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Hilde Granlund  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 03:58
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Not like working in a pub, indeed. Jan 5, 2009

But still worth doing part time?
At least that is what I do...

I am a doctor, with a degree from an english-speaking country. A year and a half ago, I discovered proz.com by chance, and as I did some part time translating many years ago when money was tight (just like you...), and enjoyed it, I thought it might be nice to take it up again. When I retire (still some years off), it might prove a nice supplementary income, I thought.
My medical background is very useful, I translate mostly medical texts. That expands my medical knowledge as well as improving my English.
Of course, I would not know anything about rates or demand in your language pair.
Good luck, whatever you decide.
I think you should just try - like several people have said, you don't need a formal exam. If you deliver translations that your clients are happy with, that is what counts.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 02:58
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Be careful Jan 5, 2009

As others have pointed out, there can be a great deal of unpredictability to freelance translating, "competition" can be tough, etc. Be modest in your expectations, conservative with your scheduling, etc. Get an understanding ASAP of how long it takes you to work on various types of text so that you can predict your turnaround with some accuracy.

However, I would join Hilde in encouraging you to give it a try, though you might indeed end up doing something else for less taxing, more regular pocket money. If you focus on areas that are of interest to you, especially those which may complement your studies in some way, this can prove very useful. When I first started translating for money (as opposed to supporting my research work), I worked almost exclusively on texts related to my "day job". That helped me get a better overview of the industry I worked in and do my job better. Even if I had not decided to translate full time (a decision having mostly to do with wanting to spend more time with my dog), it would have been worthwhile to work this way, and I might still be doing the odd bit of translation in the evening, on weekends or while commuting on the train to keep up with new developments in my field of work.


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