Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Starting out as a freelancer - necessities and assistance
Thread poster: Steve Thomasson

Steve Thomasson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:45
Member (2012)
German to English
Mar 25, 2009

Good morning all,

I'd like to apologise in advance if this covers a fair bit of old ground and is seen as spam, however I felt that it would be easier to highlight my own position in order to get more tailored answers.

Basically I have finished my MA in translation and am awaiting the final dissertation result. I already have a couple of years practical translation experience (mainly on translation placements) and know translation is the field I would want to work in. I bought Alex Eames's book and whilst expecting to earn $80K p.a. appears extremely optimistic in the first few years (I noted he did medical translations which is probably more lucrative than many other fields) I've prepared some correspondence (which won't be mass-mailed) based on his templates and also thought of a company name / designed a logo for it.

Due to the fact I already have a business degree (undergraduate) I feel business translations and correspondence would potentially be my strongest field and the most likely one to specialise in. However some fields are such that I'd be reluctant to attempt a translation due to the specialist knowledge required - especially medical or legal texts.

I also joined the NWTN in the UK (North West Translators Network) and worked out that getting a regular client base can take quite a long time - one or two have said within three / four months but got fortunate, others have said years. As my own personal outgoings are not that high (I own my own house) I feel I'm reasonably well-placed to go through fallow periods.

In starting off, I've identified a good few things which I will need to sink into a freelance enterprise:

- a new laptop (mainly for memory and RAM, the current PC is on its last legs and only has a 55GB hard drive but as I have a friend in the industry I can probably get a good one pretty cheaply anyway).

- probably Trados - I see a lot of agencies on here seem to insist on that being the CAT tool of choice. I did attend a course on using it at university but accept I'd need to go on a seminar or two to top-up and refresh what I learned. Which will not be cheap but if that's what it takes, then fine.

- a company domain as my private e-mail address would not be professional (it's a nickname I gained...no good here when starting out and indeed would be conflicting).

- some good technical dictionaries appear obligatory to me.

- linked to the company domain, a clear website. Again, I have a friend in the industry so getting a professional one built cheaply shouldn't be that big a problem.

- enough to live on in advance for at least nine months whilst I aim to build up my client base. May try to find a part-time job to cover those, as well as downsize from my extended terrace property and move into a smaller flat, that's a finance option I'm considering right now.

- potentially a second telephone line - one for "home", one for business.

- a list of contacts / agencies to get in contact with (I have a small list from when I bought Alex Eames's book and as one of my old placement contacts outsources 90% of their work to individual freelancers I may well have a chance there also with a translation qualification under my belt which I didn't have when I was on placement with them).

I appreciate that this is a rather long piece that doesn't differ radically from what other potential freelancers in a similar position to myself have written, but what other items should I consider and indeed what other sources of assistance (business planning or otherwise) could help me?

Many thanks in advance for your assistance - Steve


[Edited at 2009-03-25 10:52 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 07:45
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Reasonable thoughts - with some ideas to add Mar 25, 2009

Hi Steve and welcome to the bunch!

Your posting seems reasonable and well-thought enough, so there's good preparation behind and with this approach, you probably stand a good chance of succeeding in this crazy insutry.

Two things to add to your list would include:
- Professional membership at ProZ.com: it will give you 1) full access to jobs posted in your language combinations(s); 2) full access to the Blue Board which is a good source of information about potential clients

- Participation in offline events (Conferences, or local powwows - check the list here). It's a great opportunity of networking and learning from one's colleagues' experience

Cheers,
Oleg


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Steve Thomasson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:45
Member (2012)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Not just that... Mar 25, 2009

Oleg Rudavin wrote:

Hi Steve and welcome to the bunch!

Your posting seems reasonable and well-thought enough, so there's good preparation behind and with this approach, you probably stand a good chance of succeeding in this crazy insutry.

Two things to add to your list would include:
- Professional membership at ProZ.com: it will give you 1) full access to jobs posted in your language combinations(s); 2) full access to the Blue Board which is a good source of information about potential clients

- Participation in offline events (Conferences, or local powwows - check the list here). It's a great opportunity of networking and learning from one's colleagues' experience

Cheers,
Oleg


Hi Oleg,

Many thanks for the welcome and much appreciated. I had temporarily forgotten about ProZ membership, as well as potentially mulling over taking on liability insurance so thanks for jolting my memory.

At the moment I'm very much in the preparation stage anyway - I'm not prepared to go touting for trade without TRADOS and also as I'm still awaiting the final results of the Masters - I feel I'd come over much better with a readily-recognised qualification behind me when I go for a marketing push as especially when you're fairly young like I am (I'm 28) agencies seem to look for any reason to reject you.

I'd thought of investing in Dragon Speaking Naturally but that would wait for the moment as I can type fairly quickly and accurately.

This is also a reason why I'm working on my KudoZ score when possible..a ready-made way of demonstrating my own capabilities to peers (not just marketing to potential clients - important as that is - but also to peers) and showing that I am competent (more or less!).

Definitely not forgotten about the networking, hence why I'm in the NWTN but I accept I'll have to build on that.

This next question would be aimed more at UK-based translators but would bodies such as the Princes Trust help support a one-man enterprise such as this? It's not crystal clear off their site and I suspect I may have to go and visit my local Chamber of Commerce.

[Edited at 2009-03-25 13:26 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-03-25 13:27 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Paula James  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:45
French to English
+ ...
well thought-out Mar 25, 2009

It's good that you've put a lot of thought into this, it sounds like you know what you're doing, which is very good. Just a couple of comments:
- second phone line - I'm not sure this is strictly necessary, unless your homeline is tied up a lot by other family members or something. Personally, I don't get many calls anyway, and more often to my mobile, so I wouldn't make it a priority
- dictionaries - if you're focussing on business, you don't need technical dictionaries as such, but some business/accounting type ones might be useful. Specialised dictionaries can be very expensive, so make sure you get ones that are relevant to what you're going to translate. (I think there is a new section on here for reviews, some of mine are completely unhelpful).
I think the most important thing is actually the new computer - nothing worse than technical failures with a deadline coming up, and it can make your work much faster, and allow the installation of new software.
I think in the UK you can get free business advice, but I don't know any details.
Regarding the part-time job, if at all possible I would avoid this, it's very difficult to know when translation jobs will come in, and especially at the start, it's good to be available for last-minute projects etc. I found it very difficult to manage this, and once I was available full-time built up a client base fairly quickly.
And yes, use the contacts from previous placements and any others you can find.
Good luck!


Direct link Reply with quote
 
polyglot45
English to French
+ ...
Networking... Mar 25, 2009

networking, networking...
This is where your energies should be concentrated. You need to raise your profile. There are tons of translators with more or less experience on the market but a large proportion of jobs are never advertised on sites like this, simply because clients tend to prefer personal recommendations.

Contact fellow students: some of them may now have jobs in international organisations and companies that occasionally have to farm out work when they hit a busy patch.

Talk to your teachers: I don't know about the UK but in France, for example, most lecturers in translation/interpreting are also language professionals and could perhaps give you a leg-up if they like your work/style.

Contact the heads of departments where you did your placements: as above, they may need occasional outside input and, if you did a good job with them, they may be happy to use your services, since you must know at least something about their fields.

Frankly, paid membership of sites like this should not be your top priority: if you bid for jobs, you may have to start as a bottom-feeder to attract attention, which is bad for the market and bad for you. Once you start low, it is virtually impossible to increase your rates to decent levels with such clients.

So it's all about NETWORKING and "talking" to a maximum of people in the business

My 2 cents


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxPRen
Canada
Local time: 01:45
French to English
+ ...
Great plan! Mar 25, 2009

You've covered most of the bases, and obviously given this a lot of thought. I'd add one more item - revision. I strongly suggest finding an experienced German to English translator willing to revise your work routinely for the first year - FOR PAY. Build this into your rates. IMO, every beginning translator benefits enormously from the coaching and mentoring a seasoned translator can offer. In fact, I think it's essential.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 05:45
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
A few relevant points Mar 25, 2009

When I saw your thread title, my first reaction was an irritated "here we go again, another dope who is too lazy to read the archives", but it's obvious from reading your initial post that you are not and have done some good preparation and your questions are quite appropriate. We have the same language pair, so some of my points reflect this.

First of all, Oleg is too modest by not mentioning that he has written a rather nice book which covers beginning and more advanced issues for translators. While the English is a bit quirky in places and ought to be polished in the next edition, it is very personal, entertaining and more up to date than Mr. Eames' book, which I also like. It is well worth the small investment and can be had here on the site at http://www.proz.com/books.

Regarding telephones: definitely you should get a second line with a messaging function. If you actually do succeed you will need it to have some peace and order in your life. There is a huge demand for our language combination, and if you are good and organized and market yourself well, you will have no shortage of work. If you were a Macedonian translator I have no idea what to say in this regard, but even if the economy continues to tank, good German to English translators with business sense will have no problem feeding their families.

Make paid membership on this site a priority. I am not happy about everything that is happening currently, and my blog contains some fairly strong criticism of current site developments, but I do believe that a membership would likely be one of the most important investments at this stage of your career if it is coupled with careful optimization of your profile. It will make job bids much easier and more successful and give you access to important resources like the Blue Board. Sign up for the Zahlungspraxis list on Yahoogroups if you haven't already done so. That together with the Blue Board feedback might save you a lot of grief with bad payers. You can also do regional research with the Blue Board to find agencies which might be of interest, or you can look at the WWA on my profile and the profiles of other DE-EN translators for hints on outsourcers who might be interesting. (Hint: look at their profiles before spamming with applications; some are individuals with particular specialties and little or no work of interest to you.)

Dictionaries: haunt the German eBay site. Develop a canned search and re-run it often to scan for interesting references. You can find good bargains there and save hundreds or thousands of whatever currency units you like. If you want some recommendations for particular subject area dictionaries, post a thread here and I'm sure you'll get lots of good advice.

Trados is by no means a prerequisite for a functioning business. You'll find too that the Trados world will be turned upside down soon when the new version is released, and you might want to think more about what tools work best for you. Download the fully functional demos of major tools which offer varying degrees of Trados interoperability and learn to use them and see if they might be a better alternative or perhaps a good complement. I am not a believer in the sole use of any vendor's tools: any modern IT solution in the corporate world consists of an optimized mix of hardware and software and these are almost never from the same source any more. Just go for it with small jobs and other tools, and carry your resources with you from environment to environment as TMX, etc. for now as you "find your footing".

Be sure to post some good examples of your work on your profile. You might also want to see if you qualify for BDÜ membership (see www.bdue.de); I've found that directory listing very, very worthwhile.

I'm pleased to see that you have good sense with regard to domains and mail addresses so I don't have to lecture you on a point that many others fail to grasp to their detriment. If you are looking for nice web templates, have a look at the work of Andreas Viklund. I'm using one of his as the basis for a long-overdue overhaul of my site, and I love it. The man writes beautiful HTML code and CSS and his page structures are very functional. He has both free and commercial templates; I'm using one of the former, but it's so good that when I'm done I plan to pass on an appropriate "thank you" in monetary form.

*****************************
Edited to fix the books URL!


[Edited at 2009-03-25 22:03 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:45
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Just a couple of comments Mar 25, 2009

Hello Steve,

It sounds as if you have a very good idea about what it might take to succeed. I have read the thread and have just a couple of small comments to make.

Paula mentions free business advice obtainable in the UK. That is correct. You get it from your local Enterprise Trust. They run a week-long business start-up course, which you can attend free of charge. It only costs you the week of time. They also run more advanced courses, which - as far as I recall - cost some money. I attended the business start-up course in the early 1990s. I lived in the UK at that time. They give you a lot of useful advice, especially about accounting and relevant tax issues. They will also tell you if you can get any government grants or subsidies in your first year of business, and what regulations exist in connection with them. Basically, you could possibly get a small weekly amount paid to you in the first year, but you have to prove that you mean business, e.g. by drawing up a business plan (which the Enterprise Trust shows you how to do). They will also inform you on private organisations who sponsor young entrepreneurs in certain circumstances. I recall they mentioned a Prince of Wales Trust or something of the kind (not sure of its exact name now).

I also concur wholeheartedly with the idea of carefully doing a couple of sample translations in the relevant fields and uploading them to your profile. Once you do this you can point out these samples to agencies in place of doing new tests for them. The other time they come in handy is when outsourcers are browsing profiles. If they are suitably impressed with your uploaded translation, then they will contact you of their own accord, through your profile page.

As you seem to have everything very well planned and thought out, I wish you every success and look forward to seeing you around on Proz.com or at conferences.

All the best,

Astrid


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:45
French to English
+ ...
ITI membership Mar 26, 2009

Hi Steve,

I agree with what other people have said, but would also add that joining the ITI is a worthwhile investment for a UK-based translator. Whilst it's not essential - I only got round to joining last year after 24 years in the profession! - it is a really useful source of contacts and the e-networks are extremely useful and interesting resources. Also, I started off in-house, so had a ready-made source of clients when I left to go freelance and didn't really need the contacts. One of the main reasons I joined was because professional liability insurance is much cheaper if you're an ITI member - and if you're thinking about taking out insurance, that's worth considering.

Paid membership of ProZ is also well worthwhile, although again I didn't become a paid-up member straightaway and still received job offers merely by being a normal member. I suppose it depends a lot on your particular specialisms.

I don't think two 'phone lines are essential, not with Broadband - most of my work comes via e-mail anyway and it's actually quite rare to speak to clients on the phone these days. Even a fax machine, once a necessity, is somewhat redundant, although I do have fax software on my computer for the rare occasions when only a fax will do. However, I do think that having a back-up computer is a very good idea and a subscription to a file back-up service such as Mozy gives you peace of mind if disaster does strike. I also have two monitors, which I find makes life a lot easier, especially when working with CAT tools and multiple reference documents. I've found Dragon NS to be invaluable - I bought it because of RSI, but it enables you to work much faster too, especially in familiar subject areas. I think a CAT tool is essential nowadays, but I don't think you have to go with Trados if there are other tools you prefer. I use Wordfast and I've heard very good things of MemoQ and Déja Vu. I certainly haven't felt precluded from accepting jobs because I haven't had Trados, because most of the other tools are TRADOS-compatible to some extent anyway.

Good luck - hope it all works out for you!

Claire


Direct link Reply with quote
 
NR_Stedman  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:45
French to English
Get a Blackberry (or equivalent) Mar 26, 2009

Hello Steve

Just to say I can remember my early days in translation 25 years ago waiting for the phone to ring. Nearly all jobs now come by email so get a blackberry. You can then carry on your normal life, go out, go shopping or running and answer immediately when your first clients contact you on Friday evening at 10 pm or while you are on holiday.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
looby
France
Local time: 06:45
Get started! Mar 26, 2009

Hi Steve,

Your list does indeed sound well thought-out - all these things are desirable for a translator, but not immediately essential. My advice to you, based on my own experience, would be to just get started as soon as possible! All you actually need to get started is a computer and Internet access. I would suggest you spend your time and efforts on getting the work rather than investing in equipment. Once you start getting regular work and the money starts to come in, then you can decide whether you need a CAT tool, and which one, and which dictionaries you might need to buy.

I do honestly think that translation is something that you can do (on a small scale) with very few tools. Regarding your email address - yes a personal domain name is very nice to have and professional sounding, but I don't think that a free address (with your name rather than a nickname!) will put anyone off for now. I see little point in sitting at home surrounded by all the latest technology when you don't actually have any clients!

You say that you don't have many financial outgoings, so I'm sure your time would be better spent concentrating on building up a client base and marketing yourself rather than taking on a part-time job. As someone has already said, you need to be available at all times!

So that would be my advice to you - start small and make investments as your business grows, in line with your requirements.

Good luck!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Steve Thomasson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:45
Member (2012)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you everyone Mar 26, 2009

I'm glad I finally decided to put this thread down, there are quite a few things I would never have thought of which are actually self-evident in hindsight.

Many thanks for the suggestion re. Andreas Viklund. I would expect that having a website is like having a virtual business card which does its own marketing so I can do a little less (or save myself time explaining everything - use it as a reference). Obviously I'd still have to get the webspace but domains and webspace are cheap, even if I wouldn't expect to get that many hits early on.

I should have known about E-Bay and possibly even Amazon come to think of it. Further books on starting out as a freelancer would always be appreciated as ultimately there's more than one way of skinning a cat.

I will do a couple of sample translations in due course; that boils down to the fact I'm still awaiting the Masters results - I intend to really update the ProZ profile when that is official. I've been told unofficially that everything was fine but it's not been rubber-stamped by the external examining board yet. So, the MA qualification isn't yet cut and dried.

I had considered ITI membership but that's a few years down the line yet as they seem to require five years experience, which rules me out at the moment.

I'd like to run another question past you all if I may. I have heard from quite a few translators that of all "other" CAT tools apart from Trados, Wordfast is the closest one in terms of compatibility. Obviously when starting out Wordfast would be more appealing as it appears to be considerably cheaper than Trados (hence cutting less into personal finance when starting out - and the new laptop is an unavoidable necessity) but second opinions would be welcome.

As for the Blackberry I am considering that if only for the fact that I always intended to have one mobile for personal use and one solely for business.

I'm also considering how I can keep initial investment as low as possible (more money spare whilst building a client base) but a second-hand laptop is too risky...but there's a few money-saving tips in this thread so once again many thanks to all of you.

[Edited at 2009-03-26 08:46 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Susan van den Ende  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:45
English to Dutch
+ ...
List of contacts - nah... Mar 26, 2009

My two cents: don't spend too much on a list of contacts.

Rather, check the BlueBoard charts, find out whether the agencies on it offer services in your language pair and fields, and if they do, go for a more personal approach.

Good luck!

Susan


Direct link Reply with quote
 

KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 05:45
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
eBay & contacts Mar 26, 2009

I would have to agree with Susan about those contact lists. I get spammed every week with applications, and I don't outsource at all. What's worse is that the persons contacting me offer languages like Bulgarian or French with which I have nothing whatsoever to do. Careful research via the BlueBoard or Google will take you farther faster.

Regarding eBay: I've spent a lot of time in the past on the US, UK and German sites looking for DE-EN dictionaries and related resources. Although I have found a few gems in the US or UK, most of the good harvest comes from the German site. Check prices for used volumes in parallel on Amazon to avoid overbidding and swoop in with a bid in the last 20 seconds or so and you should do fine


Direct link Reply with quote
 

sarandor  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:45
English to Russian
+ ...
Accounting system Mar 26, 2009

My advise is to set up an accounting system using either Excel or specialized software, like Translation Office 3000. I set one up while waiting for my first jobs (I use Excel), I've modified it since then, but the main structure is still the same and I still use the invoice template that I made in my early days. Best wishes!

Direct link Reply with quote
 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Starting out as a freelancer - necessities and assistance

Advanced search







BaccS – Business Accounting Software
Modern desktop project management for freelance translators

BaccS makes it easy for translators to manage their projects, schedule tasks, create invoices, and view highly customizable reports. User-friendly, ProZ.com integration, community-driven development – a few reasons BaccS is trusted by translators!

More info »
SDL MultiTerm 2017
Guarantee a unified, consistent and high-quality translation with terminology software by the industry leaders.

SDL MultiTerm 2017 allows translators to create one central location to store and manage multilingual terminology, and with SDL MultiTerm Extract 2017 you can automatically create term lists from your existing documentation to save time.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search