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I need advice on becoming a full-time translator.
Thread poster: Anna Muntean Stacanova

Anna Muntean Stacanova
United States
Local time: 03:34
Russian to English
+ ...
Jun 28, 2009

Hello to everyone!

I hope I am not asking a question to myself, but I need any advice you might think of to become a full time translator as fast as possible.

I have been doing translation for the past 5 years, mostly on weekends or evenings.

Two months ago I lost my job and decided to be a full time translator for several reasons:

1. I need to stay home for my daughter, since there is not family nearby, meet her and send to school (most urgent and important)
2. I love translations and especially interpreting
3. I am registered to start college in January (5 days a week from 7.30 till 12.30) and want to translate the second part of the day
4. I have no car and leave in the place where it is nearly impossible to get to work with no car

I started to send my resume to agencies, bidding, reading on this forum, improving, doing samples and had fairly good responses - at least one email answer a day to my job applications.

BUT: I had to start a part time work: every day for 5 hours from 10 am to 3 pm to be able to pay for my apartment and the translation job is not working anymore.

and now I am either too exhausted to translate or miss emails for taking a translation.
All I did to advertise my translation is going down since the part time job does not let me answer in time to emails.

I still want to go on and try to establish being a translator till January at least to be able to pay my rent, but I am not sure how in the world to do it. I know it might had to give advice for the question I ask but:

Did you ever did translation and another job at the same time?
How did it work or not work out?
Any tips and tricks to manage both?
I also felt that to start become a full -time translator fairly quickly I had to spend 10-18 hours a day at my computer and that is what I did for 2 months. Was it so with you?

Thank you very much!


 

Birgit Gläser
Germany
Local time: 09:34
English to German
+ ...
When do you sleep? Jun 28, 2009

I am not a free-lancer, but work for a international company where I among other tasks deal with translations to and from German (the customers want it in German, our product centers in English...). When my kids were younger, we had an agreement that I would work 20 hours a month to keep a hand in and to support my colleagues. Even back then it was always all or nothing - too much work or nothing at all (which then evened out the overtime). Now I am back woking part-time and still have the problem that overtime is required for urgent important projects. I am picking my kids up at 2 p.m. from Kindergarten and unfortunately they are not very cooperative in letting Mommy work during the daytime, so I only can get back to it when Daddy puts the little brats to bed or on the weekends. And believe me - it is really getting on one's nerves after a while, especially if the house looks like something exploded and laundry is piling up. And I never seem to get enough sleep - and that is with a steady job! Fortunately my husband is also pitching in with household chores!

But with a part-time job and a kid (I am assuming you are a single parent) getting established does not leave much room for sleep. Any chance of getting a part-time job to support you until you finish college (one that pays enough to get a "sitter" for your daughter as well)? Or getting a junker to move around easier? And this may sound harsh - but if you want to be a full-time translator, why are you starting college in January which would also only leave part-time for translation? (Unless of course if you want to earn a translation degree...) Would being in college allow you to respond to job offers early enough? Will you still want to work as a translator once you have your college degree?

Finally, becoming a free-lancer you should have some financial security to tide you over rough spots the start-up phase. Remember, you need to get jobs, the time to translate them and then wait for payment from your customer. And there is no guarantee that you will get enough jobs to occupy you full-time, if you have not groomed at least some regular customers.

You can try to get regular small jobs to get furher connections in the business, but for the time being that would mean to continue to work at night. And once you start college you have to consider that a big job which you may need to pay the rent would encroach on your time to study or attend classes.

Sorry for raining on your parade, but you should maybe sit down with a bottle of wine and make a list of what you want ot achieve, what is feasible/achievable and then decide how you want to proceed. Like a three- or five-year plan...

And I am not playing the guilt card: Earning a living definitly comes before quality time with your daughter. You want to create a future for the two of you, but if you burn out from too much work that is not going to help. I am really hoping you will find a way to achieve what you want.

Best of luck!

Birgit


 

Stanislaw Czech, MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:34
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
First of all buy a smartphone Jun 28, 2009

I understand that in your current situation quitting your part time job to be able to communicate with clients would not be a convenient solution as it is difficult to say how much time you need to start earning reasonable money translating.

The alternative is buying a smartphone and using it to answer your email and communicate with clients to get some work and translate in the afternoon and evening. It may be exhausting but at least you will know that you will have some minimum income from your part time job until you get (more) established.

Good luckicon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2009-06-28 13:55 GMT]


 

Anna Muntean Stacanova
United States
Local time: 03:34
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Canno use it Jun 28, 2009

Thank you Stanislaw, the thing is that I cannot use it during my other work, not a single possibility icon_frown.gif

 

sarandor  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:34
English to Russian
+ ...
Hi Ina, Jun 28, 2009

Ina Muntean Stacanova wrote:

I also felt that to start become a full -time translator fairly quickly I had to spend 10-18 hours a day at my computer and that is what I did for 2 months. Was it so with you?


In my experience, it takes about two years of full-time commitment to get established. Since you are starting school in January, you will be back to the current situation where you are doing translations part-time. Getting a smart-phone can help (make sure your phone and service plan allow you to open and view email attachments). If I were in your situation, I would try to get a college loan to cover my living expenses while I am in school, concentrate on my studies, graduate, and do everything I can to land a good job. Many colleges offer part-time employment to students (you can ask the financial aid office about that).


 

Sonja Kroll  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:34
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
What I don't understand: Jun 28, 2009

You don't think you can live on freelance translating now even if you take the whole day for it?
Then why do you think that you can live on it from January on when you have only half the day for it?

If I were in your place and determined to get started, I'd bust that no-phone job, and fast. I'd fully concentrate on the huge aim to be able within a few months (!) to live on freelance translating while doing it only half time. (That just counts for me and isn't necessarily the right and only ... you know.)

[Bearbeitet am 2009-06-28 20:05 GMT]


 

The Misha
Local time: 03:34
Russian to English
+ ...
Just like you, I sit with two schoolkids at home Jun 29, 2009

When there's work to do, I work - sometimes 15 hours a day straight or more - but when there's nothing, there's nothing - sometimes for weeks at a time. This is a business, you can't just turn it on or off on a particular date. Do what you can, and little by little you'll get there if you are good enough. Just don't expect to be able to start paying your bills off it any time soon. Did I say most of your clients wouldn't want to know what your family situation is?

[Edited at 2009-06-29 00:18 GMT]


 

Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:34
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
it takes about a year to establish any business Jun 29, 2009

It should take about 6 -12 months for you to get sufficient work (with ups and downs) to get a proper business going and make enough money to live on (comofrtably) unless you score some big project (onsite?),
So either hunt down direct clients (more income), big projects, subtitling (or anything else in a different time zone), so you do not miss out on the mails send during THEIR office hours -
Scoring jobs is easier when you are available when other translators in your language combinaion are sleeping...

And yes I did have another job while I started for 24 hours a week (working evenings shifts and weekends) and calling in sick on occasions where I had a big assignment or tight deadlines.... and I spend 16 hours a day behind my computer for 6 months...
(and later checking my mail first thing in the morning and just before going to bed, to see if any new jobs arrived...)

And Yes, I also got a divorce aournd the same time....


 

Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 03:34
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Hi Ina, Jun 29, 2009

I know how stressful it can be to worry about bills, school, childcare, etc. and still want to translate.

The one idea that occurs to me is related to your studies. You didn't mention what you will be studying, but I know when I did my graduate work, I was lucky to find some professors who needed translations for their courses, their conference papers, or just for their own research purposes.

I strongly suggest you meet with your department head, or thesis advisor (if you have one), and explain the whole situation. Bring examples of your work to show, and offer your services in any relevant department on campus (Int'l Relations, Law, Pol. Sci. etc.). These sort of assignments are rarely last minute ones with all of us racing to answer first, so you won't have that stress.

Hope that helps, hang in there.


 

MOTS  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 09:34
French to Dutch
+ ...
From Russian into English or the other way around? Jun 29, 2009

hi Ina!

Welcome to the translators' world. A question you should consider as well is from what language into what language you are going to translate. Mostly, one translates into his/her mother tongue. For you obviously, your mother tongue is Russian. Once you totally manage the English language, then only you could eventually translate into English. If I were you, I'd try to get jobs that need translations from English into Russian before starting any other language pair. That's how I started myself: I only concentrated on jobs from French or English into Dutch. Now, after so many years, I occasionally accept a translation from Dutch into French. But English, even though I read, write and speak the language quite well, I'd rather leave that to people who know better than myself. It's not my mother tongue, I'm not really a native speaker yet.

Good luck to you, I know how difficult it is to get started, especially from a peculiar situation...


 

Lia Fail (X)  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
trying to run before you can walk Jun 30, 2009

You are trying to win the lottery. One simply cannot become an established translator overnight.

There are lots of indications in your mail that you have too many committments (including the need for a few hours of sleep) and complications to be able to really able to focus on BUILDING (yes, not walking into) a decent living as a translator. What you need is a guaranteed income, and translation isn't going to give you that unless you are 100% available, and possibly "cheap" as well - and that is a bigger source of stress than you already have. You are a mother, a student, a worker and a wannabe translator. Don't get a smartphone, you have already admitted you're too "exhasuted"

Your are painting a picture of someone who wants some stability and security. I think you - mistakenly - see translation as a way of working from home at times that suit you and your daughter and your other commitments. However, that scenario works if one is ALREADY established as a translator and then gradually acquires commitments and difficulties. For you it's unlikely to work, becuase you have no regular, steady, client base and proven track record, nor do you have experience, discipline and undertsnading about the profession.


 

Maria Drangel  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 09:34
Member (2007)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Get a more flexible part time job or skip building your business Jul 12, 2009

Dear Ina,

I wish I could be more optimistic, but it sounds like mission impossible to combine a job which is not flexible and doesn´t even allow you to use a phone.

The most similar situation I have been in is trying to work from New Zealand, which is 12 hours time-difference from Europe where most of my clients are. I thought that if I kept reminding them that I do not check e-mails in the afternoons (since it was past midnight in my time zone) it just didn´t work. I tried for several months but then realised there was no way I could build my business like that. The very few clients who would wait for my answer were the really poor paying ones and although I tried to market myself as someone who can take a projects which arrives late in the evening (read: early in the morning for me) and deliver it early in the morning the next day (read: in the evening for me).

I am sorry to say it just didn´t work that way. Translation agencies are working with so many individuals they don´t want to wait for a response, my experience is that if you have not replied within one hour, quite often I have lost the job, unless it is some of the clients I have worked with a lot for several years. If I do not reply over several hours and it is a client which knows me well they will start getting nervous and either give the job to someone else or text me or possible even call me.

I hope you can find a more flexible job which you can do, which enables you to either check your e-mail or use a phone which allows you to read and reply to requests quickly. If that is not possible, knowing what I know now, I would not invest any money or energy to try to build a business within translations.

I wish you all the best with your struggle towards building a business, and everything else you are doing!

/Maria


 

Alexandre Chetrite
France
Local time: 09:34
English to French
About being available at night to answer jobs Jul 13, 2009

Hello,

I would like to comment on what someone said previously about being available at night when other translators from the same time zone are not (sleeping)...I understand the objective is to be able to answer customer job quotes instantly and so get the translation.

Is this efficient at all? Is it how most of beginner freelance translators get regular clients?
I thought that it was with time (at least 1 year) and relentless self-marketing and progress rather than playing with time zone differences.


 

Anna Muntean Stacanova
United States
Local time: 03:34
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you to everybody!I am posting answer to the questions or comments. Aug 12, 2009

First, thank you to everybody - very useful advice.
Sorry, that I am answering so late though.

Dear Birgit,

I sleep at night. icon_smile.gif, but you are right. It is Very very busy. I have only one child and she is very cooperative, she let's me work as soon as I am in the same room with her.

I want to go to college, a technical school in my situation, because I want to make a good salary either as a medical translator or as a nurse.

In January I am going to a part-time study course in nursing (7 am-12. 30 pm) and that leaves plenty of room for translating (2 pm- 12 am) and for taking care of my daughter.
I might not go to the college after all, but I since would like to be a full time translator.

I would be doing a nursing program that lasts only a year and a halp and gives you an LPN diploma. It is a last year program that requires little prerequisites and have small tuition. Next year the program will be bought by a community college, that is why it is important for me to go this year. Besides, next year nothing wil be changed - I will still nee to study and will have a child and only part time for work.



[Edited at 2009-08-13 01:05 GMT]


 

Anna Muntean Stacanova
United States
Local time: 03:34
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Smart phone Aug 12, 2009

Hi Stanislaw,
yes I do have a mart phone and from time to time I can change my phone plan either to only phone calls or phone calls with email and internet. That is depending on the need. It helped a lot before!


 
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