Getting started: is freelance translator a work life balance work?
Thread poster: Toni-Fisher

Local time: 06:45
English to Chinese
Jan 29, 2012

Hi all,

I am new to this forum and in the translation business, even I though I got my translation degree in 2008.

I am from Hong Kong, currently looking for day job, while considering starting my second career as freelance translator (English to Chinese). The reason is, I am thinking to be a stay at home mom once I have kid (not now) while my hubby would like me continue to work (due to financial reason). Being a freelancer seems a solution to this situation for I can work at home.

I had done some volunteer translation before but never work on paid project. I plan to use my job hunting period to learn translation software, while look for volunteer project again for gaining experience. At the same time I am learning German for hobby, but still at very basic level.

Is anyone here can share his/her experience of switching from full time employee to a freelancer? Is the transition hard? Or work as freelancer is not so "work life balance" as I imagine?

Thanks in advance!



Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:45
Flemish to English
+ ...
Work-life-balance? Jan 29, 2012

Toni-Fisher wrote:

Is anyone here can share his/her experience of switching from full time employee to a freelancer? Is the transition hard? Or work as freelancer is not so "work life balance" as I imagine?

Thanks in advance!


If you have to meet a deadline, how can being a freelance translator equal work-life-balance? So much money, so many words/pages/so much time. Those whom I know who earn above an average-translator's income work double hours, 6 days a week, sometimes Sunday's included.


Kay Denney  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:45
Member (2018)
French to English
juggling translation and babies Jan 30, 2012

You need to be well established before even thinking of having a baby, otherwise what clients you have will simply find someone who is not pregnant to do their job, then they'll be wary of coming back to you in case you have another baby.

I don't know what things are like in Hong Kong but here in France you'd be better off starting your family as an employee, as you are entitled to maternity leave.

I worked as a translator while at home with my children.

I don't regret it in the least and they were easily the most enjoyable years of my life. If I were allowed to live any of my life a second time, that's the period I would choose.


My top priority was my role as a mother. The children always took precedence. I was absolutely clear about that and stuck firmly to that decision. So I had to refuse a lot of work simply because deadlines interfered with that role. And I didn't earn very much money either. However, we had discussed it and it was clear for both of us that I was not to be the breadwinner during that period. The work I accepted was more a way of keeping in touch with the working world to make going back to work easier, to stop me going rusty, than to actually contribute to our finances. So we lived frugally and my money was only used for extras.

Deadlines always do mean you have to sacrifice something, I mostly sacrificed my sleep and the housework. I did a lot of typing using one hand with the other supporting a suckling baby, and a lot of proofing walking up and down trying to get the baby off to sleep. Nowadays you can easily find baby slings and carriers to at least free both hands, and if you sit on a stool to work you can even wear your baby on your back. And even though I refused work, I did still find myself having to ask friends to take my children off my hands when I misjudged the amount of time necessary for a translation or when something unexpected happened, like staying up all night with a feverish vomiting child. Bear in mind that of all possible roles in life, motherhood is the role which entails the highest rate of imponderables!


Claudia Brauer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:45
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Link to info Jan 30, 2012

Toni, I suggest you read the following link thoroughly before thinking of establishing yourself as a freelancer.

Likewise, the forums have extensively discussed the issue, so you might find it useful to go to the forum and choose some of the topics that might interest you specifically

Good luck


LucyPatterso (X)
Speaking from experience Feb 2, 2012

Hi Toni,

I have been working as a freelance translator since 2007 and have a two-year old.
I've found it to be a stressful experience balancing a baby/toddler with translation work, but it has been well worth the extra effort. Your family has two incomes, you don't have to put a very young child in daycare (expensive and ideally they should stay at home at least until the age of two!). You are free to turn down work if too busy - lots of benefits.

A few tips:
*Ideally get as much experience as you can before you have a baby. I was really slow when I started and had no idea how long each project would take. It is also a good idea to know what to expect from clients and agencies and have invoicing/tax and other time-consuming issues in order. It's also important to gain the trust and approval of a few regular clients.
*Babies sleep a lot of the time, but can also keep you awake all night. You have to strike a balance between sleeping with the baby and working during their naps. Exhausting ... I did not want to lose contacts though. After six months most sleep through.
*I never told any of my agencies I was pregant/have a child. It can be difficult to answer the phone with a yelling toddler in the room - but agencies usually end up emailing anyway.
* Make sure your child has a clear routine - scheduled naps and same bedtime every night. Not only is this exactly what young children need, you will be able to work out how many hours you have to work each day.
*My son now goes to nursery 2 1/2 days a week and the grandparents help out occasionally. This has made me feel slightly more in control - and I kept up my business contacts so work is still coming in
*My son is used to me using the computer now and then and is great at playing alongside me while I work. He certainly prefers this to being at nursery.However, I do most work during nap times and once he's in bed.
*I actually earn more than my husband, who has an office jobicon_wink.gif We are glad to have two incomes as life is so much easier!


Audra deFalco (X)
United States
Local time: 17:45
Italian to English
+ ...
You can do it Feb 11, 2012

You can do it! I would suggest maybe taking a year or two to start establishing relationships with agencies/clients/getting paid work before trying for a child. That way by the time the baby comes around you might be in a better financial position.

All it really takes to get you going and get the ball rolling is one good client. I remember the first client I ever had waaay back in high school. I charged him $600 dollars to translate some documents he had and that was it. I was hooked and word of mouth spread and before I knew it I became the person to go to first in a very, very specific niche market.

Don't give up! You can do it.


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