Start-up: what will I need?
Thread poster: Tiffany Hardy

Tiffany Hardy  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:34
Spanish to English
May 14, 2012

Hello everyone.

I'm finally taking the jump to full time translation fairly soon and am setting up a business plan. It turns out with the end of my current contract as proofreader, I'm eligible for unemployment benefits and here in Spain the option exists to take the benefits as a lump sum to start a business. In drawing up my business plan, I'm trying to think of every possible detail of initial costs that I may have, since the amount I am eligible for is only for start-up and not for cash flow. I'll have exactly one month to spend the money and any unspent funds have to be returned. It's important that I not miss anything and realize afterwards that I should have bought such and such an item.

So here's my question: Are there any items you use to run your business that you consider particularly useful that may be less obvious to a newbie? (e.g. billing software, reference books you couldn't live without, CAT tools worth investing in, etc.). Does anything come to mind that was quite an investment that would normally be difficult for a translator starting out to afford but that has made your life much easier since you invested in it?

Thanks in advance!


Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:34
English to French
If I started from scratch now with unlimited funds May 14, 2012

Computer with (large) dual screen
External HD or NAS system and router
Backup software
Local indexing software
Good chair
Good computer desk and other desk(s)
Internet service
Antivirus software
Microsoft Office or equivalent
CAT tool
Management/business software (TO3000)
Time tracking software (ExactSpent)
Voice recognition (Dragon) if typing is not your strong point
Scanner + OCR program
Laser Printer
Accounting services
Website design services and maintenance long-term subscription (cheaper)
Specialised magazine subscription (marketing, politics, science, cooking, mining, etc.)
A few specialised dictionaries (about EUR100 each)
Coffee machine
Water fountain
Large unbreakable ashtray

Good luck,


XXXphxxx (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:34
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Other than what you've already mentioned May 14, 2012

An all-in-one printer/scanner/copier
ProZ membership (full access to the Blue Board could save you a lot of time/trouble with dodgy clients)
Decent office furniture (i.e. a proper office chair)

I'm assuming you already have a sound PC with a decent amount of RAM and the full complement of MS Office software.

I'm also assuming the budget isn't huge. If you have to cut corners you will probably find a lot of reference material is available online. There are plenty of excellent free online dictionaries these days. As for CAT tools, I believe many of the companies offer free trial versions so you may want to get started on those soon and then make your decision regarding a purchase within the month, while the government is still offering you the funds.

An after-thought: a website.

[Edited at 2012-05-14 08:42 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-05-14 08:44 GMT]


JaneD  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:34
Member (2009)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Only one expensive essential - CAT tool May 14, 2012

I started out as a freelancer with the equipment I already had - however, the one thing that has made a huge difference to the speed of my work and to the amount of work I am offered is the purchase of Trados Studio. It was so hideously expensive, as there were no "light" versions then, that I waited for a long time - I think it was a year - after starting up before I bought it, but I felt really stupid for having done so as it paid for itself in a matter of weeks, and has carried on contributing enormously to my income levels ever since.

Things like accounting software and so-on are nice, but they can wait. You can even translate in an uncomfortable chair on a slow computer (although it is not recommended in terms of your health). The CAT tool is the one thing I'd recommend that you have to have, assuming that you will not be entirely translating literary texts, that is - I hear they aren't much help in that case!



Tiffany Hardy  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:34
Spanish to English
Thanks May 14, 2012

Thank you very much for your thoughtful replies, JaneD, Lisa and Philippe.

Special thanks to Philippe for your list, which mentions many things I had not thought of that could be well worth looking into.

It is also a very good suggestion to try out the CAT tools before deciding which one is for me. I had sort of taken it for granted that I would get TRADOS but would do well to try other options out and decide which one I prefer in the end.


Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:34
Dutch to English
+ ...
Adobe Pro May 14, 2012

I would add this to Philippe's list.

I have found it invaluable. Also Visio. These 2 packages give me added value and although they are expensive, they pay for themselves after a short while.

You do not have to learn how to use the packages as a pro just enough to be able to use them to your own advantage.

Good luck!


The Misha
Local time: 15:34
Russian to English
+ ...
What you really need is a steady supply of work May 14, 2012

Nothing mentioned here is all that essential. You can translate on a slow computer with a small monitor, sitting on a kitchen chair - or on the beach for that matter. You can do your bookkeeping in excel, or on paper even, no big deal. Everything in terms of dictionaries and reference materials may be found on the Internet these days, if you know where to look. Whether CAT tools are all that important depends on what you are going to translate. Personally, I have been doing legal and finance for over 20 years, and I have no use for them at all. What you do need is a reliable Internet connection and a good roster of clients that will keep you busy enough to pay the bills. That's it. Good luck, and don't work too hard.


Lennart Luhtaru  Identity Verified
United States
English to Estonian
+ ...
Tools May 14, 2012

Decent business class desktop or laptop
CAT tools (e.g. Trados)
Office + proofing and dictionary plugins
Adobe subscription 60 USD a month (all Adobe tools)
Dropbox subscription for backup and unlimited versions of files 14 USD a month for 50GB
Proz membership
Literature related to your field of translation (for me medical and technical dictionaries, anatomy books etc.)
Good Internet connection (e.g. 20Mbps and up)

Also, Snagit, Infix, ABBYY and Codezapper for PDF files

[Edited at 2012-05-14 12:00 GMT]


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:34
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
What is your budget? May 14, 2012

Tiffany Hardy wrote:
I'll have exactly one month to spend the money and any unspent funds have to be returned.

What is your budget?


Tiffany Hardy  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:34
Spanish to English
roughly 5000 euros May 14, 2012

After paying for certifications, membership fees, and a good website, I estimate I'll have about 5000 euros left to spend on 'stuff'.


Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:34
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Few more May 14, 2012

Just a couple of comments:

Business cards (if you want local clients)

Chair (I know other people mentioned this but I wanted to say I think this should be your most expensive item, spend as much as you can on this even getting one of the high-end chairs if you can, your back and backside will thank you in the long run).

CAT tool (I think some people won't agree with this) - I am a firm believer in CAT tools and would not want to work without one but I don't think it is an indispensable tool to start off with unless you happen to quickly find a client that wants you to use a specific tool. The problem with this is that until such a client comes along you have no way of knowing which CAT tool you will need.

To give you an example none of my clients are bothered about CAT tools except for one of my major clients, they want me to work on Wordfast, when they originally contacted me I started using the free version of Wordfast and once I saw there was a steady stream of work I bought the full version (I now use WF for all my jobs even the ones where the client does not want a CAT tool, I use WF and then deliver the reconstructed file).

However if at the beginning of my career I had bought another CAT tool (like Trados) I would have spent loads of money for something I never use.


Rebecca Hendry  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:34
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
My experience May 14, 2012

Hi Tiffany,

You're very fortunate to have cash to buy all this "stuff". I, and I'm sure many other Prozians, had to start off with the basics and gradually invest as the work picked up.

If I were in your position, I would invest in a CAT tool (I use Trados but there are other options) and a good website with your own domain name. The other major investments I've made over the years have been a new PC and a new laptop. If you already have a desktop I would recommend getting a laptop so that you can work wherever you want. If you have two computers, I would also recommend a sync programme called ViceVersa so that you can sync the files on the two computers quickly and easily.

The only other thing that I'd consider essential would be a membership.

Good luck!



Rossana Triaca  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:34
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
A couple that I haven't seen mentioned... May 14, 2012

- Add training or certification costs to the CAT tool you end up choosing unless you already know the tool well or are very IT literate.

- Bear in mind that "accounting services" should not only cover the fees and expenses of opening up your own company, print invoices, etc., but also several consultation hours with an accountant to learn how to keep your books, file yearly balances, and perform all the annoying minutiae of running a business.

- Professional indemnity insurance and general business insurance. Really cheap as a yearly stipend, worth it's price in gold if anything were to happen.


Tiffany Hardy  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:34
Spanish to English
Thank you everyone May 16, 2012

I really appreciate all of your input. There are many things mentioned here that I had not thought of.

It is really great to have such a helpful community of translators that do their best to support each other's efforts.


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