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Can you make a living by being a translator?
Thread poster: MarianaPereira

MarianaPereira
Portugal
Local time: 11:15
English to Portuguese
+ ...
May 29, 2012

Hi there!

As a translation student, I always wonder if when I finish my course and finally start working in the translation market, I'll be able to earn enough money to make a living, or if in the beginning I should consider finding a part-time job to earn some extra money.

Can you give me your own opinion?


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:15
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I suspect May 29, 2012

MarianaPereira wrote:
I always wonder if when I finish my course and finally start working in the translation market, I'll be able to earn enough money to make a living...


I suspect the rule of thumb for any new translator also applies to student translators, namely that it will take you 6-12 months to establish your business with sufficient income to support you. This means that you should either have 1 year's money stashed somewhere, or you should start doing translation part-time... or you should land yourself a job as an employee translator.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:15
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Definitely, but you need a lot of different skills May 29, 2012

Hello there.

There are a lot of successful freelance translators on this site - and a lot who are struggling.

You are almost 100% sure to find things very difficult at first so a part-time job may not be a bad idea. This is not specific to translating as freelancers in every discipline need time to build their client base.

But the main problem you may face is credibility. Translators don't just need to know how to translate: they need to have in-depth knowledge of their subject matter in more than one language. And they need to have other skills: marketing skills to attract and keep clients; the ability to run a small business (tax issues etc); they need to be extremely well organised; and 100% self-motivated - no boss to crack the whip; and they need a very great attention to detail.

So, if you think you've got that lot, there's no reason why you shouldn't have a successful career.

Sheila


 

Alexander Onishko  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:15
Member (2007)
Russian to English
+ ...
* May 29, 2012

MarianaPereira wrote:

Hi there!

As a translation student, I always wonder if when I finish my course and finally start working in the translation market, I'll be able to earn enough money to make a living, or if in the beginning I should consider finding a part-time job to earn some extra money.

Can you give me your own opinion?


Some people say they can...


 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:15
English to Spanish
+ ...
Yes May 30, 2012

My experience is that I have been making a living as a translator for 26 years. The downside is that it took me close to 15 years to get to that point. Hopefully it will not take you that long if you are good.

 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:15
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Have you... May 30, 2012

Alexander Onishko wrote:
Some people say they can...


Have you met such people? Do you know what their reasoning is?


 

Doron Greenspan MITI  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 13:15
Member (2005)
English to Hebrew
+ ...
You definitely can! May 30, 2012

Mariana, I started 8 years ago and was going through my MA course wondering the same thing.
The reason I was wondering was the local translators forums, where nearly everyone complained about low rates, pushy clients etc. (I specifically looked for posts regarding rates...)

But pretty quickly I realised that the moaners were likely to be those who were doing exactly the same thing since they themselves started, with no vision, no learning, no investments, no self-improvement - just plodding the same route with the same lousy low-paying clients.

So my advice to you is AIM HIGH.

My humble experience, if it can be useful to you:
1. I invested in a TM tool right from the start (not cheap, but not so expensive when bought from here) and within months have returned the investment.
2. I also went global from the start (through ProZ.com - but the 'market' was much nicer then...), avoiding the low-paying local market as much as I could.
3. I spent even more money on membership of a serious professional body which has qualification options (ITI, with a terribly expensive test and annual fees), and that brought me clients that otherwise wouldn't find me.

In short, you can succeed, but aim high from the start!


 

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:15
Member
English to French
Freelancing May 30, 2012

Sheila Wilson wrote:
...This is not specific to translating as freelancers in every discipline need time to build their client base....Sheila

Thank you for mentioning this. Going freelance in any profession (lawyer, decorator, mechanic, web designer, dog-sitter...) assumes you have a fat address book, an extended network of acquaintances, a USP (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unique_selling_proposition) and/or a captive client base (no competition).
If you have none of this, be prepared to "work" hard for no money to get known (research, marketing, follow-up, visits/travels, extra training, etc.) and practise (NGOs...). Don't expect customers to run to you if you have nothing more to offer than the competition.

I don't know which is the easiest nowadays: try your luck going freelance or find a job.

Recent threads about translating for a living:
http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/207310-freelancing_for_a_living.html
http://www.proz.com/forum/poll_discussion/223951-poll:_are_you_the_main_breadwinner_in_your_home.html

Philippe


 

ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 13:15
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
Yes May 30, 2012

Yes, you can definitely make a living by being a translator. It is just a matter of what you mean by "a living". If you want to get rich by being a translator, it is just not going to work. If you mean a humble life, yes it will work.

 

World Services
United States
Local time: 06:15
I agree May 30, 2012

I agree with the previous posts. It is possible, but it will require effort from you to establish yourself. You may not earn as much as some other professions, but it's worth it if that is your passion.

 

Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
So far, so good... Jun 8, 2012

I worked as an in-house interpreter/translator for a couple of years, but the company I worked for was going through some really tough times and most of us got laid off back in September. I've been working as a freelancer ever since and so far I've managed to cover all my bills and pay to bring my wife here to the states from Argentina. There have been some sleepless nights, but we have a roof over our heads and food on the table. Personally, I love being freelance and the thought of going back to being a slave to the system makes me ill ^_^

 

blastardo
Local time: 12:15
Polish to English
+ ...
Depends mostly on two factors Jun 8, 2012

It depends on either luck in finding good orders, or on personal craftiness and business sense. Unless you decide to create your own company, to earn a living as a translator you'd have to search and search for good offers. That's the simple truth.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:15
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
What difference does that make? Jun 10, 2012

blastardo wrote:
Unless you decide to create your own company, to earn a living as a translator you'd have to search and search for good offers.


I don't see that having a company, and paying all the taxes that go with one, would make any difference. Company owners have to have good business sense AND luck, just as freelancers do, don't they?

Sheila


 

FarkasAndras
Local time: 12:15
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Maybe three factors... Jun 10, 2012

blastardo wrote:

It depends on either luck in finding good orders, or on personal craftiness and business sense.


I would like to think that one's skill/expertise as a translator also has something to do with it.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:15
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
We're in the "Getting established" section here Jun 10, 2012

FarkasAndras wrote:

blastardo wrote:

It depends on either luck in finding good orders, or on personal craftiness and business sense.


I would like to think that one's skill/expertise as a translator also has something to do with it.

Your skill as a translator means customers come back, and perhaps even recommend you to others, but it's not what pulls the first ones inicon_wink.gif


 
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