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Help me get started with part time Japanese to English translation.
Thread poster: Sam Haugh

Sam Haugh  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 14:13
Japanese to English
Jun 17, 2014

Hello,

My name is Sam and I am an English teacher teaching out of Japan.
I majored in Japanese and took a translation elective for two years which is where my desire to get started as a part time translator stems from. Currently, I do some small jobs on websites like gengo.com and conyaqs, but I would like to establish something a little more serious/well paying.

I have had trouble finding work other than the small jobs I do because...

1. I majored in Japanese, and so I don't really have a particular field to specialize in. If only linguistics/education was a good translation fieldicon_frown.gif

2. Everyone is way more experience than me, how am I meant to compete with these guys?

3. Fees. I am not keen on spending 100$ on a Proz membership just to be disappointed with what I am afraid of. (See 2.)

4. How do I find work that meets suits my schedule? I teach full time so I would only like to spend 5-10 hours max translating a week.

I am just looking for consistent part time. How should I go about finding it?
Any help is much appreciated.

Thanks,

Sam


 

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:13
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Are you allowed to do this legally? Jun 18, 2014

The very first thing you need to make sure that you are in fact legally allowed to take on another part-time job while working in your full-time job. Depending on your visa status, it may not be possible for you to do this at all. For example the JET program is very strict about it.

 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 13:13
Chinese to English
Got to find something to market Jun 18, 2014

Hmm. Sam, I'm a translator who devotes all of his working life to translation. I do it 50 hours a week, and chat with other translators to relax. I did two postgrad degrees in translation. And you want me to tell you that you can do my job just as a sideline, on the back of an elective course you did a few years ago? Why on earth would I or anyone else want to tell you how to do that, even if we believe that you can? Why would our industry want you?

Let me suggest this to you: come back and ask the question again in a manner that makes professional translators think, "There's a promising young guy who needs our help," as opposed to, "There's another joker who thinks he can do this for beer money." With a bit of luck, in the course of figuring out how to ask the question of us, you might work out how to present yourself to potential clients.


 

Dylan Jan Hartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Awesome Jun 18, 2014

Phil Hand wrote:

Hmm. Sam, I'm a translator who devotes all of his working life to translation. I do it 50 hours a week, and chat with other translators to relax. I did two postgrad degrees in translation. And you want me to tell you that you can do my job just as a sideline, on the back of an elective course you did a few years ago? Why on earth would I or anyone else want to tell you how to do that, even if we believe that you can? Why would our industry want you?

Let me suggest this to you: come back and ask the question again in a manner that makes professional translators think, "There's a promising young guy who needs our help," as opposed to, "There's another joker who thinks he can do this for beer money." With a bit of luck, in the course of figuring out how to ask the question of us, you might work out how to present yourself to potential clients.


Couldn't have said it better. Vote #1 for Phil in professional translators union!


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:13
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Don't underestimate this point Jun 18, 2014

Katalin Horváth McClure wrote:
The very first thing you need to make sure that you are in fact legally allowed to take on another part-time job while working in your full-time job.

I agree. If (I stress the 'if') your money-making activities are not within the scope of the work for which your visa was granted, you could get into serious trouble.

I'm not suggesting anything as dramatic as being thrown into the local jug, but if they notice the authorities could simply decide to revoke your visa. And not to grant you a working visa in future. That would kill your career in Japan stone dead.

Remember that if you're active on translation sites you are leaving a paper trail on the internet. At the moment it will be fragmented. If you want to get more professional about translating you'll probably want a serious CV, perhaps your own website and so on - essentially raising your public profile. Seems to me that would involve an unambiguous and increasingly noticeable breach of your visa conditions.

In all honesty I don't think catching people like yourself is a priority for the Japanese authorities, so the risk may be low. It is nonetheless real. Gaijin tend to regard the police and other enforcers in Japan as a bit of a joke. I don't. I have seen the Japanese legal machine in action. It may grind slowly but once it gets started it grinds exceedingly small.

It might be wiser to wait until you have left Japan to get serious about this.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:13
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Consistent work? Jun 18, 2014

All beginning freelancers would love that, however well qualified they are and whatever work they do (programming, writing, graphic design, translating...). In fact, many experienced freelancers find it their major challenge. "Feast or famine" is what a freelancer has to deal with throughout their working life.

Typically, a freelance translator will begin with training and learning specialised subjects. Then there's marketing: spending money on a professional showcase area (i.e. memberships), followed by spending time and effort filling it with tempting facts, figures, samples and appealing text. Then you have to bring that to the attention of potential clients. Once they know about you, they'll most likely file your details. If, one day, probably Christmas Day, they can't find anyone else, they'll contact you. Do a good job and you may get a regular client.

A freelancer needs a minimum of 3-4 regular clients who send frequent work (fewer is suicidal), plus at least 10 others to try to stave off that "feast or famine" syndrome. Even then, time has to be set aside constantly for marketing, promotion, training, etc. And money, too.

So, by all means go for it if it's an important life goal (and if it's legally possible - it really isn't a "cash under the table" sort of job). But don't expect to use it as a fill-in job to complement your day job.


 

Sam Haugh  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 14:13
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your replies. Jun 18, 2014

Katalin - I am fine in this area, thank you for your concerns.

Phil - I am sorry if the manner of my email came across as me degrading your profession. I was under the impression that I could post in a polite, yet casual manner without offending anyone. I am genuinely motivated to give translation a shot, and beer is not my motivator.

Maybe you misunderstood me when I used the word, "part time", as I meant restricting how many hours I work, rather than the quality of the job. I already do casual translations with low expectations and I would like to move on.

You titled your reply as "got to find something to market". Well, how do I go about developing a specialty? Should I write a blog to show how I am working to develop a specialty, or is going back to school my only option?

Would becoming a paying member of Proz be a good move for someone who has little professional experience and doesn't specialize in a particular area?


 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:13
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Steady on, Phil ... Jun 18, 2014

... something a bit more constructive is called for here, some guidance as to the direction to take in the professional world, some other career options ...

Perhaps the great and late Mr. Dury can contribute a few worthwhile suggestions:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRv3ld4Bmoc



Mervyn


 

Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:13
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Professional associations Jun 18, 2014

If you are serious about building a career in translation I would look into joining a professional association and get to some events for newcomers. This will give you a good idea of what is required and people are very helpful. But look at it as a long term project and be aware that you will need to invest time and money to succeed. If investing $100 for ProZ membership seems like too much then it's probably a non-starter.

Good luck if you do decide to give it a go,

Rachel


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 13:13
Chinese to English
Fair point Jun 18, 2014

Mervyn Henderson wrote:

... something a bit more constructive is called for here, some guidance as to the direction to take in the professional world, some other career options ...

Perhaps the great and late Mr. Dury can contribute a few worthwhile suggestions:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRv3ld4Bmoc



Mervyn

You're right, that was unnecessarily grumpy.

Sam, I apologise for my unwelcoming tone earlier. I've been translating too much philosophy, and it makes me grind my teeth.

But the substance remains correct. You're looking in the right places; you seem to know what you're up against. Now you have to decide how you can do it, and then demonstrate that to clients. They want good translators. They don't care how many hours you work. You just have to show them that you're good - I did lots of tests for agencies when I was starting. You have to be willing and lucky with your first job or two - apply for everything and accept a sleepless night or two to get jobs in on time. Then you have to be reliable and deliver good quality.

Worth mentioning that you definitely want agency clients. A direct client needs you to be available all the time (generally). You can always say no to an agency job, so for part time work, agencies are best. The other option, if you're at a university, is to try the academics. They sometimes need translation done, and are often relaxed about turnaround time.


 

Sam Haugh  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 14:13
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the fantastic advice! Jun 18, 2014

Three great pieces of advice I probably would have never thought about...

1. Join an association. Already on the New Zealand page as I type.
2. Get in contact with agencies.
3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRv3ld4Bmoc

I think I have a game plan now. I guess whatever agency takes me in would decide what kind of specialization I end up getting into.

On a side note for Dan,

Work through gengo is apparently all done in the US and gengo pays the taxes for us. No idea how it works, but I remember signing some kind of declaration for taxes.

Thanks a bunch,

Regards,

Sam


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:13
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
Research, availability and specialisations Jun 18, 2014

Phil you may have been a bit grumpy but I think it's a pretty normal reaction. Especially given the frequency of the "hi I'm a noob help me make some money on the side" posts.

Sam one of the most important qualities in a translator is the ability to do research and if you'd taken the trouble to root around here a bit you'd have seen other people in a similar position to yours getting their heads bitten off too.

I'm afraid Sheila is spot-on with the feast or famine thing. No way can you get a steady little flow of work if you're only prepared to work 5 or 10 hours a week, unless you have a friend somewhere.

And as Phil says, direct clients expect you to just always be available, they depend on you to get the job done however little time they've left for you, and if you can't answer your phone or e-mail because you're teaching they will assume you are MPD and find someone else. Agencies can sometimes be a little more flexible but they can't wait all day either.

One of the most important things when you start out I think is to be available. I started out when I had a more-than-full-time job in that I was parenting my babies and babies need round-the-clock attention. But I was able to type with one hand while holding the half-breastfeeding half-napping baby in the other and neither child managed to set the house on fire when I had to lock myself away from them to handle a phone call. And I always made sure to give them even more quality time to make up for times when I had to give the translation my all. Teaching is not nearly as flexible, so you need to think about that one.

So you've twigged that you need a specialist subject. Since your education and work experience are all language-related you'll need to cast about further: what are your hobbies? I got into fashion and textiles by dint of learning dressmaking with my mother for example.

I'm not a member of Proz, since I don't come here looking for clients, from what others have said here it's not the best source anyway, but you do need to be prepared to invest if you're serious about being a good translator. Software, hardware, time, books (I just invested in a whopping great book on modern art, since that is one of my specialities, and I'm really going to read it and not just look at the pretty pictures), membership of at least one serious professional body, further training etc. We don't just translate off the top of our hats, we put in the spadework!


 

Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:13
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Specialization Jun 18, 2014

SamHaugh wrote:

I guess whatever agency takes me in would decide what kind of specialization I end up getting into.



I think that's a mistake to be honest. I would at least have a think about what kind of specialism you would like to develop otherwise you will never specialize - you will spend your career skipping from one thing to another. You could write to an agency and say, for example "I am a relative newcomer to translation but I am working to develop a specialism in finance. I am half way through such-and-such course and have attended such-and-such webinars." Just showing that you are working towards a specialism is something and shows your seriousness.

There are lots of good courses available now, some of them free (Google MOOCS and see what you fancy).

Rachel


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:13
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Follow-up points Jun 18, 2014

SamHaugh wrote:
how do I go about developing a specialty? Should I write a blog to show how I am working to develop a specialty, or is going back to school my only option?

Why not get a part-time job locally? Then you'd get a guaranteed payment for every hour of work. Some sort of client reception work where your languages may come in useful? If it's an auto-repair shop then automotive could become a specialisation (with some private study etc); if it's a tourist office, a sports shop, a supermarket... you get the drift.

Would becoming a paying member of Proz be a good move for someone who has little professional experience and doesn't specialize in a particular area?

Well, trying to get decent jobs here without membership probably wouldn't work. Many jobs are open to members for the first 12 hours, and many other outsourcers make their own choice from the directory - where members are listed first. But even that isn't enough: the rules of the ProZ.com game call for KudoZ points to boost your position in the directory.

Work through gengo is apparently all done in the US and gengo pays the taxes for us. No idea how it works, but I remember signing some kind of declaration for taxes.

Have you really, really made sure of your position? It wasn't a W8-BEN you signed was it? That would make sense. If so, no, it doesn't mean they are paying any tax on your behalf. Are you a US citizen? If so, the US will be expecting you to declare your world-wide income to them and pay tax on it, I believe (but I'm British so I don't really know). You will also need to be telling the Japanese authorities about all your earnings, even if they don't want to tax them. I've registered at one time and another at several freelancer sites, but not one of them has ever undertaken to pay my taxes.

In fact, here's clause 9 of the agreement you signed:
You acknowledge and agree that you are obligated to report as income all compensation received by you pursuant to this Agreement. You agree and acknowledge the obligation to pay all self-employment and other taxes on such income.


 

Bo Wang  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 13:13
Member (2014)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Have a field Jun 19, 2014

I suggest maybe you can do some regular tasks first, seems you have already been doing it. If translation really works for you ,you may have some knowledge about one sepicific filed you have interest in. Then, focus your effort on the that field.

 
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