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The key steps to becoming a freelance translator
Thread poster: SamuelDJones

SamuelDJones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:06
Member (2016)
French to English
+ ...
Aug 21, 2016

Morning all,

I'm currently working in a full-time administration job (with interpreting a key part of my role) while also taking on a few projects on the side as a freelancer. I've done this for about 2 years now and am now keen to make a decision with regards to my next step towards eventually going freelance full-time.

For me, the options available are the following:

- Find an in-house translation role
- Complete a MA in Translation
- Pass the DipTrans exam

Basically, my question is to ask whether people have done all of the above (if so, in which order?) or whether they've managed to enjoy relative success without doing a Masters, for example.

Thanks in advance for your comments,

Sam


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DJHartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
In short... Aug 21, 2016

Best advice is to make sure you have enough of a full-time workload before you quit your day-job. The other steps you mention aren't necessarily required to go full-time.

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SamuelDJones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:06
Member (2016)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
How to get full-time workload? Aug 21, 2016

Thanks for the quick reply, DJHartmann.

Would you say that in order to secure this full-time workload, I would need one of those 3 things to attract more clients?


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 03:06
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Proz.com helps me Aug 21, 2016

SamuelDJones wrote:

For me, the options available are the following:

- Find an in-house translation role
- Complete a MA in Translation
- Pass the DipTrans exam

Sam


For new translators, I recommend to have extensive marketing activities to gain clients' attraction. Education, training, certificate and other credentials are relatively successive priorities after you have confidence with how to live on full-time jobs as a translator.

It is surprising but the paid membership of Proz.com helps me deeply and very effectively to find new clients. It becomes a phenomenon of chain reaction of extensive marketing activities (e.g. for new oversea customers). Why not try with it?

Soonthon L.


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Michael Joseph Wdowiak Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:06
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
some tips Aug 21, 2016

SamuelDJones wrote:

Morning all,

I'm currently working in a full-time administration job (with interpreting a key part of my role) while also taking on a few projects on the side as a freelancer. I've done this for about 2 years now and am now keen to make a decision with regards to my next step towards eventually going freelance full-time.

For me, the options available are the following:

- Find an in-house translation role
- Complete a MA in Translation
- Pass the DipTrans exam

Basically, my question is to ask whether people have done all of the above (if so, in which order?) or whether they've managed to enjoy relative success without doing a Masters, for example.

Thanks in advance for your comments,

Sam


Hi Samuel,

I've been translating freelance (successfully) for around 20 years now and never had an in-house translation position (although I did work for/with my mother in the beginning of my career, who had a translation agency herself), never completed an MA in translation or passed any translation related exam. I do have a BA in Philosophy, and some clients sometimes ask for a copy of it, but it could be any old degree really.

There are many ways to find enough work to go full-time, the main ones being:
1. Ensure that you have a good online presence/presentation. That is, a full Proz profile, answer some KudoZ questions, professional/personal website, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
2. Make sure you are a good translator. This is very important and can only be learned by practice. It is also important to figure out how good you are so that you know how much to charge. One good way to go about this is to find someone who translates in your language pair and direction who you know is good, and ask them to review a few of your translations. Pay them for this and they will be more likely to do a good job and be honest.
3. Make sure not to charge too high a rate when starting off (maybe around €0.06 for absolute beginners), and gradually but steadily increase it the better your work gets (experienced translators in your pairs can charge anywhere up to €0.25/src word).

Your profile says that you do French and Spanish to English, which is good because there is loads of work in those pairs.

Good luck!

Michael

PS: this is a tip that I also always give newbies: if you are considering doing an expensive MA, or even something like the DipTrans exam, you might instead be better off doing the following. figure out how much money it will cost you, subtract a tiny portion from this, and find yourself a good mentor. that is, someone who is currently working full-time as a freelance translator and who is successful, and who basically knows the ropes. offer to pay them for a couple of months in exchange for showing you how things work, reviewing your translations, etc. those MA's, although probably a lot of fun (especially if you're young), are just way too expensive in terms of what you actually get in return, regarding how much they will actually contribute to you making more money as a starting translator.

[This post was dictated using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13. Please excuse any typos]


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:06
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It takes longer than you would expect Aug 21, 2016

People are generally over optimistic when it comes to becoming a translator. Although, some people get lucky, you can generally expect:

Year one: between $500 and $2000.00 per year
Year two: between $3000 and $7000.00 per year

Keep in mind that rates have gone DOWN over the years (in some cases as much as 50%). Translation agencies were paying .09 to .12 per word (with rush fees, weekend fees, formatting fees and NO CAT discounts) all the way back in 1994 (repetitions were considered normal and part of the reason for the low .09 per word rate). So, 22 years later, rates have not increased, have gone down for some and you are not getting paid for a lot of that work because it is now considered "bad" to charge for repetitions or matches or getting surcharges.

Think about it, if rates were .09 in 1994 (with all repetitions and matches included), then with a meager .005 annual cost-of-living increase, the rate would now be .20 per word (without CAT discounts or .30 per word with discounts).

Therefore, whatever you are making now, I hope you will be able to survive on that income (and maybe less) in 2038.

Now you can understand while older translators are so bitter. You will get there too one day.

I would advise that you pick an alternate path while you still can.

[Edited at 2016-08-21 18:26 GMT]


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xxxIlan Rubin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 23:06
Russian to English
Per month or per year? Aug 21, 2016

LegalTransform wrote:

People are generally over optimistic when it comes to becoming a translator. Although, some people get lucky, you can generally expect:

Year one: between $500 and $2000.00
Year two: between $3000 and $7000.00



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polyglot45
English to French
+ ...
Taking courses is not just about learning your craft Aug 21, 2016

Every time a "newbie' comes along and asks for advice about embarking on a career as a translator, the same old names appear in the thread. Always the same people, always singing from the same hymnsheet.

As a non-member, whose posts therefore have to be vetted, I am under no illusions about how many hours, or even days, it will take for this post to appear. But I would like to flag up another point of view, a different viewpoint.

Most of the people active on this site are people who had no formal training in translation. Some, perhaps many, manage to make a decent living by having honed their skills over the years, good marketing, working long hours at low rates, being at the mercy of the agencies, etc.

A few people, like myself, lurking in the background, have formal training and some of them, myself included, teach on Masters courses. We are not on the site to find work, to raise our profiles, etc. We don't need to. Whence the use, in my case, of a pseudonym.

My advice is ALWAYS that if you really want to be a good translator, earn decent money and generally find yourself working on subjects you are interested in, then an MA in Translation is a 'must'. There are several good schools in different countries but they are often expensive, which puts quite a few people off.

What are the benefits of this type of education, you may ask. Here are just a few:

a) classes are given by professionals who know their business and have hands-on experience
b) fellow students are eager to learn and groups form to work on projects from which everyone can learn - we are all different, with different strengths and weaknesses.
c) you have to go on internships, where you work in a firm, organisation or agency, gain experience, perhaps access to potential future (direct) clients and work alongside professionals with skills and experience. You start to build your network
d) at the end, you have an embryo network via your fellow students, the alumni associations, your teachers, etc.

Those are just a few of the key benefits from a course : not just the actual learning of your future trade but the chance to be part of the scene, make contacts, potentially find an in-house job.

And don't decry in-house. I've done it (in a big organisation not an agency) and most of my clients (direct) now come from there. After that, word of mouth clicks in.

As to the rates suggested for beginners, doutbless it is more or less what most of them are worth. But, have no illusions, climbing from rock bottom takes time and not everybody manages to move very far up the food chain. As one who commands prices at the top end of the range shown, and beyond, believe me, direct clients are the best on all counts but you need a good network to find them.
HTH


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DJHartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
How depressing! Aug 21, 2016

LegalTransform wrote:

Now you can understand while older translators are so bitter. You will get there too one day.

I would advise that you pick an alternate path while you still can.


Well, that's a bit gloomy! Quality services still demand quality rates, at least in my language pair!

Maybe new vendors should avoid common language pairs?


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:06
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 21, 2016



[Edited at 2016-08-21 18:27 GMT]


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:06
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
What was the average translation rate for Thai into English in 1994... Aug 21, 2016

... and has it kept up with the cost of living?

Do people really believe that if they accept .07, then next year they will get .08, then .09, then .10, then .11...?

All of your expenses will go up: rent/housing, food, electricity, insurance, etc., but your rate will not. You will have to work longer and harder hours just to make ends meet.

We are still working at the same rates (and less) established over 20 years ago.

[Edited at 2016-08-21 19:33 GMT]


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SamuelDJones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:06
Member (2016)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Very useful points Aug 21, 2016

Michael Joseph Wdowiak Beijer wrote:

Hi Samuel,

I've been translating freelance (successfully) for around 20 years now and never had an in-house translation position (although I did work for/with my mother in the beginning of my career, who had a translation agency herself), never completed an MA in translation or passed any translation related exam. I do have a BA in Philosophy, and some clients sometimes ask for a copy of it, but it could be any old degree really.

There are many ways to find enough work to go full-time, the main ones being:
1. Ensure that you have a good online presence/presentation. That is, a full Proz profile, answer some KudoZ questions, professional/personal website, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
2. Make sure you are a good translator. This is very important and can only be learned by practice. It is also important to figure out how good you are so that you know how much to charge. One good way to go about this is to find someone who translates in your language pair and direction who you know is good, and ask them to review a few of your translations. Pay them for this and they will be more likely to do a good job and be honest.
3. Make sure not to charge too high a rate when starting off (maybe around €0.06 for absolute beginners), and gradually but steadily increase it the better your work gets (experienced translators in your pairs can charge anywhere up to €0.25/src word).

Your profile says that you do French and Spanish to English, which is good because there is loads of work in those pairs.

Good luck!

Michael

PS: this is a tip that I also always give newbies: if you are considering doing an expensive MA, or even something like the DipTrans exam, you might instead be better off doing the following. figure out how much money it will cost you, subtract a tiny portion from this, and find yourself a good mentor. that is, someone who is currently working full-time as a freelance translator and who is successful, and who basically knows the ropes. offer to pay them for a couple of months in exchange for showing you how things work, reviewing your translations, etc. those MA's, although probably a lot of fun (especially if you're young), are just way too expensive in terms of what you actually get in return, regarding how much they will actually contribute to you making more money as a starting translator.

[This post was dictated using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13. Please excuse any typos]


Michael, those are some very useful and realistic points there, so thanks a lot! I'm in the process of boosting my online presence through Proz, LinkedIn and also have my own website (www.caseralanguages.com) and hope that I can improve my translation skills through simply continuing to take on projects.

Your point regarding a mentor is something that I have looked into (mainly on Proz), but with not much success. That said, I'm sure if I was to offer payment in return for their time, it would be a lot easier to secure a mentor.

Thanks again


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SamuelDJones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:06
Member (2016)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Pick a specialty? Aug 21, 2016

LegalTransform wrote:

People are generally over optimistic when it comes to becoming a translator. Although, some people get lucky, you can generally expect:

Year one: between $500 and $2000.00 per year
Year two: between $3000 and $7000.00 per year

Keep in mind that rates have gone DOWN over the years (in some cases as much as 50%). Translation agencies were paying .09 to .12 per word (with rush fees, weekend fees, formatting fees and NO CAT discounts) all the way back in 1994 (repetitions were considered normal and part of the reason for the low .09 per word rate). So, 22 years later, rates have not increased, have gone down for some and you are not getting paid for a lot of that work because it is now considered "bad" to charge for repetitions or matches or getting surcharges.

Think about it, if rates were .09 in 1994 (with all repetitions and matches included), then with a meager .005 annual cost-of-living increase, the rate would now be .20 per word (without CAT discounts or .30 per word with discounts).



[Edited at 2016-08-21 18:26 GMT]


Thanks for the input, LegalTransform.

Do you feel though that picking a specialised area/subject early on and sticking to it enables you to charge rates towards the higher end of the scale?


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Kristina Cosumano  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:06
Member (2015)
German to English
Hey now... or are you being facetious? Aug 21, 2016

LegalTransform wrote:

People are generally over optimistic when it comes to becoming a translator. Although, some people get lucky, you can generally expect:

Year one: between $500 and $2000.00 per year
Year two: between $3000 and $7000.00 per year


[Edited at 2016-08-21 18:26 GMT]



Maybe I am one of the lucky ones, but I started just about a year ago, pretty much completely from scratch (no training, no certification, just good with both languages and very motivated), and started reaching the $2000 per month mark about six months in. And that has been rising slowly but surely even through the summer.


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DJHartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Being Selective Aug 22, 2016

LegalTransform wrote:

... and has it kept up with the cost of living?

Do people really believe that if they accept .07, then next year they will get .08, then .09, then .10, then .11...?



I'm not sure what the rates were. The local rates in Thailand are even worse (less than $10 per page!). Low rates will always be flooding the market. What we have to do is market ourselves to the right clients and as more better-paid work picks up, then you can say goodbye to the cheaper clients.

I started translating in Thailand at 150 baht per page (less than $5). That was a long time ago and I'm glad to say that my now regular clients don't expect to pay so little!


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