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Possible to go freelance as a first career choice?
Thread poster: S_89
S_89
United Kingdom
Feb 27

Is it possible to start freelancing after a Masters in Translation? Has anybody done this?

Or is it almost always the case for translators to start off working in-house or teaching or something similar?

Many thanks.


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 06:41
Member
Italian to English
Various ways into the profession Mar 1

If you talk to lots of freelancers, or look around the profiles here on Proz, you will see that people have come to freelancing in many different ways. Working in-house is certainly good experience, as it gives you an overview of the various roles in the profession and what PMs do, also you will get experience in various text types, but I certainly wouldn't say it's essential. Teaching is another valuable way to gain experience; I taught English for a number of years before becoming a translator, which helped me different ways, such as gaining a thorough grasp of English grammar that most English native speakers don't have, and why we use certain grammatical structures, as well as helping me improve my source language competency. But this is my experience, and while it's probably common to a lot of freelancers, it's certainly not universal. A Masters will have given you a good foundation in translation, after that it's a question of building up experience and a client base, something that all freelancers have to do.

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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2011)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Yes but no Mar 1

It's possible but only if you're exceptionally good. And finding work may be very hard.

Working in-house first brings on key skills in a safe environment and also gives you a first referee/client to get you on your way.


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Arianne Farah  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:41
Member (2008)
English to French
Can only comment on my own path Mar 1

I worked 18-months in-house after receiving my B.A. in Translations; I started freelancing the month before I started my B.A., so by the time I went full time I had 3.5 years of freelancing under my belt (transferred credits from my B.Sc. to my B.A. so only took 2 years) and had enough regular income to support myself (not in style, that came later, but for the basic stuff).

I think that seeing the underbelly of the work (the agency side) really prepared me for the reality of being a freelancer - from the project assignment process, the way we selected freelancers and the ease with which some were pushed aside over higher rates or a string of bad translations in a week even though the previous years had been stellar, how accounting worked, the issues encountered with clients, etc. while it did nothing for my translation skills, it did a lot for my business skills.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:41
Member (2008)
Italian to English
ONe answer Mar 1

S_89 wrote:

Is it possible to start freelancing after a Masters in Translation? Has anybody done this?

Or is it almost always the case for translators to start off working in-house or teaching or something similar?

Many thanks.


Would you trust a brain surgeon who had just taken his degree but had no practical experience?


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 06:41
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Of course Mar 1

S_89 wrote:

Is it possible to start freelancing after a Masters in Translation? Has anybody done this?

Or is it almost always the case for translators to start off working in-house or teaching or something similar?

Many thanks.

I and many others did just that. Whether you can do it depends on a couple of factors, including what country you live in and what your language combinations are.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:41
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Do you know how businesses work? Mar 1

S_89 wrote:
Is it possible to start freelancing after a Masters in Translation? Has anybody done this?

A freelancer is running a business, albeit a very small one. There are a lot of things you'll need to be able to handle. There are things like book-keeping, VAT or similar, tax returns, invoicing requirements and legal business structures in your jurisdiction, and how to chase payments - all these need to be learned, although you can get an accountant to do most if you can afford it. But there are other things too that aren't easy to learn in a short time. You have to consider whether you have the maturity to demand fair terms and conditions from overbearing agency PMs who know exactly how to take advantage of naive beginners. And you have to have the maturity to be able to turn down jobs that exploit you or that you know you couldn't do well enough.

You also need to be able to understand what you are translating. Although you'll study your source language(s) and translation techniques, most courses try to cover a wide range of subject areas - medical, legal, technical, marketing, advertising, official documents... They will teach you a few select source terms and their target equivalents in all those subject areas, but that simply isn't enough. If you're going to translate difficult medical texts, for example, you need to have an in-depth knowledge of the specific branch of medicine. One thing that worries me about translators who have nothing under their belts apart from a degree is that they think their qualification means that they can do the same thing in the real world. They studied translating from their native language into their source language(s), for example: a worthwhile exercise, I'm sure, but it doesn't mean that you should ever charge clients for doing it.

Or is it almost always the case for translators to start off working in-house or teaching or something similar?

It's almost always the case that a translator who has nothing but school and university behind them will struggle to find a footing as a freelancer for the reasons given above. They are almost always better off working as an employee for a year or more first. Of course a job as translator would be worthwhile, but working in a sector that interests you, or doing any job in a country where your source language is spoken, or doing any job using languages (tour guide, teaching, bilingual assistant...) are all worthwhile ways to gain the maturity and knowledge that will give you self-confidence and give potential clients confidence in you.


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Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 04:41
Japanese to English
It can be done. Mar 1

S_89 wrote:
Is it possible to start freelancing after a Masters in Translation? Has anybody done this?

That's what I did and I don't really recommend it unless you have savings. It takes a while to build up a good client profile. You might end up taking anything and everything just to pay your rent. At least get a part-time job at Tesco or something while you wait for things to pick up.

In my case I had already worked for a while before doing my Masters and wasn't completely skint, but it was tight sometimes. It worked out in the long run (all's well that ends well) but do as I say, don't do as I did.


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Roni_S  Identity Verified
Slovakia
Local time: 06:41
Slovak to English
Everyone has their own path Mar 1

Mine started without any ambition to be a translator, but I got plenty of experience in my field. I started out as a marketing assistant but then wanted to expand my horizons and became a contract administrator. The path was not easy, and I developed my skills under the guidance of a lawyer who at first told me my legal language sounded like marketing-ese. Eventually, though, under his tutelage, he came to trust me with drafting all sorts of contracts, until ultimately I began drafting all the contracts for this company without his prior review and approval.
Do I have a translation degree? No. But I have confidence in the translations I render in my field.

So is your degree a guarantee of success? I think not. Get a specialisation.


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David GAY  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Dutch to French
+ ...
a rare specialization Mar 1

Roni_S wrote:

So is your degree a guarantee of success? I think not. Get a specialisation.


and, most important of all, a specialization which is rare and sought after


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DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
BIZ + PEOPLE Mar 2

The major problem is that most translators being decent specialists are still but poor businesspersons, alas.

That’s why I would prioritize the businessman’s qualities for negotiating and straight dealing with many DIFFERENT people (sponsors, journalists, colleagues, lawyers, accountants, middlemen, clients, editors, representatives, third-parties and so on).

In addition, it seems to make sense to get a major/minor (may be) not exactly related to translation: literature, technology, medicine, IT, real estate, CAD, and whatever.

Furthermore, it would be a smart move to cooperate with an experienced translator (or a group) in similar fields, not to be a Lone "A lost ball in the high weeds" Ranger, let alone mastering some CAT (I still prefer last free WordFast 3.35x and occasionally web-based WF Anywhere).


As for me, I've got a regular office job to earn my pension, yet when I found a local direct client, I agreed to work as a part-time interpreter/translator, which often gives me even higher income and useful contacts. Now there're seven direct clients who are very generous, often give me advance payments, tips, flextime, and real support.

Good luck

[Edited at 2017-03-02 04:23 GMT]


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Texte Style
Local time: 06:41
French to English
you need a cushion Mar 2

I would say that it's possible, but you do need a financial cushion because there's no guarantee that you'll be earning anything. Either savings or a part-time job that at least pays the bills. The part-time job can also be chalked up as an area you are specialised in.

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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2011)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Seriously? Mar 2

Tom in London wrote:

Would you trust a brain surgeon who had just taken his degree but had no practical experience?


I think a more apt analogy for a translator would be something like a nail technician...


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DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
qui pro quo Mar 2

> I think a more apt analogy for a translator would be something like a nail technician...

Chris, could you elaborate? For I think such an attitude is one of the reasons why clients so often (mis)take translators for low-paid MT-technicians a-la poor-man's Google Translate. Nevertheless, I do believe that most translators have got to recreate the idea equivalence from a source by means of a target, considering proper nuances, right contexts, aligned perspectives, and relevant aspects--it's no elementary mechanics (perhaps, unless it's about a rush provisional or word-for-word translation/verbatim).

Why value a translator who doesn't respect himself?--Just another nail in the translation field to get low, face down.

IMO


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cloudhunter  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:41
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...


Posted via
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Part-time Mar 2

I would start with being a part-time freelancer, to get an insight. Otherwise you might end up giving everything up to become a freelancer and wake up hating it all. Which is a very expensive lesson.

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