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Reflections on 2017, my first $US 100,000+ year from translation
Thread poster: Dylan Jan Hartmann

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


Posted via
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MODERATOR
Jan 21

We don’t normally share our successes here on ProZ.com. Most often we hear about issues that aren’t so hopeful such as bad clients or non-payment, problems getting established or a slow workload. I’d like to share my 2017 experience with everyone and what I’ll do differently in 2018.

To start off, I've only been a full-time translator and ProZ.com member since mid-2014. At the start of 2017 I had been fully dedicated to translation for a mere 2 1/2 years (having translated part-time since 2011 while studying and working).

The year 2017 was the first calendar year that I earned over $US 100,000 from translation, around $130,000+ if including other services. I think that this story is possible for anyone here on ProZ.com, that's why I wanted to share.

What did I do differently to previous years?

Translation and my business came number 1.

What does that mean? Everything else got put behind me:

Family, wife, children, socialising, cycling and fitness, health, alcohol, holidays, anything that might’ve been deemed a waste of time...placed number 2

Saying this, I didn’t just take translation and my business seriously, I “became” DJHartmann Translation. Work became my existence. I generally would wake between 2-3am and work through till 6pm, in bed normally by 7-8pm, 7 days/week. This was the routine until the regular big projects would come through and I’d work for 20 hour + sessions, at least a couple of times/month. This lasted through till NYE, when I was pushing to finish a 40k word job that was previously due on 26 Dec but I got an extension...

I only had a handful of clients, most work coming from 2. Big projects (150,000+ words) were the norm and I said goodbye to the nagging, undercutting multinationals who wanted me to work for less than 1/2 my rate. I became very close with the project managers that I worked with and we built an excellent level of understanding and great professional relationships with one another. While these big projects occupied my month-long vision, I would of course have daily, well-paid jobs that didn’t take too much time at all (certified TRs etc). I never refused these and delivered ASAP.

Quality was paramount. As I mentioned above about needing an extension, if the job didn’t meet my own quality standard expectations, I wouldn’t deliver it. This was in no way regular but when it did happen it would frustrate the PMs who were being hounded by their clients to deliver. Upon seeing the delivered project, which was often more extensive than they’d first thought (Thai source WC is often underestimated), they’d always thank me. I built up a reputation with all in the process chain: proofreaders, quality assurance, project managers and end-clients. This kept those big jobs coming.

I stopped sub-contracting translations. Running on from the above point, with quality being my priority, and a complete lack of time to proof others’ work, it was not in my best interest to use sub-contractors. Instead, I branched out my service offerings to one ‘almost’ passive-income pursuit and one ‘easy money’ task. Without giving too many details, the passive-income task involves a team working for me in Thailand and the easy-money task is a job that most others refuse to take! Neither of these are translation but are both assigned to me by translation agencies. The agencies also have full knowledge of the team working for me, which I’ve helped to screen.

I’ve strengthened partnerships. Some colleagues in this industry are out to get you, ready to stab you in the back or undercut you at their first opportunity! Others are worth keeping close and worth building a mutually-beneficial future together. In the past I would’ve just sub-contracted work to them but for the reasons above I stopped doing that. Instead, I gave opportunities and shared their names with clients who needed desperate help. Everyone is happier in this situation and it promotes trust and friendship, better quality work and more money going to the right people!

I became accredited. For my language pair, there are only a very few translators who are accredited or certified. Most are non-natives and those who are natives (bar one or two) didn’t learn the source language at a higher-educational level. This is not a criticism of all translators without degrees, I’m just trying to show that on the whole, Thai-English translation has very poor quality. There are even varying levels of bad translations in this pair. Becoming accredited through testing gave all those I work with a level of assuredness that my translations were good. It also gave me a renewed confidence, which helped my own work. NAATI accreditation was expensive and very hard but I have no regrets after doing it.

After saying all of this, I also moved my wife and two daughters back to Australia with me. We packed our whole lives from Thailand into a shipping container, sold the car and moved onto my family’s farm here in Australia for 9 months, living in the spare bedroom. My intent throughout 2017 was to save money for a house deposit. This was the driving force for all those above-detailed accomplishments...but I found out afterwards that internationally-sourced funds cannot be deemed ‘secure’ financing for a loan. Instead of buying a house, I’ve moved my family into a rental in one of the nicer suburbs of Brisbane that is near a good, well-known school. We’ve forgotten about buying a house because we couldn’t ever afford to buy the place we’re living in now!

Come January 2018. What has changed? I no longer have the ‘save money for a house’ mantra driving me like a madman. I burned out, seriously burned out after New Years and one of my main resolutions was to say “No”. I am unavailable on weekends, as these are now set for my family, wife and kids. I’ve prioritised health and fitness and am cycling most mornings once again (eg. prior to 2017). I’m back to enjoying cider and wine!!!! And now am glad to start work at 9am! I’m back to loving my job, loving my lifestyle, and my family is loving me for it! My income might’ve taken a cut but it was that extra 20% effort that caused all the pain. My feeling is now that this level is sustainable, whereas the other max-effort nearly killed me.

I thought this experience was worth sharing and hope that others can gain something from it.

Finally, it’s worth noting that I am the sole income provider for my family. My eldest daughter is 6 and youngest nearly 2. My wife stays at home caring for #2 and helps look after me through those long work-stints. Much of our success is thanks to her continual support and I couldn’t have done half of it without her!!!

Regards,

DJH

E3_D28_A64_F250_4_EC4_90_A7_1_C9_C7363_F62_F.jpg

[Edited at 2018-01-28 02:31 GMT]


 

Tim Friese  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:01
Member (2013)
Arabic to English
+ ...
Impressive that you had this success / equally impressive that you've now stepped back. Jan 21

First of all congratulations on the successes, which in the US would mean that you're around the top 2-5% of translators. I had a similarly good year although I'm glad to say that I didn't have to work as much or put as much aside. I took a full week vacation to Mexico, another to Colorado, three weeks at Christmas (including a honeymoon), and had time along the way to move, stay involved in politics, and read a few great books (all in English, sadly).

Like you, my mantra is quality, I rarely outsource, and I am willing to work a few long days when a lucrative project comes along. I try to make it up with shorter hours once big projects wrap up.

The trick for everyone should be to find interesting, decently-paying work, and then to find a balance between that work and everything else in life. Good on you for trying to find that balance.


 

Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
Congratulations Jan 21

I have only one question, how much of those $ 130,000 will you pay in taxes? In Italy for example with a figure like yours, one will have to pay up to 70% in taxes.

I don't live in Italy anymore, but I know.

Best!


 

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

MODERATOR
TOPIC STARTER
Accountant Jan 21

Angie Garbarino wrote:


I have only one question, how much of those $ 130,000 will you pay in taxes?


That’s up to my accountant to sort out.

There are various calculators that you can use to work it out yourself.

I charge 10% GST (goods and services tax) to all Australian clients and get a fair amount of this back from business expenses.

I am not taxed on money sent to sub-contractors overseas.

Income tax in Australia is a complex issue.


 

Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
GST not a problem Jan 21

I meant the "income tax", I also have an accountant, I just tought (of course I can be wrong) that with an income like yours one will have to pay a lot of money in taxes.

But anyway your income is wonderful, reallyicon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2018-01-21 20:52 GMT]


 

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

MODERATOR
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! But this post wasn’t about taxes Jan 21

Angie Garbarino wrote:

one will have to pay a lot of money in taxes.



I don’t know who it was that said “I’ll be a happy person the day I have to pay over $50,000 in taxes” but I agree with them. Taxes are relative to income earned.

I paid less when living overseas, coming back to Australia you see that taxes are spent to improve the quality of life of the people. Better quality of life/higher taxes? They seem to go hand in hand.


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Point? Jan 21

We did a similar thing for a couple of years 20 years ago. It seemed a good idea at the time, but with hindsight we should just have waited for a few relatives to kick the bucket.

I’m not sure what your message is though. Is it be more like DJ, or be less like DJ?


 

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

MODERATOR
TOPIC STARTER
Sharing experience Jan 21

Chris S wrote:

I’m not sure what your message is though. Is it be more like DJ, or be less like DJ?


My point was to share experiences, what I did and what I learned.

Not preaching anything!


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:01
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Good show Jan 21

Well done DJ. I'm glad to see freelancers showing the naysayers that success is possible in the translation industry with a mixture of smart work and hard work. US$100,000 from translation alone is feasible, I think, without burnout, although in my case I have had issues with RSI in my hands.

I also think you were wise to step back from the brink. This is the problem all successful freelancers run into at some point: the business doesn't scale, because there's only one of you.

Regards,
Dan


 

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

MODERATOR
TOPIC STARTER
ProZ.com Jan 22

I should say that I owe a lot of my success to having found (and being found by) clients from ProZ.com!

 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:01
French to English
Well done Jan 22

That is an excellent amount of sales from translation (a little over 80,000 euros gross) and you are honest about what it cost you to achieve that. I think it's good news that you are not considering continuing to work a 16-hour day. That's basically two days in one and although it's fine from time to time, it's no life, really it's not. You are honest about that too. Thank you for sharing. You may inspire someone else to drive harder. The achievement is a result of a combination of things: ability (translation and business), hard work, determination and sacrifice.

Others have raised the taxation aspects. You make it clear that your post is not about taxation but it is worth bearing income tax in mind, with or without an accountant. There are usually thresholds to be aware of. Setting philanthropy aside, sometimes working just a little less can actually mean you earn more, not to mention preserve physical and mental well-being.


 

PAOLA MARIANI
Italy
Local time: 16:01
Member (2007)
German to Italian
+ ...
Just thank you Jan 22

Thank you very much for your true words and experience, very useful. «To prioritize or not to prioritize work, this is the question». And we are lucky, or clever, if we have the choice. Congratulations as well for the flexibility towards home, plans, country, briefly a good lesson. Have a nice life!

 

Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
This was indeed my intention Jan 22

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:
You make it clear that your post is not about taxation but it is worth bearing income tax in mind, with or without an accountant. There are usually thresholds to be aware of. Setting philanthropy aside, sometimes working just a little less can actually mean you earn more, not to mention preserve physical and mental well-being.
yo]

Thank you for explaining, I was not clear perhaps, but your words explain my intention.

Stopping now I promise

Have a wonderful week!


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Really? Jan 22

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:

Others have raised the taxation aspects. ... There are usually thresholds to be aware of. Setting philanthropy aside, sometimes working just a little less can actually mean you earn more ...


Taxation is usually progressive. You pay a higher rate on earnings over a certain threshold, not on all your earnings. So it's still always a case of the more you earn, the more you keep.

Are there really places where you earn more and keep less? Sounds like economic suicide to me.

[Edited at 2018-01-22 09:33 GMT]


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:01
French to English
@Chris Jan 22

Yes, taxation is progressive. In France, there are bands. As a rule, you are generally better off being at the top of one band than at the bottom of the next one up. Taxation is not to be considered alone either. There are all sorts of other charges and contributions. The point I am trying to make is that you need to know where various cut-off points lie in order to make informed decisions about loads of other stuff that can actually mean that increased sales do not necessarily mean increased income.

 
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