Working for a translation agency
Thread poster: scotters

scotters
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:52
French to English
+ ...
May 29

Good morning everyone,

I'm looking at starting up as a freelancer and figured it would be good to start working for agencies to get a feel for the industry before fully going it alone so I just wanted some advice. I've got an MA Translation Studies, a BA in French and Italian and I have worked as a freelance translator for some charities in my spare time for about 4 years now.

I just wanted to know about people's experiences with agencies and how they work. Do you have to organise your own finances (e.g. work out your taxes, invoices, etc.) or is that all done by the agency? Do they offer benefits like pensions (UK)? Would it be worth signing up to a few agencies or is it best to stick with one?

Any information anyone could give on working for agencies would be greaticon_smile.gif


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 03:52
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Go for the medium to small agencies May 30

They target the higher end of the market and specialise in a subject area, tailored service, real quality and long-term relations with loyal clients.

They do not always have big, expensive mid-city offices, and they can save on expenses like that without sacrificing quality where it matters.

The personal approach is good for translators too. Their project managers are often better qualified than those with the big names, and authorised to make decisions, so they can help you before questions turn into serious problems.

They often pay better, in my experience.

Of course, you can't generalise too much, and I have seen nice little agencies swallowed up by mergers with bigger fish, and one that simply grew too big and got itself a really bad name…
Look for the ATC logo on their websites. http://www.atc.org.uk/

I don't live in the UK, so I can't tell you a lot about the practical side of dealing with HMRC and so on, other than I'm staying here in Denmark as long as I am in business. I have a VAT number here, and the tax may be exorbitant at times, but the procedures are comparatively straightforward!

Join the CIoL as soon as you can, and take advantage of events and chances to meet colleagues.
https://www.ciol.org.uk/

Good luck and happy translating!


 

Joe France
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:52
Member (2016)
French to English
+ ...
"Freelance" means it's all on you May 30

Hi there,

I think I know what you're getting at - working for a series of agencies as a freelancer rather than in-house? If so, I think it would be best to clarify something as there's maybe a little piece of the puzzle you're missing: most freelance translators work predominantly for agencies, perhaps with a few direct clients on top. Working for agencies doesn't mean you aren't freelance or "going it alone" - because you aren't directly employed by them, but rather commissioned, you're still self-employed. Agencies are a part of freelance life for most people, whether you're starting out or well established. It's unlikely you'd be able to found a freelance career, or develop one in any short period of time, based on direct clients.

Most agencies do have in-house positions, but many aren't particularly well-paid - which is why a lot of people decide to go freelance. That said, I wouldn't have been able to make a success of freelancing without the insight and industry knowledge working in-house afforded me. It's hard work, but it's invaluable for learning the ropes in the industry. But, if you're good enough and have something to offer, you could well make a success of it without a stint in-house.

I, like most freelancers I know, work for a series of agencies: for obvious reasons, you don't keep all your eggs in one basket. Very few agencies will offer you such a stream of well-paid, decent quality work that you could rely on one agency alone. For example, at last count I'm on the books of 11 agencies, and I take on work for 5 or 6 of those every month. Some go missing for months then turn up with a 30k word project, some will email/call every day. It takes time to develop trust and good relationships, and to root out the really good agencies with professional practices - it won't happen over night.

Obviously, if you're self-employed and working for agencies, it's the same as other UK freelancers. You'll need to make your own pension arrangements, sort your registrations with HMRC (presumably as a sole trader) and file your own taxes (or engage an accountant to do them for you). Being self-employed, or a freelancer, or an agency contractor, whatever you want to call it, means the admin is all up to you. The gov.uk pages on this are quite a good introduction: https://www.gov.uk/working-for-yourself; https://www.gov.uk/set-up-sole-trader, etc.

Perhaps a short in-house work placement or short-term contract at an agency could be beneficial? I know Yorkshire's hardly bursting with LSPs but there are some...


 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
why not May 30

Not freelancing (solo or in a team), not working with direct clients, not as an agency?

 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:52
Spanish to English
+ ...
Hard slog May 31

scotters wrote:

Any information anyone could give on working for agencies would be greaticon_smile.gif


Everything Joe said in his post is bang on the nail - as a freelancer, the entire burden of social security payments, taxation and (chance would be a fine thing) pension plans is on you.
Christine's advice about avoiding large agencies is sound advice too. I can only advise you to try to find direct clients as soon as possible, perhaps leveraging any contacts you may have made when doing your MA and BA. And be prepared - many agencies are unscrupulous and will offer lower rates while making excessive demands in terms of delivery deadlines, the experience required... and other things…

Having said all that, I realise I must sound like a moaning Minnie, but I wish you the best of luck in your endeavoursicon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2018-05-31 12:11 GMT]


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:52
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Be careful May 31

scotters wrote:

Good morning everyone,

I'm looking at starting up as a freelancer and figured it would be good to start working for agencies to get a feel for the industry before fully going it alone so I just wanted some advice. I've got an MA Translation Studies, a BA in French and Italian and I have worked as a freelance translator for some charities in my spare time for about 4 years now.

I just wanted to know about people's experiences with agencies and how they work. Do you have to organise your own finances (e.g. work out your taxes, invoices, etc.) or is that all done by the agency? Do they offer benefits like pensions (UK)? Would it be worth signing up to a few agencies or is it best to stick with one?

Any information anyone could give on working for agencies would be greaticon_smile.gif


Be careful ! You can't be a freelancer if you only have one client, for whom you work full time. HMRC would be down on you (and the agency) like a ton of bricks because in effect, you would be an employee of that agency.


 

Cathy McCormick
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:52
Member (May 2018)
German to English
+ ...
It's hard work but if you are up for the challenge then go for it. May 31

I decided to take the plunge as a freelance translator over 3 years ago now and have not looked back. Don't get me wrong there were hard times where I just felt like throwing in the towel but I stuck at it and have ended up with some good clients.
The first thing you need to do is register as self-employed with HMRC (you don't want the tax man knocking on your door!). Best thing to do is keep a log of all your earnings each month and then come April find yourself an accountant who can help you do your taxes. Having an accountant also helps with future things like mortgages etc as they can be used as a reference.
I started off joining many translation agencies and even though I'd sent off so many applications and passed many tests I found that work wasn't always that frequent depending on the company. Some would be more beneficial than others and it's easy to whittle down which ones are worth keeping.
Other than that make sure to read around the areas you'd like to specialise in, make sure you have a good CV and cover letter to send to client and most of all good luck!


 

scotters
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:52
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Jun 4

Thank you very much everyone! Great advice as usual, such a great place to find such invaluable advice. Believe me, if I could get in-house experience I would jump at the chance but as you say, Yorkshire (especially rural Yorkshire where I live) is not brimming with translation agencies! Signing up to a few agencies seems like a good start.

I'll prepare myself as best I can with your advice and take the plunge in a few monthsicon_smile.gif Looking forward to the challenges ahead!


 


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