Greek-Serbian native translator with English seeking employee (not freelance) position in Madrid
Thread poster: Diana D.
Aug 5

Hello evereybody,

My husband and i are moving to Madrid this month, so i would really appreciate it if you answered some questions about employee translators in Madrid.

I am 29 years old, my native languages are Greek and Serbian, i studied Law in Greece and worked as a self-employed lawyer for 5,5 years and as a freelance certified translator for 3,5 years in Greece. But my passion is translation, so i am interested in a career in translation. My level of English is C2, Spanish B2 (and improving) and German B1. I translate from English/Serbian/Spanish to Greek and my specializations are Law and Tourism.

I am seeking for an in-house or teleworking translation position in Madrid. But the thing is, since i can't afford to pay for my social security/mandatory pension insurance, i need the employer to hire me as an employee and cover that cost.

1) Does that mean that i'm exclusively looking for an employer who hires employee translators? Is that the correct term?

2) How likely is it for me to find such an employer?

3) Where should i start from? I mean, which websites are more effective?

4) Are there any other solutions? For example, maybe any translators societies and associations or embassies?

5) Am i going to get paid a standard salary or per word/hour?

6) What is the income range for me in the first years?

7) I have noticed that German is really appreciated in Madrid. I can imagine myself investing time and effort to improve my German, but i would do it only if i couldn't get a job otherwise. So, is it necessary for me to reach a high level of German in order to be an employee translator?


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:26
Member (2007)
+ ...
Surely autónomo would be better, wouldn't it? Aug 6

Diana Katsarevits wrote:
I am seeking for an in-house or teleworking translation position in Madrid. But the thing is, since i can't afford to pay for my social security/mandatory pension insurance, i need the employer to hire me as an employee and cover that cost.

I can't imagine any company needing a full-time translator in your pairs, not even an agency. OTOH, as an autónomo you're free to seek work with agencies and direct clients all over the world. You would also have the opportunity to branch out a little into online teaching, copywriting, interpreting etc. if there wasn't enough translation work available. Are you aware that you only pay €50 per month for the first year nowadays? After that, there's another step before you reach the full contribution of just under €300. Your contributions will cover your own healthcare needs and any family member who doesn't work here (e.g. before he reached state retirement age, my husband was my "dependent", even though his private pensions actually brought in more money than my self-employed income). I would have thought it was by far the best solution.

It's just a thought as an alternative - I don't know anything about the world of employment nowadays, nor would I want to after being my own boss for 20 years icon_wink.gif .


Diana D.
I need time to network; not sure if i can make a living in the meantime as an autónomo Aug 6

Thank you for your reply! All that sounds wonderful, being your own boss, not being limited and have a decent income. In fact, this is my life goal.

However, you need time for this because it's necessary (among other things) to network first and connect with potentail clients, companies or agencies. It took me about a year or 2 in Greece to start getting an essential number of translation projects as a freelancer. Not only i worked for peanuts, though, but also paid more than i earned for taxes and social security contributions. Of course, as soon as i realised there was no way the situation would change, i quit.

Now i'm starting from 0 again - in a foreign country this time. As i have no network yet, I don't think i can make a living as an autónomo at this point. So, i was thinking about following your excellent advice at some point later, when it'll be possible.icon_smile.gif


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:26
Member (2007)
+ ...
Why from zero? Aug 8

Diana Katsarevits wrote:
Now i'm starting from 0 again - in a foreign country this time. As i have no network yet, I don't think i can make a living as an autónomo at this point.

I was a freelance translator in France. Then I moved to Spain. I lost just one client! That was the only one who I'd ever met face to face and he seemed to think the distance was a problem. For all the others, I just started sending my invoices from my Spanish address. Translation is an international profession - it isn't bothered by national boundaries. I've invoiced 34 different countries to date, and only a few dozen invoices have ever been addressed to clients here in Spain (where there are generally low rates and long waits for payments).

Is there any reason the same wouldn't work for you? You can still work with clients in your home country, surely?


Diana D.
My network is 100℅ Greek and the low rates in Greece is the main reason i quit Aug 8

I freelanced for a Greek agency and all of my direct clients lived in Greece. I didn't have any clients abroad. I was constantly looking for any kind of better opportunity, but i didn't find it. So, the low rates in Greece is the main reason i quit. Greek agencies pay very little. I couldn't even ask my clients for decent rates, because whenever i did so, i didn't hear from them again. In addition, i didn't have enough amount of work, so i couldn't make a living.

Several agencies have even proposed me rates such as 0,02€/word for Greek-Serbian translation (which is a rare language pair) and when i refused i didn't hear from them again, simply because they knew there were many translators out there who'd be happy with the rates.

This is the reason why i'm looking for a new network of clients, agencies or companies who can offer me higher rates.

Anyway, if i don't find an opportunity in translation, i will pursue a different career related to my other work experience (language tutor/customer service representative/secretary).

[Edited at 2018-08-08 12:24 GMT]

[Edited at 2018-08-08 12:25 GMT]


United States
Local time: 19:26
English to Russian
+ ...
It takes a long time to start making a decent living as a freelance translator Aug 8


I have serious doubts about an in-house position with benefits and a half-decent salary. I have many friends and colleagues in Europe so the situation is not entirely unknown to me. Even if the salary is not a priority at the moment, staff position with benefits is not a widely available option. Also, if you are an in-house translator with an agency, then, unless you were hired for a specific highly specialized project, say, arbitration, nobody asks you what you can and can not do - geology today, contract tomorrow, carpentry the day after tomorrow. You are there to handle the most urgent tasks. It takes a much longer and broader "rap sheet" than yours to gain such position; unless, again, the agency is so huge that it has its own in-house team of professional editors and hires talented apprentices (for the sake of having extra hands for low salaries, mostly). At least in the US.

You can always do translation on a side but, considering your priorities, I would look into two other areas - law firms and tourism. You already have a law degree and 3 languages in your pocket, even 3 and a half. No small change. Both are within your specialisms as a translator. You'll gain fantastic experience either way.

Have you considered becoming a tour guide, for example? In fact, if I were to immigrate to Europe and not to the US, I would have. I loved being one in Russia, especially in St. Petersburg. Fabulous Madrid reminded me of St. Pete a lot, what a grandiose capital! Have you investigated law firms? The latter will probably offer you some entry level positions at best but if those contributions are your priority for now, you need to be realistic. You'll always have nights and weekends to translate and build your clientele... Choices between light bills and an occupation we are passionate about are always tough. Do not feed your ego (I'm not using this word in a negative way) with dismal "stepping down" thoughts, think big, think the future. How about a good hotel chain? They have decent benefits, and they'd appreciate all your languages.

I want to make sure that I'm not advising anything I wouldn't do myself. So here is a bit of my life story:

I came to the US with master's degree from Leningrad State University, 200 dollars and a suitcase of mostly worn clothes, and I was already 32, so I knowicon_smile.gif. Yes, my late American friends provided me with the first roof above my head and a lunch or dinner now and then, but I started paying them small rent in 3 months, I insisted. Those were tough old people I've met in St. Pete, two amazing characters whose generosity would have evaporated the same day they saw me doing nothing or just waiting for a good job to knock on my door. They were self-made people, they had Great Depression and WWII behind them, those were THE Americans from previous times... Houston was their second home, which they only visited during the coldest months in Missouri, so they were not around to drive me at least once in a while. I won't even mention menial jobs, almost always 2 at a time, 16 hours a day nearly every day, that I had to pull in the first year before making money for my first car, or rather a piece of junk posing for a car - in Houston you are crippled without one. I had a chance with one of the best hotels in downtown, business with Russia was starting on a major scale and they needed my Russian, but no way to get there on time and the rent nearby was way above the offered salary. Otherwise I could be managing a grand hotel somewhere in the Caribbean or Greece by now:-), they supported proper education. Luckily, Houston with its multi-million and multi-billion space and oil and gas projects was becoming a bonanza for Russian translators, and I knew that I'll win my place there one day. But before that I worked within walking distance and the closest place that would hire me and I could reach by bus and walking 1.2 miles again. The average temperature in Houston is 30 C between April and October, 35 in July-August, 60%-88% humidity. One way to save on a gym:-), and when my sneakers had finally cracked on me in the middle of the road it was a serious hit on my wallet:-) Forget about health insurance... Not a single dollar of any government aid had found its way into my pocket. I never applied for anything like that.

You situation does not sound nearly as dire as mine has been, I still can't believe I made it. Funny, but I think that the USSR life experience helped a lot - I took nothing for granted. Patience and realism (not socialist:-) ) will take you where you want to be.

One thing though - luck plays a tremendous role in our career. Anything can happen, do not give up in any direction but please, be realistic.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2018-08-08 13:56 GMT]

[Edited at 2018-08-08 20:44 GMT]


Kay Denney  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:26
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
It's pretty unlikely you could find a job as a translator Aug 8

I agree that you'll find it hard to get a job as a translator with your languages. You might try the corresponding embassies, I do know of translators working at embassies. However, the vast majority of translators are free-lancers. If you really need to be employed, maybe you should look at other language-related professions, working in a multi-national, or teaching.

You might also try to get a job at an agency, even if it isn't as a translator. Agencies would appreciate someone speaking all your languages. They could ask you to do a bit of proofreading, or you could be put in charge of managing projects involving your languages.
At any rate, a stint at an agency is often a good stepping-stone to becoming a translator. You learn about how agencies work and you get to know people in the trade. Once you've learned the ropes, you can go free-lance. If you leave on good terms, your employer can become your first client.

Sheila, Diana said she gave up on translating in her home country, so it's not like she could just move and take her clients with her as you did, she no longer has those clients.


Diana D.
Indeed i lost those clients Aug 8

Kay Denney wrote:

Sheila, Diana said she gave up on translating in her home country, so it's not like she could just move and take her clients with her as you did, she no longer has those clients.

I no longer have those clients, indeed. I had to send them invoices for every translation, so i lost them the moment i shut my translation business. But even if this wasn't the case, the rates were too low to keep working anyway.

Thank you all for your advice. Really appreciate it!


Rita Pang  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:26
Member (2011)
Chinese to English
+ ...

Moderator of this forum
Realistically Aug 10

Demand for your language pairs will be much lower where you are now, in comparison to your being back home. Making a steady living off of freelancing will be hard - that's simply how it works in the business world. Unless you have some very unique skills or work with a specialized field, clients will have more service providers to choose from, and when they find someone comparable to your profile, price is most likely what's stopping them from contracting you for work.

For me, I guess I entered the industry at the right time. It was about 6-8 months before I landed a big client who gave me a score of projects and kept me occupied for months. When that died down, I had enough credentials, client feedback entries and other things to slowly move to better paying clients.

In all honesty though, I've never for once in my 8 years of working as a translator relied on translation as my sole source of income. Never. When I first started I worked in coffee shops, then a call center (yes, I know). As I dedicate more time to my translation work, I started writing. Copywriting, editing, etc, then moved on to social media management in Chinese for some of my Europe-based clients. For me, the key point was to diversify. For my language pair, it's hard to raise prices - which I have, but still - therefore I've always kept something on the side to remain paid at my ideal income level.

Diana D.

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Greek-Serbian native translator with English seeking employee (not freelance) position in Madrid

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