Can one survive as a "Freelance French to English Translator" in NY
Thread poster: Deborah Berry
Deborah Berry
French to English
Sep 28, 2006

Simple questions which I am certain has been asked in numerous ways, numerous times.

Does anyone know if it's possible to survive as a French to English freelance translator? If so any suggestions (certificates, translation website to be posted on, possible in demand specializations)?

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Steven Sidore  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:52
Member (2003)
German to English
Yes, but not right away Sep 28, 2006

The short answer is yes, but unless you have other financial backing (a working spouse, independent wealth), you're not likely to make it solely on that income. I built my business up over 5 years alongside my studies and other work, such that when the time came to rely on it full time, I had the experience and customer base to make it happen. One can certain accomplish this in a shorter time frame, but it won't come right off the bat, and to expect it to do so is to set yourself up for failure.

The long answer is that yes, this HAS been discussed many times in many ways. Read your way through the many excellent entries in this very GETTING ESTABLISHED forum and you'll find all the advice you need. Seriously.

Good luck!

Steven (lived in Brooklyn 1995-1998)

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Deborah Berry
French to English
Thanks for your advice! any specialties you can suggest? Sep 28, 2006

I will certainly review the commentaries of "getting yourself established" however do you recommend any specialties that there may be more of a demand in such as finance, law, fiction? I was also considering get a translation certificate at NYU but I think it would be a shame to waste all that money and time if no one is interested in certificates.

So far most of my work has been technical furniture, business and lots of advertising (brochures, adds, website)

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United States
Local time: 21:52
Russian to English
+ ...
Well, if all you want to do is survive.... Sep 28, 2006

Remember, you're competing with translators across the country and around the world, for that matter. Most of these translators are living in areas with costs of living that are much, much lower than New York. Therefore, they are able to offer a competitive rate. Ask yourself: Can I live in NY on a Goose Pimple, Idaho salary?

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United States
Local time: 22:52
French to English
It would not be a waste Sep 29, 2006

Wiseowl wrote:

I was also considering get a translation certificate at NYU but I think it would be a shame to waste all that money and time if no one is interested in certificates.

So far most of my work has been technical furniture, business and lots of advertising (brochures, adds, website)

I think you would find the NYU translation certificate program to be well worth your while. The classes are not that expensive for the invaluable experience you get translating the assignments, and also the contacts you make within the translation industry. Also, it is another credential to put on your resume.

As far as what areas you should focus on to specialize, the above sounds like a good place to start, if those topics are where your interest and experience are. The classes you would take at NYU would also help you ascertain your level of expertise in different areas as well, and possibly help you chose your focus/area(s) of specialization.

I do agree that you can make it as a full-time freelance translator, but it takes at least a couple of years on average to build up a regular client base. In the meantime, you would need something else to supplement your income before you make the transition to full-time freelance.

Good luck.:)

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Rachel Gorney  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:52
French to English
Depends on how you define "survive" Oct 11, 2006

Hi there,

Sorry for the late reply, but I wanted to put in my two cents. I'm a French to English translator "surviving" as it were. Since I am originally from NYC, I have considered this question myself, but have come to the conclusion that professionally I'm much better off in France.

I am afraid I can't be very optimistic about surviving on this language pair alone outside of France, especially in NYC, the most expensive of all cities! Aside from the fact that translation pay is lower in the states than in Europe, you also miss out on networking in person with French people. My French friends and professional contacts here have come in very handy indeed! I don't think I'd be able to make it without that unless you really love Ramen noodles and can settle for a crappy apartment in a distant borough.

I agree with the comments about being better off if you have another source of income to help support you -- I don't think it's possible to earn enough from translation alone to support yourself in NYC -- not unless you add very lucrative extra services to basic translation.

Finally, I would strongly dissuade you from spending the money on the NYU translation program! I have had zero formal training in translation and have had no problem whatsoever working professionally and getting work as easily as "formally trained" translators. In this field, having great research and writing skills count a lot more than degrees. Taking a year to "practice" by accepting lower-paid work might be a sort of way to "train" to be a better professional translator. That's a cheaper solution for sure, and also give you a head start on bulding relationships with agencies and clients.

Good luck, and feel free to email me if you would like more info.


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