Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Can I keep my day job and still do freelance translations?
Thread poster: Bruno Combart (X)

Bruno Combart (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:30
English to French
+ ...
Nov 6, 2002

I\'m an Account Director in an advertising agency in London.

The advertising world is driving me mad and I\'m contemplating a move into freelance translation. As I understand, making a decent living of it can be quite tough in the first year. So I\'d rather go for a toe-in-the-water approach by keeping my day job for the time being, bid for translations and take it from there.

It may sound a tad naive for most of you who\'ve got years of experience but:

a) is it realistic?

b is it possible from a legal perspective?



Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:30
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Yes - well, it was for me, anyway. Nov 7, 2002

I had a full-time job at BBC Monitoring from 1963-1990, and from 1965 onwards I also did freelance work, which soon came to average about a third of my total income.

However, you might say my circumstances were different, in that by 1965 I had been a staff translator of one kind or another for 12 years, so I could cite quite a bit of translation experience when applying to agencies, which you presumably cannot do. I was also lucky in almost immediately finding one customer who sent me a regular supply of work every month (later every week), and continues to do so to this day. The fact that I was on shift work for most of those years made it easier to combine the main job plus the freelance with family commitments, I think; and the BBC job was the sort of job in which you could be frantically busy all day, but could also sometimes have slack periods, during which no-one expected you to sit at a desk and look busy, so I was actually able to do some freelance work during working hours.

So it worked for me, though whether it would work for you I can\'t say. But formal qualifications in translation would help a lot in your case, if you don\'t have any already.


Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:30
English to German
+ ...
I got started with a dual role Nov 7, 2002

Although I wasn\'t \"driven\" into translating icon_smile.gif, I started out in a similar way: at the time, I was working as a department head on the trading desks of a large German bank - not exactly 9-to-5, but I still managed to gradually get a business going. When I finally decided to seriously swap roles, this meant I could hit the ground running.

What you shouldn\'t underestimate is the difference between one\'s perception of how demanding translating can be and the reality of sitting in front of a tough piece of text...

You can contact me through my ProZ profile if you need more detailed input.


Marc P (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:30
German to English
+ ...
a) Probably not Nov 7, 2002

It\'s not clear from your past whether you have any training or experience in translation, so I\'m assuming that you haven\'t.

In the past, it was very common for translators to cut their teeth in an in-house job, and then at some stage to go it alone. That\'s my own story, in fact. I think this happens less frequently now because so much of the work has been outsourced.

Anyone who\'s done this, for that matter anyone who\'s tried to build up a full-time business at the same time as holding down a full-time job, will tell you that it\'s extremely demanding. But it can be done.

If, though, you\'re new to translation, you will be learning all about that AS WELL, and in that case I\'d say it must be well-nigh impossible.

If you\'re really interested in becoming a translator, my advice would be to get some training first. Location-wise, you\'re ideally placed to do this. Balancing your day job and training in the evening should be realistic, and should also give you some idea of how demanding working on the side is likely to be when you\'ve finished.

Translation is a profession like any other, and needs preparation for entry. Dissatisfaction with your current job (which I understand perfectly icon_smile.gif ) isn\'t the best qualification for it. My advice is: think in terms of \"joining the profession\", rather than \"working on the side\".



Joeri Van Liefferinge  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:30
Member (2002)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Just do it Nov 7, 2002

That\'s how I started a few years ago and after a little more than one year, I had to give up my day job, because I was working more than 90 hours a week.

I hear from other translators that it\'s not a good time to start working as a translator, but I must say that since I started as a full-time freelance translator, I haven\'t had one day without work. I have to refuse at least 3 or 4 jobs per week, even in what I hear is a difficult environment (well, knock on wood, let\'s hope I\'m not jinxing myself by saying this...).

And what\'s more: life as a freelancer is great! icon_smile.gif


Maria Riegger (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:30
Spanish to English
+ ...
It is possible and a good way to get going Nov 7, 2002

I currently work an intensive schedule at a strategic marketing firm and leave by 3pm, and am thus able to devote my afternoons to translation work. Like Joeri, I find myself having to turn down jobs because I have too much work. Plus, working while doing translating allows me to save money in order to later either leave my day job and/or continue studying in order to specialize.


Barbara Cattaneo
Local time: 01:30
English to Italian
+ ...
I did it Nov 7, 2002

I completely share Joeri\'s view. The same is happening to me. I started working free lance at night (and in a law firm during the day) and after two years I gave up my day job. Now I work day and night as well, but from home!!

I would never go back.

Good luck.


Local time: 09:30
Italian to English
+ ...
I also think just do it.... Nov 7, 2002

I started to do this a few months back and have had a good start. I have to say though that you need to be constant.

Legally I see no problem. You have to declare your earnings and you will pay more tax at the end of the year but why not start out like this????

I would never entertain the thought of giving up my day job \"cold turkey\" (Marketing Mgr of a software company) but I, like Ralf, hope I can hit the ground running when my time comes!

I have also worked in the advertising agency Snake Pit and know what you are going through.

Good luck!!!!!!! icon_smile.gif
Don\'t let anyone convince you otherwise. At worse, you get no translation jobs (or not enough to swap roles) but you will still have your advertising job at the end of the day! Nothing better in my eyes! Meanwhile you may get some extra income coming in!

GO FOR IT!!!!!




Zhoudan  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:30
Member (2007)
English to Chinese
+ ...
It's realistic! Nov 7, 2002

My personal experience told me that working as a part-time freelancer while keeping a full-time job can be very tough, but safer in your first years of translation career. Before I shifted to work as full-time freelancer last year, I had worked for an agency as in-house translator for three years and then taken graduate courses in translation for 2.5 years. That helped enhance my professional skill and accumulated my experience in this field. But to be a translator can be harder than one can imagine. It requires all kinds of skills in addition to linguistic competence. If you decide to get into this industry, be prepared to all kinds of difficulties, including possible financial problems. Personally, I have never lacked jobs since I worked as freelancer. But I also know many people who have difficulty to keep their clients.


Mirjam Garber (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:30
French to German
+ ...
Go ahead but be prepared to get little sleep Nov 7, 2002

That\'s exactly the way I did it. I started translating in addition to a \"normal\" job, so that in the beginning it wasn\'t too hard if I didn\'t have a translation to do. Now I am seriously trying to get established as freelance translator (still keeping a \"secure\" income as contractor) and even though it might be hard to get established and to get jobs, I can\'t complain at all. Sometimes I would be happy if I had less to do, so that I could get a bit more sleep or have the time to simply do nothing but relax icon_wink.gif.... but honestly I find it much better the way it is, because this means that I will be able in some months to stop the work as contractor..

it\'s not easy, but it\'s up to you how many translations you want to do in addition to your \"normal\" job. I mean if you find it to stressing - nobody obliges you to react to a job posting....


Bruno Combart (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:30
English to French
+ ...
Thanks for your input Nov 7, 2002

Hi folks,

Thanks a lot for your feedback. All very nice and helpful. How refreshing!

I\'m not exactly a johnny-come-lately as I\'ve got a language degree (English and German) from a French Universtiy. I also spent a year at the University of Innsbruck where attended translation classes and got some certificates.

Plus in my advertising career, I\'ve managed pan-European accounts and have done almost all the translation of mail pieces and brochures into French myself. Just because I like it.

However, I\'m intending to take the IoL exam. Would you guys recommend this?




Lydia Molea  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:30
English to German
+ ...
Why not... Nov 7, 2002

but, as everybody here already mentioned, forget lots of sleep, forget relaxing weekends (umm, forget weekends), etc. However, the work is very rewarding and I believe it is worth it. I intend to give up my \"secure\" part-time job by the end of this year ... and I doubt I\'ll have any regrets.

Good luck!


[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-11-07 13:38 ]


United States
Local time: 16:30
English to Hebrew
+ ...
yes Nov 7, 2002

Ashi Fachler

Owner/Chief Designer

TaDa! Web graphics & Graphic design


Centers for Education and Technology,

San Diego Community College District.



US Courts

Phone 619.466.9999

Fax 702.543.2118



Lydia Molea  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:30
English to German
+ ...
??? Nov 7, 2002

I just realized that on the main page my name is stated as the author of this posting ... which I am not, obviously. Anybody know why?


Dave Greatrix  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:30
Dutch to English
+ ...
Feast or famine Nov 7, 2002

I\'m sure many freelance translators will agree, this job can tend to be feast or famine. You have either got too much work, or not enough.

Speaking for myself, it suits my lifestyle down to the ground. Quite often one or two weeks on - one or two weeks off.

I would say that if you try to \"ride two horses\", you will quite often find that Sod\'s Law says that your employment will prevent you meeting deadlines, or not even getting the job to start with.

The times that I have arranged something socially, only to be sent an e-mail with a job offer at the last minute.

If you wish to build up your contacts, translation jobs must come first. The problem is, you can\'t phone your boss up and say, \"I can\'t come in to work today, I have to work\"

My advice is if you have confidence in your ability, and you have some spare cash in the bank, go for it.

Once you are established, it is a great life. I now live in Spain, having moved from the UK six months ago. I still have the same clients, and I still get the same money.

Remember, as long as you have a telephone line, the world is literally your oyster.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-11-07 14:50 ]

Pages in topic:   [1 2] >

To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Can I keep my day job and still do freelance translations?

Advanced search

BaccS – Business Accounting Software
Modern desktop project management for freelance translators

BaccS makes it easy for translators to manage their projects, schedule tasks, create invoices, and view highly customizable reports. User-friendly, integration, community-driven development – a few reasons BaccS is trusted by translators!

More info »
SDL MultiTerm 2019
Guarantee a unified, consistent and high-quality translation with terminology software by the industry leaders.

SDL MultiTerm 2019 allows translators to create one central location to store and manage multilingual terminology, and with SDL MultiTerm Extract 2019 you can automatically create term lists from your existing documentation to save time.

More info »

  • All of
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search