How much could I realistically hope for as a freelancer (DE / FR to EN)?
Thread poster: mattsmith

mattsmith
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:25
German to English
+ ...
May 2, 2009

I have getting on for 4 years of experience as a full time in house translator translating from German and French into English; I also have a degree in German and an MA in translation from Manchester university. I'm more of a generalist than a specialist but I do have a lot of experience translating financial and marketing texts.

I'm getting sick of my in house job because the rate of pay is low and the hours are long, and am considering leaving it to go freelance. I am worried about pay rates though and whether there would be regular work. Could anyone provide me with pointers about (a) whether I would get regular work for my language combination and (b) how much I could earn per year or what a fair rate per word would be for my languages and experience. I can currently comfortably translate about 2500 words per day to a high standard. Thanks in advance


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:25
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
That depends on you May 2, 2009

Hard to say, really. Your earnings will depend on the obvious factors: your ability to market yourself, your skills and the markets you address. Your profile basically says nothing except that you ask a lot of KudoZ questions and answer very few.

ProZ members have access to average rate information for their language pairs; you'll also find relevant information in publications from the ITI and BDÜ. (The ITI survey is old, but I don't think UK rates have improved much since then.) You might think about doing what many of us have done: establish relationships with clients as a freelancer while you continue in your day job, and when it's clear there is enough fruit on the tree to be had, go for it. Of course you must be clear about the limitations on your time while you are still employed.

Have a look at some of the translators associations' guides to getting started or perhaps some of the books available on the subject. Oleg's book (available on ProZ) is good, with a lot of engaging personal anecdotes, and Corinne McKay's book (available through Amazon) is apparently particularly relevant for US-based translators.

In the end, your skill at marketing and customer management will probably matter more than your actual skill as a translator. Then once you get the customers, have a quality plan in place to keep them


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:25
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Without customers you will not earn much May 2, 2009

Bodo Schäfer explains it well in his books:

You give yourself a mark out of 10 for 1) quality of your work, 2) energy that you invest, 3) self-confidence, 4) creativity; and (5) a mark out of 100 for the number of customers you have (one mark for each customer).

You multiply the figures together, to get your probable monthly earnings. It works with any currency.

Go and read a few of Bodo Schäfer's books before you start as a freelancer.

Astrid


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Anne-Marie Grant  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:25
French to English
+ ...
Kevin's advice is good May 2, 2009

Test the waters first by trying to get a couple of decent clients while you still have your in-house job to pay the bills.

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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:25
Dutch to English
+ ...
Depends on you May 2, 2009

robertsmith wrote:

I have getting on for 4 years of experience as a full time in house translator translating from German and French into English; I also have a degree in German and an MA in translation from Manchester university. I'm more of a generalist than a specialist but I do have a lot of experience translating financial and marketing texts.

I'm getting sick of my in house job because the rate of pay is low and the hours are long, and am considering leaving it to go freelance. I am worried about pay rates though and whether there would be regular work. Could anyone provide me with pointers about (a) whether I would get regular work for my language combination and (b) how much I could earn per year or what a fair rate per word would be for my languages and experience. I can currently . Thanks in advance


You can ask the same question to a lawyer, doctor, freelance journalist , hairdresser or plumber and get the same answer. It's about you and your ability to provide the correct price/quality ratio for your particular market, carve out a niche for yourself and adapt to dynamic market circumstances. There is no ready-to-use formula. Plenty of translators out there can "comfortably translate about 2500 words per day to a high standard". In fact I'd go as far to say it's the (very) minimum to expect of a full-time professional translator these days.

Before taking the plunge, there are three immediate things I'd suggest:
a) build up a client base starting to freelance on a part-time basis -- as has already been suggested. On a part-time basis, allow anything from six to eighteen months for this step, perhaps even longer;
b) get specialist training. If you are interested in financial translation, there is a very good course coming up at City University for German to English translators: http://www.city.ac.uk/languages/courses/Financial_Reporting.html (I only wish it was available in my language pairs);
c) save -- have at least six month's salary put aside from the start to carry you through leaner months. The work isn't going to fall into your lap, especially at the start.

The maths is easy using the rates calculator -- the question is whether you'll get 2,500 words per day on average to translate. Easy enough, once you're establised and have found your niche -- in fact, far more is possible if you really specialise -- but you need to get to that point first.

Best of luck
Debs


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mattsmith
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:25
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks........ May 2, 2009

...... for your kind suggestions everyone.

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Paul Cohen  Identity Verified
Greenland
Local time: 06:25
German to English
+ ...
If you can deliver the goods... May 2, 2009

Kevin Lossner wrote:

In the end, your skill at marketing and customer management will probably matter more than your actual skill as a translator. Then once you get the customers, have a quality plan in place to keep them


I agree. You have to be able to work well with people, market yourself and keep your customers happy.

If you have a knack for translating and can "deliver the goods," there is definitely room for you as a freelancer in this industry. I think tenacity is a key characteristic, both in terms of your work and your interactions with clients. Don't miss deadlines, don't make unrealistic promises, but be ambitious: Aim to churn out work that you can be proud of, no matter what the subject area.

How much can you expect to earn? Well, that depends on how much of a social life you want to have! Hermit translators in Greenland do quite well, so I hear, but they also work on weekends.


[Edited at 2009-05-02 16:35 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:25
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
"Walk..." May 2, 2009

This reminds me of the story of someone who asks a local how long it would take him to walk to the next village. Before answering, the villager says "Walk...".

How fast can you walk?


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:25
Dutch to English
+ ...
Well said May 2, 2009

Paul Cohen wrote:

I think tenacity is a key characteristic, both in terms of your work and your interactions with clients. Don't miss deadlines, don't make unrealistic promises, but be ambitious: Aim to churn out work that you can be proud of, no matter what the subject area.



Tenacity sums it up really well.


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mattsmith
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:25
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks again... May 4, 2009

and also thanks to those who contacted me by email!

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