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Help on getting an idea on salaries as a freelancer
Thread poster: Tanya Galvez

Tanya Galvez
Local time: 13:35
May 7, 2009

Hello, I would like to ask if it’s realistic to do 35,000 pounds net per year working in the UK as a freelancer Spanish-English.

I am planning to do a completely change in my professional life and go into the translation business after 10 years working in marketing/sales. I loved languages and I am planning to take a MA in translation (London Metropolitan University) and specialized in technical and medical translation (I have an engineer background). I know that there are other factors to take into consideration (as marketing yourself properly, getting good clients, eye for the detail in your job, etc, etc) but would like to know at least an idea of the salary in order to plan financially my move.

I also have the question if it is possible/normal to work for customers abroad (in my case Mexican customers) being in Europe?

Many thanks in advance for suggestions/thoughts


 

Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 15:35
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Welcome to the gang! May 7, 2009

Tanya Galvez wrote:

Hello, I would like to ask if it’s realistic to do 35,000 pounds net per year working in the UK as a freelancer Spanish-English.

I am planning to do a completely change in my professional life and go into the translation business after 10 years working in marketing/sales. I loved languages and I am planning to take a MA in translation (London Metropolitan University) and specialized in technical and medical translation (I have an engineer background). I know that there are other factors to take into consideration (as marketing yourself properly, getting good clients, eye for the detail in your job, etc, etc) but would like to know at least an idea of the salary in order to plan financially my move.

I also have the question if it is possible/normal to work for customers abroad (in my case Mexican customers) being in Europe?

Dear Tanya,

The income potential of freelancing is really unlimited - within reasonable scope of course - and the figure you gave is pretty easy to reach within a year or two. A six digit annual income is also possible but with a lot more effort (+ additional factors indeed).

You have an engineering background and marketing & sales experience - two things on the positive side. The negative side includes "a completely change" - should it be "a complete change"? and "I am planning to take a MA in translation ... and specialized" ("specialize"?); it might mean something or it might not...

As for the possibility of working with clients abroad, is there anybody/anything that stops you? In my case, my (geographically) nearest client is some 2,000 miles away separated by three or four national borders; my clients are based in over 20 countries including Portugal, Argentina or New Zealand - a long way from Ukraine!

Cheers,
Oleg


 

Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:35
English to German
+ ...
Welcome... and forget about 'salary' May 7, 2009

Hi Tanya,
I fully agree with Oleg's assessment.

One aspect you should forget about is a 'salary' - that's what an employee is paid. As a freelancer, you're going to run an independent business: adopting the right mindframe is crucial.

Kind regards,
Ralf


 

Paul Cohen  Identity Verified
Greenland
Local time: 10:35
German to English
+ ...
Why not translate into Spanish? May 7, 2009

Tanya Galvez wrote:

I am planning to do a completely change in my professional life and go into the translation business after 10 years working in marketing/sales. I loved languages and I am planning to take a MA in translation (London Metropolitan University) and specialized in technical and medical translation (I have an engineer background).

Many thanks in advance for suggestions/thoughts


My honest reaction? You may have underestimated the inherent difficulties of working into a language that is not your mother tongue.

Frankly, my initial thought was that you would be better off translating into Spanish. It's clear from what you have written that you're not a native speaker of English. I've highlighted some problematic areas in your text. One could argue that some of these errors are just typos. Fair enough. But no native speaker of English would write "I have an engineer background". That's simply not English. We would write "I have a background in engineering" or "my background is in engineering" or " I have experience in engineering", etc.

The same holds true for "I am planning to do a completely change in my professional life." I understand what you mean, but it's not idiomatic. If you write that in a CV, no one will hire you as a Spanish>English translator.

Sorry, Tanya. I have no doubt that your spoken English is excellent, but in my experience, writing in a foreign language is another kettle of fish. You would be better off doing what you do best: writing in Spanish. Then you won't have to struggle with the limits of working into a foreign language -- and your earning potential will be immeasurably larger!



[Edited at 2009-05-07 19:27 GMT]


 

Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:35
Italian to English
+ ...
I have to agree with Paul May 7, 2009

Sorry Tanya, but you clearly are not native English. I'm sure with your background you'd find it fairly easy to reach your target income once you've established yourself, but you'd be far better off working into your native tongue. Failing that, you could team up with a native English speaker and offer a package. What you really wouldn't be advised to do is market yourself as a stand-alone Spanish to English translator - you'd be handicapping yourself before you even got started.

 

xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
other comments May 7, 2009

I agree with Paul and Marie-Hélène, working into English is a no-no, as you clearly write Spanglish not English (make versus do is very basic). However, as far as I can see you haven't actually siad that you were going to do that, so maybe we are jumping the gun:-)

A few things: I don't agree with Oleg about "2 years", especially as the Spanish/English combination is well supplied, and especially in EN>ES - by half a continent where costs of living are lower than in the UK. And a recession is not a good time to be starting out ... And six-digit incomes ... that must be exceptional, and it's certainly not a figure to throw out to someone feeling their way!

You have a headstart by being an engineer, and you should focus on that, and maybe you will reach your target very quickly if you go about marketing yourself properly - as someone who produces technically and lingusitically impeccable work. In the long-run reputation is everything and you should do everything possible to protect and build it ... so don't translate into a language that you are not absolutely fluent in.

You also need to be very clear about your 35,000. Is that 35,000 invoiced, does it include/exclude tax, what about basic business costs, what about holiday time, what happens if you're sick, what about provision for the future ... etc etc. I've been a freelancer for about 15 years and have encountered major issues about being self-employed in the last few years. There's a downside too:-(


 

Tanya Galvez
Local time: 13:35
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your comments May 7, 2009

I really appreciate all your comments; definitely my aim is to translate from English to Spanish, which is my mother tongue and sorry for not explain myself properly. Additionally I am planning to take during my studies of MA a course of English, which I haven’t done before. I am thinking to do this as a part time in the beginning until I get established, however thanks to your comments I really feel encourage to do this move.

Best Regards
Tanya


 

Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:35
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
¡Ánimo! May 8, 2009

Hi Tanya.

The sky is the limit. You should identify your strong suits and advertise yourself accordingly.

Yes, 35k is very possible. It depends on many factors, most of which you can control.

Yes, you can work for Mexican customers while working in Europe. However, it is usually the other way around: translators working in Mexico with European customers. Europe is the largest translation market.

On the issue of translating Spanish-English, I would also suggest doing the opposite, i.e. English-Spanish. Remember, stick to your strong suits.

Good luck!


 

Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 15:35
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Comment on comment May 8, 2009

Lia Fail wrote: You also need to be very clear about your 35,000. Is that 35,000 invoiced, does it include/exclude tax, what about basic business costs, what about holiday time, what happens if you're sick, what about provision for the future ... etc etc. I've been a freelancer for about 15 years and have encountered major issues about being self-employed in the last few years. There's a downside too:-(

Exactly! One-person business is not easy to run, and we do have to learn a lot of lessons, not only at the beginning of our careers but also after many years of freelancing.
I don't agree with Oleg about "2 years", especially as the Spanish/English combination is well supplied, and especially in EN>ES - by half a continent where costs of living are lower than in the UK. And a recession is not a good time to be starting out ... And six-digit incomes ... that must be exceptional, and it's certainly not a figure to throw out to someone feeling their way!

My first reaction is slight irritation: why do people often prefer to believe that the worse is much more likely to happen than the good?

I once met a co-ed (he graduated from the same university a year before me, and we haven't seen each other since then). Of course, there was an exchange of "how-are-you's" and "what-are-you-doing's", and when I told him I was a freelancer he didnit get me. "You doing what???"
And during the next half an hour I explained how it works - giving figures in the course of the conversation. Two of them (personal bests) are really high: $US 2400 in one day, and $US 43,000 in one month.
A week later a friend called and told me he had met the first guy who told him about running into me. "You know what Oled is doing? Freelancing! And you know what? It can bring up to $US 1,000 a month!!!"
That's typical for countries where the cost of living is low (In UA, the average salary is less than $300/month, average pension is under $100/month, unemployment is high and recession is about the worst in Europe): our mentality refuses to accept figures that are contrary to the reality. But our reality is not only what local markets can offer! A colleague of mine based in Ukraien regularly translates at EUR 100-120 per page. I wonder why he charges so much even living in a country where, according to the official cost of living, he'd be quite comfortable translating at a rate 20 times less?

Sure thing these are only posibilities; chances we use or miss, or find ourselves unable to use because we lack something - either necessary professional/business skills, or, as Ralf rightly puts it, "the right mindframe".


 

Niraja Nanjundan  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:05
German to English
Fill in your profile May 8, 2009

Tanya Galvez wrote:
definitely my aim is to translate from English to Spanish, which is my mother tongue


If you're planning to stay on as a ProZ.com user, I think it might be a good idea to enter your main working languages and your native language in your profile, as well as other details about yourself and your background. This would prevent any further confusion about your native language and your target language.

All the best,
Niraja


 

KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 13:35
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Fear of freedom May 8, 2009

Oleg Rudavin wrote:
My first reaction is slight irritation: why do people often prefer to believe that the worse is much more likely to happen than the good?


You should be used to that by now, Oleg. I'm sure you are, but I agree that some days it's hard not to get annoyed. This reminds me a bit of a guy who passed up a salaried job offer with good benefits to live in misery working for a call center. It gave my friend more to complain about, so he was happy. It fit his low image of himself. It's the same way with many translators, though I am not saying everyone who struggles wants to or has it coming. But there are cases - many of them - where this is very clearly true and the remedies aren't all that hard to figure out. Mostly they come down to smarter marketing if we're talking about someone who has the quality and scheduling aspects under control (which already eliminates a lot of people).

Like Ralf said, the mindset is very important. Words like "salary" when talking about freelance life are not only technically wrong, they are mentally poisonous. If you think and act like a low wage employee, you will be treated like one - without the benefits. But those chains may give some a sense of "security" because they then no longer feel responsible for their fates and accept that they cannot influence the outcomes for their business. They can make a collective call for Big Brother to rescue them with regulated rates and other pipe dreams. I think they can find more useful pipe dreams in Amsterdam for about 10 euros a gram or whatever the going rate is.

Enough psychoanalyzing... back to work so I can take you up on that glass of wine tomorrow evening (I assume you are in town now)....

[Edited at 2009-05-08 09:07 GMT]


 

Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:35
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Totally agree with Oleg May 8, 2009

Oleg has the right mindset, that makes all the difference in the world, sky is the limit if you believe.

 

Alistair Gainey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:35
Member (2009)
Russian to English
Mathematics May 9, 2009

Let's say you do 3,000 words a day -by no means a ridiculous amount, I gather, for English-Spanish translation. Let's say you charge 70 GBP / 1000 words -by no means a ridiculous amount either (I assume -although maybe the English-Spanish translators on here can correct me). That gets you 210 GBP a day. To get a pre-tax income of just under 50,000 GBP a year, you'd need to work for 238 days a year. So you could have weekends off and still have 3 weeks' holiday. Looking at it another way, to earn 30,000 GBP a year (which is more than the average wage in the UK), you'd need to work for just 143 days. Even for Oleg's figures, 43,000 USD a month is currently about 28,500 GBP a month. That's about 920 GBP a day. If Oleg charges 100 GBP per 1000 words, therefore, he needs to do 9,200 words a day. If he does 600 words an hour, he'll do that in a little over 15 hours; if he does 1000 words an hour, he'll do it in a little over 9 hours. Obviously, that's a hell of a month (and I realise I'm ignoring issues like proofreading and editing), but it does show you what is possible. (I'm sure someone will say if I've got any of this wrong.)
Clearly, there are other factors to take into consideration (taxes, overheads, pensions, etc.), but on paper it is indeed entirely possible to earn decent money from freelance translation.

In one sense, therefore, it is easy (after all there aren't that many jobs where you have the potential to earn that kind of income in the comfort of your own home). It would be naive, however, to expect the work to come to you automatically (see the "What was your volume of work last week?" thread in the "Translation Theory and Practice" folder). Advertising and self-promotion is vital in freelance translating (as it is in any business). You also need to be prepared (particularly when starting out) to make a few sacrifices from time to time, and to go the extra mile to keep clients happy. You might well end up working over the weekend, or late into the night, to meet a deadline. Initially, unless you've already got a list of clients lined up, things may well be tough. But eventually (if not necessarily literally "within a year or two") you should be earning a decent income if you stick at it.

[Edited at 2009-05-09 06:44 GMT]


 

Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 15:35
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Additional input data May 9, 2009

Alistair Gainey wrote: Even for Oleg's figures, 43,000 USD a month is currently about 28,500 GBP a month. That's about 920 GBP a day. If Oleg charges 100 GBP per 1000 words, therefore, he needs to do 9,200 words a day. If he does 600 words an hour, he'll do that in a little over 15 hours; if he does 1000 words an hour, he'll do it in a little over 9 hours.

I don't want to give any wrong impressions with the above figures, so here's some additional info:
- Sometimes I charge more than GBP100 per 1,000 words
- Sometimes "Trados" and "fuzies" and "reps" are not in clients' vocabulary, and jobs/projects are highly repetitive
- Sometimes (though rarely now) my monthly income drops down to "miserable" twenty hundred (yes that's right - my wife asks, "Why so little?" and looks surprisedicon_biggrin.gif )
- Sometimes there are lolls (Xmas, early summer) which don't change the average annual statistics though
- Sometimes there are other uncountable factors involved...


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:35
English to Polish
+ ...
Sorry for necro but May 19, 2014

Sorry for mega necro, but I'm really interested in the example of the guy who translates for EUR 100+ per page to or from a Slavic language, which is €0.40 per word presuming a standard page of ~250 words/1800 characters, where one'd think high teens are tops. (Forty cents is something many celebrity translators of the most important languages don't get to charge, or translators of rare and dead languages.)

[Edited at 2014-05-19 22:23 GMT]


 
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