Translators in USA with customers in Europe
Thread poster: Terry Richards

Terry Richards
France
Local time: 03:57
French to English
+ ...
Nov 16, 2011

Hi all,

I'm currently living in France but am considering moving back to the USA. All of my current customers are based in Europe (90% are in France) but I see no good reason why I can't continue to work for them, at least until I build up a customer base over there. I've never physically met any of them and I don't see that it makes much difference, from the translating POV, where I am located.

However, what about billing and transferring/converting Euros to Dollars? How do you manage that without paying the banks a small fortune?

If anybody is in a similar position, I'd love to hear how it works out for you.

Thanks in advance,

Terry.


 

David Jessop  Identity Verified
Spain
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Can swing it, search the forums Nov 16, 2011

Terry Richards wrote:

Hi all,

I'm currently living in France but am considering moving back to the USA. All of my current customers are based in Europe (90% are in France) but I see no good reason why I can't continue to work for them, at least until I build up a customer base over there. I've never physically met any of them and I don't see that it makes much difference, from the translating POV, where I am located.

However, what about billing and transferring/converting Euros to Dollars? How do you manage that without paying the banks a small fortune?

If anybody is in a similar position, I'd love to hear how it works out for you.

Thanks in advance,

Terry.


As long as you can deal with the time difference for communicating with your clients, there is no reason you can't swing it. You can even get a virtual phone number these days so your clients in France can call you on a number that is local to them. There are many translators who have done similar things or who take several months working holidays in different time zones. As per your question regarding currency exchange, of course you will pay. There are a variety of options available and this has been covered in detail in other posts. You may just need to experiment with what is cheapest and works best for your particular situation.

Good luck.

David


 

Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:57
English to French
+ ...
Two words: bank fees Nov 16, 2011

The main reason I no longer work for French customers (in addition to grotesquely-long payment delays) is the cost of transferring money.

 

Jenn Mercer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:57
Member (2009)
French to English
PayPal? Nov 16, 2011

Terry,

My situation is the reverse of yours as I still have only about 10% of my invoices in Euros other non-USD currencies. For this ratio, PayPal actually works quite well. I work the fees into my rates by the simple expediency of rounding up when converting my USD rates. Sadly, I think I am going to need to send a "Euro rate update" to some of my customers. However, accepting rates in other currencies has vastly expanded my pool of potential clients. In your case, it may be worth it to keep your Euro denominated bank account and convert the money in bulk at regular intervals. You will still have to deal with fees from U.S. banks, however.

[Edited at 2011-11-16 18:58 GMT]


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
I'm in a very similar situation. Nov 16, 2011

I moved to New Orleans from the UK three years ago. Most of my customers stuck with me, so 90% of my business comes from the UK and the eurozone. I really ought to make more of an effort to get US customers, but I'm so busy I never seem to get around to it.

I've been pleasantly surprised at how little of a problem the 6- to 7-hour time difference makes - in fact it often works to my advantage because I can do jobs "overnight".

However, this does mean I have to get up very early to check my emails, and I tell customers that they're welcome to phone any time after 7 am my time. I do feel very out of touch when I'm on the west coast, 8 to to 9 hours behind.

One problem is my dependence on exchange rates - when the sterling/dollar rate fell from 2 to 1.4 at one stage, my dollar income fell sharply.

And as for bank accounts - well, just keep your French account open (it's easier and cheaper for customers) and transfer money to the US as and when you need it, or when the exchange rate is in your favor.


 

JH Trads  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:57
Member (2007)
English to French
+ ...
quite feasible Nov 16, 2011

you can perfectly well find a bank with quite reasonable wire fees (flat) and currency exchange rates. Because there is a bank transfer fee, albeit small, you might want to group several projects until you are comfortable with the flat transfer fee/total invoice percentage.

 

Marina Steinbach  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:57
Member
English to German
Are really "money matters" keeping you from moving back to the States? Nov 16, 2011

Terry Richards wrote:

Hi all,

I'm currently living in France but am considering moving back to the USA. All of my current customers are based in Europe (90% are in France) but I see no good reason why I can't continue to work for them, at least until I build up a customer base over there. I've never physically met any of them and I don't see that it makes much difference, from the translating POV, where I am located.

However, what about billing and transferring/converting Euros to Dollars? How do you manage that without paying the banks a small fortune?

If anybody is in a similar position, I'd love to hear how it works out for you.

Thanks in advance,

Terry.


icon_rolleyes.gif


 

Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 03:57
English to Russian
+ ...
Retain a bank account in Europe Nov 16, 2011

A good option would be to retain an account in Europe when moving to America. Choose a bank with very low fees on incoming intra-EU transfers and foreign ATM withdrawals. Have your clients transfer euros to that account. Withdraw dollars from an ATM in the U.S. VISA and Mastercard networks provide very good exchange rates.

Paypal, on the contrary, offers (or at least used to offer) poor exchange rates and doesn't allow withdrawals in other currencies than your home country one. For this reason, I only use it for very small jobs and spend the earnings directly in web shops.

[Edited at 2011-11-16 19:22 GMT]


 

Vanda Nissen  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 11:57
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
with Anton Nov 17, 2011

Hi Terry,

My situation was quite similiar to yours, we moved to Australia last year. I am still keeping my Swedish bank account, and all my European clients pay directly to it. Once in 2-3 months I transfer the whole amount to our bank in Australia. It works fine.


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:57
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
European bank account and PayPal Nov 17, 2011

To keep your French bank account is a very good, perhaps the best solution.

Furthermore, PayPal allows you to keep both a Euro and a USD balance within the same account. This provides you with the option to convert and/or transfer Euros to the USA whenever the convertion rate is in your favor. And PayPal fees are quite "moderate" in comparisson to bank fees.icon_smile.gif


 

Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
I agree (keep the bank account)/XE Trade Nov 17, 2011

I moved (originally) from the US to Germany, then from Germany to Australia, and although I currently work for most of the year out of Australia, I still visit Germany and the US at least once a year. I keep bank accounts in all three locations (although I don't actually have clients in Australia), so it comes in handy to have money accessible wherever I go.

I don't know if any French banks have "partner banks" in the US, but I got pretty lucky with Germany-Australia-US, because there is a "partnership" among Deutsche Bank, Bank of America, and Westpac that allows me to use an ATM card to withdraw funds from a foreign account at their ATMs without paying either conversion fees or commissions. That is one thing you can look into if you have your French clients continue to pay into your French bank account.

Another service I tried out a few months ago was XE Trade (at that time I was transferring Euros back to the US and the rate was quite advantageous). They do build in a bit of a spread, but it's convenient and probably less expensive than all of the bank fees combined. Also, they sent me an eMail that they are now offering a bid-matching system, so that might help with the rates as well.

Just FYI, I find working with European clients from Australia great because I'm a natural night owl, so waking up in the afternoon and staying up all night is a dream come true.icon_smile.gif

HOWEVER, when I work in the US, I find myself gradually becoming exhausted, since (as you say) I have to check my mail very early - it's fine at first, but after the first week or so I tend not to be able to stay up and work until later in the morning (too tired). So what happens is instead of actually working between 3-8am, I might sleep on/off, checking mails, answering inquiries, and negotiating jobs, then completing the work later in the day

Unfortunately, that means any sleep I get in the morning is Very Poor, but by the evening I catch my second wind and can't go to sleep early... I guess it's not for me.

I suppose if you have no problem getting up early it's not a problem - but I don't think it's a life for night owls!icon_wink.gif


 

Terry Richards
France
Local time: 03:57
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks all! Nov 17, 2011

Thank you all for your comments, they have been very helpful. It seems that my plan is feasible which is what I needed to know right now.

My wife and I are going to be in a position to move sometime next year and we are currently looking at a lot of different options of which moving back to the States is just one. The others are staying in France, moving to England or moving "elsewhere".

We have about 10 years to go until retirement so being able to generate an income is obviously an issue.

Terry.


 

Timothy Barton
Local time: 02:57
French to English
+ ...
Another way of avoiding fees Nov 17, 2011

Another way of avoiding fees is to use your French credit card as much as possible. If you can pay for nearly everything you buy on your French credit card then you're not paying commissions (apart from the small difference between the buying rate and the selling rate in the exchange rate).

In the UK, many shops allow you to ask for cash back. That is, say you buy something for £5, you can get them to charge £105 to your card and they gave you £100 in cash. This would be another way of transferring money cheaply.

Finally, there's one way of avoiding any charges at all. Do you know anyone who's in the opposite situation to you? Nearly all my earnings are in euros, but I have to keep topping up my British bank account as my student loan repayments are debited from that account. I had a friend who had to regularly convert large amounts of pounds to euros, so we used to work out the exchange rate, then he'd transfer money from his British account to my British account, and I'd transfer the equivalent amount from my Spanish account to his. This meant we paid absolutely zilch to anyone, as we used the mid-rate for the exchange. If any of my family are going on holiday to the eurozone, I take cash over for them when I visit and they pay the equivalent amount into my UK account.

Make sure you register your non-residency in France so the taxmen don't get suspicious about the money in your account.


 

Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Mmmm not so sure Nov 17, 2011

Timothy Barton wrote:
If you can pay for nearly everything you buy on your French credit card then you're not paying commissions (apart from the small difference between the buying rate and the selling rate in the exchange rate).


There are "hidden" fees for using credit cards - and by hidden I just mean the ones most people don't bother to look into. First of all, a credit card is not necessarily going to give you a good conversion rate, because they don't have to. See the fine print. But more importantly, most cards charge a fee just for completing a "foreign currency transaction". My German credit cards charge 1.5% for this, and some in the US go up to 3%, possibly more. I would seriously advise a thorough review of your credit card terms before you plan on using it to pay for foreign transactions on a regular basis!

Another thing to watch out for (I've found) is taking advantage of those "automatic conversion" features at the point of sale. Every time I've seen the rate converted using point-of-sale devices, it was 5-10% worse than the going rate. Even with a credit card fee of 3%, you'd still be doing better.

There is actually a service that works similar to what Timothy was discussing, I haven't used it but I've been meaning to look into it. It's called Currency Fair and I believe it matches people in different countries to trade currencies. Here is the link: Currency Fair

Good luck with everything!


 


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