Off topic: A Question About Money - some fundamental monetary issues about starting up
Thread poster: Nathalie Warner

Nathalie Warner  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:40
Member (2006)
English to French
+ ...
Apr 25, 2005

Hi

I'm about to enter the world of freelance translation with the following language pair - English -> French.

I currently live in the UK but I plan on moving back to France with my husband(English) and my child (I'm 3 months pregnant! ) in a year or two.

I appreciate that this question has probably been asked many times before and is kind of a "how long is a piece of string" question but here goes: -

I would like to run the businesss with my husband doing all the marketing, accounts, fielding phone calls, website management and paper work with me as the translator. In this language combination and working average hours and charging the market average how much could we expect to earn between us?

Is £40000 (59000 euros) unreasonable.

Would there be a lot for my husband to do, and therefore leaving me with much more time to concentrate on translating than if I was to do it alone?

Also, would the rates differ much from working in England to working in France?

Is it better to live in the country of you second language - will living in France have a big impact on the work I get from agencies?

Many thanks for any help you can offer!

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2005-04-25 15:14]

[Edited at 2005-04-25 15:36]


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Anjo Sterringa  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:40
Member (2003)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Don't do it for the money Apr 25, 2005

Become a translator because you want to be your own boss, keep your own hours, because you can go on holiday or travel around whenever you want (oh well, perhaps not during that big project, or the next, or the next...) - but if you want to earn some real money, go and find a real job.
Especially if you are just starting, there is a lot to buy (software, dictionaries) and a lot to learn, and not so much to earn - neither does the translating go as smoothly as you'd wish. It'll take a couple of years to get established.
Your partner may be able to help you, but translating the whole day drives you mad anyway. I enjoy having a break and talk to a customer or browse for jobs - although I'd love to have somebody do the invoicing and the accounts (that's why I have a bookkeeper).
Just compare a translator's hourly rate to a lawyer's hourly rate (I was trained as a lawyer, and I still think it's not fair!) to get an idea about the relative earnings. Then check the going word rates, how much you can translate daily (1500-2500 words) with or without help (and not to forget: a new baby!) and then calculate turnover. Minus the costs (which I'm told are quite high in France) you'll get your (maximum) earnings - 59000 EUR seems a bit over the top....
But I do love doing it! Anjo


[Edited at 2005-04-25 17:39]


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Nathalie Warner  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:40
Member (2006)
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It's not just the money, but it helps! Apr 25, 2005

Hi

Thanks for your thoughts.

The reasons for going down the translation route certainly aren't for the money but we are just trying to research the feasibility of us both relying on one income if it comes down to it (my husband may be able to work from home for an English company).

Regards

Nat


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 08:40
English to Russian
+ ...
Nathalie, how does your starting point look? Apr 25, 2005

Clients you are taking with you, name in the translation/interpretation world, experience etc? I'm not prying, I'm just trying to say that if you are about to enter it out of a clear blue (occasional lucky strikes, if any, do not count), the country does not matter and the colleague is right - you need to get a real job first. At least one of you. To feed the little one, may God bless him/her!

Best,
Irina


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xxxLatin_Hellas
United States
Local time: 15:40
Italian to English
+ ...
Difficult, Not Impossible Apr 25, 2005

Nathalie,

if you mean €59,000 in revenues (and not earnings) then it is certainly possible, but this implies that you translate more or less full-time and have at least some well-paying direct customers. If at this level, then there is certainly much that your husband can do to help, but probably not full-time.
In any case, Anjo makes some good points, for example, one becomes a translator because it affords one greater freedom rather than more money. Hand-in-hand with that, translating all day (say 8-9 hours) drives one batty, so full-time really means about six hours of actual translating a day, though you may have to work six days a week (seven days a week is not recommendable simply for health reasons).
The bottom line, i.e. earnings (revenues - costs) will depend on your cost structure. I don't think that information system and telecommunications costs are the problem, it is more housing: France is superexpensive, perhaps you have family there that can help subsidise you in this major cost area.

So, if your combined marketing and translation skills are up to the task within these parameters, and with support in terms of the fixed-cost of housing, your goals are certainly achievable, but indeed it implies already a certain amount of experience with success.

All the best,

bale002


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Alison Schwitzgebel
France
Local time: 15:40
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
In Oxford... Apr 25, 2005

At the proz conference in Oxford last year, Alex Eames did a presentation about his ideas for how to make USD 80,000 a year as a freelance translator. At the very start of his talk, he asked how many people made more than USD 80,000 in their first year as a freelance translator.

Three hands went up. Mine was one of them.

I have three kids (ages 6, 2 and 1 year), 2 cats, one dog and 8 chickens. My husband runs the house and leaves me to run the business. I do all the translation, and all of the Web site, accounting, marketing, fielding of phone calls etc.

It certainly is possible - but it's VERY hard work, and at the risk of blowing my own trumpet you've got to be pretty darn good.

So go for it but make sure you have some cash stashed away just in case it doesn't all pan out the way you hope.

All the best,

Alison


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baroni  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:40
Member (2004)
English to Italian
+ ...
Anjo is absolutely right Apr 25, 2005

the first 2 years were pretty "poor", and don't forget that 1) you will get a baby (so at the beginning you won't be able to translated 8 hours, I know it by experience because when I started 4 years ago my son was 4 months old) 2) one needs also a lot of luck (right moment with the right customer).

I wish you good luck and a baby who sleeps in the night!
Francesca

[Edited at 2005-04-25 19:25]


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Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 16:40
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Luck + work Apr 25, 2005

Dear Nathalie,

When it comes to money, translation is not among the best-paid areas and certainly far from being easy as a fulltime occupation (even fulltime freelancing) - but with even a single fertile client you can sometimes feel pretty comfortable financially. You'll indeed have to split some of it (website management? paperwork? accounting?) between you and your husband sometimes. But there will certainly be idle spells to catch up with what had to have been done the day before...

In this language combination and working average hours and charging the market average how much could we expect to earn between us?

It can take a while before you find clients capable to keep you busy "average hours".

Is £40000 (59000 euros) unreasonable

Anywhere between a third of it to twice as much. Rather, irregular progress from a Nth of it to the desired net earnings or even more.

Would there be a lot for my husband to do, and therefore leaving me with much more time to concentrate on translating than if I was to do it alone?

Yes, but most likely later as there won't be much at the start.

would the rates differ much from working in England to working in France?

Even in France you'll be running a paperless office working internationally; so there's little difference in rates in your language combination throughout the world.

Cheers,
Oleg


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Nathalie Warner  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:40
Member (2006)
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Great Responses! Apr 25, 2005

Hi

Thanks to all who responded!

Just for the record, I have a good client which came from the most unusual source and I am pretty sure that there are another 1 or 2 big companies that are going to use me in the future but as I am currently working full time as a teacher and expecting a child I'm not wanting to market myself too much until after the little one makes an appearence.

This coming summer will be used to continue with the pieces of work that are gently trickling in, setting up the website and getting business cards ready etc. and also buying any things I need whilst I'm earning a reasonable income.

To answer bale002 we have the luck of living mortgage free (and not with the parents thankfully!) so this is a major plus for us. Also, France may seem superexpensive to the United States but compared to the UK it's cheap!

Thanks again, your positive attitudes have made me very happy!


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:40
French to English
To answer the country of residence point Apr 25, 2005

When looking at agency websites, you do see a few (10%, maybe) who specify that they want the translator to be living in a country where the target language is spoken. I don't recall seeing any that said they wanted you to be living in a source-language country (most don't specify).

Also, a fair number of French agencies do seem to be unable to cope with the possibility that their translators might not live in France, insisting on Siren numbers and suchlike.

So those points are in your favour.

I'd say that your income forecasts are optimistic for a start-up, but if you've already got sources, then not unattainable.

That said, if you've already got sources for work lined up, I don't see your husband having a lot to do

Note that in France, once you're established (and so have got past the fixed-rate deductions that apply in year 1), you can expect total deductions in taxes and social security and suchlike to take up 50% of turnover (altho' you will have a kid and there a generous allowances for that, so perhaps you won't pay quite so much). I knew several self-employed people when I was over there who actually turned down work once they'd reached a certain income level because they said that only getting to keep half of what they earned beyonf that level just wasn't worth it. All of which is a roundabout way of saying, don't expect 60k EUR to give you the same net income in France as 40K GBP would in the UK, because it won't.


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Buzzy
Local time: 15:40
French to English
Re taxes etc and child benefit in France Apr 26, 2005

In response to Charlie's points above: I'm a freelancer in France woking from home - so no office rental charges - and the 50% figure mentioned seems high to me, although it may well depend on your specific circumstances. In the last two years, my taxable income (ie after deductible expenses, compulsory social security, etc) has been 72/73% of gross receipts. But income tax, of course, comes after that, and it will vary according to your family circumstances (marital status + number of children), so maybe that accounts for the difference. It also strikes me that since many expenses/charges are the same whatever you're earning, you must make sure you set your rates high enough from the word go.
Re child benefit, it's generous in France - once you've got more than one. Unless things have changed recently, the allowance for one child is zero. But if you're here and registered before your baby is born you may (don't know if it applies if you know you're pregnant when you sign up) be eligible for a sort of maternity benefit, in return for signing a commitment not to work for a few weeks around or after the birth.
Good luck with your plans.


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ENGSOL
German to English
+ ...
Website link Apr 26, 2005

Alison Riddell-Kachur wrote:

At the proz conference in Oxford last year, Alex Eames did a presentation about his ideas for how to make USD 80,000 a year as a freelance translator.


And here's the link to his website...
http://www.translatortips.com/

Good luck!

Thomas


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:40
German to English
+ ...
Same here! Apr 26, 2005

Alison Riddell-Kachur wrote:

At the proz conference in Oxford last year, Alex Eames did a presentation about his ideas for how to make USD 80,000 a year as a freelance translator. At the very start of his talk, he asked how many people made more than USD 80,000 in their first year as a freelance translator.

Three hands went up. Mine was one of them.

I have three kids (ages 6, 2 and 1 year), 2 cats, one dog and 8 chickens. My husband runs the house and leaves me to run the business. I do all the translation, and all of the Web site, accounting, marketing, fielding of phone calls etc.

It certainly is possible - but it's VERY hard work, and at the risk of blowing my own trumpet you've got to be pretty darn good.

So go for it but make sure you have some cash stashed away just in case it doesn't all pan out the way you hope.

All the best,

Alison


Same here (except only 2 kids and 2 cats)! I make that gross, not net, and I didn't make that much in my first year as a freelancer, but in my fourth (it helps that the exchange rate is now working in my favor, rather than against). My husband also runs the house and looks after the kids. I handle everything translation-related. I had #2 as a freelancer and arranged a 3-month maternity leave for myself.

Alison is right, it IS hard work, but I also take several weeks of vacation per year and try not to work most weekends, so it doesn't have to be a 24/7 job either (although it is during the busy season). Besides skill and hard work, a lot of it is language combination and specialization, too. I also don't outsource; that would change your dynamic.

To give you some idea of how I got to this point, I got an MA in translation and then worked full-time as an employee for a couple of years before deciding to take the freelance plunge. I think it would take longer if you are freelancing straight off the bat because of the learning curve involved in getting the hang of the industry and how it works (see weekly posts here about how much to charge, where to find customers, etc.) But if you are good and conscientious and can get direct clients, the potential is definitely there.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:40
Flemish to English
+ ...
Time in not on your side Apr 27, 2005

Usually a translation has to be delivered "the day before yesterday". It is always urgent, even when it is not urgent.
With the help of CAT, M.T. and Voice-Recognition you can enhance your productivity, €59.000 p.a. equals not very much time to take care of children or persuing other interests.


[Edited at 2005-04-27 12:46]


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