Becoming a translator?
Thread poster: VerdeNorteOro

VerdeNorteOro
Belgium
English to French
+ ...
Mar 4

Greetings everyone,

I am 21 years old, I already have 2 bachelors (one in political sciences and one in sociology); I am considering a master in translation studies to become a translator.

French and italian are both my mother tongues, even if I prefer working in french. I speak english almost perfectly and I'm studying Hindi.

I have two very simple questions:

- Is there enough work? Is it possible to work 30 hours a week translating and 5 hours a week networking? Is that a realistic ratio?

- Does it pay well? Does it really pay between 0.09 and 0.12 $/€ per word?

- How many words are doable in an hour? On average? In your experience?

Thank you all

VNO

[Modifié le 2018-03-04 10:14 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 15:59
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Verde Mar 5

VerdeNorteOro wrote:
- Is there enough work? Is it possible to work 30 hours a week translating and 5 hours a week networking? Is that a realistic ratio?


No. To work 30 yours a week you need regular clients, and regular clients take a while to get (some say 6 months, some say a year or two). Networking... what is that? You need to do marketing, not networking. Networking is just recreation with some tax benefits.

- Does it pay well? Does it really pay between 0.09 and 0.12 $/€ per word?
- How many words are doable in an hour? On average? In your experience?


Yes, but you spend quite a bit of time on each word. This is why it's realistic to assume that you translate only 250 words per hour. So... thats €10-15 per hour after taxes.


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DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
eight (8) simple questions answered Mar 5

The only true answer is
It depends
...on your language pairs, niche/specialization, origin, communication, preferences, requirements, abilities/skills, knowledge, intuition and so on to name just a couple.


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Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:59
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
networking? Mar 5

I agree that setting aside networking time seems weird. I always carry a few business cards, and if I happen to meet somebody interested in my services I can give them one, that's the extent of my networking. Ah and I have a friend with possible contacts coming for dinner next week.

You need to set your rate as high as possible because you can't hope for a steady supply of work. It's known as feast or famine: everyone wants their translations asap and everyone calls on the same day. I hardly ever have anything much to do on Monday morning, then by Tuesday evening I'm turning stuff down despite working late.

There's lots of work out there, the trick is finding the people who will give it to you. I started by working at an agency. I kept in contact with all my former colleagues, many of whom moved to another agency, they now outsource to me from these other places.


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Susan Welsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:59
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
words per hour Mar 5

VerdeNorteOro wrote:

- How many words are doable in an hour? On average? In your experience?



It is impossible to make a generality. If you're translating literature, you could spend a whole morning trying to find the best way to express one word. If you're translating "boilerplate" contracts or other material in a subject you know well and have translated often, you could do as much as 1000 words in an hour. If you're translating technical material in a subject you know well (including the technical terms in both languages) it will go much faster, obviously, than if you're translating technical material in a subject for which you have to do a lot of terminology research.

Find a document (say, 2,000 words) in the source language you want to use, translate it, and time yourself. That will give you some idea.

As for getting a master's degree, it is not necessary (many people think it's worthless, see https://www.proz.com/forum/machine_translation_mt/323333-is_translation_a_field_i_can_work_in_despite_the_rise_of_mt.html#2714420 ), but it certainly wouldn't hurt. Some clients like "credentials," and you might learn something.


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deutschenglisch  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2003)
German to English
Do something else Mar 5

Samuel Murray wrote:

VerdeNorteOro wrote:
- Is there enough work? Is it possible to work 30 hours a week translating and 5 hours a week networking? Is that a realistic ratio?


No. To work 30 yours a week you need regular clients, and regular clients take a while to get (some say 6 months, some say a year or two). Networking... what is that? You need to do marketing, not networking. Networking is just recreation with some tax benefits.

- Does it pay well? Does it really pay between 0.09 and 0.12 $/€ per word?
- How many words are doable in an hour? On average? In your experience?


Yes, but you spend quite a bit of time on each word. This is why it's realistic to assume that you translate only 250 words per hour. So... thats €10-15 per hour after taxes.



at least I would not recommend freelance work unless you are very good at a specific niche.
Niche means you can corner a specific market.
Your language combinations are also quite common I believe.

250 words per hour - I think you need to think about the deadlines too. Most clients would assume more.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:59
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
It's possible; it isn't easy Mar 5

VerdeNorteOro wrote:
I am 21 years old, I already have 2 bachelors (one in political sciences and one in sociology); I am considering a master in translation studies to become a translator.

I think either that or a specialist subject matter qualification would be a good idea. The trend is for more qualifications generally (like it or not) and in a non-regulated profession like translation, having qualifications can be invaluable when you're young and don't have much experience to offer.

Is there enough work? Is it possible to work 30 hours a week translating and 5 hours a week networking? Is that a realistic ratio?

Not at the start of your career - more likely the reverse! There are extremely few salaried translator jobs around and, as Samuel says, it takes a freelancer time to build a solid client base. Be prepared to start off by spending most of your time looking for work. Actually, you should aim to spend weeks, if not months, on researching the profession (this is a good place to start!), finding out how to market yourself, and then producing professional-level marketing materials (profiles, CV, quote letter texts, business cards, maybe a website), before setting up a legal business and - finally - contacting potential clients. Some freelancers have a stroke of early luck and land a regular client or two quickly, but most struggle to earn more than a few euros in the first few months. Then once you have a solid client base you'll have a different problem: how to keep them happy when they all inevitably want something at the same time!

The best single piece of advice I can give is to make yourself available at weekends, over public holidays, and during the school holidays - and make sure that availability is known to potential clients. I tend to be available all through the summer and pick up quite a few new clients during that period who haven't managed to find a suitable and available translator from their database. Also, the number of smallish jobs I refuse simply because they arrive on Friday for delivery Monday is enormous!

Does it pay well? Does it really pay between 0.09 and 0.12 $/€ per word?

That's a "piece of string" question . It's up to you to persuade clients that you're worth that rate. It might be difficult at first, particularly if self-promotion isn't your forte. But it's certainly possible if you're experienced, with a good reputation. But in your common pairs, you'd need to become known as the go-to person in a specialisation, so that you'd be able to quote for the higher paid jobs. There are far more EN>FR jobs around for 0.06€ than there are for 0.12, but then there are a million and one translators looking for the lower paid jobs.

How many words are doable in an hour? On average? In your experience?

In my own experience, 250 is about average per hour. I know a lot of translators regard that as slow, but I doubt they work in marketing, where "correct English" simply isn't good enough in many cases. Even I can churn out 600+ occasionally on a text that's urgent and doesn't need to be particularly polished. When time is tight you can focus more intently for a short time but that's very stressful, I find, so beware of burnout. You'll also find you start off slowly, spending a lot of time researching terms then checking and rechecking your work before pressing "send". That's why your starting rate should be close to the market rate from the start: clients must receive good translations from day one, however long it takes you, and as you gain experience your hourly rate will improve.


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