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Off topic: Ideal place to settle as a freelance translator
Thread poster: Martin Stranak

Martin Stranak  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 19:20
Member (2009)
English to Czech
+ ...
Dec 22, 2010

This is an open inquiry on general matter as I would like to know, what you consider the optimal place to live. Being a freelance translator with the vast majority of jobs flowing through emails, I´ve lived in several countries as South Africa, Louisiana (US), Czech Republic, currently staying in the UK. Looking forward to the ideas you´re willing to share here. Thank you

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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:20
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Depends on timezones Dec 22, 2010

As you rightly say, most work comes by e-mail. But far from enabling you to live anywhere, e-mail may substantially restrict your choice of location.

The problem is that e-mails offering you work tend to come during office hours. For best results, you should therefore live in a timezone that is convenient for your customers, or else you should adapt your office hours to suit your customers. I know of some translators working on the US West Coast and translating from European languages who work night shifts so that they are available during European office hours.

It would be interesting to hear from people who live in a very different time zone from their customers how they cope.


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kittilina  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:20
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
Timezones Dec 22, 2010

I agree - it all depends on the time zone and where you get most of your work from. If you currently get most of your work from European sources, it would be better to stay in Europe, for example.

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claude
Thailand
Local time: 19:20
English to French
Advantage to American Continent. Dec 22, 2010

I have stayed long term in South America, in Asia and in New Caledonia, near Australia with all my customers in Europe.

From my point of view, being on the American side is nice because :
1. At noon or 1PM there, the offices are closed in Europe, you can organize the rest of the day freely, you can go to movies or swimming pool in the afternoon and work in the evening, and do as you wish, which is good for quality of life but also for quality of job as you work when you really feel like it, which is so much more efficient.
Only thing is you have to wake up to check you mails but you can do that from your bed...
This has also some other advantages like :
you can watch sport events in Europe at decent times, which is most of the time not the case in Asia or in Australia.
You can call your friends in Europe after their work at a decent time (2-3 pm).

In Asia, the drawback of being in Asia are that you receive e-mails from 2PM to midnight, so when I am there, I always end with the computer late to answer some e-mails or sometimes receive calls late in the evening in bars or restaurants, which is not ideal.
Also, if you are used to call people after their work, it is 1AM in Asia, and you'd better forget about watching a game live if it starts 8-9 PM in Europe.
Though Asia has an advantage, which is that you can finish a job for example for the 15th at 9AM in Europe the same day but at 3PM. In my case that avoided me working late at night if I had some difficulties with my schedule or working sunday as I still had nearly a full day work to finish my job (I don't know if I am clear on this one !!!).

Further East, near Australia, you have to educate your customers, but at that time my main customer was informed of the situation and it was not too much of a problem.

That said, I am very happy to go everywhere I go so it is difficult to mention an ideal place. Though, I would give a special mention to Buenos Aires and Bangkok which are two fantastic cities.
A little plus for Bangkok : for around 200 euros you can buy a ticket to go to 8 to 10 different countries around.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:20
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Too many factors Dec 23, 2010

In my opinion there are too many factors to consider, but basically you have to think where your main customers will be. I reckon that your main customers are in Europe, and European customers like to know whether you can take a job or not. In Europe, my experience shows that about 70% of the requests come before noon, so unless you want your Blackberry to wake you up, the Americas is not an option.

Of course you can live wherever you wish, and maybe some countries offer better conditions for a foreigner (like better climate, better taxes, more sightseeing opportunities), but if you want to work continuously, your best region is Europe in my opinion, given your language pairs.


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JH Trads  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:20
Member (2007)
English to French
+ ...
I wonder Dec 23, 2010

why this thread appears under "Off-topic"..."Business issues" seems more fitting...

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Mirja Maletzki  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:20
Korean to German
+ ...
Visa Dec 23, 2010

I'm wondering how visa issues are compatible with this. Let's say I decided that I've always wanted to live and work in Hong Kong. As a freelancer, I don't think I'd be eligible for a visa, so I could only stay for as long as my tourist visa permits. Sure, I could leave the country for a day and then get a new visa, but that doesn't sound very practical.

Has anyone considered visa issues or maybe even had to give up the dream of living somewhere as a freelance translator because of this?


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:20
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
The visa issue Dec 23, 2010

Mirja Maletzki wrote:


Has anyone considered visa issues or maybe even had to give up the dream of living somewhere as a freelance translator because of this?


Yes, I've wanted - and in a way still do - to permanently relocate to the US, then living on Mountain Time, but had to give this up because of not being able to get a work permit for the USA due to health issues requiring constant treatment. US authorities stated that they - based on my background - wouldn't have a problem issuing me that permit under one condition, that I had the means to pay for medical bills - and we're talking about a 4 - 6-digit amount per year. That ended the dream of living somewhere else, that is, outside of Europe.

In terms of time zones, I believe that living in Europe has one advantage - if one is a little flexible with her/his office hours. Between O7:00 and 09:00 CET the majority of Asian and Australian offices are still open, and as of approximately 13:00 CET offices in the Americas start their work day. This enables the direct contact with your clients, both being up and working at the same time, although that time frame might be a little narrow.

And yes, the choice of where you live also depends greatly on who your clients are and where they live, as well as of their understanding of "time situation".


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xxxLatin_Hellas
United States
Local time: 19:20
Italian to English
+ ...
Time zone issue - Main factors Dec 23, 2010

I read in a BBC report some years ago that it is perfectly normal for about 10% of the population to awake at 3-4 AM regardless of any other factors, just like there are so-called night owls.

I receive virtually all work through email and almost exclusively from European customers, and I enjoyed peak years based in the US east coast, even a spell in the US west coast, no problem. On the contrary, I had problems with the few US customers since I usually "close" by 11AM-12noon US EST. But US customers were mostly useless anyway since the euro offers such a premium.

In short, depending on how one's biological clock is wired, among other factors, time zone may not be an issue.

The main thrust of the OP's question depends, as mentioned, on many personal factors and priorities, e.g. family, climate, cultural interests, outdoor activities, cost of living, tax considerations, crime, etc. Meanwhile, it is true, visa issues have become more complicated over the past ten years or so than previously. Nonetheless, some countries are still easier than others. In any case, in my experience it is best to deal directly with immigration officers in country if possible (certainly not hearsay and better than embassy websites).

I currently live in a place that offers perpetual spring, great family life, outdoor activities, moderate cost of living, and manageable tax burden, though culturally several notches below Europe, very limited educational opportunities, and crime issues.

There is no optimal place. For example, even a perpetual-spring climate has a downside: enough variation in temperature on a daily basis such that colds and sore throats are a constant threat; to beat that, a perpetual-summer climate is better, but usually at the cost of high humidity, threats of hurricanes, etc. Europe offers the best cultural life, but, with few exceptions, the climate is not great and the tax burden can be crushing, but this may not be a total kill-joy if you have good family and friends and cultural interests. If you are young and without ties, you may try hopping from place to place.

In summary, you have to lay out your priorities among family, cultural interests, climate, taxation, stage in life, etc., and try to determine which place(s) best fit(s) those priorities. In most cases you can overcome any visa issues; depending on how your biological clock is wired for daily rhythms, time zone may or may not be an issue.

Good Luck!


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Mexico or Ethiopia Dec 23, 2010

Last year I lived in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the year before in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Since the end of last year there is a reasonable internet access in Ethiopia, called EV-DO, so I prefer to stay in Addis, although I think most people would prefer Guadalajara (2nd world with 3rd world prices; 1 Peso = 1 Birr).
Both places share the unique features of a comfortable spring climate the whole year round, and low costs of living. The visa issue is also a continuous adventure in both places.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 14:20
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Timezones Dec 23, 2010

Peter Linton wrote:
It would be interesting to hear from people who live in a very different time zone from their customers how they cope.


For one specific client I work in a setup that takes full advantage of time zones. My teammate is 4-6 hours behind me, depending on DST, as we are in different hemispheres. The client is 2-4 hours behind me (DST again), in my teammate's hemisphere.

So I usually translate, while she does the reviewing. Even if the job is long enough to take me the whole day translating, there is still plenty of time left for her to review it on that same day. As I am the first one to wake up, if there are any issues in her review that I should tackle before delivery, I have a few hours in the morning to do it before the client gets to work on the next day.

Once she travelled, and stayed for a whole month 4 hours ahead of me. We got a large job from this client, and it was too late when we realized that we should have swapped roles. Nevertheless this occasion made it very clear the advantages of our original setting.


Once I - alone, in Brazil - had two rather large concurring jobs for Australia and France. It took me some effort to avoid working round the clock!


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Martin Stranak  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 19:20
Member (2009)
English to Czech
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Placement of this thread Dec 23, 2010

Hugo wrote:

why this thread appears under "Off-topic"..."Business issues" seems more fitting...


By posting this thread, I was rather implying, what living conditions would you, dear colleagues in translation, prefer rather than aiming at business issues. Reference to freelance translator is then used to define one´s "independence" that working from home through the internet might offer.


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Sushan Harshe
India
Local time: 22:50
English to Hindi
+ ...
My present location is the most ideal! Dec 23, 2010

As far as timezone is concerned,

I wake up when Japanese are moving for office,

breakfast when Chinese are moving to office,

lunch when UK moves to office,

afternoon snacks when Japanese are leaving office,

evening tea when Chinese are leaving the office

am dining when US is moving inn the office.

I go to bed when UK moves for home and US moves for lunch.

I think my timezone is the best on this glob!

But most important one, that I feel is; your client doesn't choose you from the timezone, but from the quality of your work and obviously your rates!

Sushan


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 20:20
Turkish to English
+ ...
This is the main issue Dec 23, 2010

Mirja Maletzki wrote:

I'm wondering how visa issues are compatible with this. Let's say I decided that I've always wanted to live and work in Hong Kong. As a freelancer, I don't think I'd be eligible for a visa, so I could only stay for as long as my tourist visa permits. Sure, I could leave the country for a day and then get a new visa, but that doesn't sound very practical.

Has anyone considered visa issues or maybe even had to give up the dream of living somewhere as a freelance translator because of this?


This is the major issue, I think. I, for example, am very fond of Sri Lanka, even know some basic survival Singhalese and would love to set up there as a freelancer, given that the cost of living is so low. However, the authorities in that country do not grant work and residence permits to foreigners to do this kind of thing (to the best of my knowledge). As a national of an EU member state, I would be very wary about setting up anywhere outside the EU unless I was convinced that I had absolute freedom to do business as I wish and reside there permanently.


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xxxLatin_Hellas
United States
Local time: 19:20
Italian to English
+ ...
Why key point in parenthesis? Dec 23, 2010

Tim Drayton wrote:

I, for example, am very fond of Sri Lanka, even know some basic survival Singhalese and would love to set up there as a freelancer, given that the cost of living is so low. However, the authorities in that country do not grant work and residence permits to foreigners to do this kind of thing (to the best of my knowledge).


To the best of your knowledge? Did you ever go to Sri Lanka and talk directly, one-on-one, eyeball-to-eyeball, to a person responsible for issuing visas? You say you know some basic Singhalese. This would be a great opportunity to improve it and use it in a practical business situation.

In my experience, visa rules can change frequently, sometimes even embassy and consulate personnel do not know the latest rules, and in-country officers responsible for issuing visas have leeway.

Good Luck!


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