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Poll: Is it possible to support a family on a full time freelance translator's income?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 17:57
SITE STAFF
Jan 15, 2013

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Is it possible to support a family on a full time freelance translator's income?".

This poll was originally submitted by Hilary Davies Shelby. View the poll results »



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Mary Worby  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:57
Member
German to English
+ ...
It depends Jan 15, 2013

This depends on so many factors, including what your expectations are in terms of quality of life. I live in the UK, where the cost of living is relatively high and supporting a family on a single full-time income is pretty difficult at the best of times.

That said, my income makes a good contribution to the family income and our livestyle as a family would be very different without it. I imagine that, were I on my own and downsized the house a bit, I could probably support myself and my two children on my income. Fortunately, it's not an experiment I need to carry out.


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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 09:57
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Yes Jan 15, 2013

Quite possible since I have lived entirely on my income as a translator for the past 30 years.

How well, though, depends entirely on the economy and how well your customers' pockets are lined. I have seen my income skyrocket during the go-go bubble economy days here in Japan to plummet to the current duldrums.

FYI, I have a mortgage and two children who I have both put through university. (My youngest has one more year to go.)

Edited small typos (not having a good day today)

[Edited at 2013-01-15 08:28 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-01-15 08:29 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-01-15 10:23 GMT]


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Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:57
Member (2006)
German to English
Other, or just a simple "yes" Jan 15, 2013

It is the same as any other "normal" jon nowadays, just that if anything happens, you are responsible for everything yourself.
I actually find it being a freelancer much more satisfying with my family than when I was driving to work every day. And as for the income, it all depends on you life standard and country where you live.

I just wish that I did not have to pay so much tax / health insurance, but once again, it is important in case any of my children become ill, etc.


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David Hayes  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 02:57
Member (2009)
French to English
Yes, but only... Jan 15, 2013

if my family would be prepared to live in a tent, eat one meal a day and never go on holiday. Thankfully, they do not have to consider this option since my wife has a stable income from her salaried, permanent-contract job.

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Depends Jan 15, 2013

On several factors, like what your family's needs are - for example how many members there are, especially children. Or the cost of living in your location. Or whether you have any debts or not, for example a mortgage. And what you consider "full time"...

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Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:57
Member (2006)
German to English
Wow Jan 15, 2013

David Hayes wrote:

if my family would be prepared to live in a tent, eat one meal a day and never go on holiday. Thankfully, they do not have to consider this option since my wife has a stable income from her salaried, permanent-contract job.


David, are things so bad in France?


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DianeGM  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:57
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Possible ... yes Jan 15, 2013

A couple of years ago I would have no reservations in saying an unqualified 'yes', but now living in Greece, times are hard, the cost of everything has risen and there seems to be so much flux and instability. I think it is still possible, but I have no doubt it is now harder than before.

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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:57
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I know people who have done it . . . Jan 15, 2013

in the U.S., but it hasn't been easy.

If I were to try to do it, I'd have to change my lifestyle considerably. My pension income makes all the difference.


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:57
English to Spanish
+ ...
Define “family” Jan 15, 2013

Although I answered with a qualified yes, it depends on the size of your family. I have a family of one: me, myself and my shadow.

Back in the days when I would entertain the idea or goal of getting married, I would have said “well, I wouldn't be the sole breadwinner,” but I have managed to live a pretty decent middle-class life on my own for the last two decades. Varying the translation agency/direct client ratio has helped weather the storms, as well as adding Spanish>English language services to the mix of services I provide.

I know, some colleagues think that translating into a non-native language is unethical. My answer: according to whom? Where is that written?

Some fixed overhead, such as health care premiums, keep rising year after year, but this is not the only factor that prompts me to rise my rates. After all, telling a client that my rates increase because my cost of living increases would be unprofessional. According to me.



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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 03:57
Turkish to English
+ ...
Depends Jan 15, 2013

One important factor is offering a language pair/language pairs for which there is strong demand at good rates.

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Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 21:57
Portuguese to English
+ ...
No Jan 15, 2013

In Brazil the answer is definitely No. It's not even possible to support one person, let alone a family (assuming family of at least two people).
We have the highest taxes in the world, more than one hundred and twenty different taxes, and one of the highest costs of living. We also have the highest interest rates in the world (for purchases - currently 16% a month in some shops). Property much more expensive than in the UK, for example. In contrast, rates for translators are usually very low, and everyone wants discounts.


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Marjolein Keyer  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:57
Member (2009)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Yes. Jan 15, 2013

with Michael

Michael Harris wrote:

David Hayes wrote:

if my family would be prepared to live in a tent, eat one meal a day and never go on holiday. Thankfully, they do not have to consider this option since my wife has a stable income from her salaried, permanent-contract job.


David, are things so bad in France?


Even though we live in France we manage pretty well...


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 01:57
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I answer Other Jan 15, 2013

As there is no option with a simple yes. I have lived entirely on my income as a translator for the past 30 years (3 kids, all out of the nest now), some years quite easily, others with difficulty, depending on the economy...

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Allison Wright  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 01:57
German to English
+ ...
Yes, but I voted "depends" Jan 15, 2013

Depends on the size of the family, and that family's needs - since we are all different.

Depends on your ability not to cave into rate-reduction proposals being bandied about by so many agencies these days.

Depends on what "support" means. Clean, fed, and sheltered is one thing. Dressed, regularly eating out at restaurants and going on holiday every year/two years is another.

Depends also, on what "full-time" means: 6, 8, 10 hours or more a day? How many days per week? Working the conventional 40-45 hours per week may not always cover all the necessities, whatever you deem "necessities" to mean.

Too many variables, but yes, it is possible. Not always easy - but then, what is?


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