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Poll: How much time did it take you before you had enough translations to work on them full time (40 hours
Thread poster: Staff Staff
Local time: 02:40
Oct 18, 2006

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How much time did it take you before you had enough translations to work on them full time (40 hours".

This poll was originally submitted by Eleonora Timmons Militano

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see:


Joost Elshoff  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:40
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
The first one to take the poll Oct 18, 2006

It feels like I've got the poll position on this one... but I have to admit I answered N/A, since I'm still in the course of acquiring new jobs. Something not too easy in my language pairs, apparently.

Hopefully next time this poll comes up (I'm sure it will, because this isn't a static community), I'll be able to tell how long it took before I could make a fulltime living out of translation.


Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:40
English to Spanish
+ ...
15 Years Oct 18, 2006

Yes, it took 15 years until I was able to quit my outside job and make a living from translating. Everyone was amazed it could be done.

Of course that was 20 years ago and without Internet. Fortunately things appear to be changing. I won't bore you with the story again, but just be glad you don't have to follow the road I did.


Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:40
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
1-2 years 21 years ago, less then a week last time round Oct 18, 2006

When I started freelancing 21 years ago it took me about a year and a half too have enough work for me to be working full time.

More recently, after working for about ten years in the translation department of a software company, I was laid off (together with most of the department, after our company had been swallowed by a competitor).

I was laid off on December 31, and was already working full time less than a week afterwards (admittedly, I had dane some groundwork in the three months before my final day at the old company)


Aurora Humarán (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:40
English to Spanish
+ ...
20 years Oct 18, 2006

Henry Hinds wrote:

Yes, it took 15 years until I was able to quit my outside job and make a living from translating. Everyone was amazed it could be done.

May be I took so long because although translation is my first boyfriendicon_smile.gif I had loversicon_wink.gif to which I devoted years (=energy): teaching and marketing. (I never stopped translating since I graduated though: my heart is big enough to embrace more than one passion!)

I won't bore you with the story again, but just be glad you don't have to follow the road I did.

Henry, hopefully we are not going to discourage young colleagues!icon_smile.gif We've come a long way, baby!



Local time: 11:40
English to German
+ ...
about one year (thanks Oct 18, 2006

took me about one year to reach the 40-hours/week mark. It seemed to be an illusion in the very beginning, today it would be an illusion to get back to that, I guess.

whilst I only got a very few clients directly through, it was the precious professional knowledge I obtained from here which then helped me gain great new clients.

in the beginning I was counting on up to 5 'thin years' before getting established and was then quite amazed about how fast things went well - don't think it would have worked out that way without, though. So, it was (and still is of course) great to have you all here!icon_wink.gif



Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:40
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
I don't remember a time when I was not inundated with translations to do Oct 18, 2006

I used to get them in the lawyers' office where I worked, go home in the evening and do them, often work all night as well (or at least half of it), do them all weekend every weekend, and, when I started as self-employed, I was looking forward to having more time to do them, during normal hours of the day. Especially, I would have 2 or 3 hours extra every day, being the travelling time saved.

However, what happened when I became self-employed was that the days became filled with translations, and there did not seem to be any easing off from the night work and weekend work either.

Just like when I was an employee, I am always looking forward to the next time I will have 2 weeks' holiday.



Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:40
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
6 months Oct 18, 2006

6 months, it was relatively a fast process. I quit playing videogames then.



Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:40
English to Turkish
+ ...
3 years first time around, 1-1.5 in the second round Oct 19, 2006

While getting established as a self-employed book translator, I spent 3 years in a state of semi panic attack, losing sleep over the thought whether I'd be able to find yet another job once I completed what I had at hand. I was in my mid-30s, had about 10 years' experience and lots of debt, living in a huge but lousy flat with a preschool kid and 3 cats, surrounded with noisy neighbors and their dogs, etc. There was no telecommuting then, or I wasn't aware of it. But I didn't need the Internet, either. I was in my hometown, was not distracted by a non-working language all the time spoken in all sorts of accents, and I got to know a lot of people in the real-life translation industry. Then, I changed places, discovered the Internet, or rather, opportunities of working over the Internet, and discovered Proz, so in this second round it took me a little over a year, I guess, to have that complete peace of mind again: "Ah, something will come over the other day, if not tomorrow, no worries!" Now, I'm planning to relocate again in about a year (nomadic genes, not my fault), but this time it will not take me any longer than a couple of days: once I paint the walls and put some furniture in the new place, I'll be established! Viva el Internet!


Chantal Kamgne  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:40
Member (2006)
English to French
5 years Oct 19, 2006

In fact I translated for 5 years without much success, until I joined Proz and other similars web sites. Can you believe I never thought of doing that before?
Then things got accelerated and in less than one month (!) I became a busy translator having no more time for my family.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:40
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Overnight!! Oct 19, 2006

Well, no, not really. The answer is more like twenty or thirty years, but I was not seriously working towards translating all the time, although I thought of it at school.

Eight years ago I was taken on by an agency as an in-house translator, and I'm really grateful for the help it gave me - and still does as a major client.

But before that I had a long career (or whatever you call it) trying other things, accepting that I was not going to be a doctor and wouldn't be a good one anyway. It took time to settle in Denmark and shift focus from French and German to Danish, learn the language, bring up my son... and I trained in spite of being told I would never succeed (and believing it at times). I took whatever jobs I could get to pay the bills... translating now and then for friends and family contacts, but nothing like every week. Then bingo!

I couldn't believe it when it happened. I was 48 when I finally got into serious translating.

Nothing is ever wasted though. If you can say it in any language, someone will want it translated sooner or later, so be prepared and keep trying!


[Edited at 2006-10-19 09:11]


M. Anna Kańduła  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:40
English to Polish
N/A Oct 19, 2006

My option, since I'm still getting to that goal of 40/week. I started full-time a year ago...

I just noticed that I either don't have work, or 2 or 3 clients suddenly have jobs for me... all at the same timeicon_smile.gif Conspiracy??icon_wink.gif



Steven Sidore  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:40
Member (2003)
German to English
About 5 years Oct 19, 2006

But that was by choice, since I was translating alongside my studies. I probably could have gone full-time if I'd hustled up my customer base within 24 months, I imagine.

I hope a lot of the newbies are reading this, it's a good lesson in planning your business.


Herminia Herrándiz Espuny  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:40
English to Spanish
+ ...
One of the fastest Oct 19, 2006

I have the feeling I am one of the luckiest around, I only needed 1 month to get the amount of job necessary to "live" without any other "extra job".

I have to say though, I am the only one of my friends who is working freelance full-time, they all have other jobs such as assistants or secretaries... the thing is that they started looking for this kind of jobs from the very beginning whilst I was sending emails and not thinking about that option at all... I am very stubborn and if translation and interpreting was my goal, I had to achieve iticon_wink.gif


Lia Fail (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
Difficult to say - I was a part-timer Oct 19, 2006

Having 'enough' work to do is relative to the time you have available.

So I can't say becuase I worked in a part-time job as well as working as a translator, and I had tons of work (relative to the time available), I think I worked 90-hour weeks occasionally trying to cover both jobs:-)

When a part-timer, it's a juggling act to decide at which point one can take the risk of shelving the regular employment.

I only became full-time when I had a gut feeling that I could afford the substantial cost (in Spain) of being a freelancer by getting enough work ...and even then I soon had one terrible month when I had no work at all (I had the same kind of panic attack that Ózden referred to, plus a few mini ones!).

There's a lot of advantages to being a part-timer to begin with: you don't have to sell your soul to get work (e.g. taking jobs at rockbottom rates); you have some financial security; you gradually make all the investments in technology you need. What's more, you can start preparing yourself financially for the day you need to have money in teh bank to cover for slow moments and slow payers.

The point comes, though, lasting as long as you can stand it, when you are overwhelmed, yet not sure about taking the risk of going it alone.

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