Living as a freelancer in South Africa – yay or nay?
Thread poster: Michal Fabian

Michal Fabian  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:23
Member (2012)
Dutch to Slovak
+ ...
Nov 27, 2013

Hello everyone,

the forum on translation in SA seems pretty dead at the moment, but I thought I’d just throw this out there. Any responses, thoughts and remarks are greatly appreciated.

I’ve been playing with the thought of moving to South Africa for quite some time now. (Specifically, I have my eyes set on Cape Town). As a freelancer, it should be easier for me that it is for most people. The reasons? From my previous travels to SA, it seems to be a place where a lot is happening culturally, with a lot to explore and a favorable climate. To put it simply – plenty of stuff to keep me busy after hours! Also, this would let me stay in daily contact with Afrikaans, a language that has grown on me over the years. My current income would allow me to lead a comfortable lifestyle there. (For what it’s worth, I have already lived in Botswana for several months).

Am i just being stuck in my touristy pink-glasses bubble here? Or is freelancing in SA something you would recommend?

I wonder how an EU citizen goes about relocating his business to South Africa. Also, some safety concerns come to my mind, though we all know how the media love to distort the picture – my personal experience says that the horror stories of South African crime are usually greatly exaggerated. What about taxes? Also, any chance to be mobile without a car or is that an absolute must? (heck, I don’t even own a driver’s license).

Probably doesn’t sound like I have it all figured out. That’s why I’d like your opinions, to see whether moving to SA would be a good move and whether I should look into this seriously. Thank you in advance!

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Local time: 09:23
English to Tswana
+ ...
Living as a freelancer in South Africa Jan 8, 2014

Hi Michal

Wow, its nice to know that you have visited the Country several times and have also realized that there is lot of distortion and exaggerated stories about crime. Yes crime is everywhere in the world but one can still live comfortably. Especially been a freelancer who is buzy with projects all the time . I live in Cape Town and I am also a freelancer but I have put focus on my full-time job, but in future I would like to concentrate in Freelancing. With regards to tax you can visit

Best regards

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Karin Purgaj  Identity Verified
South Africa
Local time: 09:23
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Free choice Mar 30, 2015

Hi Michal!
I should think your geographical space is of little concern as you can work as a translator anywhere.
Wanting to relocate to Cape Town is interesting with all the negativity surrounding our country, but then again, I do believe there is no crime or corruption free country left.
You may as well enjoy the great surroundings of Cape Town - I live in Johannesburg and personally much prefer the climate here.
Whatever you decide, I wish you the very best!

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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:53
English to Hindi
+ ...
Would you really be left with any free time? Apr 2, 2015

I have been freelancing for several years now, but my experience is that to make both ends meet I need to put in long hours before the computer, and even when I am not actually working, I need to be alert to client messages on my email id or to smses, constantly.

So, if your main idea is to enjoy life, translation may not be the right profession for you. Translation requires a lot of commitment, a lot of hard, unglamorous, unrecognized work, and it keeps you chained to the computer for most of the day.

Only those who genuinely like translation and don't mind the isolation involved in doing serious translation work make an enjoyable career out of it.

You don't seem to fit the bill (based on your post) as your real intention seems to be to enjoy a new location and explore a new territory and culture. This in itself will take up a lot of your time, leaving you little time for serious translation work.

But if you intend to use translation to get an entry into the new world you want to enter (using the dubious glamour associated with identifying yourself as a translator), well, go ahead. You have mentioned that you have other sources of income, so you probably won't starve if your translation doesn't yield any money.

Coming from a third world country (India), I can provide a few practical tips. Translation requires high-level technology - particularly a reliable high-speed connectivity to the internet, a reliable electricity supply and mobile phone connectivity. In developing countries, these are usually found only in major commercial centres or capital cities. So you can expect that you can't be translating while you are exploring the interior regions of a vast country like SA, unless you are well funded and can afford to carry along with you generators, satellite phones and the like.

Car seems irrelevant, for, the kind of highways required to enjoy the use of cars are available only in select regions of the world, least of all in SA. Also you can't be driving a car and translating at the same time!

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