Off topic: Is Freelance Translating A Viable Profession?
Thread poster: mrsmith9009

mrsmith9009
United States
Apr 25, 2017

I live in the US, and was wondering if freelance translating is able to support a single individual, or is it something that is more of a support job for another source of income? In a shorter way of saying it, can one support him or herself soley by doing free lance translating? I would be translating Spanish to English. This sounds silly, but freelance translating you can do from home correct? I know that there are a million and a half variables at play, but if someone could give me a general idea if freelance translating is a feasible source of income that would be extremely appreciated. PS, if it's possible to discern, could one make, say, $30,000 a year or more from strictly freelance? Thanks so much guys.

 
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DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
the first to come Apr 26, 2017

Actually, there're not so many relevant parameters and variables, so one could estimate it even via Translator rates calculator. Yet you're right that plunging into freelancing (and anything) without knowing the ropes, let alone as a primary income, is too rashly. If I remember fine, the federal poverty line is about $28,7K/month ($345K/year) in the USA, but you could start with any desired values. Is it worthy?

The problem #1 is to find regular and reliable clients (market) who would provide you projects and pay you what you think fair. So, how would you demonstrate it to your prospects that very you're BETTER than very many others?

[Edited at 2017-04-26 17:47 GMT]


 

Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 03:39
English to Russian
+ ...
In a word, yes Apr 26, 2017

Yes, but it requires determination, diligence and knowledge, and it may take you 2-3 years before you actually get off the ground on freelance earnings alone. On the other hand, many years down the road, you may either get well into six-figure annual earnings, or take it slowly and earn the same $30k while working 5 days a month.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:39
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Another piece of information is necessary if we're to relate our answer to you personally Apr 26, 2017

mrsmith9009 wrote:
I would be translating Spanish to English.

Which is your native language? Are you a Spanish speaker who also speaks English, or vice versa?

As Anton says, it almost always takes quite some time to build up a successful freelance translation business. But some never manage to make more than a small amount of money, because they are either not able to deliver the quality that well-paying clients need, or they are trying to provide translations of a type that are outside their sphere of excellence (in terms of subject matter or language pair).

Now, to make the answer personal to you, I would say that you are unlikely to gain a foothold by providing translations into English, as your English is not suitable. Not all native speakers of a language can make a living as a professional writer of that language, so don't take that as an insult if you're a native English speaker, it's just a fact. On the other hand, if you're a native Spanish speaker then you may be able to become a proficient translator into Spanish (we can't tell). With reasonably few exceptions, professional translators work into their native language. The exceptions tend to be in rare pairs... and ES>EN is probably just about the commonest.

The very fact that your pair is so common means that you will find it extremely difficult to make a living if you don't have something special to offer. You'll need qualifications and specialisations, backed up by stupendous marketing skills. Otherwise, every client will go to one of the other hundreds of thousands. If you try to compete on price, don't forget that GT is free!


 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:39
German to English
Don't quit your day job Apr 27, 2017

Don't plan on making enough to meet your monthly expenses the first year or two after you start freelancing. You'll need to build up a regular clientele, and that takes time.

Be prepared to invest in your business. Many translation agencies require the use of computer-aided translation tools which generally requires a substantial investment.

Unless you have an educational background/work experience in a specific field, you'll be lost at sea, particularly since the Spanish>English combination has a surfeit of available translators. I've heard that specialists in oil and gas engineering are able to make a decent income, and perhaps a few other specialties also offer opportunities, but if you plan to specialize in birth certificates, etc. expect a lot of cut-throat pricing.

Don't expect rate increases to keep up with inflation. In my experience, market rates relative to the cost of living in the US have declined over the past 10 years, and I've been able to increase my rates by finding new customers abroad. I don't expect this to change in the near future, if ever. Although some translators claim to make six figures/year (dollars/euros), they are a distinct minority. You will have to work very hard to make the $30K you propose, and certainly not within the first several years of freelancing.

The thing that many beginning freelancers don't realize is that they are first and foremost business people, and that the business is translating. Unless you're prepared to run a small business with all its vicissitudes and busywork, you might consider doing something else with your time.


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:39
Member (2008)
French to English
A viable profession Apr 27, 2017

mrsmith9009 wrote:

I live in the US, and was wondering if freelance translating is able to support a single individual, or is it something that is more of a support job for another source of income? In a shorter way of saying it, can one support him or herself soley by doing free lance translating? I would be translating Spanish to English. This sounds silly, but freelance translating you can do from home correct? I know that there are a million and a half variables at play, but if someone could give me a general idea if freelance translating is a feasible source of income that would be extremely appreciated. PS, if it's possible to discern, could one make, say, $30,000 a year or more from strictly freelance? Thanks so much guys.


Certainly freelance translating is a viable profession. Some of the people on this site are making a comfortable six figures per year solely by freelance translating.

But the key word is in the title to this thread: "profession".

Professional freelance translating, like any other genuine profession, takes dedication, commitment and plain old hard work. It needs to be approached seriously, in a business-like way, conducting business the right way. Pride in your work, continuous efforts at marketing yourself and continuing professional development are all necessities.

It may take some years, however, to develop a reputation and clientele, and you need to be prepared for that.


 

David GAY  Identity Verified
English to French
+ ...
no, Apr 27, 2017

unless you have good language pairs and a (very) good specialization.
Most of the translators who make 100 k own their agencies. They aren't
translators anymore. I'm always amazed at what translators post under
the section What translators are working on...Some translators also make
good money teaching other translators how to be(come) successful.Unless you have a distinct competitive advantage, you'll become the prey of unscrupulous bottom feeders
and/or non-payers (80% of the agencies) .Remember that the average translator
can translate 2000-2500 words per day maximum. If the rate is 0.10 USD (which is a good rate in some pairs),
it's only 200-250 USD per day . If, on top of this, you spend half of your time answering Kudoz questions helping others cut your throat and translating for charities, it's going to be 100-125 USD per day maximum

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[Modifié le 2017-04-27 16:47 GMT]


 

Camilla Cardia  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 22:39
Member (2017)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I have the same doubt... Apr 27, 2017

Since 2008, I have worked as a part-time translator, but now I decided to fully dedicate myself into this area. However, I am facing challenges that are making me wonder if it is really worth working in this segment, since you need to invest money in CAT tools licenses acquisitions and websites memberships, without having any potential job at sight.

I watched a couple of videos on Youtube of people giving tips about how to initiate in full-time translation work, but I feel like it is harder now than it was a couple of years ago.

I think you need to evaluate the time that you are going to spend looking for your first jobs and trying to establish long-term professional relationships with the employers.


 


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