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Yelbakk Started conversation May 12, 2009
This is sort of a very cheeky request. I am currently changing careers from being a teacher-in-training to defenitely-not-going-to-be-a-teacher. As not-going-to-be-a-teacher is not gonna keep me happy and busy (and paid), I am looking at different new ways to live life. Translating has paid my bills in the past and it was a task I always enjoyed doing. So I want to take a closer look at what professional translators are doing.
So here is my very cheeky request. Could you give me some insights into the business? I am *not* asking you to hook me up with anyone - though, now that I think about it, you don't happen to know anyone who needs German-English/English-German translations Erm, I will get my hat.
Anyway, what I am wondering is, would you tell me about the work you do and how you get customers and how much you charge and what a normal day for you looks like and what certificates do you have and what certificates does one need etc.
I would really appreciate your information. If you feel uncomfortable posting such info online, how about e-mail? (I would, in this case, post my e-mail addy to you...)
thanks for taking the time to read and to consider.
Whisky Posted May 13, 2009
Sorry, missed this yesterday...
Right, first off, I'm not the best person to be talking about freelance translators as I'm employed directly by an agency... So I'm not 100% up on how freelancers develop their customer base.
However, here's a few pointers.
Translators tend to start out by getting their work through agencies like us - in general you're looking at billing an agency somewhere between 8 and 10 Euro cents per word.
After a while you'll probably end up getting work from elsewhere, and of course, if you're working directly with a customer, your prices can go up (agencies will, in general, be adding twenty to thirty percent onto whatever you bill them.
Qualifications-wise - strangely enough, very few of the translators I know have anything in the way of translating qualifications... But I work in technical translation, which can involve anything from nuclear energy to truck mechanics... What's most important to being a good technical translator is having experience and a good grasp of every subject under the sun from changing the oil in your car to understanding the workings of a power station or electrical distribution grid.
Most translators tend to specialise in certain key areas: mechanical engineering, IT, medical, nuclear... but you can't afford to turn work away very often, so you've got to be a bit of a jack of all trades...
Try looking around PROZ.COM, which is a pretty good forum for translators.
As for a normal day - there's no such thing... Unless you're very lucky you're living a week in advance at the most... The business we're in is all about providing a service yesterday.
As translation of a document generally comes right at the end of a huge long chain of events, it's usually where the end user tries to catch up with any delays the project has picked up along the way, so you're always being pressed to produce more, faster, and for less money.
Good translators will produce 3000 odd words per day, but it's rare that you'll have more than a week or so's work on your books at any one time - so there's no way of planning too far ahead. (If you tell a customer you can't do something within a week - he's going to go elsewhere)
Right now, it's as tough for translators as it is for the rest of industry... People are going hungry out there... We've had one of our in-house translators on sick leave for the last couple of months, and he's been replaced by 2 freelance conference interpreters - the sorts of guys who simultaneously interprete UN conferences for a living and normally would never stoop low enough to even look at a humble technical translating job... But times being hard, even they are accepting that the only way they can pay the bills is to sit down and start hammering at a keyboard again.
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