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Freelance translating

(7 Posts)
mintymellons Mon 18-Sep-17 14:35:27

I'm enrolled on an MA in Translation course which starts February next year. I have a BA in French and German (graduated twenty years ago) but have never had a job using my languages.

Anyway, the main reason for deciding to do the MA is to give me up to date skills in current translation practices with a view to doing freelance translation work from home, but in the meantime I'd like to get started doing some bits and pieces via websites such as Upwork, Traduguide and so on.

Could anyone suggest how much I should charge when bidding for jobs? Initially I'll only be going for the simpler stuff until I get back into the swing of things, but I just don't know where to start.

I'd really welcome any advice. TIA.

ronconcoke Thu 21-Sep-17 22:48:28

Following as I'm going to be in exactly the same position next month - starting an MA in translation after graduating in French and German almost 20 years ago and will also be looking for freelance work!

monkeyblonde Fri 22-Sep-17 14:34:18

Following with interest!

SilenceMeansWhatAreTheyUpTo Wed 25-Oct-17 11:10:49

A good place to start is to check out the Institute of Translation and Interpreting www.iti.org.uk/ and start with the section on "How to become a translator" under Professional Development. Consider joining the institute - there is a reduced rate for students - and you'll be able to obtain support and advice from local and subject networks all over the country. There are also a number of Facebook groups for professional translators - try Things Translators Never Say for a humorous insight into the profession, or Standing Up. Another advantage of joining Facebook groups for translators is that they are worldwide and you'll be able to contact native speakers of your source languages directly with terminology queries.

A good way to get valid experience is by volunteering for Translators Without Borders, but otherwise I would not suggest doing work pro bono unless it's for a very good cause. As for rates - whatever you do, don't sell yourself too low. With an MA in translation you'll be qualified at a very high level. Remember that translation is an unregulated profession, which effectively means anyone can do it (and believe me, many think they can) and there is no shortage of unscrupulous, bottom-feeding agencies willing to take advantage.

The ITI and CIoL (Institute of Linguists) occasionally carry out a survey of rates but the most recent one I can find is 2011. www.est-translationstudies.org/research/2011_DGT/references/Joint_CIOL_ITI_2011_Rates__Salaries_Survey.pdf. To be fair, rates haven't increased much in that time due to the global recession, currency revaluations, etc. It's also worth a look to see which language combinations are the most and least profitable (generally speaking, the rarer the language the more you can charge, but this tends to be offset by there being less demand for the service) and also bear in mind the difference between source and language texts when calculating volume - e.g. a German text will normally have up to 25% fewer words than the equivalent English text.

It's also important to keep up to date with your specialist subject areas, as this is also how you will be selling your skills as a professional translator. Consider subscribing to newsletters, attending trade fairs and conferences, etc. to keep your skills up to date and make useful contacts.

And of course (though you'll know this already, but for the benefit of anyone reading who doesn't) a professional translator only ever works into their mother tongue, so you can safely ignore any requests to work out of English. Agencies tend not to make this mistake, but it's surprising how many non-linguists don't realise this.

Good luck!

mintymellons Mon 06-Nov-17 13:50:12

Sorry for the delay in returning to this thread!

Thank you, Silence, for your post. Some great advice on there and I'll definitely be looking into your suggestions.

The starting date is getting closer and I'm getting a bit worried that I won't be up to the task. It's such a long time since I used my languages!

Waterfeature Mon 06-Nov-17 13:52:55

I did a bit of freelance translation years ago. All I can say is that it was not well paid and the deadlines were tight. This was translating for an academic publisher, though, so maybe a different field would be more lucrative.

Mistigri Mon 06-Nov-17 14:10:58

I'm getting a bit worried that I won't be up to the task. It's such a long time since I used my languages!

My husband is a freelance translator and he would tell you that a lot of translation work has very little to do with being a great linguist and everything to do with knowing your subject (his speciality is medical/ pharma - he has a related degree and worked in the NHS for years) and knowing your clients.

Freelance rates are often crap, but you can earn a decent living if you are confident, organised and businesslike. DH has a fixed per word/ per hour limit under which he won't go, he keeps templates of everything to speed up translating "standard" documents, he never ever delivers work late, and he works on the basis that translation of commercial/ technical material is about producing a document that's acceptable to the client, not about producing a beautifully-written work of literature ;)

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