It’s often difficult to describe to people what it means to be a freelance translator. There are still some who have a hard time wrapping their heads around how anyone would or could work from anywhere but a desk within a cubicle, and you may get the combination look of disbelief and surprisingly, pity.
Somehow “freelance” translates to some as “not a stable job” and “translator” makes a few people think that freelance translators are glamorous multilinguistic great travelers of the world.
Then they ask just how many languages a freelance translator should, in fact, speak and expect them to suddenly recite sonnets in 12 different ones. They are surprised to find out that some can only speak 3; technically 2 because they are not fully conversational in the third yet. How can anyone who only knows 2.5 languages be a translator by profession, who works from anywhere, no less?
The reality of working from anywhere
To be a freelance translator, you certainly don’t need to be an expert in multiple languages. But you absolutely must be fluent in at least two of the languages you offer to translate.
And because there are plenty of good translator social networking websites, finding jobs isn’t challenging at all. Apart from freelancer websites, you can also easily find jobs on translator portals and translation agencies. You will get to work with clients, not for them. Realistic deadlines and competitive rates are agreed upon with each respecting the urgency of the project and the nature of your “office hours.”
Since you choose how often you work, you also decide just how much you can earn. For some, this can mean working by the hour or getting paid per project. Again, your schedule, your rates, your rules.
The perks of being a freelance translator
In theory, you can work from anywhere. For some, anywhere is right in the comfort of their own home. But if you were to wake up one morning (or afternoon) and say you wanted to work from the new café around the corner, then you could also certainly do that. Working anywhere really does mean you can work by the beach, in transit, or even on a park bench. You can work wherever your productivity is at its peak.
As a freelance translator, you can set your own terms and define what work-life balance means to you. There are those of us who have never quite fit into the 9-5 work day mold or the “normal” 5-day week.
Perhaps one of the biggest perks about freelance work as a translator is all the money you don’t spend on the commute to the office in the city. There is no more need for the daily shuttle from office to home. Not stressing over the commute also means never worrying about the weather and having to brave the elements.
Yes, there are plenty of telecommuting jobs that are just as convenient and cost-effective, but because of the service you will provide as a freelance translator, yours will be rewarding.
As for “the look” some get when they say that they work from anywhere; You can always say, “I can do my job so efficiently that a boss doesn’t need to constantly look over my shoulder as I work. And because of that, I have rewarded myself the luxury to choose where I work, when, and how often.”
“Arm aber sexy”: it’s been a while since former Berlin Mayer Klaus Wowereit declared the German capital “poor but sexy” — but the label has stuck. Berlin is still considered hip and happening, but maybe not the best place to make a living. Because of its former island-like location in the East of a divided country, there didn’t use to be a lot of industry here, and traditional jobs aren’t as plentiful as in the rest of Germany.
But this reality is changing quickly: Berlin is gentrifying at an alarming rate, and while there still aren’t as many traditional jobs in manufacturing or industry, the digiterarti have definitely arrived in the capital. In some neighborhoods, you can’t throw a MacBook Pro without hitting someone launching a startup.
What does this mean for translators, a notoriously nomadic bunch who can do their work anywhere in the world, provided they have a laptop and a working Internet connection? Here are five great reasons to be a translator in Berlin:
1. Berlin is a truly multinational city
Berlin is home to half a million non-German residents from 190 countries. This multicultural melting pot makes it a perfect place for someone whose job it is to connect cultures and languages. For English-language news and international connections, follow Exberliner or Internations.
2. Berlin has one of the most vibrant cultural scenes in Europe
From music to art, dance, theater, literature and film, Berlin is one of the most dynamic cities in the world. For translators, it’s crucial to recharge the creative batteries, and Berlin offers hundreds of fascinating events on any given night. Zitty is good place to start exploring.
3. Berlin has amazing outdoor spaces
From the Tiergarten to the Wannsee, Berlin offers great green spaces and escapes. After a busy day of translating, why not hop on your bike and take a spin through Tempelhofer Feld, a gigantic park created from a repurposed airport?
4. There’s wifi everywhere in Berlin
We know just how dependent translators are on the Internet — after all, that’s how we connect with clients and agencies, how we research and look up online dictionaries. Berlin is blessed with a huge number of comfortable libraries, cafes, restaurants, and co-working spaces that all feature wifi connectivity. Additionally, many spots around the city feature free wifi.
5. There are great food options in Berlin
The days when curry sausage and döner kebab were the only choices in Berlin are long gone — now you can get sushi, Thai, outrageous burgers and homemade vegan ice cream on almost every corner. For tips, check food blogs like Foodie in Berlin or Berlin Food Stories.
BeTranslated is a Network of Professional Translators (Freelancers)
It’s a beautiful spring day, your windows are open and you are listening to the news while you type away on your laptop. You take a break to walk the dog and enjoy the outdoors, run out to get groceries then sit back down to pick up where you left off.
No, it’s not the weekend, it’s a typical day in the life of a professional freelancer. It’s a life without walls or borders. An office without co-workers or cubicles, without long commutes through rush hour traffic, without any borders and definitely without 8 to 5 workdays. A freelance lifestyle revolves around project deadlines and more importantly around your LIFE.
That’s right, a freelancer “works to live” as opposed to “living to work” as the saying goes.
Forget everything you think you know about freelancing because freelancing has gone FREESTYLE!
You can adapt freelancing to suit your needs and fit in with your personal objectives. There is no set trajectory, no right or wrong way to go about it. Pick your starting point and build your own dream job.
We’ve done the brainstorming legwork to get you started:
- Work for an Agency – Begin working evenings and weekends for a temp agency or online agency in your field
Home Sweet Home office
All you need is some space set aside to call your “office” and off you go! Keep track of any money spent on your home office for tax purposes (supplies, job hunt expenses, software, equipment etc.)
Graduates of Freelancer University
You don’t need a university degree to become your own boss. All you need is an idea and a plan, then you put one foot in front of the other and take it a step at a time. In the US you can get free advice from the Small Business Administration SBA and they are great when it comes to helping you map out your ideas. They will help you see the pros and cons of freelancing and what it takes to develop a small business later on.
Balancing Full-Time Benefits with Part-Time Freelancing
Now remember, you can go as big or as small as you want to when freelancing. There’s no need to devote all your free time to your new business. Make sure you balance your life with your freelancing. Being able to work from home is supposed to help you enjoy your life more so try to keep an even keel as you begin to grow your business.
Feel free to write us and tell us about your freelancing or home business experience. Everyone can benefit from things you’ve learned along the way.
Books We Think You’ll LOVE
Glass Ceiling Smashed by Freelancing Moms (Forbes 2014)
Sources: CreditDonkey November 2012 survey of 424 independent contractors (infographic), BeTranslated Freelance Translators, Guru.com (infographics), Freshbooks.com (infographics).
When life takes a detour
Sometimes the best laid plans can change. Our career, where we live and how we think we are going to spend the rest of our lives can change when we least expect it. It can be an exciting adventure if we make the most of what we have learned along the way. I often get asked how I became a professional translator and my answer is always the same:
Deciding to become a translator
Some professionals work for one company or in one career field their entire lives. Other professionals change jobs and fields, slowly building a skill-set that follows them. I had worked abroad and was working for an international student exchange program when the terrorist attack on 9/11 changed everything. Our company was one of the first affected by the events and within a month our entire team around the US had been laid off. This pivotal moment would change my life forever. I put my resume on the job hunting website Monster.com and that’s when it happened! A French aerospace company hired me as a translator and technical writer.
Working up to a career – Experience takes hard work, a lifetime of it
Why did this company think I had what it took to be a technical translator?
Education vs Experience
I had life and work experience that translated into practical skills. It was the combined experience of more than a decade of working with aerospace and high-tech companies in France, using French and English in the workplace, developing and writing training materials on technical subjects and negotiating contracts in two languages coupled with a background in English language training. I call this “raw translation skills”.
Putting practical experience to work – Hard work really does pay off!
No diploma could ever give me the what I had learned over decades in the workplace. I had practical hands-on work experience in two languages. A bit of hard work and a few more years in the field and I had become a professional translator.
Moonlighting as a freelancer
For the next two decades I worked as a full-time translator during the day while moonlighting as a freelance translator and technical writer. I was able to build a business that I could take with me anywhere in the world.
I was able to live a “translation lifestyle” and either work full-time from a home office or keep my day job and translate part-time. I can enjoy the best of both worlds.
Take your career outside the box
Don’t wait for an unforeseen event to force you to think outside the box. What life skills do you have that you can put to work for you? Whatever your career holds in store for you, I wish you the best in your journey to becoming the best professional possible!
Feel free to write us and tell us about your own lifetime of experience and career choices. We’d be happy to give you input if you are considering a change and need a fresh perspective.
Books We Think You’ll LOVE
What Color Is Your Parachute – A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers (There’s an App for it!)