My adventure as a freelance translator started one year ago in Newcastle upon Tyne and today Lagarde Languages is based in a small village in France that has more sheep and cows than inhabitants. This blog post is a great opportunity for me to reflect on what has been achieved during the past year.
Home sweet home
Translation aside, one of the biggest changes for me has been that I am now self employed and working from home. It’s funny how many people in my circle of friends and family see working from home as a challenge! For me it worked out well: no commuting, flexible working hours, opportunity to run quick errands, ability to work from anywhere in the world with a good Internet connection and so many other positive perks. I think that you only realise how lucky you are to be able to work from home when, like me, you have spent years in a job that involved waking up at 5AM every morning, getting stuck in endless traffic, having set break/lunch times and so on.
Obviously every situation has its downsides and working from home is not always as easy or glamorous as it may first seem but it was definitely the right choice for me. I find that self discipline and to-do lists are the key to working from home successfully.
Leaving England to live in my native France, I have not only had to leave behind the cold weather, but also, unfortunately, the easy bureaucracy. Going to the doctor’s, paying your taxes, updating your car documents or simply sorting out your cat’s microchip: what would take 1 phone call in England usually takes about 3 in France.
Declaring yourself self employed is no exception to this rule, it takes a lot of time, paper work and phone calls to do so.
But it’s not all bad for the translator living in France, there is the ‘régime auto-entrepreneur’ for self employed workers and I would recommend it to anyone starting up a small business in France. Everything is made a lot easier and, unlike previous French systems, your taxes are based on your actual earnings. I have only been in France for 2 months so I have not had to pay any taxes as yet but all my paper work is in place and it has been a lot easier than I thought. One small annoyance comes from the day you register your business, your letter box gets flooded with mail from companies trying to make you believe that it is compulsory to subscribe to their insurance services.
Although the ‘auto-entrepreneur’ status is great to help you get started, as a freelance translator, you can only stay under this status up to a set yearly income of 32 600 euros. You will probably want to (and hopefully be able to!) change your status after a few years to SARL (Société à responsabilité limitée), which is similar to the differences between being a Sole Trader or Limited company in England.
The official and most useful website for auto-entrepreneurs in France is: www.lautoentrepreneur.fr
Getting your foot in the door
Working as a translator, more specifically translating subtitles for films, was what I had in mind when I started my Degree in English in France before moving to England. But I took a different path and ended up working as a secondary school teacher when arriving in England. The decision to leave my job to start a career as a freelance translator was not easy but it was well thought through. I had it all planned and was very lucky to have a friend in Newcastle already working as a translator (@NELANGUAGES) who encouraged me and helped me a lot, sharing tips and CAT tool knowledge.
At the same time, my friend and then colleague Suzanne Kelly (@lingualicious27) was also leaving her job to concentrate fully on her language tuition business (www.french-spanish-tutor.co.uk); having the help and support of a friend in a similar situation was definitely a plus and together we were more motivated than ever!
Thanks to @NELANGUAGES who recommended me to some of his clients, I had quite a few projects to keep me busy when I first started.
Although I have read that sending your CV to lots of translation companies isn’t the best way to gain new clients, I thought it would always be more useful to send my CV all over the place than sitting at my desk refreshing my inbox page every two seconds, waiting for work to just appear!
When it comes to finding work and new clients, I think it is appropriate to send your CV to as many places as possible and reply to as many job adverts as possible, as long as you fit the criteria of course. It did pay off for me, I got some replies, sometimes even months later and I started to slowly build up a steady clientele.
For the past year I have been working with and under the wing of experienced translators who have taught me a lot about my own native language and on the technical aspects of translation. And thanks to them I now have areas in which I specialise.
Like anyone else in any other job, I made mistakes at the beginning from which I have learnt. One of those mistakes was to think that because I had a personal interest in a specific area, I could easily translate texts related to it. It is not always the case!
But then again, I am not saying what you should and shouldn’t do as all translators have their own way of working. Translating in a specific area in which I have a personal interest did work well sometimes, but some areas required a very specific and technical knowledge which I simply wasn’t confident in. Now, I always make sure I ask for a sample of the work before I accept a project. It probably sounds obvious to more experienced translators but when you are just starting you are so keen to work on new projects that you sometimes forget the obvious. Some projects will require more research than others and researching is a side of my job which I truly enjoy. But when even research is not enough, it is better to leave the translation to someone who specialises in that field and the client will appreciate your honesty.
Another thing I love about my job is the professional but yet informal relationship I have with my main clients: they provide me with invaluable and detailed feedback, and there’s nothing more rewarding than receiving an email with positive feedback after having worked hard on a project. Before I started working as a freelance translator, I imagined clients to be these big impersonal companies and although these do exist, it is also true that you will find you can also have friendly relationships with your clients.
Even though I have gained lots of experience over my first year as a freelance translator and have gained the trust of a few clients I still think that being qualified opens up more doors. It is not just to tick a box on job adverts that require “qualified translators only”, but having received precious advice from qualified translators, I know how much you can learn from formal training. I also think it is the perfect way to boost your confidence if you have been working as a non qualified translator for a while.
Now that I am settled in France I am starting to look at different options available to me and I am very keen to become qualified sometime soon.
Twitter, Facebook, blogs… there is A LOT if not too much information out there! I do follow some professional translators on Twitter as I find their tweets, blog posts and websites very inspiring and enriching. The problem for me is that when I start reading something interesting posted by a translator on Twitter I end up opening many pages at the same time, going from one link to another, bookmarking articles etc. And while I am reading about translation my actual translation work is not getting done.
Obviously this is my own problem and I’m sure many translators have found the right balance between their work and time spent social networking. This is the reason why my presence on Twitter is limited at the moment, but there definitely is a big community of inspiring translators who are all willing to share good practice and advice, and this has also been very helpful at times. (@speechmarksxl8, @SJCParis, @Tesstranslates)
The world is your oyster
When I moved from Newcastle to a small village in the French Basque country I was worried that not being in a big city would mean I would find less clients, but it doesn’t matter where you work from as long as you work well!
Since I’ve started translating I have worked from Newcastle, Paris, Barcelona and the Basque Country. Being able to travel and work at the same time is a great benefit to freelance translating!
So there are my thoughts on my first year of being a freelance translator. How was your first year as a translator?