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Reflections on 2017, my first $US 100,000+ year from translation
מפרסם התגובה: Dylan Jan Hartmann

Kay-Viktor Stegemann
גרמניה
Local time: 20:53
חבר (2016)
מאנגלית לגרמנית
Periods of extreme workload are normal for most freelancers Jan 23, 2018

It seems not unusual to me that a freelancer works long hours for longer periods of time, even for years. In fact, working hard and putting other things (like the private life) into the background is quite normal when you are starting a new business. Getting back to "normal" levels of work is surely important and might be difficult.

But what is "normal" for a freelancer? Regular hours, like nine to five on weekdays only, are a concept for employees. Why should this apply to freelan
... See more
It seems not unusual to me that a freelancer works long hours for longer periods of time, even for years. In fact, working hard and putting other things (like the private life) into the background is quite normal when you are starting a new business. Getting back to "normal" levels of work is surely important and might be difficult.

But what is "normal" for a freelancer? Regular hours, like nine to five on weekdays only, are a concept for employees. Why should this apply to freelancers? For example, when I quit my day job and went full time freelancing from home, I gained one extra hour each day, simply because I no longer need to commute to the company. I can put this hour to good use and so work nine hours a day without being worse off than before. Additionally, I could do away with my alarm clock, a fact that boosts my quality of life enormously. I am a late riser by nature and at the same time I feel comfortable with working at night. This is actually an advantage with several of my clients due to the time difference. On the whole, it seems that I work much more than before, but I can integrate this work into my life much better.

What seems to be most difficult to me is having a real vacation for a couple of weeks without any work at all. You actually need to cut off all communication to clients, replacing it by automatic messages, in order to create full days or weeks without work. If you leave a communication channel open, work will reach out to you. You can tell all your project managers that you're away for a period of time, but it seems they will not believe it until they get your out of office message.
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Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:53
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Clickbait: what's that? Jan 23, 2018

DJHartmann wrote:

Richard Purdom wrote:

Seems that everyone's missed your point...

So most readers are frothing at the mouth over 100K a year, and forgetting the breakdown and crap private life that implies for a translator.


I purposely made the title clickbait but you’re right. My point of the story was to step back and find a level that I can continue to remain consistent, enjoy life and stay healthy.

Trump memoirs? Haha! I’ve not read any to relate to. It WAS written on the phone at 4am with the ProZ.com app though! So, close one!


Richard, not everyone missed DJ's point, judging by the variety of responses and comments given.

DJ, you used clickbait? How could you? I'm tellin' your mum…



 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
הממלכה המאוחדת
Local time: 19:53
חבר (2014)
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Easy to talk about work-life balance Jan 23, 2018

DJHartmann wrote:
Perhaps I should’ve made it clearer: I am the sole income provider for my family.

When you are the sole breadwinner you do what you must to ensure the family is provided for. There is nobody else; you are the backstop.

Traditionally it has been the man who fulfils that role, and you can be pretty sure that most of the dads out there working 50 or 60 hours a week did not/do not want to be doing that. They do it because they feel, for whatever reason, that it is best for family as a whole. Maybe they don't want to get fired for being the least productive guy in the office, for example.

The "Oh, but you should prioritise time with your wife and children" approach to often fails to take into account the harsh realities of working life. Things like having to pay off the mortgage on the costly house, costly because it is near the good school but is not so far from the workplace that the commute becomes unbearably long and robs the employee even more time that could be spent with the family. Things like having to save for the children's future university fees. Things like having to keep the same children fed, clothed and resourced for school. The work-life balance equation just isn't that simple most of the time.

Spending a year giving work a high priority in order to scrape together a deposit on a house might well be a very sensible strategy for the family as a whole in some contexts. Some short-term pain, much long-term gain. In your case, that didn't quite work out - the problem of lenders rejecting overseas sources of income due to the implicit sensitivity to exchange rates is not uncommon - but it doesn't mean you were wrong to try. You tried, effectively succeeded, and now have a more realistic view of the cost of that success for you.

Dan


 

Tom in London
הממלכה המאוחדת
Local time: 19:53
חבר (2008)
מאיטלקית לאנגלית
Dinner Jan 24, 2018

DJHartmann wrote:

My wife stays at home caring for #2 and helps look after me through long work-stints.

I’ve made it clear to her numerous times ....


Maybe you should be paying her for all the work SHE does.

I highly recommend this book.

"Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner?: A Story About Women And Economics"

by Katrine Marcal

http://bit.ly/2DDKFSw

[Edited at 2018-01-24 08:01 GMT]


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
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Local time: 20:53
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Work-life balance II Jan 24, 2018

Dan Lucas wrote:

Traditionally it has been the man who fulfils that role, and you can be pretty sure that most of the dads out there working 50 or 60 hours a week did not/do not want to be doing that. They do it because they feel, for whatever reason, that it is best for family as a whole. Maybe they don't want to get fired for being the least productive guy in the office, for example.


Well, I can say that my mom certainly never made the impression that she wanted to spend 30 years of her life taking care of the house, my father, and five children (including 17 years with at least one child under 5). In a country like the US, the ridiculous college tuition (parents' student loans plus children's college funds) and childcare fees make it very difficult to avoid a division of labor where the parent with the most lucrative education works more than full time and the other only makes a marginal contribution to the family income through part-time work for often much lower pay.

On the other hand: We're translators! I decided to move to a functioning country. College tuition is free in Germany. The situation with childcare varies greatly regionally, but it is extremely inexpensive and good in Berlin, for example. You pay high premiums for healthcare, but the deductible is absolutely negligible (often zero) and it is not tied to your employer, so you do not go bankrupt if you get sick and you do not lose your insurance if you lose your job.

And I'm all for short-term sacrifice for long-term goals. I did it and, like Kay-Viktor and others, I think it's largely impossible to start a business without going through this. However, I also have two children under 10 and my wife is a salaried employee with regular hours and vacation, so (over the somewhat longer term) I have been "forced" to work fairly regular hours and take vacation. I just wanted to make it clear that this decision is not inexpensive and that working regular hours means driving a very used VW and also living on the wrong side of the street that divides us from the nearest high-priced residential neighborhood.

I also agree that it is perfectly possible for some freelancers to reach sales of over EUR 100,000 while working no more than full time. Assuming that full time in Germany is about 1720 hours/ year (= 40 hours/week minus 6 weeks of vacation, 2 weeks of public holidays, 1 week of sick leave) and that reaching 2/3 of total working hours as billable hours is generally considered perfectly plausible, you end up with about 1150 billable hours. Averaging 450 words per hour at EUR 0.20 per word (perfectly plausible for direct clients) would put you above the EUR 87 per hour needed to bring in EUR 100,000. So would averaging 900 words per hour for EUR 0.10 per word (à la Jena Sprye). I think it is probably also relatively easy to make the numbers work as an interpreter working for direct clients. Now, I'm nowhere near that productive, but I think that's because I'm not very good at concentrating and am too easily distracted, not because those numbers are fundamentally unrealistic. Some people can effectively read several times faster than me, and it seems reasonable to assume that some people can effectively translate 2 or 3 or 4 times faster than me.


 

Daniel Frisano
שוויץ
Local time: 20:53
חבר (2008)
מאנגלית לאיטלקית
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Relativity Jan 24, 2018

Drake: "The first million is the hardest"

T. Boone Pickens: https://twitter.com/boonepickens/status/207984741260070914?lang=en


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
הממלכה המאוחדת
Local time: 19:53
חבר (2014)
מיפנית לאנגלית
Only you can decide Jan 24, 2018

Michael Wetzel wrote:
Well, I can say that my mom certainly never made the impression that she wanted to spend 30 years of her life taking care of the house, my father, and five children (including 17 years with at least one child under 5).

This is nowadays (and should be) an individual choice. I know many smart women who worked in my field (finance), and many were very good at what they did. In some cases those women had children, in others they did not. Many would have gone mad if they had been forced to give up work and focus only on rearing their children. On the other hand I know other intelligent women who love being stay-at-home mums, and who find that deeply fulfilling.

The point is that women should have the choice to focus on a career if they so wish. Can they have it all? In most cases, no. And neither can men. You can work hard and earn decent money, but you usually have to put in the hours, and that in turn means less time spent at home. There are no free lunches.

Dan


 

Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
חבר (2003)
מצרפתית לאיטלקית
+ ...
Hey we are in 2018 Jan 24, 2018

Dan Lucas wrote:

The point is that women should have the choice to focus on a career if they so wish.

Dan


Oh boy...I hope so, I do not even ask myself the question...


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
ספרד
Local time: 19:53
חבר (2007)
אנגלית
+ ...
My own experience Jan 24, 2018

Dan Lucas wrote:
The point is that women should have the choice to focus on a career if they so wish. Can they have it all? In most cases, no. And neither can men. You can work hard and earn decent money, but you usually have to put in the hours, and that in turn means less time spent at home. There are no free lunches.

Among the expatriates in my local community there are an amazing number of stay-at-home husbands (male partners, I mean, married or not), several of whom have been that way since their kids were young, although the majority have taken early retirement while their wives work on. It's my experience too: my husband stopped work when our son was 10 (old enough to be fairly self-sufficient, particularly as I'd only taken 15 months maternity leave before going stir-crazy). He was only 47 but he said he'd had enough. He still looks after all the housework - even cleans the loos - while I work. And now all his various pensions are in he's gone back to being the major contributor, darn it!


 

Mair A-W (PhD)
גרמניה
Local time: 20:53
חבר (2016)
מגרמנית לאנגלית
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modern man Jan 24, 2018

Sheila Wilson wrote:
He still looks after all the housework - even cleans the loos - while I work.


Goodness. I manage to clean my own loo (singular), do my laundry, *and* work. I even hoover the house occasionally. Who says the modern woman can't have it all?


 

Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:53
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Maybe I'm splitting hairs… Jan 24, 2018

DJHartmann wrote:

Perhaps I should’ve made it clearer: I am the sole income provider for my family. My eldest daughter is 6 and youngest nearly 2. My wife stays at home caring for #2 and helps look after me through long work-stints.

I’ve made it clear to her numerous times that much of our success is thanks to her continual support and I couldn’t have done half of it without her.


Maybe Australian English usage is very different to American English usage. Maybe different people express themselves for myriad reasons on forums open to many eyes without realizing they leave themselves open to critique. Every time someone opens her window to share the view into her kitchen, she's inviting all sorts of comments.

[Edited at 2018-01-25 14:47 GMT]


 

Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
ספרד
Local time: 20:53
חבר (2011)
מספרדית לאנגלית
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It depends on the person's situation Jan 24, 2018

Dan Lucas wrote:

DJHartmann wrote:
Perhaps I should’ve made it clearer: I am the sole income provider for my family.

When you are the sole breadwinner you do what you must to ensure the family is provided for. There is nobody else; you are the backstop.

Traditionally it has been the man who fulfils that role, and you can be pretty sure that most of the dads out there working 50 or 60 hours a week did not/do not want to be doing that. They do it because they feel, for whatever reason, that it is best for family as a whole. Maybe they don't want to get fired for being the least productive guy in the office, for example.

The "Oh, but you should prioritise time with your wife and children" approach to often fails to take into account the harsh realities of working life. Things like having to pay off the mortgage on the costly house, costly because it is near the good school but is not so far from the workplace that the commute becomes unbearably long and robs the employee even more time that could be spent with the family. Things like having to save for the children's future university fees. Things like having to keep the same children fed, clothed and resourced for school. The work-life balance equation just isn't that simple most of the time.

Spending a year giving work a high priority in order to scrape together a deposit on a house might well be a very sensible strategy for the family as a whole in some contexts. Some short-term pain, much long-term gain. In your case, that didn't quite work out - the problem of lenders rejecting overseas sources of income due to the implicit sensitivity to exchange rates is not uncommon - but it doesn't mean you were wrong to try. You tried, effectively succeeded, and now have a more realistic view of the cost of that success for you.

Dan


Well said!

I hadn't realised that DJHartmann's children were so young and that he is the sole income provider for his family. Thirty years ago I would have probably done the same as him.

[Edited at 2018-01-24 19:05 GMT]


 
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Chris S  Identity Verified
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Maybe American English usage is very different to British English usage too Jan 25, 2018

Mario Chavez wrote:
Maybe Australian English usage is very different to American English usage, but here when we say “I made it clear to someone” has connotations of clarity and emphasis, not affection or thankful recognition.


Maybe American English is very different to British English, but if we were to pounce on someone's choice of words for no reason at all and give them unsolicited advice on how to express gratitude and affection, our invitation to the vicar's next tea party might well get lost in the post.


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
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I knew something was bothering me about this thread... Jan 25, 2018

... and what is bothering me here is that USD 100,000 seems universally to be considered an awful lot of money for a translator to earn.

Really?!

$50 per hour times 40 hours a week times 50 weeks a year makes $100,000.

And I wouldn't get out of bed for $50 an hour.

Just saying.


 
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Reflections on 2017, my first $US 100,000+ year from translation

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