Freelancer... a broad term that applies to many people from different domains. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a freelancer is "someone who does particular work for different organisations, rather than working all the time for one organisation". Thus, "essentially, a freelance job is a job where a person works for themselves, rather than for a company; while freelancers accept employment contracts for companies and organisations, they are ultimately self-employed", says https://www.flexjobs.com, one of the best-known websites for freelance jobs.
In this "free" world, translators have a special place. It is estimated that there are about 640,000 translators in the world (source: Translators Association of China (TAC), a quarter of whom are freelancers. In France, in 2015, 15,700 people were working as translators. Of these, 13,300, or 85%, are freelance translators, according to https://www.legalplace.fr.
However, this “free” way of earning a living is not always easy. I can only remember the beginning of my journey. I had so many questions (I still do; we learn every day): which CATs to choose (they have their prices!), which revision tools, is the website accessible? Should I buy a subscription to ProZ.com, should I do my own accounting or should I hire someone? Which application for planning and networking? Which email signature, cold emails, direct marketing? How many publications per week?
So many questions, not so much budget, but the willingness to go further and beyond. But, each story has its own story, here is mine :
CATs: Today, I have three licences (Trados, Wordfast and MemoQ), but I started with Trados, Freelance version. At first, I really took the time to think about buying it because there are several CATs online and some might say it's a real investment at the begging. But, thanks to a 40% discount offered by ProZ.com, I now use it almost daily, and not only for projects sent by translation agencies but for direct clients as well. TMs are a big plus for my glossaries. Wordfast was needed to serve a large American client, and two years later I'm still using it for them. And MemoQ, to be honest, I'm not a big fan, but several European agencies use it, so I needed it. And yes, I know what you are going to say, Trados has extensions for all other CAT tools, but it is easier for me to divide the work according to the client's software. Meanwhile, I have added the online platforms Smartcat and Smartling for my translation/localization projects. It may seem like too many translation tools, but the goal is to serve the client well and fast. For proofreading tasks, I have two tools at my disposal, Grammarly and Language Tool, with their respective extensions in Google Chrome.
As far as the website is concerned, it was a "Let's do it!" moment, as I understood 2 things from all the webinars I've attended: invest in yourself and let your website be your portfolio. I chose Wix, not WordPress. I like Wix, it really meets my needs, and it's easy to use. And today, apart from my domain @gkbeyondwords.com, I have 3 email addresses, each for a specific purpose and target audience.
Joining ProZ.com was a desire to be part of this fantastic community with their Blue Board, and after I realised that I was paying my annual membership fee with just one project, it became a MUST. And every year I discover even more features that help me find other projects. I'm proud of the certifications and feedback I've received.
For my compatibility, I still do it in the old style - Excel sheets - but I have to admit that I get help every month, which makes it easier for me to stay old-fashioned for now. However, I do read some good things about https://www.lsp.expert. It is on my discovery list. My planning system includes my paper calendar, pens (I love to buy pens and crayons), my Samsung Note (I'm an Android girl), my Google Calendar and my Wix calendar. Long live synchronisation!!
As far as networking and publishing are concerned, LinkedIn is my international option, and I use the Premium version from time to time when I want to expand my client list. I use Facebook to target researchers, as I also work as a scientific proofreader. Twitter and Instagram are actually extensions of LinkedIn and Facebook. To keep in touch with my colleagues, but also for urgent requests from my clients, I use WhatsApp, and recently the Clubhouse application (iOS only for now, and yes, I'm still the Android girl, but with an Ipad) has not only allowed me to network more but also to reach one of my goals for 2021: to bring my voice on international science (Clubhouse is only audio). I've had several interesting conversations about translation, localization and the key role of culture.
Years ago, I also had many questions about language pairs, rates, how to find clients, how to write a quote, and many more. In this case, my advice is to listen to as many experienced translators, read, learn and at the end of the day create your own framework.
Little bird, calling yourself a freelancer, don't feel overwhelmed by so much technology and the long check-list. I'd be lying to you if I told you it was easy, especially at the beginning of your journey, but, organisation helps a lot, and if you really define what you want to achieve, you'll have fun… most of the time :)
Rome wasn't built in a day, and perseverance will help you overcome many obstacles. But above all, deciding what kind of freelancer you want to be, will determine the way you work as a freelancer. Find your own definition of success, and success will find you.