Some of you may have already signed up for the Innovation in Translation Summit, (not an affiliate link) organized by Josh Goldsmith, Nora Diaz, and Jost Zetzsche. It’s happening online November 15-17 and the basic ticket is free; paid options give you access to replays, slides, live panels, etc.
My presentation topic for the Summit is “How much money do you really need to make as a freelancer?” The whole presentation is only 20 minutes, but I thought I’d give you the basics here, and then if you attend the Summit, you can see the whole thing along with tons of other great stuff. To cut to the chase:
Lots of freelancers are in deep denial about how much you need to earn as a freelancer, in order to achieve the same financial security as someone with a traditional job. I know this, because I see under the hoods of lots of freelancers’ businesses. Many people feel that they’re earning an OK income. Oftentimes, this is something in the range of US $45-$60K, which various compensation surveys identify as the mean income in the language professions. However, the situation gets less rosy when I ask people whether they:
-Are able to achieve their personal financial goals (buy a house, have a savings cushion, save for their kids’ education)
-Have enough money in a business savings account to pay themselves when they take time off, to avoid burning out
-Always have enough money in savings to pay their taxes
-Are able to fund professional development, computer hardware/software upgrades, and professional services like an accountant
-Are dependent on a partner’s or spouse’s income when they’d rather not be dependent on that
When it comes down to it, I think that a sustainable freelance income is closer to double the mean average: more like $90-$120K if you want to be doing the things listed above. If you need to increase, or even radically increase your freelance income, step one is to calculate and make peace with that big number. Getting there is possible, with excellent translation and interpreting skills and a good marketing plan, but first you have to know where you’re doing. A couple of options:
-If you want something basic, and if you, like me, feel a tension headache coming on every time you have to think about numbers, use my super-basic Deciding what to charge worksheet
-If you have a higher tolerance for numbers and want more detailed statistics, try the US CalPro spreadsheet available for free on the ATA website
Corinne McKay (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the founder of Training for Translators, and has been a full-time freelancer since 2002. She holds a Master of Conference Interpreting from Glendon College, is an ATA-certified French to English translator, and is Colorado court-certified for French interpreting. If you enjoy her posts, consider joining the Training for Translators mailing list!