Apr 302010

tranfree issue 69 – 30 April 2010

Understanding the FREE in Freelance

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tranfree 69

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We had a longer than expected Easter break in Poland. Due to the Icelandic volcano ash plume in European airspace we had an extra week away. We considered driving back, but there wasn’t much point when the ferries would have been so busy with all the other people who “have to be back at work on Monday”. We didn’t fancy driving all that way in our Polish Daewoo Lanos either. It’s a good local runabout, but not so comfortable for really long journeys like that.

We didn’t have to be back at work on Monday. We had our computers with us and could work where we were if needed. So we awarded Tomek an extra week off school and elected to sit and wait in the comfort of our Polish house. This is an interesting application of the kind of freedom I will be talking about in this tranfree edition’s main article. Other people in more “normal” jobs might been forced to make superhuman efforts to get back home quicker.

(If anyone’s interested in butterflies, check out the photos in my photography blog for some recent shots).

I hope you enjoy and benefit from tranfree


Alex Eames
tranfree editor, Author –

How to Earn $80,000+ per Year as a Freelance Translator
Selling Your Professional Services on the Web



Understanding the FREE in Freelance

There seems to be a certain amount of confusion out there about what the term freelance actually means.

Misinterpretation of freelance translator

So let’s find out where the word came from. Looking up freelance on http://www.etymonline.com/ gives…

also free lance, free-lance, “medieval mercenary warrior,” 1820, from free + lance; apparently a coinage of Sir Walter Scott’s. Figurative sense is from 1864; specifically of journalism by 1882. Related: Freelancer. The verb is first attested 1903.

So basically you are a warrior who will work for whoever pays the best. If you substitute warrior for translator, does that measure up to your reality? Are you a translator who will work for whoever pays the best? Hmmm.


Wrong Attitude

A lot of people have a very wrong attitude towards what it means to be a freelancer. They don’t seem to be living the part, although they probably harbour, somewhere at the back of their imaginations, the dream of somehow being FREE. But they don’t actually live it out. They feel enslaved to accept the rates and onerous terms, that anyone wielding a job tries to slap upon them.

Now it may be partly to do with fear, or inability to negotiate, but I think it’s also partly to do with not quite having grasped what the FREE in freelance actually means. Think for a moment. What are the benefits of being freelance? You are FREE to accept or reject any project which is offered to you. You are FREE to set your own rates (the client is FREE to accept or reject them). You are FREE to work (or not) for anyone you choose. You are also FREE to persuade clients to accept your higher rates and that you are worth what you are asking for.


Your Self-Worth Really Matters

But you won’t be able to do that unless you truly believe it yourself. In sales and marketing, a lot of importance is attached to your self-worth. It’s talked about a lot in marketing courses. It’s something very personal and it fluctuates during your life, according to your levels of confidence and your (often most recent) experiences. That’s a bit like a free market. Free to rise and fall according to changing times, circumstances and situations.

One online portal has a facility letting translators apply to agencies by email. The subject line of those emails is automatically set to “application for a freelance position”. This could well be a linguistic error, but it also shows a lack of understanding of what freelance is. Freelance is a position in the marketplace, not a position in an organisation. If you look at recruitment ads in newspapers or online, they’ll often say “position of marketing director” or “position of salesperson”. When you’re a freelancer, you don’t have a position in someone else’s company. You are not in their company. You are… What are you?

You’re FREE. Remember the FREE in freelance! You are not ensnared or imprisoned or closely tied to an employer. So you don’t have a position in the organisation. You are an outsider.

You’re a freelancer, a FREE agent. You are FREE. That means you are FREE to accept or reject any terms, any payment levels, any projects – and let’s go further. You are also FREE to reject any crap from clients. If you decide “I’m not taking that” you can say “bye bye. I’m not working for you any more. Get lost!” I’ve done it before. And believe me, people aren’t used to it.


Real-World Example

We once did a project for a fairly large multi-national company, in the financial sector, working on press releases. It was over the weekend. It was a major announcement about the merger of two large financial companies. (I won’t give any more details in case you start trying to guess who it was). We had the chief executive of the Polish branch on the phone telling us how he wanted this translation done. To a small extent he was being helpful. But he was also being condescending, rude, arrogant and upsetting us. So in the end, one time he phoned and said “I’d like to speak to your wife please” and I said “well she doesn’t want to speak to you because you’re being rude and we don’t have to accept work on these terms. So if you want to be like that, you’re probably better off doing it yourself.” It was quite empowering to be able to say that because – let me tell you – chief execs of large multi-nationals (even the lowly national branch CEOs) are not used to being talked to like that. And it’s very good for them. 😉

I did let him speak to my wife briefly after that. He was much more polite and friendly. When we’d finished the piece we were working on we decided not to take any more work on that project. He either did the rest of it himself or found somebody else he could bark at.

What I said to my friends when I discussed it with them was “well he’s chief executive of one company, I’m chief executive of two companies.” There you go. You’ve got to think of yourself as the CEO of YOUR company, and NOT as a low-life sub-contractor. This puts you on a level with the top people in large organisations. In fact, many of them will envy your freelance status because you get to work from home. They don’t get to see their kids from the time they get up – early in the morning to beat the rush hour traffic – to the time they come back late at night, if at all (perhaps they’ll have to jet off overseas to a meeting)? They may not see their children for several days at a time, whereas YOU get to watch your kids grow up. YES. Many of them are envious of YOU. Don’t you forget it. It’s empowering.


Employment VS Freelance

What’s the difference between employment and freelancing? Well the difference is huge actually. Your client won’t pay you any benefits and won’t deduct any of your taxes. They won’t pay any of your insurance or pension contributions. They won’t give you any perks. You tell them how much you want them to pay. If it’s too much, They’ll negotiate or walk away.

A freelancer is a FREE agent – a separate business. You are your own person, an independent unit. That’s what the FREE in freelance really means.

  • You set your own rates
  • You accept/reject projects you want/don’t want
  • You negotiate terms
  • You are FREE to succeed or fail on your own merits
But do you know what? Not everybody can handle the responsibilities that go with freedom.

“Freedom is a battle that must be fought and won each day” (Sartre).

It’s the ultimate performance-related pay, but not everybody can cope with it alone. Not everybody is cut out to be a business person. But don’t worry, help is at hand.


View From The Other Side

When we were operating as an agency, we used to ask translators what they wanted to be paid. If it was too high, we wouldn’t work with them. If it was a level that we could still make a decent profit on – by which I mean selling the translation for twice what I bought it for – then we went with them. We gave them what they asked for. And they were happy to take that money. Nobody was abused, nobody felt bad about it. It was profitable for both sides and that’s how ANY business transaction should be. If both sides don’t win – and don’t profit from a transaction – that means one side is getting a raw deal, which is not sustainable and doesn’t work in the long term.

Let’s remember some of the other elements of being FREE – some of the best sides of being FREE.

I’m FREE to go and do my supermarket shopping or go to the gym in the middle of the day, any day of the week if I want to. And that means I can choose the best time to go, when it’s not busy.

  • I’m FREE to organise my time and use it wisely – if I wish.
  • I’m also FREE to waste it. Isn’t that great?
  • I’m FREE to practise my hobbies whenever I want and not have to feel bad about it.
  • I’m FREE to do unusual things that other people can’t do. FREE to spend many weeks per year in another country in our second home.
  • I’m FREE to organise my life the way I want it to be.

So are YOU, but you may not have quite captured the “dream” yet. It isn’t just a dream though. It can be a reality. And for many people – many successful freelance translators – it IS their reality. It can be yours too. But it does require work, effort, sometimes a little bit of luck. But ALWAYS a lot of skill and a lot of hard application over a sustained period of time. And that’s where many people fall by the wayside. Some FREE lance warriors get defeated and captured in battle. But don’t let that drag YOU down. You can do it.


Alex Eames is the founder of translatortips.com,
editor of tranfree and author of the eBooks…

How to Earn $80,000+ Per Year as a Freelance Translator

Selling Your Professional Services on the Web

ISSN 1470-3866


***End of issue 69***

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Apr 222010

I saw my first confirmed speckled wood of the year, and it stayed on our terrace for about 3 hours this afternoon, sheltering from the wind (I assume). I looked out this evening and it was still there. Unmoving. So I picked it up and put it in a tupperware box and took it inside. It played dead for a while, but when left alone for a bit it opened its wings. I moved the box to under the light, got the camera ready, popped up the onboard flash (best I’ve got with me) and selected f/8 and AF. Focussed on the eyes. Click. Just about to take another and the wings bang shut. 😀

Put the box lid back on, box under a towel in the dark for a few minutes. Then got it out again. After a while the wings opened and were quivering. “no need to be scared of me matey” I thought. Clicked one off and then specky had a fly round the room and settled in the main lampshade. Switch that light off and it migrated back down to land on my credit card wallet So the credit card wallet goes back in the box with speccy.

I think the quivering must have been a prelude to flight. I have a feeling this is rather a young butterfly as its wings are in perfect condition.

Speckled Wood

So it stayed in the box overnight and this morning I fed it some sugared water. Could actually hear the sucking/slurping sound. Then I shut the door and opened the box. It flew to the window and when it settled with its wings open I clicked off a few shots.

Apr 152010

It was sunny and there was an opportunity to get the camera out this afternoon, so I did. A Peacock butterfly met me at the door. I followed it round a bit and then found a comma, which I observed feeding. After that I found a bee and a mosquito in the veranda. So here they are. As is my custom, all images can be clicked for a higher resolution version.

Peacock Butterfly

Next was the comma

Comma perched on a piece of wood

Then the comma feeding in a tree. Check out that long proboscis…

Comma feeding on a bud

Next up Mr mosquito…


And last up a bee…


Well I enjoyed shooting them. This is the pick of about 100 shots. Hope you like ’em. 😀

Apr 122010

I’m in Poland at the moment. I’ve been accessing the BBC web site to catch up on the news etc. One thing I noticed was that there is annoying advertising on the site when you log in from abroad. :shout: It doesn’t appear when you log on in the UK, so I am used to seeing the site without these annoyances. I want my BBC back as it should be. :pissedoff:

I use Firefox and an excellent add-on called Adblock plus. To get rid of the video advertising or any other graphic, all you have to do is right click and “adblock image”. But it’s a slightly different story with google adsense, which is text, not graphics. “There has to be a way” I thought – so, ironically I googled “getting rid of adsense ads” and came up with this gem of a page…


…where it has four different ways of achieving that goal. One of them uses adblock plus. All I had to do was open adblock plus “preferences” and add a line to block. The line is this…


and while I was there I did the Yahoo ones too…


Now it looks as it should -but even better than that, it should work for all sorts of other sites too. 😀

Apr 022010

Well yesterday we flew to Poland for Easter. All was well when we got here. The wireless internet connection even speaks to our new laptops 😀 The only thing which is a problem is that it seems our ISP – neostrada – is blocking all outgoing email. Bizarre. We’ll have to give them a call later today. All incoming email is working fine. But I’ve tried outgoing email using three of my different servers…

  • Virtual server in the US
  • Dedicated server in the UK
  • The Neostrada system itself

And none of them wants to connect on either of our laptops. Poo. 🙁 But all three work fine for incoming. It gives a timeout error. It was never a problem before. I suspect they’ve changed something. GRRRR. But hurrah for other social media sites. I will not be forced to shut up and rendered unable to communicate with people. (Well I have got a GMX webmail account anyway, for emergencies, but it’s tedious to reply to emails that way as you have to cut and paste the addresses).

…A bit later…

So we called them. They said “No we don’t block anything. It must be on your computer or the servers.”
We replied “Well we’ve tried three different servers including your own on two different computers, so you must have changed, or be blocking something. The servers all worked perfectly from the UK yesterday morning and they used to work over here too, but now they don’t.”

So we eventually prized out of them the fact that they are blocking all outgoing email traffic except that which uses port 587 – the submission port. We were told a way round this, but it didn’t work and was problematic to even get the router working again after that. So all that was really needed was to tick the “use port 587” box in Eudora and then it worked (except on one of my servers where the “use port 587” was inactive).

Simple problem, simple solution, lots of denials and excuses before uncovering it – PATHETIC. All that was needed was a simple admission – “Yes from December 2009 we only accept outgoing email transmissions using port 587, you’ll need to adjust your software accordingly” – and the job would have been done. Instead, I had to waste the morning on it. :teeth: