Is freelance translating for everyone?

It’s been a while since I last had a guest post on Wanderlust Languages, but today I’m lucky enough to have a contribution from fellow translator Louise Taylor, who is discussing a couple of the pros and cons of the freelance travelling lifestyle. Well, I’ll let her take it from here!

Freelance translating is one of those wonderful careers that you can do from anywhere, provided you’ve got a decent laptop and can connect to the internet periodically. If you want to explore the world and enjoy a nomadic lifestyle, whether for a few months or an entire lifetime, then freelance translating is a great means of following your dream.

Linguistic talent can get you far, but you don’t have to limit your travels to countries where you speak the language(s). As a freelance translator you can set your own schedule, work from wherever you like and take breaks whenever the mood suits you – provided of course that you are still earning enough money to fund your chosen lifestyle.

One of the key advantages of such a nomadic lifestyle is that you can base yourself in countries where the cost of living is low. Making your money stretch further means having to work fewer hours and thus having more free time to explore. Whether you like to hike up mountains or simply hop from beautiful beach to beautiful beach, the world is packed with stunning locations that allow you to do so on a minimal budget. Portugal, Thailand, the Dominican Republic and indeed much of South America leap to mind, but there are dozens of countries to choose from when it comes to seeing the natural beauty of the world on a shoestring.

Fancy working from here? [Image from]

Thus far the life of a nomadic freelance translator sounds pretty idyllic, but it isn’t a life that suits everyone. Before you pack up your laptop and buy your plane ticket, it’s important to consider the transitional nature of such a lifestyle and consider whether your psyche is suited to such a lack of constancy. There’s no shame in wanting certainty and needing to know where you’re going to be spending the next week, or month, or year. Different lifestyles work for different people, so think about how you might feel after a month on the road. Or a year.

Freelance translating can be the perfect way to achieve a nomadic lifestyle, but it doesn’t have to be. Working freelance can mean a lack of certainty and regularity over your income, no paid sick leave or paid holidays and a distinct lack of colleagues to socialise with. If that sounds really unappealing then freelance translating may not be the ideal career for you! But if you’re happy to live with less certainty than a fulltime job can bring and fancy seeing more of the world then freelance translating can certainly help you to do so.

Of course, there’s always a middle ground and freelancing of this nature means you have the option to do a trial run. You could book a month or two away to see how you get on with travelling on your own, how you manage to balance work with seeing the sights and whether the need to find a reliable internet connection regularly in the middle of nowhere is something that’s liable to end up driving you to distraction. If you arrive home at the end of your travels with a vast sense of relief and a newfound appreciation for the comforts of home, then it might be that a more stable base (with regular holidays thrown in, of course) is the best for you. If, however, at the end of your time away, you’re chomping at the bit wanting to know which country you can head to next, then the nomadic freelance translator lifestyle may just be the one for you!

Or maybe here?

If freelance translating does appeal, then you can certainly use it as a means to see more of the world, should you so wish. Many freelance translators build their career around a nomadic lifestyle and maintain a happy client base while doing so. Just as with any other career, being professional, competitive and good at your job are the things which will keep your clients coming back for more. If they’re receiving high quality translation from you on time and within budget, they’re unlikely to care particularly where you happen to be based from one week to the next.

If you are planning to head off into the sunset as a freelance translator, then put some thought into time zones and taxes before you leave. If your clients expect you to be contactable during working hours in their country then you need to factor that into your plans. You also need to think about the legal and financial implications of spending more than about three to six months in another country (it varies around the world) in order to avoid accidentally becoming an illegal immigrant anywhere. Understanding the visas required to enter and work in other countries is also important – a little time spent researching can be very worthwhile in order to avoid future complications!

If you’ve read all of this and are still itching to start wandering, then it sounds like freelance translating could be a fantastic way to achieve your dreams. Happy travels!

Louise Taylor

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