Whatever the reasons that have led you to becoming your own boss, translating is not as easy as it looks.
We would therefore like to share a bit of our experience with you.
Be structured Many documents, a slew of formats, numerous versions... You can quickly get lost if you are not very well-organized. Set up a clear file structure where customers' project IDs are easy to track. Use folders / subfolders for the different stages of your work. Ex.: Blue Cells / Project 2345 - Antivirus manual / In progress / Delivered
Work legally You will find many companies that will be happy to pay you without an invoice. Don't expect them to respect any rules. An invoice is a document you can later show to a court in order to get paid. Peace of mind is priceless.
Buy software licences Buy the industry standard software and make sure you download some good freeware, too. Paying for a software is not only fair and legal, it grants you premium support (you will need it) and some free updates.
Get the right tools Phone, fax, PC, and screen are all you need. Buy good hardware, especially a large screen to reduce eye strain. Get your own FTP space, it is always very much appreciated.
Relax Take many REAL breaks from work. A good project manager should not overload and "burn out" a translator. So if your agencies do not realize that you are indeed worn out, tell them - and set yourself a limit that you will not overstep.
Keep yourself informed Depending on your fields of expertise, new developments can come fast and furious. Read newspapers and online forums. Dig into new technologies, read Wikis. You are a professional translator and are expected to have a good command of CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools. So play around with them.
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Monitor your cash balance Set time aside for handling paperwork and chasing payments if needed. Remember that you work for money (or glory?). With Blue Cells you can also be paid immediately (check out our BCCash service).
Rely on qualified people - team up! If accounting is not your cup of tea, leave it to a professional accountant. You will save time and probably money. Colleagues can revise text with "fresh eyes," and it can be a smart option for you to let you take a holiday without losing any business. If you have good friends, team up now!
Save money Be smart and jump on cost savings. Get you a VoIP number (SkypeIn is one option). Limit document print-outs. Contract with a logistics company. Choose a bank based on its charges and service. Use PayPal or similar services. Shut down your computer when you're not working (guaranteed 4% savings on your electricty bill!).
Be on time You have to deliver on time. If you don't, the time and energy you have spent on your project will be pure waste.
Avoid surprises You may be late or you have to charge more than you thought? Inform your customer ASAP and get his written approval. Pricing is also very important. Make sure yours is clear and available on demand. Prepare a "Trados" pricing grid covering the different levels of analogies.