I first connected with Hannah Keet when she worked with fellow translator Natalie Soper on a fascinating article entitled “Fiverr: Do you get what you pay for?” (It’s worth mentioning here that they have written “Fiverr: Do you get what you pay for? (Part 2)“.) Based in Plymouth, Hannah has been a freelance translator for over 5 years and specialises in translating German and French into English. This is the story of Hannah’s freelancing journey…
What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Hannah Keet and I’m a freelance translator. I rewrite German and French business and tourism texts in English.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I’ve been freelancing since 2012, so five years now. I had always wanted to be freelance, but sometimes the lack of experience can be an obstacle when you first launch your career. So I took an in-house translator position at Amazon for six months first.
What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
My dad has been self-employed for 35+ years, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. So I definitely had his full support. Most of my family and friends backed me all the way. Some of my colleagues at Amazon seemed a bit sceptical as going it alone can seem daunting when you have job security and a fixed income, but that wasn’t going to put me off.
Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
No – only because I didn’t know they existed. If I were to start over, I would do more research into what sort of support is out there and applicable to my business.
How would you describe your clients or customers?
My clients are German- and French-speaking companies, mainly in the tourism sector, who need their texts written in English for an international audience. I generally work with airlines, hotels, resorts, destination management organisations and other outfits to help them communicate clearly in English.
Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
To be honest, that’s hard to say. I have positioned myself as a translator working in the fields of tourism and marketing. As such, the majority of the CPD I do is focused on learning about the tourism sector so that I have the appropriate knowledge to create accurate translations, and I attend at least two tourism trade fairs a year.
My clients see me as a hard-working, thorough translator. If I spot errors in the German or French text, I highlight them when I deliver my translation. It’s not so bad if it is web content, as this can be easily corrected at no additional expense. But in one or two cases, this has stopped written material from going to print with mistakes in it.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
Yes, it is what I expected. In fact, it’s better. I can choose the hours I work (within reason, I still need to stick to deadlines and earn money!) and the sort of work I take on. I tend to stick to a maximum of 40 hours a week and keep weekend work to an absolute minimum, which is what I had first anticipated.
What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
Asana – I use this to record all of the projects I take on and their deadlines. It gives me an overview of what I need to get done and helps me to plan in new jobs or negotiate deadlines for new projects, if necessary.
Facebook – I’ve joined lots of groups for freelancers, local businesses and translators. I’ve learned so much from these forums, including social media tips, marketing advice and what to do when you don’t get paid. The latter has come in handy at several points!
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
Join your professional association, network with fellow colleagues and gather all the information and tips you can. I’ve found fellow translators are generally very willing to help and offer valuable advice. Don’t see your fellow colleagues as competitors – there are always opportunities for collaboration. Practice and hone your skills: you can have the best SEO on your website and the slickest marketing campaign, but it means nothing if you lack the core skills to run your business.
What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
Colleagues are collaborators, not competitors. So much work gets passed around between translators because the freelancer the client has contacted isn’t qualified to translate that text. For example, I get lots of requests from people asking me to translate English texts into German or French. But I only translate into English, my native language, so I have a list of translators working in the opposite direction to me so that I can refer the client to somebody more suitable.
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
The freedom. The ability to turn work down if it isn’t in my specialist field (tourism). The ability to choose my working hours. The ability to work from home, a coworking space or on a coworkation break. The ability to book a holiday whenever I feel like it, without having to get anybody else’s permission.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
Empty inbox days. When I send off the files for the last project on my list, and nothing else comes in that day. There’s always non-billable work to do (issuing invoices, checking payments have been received on time, contacting leads, following up on quotes, rewatching webinars…) but I still get that feeling of dread when everything goes quiet.
What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
I have lots! To be receiving regular work from a few select clients in the tourism sector. To be consistently hitting my monthly financial targets. To have complete job satisfaction and a great work-life balance.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
I wish pricing was clearer in the translation sector. It’s really hard to know what to charge when you start out – most freelance translators do not state their rates on their website, so it’s hard to find the benchmark. There are lots of reasons for this: every language pair seems to have a different price range, and the prices can vary drastically from one translator to the next. There is no regulation for the translation market, which also doesn’t help!
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