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How to become a location-independent freelance translator

| 96 comments | Category: translation, travel

beachIn the previous post I explained my background (and need) to become a freelance translator. In this post I will go into more detail about how I get work, what that work involves and why it’s not as easy as you think!!

Finding translation work

So, if you read my previous post you’ll know that I was in a pretty bad situation two and a half years ago; I had no job or money, my long-term career plan was destroyed and I was going to Canada with no working visa in hand. This forced me to consider online-based work.

I’m glad that at that time I was presented with this challenge because my temporary solution has turned out to be a job I got great satisfaction out of. Since then my boat sails in another direction, where I help other people to learn languages faster and speak confidently. But that is a story for another day, back to my translation job.

My initial approach to find work was rather clumsy! I basically wrote out my CV in all the languages I knew, and prepared a cover letter for each one too… and then copied and pasted the cover letter + CV to no less than two thousand emails! I found these emails by doing a search for translation companies directly on the yellow pages in Spain and France etc. Most of them ignored me, a lot of them just gave me a negative response, but one out of the two thousand called me back!

After not speaking in French for over two years (and learning two more languages since then, further confusing my French) I suddenly had a spontaneous interview in French on the phone while travelling in a noisy train in Italy. They gave me a trial period, proofread all of my translations for a month and finally took me on! That’s the beauty of being freelancer, you work with people, not for them ;)

However, I wouldn’t recommend this approach for those in a similar situation. There are two good translator social networking websites; Proz and translatorscafé, which have forums and many other features. But the most interesting part of these sites can be their job search boards. The translatorscafé one is free – I can’t say much for that since I have never used it.

The Proz one has a free version and a paid version; the free version shows you the advertisements after several hours delay, in which time someone else is likely to take the offer. I signed up for a paid account and have found all my other clients (technically outsourcers who look for clients for me)through that site. I find that it works pretty well; especially since you can leave and read references, which is great for confirming that they will actually pay you.

It is important to have a competitive price! If you have no experience at all, then you should actually start working for next to nothing or for free (or as a volunteer) and have your documents proofread so that you can learn how to actually translate before you start trying it professionally. After my training period, I started off with a kind-of low rate because of my lack of experience and then I raised my price last afther a while.

Many translators charge per word, which I much prefer to all my previous monthly wage jobs since I get paid for the actual work that I do. The current global economic situation seemed to have caught up with me that summer as I had no work at all for over a month. I’ve reduced my price back to the previous one and have gotten a flood of work because of it. 

The actual price you charge depends on a lot of factors; those who translate novels, for example, may charge much more per word than I do (or would charge per page), but our hourly wage is about the same. As an engineer, I was very familiar with the technical documents I translated and never needed to ponder over a more poetic way to say it (as a writer-translator would for example) so I could charge less but still earn the same because I would produce more words an hour.

Also, the language combination is very important – you may be able to charge more for a language that is more in demand, or need to be more competitive if you have a common language combination.

The importance of a good background and specialisation

I usually like to say how my methods of learning a language are easy for everyone to apply. But becoming a translator definitely isn’t for everyone! Translators do not get the credit they deserve; if you read poorly translated instructions on a cheap gadget from China it certainly doesn’t help! But when you do read a translation (which happens more often than you might think!) and don’t realize it, that’s the sign of a good translator! Always an unsung hero, because it doesn’t seem like it was ever even originally in a foreign language!

Translating a text isn’t a simple task of writing over the words in a text document, which “anyone” with casual understanding of the source language and being a native in the target language can do. You need to understand the source language extremely well and at a professional level.

However, you can’t be a translator just because you speak another language, even if you speak it really well. You need training and experience as a translator and complete familiarity with the subject you are translating.

Any translation work that I accepted was always just for my fields of speciality, mostly related to my studies in Electronic Engineering. Thanks to my studies and work experience both in Ireland and abroad, when I translated a document I wrote as an engineer / computer scientist naturally would, and do so only in English.

No matter how many crazy 3-month language-learning missions I have, or even if I manage to speak like a native some day, I would still likely be lacking in some (especially written) subtleties in the language and without much more experience as an engineer in foreign languages, it would be very unprofessional of me (or anyone in my situation) to accept work translating to a non-native language. Those horrible translations I mentioned above are usually done by those who think that they master the language and rarely do. This is a very crucial thing to realize; you should only ever translate to your mother tongue!

And specialisation should not be taken lightly either! When I was training to be a translator, it was extremely frustrating that I would get documents from a wide range of topics, none of which I was familiar with. I tried to translate wine cultivation techniques, legal and medical documents, corporate presentations etc. and it was always a disaster! Luckily all of my work was proofread and completely corrected each time before actually being used.

I am not a lawyer or a doctor or a wine-lover so I simply can’t write about these topics in English, let alone understand them in a foreign language! This means that I should have never translated them of course. I do not have a degree in translation, but I actually found it easier to get work than some people that I have talked with who do, because I focused on a very narrow selection of documents to translate that I could write very naturally.

Being more flexible in your translation topics does not necessarily make you more employable since you may have little or no familiarity or authority in that field. Someone who has studied translation in university needs to somehow also become an expert in any fields they wish to translate. Luckily for me, my specialisation and language learning and training as a translator has been enough to help me to produce good translations.

Doing the work

So when you’ve got the translation, you just open up the Word document and replace the original text, right? Some translators may work like that, but it is horribly inefficient and cumbersome for the kinds of documents I translated! We have Computer Aided Translation (CAT) tools (not to be confused with Machine Translation!) that help us translate more efficiently and are especially useful in translations with recurring vocabulary (legal, technical etc.).

These tools can produce a file called a Translation Memory (TM), which lets you or other translators work with the same theme later and not lose consistency in terminology, and you can even translate faster as it points out and automatically replaces repetitions.

For those interested in starting off with this, I recommend installing the free Open Source CAT tool OmegaT (along with the free Open Office suite). Unfortunately, many outsourcers much prefer to work with the TMs produced by Trados, which is quite expensive.

I used to work with Wordfast, which I also quite liked. If you’d like to buy these programs, you should actually do it through the Proz website, since they have huge group-paying reductions for all the major CAT tools, cycling through each one regularly. There is quite a learning curve with these programs, so it’s definitely better to start with the free version and you may never need to change!

So I translated the document by the proposed deadline and sent the result (and TM file(s) if requested) and added that quotation to an invoice that I sent at the end of the month. They normally pay 30 days later. The annoying thing about this is that you won’t actually have the money for any work you do the first week of the month for about 2 months! This aspect of freelancing takes some getting used to!

Note that a VAT number for your resident country (which can be applied for easily enough) is essential in order to get serious clients and for legal reasons.

Making it location-independent

As you can see in the post about not needing to be rich to travel, I took this work with me no matter where I was. Once you can work from home, why can’t that home be on the other side of the planet? Since my clients transferred payments to my bank account, I could take it out of an ATM in any country and use it there.

I rented a Skype-In telephone number so that I didn’t have to bother my clients with new number changes as I travelled. I’ve actually had the same fixed phone number for the last two and a half years that forwards any calls to whatever mobile number that I happen to have at the time.

Emails require immediate responses, so when I don’t have work on some particular day I can still leave the house but I have my iPhone push new emails to me and notify me of them. There have been some time-zone issues (California is one of the worst places I’ve lived in for synchronising with European times, with midnight to 8am responsiveness needed…), but I’ve found work-arounds and have comfortably travelled with this job.

I can’t emphasise enough that this job is definitely not for everyone! I get contacted so many times from people with intermediate (or less) in languages who think that if Google Translate can do it, then surely they can too! No. In fact, my in-house translation work was by far the worst job I’ve ever had (and I’ve had a LOT!!) that made me extremely reluctant to try working in this field again.

And if it wasn’t for that training I wouldn’t be able to do it either, since getting trained to learn about the important subtelties involved in translation really is necessary. Nevertheless, I hope this post at least explains a little about how I worked for those curious!  Any other translators out there with a different story and point of view, please do share in the comments below!

You can also check out these two blogs from translators who are much more experienced than me: Musings from an overworked translator and There’s something about translation. There is even an online comic strip about translators! If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments!

If these tips are at all useful to you, then share it with your friends, they might benefit from it too!

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  • http://mox.ingenierotraductor.com/ Alejandro

    Hi Benny,

    Today I discovered your blog. I love the dynamic style of the posts, the cool pictures and the “orange juice” idea. Keep up the good work and thank you for the link!
    .-= Alejandro´s last blog ..Mox, Lena & Mina: Disadvantages of not being a freelance translator =-.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      No problem! Thanks for the compliments ;)

  • http://mox.ingenierotraductor.com Alejandro

    Hi Benny,

    Today I discovered your blog. I love the dynamic style of the posts, the cool pictures and the “orange juice” idea. Keep up the good work and thank you for the link!
    .-= Alejandro´s last blog ..Mox, Lena & Mina: Disadvantages of not being a freelance translator =-.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      No problem! Thanks for the compliments ;)

  • Marta

    Helo, Benny!

    I’m Brazilian and I’ve finished my English course! It took me 4 years and half, but it was worth it! :)
    Congratulations for your iniciative of being fluent in lots of languages and traveling abroad…

    You’re really courageous!
    Hugs*

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Hi Marta! Congratulations on finishing your English course; you are writing really well!! :) Where do you live in Brazil? I’m moving to Rio in a few weeks for my next 3-month experiment that I’ll reveal on this site just before going!

      • Marta

        Hi again Benny!
        Thank’s for the comment about my writing ;)
        So, you’re coming to Brazil… Good! I hope you have greats experiences here.
        I’m looking forward to seeing your post about your staying here.

        I live in Macaé, a city of Rio de Janeiro!

  • Marta

    Helo, Benny!

    I’m Brazilian and I’ve finished my English course! It took me 4 years and half, but it was worth it! :)
    Congratulations for your iniciative of being fluent in lots of languages and traveling abroad…

    You’re really courageous!
    Hugs*

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Hi Marta! Congratulations on finishing your English course; you are writing really well!! :) Where do you live in Brazil? I’m moving to Rio in a few weeks for my next 3-month experiment that I’ll reveal on this site just before going!

      • Marta

        Hi again Benny!
        Thank’s for the comment about my writing ;)
        So, you’re coming to Brazil… Good! I hope you have greats experiences here.
        I’m looking forward to seeing your post about your staying here.

        I live in Macaé, a city of Rio de Janeiro!

  • Linda

    Hi, I really enjoy your blog. Just wanted to know where you trained for translator, where can people find these courses and what exactly is this course or feild of study called? Keep writing and I really like all the useful tips. Thanks.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Hi Linda!
      Welcome to the comments! That’s great that you enjoy my blog :)
      Please read the previous post to learn more about my background. I only got that training position because I was also teaching English part time for the same company. My excellent English-teaching CV was the only reason they hired me and the agreement that they would train me part-time as a translator was the only reason I took the job. It is an almost impossible to reproduce situation.
      You could possibly take a translation course at your local college/university or just start translating, but for a very small fee or a normal fee, but give most of it to a professional proofreader. The proofreader could send you the corrections and explain what you are doing wrong.
      As I said in the previous post, my particular path is very hard to copy because it’s so strange. There may be other ways of getting trained as a translator that don’t involve signing up for a long-term course, but ideally at least a diploma-level course at college should be covered. My position was only several months of work, but it was intensive and very stressful. I learned a lot in that time, but ideally you would have more time to learn the same things under much less pressure.
      You could instead see if there are translators in your area and get a private course from them. Sadly you have to spend money to make money and courses have to be taken!! Sorry I can’t give a more precise easy solution; I wanted to emphasise to those curious that it isn’t as easy as they think! Where there’s a will, there’s a way however :)
      Thanks again for your compliments! Looking forward to reading more comments from you!

  • Linda

    Hi, I really enjoy your blog. Just wanted to know where you trained for translator, where can people find these courses and what exactly is this course or feild of study called? Keep writing and I really like all the useful tips. Thanks.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Hi Linda!
      Welcome to the comments! That’s great that you enjoy my blog :)
      Please read the previous post to learn more about my background. I only got that training position because I was also teaching English part time for the same company. My excellent English-teaching CV was the only reason they hired me and the agreement that they would train me part-time as a translator was the only reason I took the job. It is an almost impossible to reproduce situation.
      You could possibly take a translation course at your local college/university or just start translating, but for a very small fee or a normal fee, but give most of it to a professional proofreader. The proofreader could send you the corrections and explain what you are doing wrong.
      As I said in the previous post, my particular path is very hard to copy because it’s so strange. There may be other ways of getting trained as a translator that don’t involve signing up for a long-term course, but ideally at least a diploma-level course at college should be covered. My position was only several months of work, but it was intensive and very stressful. I learned a lot in that time, but ideally you would have more time to learn the same things under much less pressure.
      You could instead see if there are translators in your area and get a private course from them. Sadly you have to spend money to make money and courses have to be taken!! Sorry I can’t give a more precise easy solution; I wanted to emphasise to those curious that it isn’t as easy as they think! Where there’s a will, there’s a way however :)
      Thanks again for your compliments! Looking forward to reading more comments from you!

  • Marjolein

    Hello Benny,

    Thank you for this interesting and comprehensive post on working as a freelance translator.

    I doubt many translators would agree with your pricing strategy, though. They would argue that you’re undercutting the market: just take a look at the ProZ-forum on money matters, for instance. Plenty of heated discussions on that particular topic!
    I think everyone should decide for themselves what they think is reasonable pay for the work they do. I can imagine that when you’re in a tight spot financially, you would drop your price just to stay afloat. But I think that maybe you’re underselling yourself, since obviously you have quite a lot of added value to bring to the job.
    As a medical translator (English & German to Dutch) I am in a stable and reasonably well paid niche, and what crisis was that again? As it is, I am being offered more work than I can actually handle and right now, at the end of August, I have already reached last year’s annual income.

    That being the case, I think I can spare you an orange juice or two! (It’s only 15 minutes of work for me, so no need to be stingy ;-)) Don’t you ever tire of those? I don’t drink either, but I am more of a tea person myself. But imagine ordering tea at a party: people would find that even weirder than ordering juice!

    Anyway, back to it. One thing you forgot to mention in your post: the ungodly working hours when a deadline is looming!

    Best regards and good luck! I always enjoy reading your posts!

    Marjolein Verhulsdonck-Roest
    Dronten
    The Netherlands

    By the way, didn’t I read somewhere that you’re a vegetarian? (Was it your blog or your Couchsurfing profile, I can’t remember.) I am a veggie, too, and so are my children (5, 10 & 16). Is it feasible in Prague? In the Netherlands you can get everything you might want in every single supermarket, even in the smaller towns like Dronten. I know that in Germany it’s harder to get by: I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind actually wanting to eat those rubbery fake sausages they sell over there! Just wondering…

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Hi Marjolein!!
      Firstly, let me say thanks so much for treating me to the Orange Juice :) Every little bit helps a lot!! I don’t ever get tired of Orange Juice, but I do mix it up a bit and get Apple or Multivitamin juice etc. instead :D

      You raised some interesting points, so let me explain:
      I was surprised that the small part of this article where I mentioned reducing my price would get the biggest reaction from other translators, but several people have tweeted me and written me to say that I’m “hurting the industry” or things like that. I really didn’t think that me being competitive could offend people, but as you say there is a huge debate about this. I am not an established translator, since I’ve just been doing this for about 2 and a half years. I find some translators cling on to their prices religiously since they’ve had them for years. This isn’t the case for me, so I am willing to be flexible when I need to.
      I could definitely have dealt with this situation better and maybe talked more directly with my current clients and otherwise get new clients, but frankly I just wanted the quickest solution to make sure that I could earn as much as possible in as short a time as possible, so I told the clients that I like working with that I’d reduce my rate for a few months, and as planned I have 10-12 hours work a day, which gives me more than the 6-8 hours I may work on the previous higher price.
      Networking and taking the risk with new clients that I may have to chase for payments is not something I can afford to do right now. Luckily the huge flood of work means that in a few weeks I will already have earned enough to be able to return to working less than full time and focus on my non-work projects.
      I may have panicked because it might just be a temporary summer lull and the crisis certainly didn’t effect me all year up until July, but with a rapidly approaching credit card limit I had to be prudent! Although I consider myself a good translator, I still have a lot to learn about the industry and good client communication and I’ve definitely learned plenty in the last few weeks! I hope other translators don’t get annoyed and think that I’m trying to bring everyone’s prices down; I didn’t see any other option in my situation that didn’t involve going into uncharted territory, which I couldn’t risk.

      Anyway, I don’t actually have ungodly working hours (these weeks are the only exception) and my deadlines are usually quite flexible ;) I generally charge less than I know I could despite my niche and the demand I get, because I like the greater flexibility I have when I call the shots and tell them that if they want tighter deadlines they can pay me more etc. My whole purpose with freelancing is to enjoy work and to have a good balance with life outside of work, and I feel that I have been managing that quite well so far :) Although I take my work very seriously, I can take regular breaks and several days off, which makes me feel much more casual about the whole thing. If I charged more, then there would be more pressure to produce work quicker for stressed out clients. Life is too short for pressure ;) I will gladly accept less money (as long as it’s enough) in exchange for greater quality of life :)

      I am indeed a vegetarian. Prague is a very touristy city so even if vegetarianism isn’t in Czech culture, every restaurant I go to here has plenty of great options, and of course I cook at home a lot. International chains like Tesco have plenty of options :) Every country I’ve ever been in always has plenty of vegetables, but the ready-made meals for when I’m feeling lazy are harder to find in some places. If I can think of a good way to make it language related, I may write a post about how to be a travelling vegetarian ;)

      Thanks again for the OJ treat and interesting comment!

  • Marjolein

    Hello Benny,

    Thank you for this interesting and comprehensive post on working as a freelance translator.

    I doubt many translators would agree with your pricing strategy, though. They would argue that you’re undercutting the market: just take a look at the ProZ-forum on money matters, for instance. Plenty of heated discussions on that particular topic!
    I think everyone should decide for themselves what they think is reasonable pay for the work they do. I can imagine that when you’re in a tight spot financially, you would drop your price just to stay afloat. But I think that maybe you’re underselling yourself, since obviously you have quite a lot of added value to bring to the job.
    As a medical translator (English & German to Dutch) I am in a stable and reasonably well paid niche, and what crisis was that again? As it is, I am being offered more work than I can actually handle and right now, at the end of August, I have already reached last year’s annual income.

    That being the case, I think I can spare you an orange juice or two! (It’s only 15 minutes of work for me, so no need to be stingy ;-)) Don’t you ever tire of those? I don’t drink either, but I am more of a tea person myself. But imagine ordering tea at a party: people would find that even weirder than ordering juice!

    Anyway, back to it. One thing you forgot to mention in your post: the ungodly working hours when a deadline is looming!

    Best regards and good luck! I always enjoy reading your posts!

    Marjolein Verhulsdonck-Roest
    Dronten
    The Netherlands

    By the way, didn’t I read somewhere that you’re a vegetarian? (Was it your blog or your Couchsurfing profile, I can’t remember.) I am a veggie, too, and so are my children (5, 10 & 16). Is it feasible in Prague? In the Netherlands you can get everything you might want in every single supermarket, even in the smaller towns like Dronten. I know that in Germany it’s harder to get by: I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind actually wanting to eat those rubbery fake sausages they sell over there! Just wondering…

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Hi Marjolein!!
      Firstly, let me say thanks so much for treating me to the Orange Juice :) Every little bit helps a lot!! I don’t ever get tired of Orange Juice, but I do mix it up a bit and get Apple or Multivitamin juice etc. instead :D

      You raised some interesting points, so let me explain:
      I was surprised that the small part of this article where I mentioned reducing my price would get the biggest reaction from other translators, but several people have tweeted me and written me to say that I’m “hurting the industry” or things like that. I really didn’t think that me being competitive could offend people, but as you say there is a huge debate about this. I am not an established translator, since I’ve just been doing this for about 2 and a half years. I find some translators cling on to their prices religiously since they’ve had them for years. This isn’t the case for me, so I am willing to be flexible when I need to.
      I could definitely have dealt with this situation better and maybe talked more directly with my current clients and otherwise get new clients, but frankly I just wanted the quickest solution to make sure that I could earn as much as possible in as short a time as possible, so I told the clients that I like working with that I’d reduce my rate for a few months, and as planned I have 10-12 hours work a day, which gives me more than the 6-8 hours I may work on the previous higher price.
      Networking and taking the risk with new clients that I may have to chase for payments is not something I can afford to do right now. Luckily the huge flood of work means that in a few weeks I will already have earned enough to be able to return to working less than full time and focus on my non-work projects.
      I may have panicked because it might just be a temporary summer lull and the crisis certainly didn’t effect me all year up until July, but with a rapidly approaching credit card limit I had to be prudent! Although I consider myself a good translator, I still have a lot to learn about the industry and good client communication and I’ve definitely learned plenty in the last few weeks! I hope other translators don’t get annoyed and think that I’m trying to bring everyone’s prices down; I didn’t see any other option in my situation that didn’t involve going into uncharted territory, which I couldn’t risk.

      Anyway, I don’t actually have ungodly working hours (these weeks are the only exception) and my deadlines are usually quite flexible ;) I generally charge less than I know I could despite my niche and the demand I get, because I like the greater flexibility I have when I call the shots and tell them that if they want tighter deadlines they can pay me more etc. My whole purpose with freelancing is to enjoy work and to have a good balance with life outside of work, and I feel that I have been managing that quite well so far :) Although I take my work very seriously, I can take regular breaks and several days off, which makes me feel much more casual about the whole thing. If I charged more, then there would be more pressure to produce work quicker for stressed out clients. Life is too short for pressure ;) I will gladly accept less money (as long as it’s enough) in exchange for greater quality of life :)

      I am indeed a vegetarian. Prague is a very touristy city so even if vegetarianism isn’t in Czech culture, every restaurant I go to here has plenty of great options, and of course I cook at home a lot. International chains like Tesco have plenty of options :) Every country I’ve ever been in always has plenty of vegetables, but the ready-made meals for when I’m feeling lazy are harder to find in some places. If I can think of a good way to make it language related, I may write a post about how to be a travelling vegetarian ;)

      Thanks again for the OJ treat and interesting comment!

  • Aimee

    Hi Benny, I just discovered your blog today. You are living my dream of traveling and freelancing – RIGHT ON! My husband and I were in Italy last April and turned out my French came in handy when we were asking a German (who neither spoke Italian nor English) for directions to our apartment. It inspired me to go back to school as my current career is just not challenging enough. I’ve decided to go back to school to add a major in French to my Bachelors in Business Admin. (I’ve had a few years in high school and one semester at University level.) I look forward to reading more of your blog – keep it comin!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Thanks so much Aimee!! All of this encouragement is what keeps me motivated to keep producing posts ;) You’ll be glad to hear that I’ve already got a vague plan of at least 6 MONTHS of articles (and keep making a note when I think of something new to write about), so I’ve got plenty more left in me!!
      The best way anyone can thank me for this is to simply share my articles with their friends on facebook or by emails etc. :) Seeing my subscriber numbers go up makes me happy!!
      Good luck with your goal in French! :) I’ll be writing a lot more articles relevant to learning Latin languages once I begin my next crazy 3-month mission!
      Don’t be a stranger and keep the comments coming on future posts ;)

  • Aimee

    Hi Benny, I just discovered your blog today. You are living my dream of traveling and freelancing – RIGHT ON! My husband and I were in Italy last April and turned out my French came in handy when we were asking a German (who neither spoke Italian nor English) for directions to our apartment. It inspired me to go back to school as my current career is just not challenging enough. I’ve decided to go back to school to add a major in French to my Bachelors in Business Admin. (I’ve had a few years in high school and one semester at University level.) I look forward to reading more of your blog – keep it comin!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Thanks so much Aimee!! All of this encouragement is what keeps me motivated to keep producing posts ;) You’ll be glad to hear that I’ve already got a vague plan of at least 6 MONTHS of articles (and keep making a note when I think of something new to write about), so I’ve got plenty more left in me!!
      The best way anyone can thank me for this is to simply share my articles with their friends on facebook or by emails etc. :) Seeing my subscriber numbers go up makes me happy!!
      Good luck with your goal in French! :) I’ll be writing a lot more articles relevant to learning Latin languages once I begin my next crazy 3-month mission!
      Don’t be a stranger and keep the comments coming on future posts ;)

  • Vessy

    I just wanna tell you how awesome your blog is! I need to become more like you and start learning more languages. :)

    Keep up with the good work!
    Greetings from Slovenia

  • Vessy

    I just wanna tell you how awesome your blog is! I need to become more like you and start learning more languages. :)

    Keep up with the good work!
    Greetings from Slovenia

  • Taraneh

    Hi there. I am trying to move to Brasil and at the same time look for work- and the translating idea came to mind. Thank you for the details in your blog. What sort of training do you recommend? I know portuguese very well- close to fluent (but don’t know business language). I was thinking of getting certified as a translator, but it seems very expensive. Any ideas on what I can do to market myself, I would appreciate!
    THANKS!
    Tara

  • Taraneh

    Hi there. I am trying to move to Brasil and at the same time look for work- and the translating idea came to mind. Thank you for the details in your blog. What sort of training do you recommend? I know portuguese very well- close to fluent (but don’t know business language). I was thinking of getting certified as a translator, but it seems very expensive. Any ideas on what I can do to market myself, I would appreciate!
    THANKS!
    Tara

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

    @Vessy Thanks so much!! Good luck with your language learning – I hope my tips help :)
    @Taraneh I recommend pro-bono work at first; you can contact websites that have already translated their sites to English for example, but with lots of mistakes and give them some suggestions for free and say that you’d be glad to help them out in future as a freelance. Otherwise contacting lots of companies etc.; unfortunately you have to work for free or for horrible money first (like I did) if you want to enter the industry cold.
    I personally wouldn’t recommend getting a certificate as a translator. Specialisation is MUCH more important to outsourcers and companies than translation qualifications. Check out my post today about Portuguese (about to send it); you’ll definitely like it :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

    @Vessy Thanks so much!! Good luck with your language learning – I hope my tips help :)
    @Taraneh I recommend pro-bono work at first; you can contact websites that have already translated their sites to English for example, but with lots of mistakes and give them some suggestions for free and say that you’d be glad to help them out in future as a freelance. Otherwise contacting lots of companies etc.; unfortunately you have to work for free or for horrible money first (like I did) if you want to enter the industry cold.
    I personally wouldn’t recommend getting a certificate as a translator. Specialisation is MUCH more important to outsourcers and companies than translation qualifications. Check out my post today about Portuguese (about to send it); you’ll definitely like it :)

  • Johano

    Are you familiar with Google translators’ toolkit?

  • Johano

    Are you familiar with Google translators’ toolkit?

  • http://www.nunomad.com/ Ricardo

    Benny,

    I just came across your blog. Excellent topic. Lots of nu nomads (that what we call location-independent working-professionals) are translators. One of the problems is that they have difficulties with the transition. It would be nice to have you comment on our blog (www.nunomad.com/blog) when the occasion arises.

    Just so you know, this week we’ve published our long-awaited how-to guide on location-independent living. It’s titled, “the Nu Nomad” and you can read all about it at http://www.nunomad.com/TNN.
    Good luck with your work!

  • http://www.nunomad.com Ricardo

    Benny,

    I just came across your blog. Excellent topic. Lots of nu nomads (that what we call location-independent working-professionals) are translators. One of the problems is that they have difficulties with the transition. It would be nice to have you comment on our blog (www.nunomad.com/blog) when the occasion arises.

    Just so you know, this week we’ve published our long-awaited how-to guide on location-independent living. It’s titled, “the Nu Nomad” and you can read all about it at http://www.nunomad.com/TNN.
    Good luck with your work!

  • http://www.legaltranslationsolutions.com/ Ima Translator

    Thank you for your post. It was very comprehensive and informative.

    Legal Translation Solutions

  • https://www.jobsindubai.com/career.asp?qArticleID=58&page=1 Dubai Jobs

    Wish I could learn several language too, how long did it took you to learn every single language?

  • http://www.aprenderuso.blogspot.com/ Dasha

    Gracias por el post!
    Me ha ayudado mucho. Estoy en el momento de elección de mi vida.
    Gracias!

  • http://twitter.com/AlanDantasS Alan Dantas

    Hello Benny,
    I simply loved your post! =D
    I'm familiarized with computers and know a little of programming languages like C++ , C ,SQL etc…
    I'm willing to study computer science next year and I've already translated some technical books from English into Portuguese and vice versa, just for practicing my English.

    I've never thought of being a translator,but in the moment I read your article I just loved the idea!
    I'll study more and more and who knows someday I can travel all over the world working in an internet-based job!

    Merci!

  • http://www.donanza.com/ Freelance Mom Jobs

    test

  • http://twitter.com/ACIM_Speaks Peter

    I’m going to send this to a friend in Brazil. I just heard your cool interview with Srini on BlogcastFM. Thanks Benny. And congrats on your success.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the interview ;)

  • Kevin Le Blevec

    Thanks for the tips, awesome job you did here!

    What do you call an in-house translation exactly?

    thanks

  • http://www.medicaiddoctors.net Medicaid Doctors

    Yep! I was agreed, I’ll keep in touch to your blog. This blog is so usefully, Thanks for the posted ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Best of luck in becoming a translator! :)

  • Anonymous

    The way you wrote this post clearly shows *why* you are successful as a translator. It takes more than a degree to be a good translator!

  • Anonymous

    The way you wrote this post clearly shows *why* you are successful as a translator. It takes more than a degree to be a good translator!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Thanks! :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Thanks! :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Thanks! :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Thanks! :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Thanks! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Amy-Sasha-Krol/503382597 Amy Sasha Krol

     I just found your blog today through StumbleUpon!  When I came to this post I got so excited I almost didn’t read it.  I am a junior in college working towards fluency in Spanish, French, and Mandarin.  My love for languages was discovered in Ecuador where I spent a year as a high school exchange student.  Translating and interpreting are careers I am very interested in!  I want to learn so many languages and visit so many countries!  These are careers (as you outlined) that are perfect, especially when done online, to travel and live on one’s own schedule.  (ALSO I WANT TO BE MY OWN BOSS.)  With that said, I chose to major in Spanish and French (called a “Romance Language” major), to be a better reader and writer in those languages, as well as International Studies, for my curiosity in world issues.  I completely understand your emphasis on specialization (outside of languages!).  What recommendations do you have for me as far as going into translation/interpretation without a specialized degree (that isn’t language)? Gracias por cualquier recomendacion!

  • http://www.facebook.com/cefaz Cesar Faz

    Hola Benny! Acabo de renunciar a mi último trabajo (era maestro… entre tantas cosas di clases de idiomas) y justo estaba pensando en un trabajo como traductor. Hablo, aparte de español, inglés, francés e italiano, pero solo me sentiría cómo haciendo traducciones a inglés (vivo en Tijuana, desde pequeño lo aprendí y creo que lo hablo bastante fluido) y español. Sin embargo no tengo la menor idea cómo empezar. 
    Any ideas? :?

  • http://www.facebook.com/cefaz Cesar Faz

    Hola Benny! Acabo de renunciar a mi último trabajo (era maestro… entre tantas cosas di clases de idiomas) y justo estaba pensando en un trabajo como traductor. Hablo, aparte de español, inglés, francés e italiano, pero solo me sentiría cómo haciendo traducciones a inglés (vivo en Tijuana, desde pequeño lo aprendí y creo que lo hablo bastante fluido) y español. Sin embargo no tengo la menor idea cómo empezar. 
    Any ideas? :?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Ya compartí mis ideas en este blog… tienes que buscar una solución que funciona para ti si nada acá te ayuda!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Ya compartí mis ideas en este blog… tienes que buscar una solución que funciona para ti si nada acá te ayuda!

  • http://www.facebook.com/cefaz Cesar Faz

    Hola Benny! Acabo de renunciar a mi último trabajo (era maestro… entre tantas cosas di clases de idiomas) y justo estaba pensando en un trabajo como traductor. Hablo, aparte de español, inglés, francés e italiano, pero solo me sentiría cómo haciendo traducciones a inglés (vivo en Tijuana, desde pequeño lo aprendí y creo que lo hablo bastante fluido) y español. Sin embargo no tengo la menor idea cómo empezar. 
    Any ideas? :?

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I am legally resident in Ireland, and that’s where my VAT for translation was. I would have loved to have found the cheapest country for VAT and set myself up there, but you need to be a resident before applying for a business address with a VAT number and that’s too bureaucratic for a traveller passing through for a few months.

  • Sama’ Albtoush

    hi…
    I would like to say this is a nicely written blog and really interesting to read… I’ve been trying to get my hands on any job as a freelance translator English/Arabic and like you said just speaking a language doesn’t mean you can translate well enough… :) funny thing is that somehow i had plenty of translation ready to be offered to me when i wasn’t thinking of translation as a possible professional way to make money but suddenly now it’s like nothing seems to fit my criteria anymore on the translation sites online!!! 

    I’ve done previous voluntary jobs and got very interesting feedback from students and translation tests for job proposals but somehow I can’t really get my hands onto something real!!! I would be glad if you can offer some advice on where I can find jobs translating for students projects ,papers , research and the such….  

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I don’t know anything about tax havens but I was set up formally in Ireland and paid taxes there. In the EU, an EU tax ID was preferable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/messalv1 Messal Veronica

    Ben, thanks for your sharing, it really encourages me (^^)/. And here is an orange juice for you ^___^. I’m drinking one too, CHEERS!

  • Jose Ramirez

    Hey Benny! Great post. We met this year during WDS, I was inspired by your presentation and then I had the chance to practice a bit of Portuguese during the party. I am about to commence my bran new location independent life and therefore I want to ask you about getting certified as a translator. Any suggestions?

    Thanks so much,

    Cheers,

    Jose

  • http://www.facebook.com/Clamiras Shuria Clamiras

    Thanks for your article.It is very helpful
    I have always wanted to become a translator and it seems to me the freelancer way is the right way for me to go, given my current situation and the country I live in. Your article has provided me interesting insight to where and how I should start.

  • nihaoteacherrecruitment

    Nihao Benny, I am very impressed that you can speak Mandarin! :-) Your post has grabbed my attention as I am working towards being a location independent freelance translator as well. I have bookmarked your site — would you mind to let me know whether you designed the website yourself or did you get someone to do it for you please? I’m starting from scratch. I like the layout of your site. I checked with someone who quoted me 2000 pounds for a decent site. I have a very limited budget to start up at the moment. Your help or any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much. Merry

  • Rich

    What level of skill do you need in your source language, to be a competent freelance translator? I haven’t actually seen this discussed much.

    I understand that specialized translation skills are hugely important.

    But how about your actual language procifiency? I’m wondering if I could get my German up to scratch in a few weeks/months (it’s basically conversational now; I guess somewhere around A2/B1 level).

    I’m sure naysayers will say I need to be masterfully fluent, but I doubt that’s the case. After all we’re language hackers here ;) Benny – any thoughts?

    • Randy

      Good question, I’d like an answer from Benny too. My guess would be a minimum of mid C1. Language hacking is great for having conversations and such but I wouldn’t rely on it for professional translation work.

    • WatchingFromOverThere

      What I tell people who ask about translating Japanese is that you’re ready to be a translator if you can pick up a weekly news magazine (the local equivalent of Time, for example) and read it without having to look up a lot of words. If you don’t have at least that level of reading knowledge, you will spend too much time looking up words and won’t be able to make any money, since the faster you can translate with accuracy, the more money you can make.

      • Rich

        Much appreciated, thanks! That makes good sense.

  • Kieran Maynard

    Thanks for the helpful and candid article!

  • keira-n

    Even though I speak English and Hungarian fluently (I’m definitely better at English now), I can never actually translate anything… I don’t know the Hungarian equivalent of most English words and even if I do know I can never remember them, so I don’t know If I could ever do any translations… I find it easier to translate Japanese to English, probably because I’m often required to do it at school. That might work if I look more into it and learn :)

  • Sabrina

    Sinceramente no entiendo porque todos te comentan en ingles! Creo que seria mucho mas divertido para vos si te comentaran en varios idiomas así practicas una poco mas :D Leí muchas entradas de tu blog, y seguro voy a leer muchas mas, pero por ahora ésta va siendo mi preferida, y te paso a contar por qué. Estoy estudiando para ser traductora y, como sabrás, acá en Argentina es una licenciatura. No es nada fácil, te podría decir que estos tres añitos fueron bastante duros y todavía falta, pero como la traducción es algo que amo no me puedo quejar realmente. Me encantó la forma en la que dejas bien claro que el saber dos idiomas (o mas) no te convierte en un buen traductor. Me metí en varias discusiones gracias a este tema: cualquier profesor de x idioma cree que puede ser traductor freelance, así como cualquier traductor cree que puede ser profesor, y NO es así. La diferencia se nota, y mucho.
    No tengo mucho mas que decir, solo quería presentarme ya que al haber leído tanto sobre vos siento como si fuéramos amigos already :P
    Por ahora solo sé ingles y español, pero hace bastante que quiero aprender portugués y alemán y siempre termino posponiéndolo por culpa de mi carrera. Pero vos me acabas de dar el empujonsito que necesitaba :) Muchísimas gracias!
    Y si alguna vez te vienen las ganas de practicar tu español rioplatense ya sabes a quien acudir. :)
    Saludos,
    Sabrina.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      No te preocupes, que tengo muchas oportunidades acá en Berlín para practicar castellano ;)

      Mucha suerte en tu misión de políglota :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/mustafa.bouarrouj Mustafa Bouarrouj

    like like like , generally inspiring but disappointing at the beg

  • Nina Hess

    Hey Benny, thank you for the tips. They’re very helpful and I’m definitely going to check out the websites you’ve shared. I love translating, working from home and travelling so as far I can see you have my dream job. Thanks again!

  • Carmy Servadio

    Hey Benny!

    Today I just saw your blog and it is very inspiring to be honest:D I speak French and Italian. I lived in both countries for many years so you can imagine the amount of international friends I have :) I love to travel and discover new cultures that is why I always wanted to work in the travel industry like my mother and use my language skills as much as possible. After I moved from Italy to Australia, I found it harder to find a job in that industry for some reason. So I did consider becoming a translator, so your blog motivated me a lot!!Made me realize that no matter what, with a sprinkle of patience and dedication you can achieve anything :)

    So thank you :D

    Cheers

    Carmy

  • mike1888

    Hey Benny,

    I have been following you on YouTube and reading your blog for a while now and at the state my brain is right now, I can’t remember how I came to find this blog entry following a Google search since tonight I began my quest to become a freelance translator!

    I found this very interesting and informative. I study translation and interpreting at University (about to go to Montréal and Bari for my year abroad as of this September) and it is always nice to hear from my lecturers about this stuff who are all experienced freelancers as well as in-house translators, etc. Anyway, I am writing to tell you that I was pleased that a lot of what you’ve written above I already knew from what I’ve learned and heard about at Uni but there were some other things I didn’t: so, thank you for posting! I will be referring back to this over the summer!

    At the moment I have about ten tabs open as I continue this “quest” of mine haha. Wish me luck!

    And all the best with your future language goals. I’m still waiting for you to learn Greek! :P

    Best wishes,

    Mike

  • mike1888

    Hi Benny,

    just tried leaving a comment then refreshed the page since it had disappeared. If this is the second comment you’re receiving from me, my apologies, otherwise…

    …just want to say thank you for posting this! Half I already knew and half I didn’t: so that’s a good thing! I study Translation and Interpreting at Uni and the stuff I already knew, I learned from my lecturers who were/are still freelancers themselves. So, that’s good for them! Haha!

    Anyway, I’ve been following you for a while on your blog and on YouTube. Keep it up! I’m still waiting for you to learn Greek, by the way! Hehe!

    Best wishes,

    Michael

  • http://2globalnomads.info/ Global Nomads

    Our mother tongue, Finnish, is not very suitable for this option, or a teaching foreign language unless we want to limit our travels to Estonia.

  • Barbara de Carvalho

    Hi Benny! I’m portuguese and let me just say I can’t thank you enough for what you wrote in this post. :) I’ll definitely take some time to read your other posts and links… Once again, thank you so much. Have a nice day!

  • Domus Lingua

    It’s very hard to find good translators, or even freelance translators. The problem with the freelance translators is that they have slow response, you cannot simply count on them. They may take the job or they might refuse it. That’s why it is a lot more easier to employ a couple of translators, but a lot more expensive aswell. So choose to employ translators, who could translate in around 30 most common language pairs and hire freelancers for the rare ones since we can translate from any language to anything.
    Your colleague translators agency from Lithuania, Domus Lingua
    If you need translations in any language, contact me, simonas@domuslingua.com

  • Jassica

    I am Gulnaz from pakistan ,

    I have visit your website miracles christey .com and i found that it is so blessd and fruitful for the people of pakistan and india

    if translate your website mat email in to urdu language . Many peoples will save through your wesite , I will do translate and tack.

    We will use that funds for the development of our ministery like donation for this, Hope you will never ignor this ,

    verse ,

    Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

  • Serge

    Hey Benny
    Thank you for the post. I am just about to free-leap in this industry and your post was awesomely great. For example, I didn’t know about these CAT thing, nor did I know about the TM. Your post is already shying my fears and doubts away.
    Great post.

  • Victor Khaprov

    Hi Benny,

    At the moment I am a student in the UK studying Aerospace Engineering. I was considering on taking up a job as a freelance translator; as it happens I am bilingual, Russian & English, and was wondering if it would be wise to do the translations both ways, i.e. Russian to English and vice versa. I have done IELTS and Russian GCE, would that be enough of qualification to apply for this job?
    I really like your lifestyle and wish I could roam the world enjoying life to the fullest.

    Best Wishes,
    Victor K.

  • Oranee

    Hello Benny,

    I really love your website. I am a native Thai, now I live in Canada. I used to work as a teacher in Thailand for 10 years. I have a degree in education. I plan to work as a freelance translator because I plan to live in Thailand 6 months a year to get away from the winter in Canada. I found websites that need freelance translators to translate their courses about hospitality education into Thai language. How can I start and make sure that I will get paid. What is the reasonable price for my service? I am very new to this carrier.

    Thank you.

    Oranee.

  • Steve Wheeler

    Hi Benny (or anyone that can help!), would an MA in Applied Linguistics be beneficial to getting work as a translator?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Unfortunately, I don’t think so, unless you find work translating texts related to linguistics, which is way less in demand for translation. I found work way easier than other translators because I had a specialization that was the theme of the documents being translated, and where there was a huge industry behind.

      I would recommend having a specialization (even if it’s a hobby), and language qualifications indicating your language level. Otherwise you are essentially starting from scratch. There are many other wonderful things you can do with an MA in Applied Linguistics though, although I’m not the man to ask about that.

  • Isabel Juliao de Chong

    Hi Benny,
    I find your blog and posts extremely helpful, and very entertaining!
    I am a native speaker of both Spanish and English, due to the fact that I grew up in a bilingual home and spent half of my primary and secondary school years in Central America and the other half in the US.
    I am currently working as an in-house translator/interpretor but would like to take the dive into freelance translating. I currently have 6 months of experience at this job and would like to begin slowly as a part-timer without leaving my day job, and eventually if things go well (hopefully :)), then go ahead and immerse in it full time.
    I also have about 5 years of experience as an English teacher. (for kids, mainly elementary school)
    I would greatly appreciate your advice on how much to charge? When you say start out charging a “low” fare, per word…exactly how much would that be?
    What is a good competitive rate?

    Also, do you think that there is enough work for translating Spanish>English>Spanish for a freelancer to eventually go full-time?
    I would like to eventually perfect my Portuguese, Italian, and French (but first I want to concentrate on this freelancing project).

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!
    Congratulations on your extra-cool lifestyle and awesome journeys!!

    best wishes!
    Isabel

  • http://www.jesscarranza.com/ Jess Carranza

    Very informative and inspiring. Every freelance translator should read this!

  • Florencia

    Hi Benny!
    I´d like to become a freelance translator and came across this very helpful article!
    I attended an English bilingual school since I was 4 years old, I´m 26 now, so I hope I get lucky.
    I´m finding the expression “Where there´s a will, there´s a way” quite encouraging at this moment, ha!
    Btw ,I´m from Uruguay and I lived in Dublin for a year when I was 19.

  • Raquel Alvarado

    Hello Benny,
    I discovered your blog today and what a nice surprise it was! I work as a translator myself, and I studied something completely different in college. But somehow I was forced (but happily) to work at a legal aid office while in college, which is when I was first exposed to translating, and I loved it. I knew then that I would follow this career path if I could. I first started as an interpreter, and then got lucky enough to find an in-house translator job in Costa Rica, where I am from. I’ve being doing it for 8 years now and couldn’t be happier. I also try to do pro bono translations when I can and paid freelance work too. I watched your TEDx talk and was so happy to see someone motivating people to learn foreign languages. Although I only translate English-Spanish, I also speak French, and I recently started learning German. What I found shocking, though, was that as motivated as I was to enroll and learn, I got a variety of comments from my friends who think German is too hard, who questioned why I wanted to learn it, etc. I never expected to find obstacles or discouragement from the outside world. This, however, only motivated me more, what better reason to drive me than a real challenge! I though I’d share my story with you, and also thank you for all of the tips, links and information you share.
    Raquel.

  • Sabrina

    Hello Benny,

    Since you are a location independant translator you might be able to answer my question.

    I am currently preparing myself to start a freelance translator activity (I still need to get Trados on my Mac)

    But there is a question regarding revenue that I cannot figure out: To what country do you declare your income? And to what country do you pay social participation (NHS,…)?

    I am French and live in England but would like to keep travelling. So I don’t really know in which State I need to declare my incomes.

  • Beth Lowery

    Hello, Mr. Lewis. I just discovered your blog as well and find the information very insightful. It has been my dream for a while to become a translator, and the reason I’m posting right now is because I want to know if that is a possible dream, especially for the languages I would be going into, which include Russian and possibly other slavic languages. I know that it is not an easy career choice, and hard to find jobs, but I want to speak to as many translators as possible. This would help me be more prepared for what is out there. I was wondering if there are any good sites where I could get in touch with professionals later on to ask questions… thanks for the blog! It is very helpful.

  • Colette

    Hi Benny!

    Thanks for this incredibly useful blog post – I wish I’d read this sooner!

    I’m currently in Panama trying to get set up as a freelance translator (with limited experience and a degree in Modern Languages) and finding it tough to get work!

    Your story gives me hope and makes me determined to stick with it and try and get some experience to get the ball rolling!

    Any tips welcome!

    Thanks again :)

    Colette (from Sheffield, UK)

  • Eric

    Hello Benny. Must translators provide evidence hat they are knowledgeable about their “specialty” (e.g. a college degree or previous career experience in the area)? Thank you for the blog.

  • ashok kaka

    How to get started German into English Translation. I am a Chemical Technologist and know German pretty well… but don’t know if I can learn professional translation from you. Regards, Ashok Kaka

  • Déborah Kouzmin

    Amazing, your post is just what I needed ! I have a greater idea of what is a freelance translator job, and I will start by doing some volunteer translation as you advice. Thanks a lot, this is very helpful and complete !

  • Jana Charles

    Hi, totally agree with your advice. I will need in the coming months to increase the number of my home-based work, as i am pregnant, and so, will develop one of my many business activities that is translation from English or Japanese to French. I have some experience with big and famous companies but lack from network around the world. What would be your advice, where to register to find clients… Thank you

  • Ada Mussina

    I’m native Russian with excellent English. Someday I would like to be able travel and make money too. This article was very helpful and fun! Thanks!