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Work drying up
Thread poster: xxxLucyPatterso
xxxLucyPatterso
English
Feb 7, 2008

I have been freelance translating for about 10 or so agencies for the past 7 months. Almost every week I had more work than I could handle ... turning down a few projects because I simply did not have the time to do them all. Everything seemed to be going well, no complaints from the agencies.

However, since Christmas everything seems to have gone quiet. I still get projects sent through from the agencies, but they are usually no more than 300 words ... not enough to live off!

So I am wondering: is this a normal 'low point' that all freelance trnaslators experience? Is this a quiet time of year? Has thee suddenly been a rise in available translators? Or is it because of the recession rumours?

If this carries on, I will have to apply for a job!


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Fred Lessing
English to Portuguese
General issue Feb 7, 2008

Seems to be the case all over the world. Everyone I know is low on work, even old-timers like myself.

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Seamus Moran  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:51
German to English
+ ...
Same here Feb 7, 2008

To reassure you Lucy, I have had the exact same experience. Very steayd work last year and then since Christmas, almosst total silence from regular agencies. I contacted two of them and they said my work was fine. One of them said nothing appropriate had come up, another said that January and February were usually very quiet. I hope it picks up too!

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Elena Robles Sanjuan  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:51
English to Spanish
I´m worried too Feb 7, 2008

I´m lucky that I can talk with some of my regular clients and confirm that the situation is very similar for them, at least in Spain and in some European countries. Some thought initially that the trend to go on holidays after Xmas had some kind of ripple effect on the business, but I´m not convinced.

What really amazes me is reading that for some people the situation is exactly the opposite. Many translators claim to have more work than ever now, so I wish I had some kind of tool I could feed all this information to and get a good picture of what the market is doing, where and why.

In a forum, someone said yesterday that the way we react to rumours actually determines the impact they have in the economy. If we all decided to change the way we do business collectively, then I´d believe that theory. But, it always seems to me that there is such thing as "the translation business as a whole is suffering from recession" or whatever.

I´m only glad that every now and then we can give vent to our worries in this sense.


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Stephen Rifkind  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 07:51
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
Ditto in the Middle East Feb 7, 2008

I can confirm that things have been quiet here, but I already see a pick up the last two weeks. You have to look at a year based average to know whether to get a "regular" job or not.

Stephen Rifkind


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Kevin Fulton
United States
Local time: 00:51
German to English
No explanation for cycles Feb 7, 2008

Apart from holiday periods (Christmas), July/August, etc. there is no real explanation for cycles in our business. Fortunately I've been fully booked and have been turning down work for about 18 months now, but that doesn't mean I might not be short of work for a week or two in April. There have been times in the past when I've had only 1-2 shorts jobs in a week, then have been deluged with 5 offers in a day. It doesn't seem to have anything to do with phases of the moon or any other natural phenomena as far as I can tell.

[Edited at 2008-02-07 17:53]


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:51
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Don't panic! Feb 7, 2008

Don't panic. There are often quiet times in this business - for no explicable reason. I've noticed over the years that February tends to be slow. Perhaps everyone's preoccupied dreaming about all the Valentines they're going to send / receive ...
I'm sure work will pick up again soon.
Best wishes,
Jenny.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:51
Italian to English
+ ...
I think the market is too varied to follow a general trend Feb 7, 2008

I'm not convinced that we can really talk about a translation market in general terms. Our business differs not only according to language pair and direction and specialisations, but also with the type of end client and destination of the translation itself. For instance, most of my translations are destined (I imagine, although I don't know for certain) for in-house use in multinational pharma companies. My work is therefore in a certain sense "protected" from the effects of any recession or downward trend, even if it should become worldwide, as this type of company needs these documents translated to a native standard to make sure that the finer nuances have not been missed.

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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:51
German to English
I agree with Kevin Feb 7, 2008

I've been wearing my eyes out at the computer for the last two months, although mainly due to a couple of large jobs. But there are often times when no-one phones for a couple of days and you think "did I do something wrong without realising it?" - usually, within a few minutes of this thought crossing your mind you get three or four phones calls and are soon wondering exactly how much free time you're going to have at the weekend.

One point is that there are often certain people working at agencies who send you more work, for whatever reason, and if they leave or go on holiday you might suddenly get less work. That can happen at this time of year.

Still, there's nothing to stop you applying to a couple of new agencies, perhaps proposing a higher rate, so that if the old ones come along next week and you have to turn them down you don't feel so bad about it!


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 07:51
Turkish to English
+ ...
Same here Feb 7, 2008

Yep, I probably had my busiest year ever last year, but so far this year I have only earned about GBP 230.
We are experiencing a global economic downturn and I am afraid our sector is not immune!


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xxxLatin_Hellas
United States
Local time: 06:51
Italian to English
+ ...
Same Here Feb 7, 2008

2007 was a record year. January 2008 was a bit below the same month last year. February so far has been slow amid some promises of jobs that so far have not materialized.

But, as some have said, the pace could pick up again with a vengeance when least expected.

Hang in there, prepare for the worst (hopefully you saved in 2007) and hope for the best.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:51
English to French
+ ...
Nothing to worry about Feb 7, 2008

I have had the same experience as you, except that in my case, it dried up in November and stayed like that until mid-January. Then - all of a sudden, all my clients want me! I am mad because they all want me to work with them, it is too much and I have to turn some of it down. But where WERE they before Christmas? That sucks!

The good news is that it eventually picks up. I don't have an explanation for this, but it happens. It is in the nature of our work. We are living the artist's life and when we have steady workloads for long periods, we don't realize this anymore. It is good practice to always put aside 20% of the payments you get, for the seven years of the meager cow.

But don't think that it has anything to do with you. It just happens. You have to be ready for such situations. If you keep in mind that this will eventually happen again and act accordingly, you'll be fine.


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Keren Terret
Israel
Local time: 07:51
Hebrew to English
+ ...
Such is the life of a freelancer! Feb 7, 2008

I think you have been somewhat fortunate to have had a surplus of work for the past 7 months. I think that everyone's first "dry spell" is very unnerving, but with time you realize that such is the life of a freelancer. As long as the annual average suffices, all is good.

I actually enjoy occasional quiet spells to catch up on household projects, extra time at the gym, or enjoying an afternoon nap. Don't worry, things will pick up before you know it!


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Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 00:51
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
You just learn Feb 7, 2008

that when things are the bleakest, the phone generally rings, or the e-mail flag comes up, and you're off and working again. I had a spell of a few weeks with almost no work in the fall and even though I tried not to have a heart attack, it's hard to avoid, especially when some colleagues respond with helpful comments like "I'm gagging on work, wonder what's wrong with you". Anyway...things did turn out just fine, and not only am I working happily, but I have learned to spend the quiet periods working on updating, glossaries, learning, etc.
Hang in there.


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:51
German to English
+ ...
Agree with Marie-Hélène Feb 8, 2008

I agree that the market is too diversified to make general statements. At least for financial translators, including me, this is the busiest time of year, and this year is no different than any other. Of course, with the market turbulence, certain types of jobs are being delayed or cancelled, but there is other recurring work (annual reports have to be published every year) that is flooding in as usual.

Your profile doesn't list any language pair or specialization - that would give us more information for figuring out reasons why your particular segment might be slow at the moment.


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