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Which is usually the leanest month for you?
Thread poster: Balasubramaniam L.

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 04:03
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Aug 22, 2008

Some time ago there was a quick poll on which was the busiest month for translators. A parallel question is this one. I apologise if this has been discussed before or there has been a poll on this. I will request you to point out the link for me.

If this is a new topic, here is the reason why I am interested.

Freelancer work flows are always erratic. There are periods when you are overwhelmed with work, and then there are periods when you are practically twiddling your thumbs. If it were possible to predict the work flow, then holidays, work load and funds can be better managaged and sanity can be preserved.

For example, in India October-November is the main holiday season with Dussera and Diwali coming one after the other, and in many parts of the country Diwali also marks the beginning of a New Year. Offices are closed for four to five days at a strech and shcools shut down for a fortnight or more.

Similarly in Europe and America, Christmas and New Year is a holiday season, giving rise to reduced flow of work in the later weeks of January.

Are there any such clearly defined holiday periods in the main translation markets of USA, Europe, China, etc?

Is the period July-August lean season/holiday season in the USA market?

If people in different countries could specify the holiday seasons in their country/region, it will greatly help in predicting lean periods for those markets.

I hope you will enjoy this discussion and thanks in advance for your replies.


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:33
Spanish to English
+ ...
Depends on the country Aug 22, 2008

The ten days around Easter tend to be dead (after which business resurrects). August is often slow, since my clients in Spain are usually on vacation. But this year I'm overloaded with projects at the moment, so it's hard to predict.

Regarding late December and early January, I find the opposite of what you described. It's a busy time for me. I guess most translators in my language pairs celebrate Christmas, so the clients with rush jobs are happy to find someone who's qualified and available.


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xxxBrandis
Local time: 23:33
English to German
+ ...
dez - Jan period.. Aug 22, 2008

hi that is the low project period being also x-mas period. BR Brandis

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cienne
Italy
Local time: 23:33
Italian to French
+ ...
is there a rule? Aug 22, 2008

Hi...

As far as I'm concerned (I, a translator from Central Europe), I'd say there aren't rules... August seems - at least for me - to be one of the busiest month in the year. Many go on holiday; offices and companies are closed for a couple of weeks. They do cover you with some work to find it ready to print when they "reopen"... September calms a bit down and October ends up being the month in which I have to go on holyday… Said that, there are no rules...:roll:


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:33
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
A pertinent question Aug 22, 2008

Well, I have had less work this month than at any time since I started in business full-time. I put it down to client holidays, and August really is the month of holidays in Germany. However, this is not really the case every year. Last August I was under extreme stress, was hardly allowed any sleep by the clients for the entire month, and was desperately outsourcing work left, right and centre.

My quietest month in 2005 was March, in 2006 it was June, in 2007 it was September, and I sincerely hope there is not going to be a month even worse than August for the rest of this year!

My busiest month in 2005 was April, in 2006 it was October, in 2007 it was June, closely followed by August, and this year so far it has been March and May, more-or-less equally.

I cannot deduce a pattern from this.

Have a good weekend, Balasubramaniam!

Astrid

[Edited at 2008-08-22 20:19]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:33
English to French
+ ...
There is no pattern in my case Aug 22, 2008

This year, July and August have been the worst. Last year, it was November. The year before - I worked full speed most of the year and couldn't believe the amount of contracts people were dropping off.

Next year, I bet it will be something like March, just so the lack of pattern itself can finally become a pattern.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:33
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
December Aug 22, 2008

December/early January usually quiet.
July/August always frantically busy.
Jenny.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 22:33
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Never... Aug 22, 2008

... in the sense that the service requests each month are always some multiple of what we could reasonably accomplish and still maintain our health. I suppose some months might be 3:1 and others 5:1 or whatever, but frankly I'm too busy to keep track any more.

I am, as the Germans say, seriously "urlaubsreif". Love that word.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 04:03
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Activity Index Aug 23, 2008

Thank you for all the answers so far.

What prompted this question on my part was the inexplicably dull July and August for me this year. As I have just quit a full-time job and plunged into full-time freelancing only this year, it gave me the jitters. Was this a transient dry period, or has something gone horribly wrong in my calculations, that was what was eating up my innards.

I am greatly relieved to find that other more experienced translators in different parts of the world too have found July-August to be a quiescent period in their calendars (Steven, Victoria, Astrid). But then Kevin, Jenny and cienne have found August to be busy. So that reassurance somewhat cancels out, and I am back to square one.

Any way, the work flow will also depend on from where you get most of the work, which was why I had indicated that it would be useful to identify the major holiday periods in different parts of the world.

It might also be useful to have some kind of an activity index which can roughly indicate the level of translation activity. The index could be for the whole world or for specific regions. The latter might be more useful.

Do you think this will be a useful idea for translators?

If so, how can such an index be devised?

For a starter, we can use the forum turnover in translation sites like proz.com. Assuming that people participate more on forums when they are low on work, if monthly statistics like the number of posts coming in in a month can be revealed, then that would be a good index of translation activity.

Another possible index could be the kudoz activity. This would work in the reverse manner, more kudoz questions being asked in busy periods. If monthly statitics of questions asked could be made available, and if on a particular month, the number of questions asked are high, that would indicate a busy month.

To be useful, these statistics for the past several years should be revealed in order to make statistically plausible exptrapolations for the future.

The kudoz index will also lend itself to language-wise split up, which will be even more useful, for some high volume languages like English, French, Spanish or Chinese are likely to have activity throughout the year.

Could there be better ways of forumulating such an index, assuming it is useful?

[2008-08-23 03:10 पर संपादन हुआ]


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 04:03
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
That word is new to me, could you explain? Aug 23, 2008

Kevin Lossner wrote:

I am, as the Germans say, seriously "urlaubsreif". Love that word.


Dear Kevin,

Sounds quite a mouthful, what does it mean? I would like to add it to my armoury of words and surprise and impress friends and acquaintences with it

Also tell me how it is pronounced.

[2008-08-23 03:03 पर संपादन हुआ]


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 04:03
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Are there other factors that influence work flow? Aug 23, 2008

So far I have been thinking only in terms of holidays affecting work flow. Could there be other factors as well?

For example, will the Beijing Olympics and the entire Chinese economy and administration tied up with it, and closing hundreds of factories in and around Beijing to keep pollution down, have a bearing on the work generated from China? Of course it will generate a flurry of work for translators and interpretors within China, but what would be its impact on other parts of the globe?

Or the American elections? With the American people engrossed in their high voltage election process, will translation activity in the USA take a back seat for while?

What about calamities like the earthquake in China?

Or the war in Georgia?

Our index will somehow have to take these into account, though I don't know how.

[2008-08-23 03:07 पर संपादन हुआ]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:33
English to French
+ ...
World economy? Aug 23, 2008

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:

I am greatly relieved to find that other more experienced translators in different parts of the world too have found July-August to be a quiescent period in their calendars (Steven, Victoria, Astrid).


Speculation may lead nowhere, but here's my take: gas prices taking their toll, people dropping everything they are doing to watch the Olympics, politicians having trouble projecting optimism about their respective economies when even a fool can tell that no country is safe from harm as it is. People are just nervous - and this probably affects our collective workload just as it affects pretty much everything.

[Edited at 2008-08-23 03:11]


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 04:03
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
We think alike! Aug 23, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

...here's my take: gas prices taking their toll, people dropping everything they are doing to watch the Olympics...


Hi Viktoria,

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

I have been reading Alvin Toffler (Future Shock and Power Shift) these days to kill time, and that has not done anything to improve my optimism. I am particularly struck by his idea about the future becoming unpredictable and the need to get some handle over change at the individual level. In our case that would mean having a clear picture about our work flow, for obviously we cannot control it, we can only adjust or adapt to it.

Also, what do you think of the activity index idea?

[2008-08-23 03:33 पर संपादन हुआ]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:33
English to Spanish
+ ...
Random Aug 23, 2008

Over 37 years busy and slow periods have come on a totally random basis. All of us have very different markets to say the least. Plus there is the factor that there can be both large and small projects and some of them can be so big they can quite well carry us through a period when nothing else may be coming in, which is desirable.

Often projects of local significance can overshadow anything of a larger scale, such as an upsurge of work I noticed when NAFTA was arriving, which was significant for my location. I am quite certain that the EU and the incorporation of more countries has had a very significant effect in Europe, whereas it is of no significance here whatsoever.

I would tend to doubt that any such index could have any validity at all, even if a way could be developed to get the information required, and I have no idea how that could be done.

Like 17.5% of the population is allergic to salad greens (or whatever). Well, I'm not, but then no one has ever asked me...


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 22:33
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Urlaubsreif Aug 23, 2008

It literally means "ripe for vacation", Balasubramaniam (Urlaub = vacation, reif = ripe).

Part of the reason August is so busy for us is that many translators in our language pair take a long vacation in August. So the ones who stay in the office get hammered with insane volumes of work. Like Henry suggested, though, this is a "local" issue in our market, because August vacations are common in Germany and the US.

The last real slow time I remember was late summer/early fall in 2003, which fortunately coincided with an illness where I could do little work anyway. However, it did worry me a bit, as I had only started "officially" working full time as a freelance translator that year (after building a clientele over three years with evening and weekend work in addition to my day job the previous three years). Two of my major clients had been bought on the same day by the same company earlier that year, and just as I was getting in the door with that company, it was swallowed by another one and I lost my contacts. It was clear that something had to be done.

The obvious choice was risk distribution. After that I pursued a deliberate strategy of diversifying my client base, both geographically, numerically and in the distribution of direct clients and agencies. I approximately quadrupled my income the following year, and I've been turning away enough work since then to support a small army of translators. Part of this is the quality I can deliver plus the fact that I work in a team with good internal QA, but much of this volume is the direct result of a carefully planned business model that ensures that the acquisition or loss by other means of my top ten clients would have little immediate economic effect on the business, because the slack would be taking up immediately by those on the "waiting list". I would miss them terribly, because I enjoy working with them, but I could still pay the mortgage and feed the dog without any problem.

When I read messages from translators - even very experienced ones - who are taking most of their business from a very small pool of clients, I get a sick feeling, because I can see the risk they live with. I have several clients each of whom could probably keep the two of us busy full time and who are wonderful to work with, but I adapt the schedule carefully to keep any of them well below 20% of my business.

Any good translator in a major language pair who follows a similar strategy will probably never be short of well-paid work even in times when the economy is bad.


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