Mobile menu

strategic dilemma: is it best to join an agency or to market to clients directly?
Thread poster: Carolingua

Carolingua  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 7, 2003

Does anyone out there have some advice on how to take my translations business to the next level...?

I have been doing translations for about two years now, and at first was happy with having just my two or three regular clients, whom I acquired strictly through word of mouth. Now that all of these are experiencing a seasonal and/or economic slump, I would like to market myself to other potential clients, possibly outside my area of expertise (which is market research--and I'm realizing this may be too small of a niche).

I am faced with the decision of either signing up with an agency or figure out an effective way to market directly to potential clients. I thought about joining an agency but don't know of any. Alternatively, or at the same time, I would like to be considered when companies have open bidding for translation projects (I love writing proposals and usually do well in this scenario), but don't know how to go about getting myself on their list of potential subcontractors.

My pairs are English, Spanish, and French (to and from English). I find translating into English (from either Spanish or French) to be the easiest for me, but the market in the US is such that all the jobs would likely be in the other direction, which is why I would like to make contact with agencies or potential clients in French or Spanish-speaking countries.

I'm hoping on any advice/ideas that can get me moving in the right direction--I'm really feeling in a slump.

Thanks to all in advance!


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 06:17
English to Russian
+ ...
My 2 cents Aug 8, 2003

Dear Carolinqua,

I would say it depends a lot on your personality. Do you like marketing, and are you good at it? Do you like operations - handling all sides of the project after your marketing proved to be successful and you got a project? Even if you are good at all the above, do you want to do it? "All" means anything from stupid phone calls to business lunches with unpleasant people and unwanted social events? All this comes with the territory when you wish to be all-in-one. Or let the agency deal with all this and enjoy your creativity for the price. I give up that margin gladly. In my 15 years of experience as a freelancer I've leaned to perform project manager duties (also for the agencies, operations divisions), but I'd also realized that I simply don't want to do it any more. I have "more life" left for myself - job, invoice, and... I'm free to conquer the world, I love traveling. Of course, I'm simplifying things, but there is some truth in what I say. Direct clients pay more, true. To find 2-3 ideal ones capable of feeding you year after year - that might be a dream come true, and I'm not saying it is impossible, but before you pocket such clients... throw all "non-recoverable maintenance" into the production cost, all the time you will spend advertising yourself, writing numerous tests, etc. Then count the actual "hourly rate". If you are lucky, one day the strategy aimed at hunting down direct clients will pay back, but not tomorrow!

I work for 4 major US agencies, and I don't want to change my policy - they do all the dirty work:). We are together for years, and and I'm not a faceless name for the clients - many of them request me personally when they call the agency. By all means, I did my share of work on my relationship with these agencies. Pick the reputable ones, that is the simple secret! Read the contract carefully, pay attention to "non-competitive" clause binding you to stay away from direct relationships with the client to whom you were introduced by the agency. One of my contracts has this clause effective for 2 years but I signed it - I do not plan "to change sides", and I do not use freelance assignments to get a permament job. Also, a client can lose his contract requiring translation support, but a large agency has a whole portfolio, i.e. lesser chance for a sudden "great depression".

I'm sure there will be many fans of direct contracting with tons of great reasons. These reasons exist, I agree. I am not trying to say what is good and what is bad. This is a mere attempt to point out some specifics, which defined my choice.

Good luck!

One more thing - you can call an agency and say: "Guys, I love you but I'll be unavailable for 2 weeks" - vacations, etc. When you are your own agency, forget about peace and quiet - they must be able to reach you day and night, 365 days a year, at least I understand it that way, and my peace and quiet is very important to me:)

[Edited at 2003-08-08 10:57]

[Edited at 2003-08-08 10:57]

[Edited at 2003-08-08 11:15]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxIanW
Local time: 13:17
German to English
+ ...
A mixture of both Aug 8, 2003

Just to follow up on Irene's posting, I would strongly advise you to acquire a good mixture of private customers and agencies.

With private customers, you have the satisfaction of having no middleman (or middlewoman!) to whittle down your profits. I don't agree with Irene's suggestion that "customers must be able to reach you day and night, 365 days a year" - if you lay down firm and fair ground rules from the beginning, customers will usually respect these. I'm going on holidays soon and have no intention of taking my customers with me!

Agencies are very good for using up excess capacity, and they usually have a wide range of work, so that you often get jobs which are "right up your street". And, as Irene says, they do take over a lot of the dirty work.

So, to sum up - get a healthy mixture of both.

Hope this helps


Ian


Direct link Reply with quote
 

GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 05:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
Best of both Aug 8, 2003

Carolingua wrote:
I am faced with the decision of either signing up with an agency or figure out an effective way to market directly to potential clients. I thought about joining an agency but don't know of any.


As others have pointed out, you are not faced with a dilema at all. Not all agencies require you to "sign up" or "join"; many simply have you on their records and call you when they have a job for you. You can be on the books of many different agencies at the same time. Once you have become the translator-of-choice in your language pair for several different agencies, it will often happen that just when you finish a job for one, another will call you. It helps to keep the work flow constant. You can continue working for your direct clients, too. You will find that in some ways working with agencies is not so different from working with direct clients. If you have queries about the source text, you just call/e-mail your contact at the agency. A good project manager will either help you with the problem term (if they can) or contact the end client and get back to you with an answer.

There is no need to choose between agencies and direct clients; in fact it is a good strategy to diversify your client mix in order to benefit from the advantages of both.

How to find agencies

Two useful strategies are:
1. Open the yellow pages of your local phone book, or if you are in a city too small to have translation agencies, the yellow pages of the nearest big city. Call each one in turn, introduce yourself as a xxx to yyy translator, and ask if you may send your CV. Ask if they would like to receive it by fax, e-mail or regular post, and to whom you should address it.

2. Do searches on the internet for "translations from xxx to yyy" (your pairs). Do the search in both your languages xxx and yyy. Try different variations of the phrase in both languages (e.g. "translate texts from xxx to yyy", "xxx to yyy translators" etc.) You will find many agencies in your language pairs. Most of them will have information directing you where to submit your CV.

[Edited at 2003-08-08 19:53]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Marian Greenfield  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:17
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Get to know the U.S. market better! Aug 8, 2003

Carolingua,

Considering you specialize in market research, you don't seem to have done much for your own business!!!

Where on earth did you get the idea "I find translating into English (from either Spanish or French) to be the easiest for me, but the market in the US is such that all the jobs would likely be in the other direction"??????

There are literally thousands of us making a very nice living here in the U.S. translating into our native language, English. Those going into a foreign language have been having a rougher time, with translation companies (in the U.S., that's the preferred terminology) going "in-country" for translations.

One problem you may have is that you claim to have 3 "native" languages. While possible, that would be very unusual indeed and most T.C.'s will absolutely not buy it. They have a hard time buying 2. If you find it easier to translate into English, you should probably consider that to be your native language.

As far as looking for clients abroad, that's a good idea, but most folks abroad I know are looking for clients in the U.S. where, in general, the pay is better and more reliable. I believe the only European countries that generally have better rates (and perhaps better payment records, perhaps not) are Germany and Switzerland, and that's mostly for French and German. Forget about Latin America.... where you have into English translation offered at 3 or 4 cents a word... or worse.

Finally, the best way to find the T.C.'s in the U.S. is to get active in the American Translators Association (atanet.org) and in your local translation association.

Good luck.
msg


Carolingua wrote:

Does anyone out there have some advice on how to take my translations business to the next level...?

I have been doing translations for about two years now, and at first was happy with having just my two or three regular clients, whom I acquired strictly through word of mouth. Now that all of these are experiencing a seasonal and/or economic slump, I would like to market myself to other potential clients, possibly outside my area of expertise (which is market research--and I'm realizing this may be too small of a niche).

I am faced with the decision of either signing up with an agency or figure out an effective way to market directly to potential clients. I thought about joining an agency but don't know of any. Alternatively, or at the same time, I would like to be considered when companies have open bidding for translation projects (I love writing proposals and usually do well in this scenario), but don't know how to go about getting myself on their list of potential subcontractors.

My pairs are English, Spanish, and French (to and from English). I find translating into English (from either Spanish or French) to be the easiest for me, but the market in the US is such that all the jobs would likely be in the other direction, which is why I would like to make contact with agencies or potential clients in French or Spanish-speaking countries.

I'm hoping on any advice/ideas that can get me moving in the right direction--I'm really feeling in a slump.

Thanks to all in advance!



[Edited at 2003-08-08 20:21]

[Edited at 2003-08-08 20:22]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Carolingua  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
on how a market researcher can be so clueless; native language confusion, etc. Aug 8, 2003

[quote]Marian Greenfield wrote:

Carolingua,

Considering you specialize in market research, you don't seem to have done much for your own business!!!

Yes, I know!! That's pretty ironic--and I'd like to explain why otherwise it makes me look foolish, doesn't it? When I worked in market research, I was a project manager, so I was responsible for study design, survey development, data analysis and report writing. The infrastructure was already there for me, so I never did the actual research (ie. finding the targets, getting on the phone and calling, etc.). We did primary research (ie. research from scratch), not secondary research, which is why I\'m not too experienced with existing sources of information. Later, I was the market research manager in a publishing company, where I subcontracted research companies to carry out the research for the company (such as customer satisfaction surveys, usership studies, new product development research, etc.). Anyway, the bottom line is that it doesn\'t much apply to me personally, as an individual, but it gave me great experience into the inner workings of companies/industries.

Also, re: my native fluency, I hear what you are saying, and this very issue has been on my mind lately. My mother is French, and French was technically my first language, because this is what she spoke to me day in and day out as I was growing up and we still speak together in French (as I do with my the rest of her side of the family when I go visit every summer). My mother also coached me to take French correspondence courses while I was growing up (so I could learn grammar, writing, history, etc. from a French point of view). However, I grew up in Panama, and my father was Panamanian (he only spoke to me in Spanish), and I attended Panamenian schools until I was 8 years old (so that's where my native Spanish comes from). English was my third language. My parents put me in the American school system of the Panama Canal Zone when I was 8 or 9 years old. I learned English in a couple of months, though at first with a strong Spanish accent! However, I pursued the rest of my education in the American system, all the way to my MBA, and I've also lived and worked in the US now for 15 years, and have an American husband and mostly American friends. When people hear me speak English or see what I write in English, no-one can tell that English is not my "first" language. Given this, what do you think is my native language? I know it's hard to launch into the whole explanation as to why I consider myself native in 3--and perhaps you are right no-one would buy it anyway. However, I do believe it gives me an advantage as a translator--and it helps me a great deal in quickly and accurately understanding what I'm reading in any language.

Anyway, Marian, thanks for taking the time to reply to my posting and for pointing out some things that are "red flags" in the way I present myself. It's helpful to see what others' concerns are likely to be.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Marian Greenfield  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:17
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Ah, that makes sense. Aug 8, 2003

Your explanation of the marketing thing makes a lot of sense. Kind of like me... I know lots about finance, especially the terminology, but I have never done finance myself.

Re your native language, FWIW, the UN and many of the NGO's would consider your native language to be English, since that's the language you did your undergraduate (and graduate) degree in. That's kind of a general rule in the industry.

Since you've done virtually all your schooling - and your formal writing - in English, you would probably do best to bill yourself as a native speaker of English with near-native skills in French and Spanish. And that would be the opening for your story, which would then be a lot more believable.

Regards,
msg


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

strategic dilemma: is it best to join an agency or to market to clients directly?

Advanced search


Translation news





PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »
memoQ translator pro
Kilgray's memoQ is the world's fastest developing integrated localization & translation environment rendering you more productive and efficient.

With our advanced file filters, unlimited language and advanced file support, memoQ translator pro has been designed for translators and reviewers who work on their own, with other translators or in team-based translation projects.

More info »



All of ProZ.com
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs