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How much marketing is enough?
Thread poster: Sonja Allen

Sonja Allen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:41
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
Jun 2, 2006

I have been in the translation business for about a year now and my workload is often a real roller coaster. I have weeks in which I get more offers than I can handle and I have to work til late at night every day and in others I just get the occasional one or two pages to translate. Although I quite enjoy the quieter times to catch up with other things, my bank account normally suffers quite a lot from these "dry patches". Moreover, because I fear those quiet periods, I tend to take on too much when the work does come in in abundance with the result that I get quite stressed out and my husband complains about being neglected. This makes me wonder if I just need to increase my marketing more to get more work all the time and then have the luxury to say "no" more often (although I would hate to have to say "no" all the time). Or are there any other ways of levelling your workload a bit more, meaning getting better organised or negotiate deadlines better. But how much and how often can you really extend a deadline? How do you manage?

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Simon Bruni  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:41
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
gradual increase of workload Jun 2, 2006

Hello Sonja!

I am in a very similar situation to you (9 months in the business, busy and not-so-busy periods).

However, the "busy" to "dry" ratio has gradually shifted in favour of "busy" ever since I started. Is this not the case with you? (I am sure it is)

When I don't have work I concentrate on canvassing and marketing, and consequently my client base increases.

Also, I find that my existing clients (agencies) have gradually increased the number of job proposals. I presume this is because over time a business relationship improves with trust. Once you have reaffirmed your reliability and the quality of your work, they are more likely to contact you when they need a translation.

I try (but don’t always succeed) to avoid taking on too much work each week. I know that this can have implications for the quality of my work and I know that if I do have some free days the following week, they will be well spent finding new (and potentially better) clients. I don’t think we should be scared to turn down work, and the same goes for negotiating deadlines. After all, being too busy simply means that we are in demand, that people like our work.

Cheers!


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 07:11
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Have you considered the outsourcing option? Jun 2, 2006

It is a fact of life with translators that work flow is quite haphazard and unpredictable.

One way to smooth things would be to establish working relationships with other translators in your language pair and share work with them when there is an overload. They can do likewise with you when they are in a similar situation.

This can be of mutual benefit as you will get a small percentage of the value of the work you have to let go, and if others share work with you, you can be in work in lean periods. These same advantages will also apply to your working partners.

Most successful translators end up being outsourcers as they can't handle all the work they receive, and clients tend to gravitate towards translators that are good and whom they are familiar with, so may be this is the way you should go too.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:41
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
"Outsourcing" Jun 2, 2006

I don't think of myself as an outsourcer, but on Mr.Balasubramaniam's terms, I suppose I could call myself that sometimes.
For some years, I have had a working relationship with two translators. When I have a bigger job than I want, I pass some of it to them, and vice versa. I had a big job which came in last week and neither was available, so I am now sharing with another translator.
It is important to clear it with the customer or agency before you pass work on to someone else. The usual way it works is that they leave the whole job with you, you check the other translators' work, ensuring conformity of terms and so on, you invoice them for all of it, they pay you and you pay the other translators. For tax purposes it all goes down as your income but your payments to the other translators can be claimed as expenses.
A group of translators can form a team within ProZ.com to make joint bids for jobs. We (the original three) have done this, but it is far more common for us to share work coming in to one of us than to obtain work from bids.


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Sybille  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:41
Member (2003)
English to German
+ ...
I would recommend outsourcing, too. Jun 2, 2006

Because otherwise it is possible that you accept too much work, feel too much under pressure, get nervous to keep up with the deadline of the jobs - which could end in a worse quality of your translations.

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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:41
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Caveats Jun 2, 2006

I don't see problems with outsourcing per se (and I work for an agency, which by definition is an outsourcer). But be sure of the following:

a. Is your client aware that you're outsourcing and okay with that?

b. Do you like the quality of your potential oursourcers' work? Are you in a position to judge it? (You might not be if it's not your language pair, for example.) Bear in mind that their work reflects on you.

One informal arrangement that some people have is that they send each other messages saying, "I'm really busy this week" or "My vacation begins tomorrow; be forewarned". Then if you're in this pool and get a call from a potential client that you can't meet, you can tell the client something along the lines of "Well, I'm really busy right now, but my friend Thomas, whom I've known for years, might be able to help. If you have some questions about Thomas's work and can't resolve them with Thomas, I can probably help. Shall I give you Thomas's number?" (I don't recommend this unless you trust Thomas's work and trust Thomas to return the favor.)


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:41
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Teamwork? Jun 3, 2006

In the wake of some local networking "powwows" (what we call proz.com meetings), we have built up a few small groups of translators we can recommend in case the going gets rough. Making yourself known to such colleagues may work to your advantage.

The benefits: we are able to focus more on each other's specialisations (for example, I have a very good technical colleague who can make short shrift of some files I would be slower at, while in me she has found her specialist for those legal texts she hates). And since we make referrals on the premise of "no undercutting", our rates on the whole have gone up instead of down (we cannot farm out recommendations if rates are not acceptable). Our customers are more satisfied with this arrangement (solutions at a snap of a finger) and have tended to regard us as cohesive teams rather than as competitors. And considering the extra paperwork involved for outsources in Spain, the simplicity of the direct invoicing this implies is another plus.

The drawbacks: none so far, unless we are ALL booked up to our necks, which tends to happen more and more.


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Nizamettin Yigit  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:41
Dutch to Turkish
+ ...
Outsourcing vs teamwork Jun 4, 2006

Hi,

Some times due to nature of the work or inquiry out soource may not be an option.
I think the best way is you team up. You get the jobs as a team and act as a team member. This way any client will know how you wll or you may operate.

Good luck!

Nizam


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Claudia Aguero  Identity Verified
Costa Rica
Local time: 19:41
Spanish to English
+ ...
Telling the clients Jun 6, 2006

Whenever I cannot personally take a translation, I tell my client that I will ask my partners to see if they can do the work. So they are aware that I'm not doing it directly, but that I assume full responsibility for the final text. In fact, they know that I always proofread the documents before sending them.

I have been working with three colleagues for more than three years, and they are usually assigned texts about the same topics or companies, so it is easier to deal with the terms.

I don't feel comfortable about giving my colleagues contact data. Once you say "no" to a client or recommend a colleague, they stay with my colleague. So, my clients know that I work with three translators, but they don't know their names.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 21:41
English to French
+ ...
Hey Sonja Jun 7, 2006

I know perfectly what you are going through - been there, done that... You also mention you've been in the business for about a year. To me, it all sounds like a sign. I think you are about to reach your comfort level. I'd say you are at the limit between the minimum amount of money needed to keep going and have money in the bank and the amount of work needed to have an effortless flow of work. This is the point I was at after a year in the business.

In freelance translation, you HAVE to get to the point where you have the "luxury" of refusing jobs. It is the only way you can achieve a certain balance - enough money in the bank but not too much work to be overworked. The only way to get enough work is to have too much work and refuse the ones that are less attractive than the rest. It is easy to dump stuff you don't need - but it is hard to get stuff you don't have. It's like cooking: always better to have leftovers than to not have enough and be hungry after a meal.

I say keep up the good work. You will go through a period of about 3 to 6 months of hard work, which also helps you acquire enough experience to make a nice CV with. Sometimes, you will go to bed way past bedtime, and sometimes you will have 14 hour workdays. But if you take as much as you can, while at the same time doing your best to stay healthy, you will get a couple of regular clients who will give you regular work and references to boost your profile. These are the elements needed to be able to afford to refuse work. After this short period, you will need to get some rest, but that's OK, because by then, you will get to pick your schedule each week - by refusing work.

Oh, and learn to get over opportunities missed because of a lack of time to take them. I know, sometimes - or even often - the projects we refuse are fun, interesting and better than the ones we actually are working on. Learn to get over this frustration. Eventually, you will get some real nice ones too - that others will have refused because they were busy working on something boring.

Good luck!


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