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Are there low seasons in translation?
Thread poster: ashley
ashley
Local time: 08:26
English to Spanish
+ ...
May 22, 2007

I went freelance with my language pair (Spanish to English) just under a year ago and was ticking along nicely but over the past couple of months work has completely dried up. I know its an oversubscribed pair but I never expected things to get this bad. Are there low seasons in translation. Has any other freelancer experienced anything similar. Does anyone have any advice about how to get things in motion again?

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Sean Linney  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:26
French to English
+ ...
Quiet periods sometimes just happen May 22, 2007

I work in the same pair, and in the three years since I started freelancing, I've experienced a couple of prolonged lulls, including one that lasted six weeks. In that particular case, the quiet period started just after I'd finished working for three months on a very large project. During that time, I turned down most of the other offers I received, with the result that it took quite a while for some of those clients to contact me again.

Apart from the six-week hiatus (which was fun at first but grew increasingly stressful the longer it wore on), I've had other shorter lulls for which I was unable to pinpoint any particular cause. I don't think there are any seasonal lulls in Spanish - English translation, so I usually just put these periods down to random fluctuations in workflow. The annoying thing, I find, is that it's hard to enjoy these unplanned breaks as much as you think you will when you're snowed under with work. Even if I've been dreaming for weeks about having a few days off, the stress from worrying about money makes it hard to relax and enjoy the unexpected freedom. The only thing to do, I think, is to use the time to update your profile/website etc., and to market your services to new clients. And if you can think of a subtle way to remind your existing clients that you're still in business, then there's no harm in doing that either.

[Edited at 2007-05-22 15:40]

[Edited at 2007-05-22 15:41]


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cry4moon
South Korea
Local time: 15:56
English to Korean
depends on filed May 22, 2007

Hi Ashley,

I guess so. To be frank it's really true in my case.
I'm focusing on IT. For me, the year-end is usally free.
However, this year is quite different - this May is just terrible. So I've been spending much time in reading books & materials on my language pair and related fields. Plus, I'm getting language lessons on other language(in fact, it's Spanish) once a week.

You already know this - the market has no barrier to entry and the competition is really getting higher day by day. Preparation and self-development is the only thing we can do in our free time. If you did your best in your past work, it's just one of your Up-and-Downs. Take it easy, friend.

Regards,
Mi


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Alan R King
Local time: 09:26
Basque to English
+ ...
For me there are May 22, 2007

Talking to other translators (or reading this forum) I tend to pick up two contradictory messages.

One comes from those translators who say: "I always have more work than I can handle." Which makes me wonder if perhaps their rates aren't high enough. That's what I would think if I were in their position.

I'm in the other category. I've been a part-time translator for a long, long time but have worked full-time and exclusively as a freelance translator for about two years now, and there certainly are very sharp fluctuations in my case in the amount of work I get. I even started drawing graphs to track the ups and downs in order to see if there was any pattern to be observed (hoping there was).

As a matter of fact, insofar as the data for a two-year period can be at all meaningful, my cycle seems remarkably clear: both years my work has peaked between April and July, dropped to rock bottom in August and September, and dragged, sometimes painfully slowly, for the other six months (October to March).

Why? I'm not altogether sure, but it seems to make some sense if we think of the local working year as basically ten months long (September to June), with at least some projects scaled to this, people overly relaxed at the start (autumn-winter), then panicking in spring - which is when I get overwhelmed with work. My cycle is at about a month's delay from this cycle (so my "summer" is August-September), presumably because a lot of people are running behind on their own schedules. So of course they're totally desperate by the time they contact me, and I'm expected to do the miracles in one week that they haven't done all year!

Moral of the story: make the most when the pressure is on, work hard and save. And if you're a workaholic (my guess is most translators are), have a project of your own to work on (write a book, maybe?) to keep you busy during the quiet months.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:26
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Not really, in my long experience May 22, 2007

ashley wrote:

I went freelance with my language pair (Spanish to English) just under a year ago and was ticking along nicely but over the past couple of months work has completely dried up. I know its an oversubscribed pair but I never expected things to get this bad. Are there low seasons in translation. Has any other freelancer experienced anything similar. Does anyone have any advice about how to get things in motion again?


In my long years of experience as a freelance translator of French and Spanish to English, I haven't been able to establish any definite high and low seasons. Work fluctuates wildly. March and November used to be busy for me, but nowadays I never know what to expect. Things usually hot up on Fridays - the end client allegedly wanting the document in court on Monday - that sort of thing. I often wonder about this, when I've spent long hours or even days toiling over court pleadings and so on - how can the lawyer possibly absorb the document he's only just received for use in court on Monday morning? Hmmm ... lawyers ...
Work tends to get quiet from Christmas until about half way through January, but that varies too.
I think most translators have exactly the same problem with work load. One gets used to it!
Regards,
Jenny.


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xxxPRen  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:26
French to English
+ ...
There's always another side... May 22, 2007

[quote]Alan R King wrote:

Talking to other translators (or reading this forum) I tend to pick up two contradictory messages.

One comes from those translators who say: "I always have more work than I can handle." Which makes me wonder if perhaps their rates aren't high enough. That's what I would think if I were in their position.



Unless you work in Canada, in Canada's official languages (and are certified, I should add) - there's no end of work at extremely good rates.


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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:26
Italian to English
If you specialise... May 22, 2007

... then your ups and downs tend to coincide with the busy and slack periods of the sector you work in.

I get a lot of wine-related translation work when the big international fairs are coming up in the spring, and have more rushes when customers are releasing their wines from the latest vintage, which varies with wine type.

In between, I try to source work from other clients - mainly publishers - who pay good rates. If I get offered work that falls outside my specialisations, or to which I feel I would not be able to add sufficient value to justify my above average fees, I pass it on to colleagues who are competent and whom I know I can trust.

That way the end product tends to be good, market rates stay justifiably high and clients come back to me because the translation I or my collaborators supplied did the business for them.

FWIW

Giles


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leo van bragt  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:26
English to Dutch
+ ...
I can't relax either May 22, 2007

Jenny Forbes wrote:

I think most translators have exactly the same problem with work load. One gets used to it!


Please teach me how to get used to it, Jenny! Because I can't... Every time it happens to me (as it did in the second half of April of this year), I panic! "This time it's final; I'll have to get back into full employment" (which I would loathe...). Of course it never comes to that, but past experience doesn't help to overcome the bad feeling... As Sean said, if only we could enjoy the moment and relax while it lasts. But we keep worrying until another job lands on our desk, and the stress returns... And then we worry about the stress again! We are a strange lot, aren't we?

Leo


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ashley
Local time: 08:26
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! May 22, 2007

Wow
Thanks for taking the time out to reply. I`m relieved to hear that I`m not the only one going through this but I still think it has been going on for too long and drastic action will need to be taken shortly.
thanks for the support
Ashley

PS: And if anyone needs a Spanish to English journalistic translator..!


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 08:26
Dutch to English
+ ...
Not always the case ... May 22, 2007

Alan R King wrote:

One comes from those translators who say: "I always have more work than I can handle." Which makes me wonder if perhaps their rates aren't high enough. That's what I would think if I were in their position.



Some translators are simply in demand - at very good rates - for the specialised, high-quality and prompt service they offer.



[Edited at 2007-05-22 21:49]


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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 10:26
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
It varies May 22, 2007

My last year was quite busy all the year through, although I am quite a beginner in this business. This year the first three months were very busy, April was what I would call "normal" and now in May it has been Really Quiet. I try not to worry about it too much, I just enjoy the extra time off and contact potential clients etc.

The only problem is, if this quiet period goes on for a few more weeks, I must compensate it by working through the whole summer - and forget about summer holidays! I have no doubt the work starts "pouring in" right before midsummer, at the latest...

[Edited at 2007-05-22 22:20]


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mamacat
Local time: 03:26
Italian to English
Time to remind your clients of your availability May 22, 2007

I believe the secret to staying busy is to have a good relationship with the various project managers.
If some of my clients seem to have forgotten all about me I send out an e-mail and announce... something: maybe an updated CV, or a new price list, or even "I just thought you might like to know tha my mega-job is finished and I am again available to take on new work." Also, when I am busy with a huge job I let clients know that, although I cannot take on normal size projects, I am available for one-pagers. That keeps them from deleting my name from their speed-dial....
Good luck!


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Gillian Searl  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:26
Member (2004)
German to English
New translators and old hands May 23, 2007

Hi to all.
I think it is important to distinguish between newbies and old hands. When I first started 7 years ago I had frequent quiet periods and would often wonder who I had offended and why. A few times I called people and found that their situation had changed, e.g. employed a new translator so they weren't outsourcing so much. These days I am grateful for a few quiet moments, hours or even a couple of days when I can do other things and not have to say no to clients because I am too busy.
I find August and December to be really busy - why? So many people are on holiday that my existing and new agencies are desparate for people to work so I suggest that people take their holidays at other times. I would say that January is slow to start (but that's fine if you worked hard in December) and the rest of the year varies substantially.
Gillian


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Evija Rimšāne  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 10:26
Member
English to Latvian
Exactly! :) May 23, 2007

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:

Alan R King wrote:

One comes from those translators who say: "I always have more work than I can handle." Which makes me wonder if perhaps their rates aren't high enough. That's what I would think if I were in their position.



Some translators are simply in demand - at very good rates - for the specialised, high-quality and prompt service they offer.



[Edited at 2007-05-22 21:49]


Totally agree with Lawyer-Linguist

[Edited at 2007-05-23 08:57]


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Karen Stokes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:26
Member (2003)
French to English
Bank holidays May 23, 2007

May's been a funny month - 3 bank holidays in France, 2 on a Tuesday and 1 on a Thursday this year, so everyone seems to have taken long weekends and worked 3-day weeks. And now of course the flood gates have opened as everyone catches up... But I agree it's awfully hard to enjoy the quiet times, and I'm much, much more efficient when I'm busy!

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