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Poll: How many active clients do you have right now?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 17:00
SITE STAFF
Jul 11, 2005

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How many active clients do you have right now?".

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A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:00
English to German
+ ...
Diversification - or the lack of it Jul 11, 2005

I was surprised to see how many of those who responded have between three and five customers. IMO this is dangerous, as it means you're exposed to significant risks: losing just one customer means giving up 20-33% of your revenue.

Obviously, this lack of diversification means you're dependent on the customers you have - it is not surprising, therefore, to see translators being squeezed.

It is therefore essential to keep acquiring new business even if your existing business is ticking away nicely.

Ralf


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Victor Potapov
Russian Federation
Local time: 04:00
English to Russian
+ ...
On the other hand - what's the definition of an "active customer"... Jul 11, 2005

Agree with the point on lack of dversification - clients always leave, no matter how hard you try. At best (if you try hard enough) client's PERSONNEL purchasing your services will leave to a different company - if you did your job really well and they remember you, they will call you from their new place of work! This is more frequent in fast-paced industries - like investment banking, in my experience.

As for active clients - what's the definition of active? I have 100, probably up to 150 customers - but 90 to 140 of them contact me only once a year (annual report/board meeting/annual conference etc.) So are they active? Yes, because they will be calling me (I hope) in 2006, and (for example) two full days of simultaneous or 10,000 words of an annual report - both at full rates - are not to be taken lightly.

On the other hand there are conference organizers - they have 1 or 2 jobs a month. Are they active customers? Oh yes, but they are also the most price-conscious, the most unpredictable and the most probable to change service providers ("cost is an issue for us, you see...").

So again, "Life is much more complex than our understanding of it."



Go figure, in simpler words - or, "it all depends".

Lots of GOOD clients to all of us,

Victor.

Ralf Lemster wrote:

I was surprised to see how many of those who responded have between three and five customers. IMO this is dangerous, as it means you're exposed to significant risks: losing just one customer means giving up 20-33% of your revenue.

Obviously, this lack of diversification means you're dependent on the customers you have - it is not surprising, therefore, to see translators being squeezed.

It is therefore essential to keep acquiring new business even if your existing business is ticking away nicely.

Ralf


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Anjo Sterringa  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:00
Member (2003)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Few customers, big risks Jul 11, 2005


I was surprised to see how many of those who responded have between three and five customers. IMO this is dangerous, as it means you're exposed to significant risks: losing just one customer means giving up 20-33% of your revenue.


So was I. I counted my customers over the past three months (I consider that 'active' customers for me) and there were ten. If there is a time that I am working for just a few clients, I do get nervous. Though I started out that way of course. I lost customers because they had no work in my language combination anymore, because they found another flavour-of-the-month translator, or because they could not afford to pay my rates (I raised them as I became more experienced). Some customers return many times (large agencies, direct clients), some only have a one-off job or you're just a stop-gap, some only have a job once a year. It all adds up, but it still means you'll have to continue finding new clients (almost) all the time - now you're busy, tomorrow it may be quiet! And yes, you'll have to refuse jobs - but agencies have a large pool of translators and they know or should know you have only got one brain and two hands. Unless you decide to subcontract but that's another hairy issue.
Anjo


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Dr. Stephan Pietzko  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:00
Member (2002)
English to German
I'm not too concerned about lack of diversification Jul 11, 2005

I am working for just 4 regular clients 98% of my work hours (2 agencies & 2 direct clients). I am well aware that if just one of those four stopped sending work my income would drop significantly for the time it would take to acquire new clients/work. However, I am not too concerned about that because I've set aside some funds to support myself when things slow down. In the moment (and during last three years), I often have to turn down job offers even from those four clients and all too often I get tired out because of working too much. In fact, I would welcome a slower period as an opportunity to polish self-marketing, for "weeding my garden" and to relax. May be that is why I don't feel any pressure even when (re-)negotiating rates with those four clients. I short, there are no noticeable disadvantages related to "lack of diversification", at least not in my particular situation.

However, there are some considerable advantages to work for only a small client base when clients send work much more frequently than just once a year. I am used to their work flow and can communicate more efficiently with them. Work itself goes quicker because I am already very well adjusted to type of work/terminology/file formats/clients' preferences etc. Time spent for invoicing/bookkeeping is reduced to a minimum and given they are proven "good clients" there is no worrying about getting paid. In short, fewer clients mean reduced overhead, speedier translations (at a given quality level) and thus improved income per hour (at a given per-word or per-line rate).

I like it this way.

Stephan


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Siegfried Armbruster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:00
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
What are active clients? Jul 12, 2005

My answert was based on "active" customers. IMO this means how many projects/customers are in my "process line" right now. IMO is 5 already a lot and means that I cannot take on other jobs right now.

I am talking about a 63.000 words user manual translation, a 10.000 words web site translation, a 3.000 words translation of texts relating to medical technology, a 50.000 words project in software localization and a 1.000 marketing folder. This is currently more than enough.

And the weather is beautiful and I have to spend some time at the beach.


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Marion Schimmelpfennig  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:00
Member (2003)
English to German
A few customers is indeed dangerous... Jul 13, 2005

...and this was the reason I suggested the poll. I have a colleague (a writer) who has only two customers, although rather big ones. He has been working for those two for several years now, and although I repeatedly told him to watch out, he ignored my comments, telling me he has everything under control. Now one of these customers left and he is big, big trouble. I think realizing the danger is important so that one can take the right steps in time.

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