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Next step for a successful freelancer?
Thread poster: Roberta Anderson

Roberta Anderson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 01:05
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
Sep 10, 2004

I wonder if others are in the same situation:
After 7 yrs as a freelance translator I have reached the point of "saturation": I cannot phisically handle any more projects that I am currently handling, and cannot see any ways of increasing my current income.

What could be my next step?
I'm toying with the idea of setting up a small team of specialised translators in my field and language pair, but wonder what implications would this have with regards to my relationship with current clients and to administration issues.

Anybody in a similar situation or with comparable experience?

Roberta


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:05
Member (2004)
English to Italian
same situation... Sep 10, 2004

I'm in exactly the same situation and I believe there are only three possibilities.

1) Set up a small team. But this will bring you more administrative and revising work, i.e. you will translate less and you would spend more time doing tasks you don't particularly enjoy.

2) Raise your rates. I know how difficult this is...

3) Find clients who pay more and drop the ones who pay little.

Personally, I'm adopting a mixture of 2 and 3, since I don't think I could handle the managing and administrative aspects of running a small team.

Giovanni

[Edited at 2004-09-10 08:27]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 02:05
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Depends on you Sep 10, 2004

1. Increase your speed by learning new technics, CAT etc.
2. Get higher paying customers and drop the low-paying
3. Outsourcing, working as an agency

You have in mind point 3, I guess. Outsourcing has always its risks. If your translate and the client does not pay; well, you lost some time. If you outsource and the client does not pay: you loose money too.
If all works well and the undertakers perform well, its easy earned money, but often it involves a lot of hazzle, mailing to and fro, watching over time-tables and other worry.

Just my point of view.


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Elvira Stoianov  Identity Verified
Luxembourg
Local time: 01:05
German to Romanian
+ ...
I am in the same situation Sep 10, 2004

I have also been translating for 7 years and was having the same throughts like you.
As the others before me have said, I, too, feel that opening an agency might mean that I will have less time (or even none) to translate, since I would be paranoic and I would check everything that goes out.
As an alternative, I am now playing with the thought of opening some other small business (not related to translation), that would not request so much of my time, but still bring in some returns. When I come up with something, I'll let you know.


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Roberta Anderson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 01:05
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
mulling things over... Sep 10, 2004

Thank you all who answered so far, it's comforting to know I'm not alone.

re. some of the points raised:

- finding higher-paying clients/dropping lower-paying ones
I have already gone through this, and am already working with good rates; I cannot raise fees for existing clients. Also, I have excellent relationships with current clients and whatever I do I'd like to keep this as it is a very important factor.

- productivity
I am already using productivity tools (CAT, voice recognition,...) and sticking only to subject with which I am thouroughly familiar (and therefore require less time spent on research)

- outsourcing
I thought of that, just ousourcing would not work as a routine solution: as I would be responsible for the translation I would need to review any outsourced jobs, which means that the trasnlator would receive a lower fee that what I'd be getting from the client. Although my rates are good, once a slice is removed from them they would become not-so-good for the end translator... Ideally I'd like to team up with good translator, who would then deserve and expect good rates...

- agency
no, I'm not thinking about an agency as such. More about a specialised team, so that together we could offer a comprehensive service (translation + review + dtp + testing...). The advantage for the client would be a single point of reference, single invoice and added-value (quality, consistency); the advantage for the team would be fewer but longer-term projects, stable contacts... It would be nice to have examples of working models for something like this...

The idea of a completely different side-business is interesting, and in fact had also crossed my mind - as I live in a touristic area, I did think about a bed&breakfast kind of activity...

Some limitations: I am supporting a family of 4, so whatever new initiative, I cannot afford to remain with no income for any period of time; it would have to be something with a smooth transition from my current situation...


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Ruxi
German to Romanian
+ ...
I don't believe what I read Sep 10, 2004

...but on the other hand I can also understand you.
You are saturated of work meanwhile others don't find any. That means your language pair is very solicited and there are not many translators for it (or not enough) and of course, that you are very professional.
It really hurts what you say,for some people in other countries and with other language pairs.
On the other hand, like I said, I can understand it.It is a rather monotonous work (though there are always new subjects and fields) and one is lonely in a room doing it.
The solution would be to stop doing it for a while and find some other job related or not to translation.Either you start something private: a publisher house,a tourism office,a bookstore or so, or you go somewhere in-house. In a company or other kind of institution the work will not be so monotonous and it is better paid.
Even if you would open a translation agency (or office)and you would be manager,it will not be bad, because you would change a little the work, will have to have more contact with people, make market surveys a.s.o.
So you see, there are a lot of possibilities. And for a woman there is always something special to do: to have children and educate them.
By the way: another job could be to teach languages, in a school,university, or just private.
I think I will improve my Italian and take your clients in the meanwhile.It is a joke, but I think it seriously when I read your problem and I know mine.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:05
Flemish to English
+ ...
Synergies. Sep 10, 2004

Aren't we all going in that direction? I try to add IT-training to translation. IT and Translation have synergies, but if find that the more time you put into one business, the less you can put into the other.
If you are successful in managing a translation-agency, you generate a plusvalue in that sense that you develop managerial capacities.
Managerial capabilities are a plusvalue in the normal business-world, whereas translation is only a service to that business-world.
What would sound better: I have translated 1000000 words or I have managed an agency with a turnover of.... and I have led say 5-10 people?



[Edited at 2004-09-10 09:42]


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Elvira Stoianov  Identity Verified
Luxembourg
Local time: 01:05
German to Romanian
+ ...
Ruxi, you missed the point Sep 10, 2004

She was not complaining about work, but about the fact that there is a point when you realize you can't do more (physically) to increase your income, thus you start thinking of ways to invest your money, so that you go beyond the saturation point. Read the whole thread again, and maybe you'll understand the topic discussed here.

[Edited at 2004-09-10 09:40]


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Mónica Machado
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:05
English to Portuguese
+ ...
"In-house better paid"? Sep 10, 2004

Hi Ruxi,

You mentioned that in-house positions are better paid compared to freelancing... Are you really serious? Have you worked in-house in a translation company or is that comment only made from suppositions?

I have worked in-house in a quite well-known translation company in London and I am just curious about your comment:-)

Cheers
Mónica


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Delinguaproz
Local time: 02:05
English to Finnish
+ ...
Sharing thoughts Sep 10, 2004

I noticed your comments and really felt happy that I've found this forum and a possibility to share thoughts.
For some years now I've basically been working as a free lance interpreter, only translating every now and again, but lately the interpreting has gone down and I've found myself translating more and more.
I really like translating too, that's not the problem, nor the fact of being a free lancer, while everything runs smoothly. It's just that all this hassle with non-paying agencies, begging for your money and not having a stable income (because the money I'm supposed to have earned isn't coming...)- it's getting on my nerves. Is this it? Are these the prices, problems and perspectives from this on?
Now you might be asking, well, where's the difference between being a free lance interpreter and a free lance translator? Maybe it's just that you can interprete less for the same or more money, and just have a better idea of what you've done workwise. Normally you have less clients and jobs, too. And for some reason, translation agencies seem to be more unreliable...
So I guess it's just about getting more organized, efficient and more "structured". I have to admit I'm a bit of a new comer in being an organized free lance translator. In fact...it just occured to me that maybe you Heinrich could give me some tips, because you know both Germany and Finnland, my 2 major target countries as well..:)
Anyways, now to the hesitations in the original comment - I feel that being a successful free lance translator requires speed, talent for organization, eccifiency. Once you have all that, which I guess you do, there must be a next step for promotion, you obviously just need a good idea and courage to pull it through. If there aren't any promotion
possibilities...isn't it just a bit of a pessimistic perspective of being stuck with same prices and daily problems of a free lance translator?

Sorry for my longish comment, just being a bit pessimistic about this free lancer-being myself...
Greetings from sunny Brussels anyways everybody.


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Mónica Machado
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:05
English to Portuguese
+ ...
If you have reached this point, reduce expenses, have a rest and savour your profession, I would! Sep 10, 2004

Hi Roberta,

Did you consider reducing expenses? Sorry I am just joking!

I understand what you mean. You would like to find out a way of getting more income, correct?

In my opinion, you should consider what's going wrong. If you already practice good rates and have plenty of work, why isn't your income high enough? A freelance translator in such a position would be really well-off, don't you think?

Do you work with agencies only or have direct clients as well? Direct clients pay more than agencies and if you are experienced in a specific area they will pass your contacts to other people in their business so you should be able to work less and earn more. How? Direct clients don't have work all the time so it give you the time to do some research or any other activity you get pleasure from, mainly away from the office to get some fresh air.

Outsourcing just doesn't seem the better option to me. You would end-up working mainly in admin tasks and in revision work. Also, to have a team you have to be 100% sure about their work and from my experience that is something difficult since not all freelance translators are worried about quality:-(

From my own point of view, were I in your position I would consider working less with some pay (say, having two months holidays if you have a month only or have a month off if you only have 15 days off/year). Also, I would consider reducing expenses to be able to cope while still doing what I love most: translation. Remember that we are only translators working freelance and for most translators to be able to survive from translation only is a dream that never comes true.

A freelance translator able to have averagely good pay is already synonym of reliability, good performance, client recognition and many years of work. If you have reached this point, reduce expenses, have a rest and savour your profession and your professional status instead of rushing around to get more money. I would:-)

Kind regards,
Mónica


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:05
Member (2004)
English to Italian
taking a break... Sep 10, 2004

Mónica Machado wrote:


A freelance translator able to have averagely good pay is already synonym of reliability, good performance, client recognition and many years of work. If you have reached this point, reduce expenses, have a rest and savour your profession and your professional status instead of rushing around to get more money. I would:-)



Personally, I'd love to have a rest but, with 5 people to support, it's only a dream. I can't wait until my wife goes back to work (she is training to be a midwife), so I can take it a little bit easier, without worrying if work goes really quite (it happens, occasionally). After 12 years of doing this, I'm a bit tired of being a freelancer and would love to change profession... I think the B&B idea is great...

Giovanni


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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 19:05
SITE FOUNDER
Share your expertise Sep 10, 2004

Hi Roberta,

I believe you are an expert in localization. Another thing you know is how to build a successful freelance business... So one possibility would be to add a few service offerings to your mix: consulting (for companies) and training (for individuals). Don't jump into anything, just let it be known that you are willing to consider assignments of this type, and if they come up, work them into your mix. There are a number of freelancers who have turned from just "doing it" to also helping others do it. (Danilo Nogueira, Jost Zetzsche, Jonathan Hine, Alex Eames... we need more women...)

Alternatively, if you want to stay put in your home in one of the most beautiful places in the world, how about putting it all in a book? Give freelancers a complimentary copy when they stay at your B&B...


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Lakshmi Iyer  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:05
Italian to English
+ ...
Just a thought... Sep 10, 2004

Roberta, first of all, the very best of luck and I hope you will find a way out of your current dilemma. I'm still in the relatively early stages of my freelance career: so far, so good, but the uncertainty does take some getting used to - one week I'll be up to here with work and the next I'll be sitting around contemplating my navel...

Since you already have a stable portfolio of clients to whom you can propose extra services, Henry's idea of setting up a consultancy sounds good. So does the B&B idea, if only to give you a break from translation.

Just wondering, though: if you can offer B&B accommodation, you presumably have a spare room you'd offer your guests. Perhaps you could rent it out instead, on a renewable yearly lease? - if you were to find a decent, trustworthy tenant that is. A friend of mine in Italy who does literary translation (not one of the best-paid jobs around, as you may know) has a room she rents to an out-of-town manager at a nearby company. He goes home on the weekends, is a nice chap who keeps very much to himself, and this way she can count on at least one source of fixed monthly income.

All the best,

Kaveri


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Andrea Bullrich  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:05
English to Spanish
Just a thought Sep 10, 2004

Roberta Anderson wrote:
just ousourcing would not work as a routine solution: as I would be responsible for the translation I would need to review any outsourced jobs, which means that the trasnlator would receive a lower fee that what I'd be getting from the client. Although my rates are good, once a slice is removed from them they would become not-so-good for the end translator... Ideally I'd like to team up with good translator, who would then deserve and expect good rates...


Hi Roberta,

Just one thing: I'm not sure you need to take a slice from your rates to pay the translator. I know it's tough to make the decision and raise your rates for good clients, but if you're charging them, say, $Y, couldn't you leave your individual rates as they are but offer your clients teamwork at $X? You would need to focus on really selling them the benefits of good teamwork (more words/day, added consistency, etc.), and perhaps it would not apply to all clients or projects, but if $Y works for keeping good translators happy, and $X represents a percentage that covers the added work and hassle for you, it may be worth a try.

Good luck, let us know how it goes

Andrea


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