Asking for upcoming work volume
Thread poster: Sarah Dupont-Gomez

Sarah Dupont-Gomez
France
Local time: 12:14
English to French
Dec 13, 2019

Hi,

I'm a EN>FR freelance translator and until last year, I've always translated for direct clients. But since last January, I'm mainly working for a translation company that sends me 75-80% of my work volume. We've never discussed the volume but they've been pretty regular for about a year now. However, this month, they're not sending me many projects and I'm refusing other projects with other clients in order to keep some availabilities for them, which means that this month may be
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Hi,

I'm a EN>FR freelance translator and until last year, I've always translated for direct clients. But since last January, I'm mainly working for a translation company that sends me 75-80% of my work volume. We've never discussed the volume but they've been pretty regular for about a year now. However, this month, they're not sending me many projects and I'm refusing other projects with other clients in order to keep some availabilities for them, which means that this month may be a very bad one, with almost no income...

I've seen that another translator is working on the same projects I'm usually working on (which generally doesn't happen with this agency) so I'm a bit worried they're pushing me out (paranoic freelancers!!), but at the same time, the agency is sending me very good reviews and feedback...

I have no idea if that is usual to ask an agency if they will be sending more projects. Do you sometimes ask? Would it be weird/rude/unexpected to ask?
And this company is American, which makes it even more complicated for me since I don't know if that would be culturally accepted.

Any insight on this?

Thank you so much!
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Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 12:14
Member (2016)
English to German
Too dependent Dec 13, 2019

Your main problem is that you are much too dependent on this one client. This is extremely unhealthy for a freelancing business. It might make sense to talk to the agency or not, but in any case, you need to broaden your client base. Apply to other agencies. You could even ask this agency if they are willing to act as reference or to give you a good rating (and drop a hint that you are looking for other clients).

Even if the agency is perfectly happy with you, it's always possible t
... See more
Your main problem is that you are much too dependent on this one client. This is extremely unhealthy for a freelancing business. It might make sense to talk to the agency or not, but in any case, you need to broaden your client base. Apply to other agencies. You could even ask this agency if they are willing to act as reference or to give you a good rating (and drop a hint that you are looking for other clients).

Even if the agency is perfectly happy with you, it's always possible that they run into problems themselves, that their market dries out, that the sole proprietor falls ill, their company building burns down, or whatnot. You need at least half a dozen regular clients to be safe in a freelancer business like this, to be able to decide what assignments and rates to accept or not, and in order not to suffer too hard when payments fail, relations turn sour, markets get in trouble.
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Georgi Kovachev
Philippe Etienne
ahartje
Sabrina Bruna
Teresa Borges
Vanda Nissen
Jocelin Meunier
 

Sarah Dupont-Gomez
France
Local time: 12:14
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Dec 13, 2019

Kay-Viktor Stegemann wrote:

Your main problem is that you are much too dependent on this one client. This is extremely unhealthy for a freelancing business. It might make sense to talk to the agency or not, but in any case, you need to broaden your client base. Apply to other agencies. You could even ask this agency if they are willing to act as reference or to give you a good rating (and drop a hint that you are looking for other clients).

Even if the agency is perfectly happy with you, it's always possible that they run into problems themselves, that their market dries out, that the sole proprietor falls ill, their company building burns down, or whatnot. You need at least half a dozen regular clients to be safe in a freelancer business like this, to be able to decide what assignments and rates to accept or not, and in order not to suffer too hard when payments fail, relations turn sour, markets get in trouble.


Hi Kay-Viktor!

Thank you for your reply!

I'm aware my income mainly depends on this agency... I also work with 1 direct client on the basis "the more I translate, the more I get paid" without limitation + 2 other agencies. Agencies always send me projects at the same time (I've refused many times although I hate saying NO), so I can't really look for other clients since I won't have a lot of availabilities for new projects.

I don't really mind if one month I get paid less since it gives me the time to train on other fields and take translating courses (as long as I can compensate the rest of the year). The thing is that I would like to "keep" this agency I'm talking about, since their projects are great and they pay well (which is rare), but I'm not sure they want to "keep" me too and I was thinking about asking them so I can move on and look for other clients.

I love my job but I feel kinda stuck here...

[Edited at 2019-12-13 17:26 GMT]


 

123Translations
Venezuela
Local time: 07:14
Member (2008)
Dutch to English
+ ...


Posted via
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You're overthinking it Dec 13, 2019

I think you're overthinking things a bit. For most agencies, November and December are rather slow so they'll send you less work as well. Try not to worry about it, things will pick up.

 

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:14
Member
English to French
The joys of freelancing Dec 13, 2019

Sarah Dupont-Gomez wrote:
...I'm refusing other projects with other clients in order to keep some availabilities for them...

Unless an agency warns you that a large job is coming to you, and you trust them that it will, remaining available for a specific agency "just in case" is counter-productive, as you have experienced.
"Being independent" means you don't "owe" availability to anybody - only to yourself. By the same token, no agency will warn you that they are looking to "replace" you - which may be the case here.

Sarah Dupont-Gomez wrote:
...I have no idea if that is usual to ask an agency if they will be sending more projects. Do you sometimes ask? Would it be weird/rude/unexpected to ask?...

I've never asked an agency if they have work for me, but I've sometimes "shortened" periods of unavailability and let agencies know that I was available again earlier than expected. It often proves efficient to avoid undesired periods of doing sod-all.
A way to remind agencies of your existence without showing you're short of work is to ask "in order to plan my workload for the coming weeks". It implies you're juggling with large assignments (or a long holiday) on your schedule, BUT are considerate enough to remember your client's business.

I also find translation much easier than planning and accommodating as much work as possible (at my conditions) without overload.

Philippe


Morano El-Kholy
Christophe Delaunay
Rita Translator
KateKaminski
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:14
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Another reason for having more clients Dec 13, 2019

Kay-Viktor Stegemann wrote:
Your main problem is that you are much too dependent on this one client. This is extremely unhealthy for a freelancing business.


Even if the agency is perfectly happy with you, it's always possible that they run into problems themselves, that their market dries out, that the sole proprietor falls ill, their company building burns down, or whatnot. You need at least half a dozen regular clients to be safe in a freelancer business like this, to be able to decide what assignments and rates to accept or not, and in order not to suffer too hard when payments fail, relations turn sour, markets get in trouble.

75-80% of a freelancer's income coming from one client is a no-no in several countries, France included, because it's classified as "travail dissimulé" -- your "client" is denying you all the perks of employment while actually very much resembling an employer. It's more of a problem if it's a client in your own country as the state isn't getting what's due to them, but it really isn't a good idea to let it happen anyway.

In addition to the good handful of regulars Kay-Viktor mentions above, you should also have an even greater number of clients who occasionally surface with jobs. The old "feast or famine" chestnut is always going to be there, IME, but just enjoying the feast while totally ignoring the famine is not wise. If you really can't cope with the work you're getting from multiple clients, you should:
-- outsource some jobs
-- start saying no more often, particularly to your least preferred clients/jobs
-- increase your rate.

Rate increases have to be done carefully, but they can be done in easy stages. Start with clients who pay the least at the moment, or who often pay late or are "high maintenance" in other ways, or whose jobs aren't that interesting -- in other words, the ones you can most afford to lose. If you're still overworked, start charging better clients a "rush fee", at your discretion. That way, you can accept rush jobs at your standard rate if you aren't busy, but charge more if you are.

It might make sense to talk to the agency or not, but in any case, you need to broaden your client base. Apply to other agencies. You could even ask this agency if they are willing to act as reference or to give you a good rating (and drop a hint that you are looking for other clients).

I wouldn't mention the last bit while they aren't sending much work, but I would contact them now if you're going to be available for most/all of the next three weeks. Let them know that you'll be there for them, rather than seeming needy. In your position, I'd contact all the other clients too. OTOH, if you're taking some time off, do instead find time to look for other agencies and/or direct clients.


Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Teresa Borges
ahartje
Christophe Delaunay
Kuochoe Nikoi-Kotei
 

Lorna Bertaud
France
Local time: 12:14
English to French
Maybe they do not want to give too much work to one translator Dec 13, 2019

Hi Sarah,

Even if the agency is very satisfied with your work, I can think of 2 reasons why they might want to limit the amount of work they give you over the year: 1) Maybe they want to make sure that they give work to other translators as well so that they keep a large translator base, they do not want to be dependent on one translator in the same way as you do not want to be dependent on one client. 2) Maybe they want to make sure that they cannot be accused of entertaining a dis
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Hi Sarah,

Even if the agency is very satisfied with your work, I can think of 2 reasons why they might want to limit the amount of work they give you over the year: 1) Maybe they want to make sure that they give work to other translators as well so that they keep a large translator base, they do not want to be dependent on one translator in the same way as you do not want to be dependent on one client. 2) Maybe they want to make sure that they cannot be accused of entertaining a disguised employer-employee relationship with you. The criteria used in France to identify this type of illegal conduct are not based on revenue only, as it can happen that a freelancer has to work for only one client for a certain amount of time, but still, economic dependency is one of those criteria so maybe they want to stay on the safe side.

I understand that you might not be willing to look for new clients if you are already refusing offers from existing clients, but what I do is make sure I "alternate" between my existing clients so that I am never unavailable for one client for such a long time that they will actually forget about me and stop sending me offers.

Of course you can still call the agency and ask them about the volumes of work that they are planning to send you over the coming months. I think that it is better to ask them a positive and forward-looking question rather than ask them why they are not giving you work any more, which might prompt them to take advantage of the situation to try and renegotiate your rates.

I hope it helps!
Lorna
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Morano El-Kholy
Andy Watkinson
Kuochoe Nikoi-Kotei
 

Sophie THEREAU
France
Local time: 12:14
English to French
Seasonal slump Dec 17, 2019

Hello Sarah,

I almost am in the same situation: English to French, two main and a side client, and since November, no project whatsoever. I asked the agencies I work with (one in Switzerland, one in South Africa, one in Luxemburg). Their answer was the same: we are very satisifed with your work, BUT at the moment we don't have anything in your language combination, please be patient...

So it does seem that we are facing a seasonal slump, even if usually companies try to
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Hello Sarah,

I almost am in the same situation: English to French, two main and a side client, and since November, no project whatsoever. I asked the agencies I work with (one in Switzerland, one in South Africa, one in Luxemburg). Their answer was the same: we are very satisifed with your work, BUT at the moment we don't have anything in your language combination, please be patient...

So it does seem that we are facing a seasonal slump, even if usually companies try to spend the remaining yearly budget before December 31st to avoid paying taxes the following year, so we could expect a rise in job proposals, but no.

Being a freelancer needs strong nerves, "steel nerves" as we say in our beautiful language.

Try not to think too much about it and search for other clients while you can. It is always dark before sunrise...

Best,

Sophie
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Morano El-Kholy
Sarah Dupont-Gomez
 

Sarah Dupont-Gomez
France
Local time: 12:14
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Dec 30, 2019

Hi fellow translators!

Thank you so much for all your kind and exhaustive answers and sorry for the delay.

Actually, the agency is sending me some more work now as it seems that most translators are on a vacation.

Also, as @Philippe Etienne suggested, a few months ago, I already sent this agency an email asking them about the upcoming volume in order to plan my schedule. I asked twice, but they never replied... (weird, since most of the time, they reply pr
... See more
Hi fellow translators!

Thank you so much for all your kind and exhaustive answers and sorry for the delay.

Actually, the agency is sending me some more work now as it seems that most translators are on a vacation.

Also, as @Philippe Etienne suggested, a few months ago, I already sent this agency an email asking them about the upcoming volume in order to plan my schedule. I asked twice, but they never replied... (weird, since most of the time, they reply promptly and act professionally) so I don't really dare to ask again (silly me).

In any case, I have followed your advice and I'm training on the CAT tools required by the biggest translation company (the one with the "big cat" name) and I have increased my availabilities for another client.

Thank you again for your help!

Happy Holidays!

[Edited at 2019-12-30 10:14 GMT]

[Edited at 2019-12-30 10:15 GMT]
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Kay-Viktor Stegemann
 


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