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Working with clients in Europe when you're based in the US
Thread poster: Sarah Downing

Sarah Downing  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:16
German to English
+ ...
Apr 14, 2008

Dear fellow translators,

In the short- to medium-term, it is probable that my American boyfriend and I may move to the USA. Seeing as I have been freelancing for seven years now and it's going really quite well, it's not something that I'd like to give up. The vast majority of my customers are based in Germany, many of whom I've been working with for years and who give me a nice amount of regular work.

In terms of my client base, I am happy with my existing customers and would like to keep them when I move. My question is to translators based in the US who work with European customers. How do you cope with the time difference? I figure that I would be between six and nine hours behind, depending on where my sweetheart gets a job, but that would mean that when the German working day starts (mostly 9 am), it would be between 12 and 3 am my time. Obviously, I don't want to turn into a vampire and have my nights turn into days, particularly as I currently have a life and don't plan on giving it up:-).

My concern is the inevitable delay in replying to enquiries/Anfragen. Obviously, same-day rush jobs would be a no-go, but I'm not really that sad about that one. US translators: are European customers generally understanding of the delay, once they know what your working hours are? I know that it would probably be a good idea to start work earlier (e.g. 6 am instead of between 8 and 9 am), but there would still be a delay either way.

Perhaps I am worrying needlessly (I hope I am), but I would be very grateful for any tips or experiences you have had in a similar situation.

Thank you very much and have a nice week!

Sarah Downing


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 14:16
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
It works both ways Apr 14, 2008

But it works both ways: they could send you a short project at the end of their day and have it ready the very next morning. That's not something most of their Germany-based vendors could do.

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ntext  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:16
Member
German to English
+ ...
don't worry, be happy Apr 14, 2008

You are probably worrying needlessly, assuming your clients appreciate your work, and assuming most of your work doesn't consist of short, super-urgent jobs. I'm 7 hours behind Germany, and in most cases, I respond to inquiries from Europe between 8 AM and 10 AM my time (3 PM - 5 PM CET). That works out just fine. And as Mikhail says, if you like living on the edge, you can always make yourself available for European-time overnight rush jobs, which will turn into US-time same-day rush jobs for you. If that doesn't give you enough adrenaline, try skydiving. Or move to Manhattan.

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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:16
Spanish to English
+ ...
Depends where you are Apr 14, 2008

On the East Coast of the U.S., working with European clients is relatively simple. (In fact, a large percentage of my client base is in Europe.)

However, when I visit the West Coast, things get very complicated for exactly the reasons you stated. Similarly, on the rare occasions when I'm in Europe, I find it very hard to serve my Californian clients because of the time difference.

I suppose the shortest time difference between Germany and U.S. territory is Puerto Rico. How's your Spanish?

Good luck!

[Edited at 2008-04-14 16:15]


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
I work to their hours Apr 14, 2008

I was in a similar position, moving not only to the US (for part of the year) but also to Australia.

However, my business decision was to be available for my European (and worldwide) clients whenever I can, keeping European business hours give or take an hour or two.

When I'm on the East Coast, however, this presents a particular challenge for me, as my time management skills seem to be extremely lacking - I usually end up exhausted after just a week or two.

But I find that when I'm not available for even my steady clients, they almost always have someone else they can turn to - sorry Janet, we already found someone, we'll try to get you the next job!

(When I'm in Australia, I thrive on being a vampire, working evenings/nights and sleeping mornings, that really works for me!)

I, too, might move back to the US in the next year or two for similar reasons. So it's an issue I'm acutely aware of, but I can't offer any solution, only my own experience.

I can only hope that if/when I move back (we are considering California), the 3-hour time difference from the East Coast will offer an improvement over that particular situation.

Good luck!!


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The Misha
Local time: 06:16
Russian to English
+ ...
It's a non-issue, really. Apr 14, 2008

At least in my East Coast experience.

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Benno Groeneveld  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:16
English to Dutch
+ ...
My European clients Apr 14, 2008

are very understanding. And what was said earlier applies: they can send you a job at the end of their day and find the completed project when they come back the next morning without having to pay overnight or rush charges.

Find a colleague in the Far East and you can offer 24 hours availability!

Payments are another thing, when you move, make sure you keep an account in Europe. It is very easy and cheap to move money around in Europe and usually it is easier (and quicker and cheaper) to move money from Europe to the US than the other way around.


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Taylor Kirk  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:16
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Being a clinical insomniac helps... Apr 14, 2008

But if you have normal sleeping patterns I suggest making sure that you have an internet phone or one that can get email or alerts. I am in Central US time but get alerts from all my clients on my phone at all times. This means that I might have to confirm a job at 3am in the morning and go back to bed, which might be bothersome, but the deadlines are fine as I keep clocks for European countries, Israel, etc. on my computer. You can also choose what emails will cause an alert, so you only are awakened by clients. I also have some really great companies that know what time zone I'm in and wait until my business hours to send jobs, for which I am eternally grateful.

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Gisela Greenlee  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:16
German to English
+ ...
Clients in Europe Apr 14, 2008

I can second the opinion that you should keep an account in Europe so your clients can simply deposit the money without incuring extra fees. I also have one other piece of information to share - if you are planning to access your money in Germany with an ATM or check card, you might want to consider opening an account with Bank of America in the US and Deutsche Bank in Germany, since they have a mutual agreement whereby they don't assess an ATM fee for withdrawals by their respective customers; this could save you a bundle in fees over the long haul.

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Joan Berglund  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:16
French to English
I do check email before breakfast Apr 14, 2008

around 7:00 a.m. just to make sure that there is nothing urgent. Usually there is not, and I just start work at a reasonable hour (8-9) as usual. I don't usually find it necessary to get up in the middle of the night or abnormally early, unless I make the decision to accept a deadline that is a little too tight. If your regular clients often have tight deadlines, there might be occasional inconvenience, but if not, you should be fine without turning night into day.

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Laura Tridico  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:16
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
It hasn't been an issue for me... Apr 14, 2008

I'm based on the East Coast and almost all my clients are in Europe. They're aware of my time zone, and generally don't start contacting me until morning. I imagine I miss some jobs due to my location, but as others also mentioned, I get plenty of late morning calls for "overnight" or two-day jobs, since they know that, when they call me at the end of their day, I have most of my workday still ahead of me (provided I'm available).

I have a BlackBerry which I check for e-mails first thing in the morning, but I turn the ringer off when I go to bed. I don't do well on the phone when I'm awakened from a sound sleep, and I have no interest in getting up for 4:00 am e-mails (though I admit I'll check if I happen to wake up!)

So all in all, it's been great (plus, working for Euros beats working for USD at the moment). I have plenty of work, so given your established client base I can't imagine it would be an issue for you. They'll adjust to the time difference and you'll be just fine!

Laura


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Vladimir Dubisskiy  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:16
Member (2001)
English to Russian
+ ...
no worries Apr 15, 2008

One of my best and long-term clients is in France, another one in Great Britain and i am on the Pacific West Coast (Vancouver, BC) - no problems for years.

Sarah Downing wrote:
I don't want to turn into a vampire and have my nights turn into days, particularly as I currently have a life and don't plan on giving it up:-).


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Wolfgang Jörissen  Identity Verified
Belize
Member
Dutch to German
+ ...
Cooperation with a European colleague Apr 15, 2008

It might be an idea to forward your phone calls to a trusted European colleague, who might take the calls you receive before your working day starts. Maybe you could even offer the same service vice versa. This way, you would make sure not to miss out on anything. But my experience is that the use of the telephone has decreased considerably in the course of the years. 80% of my jobs is received by e-mail.

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Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:16
German to English
+ ...
Dinna fass yerself Apr 15, 2008

Sarah Downing worried:

"Perhaps I am worrying needlessly (I hope I am), but I would be very grateful for any tips or experiences you have had in a similar situation."


Hi Sarah,

Never had you down as a worrier; simply as an analytical thinker.

The East Coast is obviously better in terms of responding to people in the morning. But remember - to quote a well-known song - time is on your side!

You will be able to be working on urgent "following day" jobs long after we are all snoring away here and translating in our dreams.

Bonne chance!

Chris


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Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:16
Member (2007)
German to English
Good advice regarding DB and BoA Apr 15, 2008

giselrike wrote:

...you might want to consider opening an account with Bank of America in the US and Deutsche Bank in Germany, since they have a mutual agreement whereby they don't assess an ATM fee for withdrawals by their respective customers; this could save you a bundle in fees over the long haul.


I've been doing exactly this. It has in fact saved me a bundle of fees. I can use all the help I can get considering the currently not very good Dollar to Euro exchange rate.


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