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Do you keep records of the jobs you've done?
Thread poster: XXXphxxx

XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:26
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Nov 3, 2011

I am regularly contacted by agencies submitting bids for translation projects (from memory I think they are pretty much always for the EU). They send through forms which I try to fill in but am invariably stumped by questions on the total number of words I have translated (yes, in my entire career!), as well as what the breakdown would be by specialist area. They also ask for names of clients and referees (which I am always reluctant to give). I've been working part-time as a translator for 18 years, full-time for 13, even a stab in the dark probably wouldn't get me close to the actual volume I've translated over the years - not a clue.

Other than my invoice sales list and filing the respective jobs under various client folders on my hard drive (anything over 5 years old gets wiped off) I keep no records whatsoever on the jobs I've done. I keep bureaucracy and record-keeping to a minimum. Is this not very wise? How many of you out there keep records and what purpose do they serve other than when filling in forms for the EU?


 

Carol Rush  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:26
French to English
+ ...
Yes Nov 3, 2011

Hi Lisa - I keep a simple excel spreadsheet and every time I complete a job I list it on here. Date, Company name, job number, number of words and rate. I start a new tab for each year. Once I've been paid for a particular job it gets highlighted in red. This helps me to see at a glance what is outstanding, and it is also easy to work out the number of words I've translated in a given timeframe.

 

Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:26
French to English
+ ...
TO3000 Nov 3, 2011

Hi Lisa,

Good idea to start a new topic for this - I was aware that I was straying from Jenny's original question a little!

I invested in Translation Office 3000 a few years ago which enables me to keep fairly detailed records, but I don't find it particularly user-friendly in terms of producing reports. I would like it to be able to tell me how many words I've translated for a particular client, but I haven't been able to work it out. I have been able to find out how much in monetary terms I've done for certain clients, which is a step in the right direction as at least then you can divide by your rate over the period and have a rough idea, urgent surcharges and minimum charges notwithstanding. If anyone does know how to do this, I'd love to know!

Prior to that I've always used a database to record everything but, given that I started out as a freelancer in 1989, and it was (still is) a very primitive Works database, it's not very easy to extract meaningful statistics from that either. I suppose if you were to start now, an Excel-based solution would be the best idea, but it doesn't solve the problem of accessing past statistics.

It will be interesting to see what others do.

Claire


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not as described Nov 3, 2011

Since I do not enjoy the admin side at all, unless specifically requested to do so by the client/s in question I would usually consider supplying records for such a lengthy period a waste of my time, and my opinion of the person or organisation asking me for them with no good reason would suffer in consequence.

In MS Word, I have a folder for each client, and open them a new one each year. The folder contains the jobs I do for them listed in monthly or quarterly folders depending on the volume I do for them. I use this data to bill the clients, and the billing info for my tax returns. In Spain we are obliged to keep these records for a few years - I think it was 5 the last time I looked. I dump the files after this period, or even winnow some of the contents sooner if the volume becomes unwieldy, or if I renew my PC. So anything further than 5 years back is ancient history.

Perhaps I could provide the sort of information described in the post for the EU tender more readily if I knew how to handle Excel better, but I've never got round to mastering it. At a pinch I can usually get someone who does know it to help out, but as a busy freelancer, would prefer not to have to bother.



[Edited at 2011-11-03 10:43 GMT]


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:26
English to German
+ ...
With neilmac. Nov 3, 2011

Such inquiries apparently are aimed at beginners and to a seasoned translator they make as much sense as sending a copy of their university degree from, say, 1985.

 

Noni Gilbert  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
What grades did you get for your O levels?! Nov 3, 2011

I'm even a bit hazy about what subjects I took these days....

But I suppose it might even be one of those ISO things - they will have decided that a measure of "quality" will be that translators have to have xmillion words under their belts...

But for a very vague idea of the grand total, I suppose you could take the total of your income over the years and divide it by your price per word - you could reach an approximate figure quite quickly this way, and I for one wouldn't be too worried about how accurate it is. I don't think they should be fussing once you're past the 5 million mark...

Cheers

Noni


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:26
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Why not estimate? Nov 3, 2011

Lisa Simpson wrote:
I ... am invariably stumped by questions on the total number of words I have translated (yes, in my entire career!), as well as what the breakdown would be by specialist area.


By subject area may be difficult to determine, but you can estimate by taking your gross income and dividing it by your average word rate. Of course, some of the income would have come from editing and related work, but I think the estimate should be good enough for their purposes. Just keep a record of your calculations, in case anyone asks for it.


 

Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:26
French to English
+ ...
EU tenders Nov 3, 2011

Unfortunately these aren't aimed at beginners. I was asked to send details of the number of standard pages I'd translated over my career (27 years) if I wished to be included in a bid for an EU tender. I'm afraid I declined as I couldn't face working it out! The request came from a reputable agency who I've worked with before and who know the quality of my work; they were merely complying with the the terms of the call to tender.

See my post on Jenny's test dilemma question here: http://www.proz.com/forum/business_issues/211105-test_dilemma-page2.html


 

PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:26
English to Polish
+ ...
One million Nov 3, 2011

If you say one million words or 5 million words - who will prove you wrong? Who will demand that you prove this to the last word?

If one page is 300 words, one million words is ca. 3500 pages. If your output is 10 pages a day, this is 350 days' worth of work - probably about 18 calendar months to take into account holidays, weekends and idle days.
Multiply that by the number of years in the business and there you go.

* * *

Yes, I do keep all my work, but purely for sentimental reasons - I hardly ever go back to any work from more than 2 years ago.
No, I do not keep any bureaucracy beyond the legal minimum - 5 years in Poland. This includes taxes, invoices etc.
I actually make it a point to burn everything older than 5 years - why keep the evidence if I might have done something wrong inadvertentlyicon_wink.gif

Pawel Skalinski


[Edited at 2011-11-03 13:30 GMT]


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:26
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Great idea! Nov 3, 2011

Carol Rush wrote:

Hi Lisa - I keep a simple excel spreadsheet and every time I complete a job I list it on here. Date, Company name, job number, number of words and rate. I start a new tab for each year. Once I've been paid for a particular job it gets highlighted in red. This helps me to see at a glance what is outstanding, and it is also easy to work out the number of words I've translated in a given timeframe.


Hi Carol,

Thanks for this great idea. This will make a presentable overview a lot easier. The only ones that will be missing forever are the 100.000s of words I've translated for USAF.

It is quite a challenge for an old translator to provide an accurate figure of all the words s/he has translated over the years or, as in my case, the decades.

But, just like Nicole, I do believe that this is primarily a requirement for new translators with only a few years in business.


 

Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:26
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
EU tenders Nov 3, 2011

I don't want to discourage anyone from applying to agencies looking for translators for EU tenders, but after looking into it, applying once (I believe) and hearing other translators' opinions on this type of thing, I've come to the conclusion that it really isn't worth the effort required to submit all the information. This may be unfair, but I've also heard some agencies will just collect the information from good translators to submit for the tender, then use cheaper ones to do the actual work, so that means a lot of effort for nothing. I just politely turn down all such offers in general.

I'd be interested in hearing from people who have actually ended up doing EU work on this basis to restore my faith in the process.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:26
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
??? Nov 3, 2011

Of course! How can any kind of business/professional activity exist without records?

 

Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:26
French to English
A positive spin? Nov 3, 2011

I suppose that, if you fancied applying for a few of these EU tenders, once you've worked out your total word count for any year in your long history, then it's done and assuming you keep a note of the figure somewhere, you can use it over and over again. Massive pain in the neck the first time; less so thereafter. Just a thought...

The IoL requires something similar (or they did from me, at any rate!) and it took a while just for 5 years (there was a partial breakdown by client, IIRC). So I understand your reluctance. And quite frankly, if anyone wanted a split by subject area..... well, I'm a resourceful chap, I'm sure I could make something up.

To return to the more general point, however, I don't actually keep the word count as a separate figure on my business spreadsheets. I've got the price for the job and the word rate charged, and my extensive training as a systems analyst taught me not to store fields that can be calculated. Or I think it did; that's how I remember it, anyway. That said, I built that data model at the start of my glorious career, before I knew what I now know about how the business (sometimes) works. With different rates for repetitons and me applying my own rounding down discounts from time to time, the sad truth is that simply dividing the total price charged by the word rate recorded probably doesn't actually reflect the actual word count anyway.


 

XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:26
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Let's have it then ;-) Nov 3, 2011

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

Of course! How can any kind of business/professional activity exist without records?


Okay Tomás, total volume of words translated since the start of your career, broken down into subject areas. You really have that information at your finger tips?


 

XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:26
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Just got me thinking Nov 3, 2011

Charlie Bavington wrote:

I suppose that, if you fancied applying for a few of these EU tenders, once you've worked out your total word count for any year in your long history, then it's done and assuming you keep a note of the figure somewhere, you can use it over and over again. Massive pain in the neck the first time; less so thereafter. Just a thought...

The IoL requires something similar (or they did from me, at any rate!) and it took a while just for 5 years (there was a partial breakdown by client, IIRC). So I understand your reluctance. And quite frankly, if anyone wanted a split by subject area..... well, I'm a resourceful chap, I'm sure I could make something up.

To return to the more general point, however, I don't actually keep the word count as a separate figure on my business spreadsheets. I've got the price for the job and the word rate charged, and my extensive training as a systems analyst taught me not to store fields that can be calculated. Or I think it did; that's how I remember it, anyway. That said, I built that data model at the start of my glorious career, before I knew what I now know about how the business (sometimes) works. With different rates for repetitons and me applying my own rounding down discounts from time to time, the sad truth is that simply dividing the total price charged by the word rate recorded probably doesn't actually reflect the actual word count anyway.



Thanks Charles. It's not necessarily that I want to apply for the tenders just the fact that since the questions are there on these forms one assumes that there are translators who have the answers. Like you, I have a sales list with the invoice amount and price per word but the 'Price per word' cell can often be empty as it may be a min. charge job, involve repetitions, surcharges, plus a good 30% of my work is editing so how do you factor that in if calculating from a total figure? My question is whether (tender applications aside) anyone knows of a good reason for keeping such records. Half the time I would also have trouble classifying a job by subject area. Legal or Pharmaceutical? Actually it's both.


 
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