Virtual Assistant for a group of translators
Thread poster: Anna Augustin

Anna Augustin
Germany
Local time: 20:51
Member (May 2018)
English to German
+ ...
Jun 29

Hi everyone,

I've been freelancing for over three years now and currently I am swamped with emails and requests. However, I am really busy on translation projects and I simply don't find the time to respond to requests or even apply to other projects.

Thus I have been thinking of outsourcing this to an assistant, but good assistants, even virtual assistants, are terribly expensive.

So I thought about a group of translators "joining forces" and hiring one assistant and splitting the costs. Does anyone of you have any experience with this? And what would this mean legally? Would this group of translators have to establish a legal and/or official partnership?

I am not asking anyone to join me or anything of this kind, I was just thinking about how this could be beneficial for freelance translators and possibly also the assistant, as this would likely result in quite the workload. And I would love to focus more on my actual work in the future. I love translating, but I don't like sitting here for up to two hours and do nothing but read and respond to emails.

Hopefully, I make sense and you can share your experience and ideas icon_smile.gif


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:51
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
My two cents' worth Jun 29

Anna Augustin wrote:
currently I am swamped with emails and requests. However, I am really busy on translation projects and I simply don't find the time to respond to requests or even apply to other projects.

Well, firstly it seems that congratulations are in order. You've clearly become established quickly.

I thought about a group of translators "joining forces" and hiring one assistant and splitting the costs. Does anyone of you have any experience with this? And what would this mean legally? Would this group of translators have to establish a legal and/or official partnership?

I don't really know all the ins and outs of it but I'd have thought you'd use the services of a freelancer, each taking up as much of their time as necessary and paying for those hours. I wouldn't have though you'd want to employ anybody, would you? There would be all sorts of requirements if you did that, such as retaining them during quiet spells (which I'm sure you'll come across even if you haven't so far).

I don't like sitting here for up to two hours and do nothing but read and respond to emails.

I can understand you not wanting to spend time on the time-wasters who send us thousands of words for delivery yesterday at a crazily low rate. We all hate those icon_frown.gif . But I'm wondering how you actually see this working. Don't you want to see any of these offers? How do you know they aren't far better jobs than your current ones? Maybe you'd do better answering some of them, and offering a higher rate than your current one. Really, if you're that flat out you should be thinking about raising your rate across the board, although it's sensible to do it only for the clients with the least-preferred terms, reputation, texts, etc. at first. If and when they drop you, you'll have time to respond and take up those better offers at higher rates.

Just a thought.


José Henrique Lamensdorf
Teresa Borges
Michele Fauble
Joe Ly Sien
Christophe Delaunay
 

Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 20:51
Member (2016)
English to German
Raise your rates Jun 29

Anna Augustin wrote:
I am not asking anyone to join me or anything of this kind, I was just thinking about how this could be beneficial for freelance translators and possibly also the assistant, as this would likely result in quite the workload. And I would love to focus more on my actual work in the future. I love translating, but I don't like sitting here for up to two hours and do nothing but read and respond to emails.


Hi Anna, there are days when I experience similar things, particularly in this time of the year when many translators seem to be on vacation and agencies that were silent for a while suddenly again appear in my inbox. However, I think that it would be difficult for an assistant to do this for you efficiently, since it is you who has to decide what kind of jobs you are interested in or not. It seems to me that to judge this, the assistant would have to be a translator themselves, or to know you very well.

The simplest solution would be to raise your rates. Maybe you are simply too cheap, so that you are flooded with inquiries from low payers. While it can be difficult to negotiate higher rates with your existing customer base, you can always ask new clients for higher rates, and in doing this, filter the really interesting business out of all the noise. I think that would be the ideal way to go in your situation.


Michele Fauble
 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 15:51
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Time management Jun 29

As long as you are a freelancer with unique skills, nobody else can do your job. An assistant won't be in a position to judge how much time/effort would be worthwhile for you to invest in each job offer without your appraisal and decision.

Sheila Wilson wrote:

I can understand you not wanting to spend time on the time-wasters who send us thousands of words for delivery yesterday at a crazily low rate. We all hate those icon_frown.gif . But I'm wondering how you actually see this working. Don't you want to see any of these offers? How do you know they aren't far better jobs than your current ones? Maybe you'd do better answering some of them, and offering a higher rate than your current one. Really, if you're that flat out you should be thinking about raising your rate across the board, although it's sensible to do it only for the clients with the least-preferred terms, reputation, texts, etc. at first. If and when they drop you, you'll have time to respond and take up those better offers at higher rates.


I began writing a book on Time Management (a subject I ran a large number of training courses on, in my consultant days) specifically adapted for freelance translators. It must be in some projects folder here, however I haven't been working on it for quite a while. (This was a good reminder!)

Time is a resource like any other, when you consider that you need it to do anything profitable, like money, computer, software, electricity, ISP, etc. However time is a resource UNlike any other in the fairness of its distribution: everybody on Earth has exactly the same 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 of them per year.

When you work, you are basically selling part of your time. Depending on the market value of what you can do, your hourly rate (wage, salary, etc.) will be priced differently. The fact that you charge translation work on a per-word basis is merely a convenience for your client, so that they'll know how much it will cost them to get a certain quantity of words translated, regardless of your efficiency.

Market-wise you'll be competing with people who supposedly offer the same product/service you do. Of course, the cheaper you sell something, the more people will tend to buy from you.

In a nutshell, in the freelance translation business, the price/demand relationship has to be balanced very accurately, as you can't get more hours of your time in a day to sell them.

Taking Pareto's Law, just for the sake of the exercise, let's assume that your working hours would comprise 80% of the time translating, and 20% in admin work (cost estimates, bids, invoices, collection, taxes).

Since you are in high demand, try something like this (not the exact figures, percentages - devise your own)... Calculate the rates you'd have to adopt to reach your expected income using 60% of your working hours translating, and adopt them as standard.

By now, after this calculation, you should have an idea on your productivity, so you'll know when those 60% for the next few weeks have been "sold". Then sell the remaining 20% (80% translating - 60% sold) at a higher rate, IF the client has a deadline that requires tackling their job immediately. If they can wait until you are done with your current demand, give them the lower, standard rate.

If any request will make you trespass into admin time or work longer hours, you can command a royal rate on that, or have them wait until your load is lighter.

It's a delicate balancing act, but if you can make it work, you'll have no worries.

This is the gist of it. Writing it reignited my will to resume writing that book...icon_wink.gif

[Edited at 2018-06-29 12:32 GMT]


 

Anna Augustin
Germany
Local time: 20:51
Member (May 2018)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the valuable input Jun 29

Well, firstly it seems that congratulations are in order. You've clearly become established quickly.


Yes, I started out as full-time right away with my main focus being the delivery of the best quality possible and put all my energy and all my savings into it. While it was risky at times, I'm at a good place right now. Thank you very much for your kind words!

(...) there are days when I experience similar things, particularly in this time of the year when many translators seem to be on vacation and agencies that were silent for a while suddenly again appear in my inbox.


You're all right saying that the best candidate for this job would be myself, I also hadn't really thought through what an assistant would be doing anyway, hence the question if someone had experience in this area. And yes, "noise" is a good word to describe this. I hadn't given it the thought that this noise isn't just because of me and because my client base has become larger, but that there's fewer translators available at the moment. Many thanks for the input. I sometimes forget that there's this huge world outside of my officeicon_wink.gif

(...) the cheaper you sell something, the more people will tend to buy from you.


This and your entire post is very enlightening. Maybe it really is time to reevaluate my rates and availability. I still have a few clients from my very early days and I definitely don't charge them enough out of sheer gratitude and due to our long relationship.

Thank you very much for your input.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:51
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Don't let gratitude become exploitation Jun 29

Anna Augustin wrote:
I still have a few clients from my very early days and I definitely don't charge them enough out of sheer gratitude and due to our long relationship.

It is certainly more awkward to drop them than the ones who don't pay without reminders etc. But gratitude has been shown and now it's time to pay the going rate. Someone helped my husband and I with our French; then he became one of my first clients for my EFL teaching, interpreting and translating work; then I tutored his daughter for an English exam; we met them socially for barbecues, etc., etc. I gave him great rates for far too long before finally giving notice of raising them by about 20% (to come up to the lowest paid by my other clients). Although he contacted me at least a dozen times with work, I always quoted the new rate and he never took it up. He clearly hoped I'd back down. Meanwhile, I got into the habit of weeding out the low/late payers every so often and found it did my business no harm at all.


Christophe Delaunay
 


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