Freelancers: Experiences with 'dry spells'?
Thread poster: Mary Watson

Mary Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:08
German to English
+ ...
Feb 23, 2004

I'm curious if what I'm experiencing is "normal" for the freelance translator. I've been doing freelance work for about 4 years. Last year was my best ever. I averaged about 2-3 projects a month, starting in about June. This continued through November, and I haven't had a job since. I was being hired by 2 agencies, who both paid well, and remarked on the good quality of my work. I haven't had a drop of work since December. Is this a common experience? Any suggestions on how to get out of the slump?

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Aquila Aurata
Local time: 04:08
Hungarian to English
+ ...
Try more (smaller) projects, more sources of income Feb 23, 2004

Hi Mary,

In the past few months, I've been averaging 9 documents per month to translate. Beside translating, I also have a source of steady income from a teaching job. The 2-3 projects per month and the two agencies may not give you enough to play with. I think if you targeted more agencies and smaller but more projects, you'd be out of this temporary slump soon. You could also get a part-time job to improve your cash flow.

Good luck!

Peter


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 05:08
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
quite normal Feb 23, 2004

Its funny how clients all at the same time send work and then there are weeks without any mail except 'viagra-ads'. Fortunately I hadn't any long leasure periods for some time, but in 2002 there was even three months without any offer.

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Sara Freitas
France
Local time: 04:08
French to English
My recipe Feb 23, 2004

Hi Mary.
My "recipe" was actually an accident. I started freelancing in January 2003. I spent about 3 months prospecting with very little work. Then in April the work started coming in and I've been busy since.

For me there was a period of "trying out" customers. At the end of the year, I dropped a few (the match just wasn't right) and I kept the best few, who are all quite different. One has regular ongoing, predictable projects, the other has super-urgent but relatively short ones, another has random projects but the deadlines are never tight, and one provides work occasionally when they can't handle it in-house. This mix seems to provide me with a steady work flow.

I also call those customers back to remind them I'm out there if a month goes by and I haven't heard from them.

In addition, I also work as a trainer about 10 hours per month. So I think that diversifying is the key.

Finally, if I do have a few slow days, I quickly catch up on any administrative work, then immediately start prospecting.

So, I have to agree with the other posts that diversifying your sources of income as much as possible is the key.

Good luck!

Sara


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xxxtazdog
Spain
Local time: 04:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
suggestions Feb 23, 2004

I think dry spells are normal, but mine don't usually last more than two weeks at the outside (and fortunately even a two-week dry spell is fairly rare). Most of my work comes from agencies, and in a typical month I have a minimum of 7 projects, right up to 15 or so, depending on the size. I work with 4 or 5 agencies on a regular basis (i.e., almost every month) and several others sporadically.

I agree with Peter that you should branch out a bit, and you can use periods when you have no translation work to market yourself (try contacting both potential direct clients as well as agencies). Another thing you can do is add to your Proz profile: it's very sketchy right now, and the more info. you offer, the better your chances of getting work from that source. Some of my best clients first contacted me through my profile. You might also want to try answering some Kudoz questions, as they're a good arena to showcase your talents. I like the mental challenge some of the questions offer, and have found that they have sharpened my skills (and as I said, they're a good way to show expertise in your specialty areas).

Good luck
Cindy


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mbc
Spain
Local time: 04:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
lessons learned Feb 23, 2004

Finally, I have learned that the most important thing to do during a dry spell is take advantage of the time and not worry too much. That might mean working on your resume, updating personal glossaries, billing, OR cleaning the kitchen, going to the pool or spending 2 hours eating lunch. Sooner or later the work comes and it comes fast and all at once. If you´ve taken adavantage of the down time, you´ll feel more prepared to get to work.

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Aquila Aurata
Local time: 04:08
Hungarian to English
+ ...
Well said Feb 24, 2004

Good piece of advice, Madeline!

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Mary Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:08
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Feb 24, 2004

These have all been great suggestions. Thanks to all of you for taking your time to answer me - you've given me a real boost!

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