Waves of work - a slump in business for the time being - has anyone else experienced this?
Thread poster: Brandon Wood

Brandon Wood  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 06:17
Japanese to English
+ ...
Aug 2, 2007

Hey everybody, how goes it?

I have a question for everyone out there who has been in the business longer than myself. From what I have read, everyone seems to say that the beginning is the hardest, but everyone seems to see somewhat constant growth from there. I have been translating as a freelancer part-time since around 2005, and started full time in March of this year (2007). The first couple of months were actually great, I landed some big contracts and established a couple of regular clients (agencies). Everything was good through July, I was getting steady work, until maybe the last week and a half of July until now. I haven't gotten any e-mails from any of my regular clients (about 5 or 6 agencies) regarding any potential work. I haven't heard any negative comments from them, except for one pamphlet I translated that the client didn't like (which wasn't really my fault, they were correcting my native English grammar by changing it to awkward Japanese English grammar). The rest of my work all received positive responses.

Are they not telling me something? Or is this just a slump in business for the time being? Has anyone else experienced this? I am really worried at this point, and I am wondering what type of marketing I should be doing to pull in more clients. Can anyone shed some light on this for me?

Thanks!

-Brandon

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2007-08-02 11:43]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 00:17
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
slumps happen Aug 2, 2007

And I see no pattern. Just be patient and enjoy your freedom. Do some market research and contact possible clients.
Cheers
Heinrich


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Bruno Scokaert  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 23:17
English to French
+ ...
Don't worry! Aug 2, 2007

Hi Brandon. I am new myself in translation, and like you in the beginning I don't find it too hard to find - some - jobs. So from my - fresh - point of view, you should be fine as an experienced translator with satisfied customers.

Even if something weird was happening with this pamphlet (let's be a little paranoid), I am sure it wouldn't affect your job. At the worse you would have to look for some new customers... Anyway, if I was an agency I would find your profile "normal", I mean I wouldn't see anything weird in it that would stop myself.

So I guess it is just a small gap, and even if it seems strange, I don't see why everything would suddenly stop, why not any single people or agency in the world wouldn't work with you anymore. It would be sci-fi! (do you think you could have been put on some BIG black list or so?)

Take it as a gift : it's the ideal time to take some holidays and relax!

[Edited at 2007-08-02 09:00]


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Brandon Wood  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 06:17
Japanese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Aug 2, 2007

Thanks for the encouraging replies. I know that there are some times when the agencies just don't have any work that is right for me... My wife's brother works in desktop publishing and sometimes his company can go for up to a week with absolutely no work... and this is an established company that has been around for years!

I guess it was just this pamphlet thing that got me freaking out... I have never really had any negative comments about my translation so this coupled with no work made me a little worried...

Anyway, thanks for the words of encouragement!


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Alan R King
Local time: 23:17
Basque to English
+ ...
Or there may be a pattern Aug 2, 2007

Some translators say there is no pattern to when slumps happen. In my case that is not true. But first things first.

First of all, for freelancers slumps most definitely do happen, and that is one thing that it is important for new-ish freelancers to know and get used to. There will be slumps and there will also be waves of too-much-work at times, and you need to work out some system by which to organise yourself, both with regards to your activity and your finances, to absorb the ups and downs as best you can. Even things as simple as not getting overly euphorious when you get a lot of money in the bank and spending too much of it at once!

As for patterns, I definitely have a very marked yearly cycle in my case, so you might want to spend some of your free time, now that you have it, figuring out whether you have one too, unless it is too early in your career for that.

During your first year ther is no prima facie way of knowing whether an "up" or a "down" is cyclical or just random. But just the same, make yourself a little table listing your approximate total earnings month by month, and plot yourself out a bar chart (even if by hand) showing the results. If you have been going long enough to cover at least 24 months, then by now you should be able to hazard a guess as to whether you have a pattern emerging. (My method is to leave space for about five bars per month, and superimpose successive years, colour-code each year. I'm sure you can figure it out...) Now (if you suspect that there IS a pattern) do a second, simpler graph just showing the AVERAGES for each month of the year based on the data you have. Your third year will serve to confirm or disconfirm the hypothesis.

Is it important to know this? Yes, it is extremely important. If a clear pattern emerges (and it did for me), it will take some of the uncertainty out of your life, tell you how to plan your vacations, help you to improve your economy by making realistic projections, allow you to evaluate whether what you are doing for a living is economically viable, and last but not least, may actually take some stress out of your life and give you greater professional and financial self-confidence.

That's been my experience, anyway.

Good luck,

Alan


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 22:17
Dutch to English
+ ...
All good advice Brandon Aug 2, 2007

Alan R King wrote:

Some translators say there is no pattern to when slumps happen. In my case that is not true. But first things first.

First of all, for freelancers slumps most definitely do happen, and that is one thing that it is important for new-ish freelancers to know and get used to. There will be slumps and there will also be waves of too-much-work at times, and you need to work out some system by which to organise yourself, both with regards to your activity and your finances, to absorb the ups and downs as best you can. Even things as simple as not getting overly euphorious when you get a lot of money in the bank and spending too much of it at once!

As for patterns, I definitely have a very marked yearly cycle in my case, so you might want to spend some of your free time, now that you have it, figuring out whether you have one too, unless it is too early in your career for that.

During your first year ther is no prima facie way of knowing whether an "up" or a "down" is cyclical or just random. But just the same, make yourself a little table listing your approximate total earnings month by month, and plot yourself out a bar chart (even if by hand) showing the results. If you have been going long enough to cover at least 24 months, then by now you should be able to hazard a guess as to whether you have a pattern emerging. (My method is to leave space for about five bars per month, and superimpose successive years, colour-code each year. I'm sure you can figure it out...) Now (if you suspect that there IS a pattern) do a second, simpler graph just showing the AVERAGES for each month of the year based on the data you have. Your third year will serve to confirm or disconfirm the hypothesis.

Is it important to know this? Yes, it is extremely important. If a clear pattern emerges (and it did for me), it will take some of the uncertainty out of your life, tell you how to plan your vacations, help you to improve your economy by making realistic projections, allow you to evaluate whether what you are doing for a living is economically viable, and last but not least, may actually take some stress out of your life and give you greater professional and financial self-confidence.

That's been my experience, anyway.

Good luck,

Alan


Alan has given you very sound advice here Brandon.

I also wouldn't be overly concerned about the pamphlet. Did you state your side of the story at the time - namely that the changes were made by a non-native speaker - and back this up with a few examples to the agency? Without getting too confrontational, it's aways good to state your case.

The translation world can be relatively small, especially if you're working in one language pair, but as someone has already pointed out there is no big black list.

Is August traditionally a holiday month in Japan? It is here in Portugal, for example.

If so, give it until Monday and drop a short e-mail to your regulars to confirm you're available over the holiday period. Agencies in Europe are normally very relieved to know you're available in August. I confirmed that with my month-end invoices and I'm already practically booked for the whole month (I prefer to take off in September when all the tourists have left here).

Keep your chin up, you've got a lovely niché market that you are busy establishing for yourself, perhaps the games companies all take off in July/August.

Good luck
Debs



[Edited at 2007-08-02 09:55]


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Alan R King
Local time: 23:17
Basque to English
+ ...
August... Aug 2, 2007

In my own "niche" market, August is when almost nobody works and even when I'm available I may get practically no work at all. April to July, on the other hand, is the busiest period of my year by far. I assume this is because most businesses here work on a September-to-June work-cycle, and most of their translation needs come near the end of projects following this cycle, either because the translation is the last thing that needs to be done in a project, or because the production chain gets held up by someone further back, or maybe just because of procrastination. Similarly to the academic year, everyone starts to panic (or I imagine them panicking, based on my job requests) after the Easter break and work steadily accelerates from then until the end of July. The month of July is actually considered part of the vacation season here, and the continued flow of work is probably due to projects running late! But in August everything goes dead.

September is another dead month for me, the second least busy after August, and I imagine that this is because even though many (except in the universities, who start in October here) are already back at work in September, they don't have anything to translate yet (or else they're still in a post-vacation daze)! The rest of the year has a medium-to-low work flow rate for me, with noticeable though shorter and shallower troughs corresponding to Christmas and Easter breaks.

Stated in this way, all this seems to be perfectly logical, even unsurprising. But it took me a couple of years of insecurity and even depression at times to figure it out, following the method I described above. Now that I have, I can afford to lay back now that August is here, and when I DO get a call for a job I'm not really interested in, I can say: "Sorry, I'm on vacation this month" WITHOUT any worry in the pit of my stomach. I think getting started as a freelancer (in this or any other profession) involves sweating through that initial stage of inevitable uncertainty, though. Wouldn't you say so, Debs?

Alan


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Brandon Wood  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 06:17
Japanese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Aug 2, 2007

Thanks again for all of your insightful replies. I guess this is just part of the freelancing gig. I think I will use this opportunity to study and look into other potential job opportunities until business picks back up again. I feel a *little* bit better now at least.

Thanks everybody! Happy translating!


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 22:17
Dutch to English
+ ...
Growing pains Aug 2, 2007

Alan R King wrote:

I think getting started as a freelancer (in this or any other profession) involves sweating through that initial stage of inevitable uncertainty, though. Wouldn't you say so, Debs?

Alan


Yes, Alan it's just comes with the territory.

I'm fortunate in that legal issues crop up throughout the year, so I'm not really subject to seasonal fluctuations. I may receive fewer pleadings to translate when the courts are in recess (but there's always an urgent court roll, they don't physically close their doors and urgent/provisional relief applications always land on my desk in August wth a deadline for yesterday!) but then if it is slower I can concentrate on my interests in South Africa where the traditional holiday month is December.

Another thing to bear in mind (as a newbie) is that some agencies are also a bit slower to pay at the end of August and December (I find), so where I would normally be on their cases on Day 30 if the money is not in my account, I wait a day or two more. No longer, mind you.

As long as you can identify the trend in your niche market Brandon, you're fine. I'm sure if you follow up your end-clients you'll be able to figure out why this is happening specifically in gaming and it may be worth trying to identify another market segment you'd be comfortable working in that doesn't shut down at the same time, otherwise use the time for holidays as Alan rightly suggests.



[Edited at 2007-08-02 12:57]


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Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 14:17
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Same here! Aug 2, 2007

Alan R King wrote:

August is when almost nobody works (...) April to July, on the other hand, is the busiest period of my year by far.


For the last three years, I've noticed that August is my slowest month... I'm not sure why, because it doesn't seem like all my clients are on vacation. They send me small things here and there, but let's say that August is the month I have more free time to enjoy the beach, read a book, go to the movies, etc. By the end of the month, things start to pick up again and the craziness goes on for the next 11 months, or until I say "Stop the world! I wanna get out!"

All I can say is, enjoy your freedom to do what you miss doing when you're "overbooked." Since you're relatively new to the profession, start marketing yourself more, take some classes, read more theory about translation, etc. I'm sure things will pick up again and you'll think, "I should have done so many things when I had the time..."

Good luck!


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mystymy
Local time: 17:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
August and Jan. = forced vacation time Aug 2, 2007

I've been freelancing for several years. I notice that January and August there is almost no work. I try to plan vacation about then, or I do all the housework, errands, appointments-medical or otherwise that have been put off.

Unfortunately unless you budget there is no incoming money for things. Just wait out the month and enjoy, things will pick up.

Do continue to market and send e-mails or postcards and let your clients know you are available. It also helps to go the chamber of commerce meetings or tradeshows (providing there is no or a low entrance fee). You might pick up new clients. I find that spending time on your software or polishing up your languages is beneficial during down-time. There is always something new with CAT tools.


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Brigitte Hamilton  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:17
Member (2007)
German to English
Thanks for asking! Aug 6, 2007

Hi Brandon,
I am glad you asked this question, I am in the same boat as you (just started doing this full-time and was also very busy until end of July). Just a few days ago I was wondering about the exact same thing.....and then I found this posting. Thank you, that really helped.


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Hilde Granlund  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 23:17
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Happens in every business Aug 7, 2007

I am not a full time translator, I only started doing a little of it this spring. But I do notice that there are fewer jobs posted in my language pair recently, and I am getting fewer emails asking me to do things. But that is ok, since I am quite busy working on a couple of big projects that were started last month.

But the funny thing is, I am also having some very slow days in my other job. However, these are so few and far between, that I am really pleased - especially since they seem to be coinciding with the first few days of nice weather we have had since the beginning of June.

I quite understand that it can be unnerving if you just started out as a full time translator. Good luck!


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 00:17
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
have a rest in August and prepare for September Aug 9, 2007

Hi Brandon,

Do not worry. It is just a summer holiday time - agency staff is on holiday, the clients are on holiday. But be ready for the start of September when everyone returns and will need to do projects "not managed before the holidays" and most often - as fast as possible. So, you should receive in September the workload of September + the workload of August. Then a small slowdown from mid October and then "Are you ready!" again for the pre-Christmas preparations and after-Chritmas killings of unfinished projects.

So, I sugest to use the chance for some rest now because I do not think you will have a better chance till mid February of the next year


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