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"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
Thread poster: Richard Bartholomew

Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:27
Member (2007)
German to English
Feb 7, 2014

Yogi Berra famously remarked with reference to Ruggeri's, a St. Louis restaurant (cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yogi_Berra). I have a feeling something similar is happening to me.

For months on end I had far more work than I could handle. I politely turned down one juicy project after another simply because I didn't have the capacity to meet the deadlines. Since the beginning of the year, the flood has gradually declined to a trickle.

Are agencies staying away because they figure I'll just turn them down again because I'm too busy? I refer them to my Proz calendar so that they can see my availability in real time, but I don't think many of the folks at the agencies believe I keep the calendar current. Or is it just a random downturn in business?


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Terese Whitty
United States
Local time: 21:27
Member (2004)
English to Swedish
Depends - three time is a charm they say Feb 7, 2014

Hi Richard,

If you consistently provide good translations, I think the customer would want to come back, but here is what I have heard. Don't turn a good existing customer away for more than three times, after that, try to make room for the project. Another tip is to always provide a reference to a translator you know and trust with the same language combination if you cannot take the project on. The client will appreciate you for saving their day. The colleague will be grateful and hopefully return the service. If you provide high quality translations you will not risk losing the client to the referral.

I hope that helps!

Tess Whitty
www.marketingtipsfortranslators.com


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Srini Venkataraman
United States
Local time: 22:27
Member (2012)
Tamil to English
+ ...
may be like interpretation scenario Feb 7, 2014

May be this is becoming like an phone interpretation scenario I had observed-
"be available when you are needed for taking a call- when you are available there may not be a call" so I wakeup at night to pick up India calls, but remain idle mostly during the day.
Instead of complete red till Feb 11 in your calendar as not available, may be you can show 25% or 50% available on all days so the agencies can think of approaching for the spare capacity. fyi: I show the same way in my calendar and capacity is no issue- I work between 12 to 16 hrs a day at least 4 days a week, weekends are welcome, for premium rates.


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Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:27
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Its like the (Dutch) weather Feb 7, 2014

It can be sunny and it can be rainy. My experience is that they come and go (and come and go again), and some are staying a bit longer. My advice is to inform them as soon as possible about your unavailability. That is appreciated, so they have enough time to find a replacement.

I actually entered a simular thread on the Dutch forum: "What is the selecting process of translation agencies" (but you have to know Dutch to read it).

They can't blame you of not being available, after all you are a one man company, but Terese has a point, don't disappoint them too often, some of them are like little children.

[Edited at 2014-02-07 18:10 GMT]


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Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:27
Spanish to English
+ ...
Still haven't made it to Ruggeri's Feb 7, 2014

Just out of curiosity, do you mention when you will be available again? I know you have the calendar, but sometimes they just want to be told directly instead of having to perform the extra step of visiting your profile.

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Kristian Andersson  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:27
English to Swedish
Email them Feb 7, 2014

Just send them an email asking if they have any projects at the moment!

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Max Chernov
Russian Federation
Local time: 06:27
Russian to German
+ ...
Aktivitätsausbrüche Feb 7, 2014

I'm sorry to writing in German. Aber ich habe persönlich gemerkt, dass es solche "Aktivitätsausbrüche" bei dem Markt gibt. Bald sitzt Du ganz lange und ruhig, und weiss, dass es in den nächsten Tagen oder Stunden nichts ändert, und Du musst sitzen und auch so in den Bildschirm starren. Bald aber kommt es plötzlich zu einem Wandel, alles rund um Dich fängt an, sich zu drehen, und in Deinem Mailbox erscheinen Aufträge, dabei grosse und zugleich ganz viele, so dass Du nicht mehr weiss, wohin mit diesen, wie das ein Übersetzer managen kann.

Jetzt ist eine solche Pause, alle Reichen sind in Sotschi, und das gesamte Geld dabei. Aber es will sich nach den Olympischen Spielen ändern. Man kann sich trösten, zum Beispiel, wie schön die Eröffnungszeremonie war.


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Roy OConnor
Local time: 05:27
Member (2009)
German to English
Nature of the work Feb 8, 2014

Hi, Richard,

For a one-man band it only takes two or three phone calls or emails during the day to take you from twiddling your thumbs to being well overloaded. It's a lumpy business we're in.

I find the German market often a bit slack at this time of the year. Many job contacts are away skiing while many others are nursing their broken legs at home!

Don't worry - good translators can't hide!

Roy


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 01:27
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Time Management & Networking Feb 8, 2014

Richard Bartholomew wrote:

Are agencies staying away because they figure I'll just turn them down again because I'm too busy? I refer them to my Proz calendar so that they can see my availability in real time, but I don't think many of the folks at the agencies believe I keep the calendar current. Or is it just a random downturn in business?


Terese Whitty wrote:

If you consistently provide good translations, I think the customer would want to come back, but here is what I have heard. Don't turn a good existing customer away for more than three times, after that, try to make room for the project. Another tip is to always provide a reference to a translator you know and trust with the same language combination if you cannot take the project on. The client will appreciate you for saving their day. The colleague will be grateful and hopefully return the service. If you provide high quality translations you will not risk losing the client to the referral.

Tess Whitty
www.marketingtipsfortranslators.com


That's one piece of valuable advice, Tess!


Proz calendar

Richard, it's a good idea to post your availability on the Proz calendar, and keep it updated in real time. I do the same, and intend to include a link to my Proz calendar on my web site. Currently I advise my best clients to refer to it, whenever they consider counting on my services.

However I don't use it "as stated", i.e. to express how tall is the pile on my "to-do" inbox. I use it to express what percentage of my current time demand is postponable.

For instance, if I have a huge job assigned, however the deadline is still to far away, I'll use green. As the deadline gets closer, depending on how much of it I've done already, the color may change on account of that job alone.

On the other hand, a much smaller job, however with a very tight deadline might suddenly turn it to red for one to three days, and then back to green again, after I'm through with it.

Many agencies have their own calendars, and require you to keep it updated. To do so you have to jump through their login hoops, and often face their server's sluggishness. If I had to do it for, say, a dozen agencies, I wouldn't have time left to translate!


Time management

When I started out as a freelancer, back in 1987, I split my time between translating and HRD consulting. In that consulting period (87-99) for three years in a row, my most frequent consulting assignment was leading one-day seminars on Time Management. At that time I didn't consider my own time management that good, however I was teaching it, not doing it as a role model.

In 2013 I celebrated 40 years from my very first professional translation, and realized that I had never delivered a translation job late, so it was better than I thought.

Anyway, in 1999 I passed the BR government exam for sworn translator, so in the next year I shut down my consulting activity, focusing 100% on translation ever since.

The trick is simple: I "pad" my deadlines. My stated policy is that I prefer to deliver two days early than two hours late, to thwart Murphy's Law. The closest shave so far was delivery 9 minutes early, but still before the agreed deadline.

This has given me enough slack in my schedule to fit in small but very urgent jobs for my most valued clients, in spite of being fully loaded, therefore keeping them happy.


Urgency management

I've seen many jobs like translation must be completed within the next three hours - payment in 60 days after month end, as well as translator complaints about them.

Who is in a rush here???

I used hefty rush surcharges, identical to those prescribed by the Brazilian law on sworn translations: 50% for rush on weekdays, 100% for rush on holidays/weekends. Such requests actually added more havoc to my life than cash to my bank account. Once I had to work 19 solid hours per day on 4 consecutive days. Quite frankly, it was not worth it.

In Jan. 2013 I did an experiment that worked very well, at least in translation, where payment terms are often troublesome. I began prioritizing jobs by serving shortest payment term first, within what I consider adequate working hours for me, NO more rush surcharges.

First, all clients/prospects perceive this as a fair, undisputable criterion; none has quibbled about it so far. Then, if they want absolutely top priority, all they have to do is pay in advance (and I only take one prepaid job at a time). I realized the beauty of it later... nobody can time-travel to the past and prepay earlier. In exchange, I won't put aside a prepaid job until it's done and delivered.

For the record, I only had two prepaid jobs through all of 2013.


Networking

One key to success in translation (just one of the keys) is Networking. It requires knowing and getting known by as many (competent, reliable, professional, ethical) translators as possible, as well as each one's respective specialties.

One erroneous thought in networking is "Tracy has referred a valuable client/job to me; I must refer one valuable client/job to her, I owe her." No! You don't owe her; you owe it to your network!

After having built a network, which is NOT a formal thing:
1. You'll get sudden referrals of jobs within your specialty area(s) from colleagues;
2. You'll refer jobs/clients outside your subject/specialty-wise comfort zone to colleagues who specialize in that;
3. When you are overloaded, you'll refer requests to colleagues you know as equally reliable as you, so your clients will still trust you next time;
4. You'll have colleagues sharing their excess demand with you, and you'll do it with them too.

And this is not all of it. Yesterday I delivered a video job, translation from PT into EN/FR/ES, and subtitling. The client, in spite of being an agency, wanted a turn-key service. So I got two colleagues, one from my network, another from my network's network.

Two interesting points in speed: deadline would be next Monday, however I delivered all three yesterday (Friday). Though the client will be paying me on Monday (COD for high priority), as these network mates gave me priority, I paid them both yesterday. So if their policies are like mine, I'll have their priority whenever I need them again. The cherry on the top is that the client has said this was the first of a permanent once-a-month assignment.


The above are time-proven techniques that have been working fine for me. Of course, your mileage may vary, so you might have to adapt them.


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Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:27
Member (2007)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Three strikes Feb 8, 2014

Hi Tess,

Terese Whitty wrote:

> . . . Don't turn a good existing customer away for more than three times . . .

Tip noted

> . . . try to make room for the project. . . .

I have been able to do that on quite a few occasions. I try to leave some slack in the schedule for emergency or smaller jobs from regular customers. However I can push that too far because the main customer of the moment is only willing to push his or her deadline out so far to accommodate me. I've lost some nice projects when I tried to push the deadline.

> . . . Another tip is to always provide a reference to a translator you know and trust with the same language combination if you cannot take the project on. . . .

I've also done that occasionally. On the other hand I always supposed that being aware of other suitable translators was part of the agency personnel's job (I work mostly with translation agencies). I don't want to give the impression that they need my help to do their job because they aren't competent to do it themselves.

> I hope that helps!

Yes it does. Thank you


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Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:27
Member (2007)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Why not? Feb 8, 2014

Kristian Andersson wrote:

Just send them an email asking if they have any projects at the moment!


I suppose that's not a bad idea. Somehow I feel disinclined to do that, but I might I give it a try if only to find out what the reaction is.


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Texte Style
Local time: 05:27
French to English
always BE available! Feb 8, 2014

So I don't mean you just say yes to everything and end up with 25hrs work to do in a day, but when you accept a job, try to make sure the deadline leaves you some time in hand so you can at least fit a few little jobs in.

In my former life as a PM, I would certainly take three refusals to mean that either the translator was truly busy, or they had enough better paying work to not deign to work for us, or that they had had a run-in with my unpleasant boss and didn't want to work for us any more (while not wanting to brush me off personally).


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Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:27
Member (2007)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
I always do that. Feb 9, 2014

Triston & Gaby wrote:

Just out of curiosity, do you mention when you will be available again? I know you have the calendar, but sometimes they just want to be told directly instead of having to perform the extra step of visiting your profile.


Yes, I always tell them directly; however that availability information can change the second I hit the send key if a new job suddenly comes in that pushes my availability out a few days or weeks. Availability can change in a flash.


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Christian Esquivel
Colombia
Local time: 22:27
English to Spanish
+ ...
Business opportunity! Mar 18, 2014

Maybe it's time you started a small agency.

Hire a couple of translators you can trust or that you can even train yourself to meet the same quality you usually deliver and contact all of your clients telling them that you have started or formalized your own business called "Bartholomew's Translations" for example, and offer them a larger output per day.

It can't hurt to try. Just make sure you set your business with reliable translators and in an organized fashion.


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Julie Dion  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 23:27
English to French
Time to... Mar 19, 2014

Time to raise your rates

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