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Client Management vs. Effective Translation work - what to expect
Thread poster: Marianna Buchicchio

Marianna Buchicchio  Identity Verified
Portugal
Member
May 12, 2015

I would like to understand your (freelance) perception on Management vs. Translation time split.

How much % of time do you effectively spend translating?

I mean there are the other Management things you have to handle if you're a freelancer, that includes but are not limited to:

  • find projects to work on and then manage the clients.
  • there are many ways to find/get projects (network, proz and other sites,...)
  • then you have to pitch, send a quote...
  • if you get the project there are details to be worked on (glossaries, formats, deadlines,...)
  • after the translation there is also client management on quality, review, etc.
  • then finally there's billing the client and getting payed


glad and thankful to ear your thoughts on this

thanks
Hugo


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Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:15
English to French
+ ...
being a freelancer is much more than production and management May 12, 2015

A freelancer is an entire corporation:

Production
Purchasing (including researching and selecting items to be purchased)
IT (IT management, IT security, troubleshooting, etc.)
Maintenance and repairs (hardware, software, etc.)
Marketing
Sales
Advertising
Accounts payable
Accounts receivable
Bookkeeping (invoicing and keeping track of bills)
Tax preparation
Continuous education
Training (translation and related software, but also IT software such as backup, etc.)
Public relations
Receptionist
Janitor
Customer relations
And whatever I forget.

I'm glad I don't need to do management on top of all this.


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Marianna Buchicchio  Identity Verified
Portugal
Member
TOPIC STARTER
Management = Stuff that is not translating May 12, 2015

JL01 wrote:

A freelancer is an entire corporation:
.....

I'm glad I don't need to do management on top of all this.


JL01,
good, that's what I meant with management - all the stuff that is not translating but it's needed to keep receiving translation requests.

and so the question is what % of time do you spend translating?

thanks


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Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:15
English to French
+ ...
that's an easy one May 12, 2015

Easy to answer, for a change: too much and not enough.

Too much, because stuff that lands in my Inbox is poorly written, full of unknown writer-specific jargon, because there is so much junk in the Internet that searches are mostly useless, and because deadlines are always too short.

Not enough, because rates are so low and I spend so much time doing "non-translating work".

[/quote]

and so the question is what % of time do you spend translating?

[/quote]


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Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 15:15
English to Russian
+ ...
Depends on experience May 12, 2015

The time spent managing your work depends on your experience. When you have just embarked on a freelance career for the first time, it's close to 100% because you have no jobs and spend all your time seeking clients. Conversely, after several decades in this industry, when you have a well-tuned set of tools and a professional reputation bringing you a steady stream of work, it drops to maybe 5-10%. It's important, however, to learn to recognize dead-end leads that bring you more trouble than money, and not to get involved with them.

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Caroline Lakey  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:15
French to English
20 to 50% non-translating time May 13, 2015

The amount of time you spend on actual translation vs "management" tasks depends on a variety of factors.
You will probably spend more time on "management" tasks if you work with direct clients, and less if you work with agencies - so long as you avoid the ones that require reams of paperwork!
Where you live is also a factor, as administrative requirements are more time-consuming in some countries than in others.
It's impossible to give an actual figure, but I would guess that once you are established you might be looking at between 20% and 50% "management" time.


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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Depends on your customer base May 13, 2015

With a steady customer (agency here), you spend 5% on "management" and 95% on the actual work (translating/editing/proofreading/evaluating). Emails and even wording is standard and brought to its minimum. You understand each other instantly:

" Hi Editor,

New editing assignment: xxx
Language: xxx to xxx
Words: xxx
Deadline: xxx

We'll send you translation on xxx at xxx.

Are you available?

Greetings,
xxx"

You edit, with comments, and send it back. You might receive a few questions and a "thank you" message concludes the whole thing (provided you invoice once a month; common practice with steady customers who provide you with "substantial" volume of work).

New customers are pain in the beginning. "Get to know" emails, back and forth. Tests, evaluation, feedback, NDAs, agreements, policies, scanning, back and forth and again. I forgot research phase: does the company exist? Is it worth it (rates)? Are they professional/friendly/knowledgeable about the subject matter? Is it a "fraud" test translation? Does the company have a Blue Board listing and rating? Will the company "suffocate" me with unrealistic deadlines? Will they nag about my rates all the time? Etc.

There are "tasks" that you can absolutely optimise (such as having a solid base of steady customers and thereby spend less time on marketing, tests, etc.) and those that you cannot do anything about (IT, taxes, training, etc.).

No real and truly vocational translator "fancies" carrying out non-translation tasks. Therefore, a solid, steady, well known and reliable customer base is a must if you want to spend about 70% of your time doing what you love doing.

[Edited at 2015-05-13 10:10 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-05-13 10:11 GMT]


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oxygen4u
Portugal
Local time: 14:15
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Why does Unbabel want to know that? May 13, 2015

Oh, right because you offer offensive rates and you're probably trying to figure out a way to offer even lower rates.

How nice of you to care.

If you were translators you would know the answer to your question.


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Marianna Buchicchio  Identity Verified
Portugal
Member
TOPIC STARTER
Because we want to compare apples to apples May 13, 2015

oxygen4u wrote:

Oh, right because you offer offensive rates and you're probably trying to figure out a way to offer even lower rates.

How nice of you to care.

If you were translators you would know the answer to your question.


Dear Oxygen4u,

That's it, I'm not a translator and so I care to ask.

For those of you who care to answer I can explain better:
- from time to time we engage in hourly rate conversations with translators
- but as we see in the proz hourly rate calculator (http://www.proz.com/translator-rates-calculator/) an important part is the %of time translating.
- so we cannot compare average hourly rate to billed hourly rate.
- that's why I would like to have a feeling of what are your % of non translating time

Some people like to say they work at $30/h but only to find out that 50% of their time is spending in non-translation tasks and so although the charge $30/h they are effectively earning $15/h

Thanks
Hugo


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oxygen4u
Portugal
Local time: 14:15
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Dear Hugo May 13, 2015

"Some people like to say they work at $30/h".

Well, some companies in "babel land" like to offer translators $0,03/word (all language combinations) for "quality" translations...


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Marcos Cardenas  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 10:15
English to Spanish
+ ...
It depends May 13, 2015

on how much work you can handle. Depending on the subject matter and word count, you can estimate how much actual translating you will be doing in an ideal scenario of good quality source text and manageable file format. If you are experienced, you could easily reach a rate of 3,500 - 4,500 words/day, that is, translating 500-600 words/hour. I know some translators whose daily output is ever higher e.g. 6,000-8,000 words/day, especially if it's a rush assignment. Personally I find it a bit insane if you want to work only 8 hours a day.
It's good to be honest with oneself and not to bite more than one can actually chew. That's very important when dealing with a client. So for example, if a client sends me an assignment, first, I check the word count and subject matter and make a time estimation according to my daily output, and then I estimate proofreading, revision and edition -in some cases- etc. times to get a final lead time.

I hope this is useful.

Regards,

Marcos


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:15
German to English
2/3 billable hours as rule of thumb May 13, 2015

It's been a while, but I had to write a business plan when I started out and my memory is that 2/3 of working hours being billable hours was often presented as a useful general rule of thumb (not specific to the field of translation). It might be possible to get up to 3/4, but I think that anything beyond that is unrealistic without a very capable personal assistant and/or outsourcing things like billing, accounting, sales, etc. Doubters should keep track of every minute of their working day for a month with an Excel file or a program developed for this purpose: You'll be surprised. (See JL01's e-mail.)

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:15
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
We say it because we mean it May 14, 2015

Hugo Macedo wrote:
For those of you who care to answer I can explain better:
- from time to time we engage in hourly rate conversations with translators
- but as we see in the proz hourly rate calculator (http://www.proz.com/translator-rates-calculator/) an important part is the %of time translating.
- so we cannot compare average hourly rate to billed hourly rate.
- that's why I would like to have a feeling of what are your % of non translating time

Some people like to say they work at $30/h but only to find out that 50% of their time is spending in non-translation tasks and so although the charge $30/h they are effectively earning $15/h

Thank you so much for your concern, but it's really not something for an outsourcer to worry about. What we do when we aren't actively working on your (or other clients') projects is entirely up to us. That's the essence of freelancing.

These rates are not simply the result of holding a damp finger in the wind. One day we might spend minimal time on billable work and the rest on admin. That's true for the last day of the month for me, when I send out invoices and do my bookkeeping. If I do just one hour's editing that day, I can't charge the client for a day's work, can I? On the other hand, with all the admin out of the way and a big job landed, I might work full time on that one job and do very little admin for a week. Should I charge that client less per hour? No, everyone pays my normal rate so that at the end of the year I've balanced my books and can afford a holiday.

So please don't concern yourself with whether our hourly rate is covering 2 hours of admin or none at all. Just accept that, in the above example, if the translator's rate for an hour of editing is EUR 30, that's what you need to pay them for an hour's work. And as you've clearly found out on the site, that is an average rate and not at all overblown.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:15
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I see where this is going now May 14, 2015

I see that you advertise USD 8 per hour for "editors" i.e. PEMTers on your site, although that is only after you've produced a curiously difficult-to-tie-down amount of work for free. I imagine you're now seeking to justify that here.

However, this hourly rate is based on your own anticipated volume of work handled in an hour. I hardly think it likely that a professional translator would be happy to type all day, changing total rubbish into stilted target language, for a measly USD 64. Not only is it a ridiculous sum to expect a professional to work for; it would also be incredibly demotivating to have spent time and money on professional qualifications etc just to end up as some sort of sweatshop typist.

And the admin is only diminished if translators devote all their time and energy to you. That's not what a FREElancer does. By definition, we have a wide client base. In fact, in some countries working for just one "client" on a freelance basis is illegal (more so for the employer than the freelancer).

No, I think this quote from your site sums things up very nicely:
As an editor, every time your balance reaches $5 you can request a cash out.


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Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:15
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
A lot of marketing and networking to get direct customers May 14, 2015

To answer your question: As I do not want to work for agencies which pay no more than 30 € per hour, I pass a lot of time on networking and marketing to get good regular direct customers. This takes me at least a whole day per week, sometimes more.

I also do accept editing jobs and copywriting (rarely translation as well) for agencies which are aware that my work is worth at least 47 € per hour.

Paperwork is not what I like especially, so I pay someone for that.


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