Is it right to have only three or four clients?
Thread poster: Anna Sylvia Villegas Carvallo

Anna Sylvia Villegas Carvallo
Local time: 20:56
English to Spanish
Nov 6, 2007

Hi Prozian colleagues!

I am a bit confused...

In your opinion, is it right to have only 3 or 4 clients that keep you busy all the year through?

Additionally, I have to refuse jobs from other clients because of them...

Is this right?? icon_confused.gif

[Edited at 2007-11-06 02:32]


Marcelo Silveyra
United States
Local time: 18:56
Member (2007)
German to English
+ ...
It's ok, but it can be dangerous Nov 6, 2007

Hi Tadzio,

I was in a similar position not too long ago - and I decided to get out of it. Why? Well, if one or two of those clients suddenly decides to use a different translator, goes broke, is abducted by aliens, or loses their mask in an otherworldly wrestling match with Blue Demon, you'll suddenly find yourself in a pretty uncomfortable spot.

It's great to have a reliable flow of work, but in our line of work, diversification is pretty important as a backup, so I would consider taking less work from one of the 3 or 4 clients and using the available time to work with others.

This, of course, all depends on the particular 3 or 4 clients. If Azcárraga is your uncle, loves you dearly, and has you translating everything that Televisa comes up with, it's a safe bet that you won't find yourself scrambling for work anytime soon. But if there's a possibility (even if meager) that a couple of clients might stop giving you translation work at some point in time, I'd suggest expanding your current client portfolio just a bit at least.


Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:56
English to Spanish
+ ...
Cultivate Your Garden Nov 6, 2007

Well, it's not wrong, but as Marcelo says, it can be a bit risky. Like in all businesses, it's good to diversify. And if you become a bit overburdened at times, then just bite the bullet and do it.

Such is the price of success. You can never have too many clients, and you can never make too much money.


Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:56
French to Spanish
+ ...
Well... Nov 6, 2007

...80 % of my income are from 3/4 clients.
Good ones, of course.
Risky, yes, of course. They can drop me tomorrow.
But I hang on them. Quality, specialization. That's it.


Mulyadi Subali  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:56
English to Indonesian
+ ...
70:30 Nov 6, 2007

personally, i prefer to give 70 percent of my time maintaining my existing clients, and the remaining time to expand. if you're really busy, it would be very hard to get new client. maybe it's time for you to expand by 'outsourcing' your job.icon_wink.gif
i think this is the natural way for any business to expand. if you don't have the capacity, you will likely have to outsource some of the job.


Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:56
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
It depends Nov 6, 2007

It's not bad nor good per se. It depends on how you manage your money income.

I have survived these recent 7 years mainly from 2 clients. Until 2005 they represented the 100%. Then, I found translation sites and that dependency has decreased to 90%, still high, yes but at least they pat promptly and not within the following quarters...


Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:56
English to Dutch
+ ...
Legal considerations Nov 6, 2007

In some countries, like the Netherlands, you _must_ have a minimum number of clients to be legally counted as entrepeneur - which will give you a number of (tax) advantages.
You might want to check how the situation is in your country.


Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:56
English to French
3/4 clients is not that risky Nov 6, 2007

I assume that your customers are agencies.

You cannot lose them all at once and 25% to 33% of business loss can be quickly overcome, especially if they feed you with work full time and you periodically get offers from prospects or turn down jobs from your incumbent clients.

Actually, I believe securing a small loyal customer base is gratifying and safe, as the relation is much more trusworthy than if you were some kind of mercenary (no offense) doing one-off jobs for agencies you don't know, which increases the risk of non-payment manyfold (does this term exist?). And building a loyal customer base is not that easy.

Needless to say (but I am writing it anyway), do keep an eye on any payment delays: usually monthly bills make up a substantial amount of money and anytime, one of your core customers may encounter business problems. You have to detect them as soon as poss to get your money! I once paid 3700 euros to learn that.



Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:56
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Three or four is fine, but dangerous Nov 6, 2007

Tadzio Carvallo wrote:
In your opinion, is it right to have only 3 or 4 clients that keep you busy all the year through?

This is fine. I have about four clients (agencies) who regularly send me stuff, and then I do extra work (for other clients) if and when they arrive. My approach is, however, to accept as many jobs as I can from new clients, because you never know when a new client will become a regular client.


Nadja Balogh  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:56
Member (2007)
Japanese to German
+ ...
It IS indeed dangerous Nov 6, 2007

I think it is indeed dangerous to be too dependent on a limited number of clients - I've made this experience myself some time ago, when a steady workflow from one of them became less frequent (probably because they expanded their translator base, and not because the quality of my translations was suddenly, after so many years, not acceptable anymore - or that's what I hope, anyway).

And I had been turning down other possibilities because of them - which, looking back now, I probably shouldn't have done. Still, it can be hard at the time to decide to "neglect" your good client so you can try your luck with a new, potentially bad, one. But maybe once in a while this is what you should do, just in case.


Rahi Moosavi  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:56
Member (2004)
Farsi (Persian) to English
+ ...
The Pareto principle (80/20 rule) Nov 6, 2007

I would suggest reading these articles, I find this rule to be quite true in practice.

In a nutshell, it says that ~80% of your revenue will come from ~20% of your client base.

You will go on market yourself and land new accounts and clients as time goes by (if you make an effort no doubt) but your main source of income will still be coming from a smaller circle of closer/better clients. These are the ones which I would pamper more so to speak and in return, they will provide me with the major portion of my income.

I would translate this into ongoing endeavor to find good clients and adding them into my 20% circle. If not, they will stay in my 80% pool but provide me with income from time to time. In any case, as a personal opinion I would see having only 3 or 4 clients a bit risky if you are a full time freelance translator and I quote:

"Pareto's Principle, the 80/20 Rule, should serve as a daily reminder to focus 80 percent of your time and energy on the 20 percent of you work that is really important. Don't just "work smart", work smart on the right things"

[Edited at 2007-11-06 10:35]


lbone  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:56
Member (2006)
English to Chinese
+ ...
3/4 clients are enough Nov 15, 2007

In most of the time in my translation career since 1995, I got most of my monthly income from 1-2 big clients, and they also depended on me.

If you are confident with yourself and familiar with a pattern that actually works, you will not be afraid of losing them - all other outsourcers are their backups.

[Edited at 2007-11-15 15:54]


Local time: 03:56
German to Chinese
+ ...
work as efficiency as we can Nov 16, 2007

it depends how can you budget your time.
if we have enough time and can arrange everything in order, we surely can apply more service.

maybe the problem is not how many clients you should have but how efficiency you work.


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