Poll: In your opinion, what number of regular customers is sufficient for an optimal workload?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
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SITE STAFF
Jul 31, 2015

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "In your opinion, what number of regular customers is sufficient for an optimal workload?".

This poll was originally submitted by Alexandr Kopiy. View the poll results »



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Leon Ivanihin  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:12
Member (2011)
English to Russian
10 or more Jul 31, 2015

This is not just my opinion.
I have read an article with review about this. The author discovered, that there is 'recommended volume' of customers to make freelancer's career more or less stable.
My own experience confirms that when you have less than 10 regular clients, this it the indicator and the reason to activate your campaign on generating new leads.
However, I've heard many successful and famous translators opinion, that they are happy with 2-3 regular clients only. So far, it seems, it depends on your business situation.


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:12
Spanish to English
+ ...
Usual answer: It depends Jul 31, 2015

Optimal to me means covering my living expenses and having some cash to put away for retirement, holidays, contingencies, and so on. It also means having weekends, nights and holidays free to be with family and friends.

I suppose the number of regular clients needed depends on the size of the documents they send. If it's a constant flow of menus, short brochures, CVs, advertising blurbs or whatever, you'd probably need quite a few clients to make a living.

On the other hand, if you have clients that send a steady supply of manuals, dossiers, annual reports, etc. you could get by with fewer clients.

Over the years I've settled for a mix of the two: 2 regulars who send big jobs and 2 who send smallish things.

Hey, it works for me!


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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 17:12
French to English
+ ...
Way more than 5 Jul 31, 2015

This year (2015) I have billed 12 different customers and one more during the last 12 months. I don't consider that I have an optimal workload so, if it depends on the number of customers, 13 isn't enough.

In a previous life I had a business with two major customers and a bunch of smaller ones. For various reasons that were not my fault, the two big ones went away in the same month. I kept the business going but it never really recovered and I eventually closed it down.

Being reliant on too few "good" customers is, in my opinion, the number one mistake that small businesses make. You should never have a single customer providing more than 10% of your income. If the idea of suddenly loosing your best two customers scares you, you need more customers. I paid a high price for that lesson but you can have it for free


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Vadim Kadyrov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 18:12
Member (2011)
English to Russian
+ ...
It is always better to have more clients/projects than you can handle Jul 31, 2015

You can always turn down some of them, or raise your rates, etc.

This is my rule of thumb.


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:12
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I said 4 Jul 31, 2015

That's because my clients tend to send me jobs that are quite long (rarely under 15,000 words). I haven't had a single break since February, even on weekends. Most of the time I've had at least one waiting in the pipeline. So far this year I've had 6 clients, 3 of them regulars. In the past, I've had 10 or more.

I would prefer to have more clients and somewhat shorter assignments, but with these long jobs, I haven't been able to take on anything else.

It's not safe to put all your eggs in one basket, even if you have a heavy load of work. Two years ago my very best direct client had a change in policy and started farming the work out to agencies instead of individual translators. Now I just receive confidential documents from them.


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Yetta J Bogarde  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 17:12
Member (2012)
English to Danish
+ ...
I would say 5 - 10 Jul 31, 2015

but right now 3 of my regular clients are providing me with all the work I can handle

[Edited at 2015-07-31 09:34 GMT]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 17:12
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Depends on the definition of regular too Jul 31, 2015

Over the years I have had clients whom I invoiced every month for up to several years. Definitely regulars. Some months more than half my income has come from one or other of these, but I try to make sure I do not depend entirely on any of them. I have never had more than two at a time in this category.

I have two very faithful long-term clients whom I invoice quarterly to save bank costs. They send a couple of jobs at intervals, anything from 100 words to 10,000+. I regard them as regulars, but I would need a lot of that type to make a living on them alone.

Then there are the ones who turn up a couple of times a year. Repeat clients, but not really regulars. I know them, they pay well, but the amount of work they send is sporadic, and I would really need a LOT of them to make a living. Between them, however, they keep me busy between jobs for more regular clients.

I am not sure whether the last two categories really count as regulars.

For an optimal workload the amount of work each client sends and perhaps subject areas are far more critical than the number of regular clients.

Finance, marketing, tourism and many other fields have their cycles of busy seasons and quieter periods. A suitable mix of working and specialist areas is also an important factor.

Definitely OTHER!


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Paul Adie  Identity Verified
Germany
Spanish to English
+ ...
Over 5 Jul 31, 2015

I'd say over five. I have 3 regular clients and a bunch of one-off jobs, but I wouldn't mind adding another couple of regulars to the pot! I know all too well that regulars can drop you quickly, which has happened to me a couple of times, once because I asked for a rise of half a euro cent per word!

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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
None Jul 31, 2015

No work at all would be my optimal workload

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Sophie Dzhygir  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:12
Member (2007)
German to French
+ ...
10 or more Jul 31, 2015

That's for me. I have about 10 regular clients, 5 to 10 less regular ones, a lot more one-offs or rare ones.
Sure, people who work for very large agencies offering very large jobs can be happy with one or two clients (although I find that risky). But I dislike large jobs and I work only with small to medium agencies. So I guess it much depends on your business model.


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Henry Schroeder  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:12
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Agencies - 3 to 4; random clients - depends on definition of regular and ability to collaborate... Jul 31, 2015

An agency regularly giving you work means you hear from them at least every couple weeks. The maximum number of "regulars" in this case is 3 to 4.

Direct clients are totally different and would depend greatly on your circumstances.


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Michel Virasolvy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:12
Member (2012)
English to French
At least 5 Jul 31, 2015

Funny how this poll echoes to my current situation as I'm now taking some distance with a "regular" who's currently trying to cut the costs by proposing me less jobs with even lower rates assuming I'll accept the deal like a goose. Just as Terry and Muriel said earlier any full-time pro shouldn't rely on two or three good clients and try to keep at least five regulars to plan and earn a decent living. The process also help getting into shape if any good client whimsically decides to turn tails and you need to find any new client to stabilize your income again as a freelancer.

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Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:12
Spanish to English
+ ...
I agree Jul 31, 2015

Chris S wrote:

No work at all would be my optimal workload


As long as they keep paying ^_^


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Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 14:12
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Actually, it's a combination Jul 31, 2015

of the number of clients X the volume of work sent regularly by each.

Many clients send a large volume of work, but for a short period of time. I've had very large projects that took most of my time, for a few months, then the client disappeared.

Many cients send small jobs, but regularly. I have regular clients who send small jobs of less than 1000 words, but they send them practically every day. One of them represents about $ 1500 every month with all the small documents.

Some send decent jobs every now and then, but stay almost a month without notice after each job.

So, our reality is, we must have at least: (1) some regular clients (jobs every week), (2) some semi-regular clients (jobs every month or so. Disappear, but regulary appear again), (3) some occasional clients (about 3 or 4 jobs in a year, but they always remember you when they neeed), (4) some sporadic and/or new clients (one-timers, individuals/students, and new clients that may potentially become a 1-3 client, as mentioned above).

I believe every translator who has been around for more than 5 years will have a portfolio like this. Otherwise, you simply cannot count only on your income from translations (my case), and you must have an alternative source of income.


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