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Poll: Are you in a situation in which a single client accounts for a significant part of your income?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 20:50
SITE STAFF
Apr 27, 2016

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Are you in a situation in which a single client accounts for a significant part of your income?".

This poll was originally submitted by Alan Corbo, CT. View the poll results »



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Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:50
Member (2006)
German to English
No Apr 27, 2016

And that would not be very responsible if you did do it.
Let them fall away for some reason....

Always a healthy balance of customers, making sure that you do not step on anyones toes.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 04:50
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No, not now! Apr 27, 2016

I have a good client base (both direct clients and translation agencies) but that was the most serious mistake I made when I started out working as a full-time freelancer some 40 years ago. By then I was working with a very high-volume client (a translation agency) for whom I had worked part-time before. One year later their contract with the client was not renewed and I was suddenly left without a single client! A hard-learned lesson! Fortunately, this was at the time Portugal adhered to the then European Community and demand for Portuguese translations was high…

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Steffen Walter  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:50
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
Define 'significant' Apr 27, 2016

I ticked 'Other' because I am not sure where to draw the line in terms of 'significance'. 10%? 20%?

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 05:50
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Other Apr 27, 2016

Strictly yes, because one good client keeps me busy quite a lot of the time, and in practice does pay a significant part of my income. However, if that client disappeared suddenly, I would be able to survive, and could soon work up others. In short, I am not dependent on one client.

When I started, I was very dependent on two clients, one more than the other, and I was simply lucky when one went out of business. I had taken my summer holiday, and was translating a whole book for an occasional client, so I did not have time to work for the usual one in its last months. Some colleagues did a whole month's work or more without getting paid for it.

From that I learned that my language pair is a small world. End clients from the big agency that went out of business turned, naturally, to other agencies, and I ended up doing jobs for them again.

What annoyed me was that I took a hefty cut in my rates - clients went to the lower-priced UK agencies, quite naturally, for translations into English. No way could I get them to pay as much as the Danish agencies.

Denmark and the UK are not in the Euro-zone, and while the Krone is linked to the Euro, the Pound is not. UK rates are tolerable when sterling is doing well, but when the exchange rate drops, I simply do not get out of bed for the rates some UK agencies offer. 'No problem', they say, and find a sucker who will, but I do NOT proofread (or whatever they call it) for those agencies either!

Of course, other UK clients pay viable rates, even for a translator in Scandinavia. I have reached the point where I don't depend much on them.


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Yes Apr 27, 2016

Michael Harris wrote:

And that would not be very responsible if you did do it.


But if that one client pays a lot more than the rest, it would be irresponsible not to...


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes Apr 27, 2016

My best client sends me stuff even when things are quiet, and usually provides enough cash to pay my rent every month. I currently have a 15K job underway for them due by Friday next week, but I'll finish ahead of deadline, and another 4-5K waiting in the wings for when I finish that one. Last night they sent me an "urgent" legal thing (SLA amendment) which I finished by 2 am (mainly because the telly was rubbish) and delivered it today.
However, I could foreseeably survive if they suddenly vanished. In fact, this week has been so busy that I've had to refuse a few interesting offers from other sources, particularly one on education/teacher training which is an area I like, but the client wanted it by this Friday and I couldn't fit it in, or find any reliable colleagues available either... heigh-ho


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Yetta J Bogarde  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 05:50
Member (2012)
English to Danish
+ ...
Yes Apr 27, 2016

I would say 3 big ones that account for about 80% of my income.

But although it is going fine right now, I am well aware of not burning all my bridges.
I actually once lost one big client just like that without any explanation.

[Edited at 2016-04-27 11:20 GMT]


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EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:50
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
Not any more Apr 27, 2016

Steffen Walter wrote:

I ticked 'Other' because I am not sure where to draw the line in terms of 'significance'. 10%? 20%?

In some industries (for supplier evaluation purposes), a supplier is considered "fragile" if one client represents more than 30% of their business. This is a bit stringent for a sole trader, but can be used as a reference.
Also in industry, your "significant clients" are these who, if you range them from the biggest to the smallest, represent together 75% of your business - their number is a good indicator, too. There should be at least 3-4.
My main client used to represent about 70% of my business,, which was a catastrophe. I have been working on it for about 4 years now, and this year to date, the largest one (not the same one) represents about 17%, and among 29 clients I worked for since the beginning of this year, 9 are significant. The next step will be to eliminate all "bottom feeders" from this portion (there is one just now, but another one "drops in" on and off).


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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 05:50
French to English
+ ...
No Apr 27, 2016

I learned that lesson the hard way about 20 years ago and I've never allowed it to happen again.

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:50
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I'm not practising what I preach currently Apr 27, 2016

I'm a firm believer in having a wide client base to reduce risk, and it really worries me when I hear of young translators relying on just one or two clients to feed their families. But I'm nearing the end of my professional life and trying to cut back on my working hours. I haven't taken on more work from my No1 client, but the percentage has changed and now it is a bit worrying. I do send 5-10 invoices per month (1 per client) but often the others are rather small. I really can't discourage that main client though as he's pretty much a perfect one and pays in just a few days.

I'm concerned that it isn't a good way of doing business. However, like Christine, I don't think I'd suffer unduly if that client disappeared, as long as he paid the last invoice. It would just mean having to reject fewer potential clients. And I could also go back to doing some active marketing.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:50
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Other Apr 27, 2016

Although I do have several customers, presently it seems that a single one accounts for nearly 80% of my (freelancer's) income. It only turned to be this way this month, which I don't mind (at the moment) due to the enormous workflow.

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Agneta Pallinder  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:50
Member (2014)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Other Apr 27, 2016

I was last year, but not this. I had a big project for a direct client and it brought in a large part of last year's income. It was a bit scary when that project was completed, but I followed colleagues' advice here on ProZ and did a bit of marketing, just identifying likely agencies from their websites and emailing them. Out of about ten, four have since sent me projects, so I feel a great deal better.

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Ekaterina Chashnikova  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:50
Member (2011)
English to Russian
+ ...
Yes, but... Apr 27, 2016

...the significant client (i.e. paying the major part of my income) might differ by month.

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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:50
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes, inadvertently Apr 27, 2016

It's not usual in my case, but one client hiked their volume last year.

I would've said No, but it's April and I'm still reeling from the taxes


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