Archive | February, 2015

A Tale of Two Agencies

2 Feb

A very good strategy. We all started somewhere, taking jobs from any agency we came across. The one thing is important: you have to leave your comfort zone, otherwise you can be stuck there for years.

Translation Wordshop

The freelancer-large agency relationship is often an ambivalent one. On the one hand, the industry behemoths can provide a steady flow of work, which is a good thing if you have bills to pay. On the other hand, larger also means more layers of organization, so the people you talk to don’t have the authority to make decisions, and the people who do tend to be well-protected behind the organizational line of scrimmage. Plus some of them don’t pay a lot. When I first started translating I didn’t realize this was an issue, because I was happy to have work at all and I jumped on every job offer, no questions asked (which, in hindsight, I don’t recommend).

bureaucracy Image: Delmarva.Dealings

But at a certain point I realized that the rates I was agreeing to were on the low end of the scale, and that there were many people with similar…

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Diversification vs. specialization: two sides of the same coin

2 Feb

A lot has been said about diversification for translators recently. Although some claim that it is only now that the trend has become growing, the need for diversification has always been perceived by the absolute majority of language industry professionals (though under different names). A comprehensive, robust collection of thoughts on different types of diversification is contained in the book “Diversification in the Language Industry” by Nicole Adams (I provided a very short overview of the book several months ago). What I would like is to share my thoughts about diversification, since today I have finally read the book through (well, you don`t have too much time with a 2-year-old boy, actually). First, a natural way to secure your financial stability is to either let the partner add to the household income, or have a deposit covering 3 to 6 months of severe “famine”. Of course, I got married out of pure love, but when I was planning my transition to full-time freelancing, I seriously considered the contribution my wife could make (both that time and later on). I call it “diversification of your household income”. A lot has also been said about putting all your eggs in different baskets (the 80/20 rule to be considered here as well). You diversify your clientele by turning down large volumes of work from suspicious agencies or new clients, etc. On the other hand, a healthy balance must be kept here. It is quite dangerous and inappropriate to turn down projects from your reliable clients, since it is 5 times harder to get a new client then to keep your existing one. As far as linguistic diversification is concerned, traditional ways of diversifying your translation business are well-known. First, you brainstorm your areas of specialization (IT translation experts can easily become SEO specialists; translators of marketing materials can become successful marketers of services similar to translation, interpreting, etc. – for example, you can market services of public speakers). This is a very productive method of finding areas where you can get leads and (hopefully) projects, since you already have the expertise and (certain) skills. Second, you brainstorm the profession of a translator in general: what services can be added to the standard spectrum of translation services offered by thousands of translators? Answer: interpretation, editing, proofreading, transcription, transcreation, PEMT, etc. PLUS different (sometimes quite unexpected and unusual) combinations of these sub-services. Quite interesting and absolutely unique sets of services can be established in this way. For example, you may become the only translator who specializes in (or, in other words, who diversifies her business and income by) offering marketing-related translations specially tailored to suit the needs of companies who need their source text be transcreated for the particular market or culture. When translating the ST, you not only do the transcreation – you also adjust the final product to natch the needs of the respective audiences. What is more, you can also be the one able to produce a flawless copy of the ST using your DTP skills. Isn`t you then a one-stop service provider clients always want to cooperate with? “Diversification” for me is both a synonym and the other side of “specialization”, the term much more familiar to a lot of translators. By specializing and/or combining different services, you create your own blue ocean, your niche, where you don`t have competitors. Thus, you make your business less vulnerable. You diversify you income.