Archive | August, 2016

My presentation at UTIC 2016 conference – marketing and payments from foreign customers for freelance translators

24 Aug


Direct clients over Internet? Why not?

15 Aug

(This was a comment to a blog post by Corinne McKay – Agencies won’t pay my rates, and I can’t find direct clients”: what to do?)

What about this kind of situation: rates acceptable in the country where I live (Ukraine) are sometime 8-10 times lower than the rates paid even by Indian and/or Chinese translation agencies. In order to be precise, I have just visited a web-site of one of numerous translation agencies in the city of Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine). 70 UAH per page of EN-RU translation, which is about 0,009 USD per word (now imagine how much a translator will get in this case). Actually, the same situation is in almost any other country of the ex-USSR (it would take too much time to tell you why, and it is not only about GDP-per-capita indices of these countries).

Which means that direct clients here will never accept something as high as 0,1 USD per word (which is 11(!) times higher than the number above offered by a translation agency – a company with several project managers and dozens of freelancers ready to offer their help).

Which in its turn means that once you start working with translation agencies in Europe or the US (thanks to proz, or similar platforms), you will no longer accept those ridiculous rates local market offers you. In other words, you just don`t have both direct and “indirect” clients here ready to pay you the rates even the most, well, “greedy” Western agencies can offer you (ca. 0,06 USD).

In other words, there is no way back. In order to raise your rates, you have now to look for direct clients in the US, Western Europe, etc. Which is not an easy task. Some businesses (like IT startups, video game producers) are accustomed to working with people living thousands of miles away. But the general attitude is not very favorable. It is just too risky to hire a freelancer living in a country you heard about only a couple of times.

I have managed to come up with several marketing ideas – talking to my colleagues located in these countries (I now have several translators who outsource me their projects regularly). Another strategy I made use of was a direct mail campaign to some 100 companies abroad who cooperate heavily with Russians (no leads for now, but that was a nice try, I think). Google Ads – well, it is good for highly commoditized products, but it is almost useless for sophisticated services like translation.

BTW, that is exactly why I am shocked to hear translators living in, say, in Canada who “just can`t find (direct) clients”.

Well, I mean, as Corinne puts it, you have to change your mindset first. There is always a way out – just notice the pains one has to take in order to get some direct clients here.

How much is enough for a translator?

8 Aug

Have you ever thought about how much money do you need? What is the amount (per month, if you will) you will be satisfied with?

The thing is that this notion of “enough-ness” is quite important for any person, according to a lot of coaches, therapists, etc.

In 2012 I bought a book by Jean Clark et al. called “How much is enough?”. Although this book is about making children feel that enough is enough, I think that it is never late to start understanding the true meaning of this words – whether you are 20, 30, 40 or 60.

On my first publiс speaking event (UTIC 2016) I listened to a speech of one of the leading En-Ru translators of the community – Oleg Rudavin (BTW, author of “Internet Freelancing” – His “enough” equals the amount you need to cover your monthly spending PLUS “a little bit more” (his words). This equation seems perfect, but what seems enough today can become too little very fast. When I was 20 (when I started my freelance career as a 4th-year student at the university), my rates were ridiculously low, but the money I used to get that time was OK for me – I used to live with my parents, and I didn`t have neither a wife nor children. Once all this becomes a part of your life, you have to make more money. So, the meaning of “enough” is unstable, which means that you have to adjust your income according to new challenges. Moreover, given the nature of life (well, we can`t predict our future), it is only natural that any entrepreneur should always try to maximize her income.

Although the last sentence is generally true, this is a straight way to insomnia, stroke or cerebral hemorrhage (its not me who is saying it – it`s a widely accepted opinion of physicians). Instead, in order to have a cushion against “famine” periods, unexpected situations and/or challenges, you should have an emergency fund amounting to 3-6 months of your normal way of living. Plus, there should be certain milestones set for your income – actually, things you want to buy: a car, a house, a flat, etc. Without these things it`s much more difficult to identify the meaning of your “enough”.

I am still quite far away from what is enough for me and my wife. That`s why I have a couple of projects which have nothing to do with translation. But I hope that eventually my life will be a balance of both activities – translation and selling, because translation is a real passion of mine.

Once it`s your passion, you can`t let it go.