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Selling parts of my business
Thread poster: Michael Wetzel

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:00
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
summary Jun 1, 2017

I'll try it in three short paragraphs:

I work regularly or semi-regularly with one or two dozen direct clients, and a couple dozen direct clients per year find me through my website for one-time projects. All of them work in the field of art and all of the texts are art-related. I want to start focusing exclusively on larger and longer-term projects, so I need to stop working for some of these clients and drastically reduce the number of projects I do for others. My net annual sales
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I'll try it in three short paragraphs:

I work regularly or semi-regularly with one or two dozen direct clients, and a couple dozen direct clients per year find me through my website for one-time projects. All of them work in the field of art and all of the texts are art-related. I want to start focusing exclusively on larger and longer-term projects, so I need to stop working for some of these clients and drastically reduce the number of projects I do for others. My net annual sales total for the group of clients and projects I need to shift away from is probably around €20,000.

I want to pass these clients on to a translator or translators who seem like a clearly viable replacement for me. They should have convincing evidence that they are able to consistently produce good art-related translations, have an art-history degree (or substantial professional experience in galleries, museums or in the field of art-related publishing), have considerable experience as a translator, be a native speaker of English, have the ability to communicate comfortably with clients in German, be friendly and easy to work with (particularly the ability to deal productively with justified and unjustified criticism), have a full-service mentality and sense of personal responsibility, be willing to consistently be available and be willing to put in serious overtime for a number of weeks every year. That may seem like a long list, but there really are dozens of us out there.

I am offering to pass existing relationships with clients on to other translator(s): They would take over where I leave off, with the same conditions, etc. and pay me a commission on the difference between what they could have expected to earn otherwise and what they can earn with my former clients. If the relationship doesn't work out, then I don't get paid, but I at least made an honest effort to help my clients. If it does work out, then I think it is a very good deal for everyone involved (it can be hard to find good clients and it is extremely hard to find available good translators).

PS: Everyone moving into partial or full retirement will be faced with this situation some day. Anyone who moves out of the translation field, goes back to working as an employee or has to stop working or work less for health or personal reasons will be placed in a similar situation. I accept that a lot of translators will not have something genuinely marketable at that point, but I think that a lot of people may be underestimating the value of what they have.



[Edited at 2017-06-01 06:28 GMT]
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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 08:00
English to Croatian
+ ...
Is this the right forum? Jun 1, 2017

Michael Wetzel wrote:

I am offering to pass existing relationships with clients on to other translator(s): They would take over where I leave off, with the same conditions, etc. and pay me a commission on the difference between what they could have expected to earn otherwise and what they can earn with my former clients. If the relationship doesn't work out, then I don't get paid, but I at least made an honest effort to help my clients. If it does work out, then I think it is a very good deal for everyone involved (it can be hard to find good clients and it is extremely hard to find available good translators).

[Edited at 2017-06-01 06:28 GMT]


Are you subcontracting work then, I don't understand? If they are going to work instead of you, and pay you the commission, I guess it's subcontracting?

I guess this offer is more suited for the job board, perhaps try out there listing all your conditions? Obviously over there you can select the work field (Art, etc) then the offer will be emailed to the target translators meeting your requirements.


 

Oliver Pekelharing  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:00
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
Team Jun 1, 2017

Just out of interest, do you work with a team for these customers? I am assuming you have a person or people to edit your work, or are you confident enough to do your own editing/checking? I ask this because I work solely through agencies who always check my work for errors before it goes to the end customer. In my experience, however thoroughly I check my own work, they almost always find a few big or small errors (depending on the length of the text), and I believe the same applies to almost a... See more
Just out of interest, do you work with a team for these customers? I am assuming you have a person or people to edit your work, or are you confident enough to do your own editing/checking? I ask this because I work solely through agencies who always check my work for errors before it goes to the end customer. In my experience, however thoroughly I check my own work, they almost always find a few big or small errors (depending on the length of the text), and I believe the same applies to almost all writers. I often wonder how freelancers who work for direct customers solve this problem.

Regards,

Olly
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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 08:00
English to Croatian
+ ...
Cycles. Jun 1, 2017

Olly Pekelharing wrote:

Just out of interest, do you work with a team for these customers? I am assuming you have a person or people to edit your work, or are you confident enough to do your own editing/checking? I ask this because I work solely through agencies who always check my work for errors before it goes to the end customer. In my experience, however thoroughly I check my own work, they almost always find a few big or small errors (depending on the length of the text), and I believe the same applies to almost all writers. I often wonder how freelancers who work for direct customers solve this problem.

Regards,

Olly


When I worked for direct clients my deadlines were set in such a way that I could work on a translation, then take a break (say 5-7 days) and then in the next cycle (or several cycles) do the editing and final reading/final readings with fresh eyes/approach. This approach takes more time, it is more thorough, and of course - more expensive (something the agencies can't pay, they usually just use a second person/ cheap editor).

However, you are right, it's probably best to have a reliable partner to check your work, but it's not always feasible, as other people may not always available when you need them. Also, when one person does the translation, and other person does the editing, it will be noticeable in the text (mixed styles, etc) - which may be a problem in art translation, I guess.

[Edited at 2017-06-01 07:13 GMT]


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:00
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Not subcontracting Jun 1, 2017

I have experimented some with subcontracting (incl. the job board here) and had almost exclusively positive experiences, but regardless of what some freelancers may think, it is not particularly lucrative and it is certainly not a way to simplify my business.

What I am proposing is this:
My only involvement will be to establish this relationship and then to collect a commission over a period of a couple years (a lump-sum payment in advance makes no sense in a situation where n
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I have experimented some with subcontracting (incl. the job board here) and had almost exclusively positive experiences, but regardless of what some freelancers may think, it is not particularly lucrative and it is certainly not a way to simplify my business.

What I am proposing is this:
My only involvement will be to establish this relationship and then to collect a commission over a period of a couple years (a lump-sum payment in advance makes no sense in a situation where no one knows how much the relationship will end up being worth). The contract and all contact would be between the new translator and the old client.
It's like selling a shop except that the payment will be based on a commission after the fact instead of a lump-sum payment in advance, because there is no good way to assign a value to what I am selling.

Re: Olly and Lingua 5B:
I work without a safety net, except on very rare occasions. I think most translators vastly overestimate the benefits of the editing process at agencies. With the important exception of simple errors (i.e. proofreading in the narrow sense), translators themselves can do a much better job editing their own work: It forces them to carefully read through and think over everything three times, and they can improve any detail or nuance without worrying about being part of a team (i.e. keeping changes to a minimum). Even translation errors are more likely to be caught by a good translator looking at the same text the second or third time than a good editor looking at it the first time.

That also means that the much higher rates you can get from higher-end direct clients may not translate into higher earnings, I probably only average a little over 200 words per hour in terms of my complete translation process.
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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 08:00
English to Croatian
+ ...
Yes, absolutely. Jun 1, 2017

Michael Wetzel wrote:
Even translation errors are more likely to be caught by a good translator looking at the same text the second or third time than a good editor looking at it the first time.


Agree, in particular an artist is expected to be aware of this. It'd be like a painting painted by two different artists or "corrected" by a second artist.


 

Jan Truper  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:00
English to German
Once you're out, you're out Jun 1, 2017

Michael Wetzel wrote:
My only involvement will be to establish this relationship and then to collect a commission over a period of a couple years (...).
The contract and all contact would be between the new translator and the old client.


So as soon as you'd have facilitated contact between the new translator and the old client, you'd be obsolete and wouldn't add any further value.

I don't think that is worth much.
I also don't think that you'd be able to guarantee that the newly formed business relationship will work out.
And since you'd be out of the loop, you'd have no way to oversee the amount of work taking place -- hence you'd likely (and in my view, since you wouldn't add any further value, deservedly) get shafted as far as your commission is concerned.
For these and a few other reasons, I don't see it working.


 

Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:00
French to German
+ ...
Other ideas Jun 1, 2017

For me that can't work out like that.

I have the following ideas:

1. You can sell your website for a certain amount. This is common practice in other fields and there are even service providers specialising in that. They can also make you an estimation of the price depending on your traffic.

2. You try to do that like a doctor or a lawyer who is retiring and selling his business, means you sell your business for a certain amount and do guarantee the person
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For me that can't work out like that.

I have the following ideas:

1. You can sell your website for a certain amount. This is common practice in other fields and there are even service providers specialising in that. They can also make you an estimation of the price depending on your traffic.

2. You try to do that like a doctor or a lawyer who is retiring and selling his business, means you sell your business for a certain amount and do guarantee the person who buys it a certain turnover for the next years. If the turnover is less you have to refund the money.

[Modifié le 2017-06-01 11:35 GMT]
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Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:00
French to German
+ ...
Not much Jun 1, 2017

I do not think that you will have much for 20 000 € though...

The father of a friend of mine sold his translation agency in France a few years ago when he retired.

Turnover: 200 000 € per year

He got 20 000 €


 

Oliver Pekelharing  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:00
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
Safety net Jun 1, 2017

My understanding is that you are quite unique if you can translate without editors. Maybe it says something about my ability as a translator, but how many writers publish without the intervention of an editor? I have tried on occasion to 'give my very best' (when the deadline allowed it), and read and re-read and waited several days and re-read again, but the corrector is almost always able to find errors I had a blind spot for, or simply better alternatives. This is especially the case, in my e... See more
My understanding is that you are quite unique if you can translate without editors. Maybe it says something about my ability as a translator, but how many writers publish without the intervention of an editor? I have tried on occasion to 'give my very best' (when the deadline allowed it), and read and re-read and waited several days and re-read again, but the corrector is almost always able to find errors I had a blind spot for, or simply better alternatives. This is especially the case, in my experience, when working with shoddy source texts. I just finished translating 40,000 words of awful writing, full of invented terminology, repetitions, factual inaccuracies, etc. and I was glad I had a proofreader to iron out the lumps, despite my best efforts.


Regards,

Olly
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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Realistically Jun 1, 2017

Just to add more doom and gloom, translators offering the same quality of service as you should logically already be busy with their own clients at the same rate as you, so why would they want to buy work from you at a lower rate? Your market will have to be inexperienced and or lower-quality translators, which will make the whole idea harder to sell to your customers...

By all means go for it, but don't be surprised if you make bugger all out of it!!

P.S. Olly, I don't
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Just to add more doom and gloom, translators offering the same quality of service as you should logically already be busy with their own clients at the same rate as you, so why would they want to buy work from you at a lower rate? Your market will have to be inexperienced and or lower-quality translators, which will make the whole idea harder to sell to your customers...

By all means go for it, but don't be surprised if you make bugger all out of it!!

P.S. Olly, I don't think it's at all unusual. I do it. I must make mistakes, but when did you ever get a flawless source text?

[Edited at 2017-06-01 17:47 GMT]
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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 08:00
English to Croatian
+ ...
Everybody makes mistakes, even editors. Jun 1, 2017

If you are working with editors so much and rely on their corrections, I'm surprised you never encountered an editor adding an error to the text? I did. I'm talking about editors provided by agencies, of course. I would take all this with a grain of salt and would never compare it with authors and their editors, authors and editors collaborate with each other directly developing the concept and project over a long period of time - they are not working through an agency and job boards.

 

Oliver Pekelharing  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:00
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
Authors and editors collaborate Jun 2, 2017

I don't see the difference between authors and translators in this respect. I work solely with higher end agencies (I suppose you could call them) and we effectively collaborate on every job, often sending e-mails back and forth about difficult parts of a text. One thing we agree on is that a poor source is not an excuse for a poor translation. But this is straying off topic for which my apologies!

 
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