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The extra mile
Thread poster: Andrew Morris

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:36
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
No fancy title here May 2, 2019

Andrew Morris wrote:

There is nothing to stop the people who work for/with me going out and finding similar clients. Nothing, that is, except their own reluctance to do so.

OK, Andrew, than I guess you chose to ignore all the other obstacles that have been mentioned before (not just by me). We are clearly reluctant to find direct clients - that's it! Shame on us for looking at market realities! I guess the reason I don't have three hands is because I am reluctant to grow another one.

Andrew Morris wrote:

If you can't satisfy the client's essential needs, then no soft skills will help, I am afraid.


I think I've said this myself, several times. In fact I've got in to the habit of saying it in every piece I ever write, as there's always someone on hand to say "But what about the quality of the actual translation?"

For me it's a total given. If the translation is no good, the dialogue stops right there, no matter how nice or flexible anyone is...


I wasn't talking about quality. At all.
The whole point was that many clients want full service (combinations of TEP, DTP, localization, multiple steps along the food chain) and/or multilingual service (parallel branches of the food chain simultaneously). That is what I meant by their "essential needs", and standalone freelancers usually cannot provide that. But - I am repeating myself, so I stop here.


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Andrew Morris
Local time: 04:36
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Round and round we go May 2, 2019

Katalin Horváth McClure wrote:

The whole point was that many clients want full service (combinations of TEP, DTP, localization, multiple steps along the food chain) and/or multilingual service (parallel branches of the food chain simultaneously). That is what I meant by their "essential needs", and standalone freelancers usually cannot provide that. But - I am repeating myself, so I stop here.


But my whole point was that very few clients want anything apart from revision. And most don't even know that's part of the process. They just want a translation. (95% of all jobs???)

I'm also repeating myself by now and so will stop too.


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:36
German to English
There Are Different Kinds of Direct Clients May 2, 2019

If we forget about the major-minor language divide for a moment, I think there is an even more important divide between into-English and everything else (with the possible exception of some regional linguae francae or multilingual countries). Regardless of your source language, there is bound to be a large and dependable market for translations into English, and it is very often the case that clients only want a translation into English. Because English serves as a lingua franca, there also tend... See more
If we forget about the major-minor language divide for a moment, I think there is an even more important divide between into-English and everything else (with the possible exception of some regional linguae francae or multilingual countries). Regardless of your source language, there is bound to be a large and dependable market for translations into English, and it is very often the case that clients only want a translation into English. Because English serves as a lingua franca, there also tend to be far fewer translators with excellent active English coupled with excellent passive L2 skills than there are translators with excellent active L1 coupled with excellent passive English skills (into English = higher demand for translations and lower supply of translators).

That makes a huge difference: If a non-Hungarian client wants a translation into Hungarian, you're right, it is probably one of a lot of target languages. On the other hand, if a Hungarian client wants a translation into English, there is a very good chance it will be the only target language.

Andrew Morris wrote:

Katalin Horváth McClure wrote:

The whole point was that many clients want full service (combinations of TEP, DTP, localization, multiple steps along the food chain) and/or multilingual service (parallel branches of the food chain simultaneously). That is what I meant by their "essential needs", and standalone freelancers usually cannot provide that. But - I am repeating myself, so I stop here.


But my whole point was that very few clients want anything apart from revision. And most don't even know that's part of the process. They just want a translation. (95% of all jobs???)

I'm also repeating myself by now and so will stop too.


Working from German into English in a field heavily dominated by small- and medium-sized enterprises (or usually their functional equivalents from the public sector) and solo-entrepreneurs, it is absolutely no problem to only be able to offer translations into English in one field. That makes up 75% to 90% (or 100%) of most of my clients' translation needs anyway, so they can go to agencies or other freelancers for the rest. A freelancer working for direct clients does not necessarily have to offer a substitute for a full-service agency in order to succeed. And like Andrew said, most smaller clients actually also expect to buy translation services from one freelancer (or agency) and graphic design or web design services from another.

I worked a lot with one agency when I started out, but the arithmetic of my translation business clearly does not add up at €0.12 per word (and that seems like an extraordinarily optimistic average for a field that I would guess generally plays a marginal role in the agency world). I am slow. Even assuming the most optimistic ratio of billable hours to total working hours, that rate would still mean averaging just over Western European full time to bring in my half of our family's income. And averaging full time (particularly when maintaing an average rate at the upper limit of what I think an agency freelancer could make) would mean regularly working way more than full time, because dry spells have to be balanced out and almost every opportunity has to be seized.

I've lost my train of thought and don't want to go back to beat this post into shape, but I think it is important to know that there are freelancers out there who work exclusively for direct clients and don't offer the things agencies do (although I have experimented with outsourcing in the past) and who find direct clients very easy to work with (if you consistently meet what I consider to be reasonable demands and expectations).

I also know that the little details of a freelancer's circumstances actually make all the difference in figuring out a way to make things work well. And direct clients are not a panacea or even necessarily desirable, depending on your situation: I make €40-€50 per billable hour and I think a lot of people earn significantly more than that through agencies. I also worked like a maniac (and again "maniac" is in the eye of the beholder: a corporate executive would probably consider my standards very millennial) for a significant number of years to build up a foundation for myself, because you have to have that basis (financially and in terms of market presence) in order to be able to think strategically and take risks and make choices (be able to afford to fail some).

Everyone has to look at themselves and the markets available to them to find a client base for whom they are likely to stand out, who is likely to consistently need their services and is likely to have the budget and priorities that will keep them with us. It seems like it would be a big help if someone who has worked this out after studying translation and while translating into a language other than English could talk about that here.
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Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:36
Member (2007)
Dutch to German
+ ...
The "extra mile" ... May 2, 2019

... soon may end unilaterally when you after years of going the extra mile (some phrases here and there for free, not always insisting on your minimum charge, prefering even smaller jobs of that client to others, pointing on plausibility errors in the source text, etc.) raise / adapt your price to market level. Then the caravan simply passes by, for another "extra mile" ...

Katalin Horváth McClure
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Quality is not a given May 2, 2019


Andrew Morris wrote:

there's always someone on hand to say "But what about the quality of the actual translation?"icon_biggrin.gif

For me it's a total given.

Perhaps it shouldn't be.

Quality in the translation world is the exception. Most translators are average to poor.

And I would argue that it is only these translators who aren't very good at translating who have any real need to work on their soft skills.

Good translators will get enough repeat business and word-of-mouth recommendations that they don't need to worry about self-promotion and extra miles and all the rest.

Beyond a few very basic business skills that should surely come with common sense and not need to be learned, it's all about quality.

So my advice to most translators who are struggling to get work is to ask themselves whether they shouldn't be devoting their time to improving their hard skills instead.


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Katalin Szilárd  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 04:36
Member (2006)
English to Hungarian
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End clients should be educated May 2, 2019

Katalin Horváth McClure wrote:

The whole point was that many clients want full service (combinations of TEP, DTP, localization, multiple steps along the food chain) and/or multilingual service (parallel branches of the food chain simultaneously). That is what I meant by their "essential needs", and standalone freelancers usually cannot provide that.


I think many clients do not know what they want. They have no clue about translation steps at all, they just want to get the final result.

There are also many many projects where only 1 or a few languages are needed and not just a few hundreds word projects but thousands or more (even in not that common languages like in Hungarian), end clients should be aware that in these cases they should rather find translators directly.

Sometimes end clients hire project managers directly (without translation agencies) whose job is to find the best translators in many different languages for that specific project.

There was or (still is?) a trend that those translation agencies that provide full service began to focus more on mesmerizing marketing blah-blah, and less on translation quality. This trend should be eliminated. If an agency provides full service than they should focus on all steps, especially on translation quality. The numbers of those agencies that provide worse or the same quality as a very good standalone freelancer should be reduced (to 0).

There are many great agencies (actually many of those do not spend too much on marketing).

It is difficult to find the gems, both among freelancers and agencies, but end clients should be educated about this profession, the steps of providing a translation, and so they could choose what they want.


 

Andrew Morris
Local time: 04:36

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Quality Street May 2, 2019

Chris S wrote:


Andrew Morris wrote:

there's always someone on hand to say "But what about the quality of the actual translation?"icon_biggrin.gif

For me it's a total given.

Perhaps it shouldn't be.

Quality in the translation world is the exception. Most translators are average to poor.

And I would argue that it is only
So my advice to most translators who are struggling to get work is to ask themselves whether they shouldn't be devoting their time to improving their hard skills instead.


Sorry maybe I wasn’t clear. I meant that it should be a total given that you provide quality before focusing on soft skills.

I did not say all translators provide quality. I may be an imbecile but am not that much of one.


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
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Soft skills May 2, 2019

Andrew Morris wrote:
I meant that it should be a total given that you provide quality before focusing on soft skills.

So now we've established that neither good translators nor bad translators need to work on their soft skills!


Which leaves only those who used to be translators but are now actually agencies and so full-time schmoozers. Oh, apart from that Forth Bridge of translations that need checking.

Each to his own, but I got as far as three translators in-house and another three on tap before I realised that actually I just wanted to be a translator...


 

Andrew Morris
Local time: 04:36

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Disconnect May 2, 2019

Chris S wrote:

Andrew Morris wrote:
I meant that it should be a total given that you provide quality before focusing on soft skills.

So now we've established that neither good translators nor bad translators need to work on their soft skills!


Which leaves only those who used to be translators but are now actually agencies and so full-time schmoozers. Oh, apart from that Forth Bridge of translations that need checking.

Each to his own, but I got as far as three translators in-house and another three on tap before I realised that actually I just wanted to be a translator...


Which suggests that between having found your true vocation and earning a packet (as you told us), you must be a deeply contented human being, right? Right?

So why is it I get a sense that...?

Oh, forget it.


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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:36
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
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May 2, 2019



[Edited at 2019-05-02 20:35 GMT]


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Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:36
Member (2012)
French to English
. May 2, 2019

Michele Fauble wrote:






[Edited at 2019-05-02 20:35 GMT]


Changed your mind.



[Edited at 2019-05-02 20:55 GMT]


Andrew Morris
 

Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:36
Member (2012)
French to English
I don't blame you May 3, 2019

Elizabeth Tamblin wrote:

Michele Fauble wrote:






[Edited at 2019-05-02 20:35 GMT]


Changed your mind.



[Edited at 2019-05-02 20:55 GMT]


We all post regrettable things from time to time. And look, you got an Agree after deleting - lovely!


 

Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:36
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
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Nothing regrettable May 4, 2019

Elizabeth Tamblin wrote:

Elizabeth Tamblin wrote:

Michele Fauble wrote:






[Edited at 2019-05-02 20:35 GMT]


Changed your mind.



[Edited at 2019-05-02 20:55 GMT]


We all post regrettable things from time to time. And look, you got an Agree after deleting - lovely!


Just decided to send a private message instead.


 

David Hayes  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:36
French to English
What thoughts? May 4, 2019

I read the first post in this thread, which seems to be asking the question: "Should you do someone a favour within the context of a client/service provider relationship or should you always make the client pay down to the last centime?"
In order to make the world a nicer place, I don't see how you could do otherwise than opt for a quick favour. If the client really appreciates it, so much the better. If not, you will be doing it for your own sense of what is right. I don't quite see the p
... See more
I read the first post in this thread, which seems to be asking the question: "Should you do someone a favour within the context of a client/service provider relationship or should you always make the client pay down to the last centime?"
In order to make the world a nicer place, I don't see how you could do otherwise than opt for a quick favour. If the client really appreciates it, so much the better. If not, you will be doing it for your own sense of what is right. I don't quite see the point of this thread. The answer seems obvious.

I haven't bothered with the rest of this thread, which seems to be rehearsing opt-quoted advice about how to get more work, win over clients, be the best and most successful translator in the world, blah, blah, blah. All been said a thousand times before by so many other self-appointed business gurus.


[Edited at 2019-05-04 10:40 GMT]
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writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
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No idea what was written here May 4, 2019

Michele Fauble wrote:






[Edited at 2019-05-02 20:35 GMT]


But no one should feel intimidated about expressing their own opinion and/or be ridiculed or patronised for deciding to delete it. What is this site turning into? Translation seems to be less important by the day.


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