Tag: Business tools

In my most recent post: Why should freelance translators spend some time standardizing their processes? I discussed briefly the value of having some standardized processes to free up brain space and time to do the things you love, such as translating. I will not go into too much detail on that at this point, but feel free to read the post if you are interested.

The aim of this particular process is to ensure that you keep track of your clients and rates. If you are a beginner translator, you may not be feeling the need for such a process just yet, but this is the ideal time to begin.

Over the years as a freelance translator, you will work with many clients and for varying periods. Some will get on board at the beginning of your career and stay with you for many years; others will hire you for one-off projects, and some of these seemingly “one-off” projects will come back after a few years with a new project. Keeping track of who they are and how much you charged them for your last project with them is crucial to your business development.

Here are the two main reasons why:

  • Consistency and opportunities for increasing rates

Needless to say, even if you start out with the same rate, you will have different rates for these clients over time. Your rates will hopefully increase as your experience increases and you become more knowledgeable about the market. You can charge more from new clients coming on board now than for clients who have been with you from the beginning and paid your initial lower rate. In addition, you will have varying degrees of success in your negotiations with other clients, which will mean different rates as well. If you keep track of how much each client paid you for your most recent project with them, whenever a client comes back requesting a quote, all you have to do is quickly check your spreadsheet and you know what your negotiated rate with that client was. This information enables you to provide a quick quote, or start negotiating a new rate from your first reply.

Furthermore, as I mentioned before, some clients will disappear for a few years and come back unexpectedly with a large project. In such cases, it is handy to know how much you charged back then, so that you can decide, before they ask, whether you need to charge them more or not. Also, you may have charged them a higher rate at the time than what most of your clients are paying now, e.g. because they are a direct client and you are currently working predominantly with agencies, and if you just go ahead and charge your must current rate, you may waste an opportunity to earn more for that job.

Conversely, if your rates are much higher now, when a client comes back to you after a few years expecting your original rate, you are able to decide whether to go with the original rate, increase your rate slightly so as not to scare them, or gently let them know your current rate. Many clients will agree a project with you assuming your original rate, without even asking for a quote, so you are better off always making sure the rates that you are charging for a particular project are clearly stated in every case. Again, in any case, not having to go back through your files to try to find how much you charged originally is extremely handy.

  • You have a ready-made list of leads

Sometimes we work with clients, they come and go, and over the years, we forget to check when we last worked for them. This will not happen in the beginning of your career, but after a few years, you will see that you actually forget certain clients, because you were busy with other projects.

When you keep a list of your clients, your contacts in their companies and rates, you have a ready-made list of marketing leads. Whenever you have a low period, you can go through your list, identify those clients with whom you have not been in touch in a while, and send them a friendly reminder that you are available, or just say hello. This is incredibly effective in making sure that your clients remember you and whenever they have a project in your language pair, you will be the first person they think of.

In addition, if you decide to offer a discount for a limited period or any other deals, you can contact all of these people easily and it will not be cold emailing, because they are already familiar with you and your work.

In order to do this, I use a spreadsheet that I created (picture below), which I call Client Database. My spreadsheet contains:

  • Client: company or person
  • Last job: date of the last job
  • Service: translation, revision, proofreading, transcription, content analysis, etc.
  • Rates currency: GBP, USD, EUR (depending on what I negotiated with the client)
  • Rate: amount/unit, e.g. 40/hour or 0.1/word
  • Status: Active or inactive. If I am currently working on a project for this client, or if this client regularly contacts me for projects, I consider this an active client. Otherwise, I classify the client as inactive. The reason for this item is that I can easily filter my spreadsheet by active or inactive clients depending on my marketing strategy. For example, I may want to contact all clients with whom I have not been in touch in a while, so I filter my spreadsheet by inactive clients. If I decide to offer a discount to my current clients, I can filter the spreadsheet by active clients.
  • Last contact: date of last contact with a representative of this client, perhaps when they offered a project that fell through, etc. This may or may not be the same as the last job date, but it is useful for you to know that you may have been in touch with them, but unable to secure work with them for some reason.
  • Contact person: name of project manager or direct client
  • Contact details: e-mail address. I am unlikely to call my clients, so I use e-mail, but if you like calling on occasion to make it more personal, then also add a phone number.
  • Notes: this is more for inactive clients and, basically, I add any information that might be useful if I were to engage with this client again in the future, such as tried to negotiate rate down or delays payments, etc. For example, if I have a promotional discount for some time, I may contact a client who negotiated my rates down and ask if they want to take advantage of a limited discount offer.

Client database printscreen

I update this spreadsheet at the end of every month. Updating your spreadsheet regularly is essential to ensuring that you have recent data on when you last worked for a client, etc. In addition, it helps you remember all those clients and reach out to them when you need more projects. It is very easy to panic and look for new leads every time you find yourself in a low period, and forget that you have a ready-made database of people who already know you, know your work, and who would probably be willing to work with you again.

This is a simple enough spreadsheet and a simple enough process, so make sure you implement it and you will reap the benefits from having this data compiled before you know it! Do you have any better processes for keeping track of your clients and rates? If so, I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Happy translating!

As freelancers, we take pride in managing our own time, being our own boss, and theoretically being able to choose our jobs and clients. However, when it gets down to it, being your own boss also means being your own IT department, being your own human resources department, your own accounts department, and so on. The tricky part is, we are only paid for the translation work, all the other jobs that we carry out are either unpaid, or you have to factor that time into your translation rate.

Even if you are a “boutique” translator, who charges a hefty fee for your services, factoring the cost of all the hours that you put into invoicing, learning how to use translation resources, figuring out IT problems, chasing payments, prospecting clients, etc. into your per hour or per word rate, would likely make you prohibitively expensive. Hence, there are two options, one is outsourcing some or all of these tasks, and the other is reducing the amount of time that you spend on each of these tasks.

In either case, you can benefit from standardizing some of your processes to ensure that you or the person who will perform a service for you is able to perform tasks quickly and keep appropriate records. If you think of yourself as a company, you may take some initial time (start-up) time to create certain documents and tools, but these will pay off later in time saved that you can use to earn money from translating or relax and enjoy the money that you have earned.

If you choose to outsource all of your non translation-related tasks, you need to find affordable services and determine how much of your earnings you are prepared to spend on “business costs”. The advantages of outsourcing services include freeing up brain space for translation, freeing up time, and not having to actually spend time doing things that you dislike versus translating, which you love. The disadvantages are primarily the cost of outsourcing, giving up some of your control over important aspects of your business and having more people to manage, which means that you will also have to manage their deadlines, deliverables, etc.

I particularly prefer a combination outsourcing and doing it myself. There are tasks, such as filing tax returns, which can be outsourced for a relatively low cost. Other tasks, such as your marketing, are potentially more effectively done by you. More importantly, if you chose to become a freelancer, you probably believe that you work well independently and are used to “figuring things out” for yourself. Hence, you probably do not think that you need to spend money on many of these tasks. Well, I believe that too, and in the very least, if you do spend some money, you should really only spend where necessary.

As freelancers, we do not operate as companies, and when we “hire” someone, we usually pay another freelancer on an hourly basis as well. Hence, it is important that the other freelancer is able to hit the ground running and do as much as possible for you in the hours that you are hiring them.

For example, if you hire someone to do your client prospecting for you, he or she will be contacting potential clients on your behalf. This is obviously great, provided that their approach truly represents how you want to portray yourself, and how good they are at recordkeeping. Let us say that you hire a sales person and give them a list of potential clients to contact, you tell them to create a template for initial communications through e-mails and letters, and send them off on their trail. Two or three months down the line, you may be a bit short on cash and decide that you do not need their services right now, so you fire them. How do you know who they contacted and what their responses were? How do you know who you need to follow up on? In a few months, when you decide to hire a new sales person, how will they know where to start?

In this example, you should have provided or had the first sales person create a brief on what to put in their communications, a list of contacts, a spreadsheet to track who had been contacted, and a results-tracker. Furthermore, you should have arranged periodic monitoring of their work to make sure that they were using your tools appropriately and that they were having some success. This would have meant spending a few hours initially, either creating the materials and/or briefing the sales person (paid hours). After this initial time, you would have to meet with the sales person for 1-2 hours per month to keep track of their progress and use of your materials.

 I know that not many translators will go as far as hiring a sales person, but this concept of having an outline of what you need from a task, templates to streamline accomplishing the task and a results-tracker applies to all of your potential processes, from accounting, to sales, to collections.

This is the first of a series of posts in which I am going to share some of my standardized practices with you. These are quick and simple processes that you can apply to ensure that you are on top of your finances, your marketing, your clients and your rates. The main concept behind all of them is setting out what you want from your tasks, creating as many templates as possible in advance and devising means to keep track of your results.

If you spend some time doing this for all your processes, and apply your processes consistently, not only will you be much quicker at doing them, but also if you ever choose to outsource, the person who takes over from you will be able to do so quickly and with little training.

Stay tuned and let me know your thoughts! Happy translating!

As freelancers, we take pride in managing our own time, being our own boss, and theoretically being able to choose our jobs and clients. However, when it gets down to it, being your own boss also means being your own IT department, being your own human resources department, your own accounts department, and so on. The tricky part is, we are only paid for the translation work, all the other jobs that we carry out are either unpaid, or you have to factor that time into your translation rate.

Even if you are a “boutique” translator, who charges a hefty fee for your services, factoring the cost of all the hours that you put into invoicing, learning how to use translation resources, figuring out IT problems, chasing payments, prospecting clients, etc. into your per hour or per word rate, would likely make you prohibitively expensive. Hence, there are two options, one is outsourcing some or all of these tasks, and the other is reducing the amount of time that you spend on each of these tasks.

In either case, you can benefit from standardizing some of your processes to ensure that you or the person who will perform a service for you is able to perform tasks quickly and keep appropriate records. If you think of yourself as a company, you may take some initial time (start-up) to create certain documents and tools, but this will pay off later in time saved that you can use to earn money from translating or relax and enjoy the money that you have earned.

If you choose to outsource all of your non translation-related tasks, you need to find affordable services and determine how much of your earnings you are prepared to spend on “business costs”. The advantages of outsourcing services include freeing up brain space for translation, freeing up time, and not having to actually spend time doing things that you dislike versus translating, which you love. The disadvantages are primarily the cost of outsourcing, giving up some of your control over important aspects of your business and having more people to manage, which means that you will also have to manage their deadlines, deliverables, etc.

I particularly prefer a combination of outsourcing and doing it myself. There are tasks, such as filing tax returns, which can be outsourced for a relatively low cost. Other tasks, such as your marketing, are potentially more effectively done by you. More importantly, if you chose to become a freelancer, you probably believe that you work well independently and are used to “figuring things out” for yourself. Hence, you probably do not think that you need to spend money on many of these tasks. Well, I believe that too, and in the very least, if you do spend some money, you should really only spend where necessary.

As freelancers, we do not operate as companies, and when we “hire” someone, we usually pay another freelancer on an hourly basis as well. Hence, it is important that the other freelancer is able to hit the ground running and do as much as possible for you in the hours that you are hiring them.

For example, if you hire someone to do your client prospecting for you, he or she will be contacting potential clients on your behalf. This is obviously great, provided that their approach truly represents how you want to portray yourself, and how good they are at recordkeeping. Let us say that you hire a sales person and give them a list of potential clients to contact, you tell them to create a template for initial communications through e-mails and letters, and send them off on their trail. Two or three months down the line, you may be a bit short on cash and decide that you do not need their services right now, so you fire them. How do you know who they contacted and what their responses were? How do you know who you need to follow up on? In a few months, when you decide to hire a new sales person, how will they know where to start?

In this example, you should have provided or had the first sales person create a brief on what to put in their communications, a list of contacts, a spreadsheet to track who had been contacted, and a results-tracker. Furthermore, you should have arranged periodic monitoring of their work to make sure that they were using your tools appropriately and that they were having some success. This would have meant spending a few hours initially, either creating the materials and/or briefing the sales person (paid hours). After this initial time, you would have had to meet with the sales person for 1-2 hours per month to keep track of their progress and use of your materials.

 I know that not many translators will go as far as hiring a sales person, but this concept of having an outline of what you need from a task, templates to streamline accomplishing the task and a results-tracker applies to all of your potential processes, from accounting, to sales, to collections.

Whether your intent is to hire someone to do a job for you, or to do it yourself. You will benefit from creating materials in advance. Such materials should always include your goals and how you will measure your results, as well as, templates to streamline that particular task.

This is the first of a series of posts in which I am going to share some of my standardized practices with you. These are quick and simple processes that you can apply to ensure that you are on top of your finances, your marketing, your clients and your rates. The main concept behind all of them is setting out what you want from your tasks, creating as many templates as possible in advance and devising means to keep track of your results.

If you spend some time doing this for all your processes, and apply your processes consistently, not only will you be much quicker at doing them, but also if you ever choose to outsource, the person who takes over from you will be able to do so quickly and with little training.

Stay tuned and let me know your thoughts! Happy translating!