Archive for the ‘Small Business’ Category

The Perfectionist Speaks…

January 4, 2008

The New Year is a good opportunity for a new start, the easiest way being to make a few tweaks and adjustments. And as I said in a previous post, there’s a perfectionist somewhere nudging me, telling me that my blog is not exactly as I want it to be.

Don’t mistake my words. I’m also very thankful: more than 900 hits in just about 6 weeks, for a first blog on an obscure topic (obscure for all the internet marketers out there, and those who are quite happy to use any technological tool that has ‘trans’ in it, not for us in the know *wink*), is NOT BAD. But I want to learn more, and to improve. The hit figures, by the way, are purely there to keep me happy, because this blog is not for monetizing.

So some overhaul is going to happen here.

1. I’m planning to move this blog to my own domain. I’ve had a domain for 2 years now, but as I said earlier, it’s been hacked because I was too indecisive about it, and I now have to recover it. I recently acquired another one, also in my name, and I’m shifting the blog to that one. Sometime…

This is taking time, for a good reason. When you are not a master of a given technique, you have to rely on others to do it for you, or you do it on your own, and that’s painful. By the way, that’s a good lesson for those out there who think they can translate, but haven’t realized the full implications. I ran a enlightening search on Twitter the other day, on ‘translate’ and ‘translation’. As always: leave it to the professionals.

2. I’m not happy with the blogroll, so I’m going to reshuffle things, maybe reorganize it completely. I suppose that could be termed ‘growing pains’. I keep adding to it as I find new interesting links, but it’s become a mixed bag of things.

I want the sidebar and the blogroll in particular, to be the most useful part of this blog. My views of the profession are interesting, no doubt. I have enough anecdotes on clients, colleagues, etc. for at least one year of posting, but that’s not the point. I consider myself more a messenger, a link between those who don’t know our work very well, be them clients or young translators/interpreters, and useful sources, documents, interesting people IN the profession, and sources of inspiration OUTSIDE the profession. So in the coming months, I am going to work on that. I asked a question on LinkedIn the other day, and received a dozen very interesting answers. I’m still leaving the question open for a few days, then I’ll close it and analyze the responses.

3. So if I can achieve those 2 objectives in the next 3 months for Objective 1, and 6 months for Objective 2, I suppose I’ll be reasonably happy with myself.

So watch this space…

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December 31 Resolution

December 31, 2007

Would you believe it?

Instead of making preparations for tonight’s festivities, I’m still:

  • finishing a translation project,
  • paying bills,
  • issuing bills

and more generally attending to unfinished business.

So:

My December 31 Resolution is to make sure each and every 2008 project and administrative task shall be completed by December 30, 2008.

Is this feasible??? Let’s see…

A Good Year After All

December 28, 2007

At close to 395,000 words translated this year, plus a substantial amount of editing, 2007 was a good year after all.

In particular if you consider that I do all the translating myself (apart from a little help from WordFast and Naturally Speaking), I can say it has been a good year. Of course, I am not including some voluntary, i.e. unpaid work in this total. I am not including conference interpreting either, because the unit of measurement is different (number of working days, and preparation days not accounted for, as I explained in a previous post) and there is sometimes some overlap with translation work, although I find it increasingly difficult – age must be the reason – to combine these two very different intellectual activities within the same day.

Financially speaking, it has been a good year too. By this, I mean that I was able to charge my own fees, and only on few occasions felt tempted to accept a little lower paid jobs.

This is no small feat. I remember the gut reaction of a translation agency secretary who approached me a long time ago. She wanted to know how much I was charging, and when I told her the figure, she simply cried out: ‘But that’s exactly what we charge our customers!’ ‘Well’ I said, ‘that is exactly the reason why I don’t work for translation agencies. I don’t want to work for a fraction of the price that my work is worth.’ I can accept small adjustments, depending on the client, deadline, etc. but I do not accept low-paid jobs.

It all depends on how you see things: I haven’t been able to update my fees in more than 10 years.

Depending on my mood of the day, I can say: ‘I was lucky to be able to resist the drop in translation fees that has happened in recent years,’ or ‘I am unlucky that my fees have remained unchanged, when just about everything else has gone up:’ social security contributions, taxes and rates, food, clothing, utilities (oh my God, haven’t they gone up a lot?), insurance, fuel for my car, office stationery. The only things that have gone down, telephone bills (sort of…), computer equipment (but I buy a new computer every 2-3 years, so where’s the big deal?). And these bills HAVE to be paid.

Some blame it on the introduction of the Euro. I don’t know, but one thing is for sure: I don’t earn more than 10 years ago, and some years a lot less, and I spend a lot more on necessities, and this includes things like books, etc.

o why do I say that it has been a good year, AFTER ALL? Because, on Jan 1, 2007, I had very little idea that it was going to be that way. If I accepted low-paid jobs, I would probably be able to work night and day, 40-hour days. I mentioned in a previous post 2-cent jobs I once saw posted on Proz. Do I want to work night and day? No. Is it possible for me to become a millionaire, well why not a billionaire even, translating millions of words paid 4 cents? No, not if I am doing the work myself, and not if I don’t compromise on the quality delivered.

So in exchange for some uncertainty and roller-coaster sensations, I am free from a lot of other constraints, and I like it better that way.

This doesn’t mean that I work full time and translate ‘only’ 1,500 words per day. Sometimes I have been able to do more than 7,000 words in a very full day. But the rest of the time, I have been able to engage in other, equally satisfying pursuits: studying a new language and learning about a new culture, going to the movies in the middle of the day, meeting people, seamlessly being away on a short vacation and working at the same time, etc.

I don’t live in luxury, and I have my own share of problems, like anyone else, but I am able to say that I feel fulfilled by my job/life combination. And I would love to cram even more things in my life: some serious traveling, for instance. That is why I’m looking forward to receiving my copy of The 4-Hour Work Week, by Timothy Ferriss. I don’t wish to become a billionaire doing no work at all, but I’m told that there is an number of interesting tips and work/life considerations in it.

So my 2008 wish for myself, and for all those who are kind enough to read my blog, is this:

A satisfying quantity of a satisfying job, and a lot of good life.

And if only I knew how to do it, I would add a lot of sparkle around this 😉

Let’s meet in December 2008 and see what we have achieved. We might be in for a lot of surprises!

I’m Reading “The E-Myth Revisited”

December 20, 2007

Do you find there are moments in life, when you need to perform a little introspection and to reconsider what you are doing?

I am reading The E-myth revisited – Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber. It’s a bestseller in North America, but I’d never seen it here, although when I google it, I find that it appears to have been translated into French in 1992.

As I’m reading it, I’m fascinated by this book because it tells, in very simple words, just my story.

When I started, there were still a handful of in-house translator jobs around, too few to accommodate the constant flow of graduates coming out of translation schools. But with increased outsourcing, most of that is gone now. Many of us went into business, setting up an independent practice and setting off into the big wide world. Because we were young, and didn’t have much of a choice, we were confident. Some opened a joint practice, others went alone. In all cases, I’ve still to see a freelance translator who is having it easy, and that’s where this book comes in handy.

The E-Myth is based on a division of a business into its 3 dimensions : the Entrepreneur, the Manager and the Technician. In a small business, the owner is most likely to play (or not to play) the 3 roles simultaneously.

I’ve just taken the free E-Myth Business Evaluation on their website. Interestingly, the mix of questions and answers means that although you might be successful in some areas (eg. earning enough money), the results can be seen in a slightly different perspective, but I wasn’t too surprised to discover that I am mainly “a manager

  • Planning and organizing projects
  • Facilitating conversations with partners, vendors, and/or contractors
  • Developing systems to streamline your workflow and deliver a more consistent customer experience”

Yes, that’s absolutely true, and it doesn’t even mention bookkeeping…

Surprisingly, I thought, the area where I did best in the test was in Customer/Sales, with:”

  • Your business has some success at converting leads into customers
  • In general, your sales are enough to cover expenses and generate a reasonable profit
  • Your sales presentations may be inconsistent”

although, all things considered, there’s a lot of truth in that. This is a very simple evaluation, and it would require more in-depth analysis to increase its validity. However, I think my results can be summarized like this, using my own words:

  • Entrepreneurship: nil
  • Management: main concern
  • Technician: well, that’s pretty obvious anyway, otherwise I would not be doing this after 29 years.

And now, if you’ll allow me, I must go and read on, in order to improve my entrepreneurship and to work on my sales presentations.

But I still think this book should be made Compulsory Reading at any translation school.

Food for Thought

December 19, 2007

I’ve just read this excellent piece written by a freelance interpreter, the Editor of Communicate!, A.I.I.C.’s newsletter.

What can I add? Nothing. It’s clear, to the point, and describes the usefulness, indeed the need for interpreters and translators worldwide.

We are not an industry, we are not products, we are real people doing real jobs and needing to be considered, and paid, accordingly.

The Killer Business Card

December 13, 2007

Do you use business cards a lot?

I’ve never used them much, but over the years an assortment of sizes and blurb, in the classy creamy color that I love so much, have accumulated at the bottom of my purse.

After a while, each new batch ended up as note cards for shopping lists, other people’s phone numbers, etc.

In our field, business cards are a big issue among those who are starting their business, but after a while you don’t need to rely on them so much, because your clients and/or colleagues are the ones who do your own word-of-mouth marketing.

But recently, I found the topic of business cards discussed a lot in many different places, on LinkedIn, in FreelanceSwitch, etc. so I decided to re-vamp my own bland cards, if only as a test.

My new cards are to be seen here, although the view is so small that it provides only a general idea. If anyone would like to comment on them, please feel free. Color is a real novelty for me, I normally go for much more subdued, traditional business cards. But as I said, this is a test, and I liked the design, so I took the plunge.

What’s your view on business cards? Do you think that they are useful?

I Really Admire Your Work!

December 12, 2007

Wow. We’ve all heard it. It’s always sincere.

And it’s the perfect ice-breaker at lunchtime, but once the ice is broken, it doesn’t take us very far, especially at a —— meeting (you may fill in the blank as you like, anything ‘technical’ will do).

‘I really admire your work!’ ‘I don’t know how you do it!’ ‘I don’t even speak English fluently’ (from French speakers).

The problem is, WE know how WE do it. We know it so well that it has become standard practice for us, and we tend to under-promote our wonderful skills, to put it mildly. So we mumble a few words of appreciation, about learning the job, practicing, and so on. If we start to describe what it takes to become an interpreter or a translator, people begin to get bored.

How can we promote our skills in an environment that is simply so different from our practice? I’ve been pondering this for ages, in particular during those lunchbreaks where we end up eating (the team of interpreters, I mean), separately from our audience.

The story is quite different when I am hired to do consecutive interpreting. I accompany my clients to meetings, they get used to me as I get used to them, we sit in traffic jams together. We have time to exchange, mainly on their subject. I can be of value to them, in particular to those visitors from America, as they see me not only as their ‘French voice’, but also as a source of information, especially on study tours. One visitor used me once as a sounding board on the subject of GMOs in France.

Their message is important to them, and so it’s important to me, and I make sure that they know it. That’s probably our best promotion tool.

The Meeting That Wasn’t

December 12, 2007

In defiance of all the laws that govern good (understand: aimed at attracting readers) writing, I’m beginning this post with a negative title. There!

The ‘meeting that wasn’t’ was planned with a client of my translation services who happened to be in Paris this last weekend. I ‘met’ her and came to work for her by e-mail. True, it was in fact a ‘word-of-mouth’ encounter, as I had worked for another member of the staff, but that person ended up being a good client, so I was pleased to get to meet her in the end.

She had to call it off, so I was left to ponder the difference between ‘meeting’ people professionally by e-mail and ‘in the flesh’.

I am a believer in human interaction, but networking is probably not my best skill. I still see fairly regularly a few friends I made more than 30 years ago, and I have no problem being reunited with people I haven’t seen in decades, and I keep making new real life friends, but work connections are different.

My work connections are generally very busy, and increasingly so, in a generally difficult economic environment. I have one client whom I haven’t seen in months, maybe years now. She’s not a frequent user of my services, and I know that she is really very, very busy. When she needs my services, she e-mails me, I produce a quote, and off we go. She doesn’t have to be a ‘friend’ although I think our feelings for each other are cordial.

With her, as with this client I almost got to see, what is important for me is to have at least one meeting. It’s important from a human point of view, but not necessary for work. I can’t really explain why it is important, maybe only to reassure myself that we are more than just machines.