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Bulk discounts – yea or nay? May 30, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Marketing ideas, Translation Sites.

There’s an interesting discussion on the ATA German Language Division listserv at the moment about bulk discounts (a.k.a. volume discounts). The general consensus is not to offer them. I wanted to summarize the main points why translators should not consider offering bulk discounts.

  • It is not beneficial to work more at a lower rate – in fact, it’s worse, because you would have to decline assignments from your regular clients who pay your standard rates.
  • These regular clients will then go elsewhere when you are not available, and you would lose a good client.
  • Most professionals – and even most non-skilled workers – who work over 8 hours a day get paid time and a half overtime – and double time on weekends. Freelance translators unfortunately do not have this luxury. And offering volume discounts ensures that the opposite is true – you are paid LESS for working MORE.
  • Many jobs that require volume discounts also have extremely tight deadlines, which would make it a rush job for which you should be paid more – not less.
  • You don’t know if the client will really come through with the kind of volume he is promising (one savvy member suggested drafting up a contract to “contractually commit to a legally enforceable minimum (annual) volume” and if the client doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain you can consider the contract null and void).
  • If such a contract were signed, you might be legally considered an employee.
  • Why spend time working for a client who doesn’t respect you enough to pay a competitive rate?
  • Prices keep rising (gas, food, housing, etc.) and agencies keep trying to depress prices. Volume discounts are just another way to lower the price. Globalization may be rampant, but the fact remains that U.S.-based translators cannot afford to work at extremely low rates and still make a living. If you continue to offer quality translations the clients who choose to outsource will eventually come back. If they don’t, there is still plenty of work to go around. With globalization the need for translation is increasing exponentially and there aren’t enough skilled translators to handle the load as it is.
  • Agencies that ask for volume discounts are most likely trying to get a bargain and negotiate the best price. Most agencies will be willing to pay your rate once you tell them you do not offer volume discounts.
  • The supply and demand in the industry means you can safely turn down volume discounts and still have plenty of work from other clients. I get contacted by one to two new clients a week who found my profile on the Internet or ATA database or heard about me from colleagues or clients.

If anyone else wants to add something to the list I would love to hear it.

BTW, if you work in German you should definitely join the ATA and subscribe to the GLD listserv. The GLD list has 297 members despite the division itself having over five times as many members (currently close to 1200 members). Those members don’t know what they are missing. I find the listserv to be one of the most valuable tools out there. It is a virtual water cooler for home-based workers (and even some in-house translators). We help each other with terminology and discuss business practices and anything else you can possibly think of (even German stores and food). Most of the things I will bring up here I have learned from the GLD list or PT, which is a Germany-based listserv for translators with 1331 members as of 3/30/08 (the lingua franca is of course German).


Spelling Bee fever May 30, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.

Reading the paper this morning (yes, despite having a blog and working on the computer 24/7 I prefer to start my morning with a cup of fresh-brewed German coffee, turning the pages with newsprint-stained fingers), I was reminded it is time for the annual Scripps’ National Spelling Bee. As you all know, most translators have mad spelling skills and an interest in words. When my friend Corinne was in town to present at a NOTA event for local teachers and visit me two weeks ago, we went to see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a Broadway musical about the spelling bee that is currently touring the country. I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time. Almost every line was LOL funny. If you get a chance to see it, you should take advantage of it! You might even consider applying to be one of the four audience members who gets to spell words on-stage with the others. The night we were there one woman with excellent spelling skills flummoxed the actor playing the vice principal when she spelled a particularly difficult word, designed to eliminate her, correctly.

For those of you who won’t be able to go see the musical, ESPN will be broadcasting the semifinals live today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and ABC will carry the finals live this evening from 8 to 10 p.m.

A well-deserved night out May 30, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Marketing ideas.

As easy as it is to chain yourself to the computer, it is very important for home-based freelancers to get out and socialize. Someone recently described translators as “gentle people working in attics.” In some respects this can be quite true. Before I got my dog it wasn’t unusual for me to go several days without leaving my apartment. However, I find it very important to get out and, as the local newspaper misquoted me in an interview as saying, “work on my social skills.”

I organize a local German language Meetup.com group and decided it would be nice to go see “Die Fälscher” (English: The Counterfeiters), which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year in 2008. Afterwards the group went to dinner at a Turkish restaurant to discuss the movie and get to know each other. It felt great to turn the computer off at 5:30 after translating several thousand words and meeting some like-minded folks to enjoy an excellent movie. If you don’t have a Meetup.com group for your language in your area, you should definitely start one. I have met some nice people and am getting away from my desk more often. Plus, it is a business expense (advertising and keeping up my language skills – at least that’s what I’ll argue if I’m ever audited). My group is only three months old and I’ve already gotten an interesting proofreading job from it.

As for the movie, which was the original idea behind this musing but I digressed as I typed, if you haven’t seen it and are looking for a powerful and thought-provoking film be sure to check it out. “The Counterfeiters” is the true story of the largest counterfeiting operation in history, set up by the Nazis in 1936. The main character, Saloman Sorowitsch, is an expert forger. He is arrested for forgery and eventually finds himself in a concentration camp. He uses his artistic skills and cunning to survive and is soon transferred to the upgraded camp of Sachsenhausen, where he and a group of professionals/prisoners are forced to produce fake foreign currency. The acting is top-notch, and the attention to detail is amazing. In fact, the acting and costumes were so good that I didn’t even recognize that the star of the film played one of my favorite Austrian TV series characters, Bezirksinspektor Ernst Stockinger, from Kommissar Rex and Stockinger. “Stocki” was very much an Austrian Columbo – seemingly bumbling and at times absurd and laughable. This role in “The Counterfeiters” was a complete departure.

And I’m relaxed and refreshed for another day of translating tomorrow. After all, all work and no play makes Jill a dull gal.

The ebb and flow of the translation industry May 29, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.

Thanks to the encouragement of my friend, Corinne, I have decided to share my inane thoughts and helpful tips with the world. You are probably wondering who I am and why I need a blog. I am a German to English translator and have been in the translation industry since 1995, when I graduated with an M.A. in translation from Kent State University. I lived and worked in Bonn, Germany for six years and have been back in the U.S. since 2001. I am a freelancer and work from home, which affords me the freedom to pick and choose jobs and take breaks whenever I want. I use a lot of tools in my job and have amassed a ton of helpful hints, and I plan on sharing them for posterity through this blog.

You’re probably wondering about the title of this post. It never ceases to amaze me how the field of translation can be so feast or famine. A few weeks ago I was eking by on a couple hundred words a day, and today I have assignments totally approximately 15,000 words – all due by June 4th. I also have a test translation I have been trying to finish, but it isn’t going to happen until I get the paid work off my desk. Most translators I know have periods in which they doubt their career choice – and it is generally in periods of feast and famine. The trick is knowing that this too shall pass. It’s important to remind yourself that your nightmare translation job will be over eventually and the next plum job is sure to come in any day now. I love my job – and plan to use this blog to explain why. I hope you enjoy it.