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Spreading the love June 24, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.

Inspired by the Masked Translator’s post, When your client goes bankrupt, I want to stress the importance of “spreading the love.” By that I mean the importance of not relying on one or two customers for all of your work. I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. If one of those customers goes bankrupt or the project manager you work with leaves to strike out on their own or go work for another company, you might find yourself in dire straits.

When I was first establishing myself on the U.S. market after relocating to the U.S. in 2001, one of my colleagues gave me the best advice when she told me you need 7 clients to be successful. I realize the wisdom of those words and strive to cultivate a large client base. I didn’t realize how many clients I actually had until I entered them all into my Translation Office 3000 database. It has reached the point where I am trying to cull some of my clients who are difficult to work with or have unacceptable payment terms, but more on that another day.

Not every client is going to contact you as their first point of contact, but that isn’t necessary to build a thriving translation business. I can confidently say that I am the “A translator” for two of my clients. When they contact me (at least once a week, if not some weeks every day) I do everything I can to make sure I have capacity for their work. One of them tends to send a small job every day or every couple days, but those small jobs add up when I issue my invoice to them at the end of the month (I only issue monthly bills for three clients – everyone else gets billed when the job is delivered). I also have numerous clients for whom I am their B or C translator, but that is okay too. Having several clients who contact you with job requests (perhaps not every day, but at least several times a month) ensures that you will be kept busy throughout the month.

This also translates into a steady inflow of payments, so there is no major ebb and flow in the bank account (except for maybe right after my quarterly tax payment when the clients have also had to pay their quarterly taxes and are a little slow in issuing payments). I must be extremely lucky, because I have never had a client go bankrupt while owing me money. However, I also don’t tie myself up with one client’s job for an entire month, ensuring no other money will be coming in. If you spread the love, you’ll find things go relatively smoothly most of the time (but be sure to tuck aside some money as a cushion to cover the dry spells – and never, never tap into your quarterly tax payment fund).



1. Ryan Ginstrom - June 26, 2008

There is definitely a lot of risk in relying too much on one or two clients for your work. I’ve never had a client stiff me, but I have had clients go out of business or be acquired, or simply had coordinators quit, and their replacements had their own favorite translators. After being burned once (a company that supplied about half my income went out of business), I’ve been a lot more careful about spreading my bets.

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