The Four Stages of Translation Agency Growth. Stage Two – Overload

Stage Two – Overload

At first, my primary concern was increasing the number of clients and the total volume of jobs. Previously, my “business hours” as a freelancer were limited to 2-3 hours per evening plus time devoted to translation on several weekends. Preparing myself for the new model of work, I had informed my clients in advance about my ability to accept more projects.

During the relatively short transition period I was still paid by my previous employer. As I was officially on annual leave from my previous employment, I was still covered by social security.

I was lucky because a few large projects arrived at that point and my workload doubled almost immediately and continued growing.

I didn’t work in the evenings and consequently I definitely had a fresher mind. In these favourable conditions I was reaching the expected quality of my translations faster and easier than before.

At the end of my busy “annual leave” I officially registered my own business and started to pay social security contributions myself.

Now I could enjoy having free evenings and weekends and I was much more relaxed. I rediscovered the joy of exercising at the gym and swimming at the pool. And our social life became much more varied – gatherings with friends, concerts, trips to the theatre and cinema, and our beloved mountain tours on sunny Saturdays.

Word of mouth marketing proved to be a very effective way to acquire new customers.

My work, more efficient than before, gave me a lot of satisfaction and my hourly rate as a translator rose significantly, because faster translating means higher output.

Working around 6-7 hours a day, I was paid more than previously, even with 8 hours at my day job and 2-3 hours at the computer in the evenings. And after all, I saved so much time, previously spent commuting, and I had an added bonus – free weekends.

A few months after quitting permanent employment, the number of projects increased so significantly that my working time reached 8 hours a day on average.

Now my monthly income was much higher than before and I smiled, remembering the comment of my worried neighbor:

Is something wrong? Your car doesn’t budge from the parking lot. Don’t you have money for petrol?.

I also learned that working as a freelancer means you need to adapt to a changing workload.

Regular collaboration with several customers means inevitable fluctuations in workload. Working “on average” 8 hours a day means that one day could be 6 hours, and another day could be 10 hours.

I did my own statistical analyses and saw that the majority of translation orders are placed on Wednesdays and Thursdays. And most deadlines are defined as “EOB” (end of business).

But how to deal with an accumulation of projects? In my experience, the most efficient method was convincing the customer to accept shifting the deadline to “first thing next morning” instead of “EOB”.

For example, as a rule, customers waiting for a translation “Tuesday EOB” easily accept the deadline “Wednesday before business hours”. For the customer, this delay is almost imperceptible and the translator gains an additional 15 hours in the evening or night to complete the job. And in the case of “Friday EOB”, the customer’s acceptance of “Monday before business hours” means 2.5 extra days for the translator.

Of course, this solution – although easily accepted by clients – means negating the beloved model of free evenings and weekends for translators.

That is why translators often choose another solution – they share the work with colleagues. And this represents the end of the second stage of company growth.
For me, sharing projects with another translator meant a change of responsibility for the quality of the translation. When I first subcontracted a translation project to a friend of mine, known as a good translator, I placed myself in the position of revisor and proofreader.

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Jurek Nedoma
Jurek Nedoma has worked in the language industry for over 25 years. He is the founder and former manager of LIDOLANG Specialist Translations, which in 2015 was ranked the 16th translation company in the CEE Region (CSA Report 2015). In the period 2013-2015 Jurek was Treasurer of the European Language Industry Association (ELIA). Jurek Nedoma is also co-founder of the professional TMS software development firm XTRF Management System.
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