My review of 2015
I began this year with a mixture of hope and fear. Hope that I could continue my success from 2014, which had been a very good year for me, and just a touch of fear that raising my rates, which I had decided to do, might not turn out to be such a good idea. I needn’t have worried on that score. One of the reasons I had decided to put my rates up was that I simply had too much work. As I’m not the best at saying no, I reasoned that by putting up my prices I could reduce demand for my services to more comfortable levels. In those terms, my strategy was an absolute failure, as I’ve never been as busy as I have for most of this year, something which ought to be heartening news for anyone worrying about putting their own rates up this time round.
Not only have I been busier all year, I’ve had some great projects, most of them falling right in the middle of my specialist areas. It all began with a wonderful book (of which I was kindly given a copy) on Catalan Art Nouveau architecture in Barcelona, then I had a cycle tourism guide, and so it went on. Since the summer I’ve been occupied with a fascinating exhibition catalogue relating to travel in the Middle Ages (you’ve still got time to catch the exhibition here) and a couple of books, one on the seven wonders of the ancient world and the other on the medieval Catalan philosopher and scholar Ramon Llull (which in fact I’m still translating). I couldn’t have asked for more interesting, well-paid work.
It all fitted into one of my aims for the year, which was to work mainly in my specialist areas, mostly related to tourism, and to refuse work in areas where I feel less comfortable – mainly medical and technical translations. The rather strange part, though, was that hardly any of the projects came through any kind of marketing. Making a quick analysis of the jobs I mentioned, the vast majority arrived as a result of work I’d done before, while one came through chasing work I saw advertised on a translation organisation e-mail list. In fact, in this case the job as I inquired about it consisted of a few thousand words of French. It was only when I spoke to the client that I discovered that there were also more than 80,000 words of Catalan to be translated.
There were lessons for me here. One is that these mailing list jobs, if they come from a trusted source, really are worth going after. Secondly, French, which is my third working language, is worth keeping up, because it often secures me other opportunities. And, finally, jobs are often not what they seem. Had I not been informed about the extra work from the very first phone call it could have been the biggest case of “scope creep” of all time. As it was, it was my best, my favourite and my most lucrative job of the year.
It can’t be said that I didn’t make efforts at marketing this year. I spent most of the first three months developing a leaflet with the aim of visiting a big tourism trade fair held in Barcelona in April. As I reported in this blog post, I went along, introduced myself and duly delivered leaflets to potential customers. As a fairly shy person, I won’t say I found it easy and I was proud of myself for having made the effort. Sadly, the actual results have been negligible and I have to wonder whether all the effort was worthwhile. In fact, the experience, together with a talk I heard at the METM15 conference later in the year, led me to think a great deal about the real value of marketing, a theme I’ll be developing further in 2016.
METM15 was my conference of choice this year and fully lived up to expectations in the beautiful Portuguese city of Coimbra. It also inspired several blog posts as well as the one I’ve already referred to, which you can read here, here and here. With the amount of work I normally have, I don’t think I could justify taking time out for more than one of this type of event every year and the MET meetings fit the bill perfectly. I did also fit in one short training course this year: a particularly interesting couple of days on translating and wine, an area I’m keen to develop further next year.
So I’m fortunate enough to have had a particularly interesting and successful year in 2015. On the basis that I’m busier than ever, this year I haven’t agonised about rates at all, and I’m putting up my prices once again. With some of my more recent jobs I have the feeling I’m moving into a different league, leaving behind any remaining pennypinching and cheapskate clients of the kind I’ve written about here, and finding customers who really appreciate what I can offer them. And on that note I’m leaving 2015 behind. This will be my last post of the year. I’ll be back in January.
Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you all!
Inspiring post, Simon. Certainly sounds like you’re heading somewhere!
Thanks, Rob! Merry Christmas!
Glad to hear that 2015 has been positive for you, Simon, on all fronts! There’s nothing better than translating something you enjoy. Apart from being more productive, you get a wonderful sense of achievement! I’ve been trying to keep that in mind for ages (though unsuccessfully at times as some companies won’t take the "I’m not a legal or business translator" reply for a no!).
Thank’s for your comment, Lydia. It’s not always easy turning things down and it often depends on the circumstances. I think the most important thing isn’t so much to do only what you like but rather not to do what you really don’t like. So, I don’t mind business and legal translations and I’m quite happy to do them as "bread and butter" when there’s no jam available, but I now always refer medical and technical ones elsewhere.
I am very glad to have "met" both of you, Simon and Lydia, this year. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to work with you, Simon, but I will certainly keep your name in my book with a star mark on it, in particular, for French.
I wish you another and more productive and successful year for both of you.
Thanks very much, Yuka. I look forward to working with you too!