Reviewing the first half of my translating year
A blog I was reading a couple of weeks ago (wish I could remember whose it was) made the very sensible suggestion that, with six months now gone, it was a good idea to review the success and failure of our activities and see where a change of emphasis or direction might be required in the second half of the year. Until now I haven’t had time for this exercise, but I’d like to go through it now before it’s too late, and I’ll do it here in the hope that it might be some help or inspiration to others.
So what’s gone well for me in the first half of 2015? Most of all the volume of work I’ve achieved or maintained, depending on how you look at it. Regular readers of this blog will know that at the end of last year I discussed the pros and cons of raising my rates and mentioned my concern that the volume of work I received might fall. I needn’t have worried. This year I’ve been just as busy if not busier than last year and, you don’t need to be a genius to work out that this, at higher rates, means I’m earning more money. I’m not giving figures, but so far I’m breaking all records.
It’s true that I have lost, or more or less lost, certain customers, but in fact I’ve been surprised at how ready most clients have been to pay my new rates, which I think is a message to myself in future and to other translators who might be nervous or fearful when it comes to raising rates.
Generally, I’m getting more interesting work too. One of my aims for the year has been to increase my specialisation, particularly in areas connected with tourism in its broadest sense. To some extent this has worked. I’ve been more determined in turning down the kind of technical translations I dislike and I’ve tried to communicate my specialisation to my existing clients. I still think there’s some work to be done in this area, but in general I’m happy with the progress I’m making.
Another of my aims was to focus any training I did this year on my specialist areas. This I’ve done by attending a short course on wine translation organised by APTIC, which was not only interesting and useful, it also led directly to work for a new customer. I shall be on the look out for more relevant courses in the second half of the year and I’ll also be doing some workshops at the MET conference I shall be attending in Coimbra later in the year. Another area I’m pleased with. So far, so good!
Where things haven’t gone so well is in the area of marketing. I spent the first part of the year working on the big idea of creating a tourism-themed leaflet so I could go to a tourism trade fair held in Barcelona in April. This I did. I was pleased with the leaflet and if you want to read more about the trade fair you can go here. But, as I often find happens with this kind of exercise, the event was better as an experience than in terms of actual results. So I was pleased with myself for going and for handing out so many leaflets, but I’ve yet to see my efforts bring in any real work.
To make matters worse, I haven’t followed up the contacts I made at the trade fair as I know I should have done. I could justify this with pressure of work and lack of time. After all, when you’re busy, it’s not just that you don’t have time to chase more possible work, you actually start to wonder what you would do if some of potential customers actually offered you some. But I realise this argument is, to some extent, self-deluding. After all, I should be making time for marketing even at the cost of turning down work, and I haven’t done it. Proving a little deeper, what I find is a lack of focus in exactly what I’m trying to achieve along with a lack of belief that I will actually achieve anything at all.
This, of course, will not do. It’s no good wanting direct clients in my specialist areas but not being prepared to do the work necessary to secure them. So what am I going to do about it? First of all, I’m going to take advantage of the summer – a period when I know it would be a waste of time to launch any kind of campaign – to rethink what I’m trying to do and how I’m going to do it. I need to break my campaign down into manageable tasks because at the moment there seems to be too much to do and too many options. I think this will bring back some of the belief I’m lacking and show me the way to go forward in September, which will be the right time for my campaign. And if I can approach potential new tourism-related customers in an organised way, using the materials I already have, between September and December, I’ll still have had quite a good marketing year, despite losing my way a little in the middle there.
In a way, I’m quite pleased with the progress of my blog. I enjoy writing it, people seem to like it, and so far I haven’t run out of things to say. What I haven’t managed to do is develop the foreign language versions of it, as I intended to do. Rather than a translation of this English blog, I would like to make them a place for posting links to things my customers might be interested in reading, collated from the Internet. The problem, once again, however, is time to do all the collating and posting. And, looking a little deeper, I find myself lacking real belief that the effort I would have to put in would bring worthwhile rewards. So far, the only solution to the time problem I can think of is to reduce the frequency of the English blog, but while I’ve got plenty of subjects to write about I simply don’t feel like doing it. After all, as I told someone recently, I am under no illusions: this blog isn’t a marketing tool, except in the general sense of making my website look a little busier. It’s just a hobby, really, but it’s one I enjoy and I write it in my own time, not work time. Any foreign language blogging I did would be done purely for marketing purposes and would simply be work, and I’m not sure it would be the best use of work time. For the moment, then, things are going to remain exactly as they are, although this could change in the future.
All this – the amount of work I have, the amount I have to turn down and the lack of time for marketing activities – point to one undeniable conclusion: my rates simply have to go up again in 2016. This time there must be no end-of-year doubts; no agonising. The alternative is to be stuck, busily at the half-way house where I am now: not as specialised as I’d like to be and with no time to do anything about it.