Taking stock

Taking stock

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Best start for years

The first two months have whizzed by and I think it’s time to take stock and consider how the year is going. To be honest, I couldn’t be happier. I’ve probably had my best start to a year ever, and not only that, I’ve been getting lots of work in my specialist areas, particularly history and tourism, some from new customers. All this after I spent weeks at the end of last year agonising over whether to put my rates up and what might happen if I did.

The puzzling thing is that none of this has come from the marketing campaign I was – and still am – planning. My leaflet is still at the design stage and my plan to approach potential clients in the tourism field is on hold until it’s finished. So what has brought about such a successful start to the year? The truth is I can’t be sure, and it’s probably a mixture of factors. In this post, I’d like to suggest what some of them might be and explain the lessons I’ve learned from January and February.

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Lesson 1: Putting your rates up doesn’t mean you’re not going to have any work.

Despite my worries about what the effect might be, I did put my rates up at the beginning of January. It has has almost no effect on the volume of work I’m being offered, which has, if anything, increased. It’s true that some agencies are not giving me so much, but this has been more than made up for by other sources, and even some of the more reluctant customers are paying my new rates. I can only conclude that a) my customers, or at least the vast majority of them, do genuinely value what I do for them and/or b) I really was charging too little.

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Lesson 2: Position yourself and believe it.

When I started this website I included in it a number of specialist areas of translation. They were all, for different reasons, either types of translation I enjoyed doing or for which I had a particular expertise, or both. You might argue that there are too many or that they are too diverse, but they are my specialist areas and I don’t have to answer to anyone else about them. What I have found is that just by identifying them and putting them there for all to see, my attitude has changed and I’ve started to see myself as a true specialist in these subjects, not just someone who likes doing that type of translation. Obviously this has to be backed up and I’ve been developing my knowledge, for example, within my food and drink specialism, by going on a wine translation course recently. I can’t say for certain that my new attitude has actually got me jobs in these fields, but I believe it might have, and I certainly don’t think it’s done any harm.

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Lesson 3: Traditional ways of getting work should not be ignored.

One of my best jobs in this last couple of months has been a tourist guide on Modernista architecture in Barcelona which came to me through a publisher I’ve worked for in the past, largely translating books on Barcelona Football Club. Another excellent job, again related to tourism in Barcelona, has come via an agency I sent a CV to last year. This one was for a museum exhibition and concerned medieval history, just the kind of material I love to translate, also related to my university degree, which is in history. They were both very enjoyable jobs, paying the rates I asked for, and exactly the kind of work I want to find, but they came not through marketing but through contacts.

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Lesson 4: If you want a particular kind of work, give it priority.

There was a time when, if I was offered work I accepted it, simple as that. I would only say no if I was so busy I was on the verge of not being able to cope. One thing I have tried to change this year is to keep the volume of work I routinely accept down and to take on extra jobs that increase this level only if they really add something: they’re exactly in my specialist areas, they’re for a new customer I really want to work for, or something similar. So far, I’ve probably still been saying yes to too much work, but I think it has helped to shift the balance towards jobs I really want to do.

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Lesson 5: Don’t get complacent

It would be easy to get carried away with my start to the year and think that it’s always going to be like this. The fact is, though, that I still have a long way to go in terms of marketing myself to the customers I’d like to work for. The danger is that, if I do nothing, I could easily go through a period in a couple of months’ time where all I get offered are manuals for sausage-making machines and the like. If I want to be able to say no to those, I need to finish my leaflet and work on marketing myself to the right people for the rest of the year.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll keep you posted on how I get on.





  1. Alison Hughes

    Great news, Simon. I decided a couple of years ago to dedicate my website to my specialist areas, or at least the areas I wanted to become my specialisms. Athough it has taken me longer than you, I am starting to work more in these areas and totally agree with your ‘mindset’ comment. It does provide a focus and I don’t do ‘focus’ very well 🙂

    • simonberrill@sjbtranslations.com

      Thanks for the comment, Alison. I have absolutely no evidence that the mindset has had an real effect, but I was searching for ideas to provide an explanation for something that is definitely happening and I think it’s a possible contributory factor.


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