Friday, 16 May 2014

5 simple ways to boost your efficiency: A guide for freelancers

Do you find you spend a little too much time in the office? Do you know how many hours you work? Time is a valuable resource for you as a freelancer, so be sure you make good use of it! Efficiency is key to productivity and business success, and I am sure we all have our own little efficiency measures in place. But perhaps you’d like to consider implementing the following efficiency measures, which work really well for me:

Buy time-saving office equipment. Invest in the latest superfast computer. It is simply not worth having to wait for a slow-ish computer to boot up or for all your various programmes to sluggishly open. Get a fast internet connection, too, to speed up your work processes. I recently bought a new document shredder that can shred 60 sheets at a time, rather than just a couple. Why waste precious time?

Build macros. Automate tasks that you perform regularly in Microsoft Office. Macros are easy to define even without any programming knowledge. You could, for example, build a macro for converting text to Arial and sending it to the printer using your own shortcut key combination. (I usually revise texts in Arial as it helps pick up errors and clumsy renderings much better than other fonts!)

Define codes for frequent words or phrases. My favourite feature in MemoQ, my preferred translation software, is the Autocorrect feature. It lets me define codes for all those long (and not so long) German compound nouns in the patents I translate. Needless to say, typos do not stand a chance of creeping into words again once you’ve spelt them correctly the first time round. You can, therefore, focus your attention elsewhere in the text. Autocorrect and the translation memory function in MemoQ have saved me, for example, from having to type “Ausführungsform” 679 times in the last 3 months alone! (“Ausführungsform” is the translation of embodiment, i.e. the manner in which an invention can be made, used, practised or expressed.)

Increasing translators' efficiency: MemoQ's Autocorrect feature

Check emails just once every day. I use 5 email addresses, 4 of which are linked to my website domain. Work emails reach me every 10 minutes between Monday morning and Friday evening. They are also the only messages that come through on my smartphone. By contrast, I download messages from friends and family members as well as forum messages just once every day, and I use a separate email client for that. I recommend dealing with such messages at the end of the working day when your concentration levels have likely gone down. Your colleagues and friends will condone the odd typo or infelicitous wording; your clients won’t.

Track your time. For me, efficiency goes hand in hand with knowing how many hours I’ve spent in the office and what I have achieved in that time. I use TimeStamp from Softonic for this. I punch in when I start working and punch out when I take a break or call it a day. Taking regular breaks is important, too, as sustained concentration can result in mental exhaustion and stress and will impact your efficiency. Even translators, who tend to have very long concentration spans, need regular breaks! Tracking your time will help you manage your concentration span and schedule breaks.

Tracking time will help manage your concentration span better

Ultimately, the goal of being efficient is to carve out more time that you can take off. In this context, I also recommend setting aside at least one free evening per week. For me, Friday evening is always free from translation work as well as chores and commitments. The reality – especially with children – is you often just cannot avoid working evenings. My kids are older now, so more of my evenings are free. However, I still treasure my Friday evenings as they date back to a time when it was extremely difficult to actually fit in any free time at all.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Pricing and turnover in a translator’s business

Pricing and turnover in a translator’s business are thorny subjects. So thorny indeed that many translators are extremely reluctant to talk about it at all. It is also a subject where I can get a bit hot under the collar. I know I shouldn’t really say too much as I don’t want to tread on anybody’s toes, but I do feel it is detrimental to the image of our profession that so many translators complain about low turnovers. Are you happy with the turnover of your translation business? If not, consider the following:

Do you specialise in any particular fields? It is time-consuming to regularly have to dig into and research new areas and it will not add much to your bottom line. Stick to the same fields, and market yourself as an expert in such fields.

Do you use translation software to automate some of your work? Translation software will speed up your work considerably. It will take some of the dull, mechanical work off your shoulders and free up space for the more intricate (and much more interesting!) parts of translation.

Do you manage your time? Are you actually working while you could or should be working? Do you manage your attention span? Time is one of a freelancer‘s most precious resources and should not be wasted. Effective time management techniques, therefore, are key.

Translators are not willing to work for peanuts

Do you charge per 1,000 words although it would be wise to charge by the hour – or vice versa? Obviously, you wouldn‘t want to price yourself out of the market, but don’t forget freelancing means you can charge whatever feels right to you. After all, no one dictates what you should charge.

And, finally, the awkward question:

Do you charge enough? Do you work for serious-minded clients or bucket-shop companies? Remember the translation market is huge, and demand for translations is immense. Therefore, why not make the effort and track down some good clients? By the way, if you’re constantly inundated with work, you should raise your rates sooner rather than later.

Misconception 7 of my most popular blog post ever says “translators are willing to work for peanuts”. Are you willing to work for peanuts? There is still much work to be done, but I am confident that we are slowly moving away from the erroneous, outdated image of translation as a low-paid, unattractive profession. And if more of us became a bit more open about what we charge and earn, it would go a long way towards promoting the image of translation as a worthwhile and respected profession.