Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chief Cook and Bottlewasher

As I sat down to another round of bill paying and client invoicing on Monday, then spent more than an hour inputting contacts into my database, generating cover letters and stuffing envelopes to mail brochures, I thought about how much time I spend on the mundane tasks that go with running a business. It being a holiday in most of Europe, there were no client requests to deal with, but I still could have spent that time more productively: finally take that Trados certification test, read the latest ATA journal or write new text for my website. None of these activities would be billable, either, but at least they would move my skills and business forward.

So today I picked up a few more books at the Brooklyn Public Library's business library, including Jeffrey A. Landers' The Home Office From Hell Cure. Landers advocates outsourcing many of these mundane tasks, including hiring a virtual assistant -- basically an off-site secretary/data input person/mail room clerk. I'm not sure how that would technically work with the client database that resides on my hard drive or how I would then sign the cover letters generated off-site, but I suppose these details could be worked out. The larger question is actually two-fold, I think: a. do I really want to manage someone else? and b. do I need to wait until I generate a higher income or will hiring a virtual assistant generate that income?

About a.: I was a middle manager once (in IT) and I hated it. On the other hand, here there is no boss above me telling me to push my assistant. So maybe it would be okay.

On b.: Hiring a virtual assistant would only generate higher income if I spent the time so gained by marketing myself. Since I'm not particularly good at marketing (and don't like it, either), I'm not sure such outsourcing would, in fact, generate more income.

So maybe the answer is not to hire a virtual assistant, but to outsource the marketing -- or at least parts thereof. The problem here is that marketing consultants tend to be expensive. Also, telling from the marketing books I've read, the industry doesn't seem particularly attuned to the special characteristics of marketing a one-person, relatively low-cost service internationally -- which is essentially what would be needed to market a translator. So where would I find someone who doesn't just give me cookie-cutter advice, but really understands how the translation industry works -- both here and in German-speaking Europe?

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