Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Feast or Famine: the Freelancer's Eternal Lament

Last week, I wrote about trying to market myself. This week, I wish fewer clients wanted my services. Earlier this week I was working on three projects simultaneously while a fourth one was waiting in the wings. Now I'm down to two projects and had to decline two more because I can work only so many hours in a week. Besides, sometime this weekend I have to catch up on invoicing and following up with people I met lately at a couple of networking events.

That dilemma of too much work one week, none the other, is, of course, familiar to any freelancer. But the problem seems to be exacerbated in the translation industry where many projects have extremely tight deadlines. Even if a project were large enough to keep one translator busy for a few weeks, it usually needs to be done so quickly that it is divided up between different translators rather than spread out over time. Not only does this worsen each individual translator's uneven cycle of work, it opens a whole other host of problems in terms of different writing styles and terminology.

This brings me back to the fact that translation is frequently an afterthought at the end of a production cycle, rather than a planned step with appropriate deadlines. I have written about this before, but it bears repeating: end clients need to learn that the translator needs time to provide a quality product and that they therefore must build that time into their project plans. But as long as end clients can get 24-hour turnaround on translating 10,000 words, they won't learn. So language service providers -- agencies, but also translators -- must educate them about the time involved and refuse to do rushed, low-quality jobs.

That, unfortunately, does not appear to be where the profession is headed. I, for one, am looking for direct clients where I can negotiate terms and deadlines in advance. That, however, only works for the precious few companies that don't already have a contract with an agency and don't need their text in 20 different languages. It remains to be seen whether I can actually find -- and convince to hire me -- enough such clients so I can get out of the rat race translation has become. Stay tuned for updates ...

1 comment:

  1. Yes, time is a big factor on quality. Sufficient time must be agreed upon.

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