We cannot make proper goals without doing a proper review. Dreams are very nice and all, but unless you plot them with precision, they are not going to come true. This is why I like statistics. I start with statistics so that I can make reasonable goals for the following year. It helps keep things real, and sensible analysis requires brutal honesty.
So, let’s start with my goals at the beginning of 2015, and see how I measured up.
Goal 1: Increase annual income by 25%
Result: Total 2015 income is €84.00 less than last year i.e. “the same”, in the huge scheme of things.
Response: In the interests of public decency, I cannot publish my actual response.
Although I have work booked for December, the fees are unlikely to land in my bank account before the end of the year. I could negotiate an advance payment from a client, or payment on delivery, but even if I do, I am unlikely to meet my original goal.
Reason: Why did I not achieve this simple goal? Did I take my eye off the ball? The short answer is yes, I did.
Without looking further at the figures, I know that revising that 214,000-word biography was not the most profitable use of my time. For the fee I agreed to, I took far too long on it. The book is well-revised, but at my expense and not someone else’s, as it should have been. That is no one’s fault but mine. My decision to agree to the job in the first place was motivated by several factors and not solely by financial reward:
- I do enjoy working with the translator of this work. This was our third collaboration on a large project in five years.
- I wanted the experience in the Portuguese to English language pair.
- The biography is of a high-profile person, and goes some way to enlarging my network of possible clients within the corporate world in the future through word of mouth.
Why did I fall short of my own expectations?
- I did not stick to the schedule I had devised, mainly because I had forgotten how horrible it is to work through summer on a large project. Poor time management, and lack of discipline, in other words.
- I am sure there are other reasons, but as I go through them in my head, they sound like excuses, and therefore have been dismissed.
Let us assume that in 2014, I achieved a good balance between translation and editing. Here are the numbers which show clearly where the problem lies: For the amount of editing I did, I should have done a lot more translation work in 2015. The final figures for 2015 will be slightly different, since December 2015 has obviously not been taken into account. The difference will be negligible:
I should also add that because of poor time management on the revision of the biography, I did turn away a lot of translation work. Am I glad I did do the biography? Yes. I could have been a lot smarter about it, that’s all. You will also see from these figures that I am not a high-volume translator. If one says that we have 250 working days in a year, then my daily average for 2015 would be 773 translated words and 902 edited words. Hardly impressive.
It is fair to say that I probably would translate more if caring for my partner did not take up quite so much time. 2015 was more demanding than 2014 in this regard, although I have put some improved coping strategies in place.
Goal 2: Increase translation per word rate by at least 25%
This goal is a linear progression from Goal 1, and assumes that if I translated exactly the same number of words at a rate 25% higher than the previous year, I would earn 25% more money. Lesson learned: Two extra minutes spent deciding if I should quote when I receive requests for quotations based on whether the resulting quotation is in line with my earning objectives will be time well spent.
Result: Partially achieved. Averages are strange; they make the spectacular look ordinary in the clear light of day. My average per word rate on translation for the whole of 2015 is only 5% higher than the average rate in 2014. The reason for this puzzlingly low percentage increase may well lie in the fact that I began increasing my rates to new clients in the last four months of 2014. What is most encouraging, however, is the difference between the first half of 2015 and the second half of 2015. The average increase there has been 24%. That is an average percentage increase; you will already have deduced that my actual percentage increase is higher than 24%, since I still retain old clients at older rates. Clients who bring the average down.
A note about the term “per word rate”: I actually do quote per job and not per word, so the more precise term for this would be “effective per word rate”.
Not only am I consciously charging more, the client base is also shifting. One client in particular featured three times as much in the first half as it did in the second. In the second half, I acquired several new clients (at higher rates), which meant that the client which was so prominent in the first half was accorded less priority by me. I shall be proposing new rates to that client shortly. The client’s response will determine how much priority I give to them in future. Part of the shifting client base has to do with balancing my three language pairs, and I look forward to analysing each of those language pairs further to gain clearer perspectives of those specific markets. Excel spreadsheets are wonderful in that regard.
Goal 3: Buy new computer and new software and software upgrade
For the purposes of brevity, I have lumped several goals together.
Result: Humpf. None of these goals were achieved. I did purchase some software, but not the CAT tool I was after.
Action: Reformulate these goals with specific savings targets and deadlines.
Goal 4: Conferences and CPD
I attended a ProZ conference in Porto in April. I started Marta Stelmaszak’s Business School for Translators in mid-April, and attended the Mediterranean Editors and Translators METM15 conference in Coimbra at the end of October. I managed (for pure pleasure) half of a MOOC on “How Writers Write Fiction” and had to forego completing this course in favour of doing some real, paid work. All of these things fired my imagination and motivated me on a number of ongoing and new projects which are all in different phases of completion. Conferences for me are intense affairs. I love consolidating my knowledge and interacting with colleagues, as well as considering fresh ideas and approaches that work. Networking with translator colleagues is important since we have much to learn from each other. We have different strengths and different weaknesses. It is only by personally connecting at conferences that we are able to forge links which strengthen us all – and make online interaction in between conferences that much more meaningful.
I have a physical file into which all my notes during and after such conferences go, and I refer to it frequently. I have just read through the file from beginning to end once again. What I have gleaned from this most recent experience will determine the course of activities in 2016 aimed at developing my business.
Goal 5: Two marketing ideas
Result: Thanks to Marta’s Business School for Translators, I am quite far down the track on Project 1. I am still mulling over Project 2, which requires a bit of capital to get going, and may well have to wait until Project 1 is showing positive results.
Action: Weekly timetabling of specific tasks to achieve the overall goal. I will enjoy it, I know that. What am I waiting for?
No goal: The unexpected
I did not know a year ago that participating in APTRAD – the newly founded Portuguese Association of Translators and Interpreters – would be as rewarding as it has been so far. APTRAD has made a difference in my life as a translator and is set to do so for many others in the foreseeable future. Long may it last!
I do not feel that I have achieved notable success this year. On reflection, it may well have been a year of preparation for a more focused and more carefully planned 2016. There is a lot to be said for determination – and the fat lady hasn’t even thought about starting to sing yet!
For the year ahead, I wish all translators at least as much success as I plan on having in 2016.
© Allison Wright