Erik is a native Swede with a technical education within electro-technology. His focus is on technical translations from German into Swedish, mainly within the engineering, electronics, automation and printing industries. Erik translates both for agencies and direct-clients throughout the world, but also cooperates with colleagues for other language pairs. This gives him an opportunity to see the translation business both as a freelancer and a vendor.
How did you get started in freelance translation?
Although I have always been interested in languages, it happened more or less by coincidence. After I had moved to Germany in 1991, I started working as an English trainer for adults, but soon began with translations as a parallel business. After eight years, I decided to quit the language courses and concentrate fully on translations.
What have you done to increase your rates over time?
It's essential to increase your translation rates regularly, at least once every second year. This shows your client that you are serious about your business, as you are aware of your market value as a translator. You have your own business and need to make a living.
What has been the single most effective sales strategy you've used?
Sending direct mailings directly to the staff in charge of purchasing has proven to be an effective way of getting clients. Even if takes some time to research before you can send off a batch of mailings, it's really worth the effort.
Do you have a favourite 'type' of client?
My favourite client is definitely an end-client who knows what translation work is all about, offering well-prepared source texts with a consistent terminology, humane deadlines and no discussions about the rates.
What was your most successful project ever, and why?
One of my most successful translation projects consisted of several handbooks and product descriptions for valves and fittings for industrial plants. Well-written texts, smooth communication with the client, humane deadlines, decent rates - very pleasant!
Do you ever negotiate rates?
When it comes to agencies, I seldom negotiate on rates. I can, however, accept certain discounts for repetitions. But again, if it's a rush job, e.g. from Friday afternoon until Monday morning, I always insist on a higher rate which can be anything between a 50-100% surcharge. It's fascinating to see how many clients really can wait one additional day for a translation just to save some money. When speaking about direct clients, I often charge a fixed rate for a complete project as most of these clients very often aren't interested in text repetitions or fuzzy matches.
What would you ideally invest in next for your business?
Purchasing new and better translation tools in order to handle different file formats, upgrading software and hardware, taking different courses and webinars in marketing.
Which tools have most impacted your profitability?
First of all my current CAT tool has proved to be a valuable investment. Another is our project management software used for tracking all orders, quotes and invoices, and for following up on any outstanding payments. In order to send out reminders without delay, it's crucial to know who owes you how much money and by when the invoices should be paid. Even though it's possible to work without such software – you really save a lot of time.
Do you have any advice for others looking to raise their rates?
Raise your rates regularly. If a client starts arguing about your price, don't try to justify yourself, simply state that this is your rate. Period. Don't jump on all kind of jobs just out of curiosity or because you're desperate, but make sure to specialize in certain fields – being an expert within a certain niche is a key factor when it comes to rates.