Whether you look back on 2009 as an annus horribilis or a welcome change from the status quo, it’s time to take stock of the past year and move on.
The nature of 2009 depends on who you ask; I’ve spoken with freelancers who say they’ve never been busier, freelancers who say that their income is down 25% or more and they’re thinking about another career and freelancers who say that life is pretty much the same as before the economic sky fell. Paula Dieli’s blog Essential Project Management recently featured an interesting interview with the President of LUZ, Inc., who said that although his company’s revenue was up about 10% this year, their busiest and slowest times of the year were the opposite of previous years.
This assessment mirrors my experience in 2009; although I worked about 25% less (by choice, since my husband took an in-house job and I wanted to spend more time with my daughter), I earned about 5% more than in 2008, so obviously something went right. At the same time, my work flow was, for lack of a better term, weird. Some of my regular clients dropped off the map almost entirely or started using cheaper translators, but I gained a fair number of new direct clients who had large and well-paying projects. In addition, July and August were two of my busiest months, whereas Augusts past have been almost completely devoid of major projects.
I’m not really one for predictions, but here are a few of my observations about 2009 and what we might see in 2010:
- Especially for translators who work with direct clients, I think that a combination of the weak dollar and businesses looking for clients overseas is likely to continue feeding demand in our industry. With the euro hovering between 1.4 and 1.5 US dollars, US-based freelancers are an attractive option for European companies, and many US companies are looking abroad for clients in countries where the economic situation is less dire.
- The necessity for translators to opt in or out of the low-margin, volume-driven market is becoming more pressing. It seems (and again, this is just my unscientific observation) that in the world of large agencies, 4,000-5,000 words per day, mass e-mails to multiple potential translators and ever-decreasing rates are becoming the norm. At the same time, I personally have encountered very little downward rate pressure from my direct clients, and they continue to cope with my turtlish 2,000 words per day. In this case I think that you can’t really fight the trend; you just have to choose whether you’re going to try to compete in the volume-driven market or not.
- Along those lines, I think that we may also see some shifts in the CAT tool situation. The various issues surrounding Trados Studio 2009 and just the fact that it’s so different from the older versions of Trados may prompt many freelancers to look at other options. I have never owned Trados (preferring OmegaT and Wordfast), but if I were faced with the possibility of paying 795 euros for Trados Studio and having to essentially learn the program from scratch, I think I would look at some other possibilities. And don’t forget that you can compare a whole bunch of translation tools, without the marketing spiels, at Translators Training (I don’t have an affiliate deal with them, I just think it’s a useful site).
And with that, all the best for a healthy and lucrative 2010! Feel free to add your wrapup comments/predictions/gripes in the comments!