Hello readers! Thoughts on Translation is back from an incredible two weeks in Costa Rica: we visited Corcovado National Park and the Arenal volcano area and it was truly amazing. I highly recommend Corcovado Adventures Tent Camp and the Sirena ranger station for a truly off-the-beaten-track experience. Think wild tapirs wandering down the beach and 10-foot crocodiles floating in the surf (seriously!). We rented a small but beautiful house in Arenal and had a lot of fun rafting with Costa Rica Descents, paddleboarding with Desafio and zip-lining with EcoGlide; I skipped their famous Tarzan Swing but my husband and my daughter loved it! And now…it’s seven degrees here in Colorado and we have eight inches of snow in our front yard. I’m not completely sure why we came back from Costa Rica but there’s plenty of translating to be done, so I’m trying to focus on the positive and look forward to ski season!
While I was on vacation, I started thinking about wrapping up 2011 and setting goals for 2012. I’ve assembled a list of five things I think every freelance translator should do before 2012, and I hope that you’ll add your own in the comments! Addendum: In catching up on Google Reader, I just found this post on the same topic from Sara Freitas-Maltaverne. Excellent suggestions for those who read French!
- Do a searching and fearless assessment of 2011. Did you meet your financial goals or did you fall short? Did you finish the major items on your business to-do list or are they still taunting you from the sticky note on your monitor? Think about what needs to change. If you’re like me, some of the same goals appear on your goal list over and over. It took me years (literally) to realize that when that happens, it means that my current method for achieving those goals is irreparably broken. For example I had been trying to finish the second edition of my book for literally three years. Finally I decided that I just had to block out an hour a day and treat that time as sacrosanct, only to be used to work on the book. I won’t say it was easy to follow through on that, but the project got finished! So if you keep saying you’re going to… (upgrade your computer, learn a new TM tool, use your speech recognition software more, attend more client networking events, have a face-to-face meeting with at least one client a month, or whatever) and it hasn’t happened yet, don’t just write it on the list for 2012, make a new plan for actually accomplishing it.
- Make any end-of-year purchases or contributions. Before you make your final tax payment for 2011, it’s a good time to burn some money out of the business account if you have a surplus. If you pay your 2012 professional association membership dues before December 31, you can deduct them from your 2011 income. If you need a new piece of durable goods (printer, expensive software, office furniture, netbook, etc.), you can decrease your 2011 taxable income by buying it now. Ditto with contributions to most, although not all, retirement accounts. I have an individual 401K for my corporation, which has the advantage of having a very high contribution limit but the disadvantage that the withdrawals will probably be taxed as ordinary income once I’m old enough to take money out of the account. Other investment vehicles such as the Roth IRA work in the opposite manner: your contribution may not be tax-deducible, but your withdrawals may be. Definitely ask your accountant or financial planner about the pluses and minuses of various year-end contributions.
- Get your 2011 deductions in order. Make sure that if you are claiming more than $600 of subcontracting expenses to any one person or corporation, you get their tax data and send them a 1099. And make sure to claim every legal deduction that you can. I don’t like to stretch the rules, but I’m always finding new deductions that I was unaware of. This year’s: if you have kids age 12 or under, you may be able to deduct up to $3,000 of summer day camp costs per child as work-related dependent care. Make sure to get the camp’s tax ID information and make sure that you meet the requirements for the deduction; for example in most cases you cannot claim any work-related dependent care expenses (day care, summer camp or otherwise) if your spouse doesn’t work, and if your kids go to sleepaway camp, you may have to research whether the deduction applies.
- Decide whether you are going to raise your rates. I find that with my agency clients, it’s helpful to raise my rates a little bit every year rather than trying to impose a large increase all at once. If you’ve been thinking of raising your rates, the end of the year provides a good reason to do so. You can even prepare a rate sheet with your 2012 rates and send it out to your clients individually.
- And of course…start setting your goals for 2012! Whether it’s to earn more, work less, diversify your client base, upgrade your skills or attend some new conferences, now is the time to think about next year. Think about how quickly 2011 went: doesn’t it seem like a short time ago that you were setting your 2011 goals?
Overall I feel quite positive about 2011. In contrast with the larger world economy, the translation industry is still booming and I’ve had as much work as I could handle for most of the year. In terms of goals, I finally (finally!) polished off the second edition of my book, but I could have done more with my direct client marketing campaign. That’s the other advantage of reviewing 2011 in early December: still three weeks left to salvage those lingering to-do items!