This is a sequel to the author’s best-selling A Practical Guide for Translators first published in 1993 and now in its 4th edition. Managing Translation Services looks at how to successfully make the change from being a single freelance translator to developing a translation company offering a range of value added services.
The book is intended principally for those who presently work as a freelance translator with all the inherent limitations this presents in terms of income and being reliant on the limited range of skills that the individual can offer. While some business skills will have been accumulated by virtue of working in a commercial environment, the transition from being responsible for oneself and taking the bold step of employing additional resources can be quite daunting. However, the opportunities this offers in terms of income and personal satisfaction are considerable. This book considers the initial Ssteps towards business development, exploiting these opportunities and the rewards they can offer.
Advice is given on setting up a translation business, organisational development, what a business plan needs to consider for successful growth, how quality management needs to be approached, managing human resources, customer relations and other topics. The book provides a wealth of ready-made examples of quality procedures, forms that support business management and sources of further information. It also considers an exit strategy and related long-term planning when disposing of the business.
Managing Translation Services is based on the many years of experience gained by the author working as a staff translator, freelance translator, university lecturer in translation studies, and former head of an award-winning, ISO 9001 accredited company. As a result, it covers a range of management issues relating to providing professional translation services.
About the Author
Geoffrey Samuelsson-Brown is a translator, writer and business adviser with close on 30 years experience in translation and documentation. His translation career started when working as a technical editor at the Volvo Car Corporation in Gothenburg. On returning to England after ten years in Sweden he was responsible as a senior project engineer for technical publications at a research association. He later went freelance, founded Aardvark Translation Services Limited and was its Chairman and Managing Director for many years until he sold the company.
He has lectured extensively at the University of Surrey on the practical and technical aspects of translation, both at undergraduate and postgraduate level, and cultural awareness in business for translators. He is known internationally and has given many papers to national and international conferences, as well as being a contributing author to other published works.
He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Linguists as well as a founding member and Fellow of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting. He is a fluent Swedish speaker and a Member of the Swedish Association of Professional Translators. As part of his continuous personal development he completed a Master of Business Administration degree in 2001 in Strategic Management, Creative Management, International Enterprise and a management research project entitled “Skills auditing in small to medium-sized enterprises”.
His leisure activities include fly-fishing, cooking, keeping fit at the gym, and listening to classical music and jazz.
Read an Excerpt
Managing Translation Services
By Geoffrey Samuelsson-Brown
Multilingual MattersCopyright © 2006 Geoffrey Samuelsson-Brown
All rights reserved.
Translation is usually taken to mean the production of a written version of a source text in one or more target languages There is physical evidence of the process and it can be subjected to analytical and tangible quality control.
Interpreting on the other hand is providing oral translation of speech It is usually delivered consecutively when the speaker pauses to allow the interpreter to render into the target language what has been said in the source language Simultaneous interpreting occurs while the speaker of the source text is speaking and does not pause for the interpreter to interpret before continuing to speak Interpreting is, by its very nature, transient unless recorded for later analysis.
Translation as a profession is underrated and underpaid The general perception is that the ability to speak a foreign language immediately implies the ability to translate into that language, not from it, irrespective of the subject area. Not only does the translator need to have the command of at least one source language and a target language plus a subject knowledge in these languages, he needs the skills to use the IT tools that are indispensable for the elements of the work to be done.
Until the translation profession becomes regulated the perception held by many who commission translations will remain unchanged Fortunately moves are in progress in the United Kingdom through the Institute of Linguists and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting to change this situation but this will take time Until then translation will remain a cost-led industry and there is a significant risk that students will hesitate to embark on at least four years of study at university, and incur a significant student loan, when the rewards that the profession offers will not encourage students to make the necessary commitment.
A person who studies to be an accountant, for example, can be expected to earn in the region of £40,000 a year if employed by a firm of accountants (2005 figures before tax) after having gained a first degree and a further three years of paid work experience, professional development and passing qualifying examinations A freelance translator working for translation agencies can expect to earn in the region of £30,000 a year (less business expenses and taxes) if fully occupied and this is likely to increase by no more than the rate of inflation throughout his career irrespective of professional development and whatever additional qualifications he gains. The trained accountant can expect far greater rewards.
The worrying trend is that the translation profession is becoming an anonymous, internet-based profession where there is very little personal contact between the freelance and work provider. Fees offered to freelances have declined significantly over the last few years and thus the volume of work a freelance needs to get through to generate an acceptable income has increased proportionately. The danger of this development is that corners will be cut and quality will suffer.
What then is the lone freelance translator to do if he wishes to progress beyond this level? The only answer is to work for direct customers or develop a translation company that depends on the use of freelance translators to provide the range of languages and subjects that are demanded by potential customers. What is discussed in the following is relevant to both categories.
Freelance translation, in itself, offers a great deal of flexibility since the freelance is able to decide on the amount of work he accepts and this is ideally suited to those who wish to work from home or what is often referred to as a SOHO (Small Office Home Office). There is also a high degree of mutual dependence between freelance and a translation company but there needs to be appropriate rewards since not many freelances are prepared to work just for the love of translating and low rates of payment offered for the work. What needs to be considered when working from home is whether your activities contravene your rent, leasehold or freehold conditions or covenants. You may be faced with a demand for business rates for that part of your home that is used for business purposes.
Setting up a translation business
A brief introduction to running a translation business is given in Chapter 4 of A Practical Guide for Translators but this is directed principally at a business run by a single freelance translator. However, a quote it contains from the Open Business School is worth repeating.
There are many books on setting up in business but, by their very nature, are written to consider business in general and not translation services in particular A reading list is Chapter 11.
Summary of tasks for setting up a company
Before you start to write your business plan (Yes! you do need a business plan) you will need to consider what you would like to do, what initial steps you need to go through and what events will affect the process What you will have at the end will hopefully be a robust business plan that defines SMART objectives – those which are Specific, Measurable, Realistic and Timed.
The plan also needs to include a forecast of income and expenditure and probable cashflow. It's all very well generating a turnover and submitting invoices but the most important thing is making sure you get paid and the money goes into the bank.
First of all consider the following checklists.
1. What are you going to call your organisation?
This should reflect professionalism from the outset.
It should give an indication of what your organisation does.
It will probably be limited company (Ltd) registered for VAT – this engenders confidence among customers. See Section 3 below.
What you call your organisation is very important and should reflect the corporate image you wish to project Above all, it must project professionalism Look though the Yellow Pages, for example, in the section on Translators and Interpreters and consider which adverts project a professional image. 'Creatively swipe' ideas and produce an advert that will gain attention.
Whilst recognising your organisation's limitations there is no benefit to be gained in advertising them – consider instead what commercial and competitive advantages you can offer your potential customers The fact that you may be starting your business from a SOHO is irrelevant since there is no stigma attached to this as used to be the case Most businesses evolve from an individual's aspirations and dreams Where you operate your business from is far less important than the corporate image you project and the quality of the services you provide To take an example, HP – better known as HP Invent (formerly Hewlett Packard) – was started in a garage by a certain Mr Hewlett and a certain Mr Packard There are simple and practical options available once you feel the need to move from a SOHO to office premises away from home.
There are restrictions on what you can call your organisation In the United Kingdom, guidance on forming a limited company and any restrictions on what you can call it can be obtained from Companies House. The website to visit is www.companies-house. gov.uk.
2. Have you appointed an accountant?
If you have decided to form a limited company you will need to appoint an accountant/auditor He will be able to deal with the formalities of registering a company for you You can do this as a 'one-man-band' with a single director and a company secretary Rather than thinking 'one-man-band' think micro-company A potential customer is interested in what you can offer and is less concerned how you do this initially.
It is useful to have an accountant even if you set up a sole trader business since he will be able to advise you on how you can operate your business in a tax-efficient manner Separating business income and expenditure from your private affairs can be difficult. What you might pay out for the services of an accountant is well spent since this allows you to do what you are good at and leaves dealing with the authorities to somebody with the appropriate skills.
Your accountant will be able to advise you on any changes in legislation that you may not be aware of He will also prompt you when you need to make submissions to the Inland Revenue and other authorities You have to consider your priorities.
3. Inform the appropriate authorities that you intend starting up in business
While your accountant can do this for you, the responsibility for ensuring that this is done rests with you as a proprietor or director of a company.
Inform the Inland Revenue that you intend starting a business and that you wish to register for tax purposes.
Inform Customs and Excise that you wish to register for Value Added Tax purposes Your annual turnover may initially be lower than the threshold level for obligatory registration but being registered will allow you to reclaim Value Added Tax on purchases on a quarterly basis rather than considering expenditure at the end of your financial year.
These are questions that you need to consider before you deal with practical issues such as office equipment, office telephone, fax and modem, advertising, marketing, professional indemnity insurance and office contents insurance.
4. Data protection
If you plan to compile a database containing information on freelance and other resources you will need to register with the Information Commissioner to comply with data protection legislation under the Data Protection Act 1998. The current registration fee (2006) is £35 .00.
Beware of bogus organisations that offer registration services at inflated charges – check with your accountant.
The details of the relevant body in the United Kingdom are:
Information Commissioner's Office
Cheshire SK9 5AF
5. What service do you plan to offer initially?
While many embryonic businesses have grand plans for what they want to achieve, you need to consider carefully what you can actually provide while being able to maintain the highest level of skills appropriate to what you are offering your potential customers. Quite simply, you need to learn to walk before you can run It is no good offering 'All subjects in all languages' when what you can actually provide falls woefully short of this.
The following considers the practical issues:
Specialised services 'All subjects in all
with a narrow scope languages'
You can remain within
Providing you have the
the scope of your own resources your scope is
skills (linguistic and virtually unlimited.
subject range) and be
confident of the quality
you can provide. Your
marketing will be focused
since you will be able to
identify your target
market more easily. This
is a company that you can
run on your own and
work within your own
It would be unwise to
companies offer a range offer all subjects and
of the most common languages unless you
languages plus a broad have a database of
subject range. As a freelance or staff
consequence you will be resources that can provide
at a competitive quality translations and
disadvantage if your appropriate subject
scope is narrow. knowledge. It is also
unwise to accept work
and then try and find the
Naturally you have the
It is realistic to assume
scope to extend your that any company will
business to include a start in a modest and
greater range of manageable way. Once
languages and subjects by the company's reputation
engaging staff or has been established this
freelance translators. can form the basis of
further development and
6. From where are you going to run your business?
From rented/leased or
You do not have to
Your office will be
commute to work and you separate from your home
can work whatever hours and this allows you to get
you want. You can switch away from the office at the
on your answering end of the working
machine when you do not day.
wish to take calls.
Although working from
There may be a small tax home does not produce
allowance when you do any less-professional
this to cover heating and results, the sense of
lighting etc. (currently working from a rented
£630 per annum in the office may be
UK) unjustifiably viewed as
being more professional
by potential customers.
You will be able to call
on additional support that
you may use only
occasionally if you work
from services offices.
It is difficult to escape Having to commute to
from the office at times work with all its attendant
and, unless you have difficulties and costs.
separate telephone lines
Access may be restricted
for your business, there is outside working hours.
a risk that business calls Office rent and other costs
could encroach on your need to be paid and you
private life. This requires will inevitably be tied to a
a level of discipline. rent or lease contract (if
you do not purchase
Working from home
Moving office with a
allows you to earn an number of staff requires
income while developing careful and detailed
resources in an organic planning. You need to
and manageable way. i.e. consider how this will
responding to affect your staff in terms
opportunities. This type of of location and
growth is less risky but commuting. You will also
financial rewards take need to consider the level
less time to realise. of disruption and recovery
It allows you to consider caused by moving.
the significant step of
moving from a SOHO to
a larger office in a
What type of organisation?
The most important tasks before starting a business are to consider a number of fundamental issues that concern the type of business enterprise you want to set up and to prepare a business plan. These are interdependent but let's consider the business identity first even though this will be determined to a great extent by your business plan. The following table considers the two most common formats for an embryonic business in the United Kingdom and the issues you need to consider
[TABLE 1 OMITTED]
Another form of registered company is a public limited company The shares in a company that goes under this designation may be transferred freely to members of the public. The company's shares may be traded on the Stock Exchange if the company is listed but this applies only to large companies. This form of company is not usual when starting out in business as a translation organisation since it requires a given level of equity capital.
On the basis of the above it would seem appropriate to form a limited company A limited company must have at least one director and a company secretary – a sole director cannot act as a secretary Other issues will be considered in an outline business plan and it is possible that you will make a loss in the first year or two of operations This is something you need to consider in your plan and will depend how it is structured and whether growth is planned to be organic or accelerated Growth through acquisition is also a consideration but issues concerning this need the guidance and skills of an appropriate adviser.
Excerpted from Managing Translation Services by Geoffrey Samuelsson-Brown. Copyright © 2006 Geoffrey Samuelsson-Brown. Excerpted by permission of Multilingual Matters.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Contents1 Introduction2 Organisational development3 The business plan4 An introduction to quality management5 Quality procedures6 Work Instructions7 Managing human resources8 Customer relations9 Your exit strategy References Organisations for translation companiesReading listAppendices