or: how much it costs
If you were ever in the position to discuss finances with me, you will be aware that I like to save as much money as possible, to the point Werner Herzog would be proud of me.
There is no doubt that starting an independent and self-sufficient translating career is quite pricey. Even though the Incorporation itself is not the greatest expense, the equipment, the specialist software, marketing, accounting services, the monthly rent and utilities inflates your dues above the fifth figure. Before you even begin to feel like you may be finding your footing you could find yourself falling Felix Baumgartner style.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom – one thing I know is bodging stuff together, guerrilla style to cut down costs. I will try to list out a couple of ways to pinch a penny here and there until you earn enough to afford delegation.
First and foremost: if your primary activity is translating, the first thing you have to do is ensure your services are paid. I know that man’s word is his bond, but on account of everyone being so wordy and verbose, I am usually one ending up in a bind. The amount of work I have done for free because the client never intended to pay would easily fill a small office. After a while you stop asking for the payments because so much time has passed that it stopped making sense. In those situations, I just tell myself that failing to get that payment might be the best investment ever if it means I will never have to deal with the said person. But, I digress… Best way to make sure you are paid is to be able to issue an invoice to the client. It takes care of the taxes, charges and inspections in one fell swoop.
There are two ways to do this: one is to register as an entrepreneur, the other is to incorporate. Both have their advantages and flaws, and I can’t be arsed to list them all. In my own humble opinion, the translators are better off registering as entrepreneurs at the beginning, and once they have grown their clientele incorporate as a LLC. The administrative and bureaucratic side of both is rather simple and straightforward (for example, I managed to do mine on my own in a single day) If you don’t have sufficient knowledge, your best bet is to ask a legal professional or an accountant.
Which brings us to accounting. Depending on the Tax Administration Office in your town, you may be able to get all the information directly from them. If they turn out not to be the most forthcoming bunch, hire the best accountant you can find. If you can’t afford an accountant, there is another option which at first seems more expensive, but in the long run will save you money. Ready? Enroll in the course for accounting technicians. Most towns have such courses and, save for the linguistic improvement, it will be the best money you ever spent. This is from personal experience.
Also, you need constant access to the internet. As for the software, I suggest make a point of buying all of them licensed. It is no secret I prefer Windows to Apple. All of the CATs work better in Windows. The yearly subscription for office if mandatory, but you can split this cost with someone since the subscription allows for installation across several devices. Since you may be working with sensitive information, it is very important to have a good Anti-virus program. Kaspersky is the standard, but I am quite partial to BitDefender due to its vault feature. That cost can be split the same way as the one for Office. When it comes to the CAT selection, you may want to read this.
Marketing. Ok, here you have the opportunity to let your creative penny-pinching shine. Of course, you can always pop off to the most popular agency and buy everything they put in front of you, or you can invest time and patience, negotiate, haggle and see what’s on offer in other towns. You would be surprised by the stark contrast in prices you can find with a bit of communication and by just asking around. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are free, but quite useless if you have no idea in which direction to take your endeavours… which brings us to your website. If you decide to hire a professional who designs and manages websites, you can expect a three-figure bill for the most basic plan. If you pay, you may get your website but not the full autonomy to work at it and update it according to your needs. Some ten years ago, I was in need of a website. The price tag the “professional” put on his services almost gave me a heart attack.
Once I regained my senses, I diligently sat in front of my computer and Googled the sh** out of web design for free. That’s how my love of coding was born, but that’s a story for a different time. Now, it is 2018. The web design has become really cheap. With the onslaught of the free CMSs, there is no longer a need for you to sit at your computer and bodge the HTMLs – WordPress, Drupal and Joomla are here to make your existence easier. You may need a couple of days to figure out how they work, but the best thing is that any change will appear immediately on your website. Pay for your domain and hosting package online and you are all set. Then, you can start working the Social Media.
Now, I don’t want to crush your dreams, but this is Montenegro, and ultimately, your best advertisement is “light-foot express”. Talk to people, give out business cards like candy, be kind and polite, be forthcoming and above all, be patient. As I said, this is Montenegro and unfortunately you will more often be faced with questions about your marital status than about translating. But, keep it up: if success was easy, everybody would be successful.
Tu dimmi quando, quando…