It would be hard to top the buzz (furor?) generated by the guest post on translator pet peeves, so I’m going to stick with a dry topic for today!
Statistics and performance metrics are important keys to tracking the success of your freelance business. Hopefully you at least track your income and expenses, but there are many other tracking possibilities out there. I’m not a great statistics user, but I do find it extremely helpful to keep a running total of my outstanding invoices. I do this using a simple OpenOffice spreadsheet. Whenever I issue an invoice, I put the invoice details into the spreadsheet and set the spreadsheet to total up the column that includes the invoice amounts. Then, if I’m on the fence about whether to take on a project or take some extra time off, I can look at the running total and see how it compares to the amount that I want to earn in a month. If the total is substantially more than my monthly target income, I know that I’m not under any pressure to take on extra work. If it’s less, I know that I have to keep my nose to the grindstone until the total increases.
I also use my accounting software to compare my year-over-year income at various points in time. I find this to be a good sanity check; this year, although I feel as if my business volume has decreased, a quick look at last year’s income data tells me that I’ve actually earned about 20% more money because more of my work is coming from higher-paying direct clients.
Other business statistics that you might want to keep (and feel free to add your own):
- Income by client. Use this to determine who to thank profusely at the end of the year (!) and what types of clients to market to.
- Hourly rate for various translation jobs. Forget about the word count and divide the amount you made by how long the job took. This will tell show you which projects are more or less lucrative than others regardless of the per-word rate.
- Time spent on non-translation tasks. This could help you figure out whether outsourcing some tasks such as OCRing, accounting, putting stamps on postcards, etc. could help improve your bottom line.
- Average translation speed under various circumstances. If you want to know whether you work faster, and thus make more money using translation memory software,using speech recognition software, working on your laptop at a cafe instead of at home, measure it. Calculate how many finished words per hour you produce using these techniques. This might help you decide whether it’s worth investing in new software, hardware or training, whether it might be worth dictating your translations and hiring a transcriptionist to type them out, etc.
Feel free to add your own suggestions for things that other freelancers might like to track!