Last weekend, I had the pleasure of giving a seminar on “Beyond the Basics of Freelancing” for the Northern California Translators Association. At the end of the seminar, I did a short overview of ways to diversify your freelance income stream. All of us are familiar with the basics such as editing, proofreading, voiceover, copywriting, but I wanted to generate a few new ideas. I’ll write more about these in the coming weeks, but one sideline business that really jumped out at me is personal software training for other freelance translators (i.e. going to people’s houses and helping them learn a new piece of software or improve their computer skills).
This idea first came to me when a fellow freelancer in Colorado told me that she had recently hired a bookkeeper to come to her house and set up QuickBooks. This freelancer was an instant convert to the personal software trainer model; in just a few hours, she had her entire accounting system set up and was also able to ask exactly the questions that she wanted to ask. In my own case, I recently battled with setting up Wordfast Pro on my Linux computer; in that case I couldn’t get the software to work properly for other reasons, but I also looked at Wordfast’s new standalone model and thought “Can’t I just pay someone to come to my house and teach me how to use this?”
Partially, I think that there is a big and untapped market for this type of service because as freelancers become more successful, our time is more valuable. Personally, I would rather pay someone $200 to come to my house for a couple of hours and teach me exactly what I want to know (and not repeat what I already know) than sit through an all-day seminar that covers some topics I want to hear about and some that I don’t. Likewise, I’d prefer one-on-one attention to a webinar where I can’t really ask questions until a defined time if at all.
It seems to me that there are a lot of pieces of software that would lend themselves to the personal training approach. Obviously any of the big translation environment tools, Dragon Naturally Speaking, accounting software, etc. In addition, I think that this approach could win more freelancers over to some of the less well-known translation environment tools; whenever I evangelize about OmegaT, the free (as in doesn’t cost anything) and open source translation tool that I use and love, people seem excited by the idea but intimidated by the idea of installing it and learning how to use it.
An additional benefit of a personal software trainer who comes to your house (or works over the phone and uses a VNC system to see your desktop) is that you’re seeing how the software works and looks on your computer and how it interacts with your file system. It seems to me that this system could be a win-win deal; good extra income for tech-savvy translators and a great service for busy freelancers who want to learn new applications or polish their skills.
Finally, not to send everyone rushing to the domain name registrars, but my random sample research shows that the domain name “personalxyztrainer.com” is available for all of the translation-specific software that I searched, where “xyz” is the name of the software (yes, including the market leader!). If you decide to start this type of business, let Thoughts on Translation know how it goes!