Newest Review: ... frustrated by management decisions, and genuinely find yourself wanting to set the direction, then self employment might suit you. It is ... more
More different faces than Mr. Benn
Member Name: Morgenhund
Date: 18/10/01, updated on 18/10/01 (367 review reads)
Advantages: be your own boss
Disadvantages: not for the faint hearted, it can get too much
For those of you who can remember the halcyon days of Children's Television in the late 70s and early 80s when Tiswas, Swapshop et alii abound, then you'll certainly remember Mr Benn. Mr Benn used to go to a fancy dress shop every week and have an amazing adventure, being a knight one week, a chef the next etc. Well unfortunately you'll not have that kind of fun if you are self-employed, but you'll try a lot of different job roles. Whilst it may sound a bit pompous to use American terms and titles, being self employed, you'll find that you simultaneously will be doing the job of CEO, CFO, CTO, COO, various assistants? jobs as well as actually doing whatever your company specialises in. That?s right, you'll be the financial bod who has to count the beans going in and out, the marketing man who decides about special promotions and advertising, you'll be the man who puts in the tenders, you'll be the billing expert responsible for the punctual sending of invoices so that the money then comes in promptly (after all how many small businesses end up getting financially strangled by their large customers not paying quickly?) you'll be the PR "daaahling", having to meet and greet, and possibly promote, the sales person trying to get your foot in the door with potential customers. And then there is the actual work...
As a self-employed translator, albeit with a lot of work coming from two agencies at the moment, I am aware of the various jobs I actually have to do to keep the business afloat, and to make sure things head on an upward turn and that there are no times of sitting round, waiting for work. Surely if I can get a lot of work from agencies, then I can let them take a lot of the pressure off me and find me the work, whilst I merely do it? Yes, but the middle man takes his cut of course. Take for example my case. One agency I work for charges ATS 17 (EUR 1.24) a line (55 characters including spaces) for the work I
do for them. So what do I receive from them? Answer ATS 12 (EUR 0.87). Now for a lot of the work I do I offer a very competitive rate of ATS 15 (EUR 1.09) for 60 characters or a premium rate of ATS 18 per 60 characters (EUR 1.31) which works out as ATS 16.50 per 55 characters (EUR 1.20). Already the figures start speaking for themselves.
Relatively the overheads I incur are lower than a company that has to phone me to inform me of a translation, find out submission dates etc. as I am cutting out the middle-man and by basing my prices on non-capital city levels, in a capital city, I am gradually starting to squeeze business away from some competitors. Of course to get started I do need the agencies finding me translation work whilst I work up a buffer of cash to then allow me to really take them on.
Another side is of course billing, which is a relatively straightforward process with a lot of electronic banking now happening, but that doesn't mean that it gets much simpler for you, as you still have to issue, check and send bills. Even just sending out about 40-50 invoices a month is a time consuming process until you automate the process. Attach banking arrangements ? drawing money out of accounts, ensuring that money is juggled accordingly, that you aren't losing too much from foreign currency transactions, or in my case that the various accounts in various parts of Europe have all been paid into and out of accordingly, as well as ensuringly that tax declarations are made in time, receipts correctly issued too, and it becomes a remarkably time consuming process.
Of course as well as doing work for your present customers you have to look at future customers, and how to corner the market, or to attract new customers, a process that involves a lot of networking, working out attractive tenders etc. in order to attract new clients in the hope that you can lock them in on a more long-term basis. At the end of the day this is the fun p
art of being self-employed with waning contracts being resurrected and new business being hard to win but certainly a guaranteed adrenaline rush. New strategies, regarding contracting and pricing have to be looked at and of course time management, and efficiency is the key. Plus of course you need to be prepared to cope with problems e.g. moving offices and the 1001 associated pit-falls attached to changing premises e.g. internet connections needing to be reconnected, phone numbers changed, contacts updated, a lot of the work that the Human Resources department would be doing in a large company.
Of course the Internet has proven to be my saviour, but of course for many people who are self-employed the Internet can also be their worst enemy. The internet enables me to weigh up the competition ? see what prices and services competitors are offering, exploiting the fact that I can do jobs via the Internet without having to be geographically near to the people I am offering the service to ? indeed I have never met one of my agency bosses ? quite a bizarre concept! At the same time, with Web Presence being a must if you are looking to get up and running as a business, it dilutes your time still further. Currently I am too busy to give my site an overhaul, which is not good, although I do ensure that my price list, contact details and all that are up-to-date so that at least my website remains informative.
Well it might all sound a bit of a struggle, and I would admit that it isn't the easiest job in the world juggling work and the necessary pleasures of a personal/social life too. It does require utter commitment, faith in your own abilities, and also rationalising your thinking. Whereas at the outset the tiniest pitfall (and yes there are plenty of pitfalls to be encountered) seemed to nearly sink me, I have learned to deal with problems, to find contingency solutions to minimise losses, stay ahead of the game, improve customer portfolios, services
offered having in the process undergone an Ovidian metamorphosis from the wet-behind-the-ears new graduate fresh out of Uni to the hardened seasoned worker. Resilience, self-conviction and a good ability to cope with stress is essential as for every great day with won contracts, lucrative deals and so on, there can be many more where you are trying to get that vital break. Ultimately it has proven to be a great challenge, but one that I would not swap for anything as I feel the character building side of things as well as pecuniary success have been great experiences. This isn't an option for the faint hearted ? a normal 9-5 job will suit you a lot better if that is the case, but at the end of the day you can see the fruits of your labour a lot more clearly than merely being a tiny cog in a machine.
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