Is small beautiful in translation?

Or why we added internal translators to our team

The hummingbird is the tiniest bird in the world and one of the most beautiful

By Arancha Caballero, Founder and Managing Director of Nuadda

When I created Nuadda, I wanted to minimise fixed costs as much as possible. I was adamant in not wanting to add internal translators to the team. Not only because the digitisation development made it possible to outsource as much as possible (IT, accounting, DTP, translations, reviews) then and now, but also to make sure I could have the overhead costs under control. It also meant that I did not have anyone on  payroll, which eased my mind as I was starting a new business activity. But recently, on top of our project managers, almost 6 years later, we have hired two new internal translators. Did I change my mind, or did I just go crazy?

It all started with an internship. When we like our job and industry, I think it is our responsibility to give back and share our knowledge. This can be done via an association, getting involved with a University or having interns. It is always a win-win situation. And our intern was so energetic and capable that I began thinking that a long-term position could make sense, after all.

Over the years, I have learnt that you need to trust your guts (someone says that this is the way your experience talks to you) but it is always good to back up your decisions with solid data. If you have been working for an LSP (Language Service Provider) or as a freelance translator, you already know that average jobs are smaller than a few years ago, and that translation needs are increasing. Since I had this feeling that we were doing many jobs I tracked the translation jobs received during 2017 and the reality was even more shocking:

  • 59% of all translation requests from January to October 2017 had less than 1000 words.
  • Specifically, most jobs received were between 500 and 1000 words.
  • Every individual quarter shows the same data, i.e. this trend is consolidating.

As a matter of fact, this is affecting all translation providers, to the extent that a conference such as ND Focus for PMs, by Elia will be covering this trend.

As our Project Managers have a strong background as translators, the temptation was to translate the jobs themselves, but this is not the appropriate solution. Since we are strict about not crossing this line, how are we coping with this?

Firstly, it’s the operational side: since most clients expect a quick delivery for small jobs, we need to make sure that a tiny job is not going to remain unattended until a given freelancer is available. Secondly, how can we be cost efficient on a 30-word job? Of course, you need to know your costs for tiny jobs as well. Most will not pay back directly but we must reduce the cost at our side. Even a minimum order (which many clients refuse to accept) does not provide you with any margin but we see this as a way to serve our clients. I must say that many clients are willing to pay a minimum rate of at least half an hours’ work.  They understand that a given job, regardless of its , must follow the same workflow as a larger one: preparation, translation and editing. Therefore, they are willing to pay a minimum rate. This is important for us, since the job is not costing us money and our company remains healthy.  Streamlining our process, such as giving access to the translator to register the job in our management system, is one approach, but they need to be part of your internal team. This lead us towards taking the decision to add another internal translator to our team.

The additional benefits are that this frees some of our Project Manager’s time, so that they can focus on the overall management of the account. It also helps them focus on projects, that require more attention, with a clear mind because they do not have to worry about the tiny jobs waiting in their inbox. These are intangible improvements that we believe will have an impact on our services.

We will be tracking these small jobs in a different way: our aim is to decrease our delivery time without jeopardising the quality. So, for us, small jobs are beautiful when you manage them properly. Stay tuned for the results!