Posted by: patenttranslator | May 28, 2011

Location, Location, Location May Be The Least Important Thing for a Freelance Patent Translator

Ten years ago I moved with my wife, two sons, three dogs and a pet bearded dragon lizard named Spikey from Northern California to Eastern Virginia.

If you are in real estate business, the most important thing for you is “location, location, location”, or so they say. If you are in the freelance translation business, your location may be the least important aspect of your business, provided that you don’t have to schmooze with decision makers who determine what needs to be translated, at what price and by whom. I understand some translators generate a lot of business in this manner, but fortunately for me, I don’t have to do that. I have never been very good at schmoozing, mingling, circulating, and other types of subtle advertising of oneself. This kind of thing takes a special talent. Some people have it, and some don’t. I definitely belong to the second category.

Ten years ago most people were still connecting to Internet with a dial-up connection, they were usually renting movies by driving to Blockbuster since streaming was a technique that was known mostly only from a few patents, and all they had to do to get on an airplane was walk through a metal detector, which took about 2 seconds. So one could say that there were some improvements in some areas while some other things are clearly much worse now.

What has not changed is the fact that translators who have a well designed website, and patent translators in particular, don’t need to worry too much about their location. The same patent law firms in California that were sending me work while I lived there for 19 years continued to send me the same translation work after I moved from West Coast to East Coast and so did other customers located in other states in this country or abroad. I just had to make sure that their accounting department had the correct address for mailing the checks, since I kept the same e-mail,  my website was still at the same address, and even my 800 number stayed the same. My clients would probably not care too much if I moved to Papua New Guinea. They would mind if I increased my rates, though. In fact, if I moved to Papua New Guinea and lowered my rates, or at least promised never to raise them, they would probably say that this new location will be really good for me businesswise and otherwise too.

I worked and lived as a translator in four countries and on three continents in the past 30 years. I don’ t feel like moving much anymore at this points but it is good to know that I could do that if I wanted or had to. If I was about twenty years younger and had no family, I would probably keep moving to a few more places. I visited France a couple of times, but I never lived there. I would like to live in France and in England and in Australia too. I would not mind going back to Japan for a year or two. In fact, I would probably start with Japan.

Although theoretically, small business owners and freelance workers can go on vacation any time they want, nothing is further from the truth. Employees who commute to a job and work there nine to five can usually go on a vacation without any problems every summer. Small business owners are usually tied to their desks 365 days a year, although sometime they are tied to their computers remotely with invisible ties. Although I can decide that I want to go to the beach and be there within about half an hour if I want to during a work day, the fact is that the last time I did that, I kept checking my blackberry every 15 minutes or so. It’s better just to go to the beach on Saturday or Sunday like everybody else although it gets crowded on weekends.

When I do go on vacation in summer, I keep checking my e-mail in Internet cafés in different towns every morning, sometime twice a day. Sometime I have to print out attachments and provide price quotes even when I am on vacation in the hope that I will be able to finish the job on time by the time I get back home. So you could say that I am never really on vacation. There is a Latin saying that says ubique veneris, te ipsum tecum portas, which means wherever you go, you carry yourself with you. Wherever I go, I carry myself and my translation business with me now.

But I am glad that I was able to experience so many places during all those years when I kept moving like a madman looking for next new best place in the world. Otherwise I would never know for example that although the grass is green and the sky is blue in Northern California and in Eastern Virginia, these are very different kinds of green and blue.

Otherwise I would never know what it feels like when fog is descending on San Francisco streets, or what it feels like when summer rains pound the world with incredible violence here in Eastern Virginia as the heat that has been stored for too long in the sky is unleashed on the earth again.

I had four friends who were my best buddies when I was a kid growing up in a small town in Central Europe. I still visit them sometime when I visit my old hometown. Three of them still live in the same town, one of them moved about 30 miles south. That is how things always worked in Central Europe and probably always will.

I wonder what kind of person I would be now had I stayed in the same location all my life like most people.

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