Posted by: patenttranslator | July 6, 2011

Midyear Reflections on the Business Results of My Patent Translation Business

The magic number so far this year, Anno Domini 2011, year 4 of the great global economic collapse and of much suffering in the midst of a worldwide economic catastrophe, albeit suffering only for the great unwashed masses and not for the sleazy criminal classes that caused this suffering, as they were promptly bailed out by the same unwashed masses who were forced by their “representative” government(s) to put bad debts of the banksters and scamsters on their already maxed out credit cards, is the number 35.

During the first 6 months of this year I billed my clients 35% more for translations finished, proofread and delivered so far this year, when compared to the first half of both 2010 and 2009. While both 2010 and 2009 were slow years, no doubt as a result of the economic upheaval of the last 3 years or so, I would have to go back to the year 2007 to find comparable receivables for a period of 6 months, and the year 2007 was the best year for me so far after more than 24 years in business.

I have a feeling that my fellow translators are experiencing similarly positive developments in their freelance translation business. Hopefully, I will find out more from the reaction to this post if there is any.

I think that probably the main reason why I was almost constantly busy during the first 6 months of this year is the fact that although my Japanese translation business slowed down for reasons that I do not quite understand, the slack in the demand for translation of Japanese patents was more than made up for by an increased demand for German patents.

When I look at the languages that I was translating so far this year, about 60% of my translations were from Japanese, while German patents and articles from medical and technical journals accounted for about 35% (the magic number 35 again), the remaining 5% of documents were in French, Czech, or Slovak.

I also translated a few documents through other translators from Korean and Chinese, and I have been working for about 2 years with a few translators who I trust on an ongoing project into other languages from English, but these projects were relatively minor. I don’t see myself as an agency and I don’t want to become one.

My goal is to create a business model that suits me best and that I can enjoy best, and there is only one model that I really enjoy: a model wherein I am completely in control of everything. You can call me a control freak if you will, but the truth is, I don’t like to depend on other people. I understand some small business owners are like that.

I launched my home based translation business from our apartment in San Francisco many years ago when I was 35 (the magic number 35 again). Some years were good, some years was OK, and some years were not good at all.

It is hard to tell what the second part of the year will look like. It could be as good or better as the first part of the year, or it could be much worse, of course. One never knows.

What appears as randomness and chaos often has an invisible structure that we just fail to see from our perspective. An ant climbing the wall of a cathedral will probably never realize that the wall that he is climbing is a cathedral wall and not the wall of a strange, hard and cold anthill.

I plan to write another short, quasi statistical post about the apparent randomness and chaos of the translation business experienced during the remainder of this year in January of next year if this human ant is still here climbing the wall of a strange, hard, cold and invisible cathedral of my translation business.


  1. I’m up about 8% on last year, which I’m quite pleased with, as I’ve reduced my hours slightly and introduced new elements to my quality control procedure (so I’m putting more time into each job). Demand has been consistently strong. For context, I’m an Italianist in my fourth year of business.


  2. Thank you for your comment.

    I’m just curious, what new elements did add?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: