Three different patent law firms called me today to ask about my rates for translating something from Japanese, German, and Russian. The German thing was a patent, and my quote was accepted. I will have to do it over the weekend. The Japanese thing was an article from a technical journal. I took the phone call on my cell phone in a supermarket. I had to cover my ears to hear what the lady was saying over the noise. I e-mailed her my price quote when I got back to my office and maybe I will hear from them next week, and maybe I won’t. I have no idea what the Russian thing would be, they just wanted to know my rate.
The people who called did not know me, they just found my website on the Internet. I know that because I asked them. Two of them did not know me for sure because I asked them and they said that they just used Google and they even told me the key words when I asked. The third one did not even want to tell me which firm she was calling from, she just said “from a law firm in California”. Which was kind of silly, I thought, because the phone ID displayed the name of the company, a law firm in California that has been sending me work on and off since 1993. Which would make it 19 years of a fairly solid supply of 1099-MISC tax forms year after year. Because I write the amount of what each firm paid me each year on the inner cover of the folder, I know that this particular law firm typically pays me between 5 and 12 thousand dollars a year.
And yet, the lady who called today from that law firm did not seem to know me. Probably a new paralegal.
It often happens that people who call me don’t know me, but I know their firm because I did work for a different lawyer, law librarian or paralegal at the firm. Lawyers, librarians, and paralegals come and go, freelance patent translators stay in exactly the same place in cyber space. If they are self-employed, they have nowhere to go. There is no other self that would employ them. Each and every one of us has only one self, except of course for people suffering from multiple personality disorder, also known as dissociative identity disorder, for instance like Norman Bates in the movie “Psycho”. I am not suffering from that particular disorder, I think. Maybe some other, less severe disorder, but not this one.
I have two filing cabinets with files for records about my customers, basically their contact information and hard copies of invoices. I mark in red ink the date when I got paid on each invoice.
One cabinet is overflowing with files because this is the cabinet for customers who I no longer consider to be “active”. If I do not receive anything from a customer for more than 3 years, I move the file from the “active filing cabinet” to the “non-active” one. But sometime I move them back again from the “non-active” to the “active” filing cabinet when a customer rediscovers my excellent translation services, usually through a new paralegal or a young patent lawyer who is doing some Googling for a price quote.
I received only three 1099 tax forms from translation agencies so far this year, as opposed to a dozen from patent law firms so far. There should be a few more of them during February. A few years ago I would still have at least a half a dozen tax forms from agencies, but not anymore. I think I am too expensive for them at this point.
Which is a good thing, I think, as long as I stay busy working for people who pay a little more. I still receive some work from new agencies, mostly when they find my listing in the ATA directory, usually for Czech. But I will have to junk the filing cabinet for old, non-active customers because it has only two drawers and I can’t really fit any more folders in it.
I need to buy a new filing cabinet for all those customers who forgot about me or decided to dump me that has 3 drawers. I wonder whether three drawers will be enough to fit all former customers in them before I finally stop working or drop dead, whichever comes first.
Probably the latter.