I first came up with the idea of what my website should look like 12 ago. Here is what the first version looked like.
In 2001 I moved from California to Virginia, after 19 years of living in the San Francisco Bay Area. This was just before 9/11 back in the days when flying was still kind of fun. I remember vividly that when I came back from Prague around 1998 to La Guardia, a young immigration officer was openly checking out pretty women, smiling at them and saying cheerfully things like “Hey, you look terrific today”! while stamping passports. Back then it felt so good to come back to New York from Prague. Those were the days.
My wife and I were moving our two children aged 9 and 11, three dogs and a bearded dragon lizard named Spikey in June of 2001. We missed our flight because we had to go to a different terminal first with crated animals and we could not find it.
In addition, my wife was bravely (or foolishly?) smuggling Spikey under her jacket. The damn paperwork was so complicated that she just made an executive decision to take a risk. I was scared but I did not dare to question her decision. When she went through the detectors, they all of a sudden started beeping like crazy and everybody was looking at us. But when she put on her best confused Asian lady face which usually works for her, they just waved her through. Those were the days. You could still smuggle a lizard onto a plane. America was still a free country back then.
When the lights were turned off on the plane during our night flight from Atlanta, she let Spikey out of her jacket cave and our little dragon was slowly and carefully checking out his fellow passengers, slowly processing this vibrating, dark and noisy human habitat in his lizard brain.
Because unlike me, the website, e-mail and 800 numbers stayed in the same place, it was easy for my customers to update their contact information. I don’t believe that I lost any customers when I moved 3 thousand miles from East Coast to West Coast 11 years ago, partly thanks to my website.
As I kept updating and improving my website, over the years it became a valuable resource for me and probably for other people too. I can see for example from Google Analytics that hundreds of people are using it to search for Japanese and German patents every month. Last month for example, there were more than 400 queries made through the handy links on my website by people who were looking for Japanese patents using key words such as “Japanese patent search”, “Japanese patent publication”, “Japanese patent application search”, etc.
I don’t know who these people are. I assume that some of them are patent translators, but many of them are probably inventors, patent law librarians, patent lawyers and paralegals.
And these must be also the same people who send me work once they find my website. Over the last 7 years or so, most of my new customers were people who found my website while looking for a translation service.
I would say that about 10 to 25% of my income is generated every year by new customers who found my website while looking for a patent translation service, and some of them then stay with me for many years.
As customer attrition is to some extent inevitable in this globalized translation marketplace, it is important to have a means for replacing ungrateful and unwise defectors to cheaper resources (usually in third world countries), or to free resources (machine translation).
My website is very useful in this respect too. Large corporations in particular are always looking for cheaper labor. I noticed that that at least three patent law departments of large corporations stopped sending me work in the last few years.
I am assuming that the likely reason is that some mid level management geniuses decided to move Japanese translations to China or India, even though the new patent translators may not necessarily know Japanese or the terminology that well, or English for that matter.
I am kind of hoping that these mid level management geniuses will be eventually replaced by even greater management geniuses who will simply switch just about everything to MT, so that after a few years they will have to start looking for real translators again.
But by then nobody at the large company will remember anymore that they used to send Japanese and German patents for translation to PatentTransaltors.com.
Which is fine with me. I really much prefer small firms. They usually pay faster, and the people who send me work are always the same people who can even remember my name.