Feb 062017

You know how, when you see someone you know in the distance, you recognise them almost sub-consciously? They get a bit closer and you start to doubt your “positive identification” of them. But when they get really close enough to see, you realise you WERE right all along.

I call this “Middle-distance insecurity”. Your long-range gut-feel was absolutely right, but somewhere in the middle, doubt started to creep in when you examine specific details, rather than the whole picture.

It’s the same with projects. Your gut tells you the idea is great and it’s going to fly. You get your prototypes made. They work. You show a few people you trust. They love them. Then you sit down and try to work out the details of

* how much to charge for viability
* when to aim for
* how to package
* getting them made
* what about the software (which already works pretty well)
* instructions
* videos

…and you find it a little overwhelming. Can I even do this? This is middle-distance insecurity for projects. Do people even want this? (You can’t help asking – even though you KNOW that they will.)

That is where I’m at today. The choice is go back to bed and hide or start eating the elephant of details one bite at a time. The pull of the bed (and distractions – like writing this) is strong. But I need to start eating through those details because the project won’t happen by itself.

Alex Eames. 6 Feb 2017 0857

Dec 312016

I sit here on New Year’s Eve and I’ve just received a wonderful email from a customer, which I want to anonymise and share with you. It’s probably the nicest/best feedback I’ve had this year.

But before I do that I want to share the nastiest, which also happened this month (10th December). I want to end on a positive, so we’ll get the negative out of the way first.

Nastiest YT Comment I’ve Ever Received

I made a video about “making an HD LCD screen for $32” back in June, which became very popular and has been viewed some 120k times. Here’s the video here…

I fully admit the title of the video is a little bit ‘click-baity’. We’re recycling a laptop screen using $32 of bought parts (driver board). But a title’s job is to get people to look at the content. It did that in spades. A full 6 months later, I got a comment that was clearly meant to be highly offensive. But it was so over the top in its vitriol that all it did was make me laugh out loud and share it with my inner circle of friends. I also tweeted about it straight away without sharing the content.

I don’t allow swearing on my blog or YT comments because I think it doesn’t portray a professional atmosphere and I want my stuff to appeal to all ages. I don’t swear on twitter either for the same reason.

However, this is my personal blog and this is so funny it has to be shared in a place that doesn’t taint my professional channels.

I'll let this comment speak for itself

I’ll let this comment speak for itself

I must admit I was tempted to reply with…

“Well that was the title. What did you think of the video?”

…but the truth is that once you engage a troll, you’ve already lost. So I refrained. Churchill put it a rather nice way…

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

That is exactly the way to (not) react to trolls. Ignore the pathetic little runts! In this case I also had to block this troll because I don’t tolerate swearing on my channel at this time. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good swear. My sister taught me lots of swear-words when I was 5, and I’ve never looked back. But I just think there’s a time and a place for that – and it’s not on my YouTube Channel, which I want to be a fairly family-friendly environment.

So. Have a good laugh at that, and we’ll end on a high-note…

Nicest Customer Feedback of the Year

Just this evening I received this email from someone who bought a RasPiO Duino kit a couple of weeks ago. It’s a lovely way to end the year…

Hi Alex,
I received my order today. I assembled the Duino board and attached to my
RPi. All is working as stated.

I started to read the MagPi article about you. I very quickly realized that
you met your expectations: produce something that works the first time!

I have been involved with electronics since early ’70s when I wanted to
create a railroad crossing flashing light sign for my train set when I was
about 5 years old. That led me to blowing the fuse box, and singing some of
my hair. Since then, I have dabbled with electronics, computers, and
microcontrollers. My hobbies have always supplemented my main work in odd
and unexpected ways, and at this point (17+ years of public school
teaching) I am teaching my hobbies to 16-18 year old students.

In all this time, I have only run across electronics kits that have worked
properly the first time TWICE. The first was when I started using Basic
Stamp Boe-Bots from Parallax. Everything they produced simply worked, and
was supplemented with plenty of depth for learning. The cost was high, but
worth it for the depth of knowledge they provided. The second time is NOW,
after using your material with the Duino board. You should be very proud of
your work.

The production of the board is exceptional, the breakouts are well laid
out, and it fits the RPi like a glove. I am very happy that I took the
chance on your product, and I look forward to trying out your tutorials!



So Happy New Year to you all and I wish you many pleasant and happy comments and very few unpleasant ones in 2017 and beyond.

Sep 082016
Sixpence bolster

Almost 2 years ago I received a lovely knife-making kit as a secret santa present. It opened my eyes to a new hobby – so it ended up being a really awesome present. I’ve always been interested in making things with wood and metal and am somewhat keen on making things to the best of my ability – even though it costs a large investment in time.

The first six knives I made (chronological order)

The first six knives I made (chronological order) curly birch, cherry, cherry, mahogany, maple, maple

Since Christmas 2014, I’ve made about 8 knives. All of them are different. All of them are experiments. I’ve tried new blades, new wood, new methods. So far I’ve only managed to bring myself to give one knife away as a present because I love them all. Each one represents a different time and different things learnt. Because each knife takes somewhere between 6 and 20 hours to make (the way I do it) – each one reminds me of a time in my life. While spending 2 hours carving and sanding a handle, you have plenty of time to think. So whatever is going on in your head at the time, the knife will be a reminder of it. (If it’s bad stuff – you can give that one away 🙂 )

Most Recent Knife

Enough blathering. Here is my most recent knife. It took me about 9 hours, I think. It’s made from a Laurin 6cm stainless-steel blade, a silver sixpence, a piece of red deer antler, and a bit of a conifer tree that I cut down 18 months ago from the garden.

Finished knife, handle blank and raw conifer

Finished knife, handle blank and raw conifer

Making this Knife

All the pieces needed for this knife

All the pieces needed for this knife

A knife needs a blade and a handle. But you usually have a bolster as well. This helps keep the knife blade from lateral movement and also adds extra gluing area to keep the knife in the handle. Ordinarily the bolster can only fit on the blade from the “blunt end” (tang). I often use silver coins for bolsters because they look nice and are not much different in price to the brass bolsters you can buy. They are also quite easy to machine with a Dremel since silver is a soft metal.

So in the above photo, we have…

  • a piece of seasoned conifer wood with the bark stripped off
  • a silver sixpence that’s old enough to have some actual silver in
  • a piece of Scottish red deer antler
  • a Laurin 6cm stainless-steel blade


I normally start by marking the coin with the approximate size of hole needed to fit the tang through it. Then hold the coin in a hand-screw (which I made) while Dremeling out the hole using small cutting wheels and/or engraving bits. It needs to be a good fit. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does need to be tight. Once the fit is “about right” I polish it with Brasso and a Dremel. This avoids staining your knife handle if you try to do it later on.

Partially holed sixpence bolster

Partially holed sixpence bolster

Polish the bolster before assembly

Polish the bolster before assembly (avoids staining the handle)

Bolster fitted to blade

Bolster fitted to blade

The bolster should require a bit of ‘percussive persuasion’ to reach its final destination. I clamp the blade’s sharp-end in a wooden-jawed vice (which I made) then use a pair of pliers as a load spreader (one element either side of the blade) and hammer the pliers gently to push the bolster home. Once positioned correctly, it should look something like this…

Bolster final position

Bolster final position (see scrape marks on the tang)

Deer Antler

Now we’re ready to work on the decorative piece of red deer antler. Its purely optional, decorative only, but it does look rather nice when you use it. You can get these from pet shops. They’re sold as dog chews. They can be cut with a wood saw and sanded to perfection. I bought a whole antler on ebay before I knew about the dog chew thing, so I have enough for about 20 knives. A dog chew for about £6 should give you enough for at least 3 or 4. It’s dark on the outside, but if you size it right, the dark bit will be sanded away and you end up with a nice white/grey ‘ivory-like’ effect.

Piece of deer antler

Piece of deer antler, marked up

Deer antler after Dremelling

Deer antler after Dremelling

Trial fit. It fits! YAY!

Trial fit. It fits! YAY!

Once this fits to your satisfaction, it’s time to work on the handle.

Woodwork Next

It’s really helpful to get both ends of the wood nicely perpendicular for gluing. That’s a lot easier if you’re using a block of wood with planed edges. I’m using a round “piece of tree” which makes it much harder, but I’m pretty good with a Japanese saw, and you can make minor corrections with sandpaper.

Cut handle material to length ensuring perpendicular ends

Cut handle material to length ensuring perpendicular ends

Once the ends are square, you need to mark and drill hole(s) for your tang. Depending on the knife, you might need to get some extra long drill bits. A pillar drill can be a real boon here if you have one. I did this one with a hand drill because it’s a small knife.

Drill hole for the tang

Drill hole for the tang

Once drilled (5mm bit in this case) the hole usually needs enlarging. For a small blade with softish wood you might be able to abuse the drill bit and “mill” the hole bigger. With larger blades and harder wood, you can drill multiple holes and merge them.

Enlarging the hole to fit the tang

Enlarging the hole to fit the tang

Trial fit

Trial fit

Check orientation and glue up

Check orientation and glue up


Then it’s time for the glue-up. I use Gorilla glue which is polyurethane and sticks pretty much anything. It’s also ideal for knife making because it’s water-proof and expands to fill gaps. Keep it off your hands though because it only comes off with petrol, cellulose thinners or pumice. Despite that, it’s my favourite glue. I use a simple homemade knife press, but you can use two bits of wood and two clamps as well. Regardless of the final shape of your handle, having square ends at this point makes it much easier to get everything properly aligned in the press.

Knife press

Knife press

The tree stump on the right of the above photo is the remains of the conifer that the handle is cut from (I cut it down ~18 months ago).

Gorilla glue expands quickly

Gorilla glue expands quickly

Overnight - full expansion

Overnight – full expansion

Glue all set.

Glue all set.

Time to Shape the Handle

Peel or cut off the excess glue, then it’s time to start shaping the handle.

Masking tape on the blade and now lots of sanding/carving to shape

Masking tape on the blade and now lots of sanding/carving to shape

With the blade masked, you will protect both it and yourself from damage. You can clamp the blade and then use a power sander to get the basic shape. I clamped the sander in this case and held the knife as it was easier for me.

I start with 40 or 60 grit to get the basic shape. You can also use chisels or knives if you want. You’ll probably want to sand the antler and bolster flush with the wood at the edges. The bolster gives you a good indication of when you’ve finished. I tend to sand until the grooves on the coin are gone. Then it’s all lovely and flush.

Don’t forget protection…

I don't like wood dust or sander noise

I don’t like wood dust or sander noise

Notice the antler is now white and grey and not the dark brown colour it was before sanding. Once I’d got the basic shape, I decided it was a bit boring.

Basic shape

Basic shape

So I took a risk, marked it and gouged out some of the middle (with a knife). It didn’t look very good until I’d sanded it to blend it in smoothly, but then I was pretty pleased with the outcome. The shape looks more interesting and the wood pattern shows a nice effect from its concentric ring layers…

A bit more interesting

A bit more interesting

Now the Hand-Sanding

Once I was happy with the shape, I hand sanded through progressive grades of wet and dry paper (used dry) 120, 400, 800, 1200, 1500, 1800, 2000, 2500

This might seem extreme, but it gives you a wonderfully smooth surface which has to be seen and touched to be believed…

Sanded to 2500 grit

Sanded to 2500 grit

After that, 5 coats of Birchwood Casey’s Tru-oil, with 2 hours drying time between each coat and it’s all over bar the sharpening.

Oiled and ready for sharpening

Oiled and ready for sharpening

Shaving Sharp

This blade is usable as it arrives, but it has a micro-bevel on and I don’t really like micro-bevels. I find them difficult to sharpen and get better results carving wood without. So I generally remove them.

Top - micro-bevel, bottom fully sharpened to remove micro-bevel. Click to enlarge

Top – micro-bevel, bottom fully sharpened to remove micro-bevel. Click to enlarge

So I spent an hour with a coarse Japanese waterstone grinding off enough metal to remove the micro-bevel. Then I spent another hour going through three other grades of waterstone in order to get it mirrored and ‘shaving sharp’. I completed it by stropping on the back of a leather belt (the ‘suedey’ side).

The finished knife

The finished, polished, oiled, sharpened knife

All in it was about 9 hours over 3 days. I usually do day 1 glue-up, day 2 shaping and oiling, day 3 sharpening. I had fun. I hope you do too.

More Photos

Click any photo to enlarge

Mar 302016

I’m posting this here on my personal blog because it hasn’t got much direct relevance on RasPi.TV.

I recently found out that a moderately high-profile IndieGoGo campaign had been given a 30 day extension at a point when it was clear that their campaign was not going to make it (well over half-way in time and just under half-way in funding)

I must be honest here. I was utterly gobsmacked! I’m not completely au fait with IndieGoGo policies and rules because I’ve always run my campaigns on KickStarter. I am VERY au fait with KickStarter rules though – and it aggravates me when I see people being allowed to flout them.

Keep in mind that once you launch your project, you won’t be able to change your funding goal or campaign duration.

Perhaps this is where I’ve gained the expectation that campaigns will not be extended?

I had a discussion with a few friends in a G+ hangout and opinion was divided. Several people thought it was not on, but at least two thought it was OK (one of whom was a backer of the above-not-mentioned project).

So after a bit of robust debate – where I was forced to confront the possibility that I MIGHT BE WRONG!!!!!! – I decided to “put it to my men”. (By the way, that’s a Michael Caine quote from the film The Eagle Has Landed, not a “sexist bastard remark”.) So I did a quick twitter poll…

At the time of writing there are 3 hours left and we’re at 55% NO, 45% YES. (It closed at 54% No, 46% YES). So it’s pretty close. The comments have been interesting too…

Of the people who commented, several said things like “it would give a scam feel”, or “gives an air of dishonesty”. But there were quite a few people who suggested it would be OK if a campaign got pretty close to its goal (e.g. 90% or 95%) to allow a couple of days extra. I thought this was an interesting idea.

I also did a little research and found out that IndieGoGo has done this a few times before. Their motive appears to be clear. If the project succeeds, they get their 5% cut ($15k in this case). So there is a real financial incentive to ‘bend their own rules’ from time to time. It’s their site and they can do what they like, after all.

What Do I Think As A Serial Crowdfunding Creator?

Easy. I don’t like it. Why? That’s harder to elucidate. I think I don’t like it because it is not defined or agreed at the start. If it was, I would have no problem with it. Even a little “projects may be extended from time to time” disclaimer would be enough.

I don’t like it because it smacks of dishonesty and cheating. There – I said it. I don’t blame a creator for petitioning IGG to extend. But I do think IGG is wrong to agree, unless it’s generally known that they sometimes do this.

I also dislike it because it is inherently unfair to all the campaigns that were allowed to fail and not given this extra lifeline. Failure is GOOD. Campaigns should be allowed to fail, so the creators can learn from it and come back doing things better and differently. Without the possibility of failure, success has no worth!

I know life’s not fair and this is about money. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I don’t have any problem with the “lifeline” idea of a 48 or 72 hour extension if a project gets >90% funded by the finish. In fact I quite like it.

I also don’t have a problem with extensions in general – as long as it is made clear that they can happen. And if this is the case, this facility should be available to all creators, not just a handful of potentially high-value failures.

Mar 192013

I realised it’s been a long time since I wrote anything here. I’ve been rather busy reinventing myself.

I still own but I’m not developing it any further. If you want to buy it, I’m open to sensible offers. I think I’ve written everything useful that I have to say about the translation industry – for now. 😉

I’ve been teaching ICT (computers) to Year 5 kids at my son’s school one afternoon a week for the last few years. You know I’ve always been keen on computers, right? About a year and a half ago I heard about a rather cool sounding new computer called the Raspberry Pi and thought it was something I needed to be in on at the start.

So I was one of the “nutters” up early on launch morning 29 Feb 2012. It didn’t arrive until May, but since then I’ve been blogging about my experiences over at my newest venture http://RasPi.TV and making videos like this one…

…on my YouTube channel RasPiTV

I’ve also been involved with software and hardware development and it’s likely there will be a book or ebook in the offing at some point too.

I’ve had a lot of fun at a time when I really needed a change of direction. Sometimes you just have to follow your interests.

I thought some of you might like to know. 🙂

Nov 042011

A nice little spike in gold

I wrote this little ditty yesterday starting at around the time gold started spiking in the above chart. Hope you find it amusing. If you don’t like the “rude” line, I have provided an alternative so it doesn’t render the whole thing unusable for audiences of a certain type. Enjoy.

An upward spike is what we like,
In the price of gold
For we no longer can believe
The things that we are told.

Official figures are are a sham
Distortions of the fact.
But when you try to show the world
You simply get attacked.

The trouble is the system needs
Eternal growth, its holy grail.
It’s clear this is impossible
So is, I fear, destined to fail

When nations punish all their folk
With financial repression
They think it helps pay off the debt
Avoiding great depression

Well let me tell you, world leaders
Your thinking is unsound.
Whose turn is it for more QE?
Oh yes, of course, the pound!

And then the Euro, dollar next
If Benny gets his way.
Bernanke, somewhat swanky,
Printing greenbacks every day.

Uncle Ben should stick to rice
Instead of printing paper
To pay off trillions in loans
Securitised into vapour.

So what will be the end-game
of these great devaluations?
Confiscation of all wealth
Built up through generations?

It would be nice to think that
We could change our politics.
The truth is though, it can’t be done
They’re all such selfish pricks.*

So buy some gold, while all around,
the system’s self-destructing.
And keep it quiet and far away
From government’s deducting.

© Alex Eames 2011

* Alternative line for certain audiences “We’re really in a fix”

Jan 252011


Hello and welcome to the first tranfree of 2011.

I’ve always thought of macro-economics as a bit boring. But now the world economy seems to be in uncharted waters, watching what’s going on has become more interesting. It does look as though things are going badly wrong in many parts of the world. Although places where they still actually make things, or have natural resources seem to be doing OK (Germany, China, Brazil, OPEC nations).

Of course it’s impossible for everyone to be doing well all at the same time. It’s always been like that. But at the moment, it’s the “leading” Western nations’ turn to have its share of pain.

This leads me to think about how we as translators can limit our own exposure to risk. One of the biggest risks affecting freelance translators is the possibility of not being paid. So this month’s article is about credit control. You do have a credit control policy don’t you? If you don’t, I hope you soon will.

Do please feel free to come and comment on tranfree articles on my blog.

I hope you enjoy and benefit from tranfree


Alex Eames

tranfree editor, Author –
Business Success For Freelance Translators, and

Selling Your Professional Services on the Web

You Do Have a Credit Control Policy Don’t You?

By Alex Eames

Detestable debt

Any of you who have read my ebooks or been tranfree readers for some time, will know that I am not a big fan of debt. In fact I “debt-est” it (that pun will work better on the podcast edition.) smile I don’t like the idea of being in debt and neither am I keen on other people owing me large sums of money.

If you want proof that uncontrolled debt is a bad thing, look no further than the economies of most Western countries. The United States and many European countries, including the UK, are crippling themselves with massive national debt. This is effectively putting future generations into slavery – or it’s going to result in massive defaults and meltdown of the world financial system.

But some borrowing is helpful to keep things running. In the translation business, clients regularly borrow from freelancers. Instead of paying for work on delivery, payment is made at some future date (often 30 days). You extend your clients credit for a defined period of time (theoretically eek). In an ideal world, they would pay you immediately on delivery. With electronic banking systems, there’s no real reason apart from “established practice” why this couldn’t happen.

Walk out of any shop clutching the goods and shouting “I’ll pay you in 30 days” and see where that gets you. wink You’ll end up in a prison cell pretty quickly. frown
( )

B2B is a bit different

Retail transactions are different from business to business (B2B) transactions. When we do retail jobs for people, we usually get paid on collection/delivery. B2B is different. Sad but true. But if you can negotiate immediate payment terms with any of your B2B clients, go for it. Then you won’t have any issues with wondering when/whether you are going to be paid. smile

But back here in the real world, most business to business customers don’t/won’t/can’t pay straight away. So they expect credit, which is yours to grant or deny – don’t forget that!

It’s not looking good out there (in general)

I’m keeping a keen eye on the world economy at the moment. What I see right now is rather unsettling. I see massive deficits, which are increasing already enormous debts, which can never be repaid. Countries in Europe are lining up (although several have not admitted it yet) to be bailed out by the European Central Bank, which is itself technically insolvent.

We’ve got Quantitative Easing – increasing the amount of money in circulation on both sides of the Atlantic. In the good old days it was called printing money. (Mind you, in the good old days, the QE2 was a ship. eek) Although, these days it may not involve the printing of physical cash, but creation of new money, as debt in the electronic financial system.

Anyone with basic economic education knows that when you increase the supply of money, if it’s not based on a physical asset – like gold, the result will be inflation. Tomorrow’s dollar, pound or euro will have less purchasing power than today’s.frown So what do governments do? They change from one measure of inflation to another. They fiddle the figures to make it look like this is not happening, whilst simultaneously making loud noises about deflationary influences. But those of us who notice the prices of things we buy every week, like food and petrol (gasoline) creeping up can see that, in reality, inflation is running at 6% already in the UK.

Now how did we get there? Oh yes. I’m not happy with what I see in the world economy right now. And this should make us a little bit wary. With massive debt and inflation, we can expect to see some high profile bankruptcies. I’m talking about all sorts of companies here, not just banks. The trouble is that companies are our clients. You can’t go bankrupt if you owe nothing. Conversely, if you have large debts that you can’t pay back, you are insolvent. Several large translation agency insolvencies have occurred in the past because their clients “went bust” leaving large unpaid bills. It can have a “knock-on” effect. frown

How to protect your business

So you need to protect yourself from the possibility of one of your clients going bankrupt because if they do, it will hit you in two ways.

  1. You won’t be getting any more work from them
  2. If they owe you money, you won’t get it (or if you do, it will be much less than they owe you)

So you need to have a credit control policy. That may sound like a “big business” thing, but you really should have one. You are just as much a business as they are!

If you set your clients a credit limit (e.g. $3000), once they have used it up, you won’t be able to accept more work from them until they have paid off some of their debt. This limits the amount you can lose in the event of non-payment (default).

You will have to set the exact figure depending on your relationship and past dealings with each client. There’s not much point setting a $3000 credit limit for a client you’ve worked with for 10 years, who sends you that much work every month and always pays on time. wink

Setting a credit limit

Set a sensible “standard” credit limit for new clients and adjust it up or down according to what you know about them. Here are a few ideas to get you started…

Starting credit limit: $500

Able to verify contact info: +$500

No negative comments in Google search: +$500

No negative comments in blue board, payment practices, TC Hall of shame: +$500

Able to find translators who work with them and get paid: +$500

Known colleagues work with them: +$1,000

Well known and respected agency/company: $2,000

Allow this credit limit to grow, within reason, as you have successful business dealings with them on an ongoing basis. It would be reasonable to expect that a client you’ve worked with for years should be a good risk. But, do keep an ear to the ground in case you work with a client who may be getting into financial trouble.

Of course if you find any credible negative comments about a potential client, tread very carefully indeed. Ask for 50% payment in advance or extend them a very low credit limit.

Set an absolute limit too

Have an absolute top limit for ANY client (e.g. $10,000 – or two months output). Nobody ever gets more credit than this! No ifs nor buts. If I asked you to lend me $10,000 interest-free for 30 days what would you say? You’d probably invite me to go forth and multiply.razz If you allow clients to borrow this much from you, you may well take a large hit one day – and that would be tragic. frown

Staged payments for large projects

Insist on staged payments or payments “on account” for enormous projects. This avoids the situation where you work 9 months on one project and never see a cent. Use credit limits to justify and enforce this. But agree it up-front.

“I will need monthly payments
and/or 50% in advance for this project”

Chase Tardy Payments

If you chase your clients to pay on time you will reduce your exposure to credit risk. The longer you leave it, the less chance you will be paid. Send a reminder immediately when payment becomes due and follow up regularly.

Diversify your client base

This may not always be possible, but try to ensure that no more than, say, 20-25% of your work comes from any one source. The more established you are, the easier this should be.

Don’t be a pushover

Above all, be firm, be professional and reasonable and stick to your guns. You don’t want to be the one at the wrong end of a defaulted £12,500 invoice (the highest unpaid debt to a freelance translator that I’ve ever heard of).

I nearly called this the “default limit”, but that has an unfortunate ring about it in this context razz

Alex Eames is the founder of, editor of tranfree and author of the eBooks…

Business Success for Freelance Translators

Selling Your Professional Services on the Web

If you liked this tranfree you will love the ebook

business success for freelance translators, by Alex Eames

Business Success for Freelance Translators.

Come and check it out now.

ISSN 1470-3866

***End of issue 77***

Dec 152010

Listen to tranfree 76
tranfree 76 – Four facets of marketing
Download PDF


Hello and welcome to another tranfree.

Since this is the last tranfree of the year, let me wish you all a Happy Christmas. As a Christmas special, I’m offering a 20% discount off the price of Business Success for Freelance Translators until the end of December 2010.

Whether you agree or disagree with what they’re doing, Wikileaks is making governments look “silly” and causing a lot of people to think about freedom of speech on the internet. I’ve found the whole story quite intriguing, but haven’t yet fully decided in which camp I stand. Publishing stolen information seems inherently wrong to me, but the handling of the situation has made the US authorities look even sillier than the “revelations” did. It’s a classic case of two wrongs make a fight.

One thing is certain though. We’re in for a season of change. With the US taking on more debt and the Eurozone bankrupt in all but name, we’re in for some “interesting times”. We’ve already got revolting students on the streets of London (deliberate ambiguity – interpret as you will).

Times of change bring threats and opportunities. The opportunities for translation continue to grow. I can’t see that stopping any time soon. This edition’s feature article covers four facets of marketing, which I hope will help you think about how to make the most of the opportunities out there.

I hope you enjoy and benefit from tranfree smile


Alex Eames tranfree editor, Author –
Business Success For Freelance Translators,
How to Earn $80,000+ per Year as a Freelance Translator

Selling Your Professional Services on the Web

Four Facets of Marketing for Freelance Translators

By Alex Eames

Distilled down to its pure essence, marketing is about persuading people to buy what you are offering. It’s a huge subject, but in this article, I’ve chosen to focus on four specific areas that I feel are important to freelance translators. There are many more, but those are for another day. big grin

Marketing is about mathematics

This is a surprising way to start a marketing article, but please bear with me for a couple of sentences. It’s a linguistic pun, which I hope will help you to remember the point better.

In mathematics we use calculus to determine the location of a turning point on a graph. (I can hear you groaning from here at the mention of calculus. wink) This process of calculating δy/δx, is called…


And the reason I dragged calculus into it is that differentiation is a key part of marketing. Once you figure out how important it is, it will be a turning point in your business life.

How you differentiate yourself from other similar providers is key to…

  • Attracting new clients – (why should I choose you and not her?)
  • Being able to justify higher prices – (how can it possibly cost that much?)
  • Targeting the market sectors you are interested in – (ooh they specialise in my field!)

OK, so let’s back up a minute and say what we mean by “differentiate yourself” in the context of marketing. Here are four possible definitions…

  • How do you show yourself to be different from others?
  • How do you stand out from the crowd?
  • What’s different about you?
  • What’s your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?

These are all different ways of saying essentially the same thing. In marketing, differentiation is about differences – the more obvious, the better.

The other mathematical link is that marketing is a “numbers game”. This is particularly true of direct mail, email and web-based marketing. As long as your message is a good one, getting more work and clients is simply a matter of ensuring that it is seen by more and more qualified prospects.

I know. I make it sound easy. In reality, it can be a long hard slog. And so it should be! If success were “too easy”, it wouldn’t be success. I think many western economies are discovering the painful truth of that statement at this time, as they brace themselves for some lean years after a period of “easy” growth fuelled by excessive borrowing. Success requires hard work and lots of persistence. But sometimes a little luck can help speed things up.

Marketing is about constantly looking for new ways to reach people

Wherever there is a large concentration of people, someone will find a way to sell them something. You need to develop this mentality and apply it to your own business. Always be on the lookout for new opportunities to reach people with your message.

Always be looking for connections that others might miss. Be willing to experiment and open to trying new approaches. Adopt the Thomas Edison approach to experimentation.

“If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed.
I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is
another step forward.”

Thomas Edison

Experiment with different approaches and don’t be knocked back if something doesn’t work brilliantly straight away, the first time you try it. Change it, refine it, improve it and try again.

Face to face or on line? Try it all and see what suits you best, and what works best.
If you’re a “people person” you might find it best to talk to people on a face to face basis. If you’re a bit timid about doing that, maybe some form of online communication would be preferable for you? The good news is that both can work. Social and business networking sites; online forums and portals; becoming a regular commentator on blogs you follow; these are all ways of getting your name out there. But make sure you set the right tone (friendly and helpful is a good start). This leads us nicely into the next facet.

Marketing is about impression management

In the film “the madness of king George” the king was behaving strangely, so took a break from public life to recover. At the end of it he said that he was not mad, but he had merely forgotten “how to seem”. He had lost sight of the need to pay attention to how he “seemed” to others. He didn’t have a spin-doctor or a PR officer to manage and massage his image.

How do you think you should “seem” to your clients and prospects? It matters less how good, efficient, friendly, quick, reliable and expensive you are. What matters is how good, efficient, friendly, quick, reliable and expensive you seem to be. So think about how can you control, or at least influence, prospective client perceptions of you? If everything you do exudes quality and competence, that’s a very good start.

Do you think the highest earning translators in the world are necessarily the best at translating? I strongly suspect that they are the ones who are best at marketing and justifying high fees. (I bet they’re pretty good at what they do too.) I bet they’re the ones who know how to package a “big picture” value proposition to decision-makers. Of course it helps to have friends in high places, but even that is not enough on its own if your work or approach is lacking.

The best way is to live the part. Professionalism and excellence in all things. Everything you do should reinforce your message. As a translator, this is particularly important in your written correspondence. An occasional typo is permissible in an email, but make sure there aren’t too many – ideally none. It’s all too easy to let things slip when you’re busy. But quality written communications take time. And you’re selling quality written communications, so make sure your communications with your clients shout the QUALITY message loud and clear.

Marketing is a way of life

Excellence in everything. Every contact you have with the outside world is marketing of one form or another.

Being good is not enough. You have to be visible – seen to be good.

Be generous – preferably in a visible way –  it will come back to you. Here’s a recent story to prove this point. I did some unofficial photos at a friend’s wedding in September. They were so pleased with them that I was commissioned to do some commercial event photography for the groom’s employer as a result of it. It wasn’t planned, it just happened that way. I don’t intend to become a professional photographer (although I do have a history of developing self-funding hobbies). This underlines the point that, very often, if you are helpful and generous, you get rewarded – even if that was not the underlying motive for being generous. But you can also be strategically generous if you choose to be.

Be patient. Everything comes to (s)he who waits. Lasting success rarely comes out of the blue. Most “overnight success” stories have years of hard work and hard times leading up to the “big break”. Don’t expect instant miracles. You’re unlikely to get into the top tier of any field without earning your stripes. The world teaches us to want everything NOW. But, hey, the world’s in a mess because of that way of thinking. Instead of “buy now, pay later” try to work your way up to the top in a sustainable way. Instead of “get rich quick”, live well within your means and invest the rest (perhaps in your own property or business?) If you get wealthy by gradual accumulation, you’ll develop the character needed to handle it along the way.

Be direct. It’s easy to target agencies – they are a very precise target market for translators. The best paid translators have a (large) proportion of direct clients in their portfolio. Find as many ways as you can of identifying and targeting clients who are likely to have a need for your services. Trade show catalogues, professional associations and trade directories are great for this.

Be careful with your public persona. If you like to rant or discuss controversial subjects in online forums, make sure your name is not associated with this. (It’s not hard to have an anonymous ID on an online forum is it?) A good way of thinking about this is to assume that everything you ever post on the internet will be there forever. Will it look good for you in 10 years? I’ve lost count of the number of people who made posts on bulletin boards and forums since 1999 and later decided that what they wrote a few years ago is embarrassing now. Not everybody will be willing to delete pages and spoil the linking structure of their site for the sake of covering up your naivety.

Be online. Have Your own web site – but make a real one – don’t just buy a domain name and point it at your ProZ profile – you’re giving the farm away. Why send potential clients to a place full of other translators? Isn’t that kind of dumb? If you’ve got their attention, keep them interested in you and what you have to offer them (remember – your USP?). Your site is also an opportunity to showcase your work and should exude credibility and professionalism.

Be analytical. – My son was teaching me how to play “Card-Jitsu” on Club Penguin the other day. He made the observation that most other people usually start with “fire”.  He was right. I was impressed. We used that observation to win a lot more often than we lost. It’s just the same in real life. Observe, analyse and spot the details others miss. Then win more often than you lose.

Hang out in places where you can meet clients.

Develop useful hobbies, which can either be linked with or used to enhance your business. Join a business or social group or association where other members would likely be in your target market. The best way to become interesting to other people is to be interested in other people.

Be thorough. Most people are fairly sloppy with emails. (I know I’ve mentioned this already – I’m being thorough. razz) Every email should read well and contain no mistakes (if possible). If you are overtly careless in small things, how can you be trusted with large ones? OK, I agree that email correspondence is “less formal” than sending a letter, but you carefully need to manage the impression you put across to others. Remember what I said earlier? Marketing is a continuous process and every contact you have with the outside world should be considered to be some form of marketing.

Alex Eames is the founder of, editor of tranfree and author of the eBooks…

Business Success for Freelance Translators
Selling Your Professional Services on the Web

Nov 292010

Just recently bought a new Nikon 50mm f/1.4 D and, since I had to agonise over whether to get the 1.8 or the 1.4 (which costs twice the price for 2/3 of a stop more) I thought I’d try to evaluate it in some objective way, and test some of my other lenses while I’m at it.

So I found and printed off a resolution test target from here and also a color test chart. I mounted these onto a piece of 6mm depron such that, with the X with a circle round it was at the center of view and focal point. So the target spans from center to corner of the frame. This allows testing all the way to the edge. This is what the whole shot looks like…

As you can see, the colour image was at the edge of the frame.

All lenses were set at 50mm apart from the 55mm prime 😛 All filters were removed. Exposure was with flashgun (on manual) to ensure reasonable consistency. I’m interested in sharpness across the frame, rather than perfect exposure here.

Other lenses tested in the series were…

  • Nikkor 35-80mm 1:4-5.6 AFD
  • AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G ED
  • Micro Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 AI (manual focus)

The target was photographed from 2.55 m, which is the ideal distance for this design of target with a 50mm (read up on the target link above if you want all the geeky details – it’s a bit beyond me to be honest. I just wanted to see how good my new lens is compared to the others I have and compared to itself at different apertures). The camera was on a tripod and lenses were focussed on the circle with a cross in it. A range of apertures were used, but since the largest that they all have is f/5.6, this was used for the comparison.

So onto the results. I have cut and pasted the colour chart, the bottom left resolution chart and the central resolution chart from each lens test.

Click for full res version (2.7 meg)

Looking at the sharpness at the edge, not surprisingly the two primes, both of which are pro-spec lenses, have excellent sharpness all the way to the edge. Both the zooms (which were both “kit lenses”) are a bit soft and woolly at the edges. Obviously the 55mm lens made the picture a little bit bigger due to 5mm extra focal length – that’s why the colour section was cropped.

As for the AFD 1.4 itself, here is the comparison of various apertures…

Click for full resolution image (2.7 meg)

Looking carefully, you can see it’s a bit soft wide open, much better by f/2, but by the time you get to f/2.8 it’s great. However, its softness wide open is only “poor” compared to its own performance. If you compare it with the two zooms, it’s not that bad. Since I bought it for available (low) light portraits, I think the soft-focus feel may even be an advantage. I probably still would have preferred if it had been razor sharp wide open because you can always soften in post processing, but expecting sharpness at f/1.4 may be unrealistic. Still. job done. I think this lens is a keeper. 😀 Good job too as it’s my Christmas present from the family. :present: