Last week I went to the Nordic Translation Industry Forum that was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. The two day event had 155 participants from 25 different countries. At first I was wondering whether this forum would be of interest to me as a freelance translator. Since I know both the organizers, I consulted with them. Their verdict was that it is always good to mingle with current and potential translation company customers, so I thought I would give it a try. The theme of this forum was outsourcing and insourcing and Johannes Karlsson from VisitSweden kicked off the event with their extreme, but successful, outsourcing of their Twitter account @sweden, handled by regular Swedes on a weekly schedule. Rebecca Petras from Translators without Borders presented the important work of this humanitarian organization. I had thought that they mostly needed translators for languages spoken in the developing countries, but they also need Swedish translators, so I will definitely sign up. The forum had a great lineup of presentations and most of them focused on outsourcing and the speakers came from the European Commission, LEGO, Nordea and from different translation companies.
During the social hour there were different games and activities arranged to collect money for Translators without Borders. I played scrabble, walked, biked, solved crossword puzzles etc. and the different translation companies arranging the activities donated money to Translators without Borders based on the results from the activities. Apart from collecting money, this was a great way to network with different people and organizations. The evening continued with a dinner at Tivoli, the world famous amusement park in Copenhagen, which was welcoming visitors with beautiful Christmas lights and a Christmas market.
The next day contained two very lively and interesting panel discussions on Machine Translation and Vendor Management. It was interesting to listen to the perspective of translation companies, especially when discussing Machine Translation. As companies they focus very much on cost savings and profit, which is understandable, but I missed the issue of target uses and quality in the discussion, which I also told them.
The conference was very well organized and a fun event. For me it was great to meet both current and potential translation company clients, but also to listen to their perspective. One thing that worried me was the declining prices for translations. The companies admitted that the margins have decreased a lot for them, and that there is a general worry for the declining world economy. The most interesting revelation for me was that there were translation companies that worked for other translation companies there. These companies had in-house translators that were paid a monthly salary, instead of per word in order to give better margins. Most of these companies are located in former eastern European countries, where the salaries, and cost of living are lower. This is bad news for freelance translators and one of the reasons agencies/companies are trying to cut prices. This discussion has come during a slump in my work load, which is making it extra worrisome. During the last weeks I have had several smaller jobs, but nothing substantial. My closest colleagues, also English into Swedish freelance translators, have also noticed a decline in the amount of jobs in November. I am not too worried though. The business of translation is known for its periods of feast and famine, and this is probably just a slump.
I do know there are clients that are willing to pay good money for high quality translations, and that there are agencies that focus on these. I am very grateful for the high quality and well paying translation companies I work for, plus the occasional direct client I get. Perhaps it is time for me to start actively marketing to direct clients too, at least more than I have before. During my year in Stockholm I will take every opportunity to network with companies here in Stockholm. Next up is a Christmas social at the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce here in Stockholm.