METM22 Chronicles: Michael Dever

Building a future-proof translation business

On the second day of the conference, after a cocktail lunch that offered plenty of opportunities for networking, seats in the aptly named Sapientia room filled very quickly. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one eager to hear Michael Dever’s tips on how to safeguard my livelihood over the coming years.

After showing a few funny visuals to grab the audience’s attention, Michael revealed his three key recommendations for future-proofing our businesses as independent translators:

  • Upskilling and upscaling
  • Adopting better pricing strategies
  • Teaming up

As he went on to explain, in order to survive and thrive in an industry dominated by machine translation and multinational agencies, human translators need to target the high end of the market. To do that, we need to adapt our offering to the needs and expectations of premium clients – who want top quality and a first-rate service.

Upskilling and upscaling

Rather than trying to upskill in all our areas of expertise, Michael suggested focusing our efforts on our strongest subject area. He also pointed out that premium clients expect a premium service. This includes a high level of responsiveness during business hours, of course, but also a certain amount of flexibility and willingness to go the extra mile. Depending on the client’s needs, this could mean being available on the occasional weekend, for example, or offering to work on site on a strategic project or for an important event. In keeping with the theme of METM22, “the personal touch”, he also recommended meeting with our clients on a regular basis, to maintain and strengthen our position as trusted (human!) service providers.

Adopting better pricing strategies

Michael then addressed the question of pricing, encouraging translators to use hourly rather than per-word rates on high-impact projects (such as transcreation work or press releases) and to charge admin fees when appropriate. In light of the current inflationary environment, he wisely pointed out that we should be raising our rates to reflect the increased cost of living (but in a way that makes our clients think they’re getting even more for their money!). The importance of diversifying our customer base was also mentioned, to avoid being dependent on any one client or sector. A timely reminder in an uncertain world.

Future-proof translation business

Teaming up

Moving on to his third key recommendation, Michael argued that a second set of eyes is essential in the high-end translation market. To achieve the level of quality expected by premium clients, we need to team up with trusted colleagues who can revise our translations (and vice versa). Michael even presented a sample fee model for such alliances, showing a potential breakdown between the finder’s, translator’s and revisor’s fees. Working in a team also enables us to expand our portfolio of services and extend our coverage. Michael cited the example of a duo who work with the same language pair in different time zones. As a firm believer in the right to disconnect, I’d add that teaming up also means being able to take time off without leaving our clients in the lurch.

As Michael pointed out at the end of his presentation, METM22 provided the perfect forum to start implementing some of his recommendations. In addition to subject-specific workshops and informative presentations, it offered many opportunities to meet like-minded colleagues and start building long-term relationships. Doesn’t the future look brighter already?

This METM22 talk was chronicled by Annamaria Schenoni-Millier.

Featured image by METM22 photographer Jone Karres, embedded photo by the author.

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