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Sep 18, 2009

Language Service Provider Network

A week ago at the ProZ powwow in Berlin I had a chat with financial translation specialist and outsourcer Ralf Lemster, a colleague known for his integrity and no-nonsense business acumen. He knew that I have been searching for some time for a good solution to our internal administration problems, which aside from my preference for translation work and copywriting over writing invoices arises to a large extent from the fact that I have yet to discover a networkable solution for project management and billing that is affordable and would work well for a partnership of two freelancers with an assistant to sort paperwork and wash windows so we can see that there is indeed a world outside our office apartment. For years the software we used has resided on my hard drive and is not accessible to my partner. (We tried putting it on a third machine, but this had severe drawbacks too.) This has led to "disconnects" in communication and tracking of jobs, and the processes we have used involve unnecessary steps that become quite burdensome with the rapid pace at which this office frequently runs. Even my sanity-saving folder organization system breaks down sometimes, because inquiries come in too quickly to keep things sorted before the next query comes.

Ralf mentioned that a partner company of his in Berlin is about to release an excellent solution for online management of a freelance translation business or small LSP. He has invested a lot of time in his own management systems, and when he mentioned the intention to switch to this provider my attention was fully focused by this surprising comment. Some people will chase after any chimera or change systems like Twiggy once changed clothes. (Sorry, I don't follow fashion, so I have no idea who the top models are these days.) I don't think he's one of these people. So I gave the company a call and had a long, friendly chat with the CEO, who described a system which sounds like my dream for the past few years. It's scheduled for release in January, but there is a pilot phase planned to start in October, and it may be possible for interested parties to participate and "kick the tires" for free. After that the monthly fees will be something like € 29 per login, much less than for other online solutions like Worx or BeeFlow. So I signed up for the pilot at LSP.net, and as of October (or whenever things get off the ground) I'll try to run our business using it and report here on the triumphs and tribulations. I would encourage others with similar needs to have a look at the web site, learn about the available features of the system and give it a try if it sounds interesting.

9 comments:

  1. I remember that you mentioned TranslationOffice 3000 and that you were trying it out. What was your experience with it? I used to work with it when I still had a Windows computer and was quite happy, but never had the need to share it with somebody else so a network installation or something was never necessary for me.

    Unfortunately there is no such solution available for Linux and so I've had to resort to the spreadsheet-method again, which is really not the best choice for somebody as unorganized as I am.

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  2. TO3000 is a great program. I took another look at TOM recently, because it offers interesting options for cooperating translators among other things, but overall I still like AIT's product better. That's why the promo links to the product are still in the sidebar of this blog: I think it's a good choice for a single freelancer working alone. There are some things in the interface that piss me off (I can't store a profile for decimal, separator and date conventions for Switzerland and Germany, so I have to configure this for every single customer from those countries), but overall it does everything one might need, it's easy to use, stable and doesn't cost much.

    The problem is that we have two people in our office working their tails off as translators, and 100% of the admin burden falls on me, because the software is a single workstation solution. I've thought about Projetex, but after installation I was supposed to monkey around with a bunch of scripts, and I lost patience with that. It's probably a good tool, though, because AIT generally makes nice tools at reasonable prices.

    This deal at LSP.net is particularly attractive to me, because it can handle the complete workflow, including client job submission. A customer could send me a job via a special customer page and download the finished result from there. That probably means less worry about e-mail getting "swallowed" on delivery, which happens often enough that I have become seriously paranoid and call rather often to confirm deliveries.

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  3. @Sonja: Forgot to add that this LSP.net thing will work with Linux, of course, because it is web-based :-) I'm curious to see what my tax advisor thinks of the financial reporting.

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  4. Hi, we have bought licences of SalesForce and adjusted the layout and added new functions according to what we need. We now have a combined tool for our sales efforts and project management, plus billing and we are really happy with it. If you are in Budapest next week for the Train-the-Trainer course, I will be happy to show you how it works.
    Vaclav

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  5. @Vaclav: I don't expect to be in Budapest until the next MemoQ Fest in spring, though it's such a wonderful city that I may find an excuse to go sooner and visit Vizsla breeders in the area. What's the SalesForce solution you refer to? I'm afraid I don't understand the full context of your comments.

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  6. @Kevin: I thought that LSP.net would be web-based. Thanks for confirming. That reminds me of Collmex.de. Not specifically directed towards translators, but very much like what you described here.

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  7. Since joining the Swedish translators' organisation SFÖ I've been getting e-mails from Open translation, www.opentranslation.net who have just developed a program that might be another option. But I know nothing about it.

    When I was working in a partnership we used an Access-based program that my husband developed for his IT degree but it wouldn't run on anything later than Access97. I also had a big problem finding something that could cope with two translators but wasn't designed for agencies. We dissolved the partnership for geographical reasons while I was looking for a replacement so I switched to TO3000. Projectex defeated me too.

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  8. @Kate: At first I thought you might have been talking about Project ]open[ Translation, which I pretty much gave up on because of the lack of truly useful documentation. However, that is not the case. Looks like the costs involved there are about € 20 per month (199 SEK), which is on the same order of magnitude as OTM. There appears to be a one-month free trial subscription, too, so one could test it.

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  9. Hi, Kevin, SalesForce is a web-based tool primarily aimed for sales teams, i.e. it contains contacts, tasks, communication tools. With the help of our programmer-friends, we converted it to a project management and billing tool while keeping its functions of a sales tool, too. So we now have a full package for the basic processes in our business. Vaclav

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