Mar 30, 2010

Alex Eames & tranfree are back!

When I first started translating commercially ten years ago, I had two primary sources of inspiration. One was my old college friend and present partner, Monique Simmer, who had served my medical device consulting clients with excellent translations for many years and who made the difficult transition from my beloved farm in Oregon to the urban Hell of North Rhine-Westphalia (Haan near Düsseldorf) much easier to bear. When I decided to translate in addition to my day job as a systems consultant (which was mandatory for visa reasons), I learned a lot of practical business details related to the German authorities and how to deal with them.

The other great source of inspiration and practical advice was Alex Eames, the author of the well-known title How to Earn $80,000+ Per Year as a Freelance Translator (and yes you can BTW). This cornball e-book full of goofy pictures, interesting anecdotes and first-rate advice on getting started in the translation business or adding life to a dead business is still one of my favorite references, though as Alex admits it's time for an update. The world changes, and we develop further as people and professionals. Nonetheless, most of the things and all of the basic principles Alex wrote about in that book are still valid, especially the advice on how to stand out from the crowd and earn the respect and love of your customers. It's more or less the same advice you find in any business book that is really worth reading: in our business, Oleg Rudavin and Corinne McKay say many of the same useful things in their own voices, filtered by their own cultures and lives.

Alex also published a newsletter called transfree, which was also loaded with great advice for freelance translators. The very suddenly, this source of information was silent. I knew there had been some changes in Alex's life; I remembered the birth of his child and something about building a house. Having been through all of that myself ten years earlier, I could understand all too well how he was probably too busy to write. But still I missed the advice from someone I considered a mentor of sorts, though our communication had seldom been direct. So when after registering on the new translators' networking site langmates I received a message from Alex, I was pleased to see that he was still involved in the profession. And I was even more pleased to hear that the issues which kept him busy are now resolved and that he will once again contribute actively to professional development for translators. I invited him to share a guest post with the readers of Translation Tribulations, and this morning I received a contribution from him, which I would like to share with you. Alex, you now have the podium...

tranfree Relaunch

Having been silent for the last two years, why relaunch now?

Simple answer. I’ve now got something to say – something worthwhile I hope. For the last few years, we’ve been having a fairly tough time and I’ve not been in an ideal place to be inspiring to others. One of the things I used to love about the emails I would get from tranfree readers was that they said they found it inspiring and helpful. It’s hard to be inspiring when you feel distinctly uninspired yourself.

Any idea why you felt like that?

Good question. It was a combination of things really. The life-changing impact of having a child, a building project, the cumulative effect of a few years of working too hard, the need to uproot and care for a dying family member for a couple of years, coping with the Polish health system, dealing with the consequences when my father-in-law died. Basically – life got in the way. It happens. If I had to sum it up I’d say burnout coupled with family crisis.

So are you inspired again now?

Actually yes. I started updating “How to Earn” a few weeks ago and, although it took me some time to get into it, the process kick-started me again. Often in life you read something you wrote last year or a few years ago and you think “that’s rubbish – I could do it so much better now”, but I really liked a lot of what I was reading and it’s still true (but then, good, sound business practice doesn’t change much year on year). OK, the technology and software bits all needed radically overhauling, but most of the rest of it is still very sound.

Anyway, the whole process has been very therapeutic. It’s good to look further afield than one’s own personal issues and do something to help others. That’s something which is all too easy to forget when times get hard and you switch to survival mode.

I’m not quite done yet, but in researching for the ebook update, I came across all sorts of issues that are facing translators today and felt inspired to write an article called “How to Kill Your Translation Business”. A rather negative title, but the content is designed to show mistakes that I feel freelance translators should try to avoid. And although the title is negative (it’s a headline designed to grab attention after all) the article is meant to be helpful.

I was amazed to see Wendell Ricketts’ article last week – a good few days after I’d written but not yet published mine – some of the sentiments expressed are very similar. I really enjoyed his article. I like articles that entertain and educate at the same time. It’s what I try to achieve. I think we can be too serious sometimes. Your blog sometimes makes me giggle, Kevin, so you’re not guilty of being overly serious.

So how can we access tranfree these days?

Anyway – the traditional email edition of tranfree goes out tonight (30 March 2010) to all those who are subscribed ( There’s about 25,600 on the list but I suspect maybe up to 30% of those may have changed email address in the last two years. But it’s not all about email any more. There’s an HTML version (, a PDF version and even a podcast now – and the obligatory RSS feed too – and I almost forgot – I’m blogging it as well (

What’s next for

Easy answer. A total overhaul of the entire operation. Reviewing and updating products, web site, relocating server. But it all starts the way it originally started way back in 1998 – with the original ebook 
Anyone purchasing now will automatically get the new edition when it comes out, hopefully in a few weeks. I’ll probably roll that offer back to any 2009 purchases as well. We’ll see.

I also wanted to thank you Kevin for your encouraging emails a couple of years ago. They made a difference. Sometimes the encouragers need encouraging too, when life gets in the way.


  1. Great to know Alex is back! I missed him dearly, too. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for sharing the update Kevin and welcome back Alex! Looking forward to the new version of "How to earn....".

  3. He helped me in my early days too. 20 years in and going strong (tfu tfu!), I owe him thanks.


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