June 28, 2008

One year Babel Translations - growing of a virtual business

A year ago I danced in one of my favorite SL hangouts in the Dublin sim and met SL oldie Brooke Fairplay. We chatted about SL now and then, how it had changed, and about her business in SL. When she learned that I am not an English native speaker, she casually mentioned that she thought of targeting an international audience as well but somehow never got around to do it. The discussion followed me for a few days. I realized that with my background in marketing and foreign communications - and applied business English for almost 30 years now - I could offer translations and sales-driven text creation as a service to the SL community. This was the moment Babel Translations was born.

My first office

Since I had not a lot of L$ back then, I set myself both a financial and time limit. I saved 2000 L$ aside, looked for office space. My first office was at 50L$/week, and I placed a classified for another 50L$/week. On day one I got my first client - the landlord of the office tower - and by the end of the trial period I had translation jobs for 4000 L$ and a revenue of 500 L$. "That goes rather well", I thought, and continued with Babel Translations.

By that time I was primarily offering English/German at a price of 2 L$ / word, but soon requests for other languages came. I recruited French and Italian translators, soon Danish and Swedish followed. I charged 3 L$ for those languages, but kept English/German for a long time at the lower level as I was making these translations myself. In August 2007 I acquired my first reference customer. Blaze Columbia of Blaze Fashions not only insisted on paying the double rate, she also gave me some valuable business tips, like implementing a minimum fee for jobs. Back then I was in awe of what I considered "large" amounts of money, so I did not follow her advice of establishing 500 L$ as minimum fee, but instead chose 250 L$. I was reluctant to mention this limit to the first clients, but none of them objected. So up to date 250 L$ stayed the minimum amount for translation jobs.

Also in August, I managed to acquire the first large translation job worth 9500 L$. I still can remember my accelerated pulse as the client paid the 50% advance payment. It was the single largest sum of L$ I ever got until then. The client turned out to be a repeat account, returning each month with multiple translation jobs. Also in August I moved into my current office at Beachwood, something I never regretted so far as this estate is run perfectly well by landlady Kitty Umarov.

September marked the month where I got first asked to deliver a complete concept. Finally I could apply another of my RL skills, and developed a shop concept, along with English and German press releases, advertising texts and notecards. December on the other hand was a comparatively bad month, with "only" 13 translation jobs, but at the same time the month with the most beautiful job ever. Usually SL businesses asked for translations, but this time a private citizen asked for a translation. He is French, his girlfriend German - they only communicate in English, but he wanted to have one if his favorite love songs translated into German for her. Despite Decembers bad results, I was happy I could pay a bonus to all translators at the end of the year.

In January I took my associate Tina Lynch aboard. Not only did she work on French translations, but she also replaced my notecard-based bookkeeping with a sophisticated spreadsheet based on Google docs. Under her lead we refined the spreadsheet over the next month, and now it is an invaluable tool of keeping track of jobs, degree of completion, distribution of jobs among translators and calculating revenues and fees.

The most "odd" feeling decision took place in February: I almost completely stopped doing translations myself, since it became too time consuming. I started to focus completely on marketing and sales now, and in consequence had to recruit people for English/German. As a consequence I had to raise the price for those languages to 3 L$ / word as well.

In May, Babel Translation took over the competing agency "2nd Tongue Translation". For a couple of months we have silently cooperated already, granting 2nd Tongue a bulk buying rate for the languages they did not offer themselves. As 2nd Tongue's manager had to reduce her SL involvement, Babel Translations stepped in and integrated 2nd Tongue's business into our own.

Today, Babel Translations is the premiere translation and copywriting/text creation agency in SL. With a 3-figure number of jobs and a 6-figure amount of translation fees in recent months, our 50 translators provide the finest and most professional translation services in SL. We cover almost 20 languages, and each language is at least covered by 2, typically 5 translators. The translators themselves are in most cases RL translators, or have a similar qualification in language teaching, journalism or other text creation parts. Even though Babel Translations is a virtual company, we praise ourselves with having the highest standards and providing the best possible service to SL companies.

The past 12 months with Babel Translations where very challenging, but also provided a lot of fun and satisfaction nevertheless. I want to take this opportunity to thank all my clients who put their trust into Babel, as well as all my translators for their exceptional work and loyalty. My special thank goes to Tina, with whom Babel would not be where it is today.

Thanks a lot - I am looking forward to the next 12 months!
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