How to organize a translation office – with Translation Office 3000
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If you have trouble coordinating all the different aspects of translation work, like I have in the past, you might just have found the solution: Translation Office 3000.
TO is a simple, user-friendly software solution specifically for freelancers. It helps you in many ways. What it basically does is centralize all aspects of translation work and automate some of the things that we usually do from scratch. In the end, it saves time, which is quite valuable in a home office. Before we begin, please note that TO is available in a free trial version, good for 30 days, with almost no restrictions, at http://www.translation3000.com/Setup3000V7.exe. You can also get detailed information on it at http://www.translation3000.com/translators.html.
The first thing I noticed is that, despite not having the most attractive looking interface, TO is remarkably user friendly. I have never had to open a help file or a tutorial so far. Within minutes, I set up a few clients and was happily invoicing away. Software this easy to use is few and far between. Program modules (such as Client, Contacts, Quotes, Jobs, Invoices, Payments, etc.) are in a simple menu on the left of the screen, and these same modules are available under the shape of thumbnails at the top of the screen, except that these thumbnails only give access to the data of the selected client, not the data of all clients. This is all you will really need. By clicking on any of those thumbnails, you can see all of that client’s information at a glance. By clicking on items within these views, you get a detailed view of that item. Could it be simpler?
The first thing you would want to do is set up your own information and settings. This takes five minutes tops. Advanced International Translations also has another software called AnyCount; some of you might already be familiar with it (it counts text, duh!). If you install it on your computer, you can have it collaborate with TO to automate a part of the invoicing. So, if you are using AnyCount, it is a good idea to start by specifying your AnyCount settings. You can set some financial data to better suit your needs. Among other things, you can ask for the quote status to be changed from “In process” to “No answer” after a user-specified number of days has elapsed. You can also ask TO to include all completed non-invoiced jobs and expenses when drawing up a new invoice. You can ask TO to name job folders according to a name structure you specify, so that jobs and job folders are named in a way that fits your logic. You can specify where job, invoice, payment and other folders are stored in your computer, but I really prefer to leave it with the default values, as those seem to be the most logical values to me. You can specify your own CAT rate schemes, and you can specify as many as you want. You can specify discounts (for established clients, for example) and mark-ups (for rush jobs and the like). You can specify exchange rates in real time, so, even if exchange rates tend to fluctuate, you will always have a pretty accurate amount in your own currency so you always know how much money your clients owe you, even if they pay you in a myriad of currencies. You can specify different payment methods and make up your own (for example, you can have one called Moneybookers). These will be displayed on the invoice for your client to know how to pay you. You can even make up phantom invoices, which are invoices that you can modify even after payments have been applied to them. This helps a lot when you miscalculated an amount and the client only asked you to correct it once a part of the invoice is paid. You can specify the percentage of VAT you want to charge and this will also be applied to invoices. However, you will have to activate this on all invoices, as you do not charge VAT to all clients (depending on where they are).
TO really helps out with the translation workflow. When you create a new client in TO, it automatically assigns a client code, which will be used to name jobs, invoices etc., so that you can, while browsing your files, easily recognize the documents of one client from those of another. Client codes are generally abbreviations of their names. My client code in TO would be VIKGIM (for Viktoria Gimbe). You set the client currency and put the client in a category (most of mine are in the Current clientele category, but there are Prospective, Outsider and more, and you can also make up your own). You specify the street and website addresses and can even add some general information (like how you got in touch with the client, what the client specializes in, etc.). You can specify a minimum fee (if you don’t want to get out of bed for less than, say $50) and your payment terms. You can also enter the client’s VAT number. Once your client is set up, you still need to set up a contact for the client. You can even set up several contacts for the same client, for example in the case of an agency where you work with several project managers. You enter contact info and, once that’s done, you can start operations with that client. By the way, TO includes filters so that you can filter clients by geographic location, currency, etc.
Naturally, in order to start working with your client, you need to quote him/her first. TO has a quoting module, which is a breeze to use. You simply enter the usual information (name of the job, service type, quantity and price per unit, as well as notes on things like the delivery of a TM). Once all is entered and you are happy with your quote, you can save and open it. TO uses Word templates for all the documents that it produces, so, this will result in the Word quote popping up on screen. Edit what you want to edit and then save. You can now print this quote or, like I prefer to do it, print a PDF and e-mail it to the client. The quote will stay in the client’s file and, depending on its evolution, you can change its status. What I find really neat is that, when a client accepts a quote, you don’t have to make up a job for it. In fact, you can click on a button called “New Job Based on Quote” and TO automatically fills in the job form for you. All you have to do is add instructions and notes, and you are done. Once again, by saving, you will open a Word document of the job. I like to send this job form (as a PDF) to the client as a PO. It can even double as a contract if you add the fine print to the template. Now, you can get to work.
In case you have to incur expenses related to this job (like long-distance charges for lengthy telephone calls), you can keep track of these in the Expenses module. When it is time to invoice, you can add these as line items to the invoice.
Once the translation is ready to be sent back to the client, all you need to do is open the job in TO and specify that it is finished. Now, on to the invoicing. When you open a new invoice, all of the client’s data is automatically filled in. All you need to do is add the jobs to the invoice and specify whether VAT will be charged or not. Then, you save and open the invoice, and you can once again edit the invoice to make it appear exactly the way you want it. If you prefer, you can print the invoice to PDF. Now, all that’s left to do is to send it all off to the client. If you have specified an e-mail address in the contact details of the client, you can create an e-mail message directly from within TO, as it has an Outlook plugin. Simply attach the invoice and the deliverables, with a short and sweet message to the recipient, and off it goes. Simple, isn’t it? Now, all of this data stays in TO and you can take a look at the client’s folder, where TO tells you exactly how many days are left before the invoice is due. When you receive payment, just use the Payments module and apply the amount to the invoice. In case of a partial payment, just apply that and the invoice will show how much money on that invoice is still due.
Now that we have seen the workflow with TO, let’s take a look at the really useful features.
To begin with, as you have seen earlier, all documents produced by TO also produce a Word document. Several templates for all types of documents are included and every time you perform an operation, you can choose the template you want to use. What I like about this is that I can fiddle with my template to customize it. I added a logo and made the header fit a little more with my style. I also included a little bit of fine print on my invoices. By modifying the template itself, you can make sure that each time you produce a document with TO, it will look the same and after a while, you will not need to edit anything anymore.
Another extremely useful feature is the Files module. This module consists of a default file structure that you can modify exactly as you like. The files themselves are in the TO program folder (in Program Files). However, you can specify a different set-up if you already have your own file structure that you don’t want to move. You can easily rename, delete and create new folders from within TO. I have added folders such as Source, Target, Progress (for different versions of the translation as it progresses, back-ups and such things as unclean documents and translation memories), Tools (which would be links to related Internet resources and TMs supplied by the client) and Administration (this is where I put the contract, the client’s PO and other administrative documents). When I make PDF copies of invoices, I drop a copy of that in the Invoice folder.
Something that I have a lot of fun with is that not only can you choose values for things like the type of work (translation, editing, etc.) and units (words, hours, lines, etc.), you can also add your own. So, for example, you can add services like “PDF to Word”, for when you have to retype a PDF to Word format so that you can translate it using a CAT tool. This helps you in allowing your client to know exactly what different charges were combined to make up the invoice total. They will appreciate this, and this will help you to avoid explaining your invoice.
TO also lets you create a price list. This already helps you by having all your pricing data in one handy document, but where it really comes in handy is when you prepare a quote. TO automatically suggests the prices previously set by you, so these are automatically entered. Then, it’s up to you whether you want to use those or charge a different price. This saves a little time when quoting clients.
Also, all of the documents created by TO can be exported to RTF format, which means that you don’t have to use Word all the time. If you prefer Open Office, you can edit your documents in that word processor. Most word processors can open RTF files, so, there isn’t really a compatibility issue anymore.
I have taken a look at the help files for you, even if I don’t use them. The help system is comprehensive and is organized in a logical manner. If something comes up and you are not sure, by checking in the help system, you are sure to find the answer to your question.
Right now, Translation Office 3000 is priced at USD 175.00 or EUR 149.00. Is it worth that much? Well, consider this: if you would charge USD 40.00 per hour of work and TO saved you five hours of work in the first month from the date of purchase, then it has already paid for itself. But you will be using it after that, so, your return on investment starts about a month after you purchase it. It has saved me at least five hours in the first month; so, I consider that this was an excellent investment. You basically save an amount more or less equal to TO’s price each month in terms of time.
All in all, TO is a nice package. It will help you to automate many of the activities you were used to doing by hand, thereby saving you time. If you learn to take advantage of all the features, in time, it will even help you to establish higher prices and to market yourself, as you can look at all the activity with all clients and measure the evolution of things. You will have a clear view of your business pattern, which will enable you to improve it over time. Plus, as user-friendly as it is, you invest practically no time in learning to use it. Once you start using Translation Office 3000, you will wonder how you could work without it.
The author is in no way affiliated with Advanced International Translations and does not profit in any way from having written and published this article.