Basically, the supply chain perspective would seek cost efficiency by using all kinds of methods in order to perform a transformative process with the least possible cost but to reach the best result for production and operations. There are some essential variables during this process, such as time, cost, and quality. In practice, when we talk about translation and localization industry, acting as an individual (freelancer) is very different from acting as a team or an LSP.

Let’s see ourself as an Account Manager, or, in the general term, sales or marketing. We tend to demand that all technical aspects to support production activities to find resources, either vendors or freelancers, to be cost efficient. We also need to master negotiation skill, marketplace research skill, sourcing skill, recruitment skill, onboarding skill, and even vendor or supplier evaluation. However, in the sales department, we are required to do the opposite duties of a Vendor Management (VM). As a VM, we will evaluate some simple tender processes, just like a recruiter doing a recruitment process. Not only we should be able to negotiate for cheap rates, we also need to observe the translator and vendor’s reputation. Sometimes we even need to do a “sadistic” negotiation by requesting a very cheap rate. When the writer himself became a vendor management, he could say that LSPs often set “a trawler” and sold the catch with B2B rates. No wonder if some freelancers, without considering business ethics, post in the social media the screenshot of a negotiation with some VMs who request for inhumane rate.

Indeed, business is about profitability and professionality. However, do you really understand what happens inside the “kitchen” of every agency in order to keep it steaming? Why do they practice cost efficiency and negotiate for much more competitive rates in the market but for similar output quality? Exactly! It is because of the overhead costs – the monthly costs, including inhouse staff salary, electricity cost, building rental fee, and other operational costs that have been calculated by the financial department.

Well, if you are thinking about yourself as a freelancer, you will never calculate such overhead costs because you can work on the projects by yourself without paying anyone else, any building rental fee, electricity cost, etc. However, your daily capacity might only reach 2,000–2,500 words. In other words, your earnings will only be able to meet your own needs without thinking about retaining staffs, daily assets, and even your business sustainability.

Management knowledge is crucial for managing several aspects of a company. It is more than just managing projects, such as project preparation, production and operational, or even output and controlling. We talk about a larger scale of management, including staff management where resource management skill is needed, vendors and freelancers’ management where vendor management skill is needed, financial management skill, sales and marketing management where account management skill is needed. There are also other knowledges of management needed, even up to quality control management.

As for the writer, he thinks that translation and localization business is the “leanest” business and it even includes as a concise virtual business. Why not? We can see that several SCM experts conduct some methods for “waste removal” namely TIMWOD +B in order to get rid of the “trash” in transportation aspect, inventory, motion, waiting time, overproduction, over-procession, defect, and also behavior trash.

The essence of minimalizing such “trash” is to conduct cost efficiency from each aspect in order to perform a lean supply chain. Translation and localization business does not need transportation, goods inventory that needs special attention, any production movement that needs special handling such as lay outing, any project management that needs hard work such as constructional projects having WBS (Work Breakdown Structure), and any other complex activities. Instead, this business only needs file inventory in which most companies currently use cloud storage and tends to focus on time management, quality control, resource/freelancer management, and other deliverable virtual aspects. This business even does not need a strict behavior management. It only needs to give an intensive care for the resources and vendors in order to maintain punctuality and good work ethics.

As more and more are engaged in the entry level of translation and localization industry, are we ready to compete for the sake of sustainability?

If you only think as an individual or small scale of self-profitability, your option is to be a freelancer. However, if you think about the common welfare, you have had the thought of a CEO or business owner. All in all, your capacity and skill are the most important aspects in this business because, logically, the client will not give you any project that is beyond your capacity.

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