Translation Business: How to Forecast Capacity and Grow Successfully

“Translation Agencies are bound by the limitations of their linguists.”

Last week I wrote about forecasting cash flows.  This week we’ll dig a bit deeper into how to forecast as a translation agency.  The bottom line is always cashflow- but in order to get there we must consider all the moving parts/infrastructure of a translation business.

Growth for growth’s sake is not a sound business practice.  Someone once said only tumors and businesses grow for growth’s sake.

Instead, we prefer a calculated and controlled approach to scaling your translation business/agency.

If you try and grow too quickly then you risk not having the right resources in place, stretching your current team too thin, having to outsource,  scramble to find new linguists without vetting them, and taking on financial risk to meet payroll.

On the other hand, forecasting, gives you a real idea of your translation agency’s capacity. This ensures that projects are properly staffed and work is distributed, as well as helps you make smart decisions in hiring the right translators/interpreters to work on a job.

Understand Your Limitations

To be effective we must understand translators can only do so many words a day, project managers can only work so many hours, and interpreters are still limited in their appointments per day.

It’s common place to try and operate at 100% capacity or 110% and just outsource when needed.  This is no place to run a thriving, successful translation business.  We must consider the wear, stress, and sacrifice in quality that will be made when employees and contractors are maxed out.

(I know, some of you are probably saying…I wish I was maxed out to capacity!)

Learn to Forecast Work Capacity

For these reasons, it’s important to PUT a system in place to forecast how much load your project managers and linguists could handle. How many jobs a month could you successfully complete?  How many hours?  How many words?

In order to understand your capacity you’ll have to look at historical jobs and use predictive trends to make a successful forecast.

  • Historical Trends: Use a time tracking system, word count tool, # of projects completed to understand historical performance by linguist and project manager. This helps you get a better idea for how much time some tasks take to get done.  Are you spending as much time on $300/projects as $1000/projects.  If you are- you might want to say no to $300/projects and focus to free you up to accept the $1000/projects.
  • Future Trends: Forecast next month’s jobs that you are bidding on. This gives you insight into where each team member may need to focus.  For instance, will you have a big legal translation job in an exotic language pair and have a specific translator in your rolodex. You may not want to occupy their time with so that way they can focus on the large legal job.

The closer you understand your capacity as a translation service provider, the closer to being profitable you become.

Forecasting is both art and science- it takes time to get accurate.  However, proper systems and processes can improve your forecasting accuracy. (Shameless plug, a system like mundabla for business and translation management) Moving towards specializations like services, language pairs, vs. one-off projects can help lead to more predictability.

Work with the BEST People

All translation agencies and freelancers were not created equally.  It’s important to understand what you value- and find those that are like minded.  If you vet and screen your project managers, your freelance translators, or your outsource partners well- your life and business will function with less stress and more predictability.

In the translation industry it’s VERY important to understand who you are working with and for and what their expectations are.  Can’t stress this enough.

Read about The Golden Rule of working in the Translation Industry

How do you forecast your translation business and capacity?  Please share in the comments below.


About Jordan Evans

Coffee addict. A naturally curious person with experience in marketing, business development, and translation. I'm inspired by technology and languages- particualarly how they intersect with one another. My family runs a small translation agency-which has inspired mundabla- a translation management system specifically for managing interpreting and translation workfow.


  • ESEN Trans

    Umm, don’t forget to edit your entries! You’ve got a spelling error in your sentence: What do you have to LOST?

    • ESEN Trans

      In reference to your article about the Golden Rule of Translation…

      • JordanPE

        Thanks for the catch! Apparently I need a proofreader…

        • Roland

          ^^It’s great how people get on the internet to find advice from helpful and experienced bloggers like you and then correct minute typing errors. Thank you for your insight! If you’re still posting, a testimonial of your experiences starting as a freelance translator would be awesome.

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